The poem of which a full analysis and very copious specimens are now, so far as the Translator is aware, for the first time submitted to the English reader, is one of the most celebrated in the Persian language, and is considered by competent judges to be the finest work which exists in the East.

“German and English”—says Rosenzweig, in the Preface to his German Translation of the Joseph and Zulaikha—“as those nations which have dedicated themselves, especially since the latter half of the last century, with the greatest predilection to the study of Oriental literature, have recognized the excellence of Jami, and particularly of this poem; which, through the living nature and freshness of its colour­ing, and the truth of the feelings therein delineated, would beyond doubt be alone sufficient to establish the glory of its author, and to prove that he deserves to be placed boldly by the side of the most distin­guished and greatest poets. So the valuable journals of literature, almost in the first volume, expressed the wish for a translation of Jami’s poetical works. So in the Flowers of Persian Literature, of the poem in question it is said,—‘Jami, whose poem on the loves of Joseph and Zulaikha is one of the finest composi­tions in the language, and deserves to be translated into every European language’:—and ‘Jami has decorated with all the graces of poetry the romantic story of the youthful Canaanite’:—so says Thornton in his present state of Turkey.”—(Extract from Rosenzweig’s Preface.)

Jami was born in the year of the Hejrah 817, or of the Christian Era 1414. His father was a native of Ispahan. He dedicated his whole life to Literature, and is one of the most prolific writers of Persia. We have the titles given of thirty-four of his works in prose, and sixteen in verse. Those in prose are on a great variety of subjects: Letters—Grammar and Prosody—A History of Herat—Religious, Theological and Moral Treatises—and numerous expositions and commentaries on the Mystical doctrines of the Sufis, the Mahomedan sect to which he attached himself. Of his Poetical works, the most celebrated are his Joseph and Zulaikha—his Laila and Mejnun—his four Divans, or collection of Odes—and his Baharistan or Spring-garden, in Eight Gardens after the type of the Eight Gardens of Paradise.

Jami was the last of the great Poets of Persia, and if any of them have assumed a loftier position, it is rather in virtue of their having concentrated all their powers on special subjects—as Firdusi and Nizami on Epic Poetry—Sadi on Moral—and Hafiz on Lyric Poetry—than from any defect of genius. In variety he has probably surpassed them all, attaining high excellence in every one which he attempted, and furnishing gratification to many kinds of taste. But if the English reader does not perceive in the following poem all the merit which the translator fancies it possesses, he is asked to receive it kindly as a con­tribution to the general history of literature, and may find some pleasure in comparing the agreements and differences of eastern and western ideas and feelings, and some profit from enlarging his acquaintance with the great family of man and his knowledge of human nature.

The reader of the Oriental writers of Erotic poetry should bear in mind, that whilst they are prone to veil a probably merely sensuous and earthly love in mystical and exalted terms and figures, there are, on the other hand, very many, whose descriptions of the passion, though couched in natural and ordinary language, are undoubtedly intended by the poet to bear a deeper signification, and to shadow forth a higher and diviner affection. That Jami wrote his poem in this spirit can scarcely be questioned, both from the known character of the man, the circum­stances of his life, and the spiritual tone which pervades the whole work.

The Translator wishes frankly to confess, that he could not have executed the present litte work without the assistance of the Persian text, and notes and German translation of Professor Rosenzweig, with which, however, his own has been carefully compared, line by line and word by word; so that he hopes that it is a fair representation of the original; so far at least as the difference of the two languages will allow, and the highly figurative character of the Persian composition, which the Translator has been anxious to preserve.

S. R.

Dec. 20th, 1872.