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Beyond the Seas

by mana on February 12th, 2012



A class at Stanford brought up many memories from the distant past. Memory is selective. I have rejected much that I did not care to remember and I have romanticized what I wanted to remember.

Professor Khalessi has a passion for his material. His hands move like a conductor when he reads a verse and the light in his eyes reflects his joy. We are studying Sohrab Sepehri, the Iranian poet and painter. I have just joined the class and have far to go to master these profound works.

Sepehri brings me back to my childhood. My dad used to communicate to me in poetry. When he wanted to convey an important idea, I had to get it through a poem. He wrote in the calligraphic style called khatte shekasteh. I had to read the letters many times just to unravel the words. Compared to that, this class seems easy because Professor Khalessi is there to help.

The poetry makes me reflect on my roots and how I have changed. Sepehri writes about freeing oneself from the distractions of the world to develop the human spirit. He emphasizes an appreciation of nature and a serene view of life. His words lead me on an introspection into my own identity, and help me to separate what is important from what is not. The simplicity, the humanity, the tenderness and wisdom in these poems embraces me and warms me to the point that I am overwhelmed.


Shafinury and Tehranosaurus

A performance Friday night at Stanford’s Cubberley Auditorium was a perfect complement to reading Sepehri’s poetry.
Fared Shafinury, the Iranian-American musician, performed with his band Tehranosaurus. The room was packed. Shafinury’s work blends the traditional Iranian musical system called radiff with contemporary Western forms. He plays the delicate ancient instrument, the setar, with virtuosity. His singing style is romantic, with unexpected pushes of energy from the percussive rhythm of the tombak and dohol . The fusion between the classical Iranian compositions and indie rock brings new urgency to the ancient forms.

Shafinury talked to the audience about the feelings underlying his song “Bani Adam” which is based on a poem by Saadi from his Gulistan.
This well-known verse is displayed at the entrance of the United Nations Hall of Nations:

Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.

Four hundred years after Saadi, John Donne expressed a remarkably similar sentiment in his famous Meditation XVII:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

These ideas remain just as relevant today amid the world’s many conflicts.

“Beyond the seas,There is another land; Its windows open to the virtues of lights; On its roofs, doves constantly stare-at the soar of human mind
Its children walk, with their backpacks full of faith, hope and trust.”

I should not miss my next class as I have a long way to go.

Beyond the Seas
I’ll put up a boat,
and set it free off the shore.
I’ll let it take me away-from this eerie land,
where nobody calls up the sleeping heroes-
from their long, lonely trance.

I’ll put up a boat,
and set it free off the shore;
a boat with no net, a boat with no seine,
with my heart cleansed of wish for pearl.

I’ll sail away on the tides.
I’ll sing all along the ride.

Neither the blues of the deeps,
Nor the mermaids, the natives of the seas,
shall captivate me-from my solitary glide.
I’ll move on with pride.

I’ll sail away on the tides,
I’ll sing all along the ride:

“I’ll leave this eerie land behind;
in this land,Truth is forsaken, set aside,
here, no man recalls- how their heroes died,
here, of woman all but silence is denied.
I did not see a torch.
I did not see a loch.

I shall sail away-
for I am tired of the reign of opaque, thick panes,
I am longing for the crystal verse-
of an open space”.

I’ll sail away on the tides;
I’ll sing all along the ride:

“Beyond the seas,
There is another land;
Its windows open to the virtues of lights;
On its roofs, doves constantly stare-at the soar of human mind
Its children walk, with their backpacks full of faith, hope and trust.”

“Beyond the seas,
There is another land.
People there, they care:
for the call of a gentle hill,
for the feel of a brief dream.
Its soil listens to the song of your soul.
Its breeze, spreads in air-the full flavour of flight.

“Beyond the seas,
There is another land;
Its dawn is weightless, vast and white,
with the freshness of a bird’ first flight.
Its poets are heirs of water, wind and light.”

Beyond the seas,
There is another land:

I shall put up a boat,
I will put up a boat.

By: Sohrab Sepehri
Translation: Maryam Dilmaghani, September 2007, Montreal.

From → Musings


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