BLTC Press Titles


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The Haunted Bookshop

Christopher Morely


The Picture of Dorian Gray

Oscar Wilde


The Worm Ouroboros

E. R. Eddison


Novalis Including Hymns to the Night

Novalis, George MacDonald, Thomas Carlyle


A Literary History of Persia ...: From Firdawsi to Sa'di

by Edward Granville Browne

Excerpt:

Scope of work. It- I L r L

people. It is, moreover, the history of that people written from a particular point of view—the literary. In other words, it is an attempt to portray the subjective— that is to say, the religious, intellectual, and aesthetic— characteristics of the Persians as manifested in their own writings, or sometimes, when these fail, in those of their neighbours. It is not, however, precisely a history of Persian Literature ; since, on the one hand, it will exclude from consideration the writings of those who, while using the Persian language as the vehicle of their thought, were not of Persian race; and, on the other hand, it will include what has been written by Persians who chose as their medium of expression some language other than their mother-tongue. India, for example, has produced an extensive literature of which the language is Persian, but which is not a reflex of the Persian mind, and the same holds good in lesser degree of several branches of the Turkish race, but with this literature we are in no wise concerned. Persians, on the other hand, have continued ever since the Muhammadan Conquest—that is to say, for more than twelve hundred years—to use the Arabic language almost to the exclusion of their own in writing on certain subjects, notably theology and philosophy; while during the two centuries immediately succeeding the Arab invasion the language of the conquerors was, save amongst those who still adhered to the ancient national faith of Zoroaster, almost the sole literary medium employed in Persia. To ignore this literature would be to ignore many of the most important and characteristic manifestations of the Persian genius, and to form an altogether inadequate judgment of the intellectual activity of that ingenious and talented people.

The term "Persian" as used by us, and by the Greeks, Jews, Syrians, Arabs, and other foreigners, has a wider signification than that which it originally bore. tomPriaa The Persians call themselves trim and their land frdn,1 and of this land Pdrsa, the Persis of the Greeks, the modern Firs,2 is one province out of several. But because that province gave birth to the two great dynasties (the Achaemenian in the sixth century before,and the Sasanian

'frdn, Era 11, Air an, the Airiyana of the Avesta, is the land of the Aryans (Ariya, Airiya of the Avesta, Sanskrit Arya), and had therefore a wider signification than the term Persia, which is equivalent to frdn in the modern sense, has now. Bactria (Balkh), Sogdiana (Sughd), and Khwarazm were Iranian lands, and the Afghans and Kurds are Iranian peoples.

2 The /-sound does not exist in Arabic, and is replaced by /. Fars, Isfahan, &c, are simply the arabicised forms of Pars, Ispahan. The adjective Fdrsl (or Pdrsi) denotes the official language of Persia (which is at the same time the mother-tongue of the great majority of its inhabitants, and the national language in as full a sense as English is the national language of Great Britain and Ireland), and in this application is equivalent to Irani. As applied to a man, however, Fdrsi means a native of the province of Fars. In India Pdrsi (Parsee) means of the Persian {i.e., the ancient Persian, or Zoroastrian) religion, and the term has been re-imported in this sense into Persia. To call the province of Fars " Farsistan," as is sometimes done by European writers, is quite incorrect, for the termination -istdn (" place of," "land of") is added to the name of a people to denote the country which they inhabit [e.g., Afghanistan, Baluchistan), but not to the name of a country or province.

in the third century after Christ) which made their arms formidable and their name famous in the West, its meaning was extended so as to include the whole people and country which we call Persian ; just as the tribe of Angles, though numerically inferior to the Saxons, gave their name to England and all that the term English now connotes. As in our own country Angles, Saxons, and Jutes merged in one English people, and the dialects of Northumbria, Mercia, and Wessex in one English language, so in Iran the inhabitants of Parthia, Media, and Persis became in course of time blended in one Persian people, and their kindred dialects (for already Strabo found them in his time "almost of the same speech," 6fi6y\wTTOi irapa fwcpov)3 in one Persian tongue.

The Persian language of to-day, Fdrsi, the language of Firs, is then the lineal offspring of the language which Cyrus and Darius spoke, and in which the The Persian proclamations engraved by their commands on


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