|A Persianate miniature from the 1729 manuscript of the |
Georgian adaptation of Vis and Rāmin.
Vis and Rāmin (ويس و رامين) is an 11th Century love poem written by Faḵr al-Din As'ad Gorgāni between 1050 - 1055. It's thought that it was the inspiration for the story of Tristan and Iseult (told by, for example, Béroul, Thomas Malory, Thomas Hardy, Thomas of Britain, and Gottfried von Strassburg), which went on to influence the likes of Boccaccio (The Decameron Day Four, first story), Dante (the second circle of Inferno) and perhaps (though it's disputed) even William Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet). It's importance, then, cannot be overstated!
It is a truly beautiful work. Vis is the beautiful daughter of Shāhrū and Qārin, who rule Māh of western Iran. Rāmin is the brother of Mobed Monikan, the King of Marv in northeastern Iran. One day before Vis was born Monikan met Shāhrū and fell in love with her, but she remained faithful to her husband and instead promised him her first born daughter: this was Vis. After her birth Vis is sent to Khūzān where she was raised, coincidentally, alongside Rāmin. She then returns as a teenager and is married to her brother Viru, however the marriage is unconsummated and when Monikan reminds Shāhrū of her promise, Vis is then told she must marry him. When she refuses a war breaks out between the two regions and Qārin is killed, and eventually Vis finds she must accept Monikan. However, when she is brought to him by Ramin, the two fall in love. Unsurprisingly, Monikan finds out...
It is a stunning and fascinating work set during pre-Islamic Iran: it is in fact breaktakingly beautiful. Fakhruddin As'ad Gurgani uses images from nature in portraying this couple, focusing mostly on Vis and her perspective, and the poem glitters with descriptions of love and lust, loss, and loyalty, full of flowers and trees and jewels, so rich in fact one can almost smell the jasmine that is so often mentioned and see the sparkles of the rubies and emeralds. The tale of Vis and Rāmin is an enduring poem that is as relevant and as wondrous today as it no doubt was when it was written. It is a powerful poem and a new favourite of mine, and I very much enjoyed Dick Davis' translation for Penguin Classics. I'm so happy I've finally read it, and I will certainly read it again!