Mohammad Taghi Bahar


BAHĀR, MOḤAMMAD-TAQĪ MALEK AL-ŠOʿARĀʾ, 20th-century poet, scholar, journalist, politician, and historian (1265-1330 Š./1886-1951).

i. Life and Work

Bahār may have taken his taḵalloṣ Bahār after the poet Mīrzā Naṣr-Allāh Bahār Šīrvānī, who had died on a visit to the house of Moḥammad-Taqī’s father in 1300/1882-83 (ʿErfānī, p. 36; Āryanpūr, II, p. 124). Bahār himself does not comment upon his pen-name in his autobiographical note (“Maktūb,” Ārmān, quoted in M. Golbon, ed., Bahār wa adab-e fārsī, Tehran, 2535 = 1355 Š./1976, II, pp. 195-96). His father, Mīrzā Moḥammad Kāẓem Ṣabūrī, was the official poet-laureate (Malek-al-Šoʿarāʾ) at the shrine in Mašhad.

Life. Bahār’s father was his first teacher. By the time he started formal education at the age of six he was already proficient in reading Persian and the Koran, and he wrote his first poem at the age of ten. Among his later teachers was Adīb Nīšāpūrī (q.v.), a traditional poet and scholar in literary sciences (Ḵāvarī, pp. 40ff., 234ff.), who cultivated the style of the ancient poets of Khorasan in the tradition of the bāzgašt-e adabī.

Bahār’s studies were interrupted at fifteen when his father apprenticed him to his uncle, a glass seller (ʿErfānī, pp. 41, 94 n.). Ṣabūrī died in 1322/1904, and Bahār returned to his studies, particularly Arabic which led him to recent books and periodicals from Egypt and eventually drew his attention towards Western ideas of science and progress (ʿErfānī, p. 43; Āryanpūr, p. 124). Having sent a congratulatory qaṣīda to Moẓaffar-al-Dīn Shah on his accession (Dīvān I, p. 3), he was rewarded with his father’s title of Malek-al-Šoʿarāʾ, and thus became a government employee at the shrine of Mašhad. For his stipend he wrote and recited poems on official occasions (ʿErfānī, p. 45). Already familiar with the ideas of freedom and constitution, he joined the constitutionalists in Mašhad at the age of twenty when the constitution was granted in 1324/1906. Later he joined Anjoman-e Saʿādat in Mašhad. During the period known as Estebdād-e Ṣaḡīr (Jomādā I 1326-Rajab 1327/June 1908-August 1909) he helped publish the clandestine paper Ḵorāsān under the pseudonym Raʾīs al-Ṭollāb; there, his first political poems were printed (Bahār, Tārīḵ-emoḵtaṣar-e aḥzāb-e sīāsī I, Tehran, 1357 Š./1978, p. b; Browne, p. 21; Āryanpūr, pp. 124, 128-30). He also began writing articles for Ḥabl al-matīn of Calcutta for which he had to develop a new prose style suitable for modern needs (Tārīḵ-emoḵtaṣar I, pp. d-h; ʿErfānī, pp. 191-92).

In 1328/1910, Bahār helped organize the Democratic Party of Mašhad, assisted by Ḥaydar Khan ʿAm(ū)oḡlī. He began his own publication Now-bahār, but his anti-Russian policy led to a series of suppressions which included the closing down of Now-bahār; Bahār was ordered to Tehran just as the Majles was closed (1330/1911) by troops (Tārīḵ-emoḵtaṣar, pp. h, 11-12; Browne, p. 334). On his way he met Ḥaydar Khan ʿAmoḡlī for the last time (ʿErfānī, pp. 63-64). After a listless year in Tehran, spent in writing for Ḥabl al-matīn and some literary articles, he returned to Mašhad. Politics were dangerous, but he was able to publish articles on female emancipation, the evils of polygamy, and superstition among the ʿolamāʾ in a revived Now-bahār (Tārīḵ-emoḵtaṣar I, p. z). Having been elected to the third Majles in 1332/1914 he moved to Tehran where he published Now-bahār (Tārīḵ-emoḵtaṣar I, p. z; Āryanpūr, p. 332). In Ḏu’l-ḥejja, 1333/November, 1915, the advance of a Russian force from Qazvīn to Tehran provoked a “migration” to Qom, during which, returning from a mission, he suffered a broken arm in an accident (Tārīḵ-emoḵtaṣar I, pp. 17-20, 22). He was returned to Tehran for treatment and banished to Bojnūrd in 1334/May, 1916. The revolution in Russia removed the pressure on Persia, and Bahār cooperated in reorganizing the Democratic Party. Now his attention was claimed more by literature; he founded a literary society, Dānēškada, and a journal of the same name was published between April, 1918 and April, 1919 (Ṣadr Hāšemī, II, pp. 270-72).

Bahār was elected to the fourth Majles, which, however, did not convene until Tīr, 1300 Š./June, 1921. In the meantime a coup d’état took place in Esfand, 1299 Š./February, 1921, and its leader Sayyed Żīāʾ-al-Dīn became the prime minister. Though acquainted with Sayyed Żīāʾ-al-Dīn, he was surprised by the coup and declined an offer from him to cooperate. He was soon arrested and detained until the fall of Sayyed Żīāʾ-al-Dīn three months after the coup (Tārīḵ-emoḵtaṣar, pp. 91-92, 116-17). Finally released, he took up his Majles seat, but declined to resume the editorship of the paper Īrān, which he had been editing before his arrest, and avoided political journalism (Tārīḵ-emoḵtaṣar I, p. 129).

As a member of the fifth Majles, Bahār opposed the movement of Reżā Khan (the military leader of the coup and the future Reżā Shah) towards dictatorship and despite threats sided with Sayyed Ḥasan Modarres, the leading figure of the opposition (Dīvān I, p. 398). He actually became the target of an assassination attempt following a debate in the Majles (8 Ābān 1304 Š./30 October 1925) but instead of Bahār, Wāʿeẓ Qazvīnī, a journalist who had a striking resemblance to him but who had nothing to do with the issues involved, was brutally murdered in front of the Majles (Tārīḵ-emoḵtaṣar II, Tehran, 1363 Š./1984 [a detailed account of Bahār’s political activities during the period], pp. 299ff.). Afterwards he took no part in the debates. He was elected from Tehran to the sixth Majles (1305 Š./1926), but avoided politics and occupied himself with scholarship. In 1927, he studied Pahlavi with the German archeologist E. Herzfeld, then visiting Tehran.

In 1308 Š./1929, he was suddenly imprisoned for a year. On release, his attempt to publish his dīvān was censored, and on Nowrūz 1312 Š./1933 he was again imprisoned until the summer, then exiled to Isfahan. His enforced leisure enabled him to study and write a great deal. On his return to Tehran, he was appointed to the Faculty of Letters at the University of Tehran. He took part in the Ferdowsī millenary celebrations in 1313 Š./1934, and managed to live and work in peace till Reżā Shah’s abdication in 1320 Š./1941.

The Anglo-Russian invasion of 1941 awakened his political conscience. He republished Now-bahār and in 1323 Š./1945 published the first volume of his history of political parties (Tārīḵ-emoḵtaṣar-e aḥzāb-e sīāsī). In 1945 he was invited to Baku for the 25th anniversary of the establishment of Soviet Azerbaijan and elected to the 14th Majles on his return. He was appointed as minister of education when Qawām-al-Salṭana formed his cabinet in January, 1946, but resigned after a few months. He headed the Democrats in the 15th Majles but was already ill. In 1947 he went to the hospital in Leysin, Switzerland. By April, 1949, consumption was confirmed and he returned home to die in April, 1951. He was buried in the Ẓahīr-al-Dawla cemetery in Šemīrān.

Works. Bahār’s literary production was prodigious. Both in his own mind and in the recognition of his countrymen he was first and last a poet. His dīvān was published posthumously by his brother Moḥammad Malekzāda in two volumes (I, Tehran, 1335 Š./1956, 2nd ed. 1344 Š./1965; II, Tehran, 1336 Š./1957). Though delicate considerations kept a few poems out of the printed dīvān, these two volumes present a complete sweep of the poet’s production from his youth to his death-bed. Malekzāda’s annotations are very helpful if sometimes inaccurate in details.

Bahār’s earliest poems are the threnodies for his father, which demonstrate a craft already well learned. His position as poet of the Mašhad shrine led to panegyrics both religious and personal. He owes much to his father’s example in his religious poems, while most of his poems are exercises in traditional forms modeled after classical masters. One mosammaṭ (Dīvān I, p. 12), modeled on one by Manūčehrī, may be Bahār’s earliest use of a form he exploited later in his political verse. His poetry charts his growing awareness of social and political ideas. His first important political poem, which won him recognition, was a mostazād (Dīvān I, p. 145; Tārīḵ-emoḵtaṣar I, pp. b-j), modeled on one by Ašraf Gīlānī and published in the newspaper Ḵorāsān in Jomādā I, 1327/May-June, 1909 (Browne, pp. 185-86, 260-61). While still in Mašhad, he had to consider the different elements of local society in his public poems, but in Tehran the pressure on him to write formal poems decreased. His poetry now recorded his personal reactions to political events, his style ranging from emulations (esteqbāl) of the old masters (e.g., Dīvān I, p. 284), to the use of colloquial language (Dīvān I, p. 285).

Bahār’s literary education advanced with his association in the Dāneškada group with writers familiar with European languages. Bahār was able to make Persian versions of their translations from European poetry (e.g., Dīvān II, p. 317, from La Fontaine, Fables, book 5, IX). These and original poems in a similar vein contributed to the growing number of the poet’s “private” poems. At the same time, Bahār continued to write “public” poetry, attacking many aspects of life and politics as well as his political enemies. Such poems reached a climax with the events of 1925, after which the public poems were addressed to the suspicious new monarch, while the private poems became increasingly intimate, restricted to the ears of the poet’s immediate circle. Bahār’s experiences, in prison and exile, as a teacher of literature, were all inspiration for his poetry. The scholarship that was his refuge in the difficult years between 1925 and 1941 is manifest in his verse of the period. Reżā Shah’s abdication is barely mentioned, but other events inspired poems for the rest of Bahār’s life. Several, including some beautiful ḡazals, express his pain and isolation during his illness; one qaṣīda, written in his Swiss hospital bed (Dīvān I, p. 774), is an excellent example of Bahār’s use of tradition for contemporary, personal purposes.

Throughout his life, Bahār wrote poems in all the traditional forms; he experimented a few times with stanza forms of foreign type, but he rejected totally new forms of verse and returned, even at the end of his life, to the old tradition. Yet his subjects, and often his diction, are unmistakably modern.

Bahār’s scholarly works include: Sabk-šenāsī (3 vols., Tehran, 1321 Š./1942, repr. 1337 Š./1958), a detailed standard history of Persian prose illustrated by many examples; Tārīḵ-emoḵtaṣar-e aḥzāb-e sīāsī (I, Tehran, 1323 Š./1944, 1337 Š./1958; II, Tehran, 1363 Š./1984), a personal view of political developments of the time, important both as a primary historical source and for Bahār’s biography; and Tārīḵ-etaṭawwor-e šeʿr-e fārsī (ed. M.-T. Bīneš, Mašhad, 1334 Š./1955, ed. A. Maḥmūdī Baḵtīārī, Tehran, 1342 Š./1963), a work on poetry originally intended to be similar to his Sabk-šenāsī; only a few sections of this book were written before illness prevented him from working. His papers and miscellaneous works have been published by M. Golbon in Ferdowsī-nāma-ye Bahār (Tehran, 1345 Š./1966), Tarjama-ye čand matn-e pahlavī (Tehran, 1347 Š./1968), and Bahār o adab-e fārsī (2 vols., Tehran, 1351 Š./1972 with the third volume in preparation). Bahār also composed a number of songs (taṣnīfs), some of which are still quite popular (e.g., N. Ḥaddādī, Čehel o do tarāna-ye qadīmī, Tehran, 2536 = 1356 Š./1977, pp. 26-40, 108-13). He published scholarly editions of Tārīḵ-eSīstān (Tehran, 1314 Š./ 1935), Mojmal al-tawārīḵ wa’l-qeṣaṣ (Tehran, 1318 Š./1939), part of ʿAwfī’s Jawāmeʿ al-ḥekāyāt wa lawāmeʿ al-rewāyāt (Tehran, 1324 Š./1945), and Baḷʿamī’s Tārīḵ (published posthumously by M. Parvīn Gonābādī, vol. I, Tehran, 1341 Š./1962).


B. ʿAlawī, “Ḵazān-e Bahār,” Payām-e now 4/11-12, pp. 1-13.

Y. Āryanpūr, Az Ṣabā tā Nīmā, 2 vols., Tehran, 1351 Š./1972, II, pp. 123-37, 332-49.

M. Bahār, “Bahār o ḵāna o ḵānavāda,” Āyanda 10/2-3, 1363 Š./1984, pp. 94-100.

E. Browne, Press and Poetry in Modern Persia, Cambridge, 1914, pp. 260-89.

ʿA. ʿErfānī, Šarḥ-e aḥwāl o āṯār-e Malek al-Šoʿarāʾ Moḥammad-Taqī Bahār, Tehran, 1335 Š./1956.

M. Esḥāq, Soḵanvarān-e Īrān dar ʿaṣr-e ḥāżer I, Delhi, 1351/1932-33, pp. 358-403.

M.-ʿE. Eslāmī Nadūšan, “Be yād-e dahomīn sāl-e dargoḏašt-e Malek al-Šoʿarāʾ Bahār,” Payām-e novīn III/10, 1340 Š./1961, pp. 1-10.

Idem, “Dahomīn sāl-e marg-e Bahār,” Yaḡmā 14, 1340 Š./1961, pp. 145-52.

M. Golbon, “Sālšomār o gozīda-ye ketāb-šenāsī-e Bahār,” Āyanda 10/2-3, 1363 Š./1984, pp. 107-12.

Īrān-nāma 5/4, 1987.

Ḥ. Ḵaṭībī, “Sabk-e ašʿār-e Bahār,” Yaḡmā 4, 1330 Š./1951, pp. 454-61, 496-500.

ʿA.-Ḥ. Ešrāq Ḵāvarī, “Adīb Nīšābūrī,” Armaḡān 7, 1304 Š./1925, pp. 234-45.

Ḵayyāmpūr, Soḵanvarān, p. 90.

M. B. Loraine, “A Memoir on the Life and Poetical Works of Malikuʾl Shuʿarāʾ Bahār,” IJMES, 1972, pp. 140-68.

Idem, “Bahār in the Context of the Persian Constitutional Revolution,” Iranian Studies 5/2-3, 1972, pp. 79-87.

F. Machalski, “Muhammad Taqi Bahar as a Painter of Nature,” Iran Society Silver Jubilee Souvenir 1949-69, Calcutta, 1970, pp. 233-37.

S. M. Moḥīṭ Ṭabāṭabāʾī, “Ḵāṭerāt-ī čand az Malek-al-Šoʿarāʾ Bahār,” Āyanda 10/2-3, 1363 Š./1984, pp. 101-06.

A. Nīkūḥemmat, Zendagī o āṯār-e Bahār I, Tehran, n.d.; II, Kermān, 1334 Š./1955.

L. S. Peĭsikov, “M. Bakhar kak uchonyĭ filolog,” Kratkie soobshcheniya Instituta vostokovedeniya 36, Moscow, 1959, pp. 922.

Rypka, Hist. Iran. Lit., pp. 373-74 and index.

M. Ṣadr Hāšemī, Tārīḵ-ejarāʾed wa majallāt-e Īrān, 4 vols., Isfahan, 1327-32 Š./1948-53, I, p. 313; II, pp. 98-99, 243-45; IV, pp. 313-16.

M. ʿA. Sepānlū, “Javānī-e Bahār,” Naqd-e āgāh, Tehran, 1363 Š./1984, pp. 5-29.

M.-R. Šafīʿī Kadkanī, “Šeʿr-e Bahār,” Āyanda 10/10-11, 1363 Š./1984, pp. 635-42.

R. Yāsamī, Adabīyāt-e moʿāṣer-e Īrān, Tehran, 1316 Š./1937, pp. 30-32.

Ḡ.-Ḥ. Yūsofī, “Ostād Bahār šāʿer-ī mellī wa honarmand-ī wāqeʿī būd,” Nāma-ye farhang 1, 1330 Š./1951, pp. 78-81, 123-25.

Idem, “Naẓar-ī be Sabk-šenāsī-e Ostād Bahār,” Āyanda 10/2-3, 1363 Š./1984, pp. 84-93.

B. N. Zakhoder, “Bakhar 1886-1951,” Kratkie soobshcheniya Instituta vostokovedeniya 36, Moscow, 1959.

ʿA. Zarrīnkūb, “Šeʿr-e Bahār,” Soḵan 8, 1336 Š./1957, pp. 840-46, 953-60.

Idem, “Bahār, setāyešgar-e āzādī,” in Bā kārvān-e ḥolla, Tehran, 1343 Š./1964, pp. 309-24.

(M. B. Loraine)

ii. Bahār as a Poet

Bahār is probably the most significant writer of qaṣīdas since the end of the 6th/12th century, and no doubt the last great poet of this genre. His masterful manipulation of Persian language and dexterity and ingeniousness in molding it into eloquent expressions for treating a wide variety of subjects and themes (social, philosophical, political, personal, etc.) are surely unmatched by any other writer of qaṣīdas in the 20th century. His style has the unmistakable imprint of the 4th-5th/10th-11th-century masters, yet it exhibits a certain modernity of thought and expression which makes his poetry more than an imitation of past masters, and he convincingly (Bahār wa adab-e fārsī II, pp. 195-96) refuted A. Kasrawī’s accusations that he in his early career had plagiarized Bahār Šīrvanī’s qaṣīdas (J. Matīnī, Īrān-nāma 5/4, p. 557).

Bahār was directly involved in the political events of his time and his poetry often turns into a vehicle for conveying personal opinions on political and social issues. Despite his generally lofty style, he was hardly shy of using popular and “unpoetical” expressions in his poetry; even loanwords of European origin were not foreign to him and he used them with the same mastery that he showed in reviving archaic and obsolete words. On the whole he adhered to the Khorasanian style (q.v.) but also believed that young poets should be free to experiment with new and unconventional modes of poetical expressions, including free verse (Noḵostīn kongra, p. 302). Bahār can justifiably be called the poet who, while himself advocating and practicing classical-style poetry, did much to help advance new genres and expand the horizon of Persian poetry, thus contributing to the eventual emergence of modernist poetry.


R. Barāhenī, Ṭelā dar mes, 3rd ed., Tehran, 1358 Š./1979, pp. 201-05, 269.

ʿA.-ʿA. Dastḡayb, Sāya-rowšan-e šeʿr-e now-e fārsī, Tehran, 1348 Š./1969, p. 131.

J. Homāʾī, “Takmīl-e šarḥ-e ḥāl-e Bahār be qalam-e negāranda-ye ʿMalek al-Šoʿarāʾ Bahārʾ,” appended to Aḵbār-e Dānešgāh-e Tehrān 5/9. Noḵostīn kongra-ye nevīsandagān-e Īrān, Tehran, 1326 Š./1947, pp. 7, 9, 302.

M. Parvīn Gonābādī, “Panjomīn sāl-e dargoḏašt-e Bahār,” Soḵan 6, 1334, pp. 351-53.

Ḏ. Ṣafā, Ganj-e soḵan, 4th ed., III, Tehran, 1348 Š./1969, pp. 327-29.

M. Šafīʿī Kadkanī, Edāma-ye šeʿr-e fārsī (az Mašrūṭīyat tā soqūṭ-e salṭanat), Tehran, 1359 Š./1980, pp. 36-38.

Ḡ.-Ḥ. Yūsofī, “Yādgār-e Bahār,” Bahār wa adab-e fārsī, ed. M. Golbon, I, Tehran, 2535 = 1355 Š./1976, pp. xv-xl.

ʿA.-Ḥ. Zarrīnkūb, Šeʿr-e bī-dorūḡ šeʿr-e bī-neqāb, 3rd. ed., Tehran, 2536 = 1356 Š./1977, pp. 36-38.

Īrān-nāma 5/4, 1366 Š./1987, was dedicated to Bahār on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birthday; it includes two letters by him, articles by J. Matīnī, Ḥ. Moʾayyad, Ḏ. Ṣafā, M. Bahār, and P. Bahār, and comments by Persian scholars and litterateurs.

From Iranica

  • Birthday: 10 December 1886
  • Death: 22 April 1951
  • Birthplace: Mashhad, Iran

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