Jahan Khatun: Woman Aging (From Persian)

The poem here translated is by a Persian princess who lived in the same time and place as Hafiz. It is of particular interest in its expression of gender. Two of the images, that of the curling locks of the beloved snatching the heart or attention of the lover in verse 3, and the beloved having the gracile sexiness of a cypress tree in verse 4, are typically used to refer to the poet's addressee (who is by convention the beloved) in medieval Persian lyric verse. Here, however, one finds the speaker describing themself in these terms, which has a mildly disorienting effect, inverting the typical point of view, switching the voice to that of the pursued rather than the pursuer. The speaker is not passive, however, as other verses of the poem indicate. But the overall experience conveyed is that of being the object of attention, rather than its agent. The significance of this should be obvious, given that medieval Persian lyric poetry is a male-dominated tradition in which Princess Jahan is a happy anomaly.  
Anyway, some of the artistic liberties I've taken in my English rendering reflect this gendered reading of the poem, and indeed amplify it somewhat, partly compensate for the fact that the atypical image use is not as jarring in English as it seems to be in Persian. (For example, and in the interest of full disclosure, the words "the game was never fair" are my addition and do not correspond to anything in the Persian.)

"Woman Aging"
By Jahan Khatun
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

I had no sense of my own worth
When I was young and fair.
     Now that my years have run their course, 
     I know. What point is there? 
I know the good and bad of life,
Now that they've passed me by,
     Sped in my prime swift as a breeze
     In bright brief morning’s air.
There were so many nightingales
Of passion that I lured
     And captured in the curling locks
     That were my beauty’s snare.
Then in the orchard I could raise 
My face as gracefully
     As any thin young cypress tree
     Over the greensward there.
What handsome challengers I played
Against in lovers’ chess,
     And lost so many of love’s pieces.
     The game was never fair.
How often in the world’s arena
Of beauty I would spur
     The racing steed of my heart's hopes
     Through every bleak affair.
Now there is not one leaf or shoot
Left of my sweet green youth.
     Cold with old age I turn to face
     A dark night of white hair.

The Original:

در جوانى قدر خود نشناختيم 
اين زمان حاصل چه چون درباختيم
چون گذشت از ما چو باد صبحدم 
نيك و بد را اين زمان بشناختيم
اي بسا مرغ هوس را كز هوا 
در سر دام دو زلف انداختيم
سر برعنائي ميان بوستان 
بر سهى سرو چمن افراختيم
با بتان در عرصۀ شطرنج عشق 
اى بسا نرد هوس كان باختيم
بس بميدان ملاحت در چهان 
بارۀ اميد دلرا تاختيم
از جوانى شاخ و برگى چون نماند
با شب ديجور پيرى ساختيم


Dar jawānī qadr-i xwad našnāxtēm
Īn zamān hāsil či čūn dar bāxtēm
Čūn guzašt az mā ču bād-i subhdam
Nēk o badrā īn zamān bišnāxtēm
Ay basā murɣ-i hawasrā kaz hawā
Dar sar-i dām-i do zulf andāxtēm
Sar bara'nāī miyān-i bōstān
Bar sahy-i sarw-i čaman afrāxtēm
Bā butān dar 'arsa-i šatranj-i 'išq
Ay basā nard-i hawas kān bāxtēm
Bas bamaydān-i malāhat dar jahān
Bāra-i ummēd-i dilrā tāxtēm
Az jawānī šāx o bargē čūn namānd
Bā šab-i dayjūr-i pīrī sāxtēm

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