Jan 28, 2010


Qasida (also spelled qasidah) is a form of poetry from pre-Islamic Arabia. It typically runs more than 50 lines, and sometimes more than 100. The classic form of qasida maintains a single meter throughout the poem, and every line rhymes. These poems are considered some of the most elaborate in the world.

In his 9th century Kitab al-shi'r wa-al-shu'ara' (Book of Poetry and Poets) the Arabic writer ibn Qutaybah says that (Arabic) qasida are formed of three parts: - They start with a nostalgic opening in which the poets reflects on what has passed, known as nasib. The second section is rahil in which the poet contemplates the harshness of nature and life away from the tribe. Finally there is the message of the poem, which can take several forms: praise of the tribe, fakhr; satire about other tribes, hija; or some moral maxims, hikam.

After the 10th century, Iranians developed qasida greatly and used it for very different purposes other than praise or nostalgia as did Arabs originally for the tribal and nomadic life. For example, Naser Khosro used qasida extensively for philosophical, theological, and ethical purposes. Even Avicenna used qasida to express philosophical ideas.

In the Persian style, the opening is usually description of a natural event like seasons (spring, fall, etc) or a natural landscape, or an imaginary sweetheart. If it's about the spring it's called 'baharieh' (in Persian Spring Poem), if it's about the fall it's called 'khazanieh' (in Persian Autumn Poem). Then there comes the 'takhallos' (disengagement or escape or the main purpose) where the poets usually address themselves by using their pen name. Then the last section is the main purpose of the poet in writing the poem. Because, after all, 'qasideh' literally means intention and it was used to ask for support from a patron or to state a petition.

After the Mongol invasion and starting in the 14th century, Persian poets became more interested in ghazal and the qasideh declined in status. Ghazal was originally developed from the first part of qasideh where the poets praised their sweethearts.

I only managed a 40 line example – and trust me, you’re lucky to get that much because I found a mono-rhyme rather tedious after awhile. I'm not sure how well I stuck to the form either. Normally I search for examples of the form I'm working in to keep me on track - it helps to see it as someone else did it - but although I was able to find information on the Qasida, I wasn't able to find any that anyone else had written or interpreted, just links to books. So, if you want to see a bona fide Qasida, you'll have to search your local library. :-)

Dreamer’s Tale

I tell a tale of what may be -
Wait, before you disagree,
Hear my tale that you may see
The dream I dreamed beneath the tree
That stands within the mountain’s lee
Where rich enchantment captured me;
It caught me up, then set me free.
What seemed a daunting task to me
was not set in reality.
I was aware, to some degree
But still I did not disagree
Knowing there’s no guarantee
To life’s immense uncertainty.
A storm is coming, wait and see,
Though there are some who disagree,
They have not dreamt beneath the tree.
The world is such a potpourri,
Earth and fire, wind and sea,
And we, the guardians, meant to be
Have lost our way, to some degree.
The warnings come by two and three
Ignored by those too blind to see.
Earthquakes leave behind debris,
Broken souls no longer free;
Lives in shambles, spirits flee;
And hear the wailing of banshee.
The winds arise, so too, the sea,
And mortals to the heavens plea.
The heavens weep unnaturally,
The churches fill with bended knee,
Demands are made for guarantee
That life goes on with certainty.
But here is my reality
We are, none of us, free
True freedom is a rarity.
This I know, this is the key,
I tell you now so you may free
Yourself from your mortality.
For I have dreamed that you may see,
I dreamt a dream beneath a tree.


Jamie D. said...

Wow, Carol - that is very complex (and hypnotic to read). 100 lines might be good for an insomniac? No insult to your skills intended at all...

I think you executed it well...very profound words amidst the rhythm. :-)

The romantic query letter and the happy-ever-after said...

I have never knowingly read a Qasida before but I like yours for it is elegant and tender. Here, 'The heavens weep unnaturally,' that is stunning and the line that follows it is so fitttingly devote. It is very good.
Have a lovely day.

C R Ward said...

Thank you both! The hard part was getting it started, after that it came fairly quickly. :-)

Anonymous said...

Here's a qasida: http://tune.pk/video/2613242/qaseeda-tooba-with-beautiful-voice-complete-qaseedah

You can also look up a famous qasidah, qasida burdah, but make sure you find the long and in arabic, as there are a lot of abridged/translated versions around that are not even qasidah anymore.