Domenico Ingenito: 'Beholding Beauty: Saʿdi of Shiraz and the Aesthetics of Desire in Medieval Persian Poetry'

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Author, Domenico Ingenito. Photo courtesy of Ghazal Sheei.

Domenico Ingenito speaks about the ecstatic poetry of Saʿdi, a 13th-century Persian literary master overlooked for far too long. Called a king of poets in his own time, his unstudied lyrical connections between eroticism, spirituality, and politics have never been given the attention they deserve, but now is a time to understand his concept of openness to beauty and gender fluidity. Ingenito discusses being a spectator of the world and pushing the boundaries of perception.

Excerpt from “Beholding Beauty: Saʿdi of Shiraz and the Aesthetics of Desire in Medieval Persian Poetry” by Domenico Ingenito

O smiling doll, who has tasted your ruby lips?
O garden of tenderness, who took a bite from the quince of your face?

No fruit has he ever eaten more fragrant than this
No watermelon sweeter than this must he have ever tasted!

O verdant Khiżr, may the water of life be always forbidden to you!
So that you may understand how painful was Alexander’s quest.

Is that someone’s blood or scarlet wine that you spilled?
Or maybe it is black mulberry that is dripping on your clothes?

You mingle with everyone, and yet you avoid us:
The fault is not yours: it is our fortune that abandoned us.

It is better for the wall to collapse all at once
So that you may not say that no one has ever seen your garden!

When the crowds realize that it is ripe and sweet
Not for long can the juicy fruit dwell on the branch.

Last week the rose bud could not even disclose its lips
But now the morning breeze is tearing apart its veils.

The fearful ducks would never approach the Tigris’s shores
But now that the Mongols have cut off the bridge, even the boats can
pass through.

Farewell to the old times when we used to share with you the wine:
Enough with this jar from which all the strangers have been drinking.

Saʿdi you need fresh air: knock at the door of a different garden
Abandon this field, for the cattle has already grazed in it.

Sa'di of Shiraz

Excerpted from Beholding Beauty: Saʿdi of Shiraz and the Aesthetics of Desire in Medieval Persian Poetry by Domenico Ingenito. Copyright © 2021 by Domenico Ingenito. Excerpted by permission of Brill. All rights reserved.