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Persian metres are patterns of long and short syllables in Persian poetry.

Over the past 1000 years the Persian language has enjoyed a rich literature, especially of poetry. Until the advent of free verse in the 20th century, this poetry was always quantitative—that is the lines were composed in various patterns of long and short syllables. The different patterns are known as metres (US: meters). A knowledge of metre is essential for someone to correctly recite Persian poetry—and also often, since short vowels are not written in Persian script, for to convey the correct meaning in cases of ambiguity. It is also helpful for those who memorise the verse.

Metres in Persian have traditionally been analysed in terms of Arabic metres, from which they are supposed to have been adapted. However, in recent years it has been recognised that for the most part Persian metres developed independently from those in Arabic, and there has been a movement to analyse them on their own terms.

An unusual feature of Persian poetry that is not found in Arabic, Latin, or Greek verse, is that instead of two lengths of syllables (short and long), there are three lengths (short, long, and overlong). Overlong syllables can be used instead of a long syllable plus a short one, or at the end of a verse in place of a long syllable.

Persian metres were used not only in classical Persian poetry, but were also imitated in Turkish poetry of the Ottoman period,[1] and in Urdu poetry under the Mughal emperors.[2] That the poets of Turkey and India copied Persian metres, not Arabic ones, is clear from the fact that, just as with Persian verse, the most commonly used metres of Arabic poetry (the ṭawīl, kāmil, wāfir and basīṭ) are avoided, while those metres used most frequently in Persian lyric poetry are exactly those most frequent in Turkish and Urdu.[3]


The traditional descriptionEdit

Until recently Persian metres were always described using the same terms as in Arabic poetry, using the system known as 'arūd (Persian pronunciation: ʾarūz) devised by the Arab grammarian Al-Khalil in the 8th century AD. Thus for example the rhythm of Ferdowsi's epic poem the Shahnameh (u – – u – – u – – u –) was thought to be a modification of the Arabic metre mutaqārib, which is similar (u – x | u – x | u – x | u –). (In this notation, u is used for a short syllable, – for a long one, and x for an anceps, which may be either long or short.) Another possibility, however, since this metre was not used in Arabic until the Islamic period, is that it was borrowed from Persian into Arabic.[4]

Since Persian metres are generally different from Arabic ones, often the match between Arabic and Persian is not exact. Thus in the traditional system, the following three metres, which seem to have little in common, are all treated as if they were adaptations of the Arabic metre hazaj (u – – x | u – – x || u – – x | u – – x):

u – – – u – – – u – –
– – u u – – u u – – u u – –
– – u u – u – u – – –

Another point is that the four most popular Arabic metres (the ṭawīl, kāmil, wāfir and basīṭ) are hardly used at all in Persian,[3] while three of the basic Persian metres are not found in Arabic.[5] In addition, one of the characteristics of Arabic poetry, namely the anceps positions (that is, certain places in the line where a syllable can be either long or short), do not apply to the Persian version of the Arabic metres, since in Persian, except sometimes for the opening syllable and the possibility of substituting a long syllable for two shorts, every half line has exactly the same pattern of longs and shorts.[6]

A new approachEdit

The description of Persian metres was revolutionised with the publication in 1975 of an article in the journal Iran by L. P. Elwell-Sutton,[7] later expanded into a book The Persian Metres (1976) and summarised in his entry ʾArūż (1986) in the Encyclopaedia Iranica. Elwell-Sutton argued against the idea that Persian metres are simply an adaptation of Arabic ones, and on the whole his view has been accepted by subsequent scholars. As François de Blois writes in Persian Literature: A Bio-Bibliographical Survey:[8] "Many Persian metres, particularly those used in lyric poetry, do not correspond to any Arabic metre, this despite the fact that the traditional Persian prosodic theory has given them elaborate Arabic names and attempted to 'derive' them from the standard Arabic metres with which they share a name."

What has been less readily accepted by other scholars is Elwell-Sutton's contention that the Persian metres as a whole carry on a tradition derived from pre-Islamic Persian poetry. According to De Blois there is no evidence that pre-Islamic poetry was quantitative rather than accentual. His view is that "the pioneers of Persian poetry, besides borrowing, or rather adapting, some of the Arabic metres, also developed a number of new, purely Persian metres of an Arabic (i.e. quantitative) type."[8]

Elwell-Sutton's classificationEdit

After examining the metres of over 20,000 Persian poems, Elwell-Sutton realised that the vast majority of them (well over 99%) could be analysed in terms of just five repeating patterns.[9] (Here the symbol u refers to a short syllable, and – to a long one.)

1. u – –
2. u – – –
3. u u – –
4. u – u – u u – –
5. – – u u – u – u

Thus the metre – u – – – u – – – u – (used in Rumi's Masnavi) can be seen as a variety of the second pattern, starting on the fourth syllable instead of the first. In Elwell-Sutton's classification, this metre is referred to as "2.4.11", meaning pattern 2, starting on syllable 4 and continuing for 11 syllables. The metre – – u u – u – u – – (used in Nezami's Leyli o Majnun) is classified as "5.1.10" (pattern 5, starting on syllable 1, 10 syllables long).

This system of labelling makes it possible to refer to the different metres in a simpler way than al-Khalil's system, where the metre of Omar Khayyam's quatrains is divided into 24 patterns with labels such as hazaj mutamman axrab maqbūż makfūf majbūb.[10]

Elwell-Sutton's study also enabled him to calculate the frequency of occurrence of the various metres. He found that although over 100 different metres exist, 99% of classical Persian poems use one of a group of about 30 common metres, of which some are more frequent than others.

Rules of prosodyEdit

Syllable lengthEdit

To "scan" a line of poetry is to establish which syllables are long and which are short so that it can be read properly. According to the European method, the line is first divided into syllables, each of which must contain a short vowel (a, e, o), a long vowel (ā, ē, ī, ō, ū) or a diphthong (ey, ow, āy, ūy). A syllable must start with a consonant, if one is available, but not more than one. Thus goftan "to say" is divided gof-tan and 'ādam "Adam" is divided 'ā-dam.

Syllables in Persian poetry are of three lengths. Writing C for a consonant, V for a vowel, and VV for a long vowel or diphthong, the three lengths are as follows:

  • Short: CV, e.g. ke, na.
  • Long: CVV or CVC, e.g. , gof, , mey.
  • Overlong: CVVC, CVCC, CVVCC, e.g. kār, dast, dūst. (exceptions: ān, īn, ūn count as long, not overlong.)[11]

In an experiment, Elwell-Sutton recorded two well-educated Persian speakers reading a number of poems and measured the length of each syllable in hundredths of a second. Although the length of the syllables was variable (for example, a short syllable could be anything from 0.07 to 0.65 seconds), the average of the two speakers combined was as follows: short syllables 0.21 seconds, long syllables 0.33 seconds, overlong syllables 0.59 seconds.[12]

Minor rules of prosodyEdit

An overlong syllable can be substituted anywhere in a line where the metre has a long plus a short syllable (– u). It may also freely be used at the end of a line in place of a long syllable, and also sometimes in place of a long syllable before the break in the centre of the hemistich in those metres where the line is divided into two halves.

The letter 'eyn (ع), which is pronounced as a glottal stop in Persian, is counted as a consonant, e.g. 'ešq عشق‎ "love" or 'ozv عضو‎ "member" or a'zā اعضا‎ "members".

The letter alef (ا) at the beginning of a word, as in اینīn "this", may either be pronounced as a glottal stop, or it can be omitted, according to the requirements of the metre. Thus the words در اینdar īn "in this" can be scanned either dar-'īn (with the first syllable long) or da-rīn (with the first syllable short).[11] Different poets have different preferences in this; for example, verses where the alef is observed as a glottal stop are much commoner in Rumi than in Sa'di.[13]

To make words more flexible and easier to fit into the metre, the unwritten ezāfe suffix may be pronounced either -e or , the word for "and" may be either o or ō or va, and "from" can be 'az, az, ze or z-.

Words ending in short vowels, such as na "not", to "you", xāne "house", can have the final vowel lengthened where convenient.[14]

Different pronunciations of other words can also be used where convenient, for example, the word for "from" can be 'az, az or ze; "if" can be agar, gar or ar; "hungry" can be gorsne or gorosne, and so on. The words va, ze, and ke ("who", "that", "since") are often joined on to the next word, e.g. vagar "and if", zīn "from this", kaz "since from".[15]

The silent letter vāv (و) which sometimes follows the letter xe (خ) in Persian words (e.g. خوابx(w)āb "sleep") is ignored in scansion.

When the sound ī (written ی) is followed directly by another vowel in Persian words, as in بیاbiyā "come", it is pronounced short, and similarly with the sounds ey and ow when they are followed by a vowel. (However, the prefixes bī- "without" and mī- (making continuous tenses) are never shortened.)[16]

In metres where a half-line ends with the sequence u u –, it is common to replace this with – –. This replacement of u u – by – – is also found elsewhere in the line, but much less commonly, and usually only when there is a phrase boundary after the second long syllable.[17]

When a line begins with the pattern u u –, in 80% of cases it is replaced by – u –, again with slight differences from one poet to another.[18]

An exampleEdit

Following these rules, Saadi's line banī 'Ādam a'zā-ye yek peykar-and "the sons of Adam are members of one body"[19] is divided into syllables as follows:


In this line the metrical pattern (u – – u – – u – – u –) requires that fourth syllable (da) should be short; so the potential glottal stop at the beginning of 'aʾzā is omitted and the final -m of 'ādam is taken as part of the next syllable. The only overlong syllable is rand.

Word accent and metreEdit

The word accent in Persian (which is pronounced as a combination of high pitch and stress)[20] at first sight does not affect the metre. In the following couplet of Hāfez, for example, although the two verses are parallel in structure, the word accent (which generally is heard on the last syllable of each word) comes three times on short syllables in the first verse, but three times on long syllables in the second verse. The accent is shown here by transcribing the accented vowels in bold:

زلف آشفته و خوی کرده و خندان لب و مست
پیرهن چاک و غزل خوان و صراحی در دست
zolf-'āšofte-vo xoy-karde-vo xandān-lab-o mast
pīrhan-čāk-o qazal-xān-o sorāhī dar dast
x u – – u u – – u u – – u u
"Hair tousled, perspiring, smiling-lipped, and drunk,
shirt torn, singing songs, and wine-flask in hand"

Despite this, the word-accent cannot be entirely ignored; for example, in an article on one of Hafez's poems, the scholar Iraj Bashiri uses an irregularly placed word-accent as an argument for rejecting one of the couplets as not original.[21]

Moreover, in metres with the rhythms | u – – – | or | – – u – |, there is a clear tendency for the word-accent to be on the 2nd and 4th syllables of the feet. The possibility remains that each metre has a "natural" pattern of stress, which is deviated from deliberately to create interest and tension.[22]

Feet (arkān)Edit

The Arabic prosodists divide the lines of verse up into "feet" (rukn, pl. arkān) of three to five syllables each; thus the metre of the Shahnameh is divided as | u – – | u – – | u – – | u – |, pronounced as fa'ūlun fa'ūlun fa'ūlun fa'ūl, using made up words derived from the Arabic verb فعلfʾl "to do". (See Arabic prosody.)[23] However, although with some metres it is easy to see where such division into feet should be made, in others it is less obvious. Elwell-Sutton therefore left the metres undivided. Other scholars, remarking on the regularly repeating rhythmic units of Persian poetry, have suggested ways of dividing the lines into feet on theoretical principles. However, different authors have proposed different ways of dividing the lines. For example the phonetician Bruce Hayes[24] divides the ruba'i metre (5.1.13) as follows:

– – u u | – u – u | – – u u | –

But another scholar, M. Farzaad,[25] divides it as follows:

– | – u u – || u – u – | – u u –

Since there is often a phrase-break or potential pause at the point that Farzaad marks with ||, Farzaad's scheme seems more natural.

Another scholar, Parviz Natel-Khanlari, proposed dividing the lines into shorter feet of two (or sometimes three) syllables, each one of which would have a word-accent on either the first or second syllable.[26]

In those metres where the division into feet is uncontroversial, such as the following:

| u u – – | u u – – | u u – – | u u – – |

it can be shown that sentence-breaks (such as the point where a subordinate clause begins, or where a postponed subject comes after a verb) tend to come at the end of a foot, especially at the mid-point of the line. However, sometimes such breaks are found elsewhere, one common place being one syllable before the end of the end of the third foot in the above metre.[27] In the above metre, a sentence-break at the mid-point of the line is particularly common in Rumi, being found in 75% of the lines examined in a study by Jeannine Heny, whereas in Saadi it came at this place in only 25% of the lines.


Persian poetry always uses rhyme, and most poems can be classified into two types: (a) poems in rhyming couplets, in which the two halves of a verse rhyme with each other; and (b) lyric poems, in which, apart from the first line, the two halves of each verse do not rhyme, but the same rhyme is used at the end of every verse throughout the poem.

The poems in rhyming couplets can be of any length from a single couplet to long poems such as Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, which is over 50,000 couplets long, or Rumi's Masnavi-ye Ma'navi, of over 25,000 couplets. These longer poems, known as masnavi, are traditionally written on one of seven different metres, six of which have 11 syllables, and one 10 syllables. (In practice, occasionally other short metres are found.)[28]

Of the poems with a single rhyme throughout, the two most common forms are the ghazal (a short lyric poem) and the qasida (which is longer). These can use the shorter metres, but more frequently use longer metres of 14, 15, or 16 syllables (less often 13 syllables).

Since it would be difficult to use the same rhyme throughout a long poem, sometimes poems were written in stanza form, in the same metre throughout but with each stanza using a different rhyme. At the end of each stanza is a rhyming couplet of a different rhyme again. This kind of poem was known as a tarjiʾ-band (if the couplets ending the stanzas are all the same throughout the poem) or a tarkib-band (if the couplets are all different).

In a class of its own is the ruba'i or quatrain, consisting of four half-lines, usually with the rhyme scheme "aa ba". This has its own 13-syllable metre, which has two forms and is used only for quatrains.

The commonest metresEdit

The list of metres below is taken from Elwell-Sutton's The Persian Metres (a slightly fuller list is given in same author's article ʾArūż in the Encyclopaedia Iranica together with their full Arabic names).[29] The patterns are read from left to right. u = short syllable; – = long syllable; x = either long or short. – u may be replaced by an overlong syllable (–u); an overlong syllable may also replace the final syllable of any verse. At the beginning of a verse, u u may be replaced by – u or –u; in other positions, but especially just before the end of the verse, u u may be replaced by a single long –.

The sign (M) after a metre indicates one of the seven metres traditionally used in masnavi (or mathnawi) (long poems in rhyming couplets such as Ferdowsi's Shahnameh or Rumi's mystical Masnavi).[30] Except for one metre in 10 syllables, all the masnavi metres have 11 syllables, a feature that may date to pre-Islamic times, since 11-syllable metre seems to have been common at that time.

For lyric poems, the metres of pattern 4 (43.8%) are the most common, followed by pattern 2 (27.6%) and pattern 3 (19.7%). Pattern 5 (5.4%) and pattern 1 (3.3%) are less frequently used, and other metres not in the usual patterns are used in only 0.2% of the poems Elwell-Sutton examined.[31]

The sign (R) indicates one of the two metres used in making rubā'iyāt (quatrains). These two metres (5.1.13 and 3.3.13), which are really variations of the same metre, are used only for rubā'iyāt. Very similar to the ruba'i, however, is the do-baytī, which uses the metre 5.1.11.

The final syllable of a line or half-line always counts as long, so if the pattern requires – u u at the end of the half-line, this automatically changes to – u – in the actual metre. (Cf. 3.4.7(2) and 3.4.11 below.)

Pattern Scansion Arabic Code

u – – u – – u – – u –

Mutaqārib 1.1.11 (M)

u – – u – – u – – u – –

Mutaqārib 1.1.12

u – – – u – – – u – –

Hazaj 2.1.11 (M)

u – – – u – – – u – – – u – – –

Hazaj 2.1.16 = 2.1.8(2)

    – – u – – – u – – – u – – – u –

Rajaz 2.3.16 = 2.3.8(2)

      – u – – – u – – – u –

Ramal 2.4.11 (M)

      – u – – – u – – – u – – – u –

Ramal 2.4.15

      – u – – – u – – – u – – – u – –

Ramal 2.4.16

x u – – u u – – u u –

Ramal 3.1.11 (M)

x u – – u u – – u u – – u u –

Ramal 3.1.15

x u – – u u – – u u – – u u – –

Ramal 3.1.16

    – – u u – – u u – – u u –

Hazaj 3.3.13 (R)

    – – u u – – u u – – u u – –

Hazaj 3.3.14

    – – u u – – – | – – u u – – –

Hazaj 3.3.7(2)

      – u u – – u – | – u u – – u –

Munsarih 3.4.7(2) = 4.4.7(2)

      – u u – – u u – – u –

Sarī' 3.4.11 (M)

      – u u – – u u – – u u – – u u –

Sarī' 3.4.16

u – u – u u – – u – u – u u –

Mujtatt (Mujtass) 4.1.15

u – u – u u – – u – u – u u – –

Mujtatt (Mujtass) 4.1.16

    – – u u – – u – u – –

Qarīb 4.3.11

      – u u – – u – u – u u – –

Munsarih 4.4.13

      – u u – – u – u – u u – – u –

Munsarih 4.4.15

      – u u – – u – | – u u – – u –

Munsarih 4.4.7(2) = 3.4.7(2)

        x u – – u – u – u u –

Xafīf 4.5.11 (M)

            – – u – u – u u – – –

Muḍāri' (Muẓari') 4.7.11

            – – u – u – u u – – u – u –

Muḍāri' 4.7.14

            – – u – u – u u – – u – u – –

Muḍāri' 4.7.15

            – – u – u – – | – – u – u – –

Muḍāri' 4.7.7(2)

    – – u u – u – u – –

Hazaj 5.1.10 (M)

    – – u u – u – u – – –

Hazaj 5.1.11

    – – u u – u – u – – u u –

Hazaj 5.1.13 (R)

      – u u – u – u – – u u – u – u –

Rajaz 5.2.16

        x u – u – u – – u u – u – u – –

Ramal 5.3.16

The most common metres in pattern 2 in lyric poetry are 2.4.15, 2.1.16, 2.1.11, and 2.4.11.

In pattern 3 the most common metres are 3.3.13 (used in quatrains only), 3.1.15, and 3.3.14.

Pattern 4.1 can be seen as being derived from pattern 3.1 by the reversal (or "syncopation") of the 2nd and 3rd syllables.[32] The most common metres are 4.1.15, 4.7.14, and 4.5.11.

Pattern 5.1 can be seen as being derived from pattern 3.3 by the reversal of the 6th and 7th syllables. The most common metres are 5.1.13 (used in ruba'iyat only) and 5.1.10.

Examples of the metres from Persian poetsEdit

In the section below, examples are given of some well known poems in various of the above metres. The transliteration is based on that approved by the United Nations in 2012, which represents the current pronunciation of educated speakers in Iran, except that to make scansion easier, the long vowels are marked (ā, ē, ī, ō, ū).[33] (See Romanization of Persian.) The glottal stop is written ('). x = kh (as in "Khayyām").

To help with reading the lines, overlong syllables are underlined in the transcriptions below. These are pronounced longer than the usual long syllables

Pattern 1Edit

be nām-ē XodāvandEdit

The metre 1.1.11, known by the Arabic name mutaqārib (motaqāreb), is one of the earliest to be found in Persian poetry of the Islamic period and is one of the seven metres used to make the long poems known as masnavi. It is most famously used for the 50,000-line epic poem the Shahnameh of Ferdowsi, completed c. AD 1010, which begins:

به نام خداوند جان و خرد
کزین برتر اندیشه برنگذرد
be nām-ē Xodāvand-e jān ō xerad
k-az-īn bartar andīše bar-na-gzarad
u – – u – – u – – u –
"In the name of the Lord of the soul and intellect,
since higher than this, thought cannot pass."

be nām-ē XodāyīEdit

Saadi's long poem the Būstān, completed in 1257, is also written in this metre. The first line is as follows:

به نام خدایی که جان آفرید
سخن گفتن اندر زبان آفرید
be nām-ē Xodāyī ke jān āfarīd
soxan goftan andar zabān āfarīd
u – – u – – u – – u –
"In the name of that God who created the soul,
who created speaking in the tongue."

banī 'ĀdamEdit

The same metre can also be used for shorter poems such as Saadi's well-known lines below from the Golestān,[34] which are inscribed on a carpet that hangs in the United Nations in New York:[35]

بنى‌آدم اعضای یک پیکرند
که در آفرینش ز یک گوهرند
چو عضوى به درد آورَد روزگار
دگر عضوها را نمانَد قرار
تو کز محنت دیگران بی‌غمی
نشاید که نامت نهند آدمی
banī-'Ādam a'zā-ye yek peykar-and [36]
ke dar 'āfarīn-eš ze yek gowhar-and
čo ʾozv-ī be dard āvarad rūzgār
degar 'ozv-hā-rā na-mānad qarār
to k-az mehnat-ē dīgarān bīqam-ī
na-šāyad ke nām-at nahand ādamī
u – – u – – u – – u –
"The sons of Adam are members of one body,
since in his creation they are of one essence.
when fate brings one member pain
the other members are affected.
You, who are without sorrow at others' affliction,
it is not fitting that they should call you by the name 'human'."

Pattern 2Edit

agar 'ān TorkEdit

Pattern 2, commonly known as hazaj, is similar to pattern 1 except that the short syllable is followed not by two but by three long syllables. The metre 2.1.8(2) is used for the following poem by Hafez. It has been referred to by Michael Hillmann as "the most familiar of Hafez's poems in the English-speaking world".[37] As sometimes happens with the longer metres, there is a break in the middle of the line:

اگر آن ترک شیرازی به دست آرد دل ما را
به خال هندویش بخشم سمرقند و بخارا را
'agar 'ān Tork-e Šīrāzī be dast ārad del-ē mā-rā
be xāl-ē Hendu-yaš baxšam Samarqand-ō Boxārā-rā
u – – – u – – – | u – – – u – – –
"If that Shirazi Turk wins my heart,
for his[38] Indian mole I will give Samarkand and Bukhara."

če tadbīr ey mosalmānān?Edit

Rumi uses this same metre in the following ghazal from the Dīvān-e Shams:

چه تدبیر ای مسلمانان که من خود را نمیدانم
نه ترسا و یهودیم نه گبرم نه مسلمانم
če tadbīr, ey mosalmānān? ke man xod-rā nemī-dānam
na tarsā vō yahūdī-yam, na gabr-am, naː mosalmān-am
u – – – u – – – | u – – – u – – –
"What am I to do, o Muslims? Since I do not know myself;
I am not a Christian or a Jew, nor a Zoroastrian, nor a Muslim."


An eleven-syllable form of this pattern, 2.1.11, is one of the two metres considered appropriate for writing masnavi poems on the theme of love. Examples include Fakhruddin Gurgani's Vis o Ramin, and Nezami's Khusrow o Shirin, which begins as follows:

خداوندا در توفیق بگشای
نظامی را ره تحقیق بنمای
Xodāvandā dar-ē towfīq bogšāy
Nezāmī-rā rah-ē tahqīq benmāy
u – – – u – – – u – –
"O God, open the door of success;
Show Nezami the way of investigation"

barā-yē xābEdit

The same metre was used from early times in popular poetry, such as the do-baytī, in which the opening iamb (u –) can sometimes be replaced by – – or – u.[39] The metre is still in use today, for example in the modern Iranian pop song Pol ("Bridge") by the singer Googoosh, which begins:

برای خواب معصومانهء عشق
کمک کن بستری از گل بسازیم
barā-yē xāb-e maʾsūmāne-yē ʾešq
komak kon bestar-ī 'az gol besāzīm
u – – – u – – – u – –
"For the innocent sleep of love
Help us build a bed of flowers"

The modern version of this metre has some licences compared with the classical one. For example, three of the verses of the song have a short syllable in the third position ( u – u – u – – – u – –); and overlong syllables are not observed.[40]

'ey 'āšeqānEdit

A different version of this pattern, 2.3.8(2), is used by Rumi in the following ghazal. Once again there is a break in the middle of the line:

ای عاشقان ای عاشقان هنگام کوچ است از جهان
در گوش جانم می رسد طبل رحیل از آسمان
'ey ʾāšeqān 'ey ʾāšeqān, * hengām-e kūč ast az jahān
dar gūš-e jān-am mīresad * tabl-ē rahīl az 'āsmān
– – u – – – u – | – – u – – – u –
"O lovers, o lovers, it is the time of setting off from the world;
into the ear of my soul the drum of departure comes from heaven."

bešnow īn neyEdit

The metre 2.4.11 is another of the metres commonly used for masnavi and was thought appropriate for poems on spiritual themes.[28] The most famous poem in this metre is the Masnavi-e Ma'navī, or 'Spiritual Masnavi', completed in 1273, of Mowlana Jalal al-Din Rumi of about 25,000 couplets, which begins:

بشنو از نی چون شکایت می‌کند
از جداییها حکایت می‌کند
bešnow az ney čūn šekāyat mīkonad
az jodāīhā hekāyat mīkonad
– u – – – u – – – u –
"Listen to the reed, how it makes complaint;
It tells the story of separations."

marhabā 'ey hodhodEdit

The same metre 2.4.11 is used in another masnavi, Attār's allegorical Sufi poem Manteq-ot-Teyr or Conference of the Birds, completed in AD 1177:

مرحبا ای هدهد هادی شده
در حقیقت پیک هر وادی شده
marhabā 'ey hodhod-ē hādī šode
dar haqīqat peyk-e har vādī šode
– u – – – u – – – u –
"Welcome, O hoopoe, who hast been made our guide,
who hast been made in truth the messenger of each valley."

Pattern 3Edit

abr-o bād-ōEdit

Pattern 3, based on a repeated rhythm u u – –, unlike pattern 2, tends to form long lines with no obvious break in the middle. An example of 3.1.15 is the following poem, which comes from the introduction to Saadi's Golestān. Note that the initial rukn u u – – is often changed to – u – – , and the final – u u – to – – – :

ابر و باد و مه و خورشید و فلک در کارند
تا تو نانی به کف آریّ و به غفلت نخوری
همه از بهر تو سرگشته و فرمان بردار
شرط انصاف نباشد که تو فرمان نبری
abr-o bād-ō mah-o xorshīd-o falak dar kār-and
tā to nān-ī be kaf ārī-yo be qeflat na-xorī
hame 'az bahr-e to sargašte-vo farmān-bordār
šart-e 'ensāf na-bāšad ke to farmān na-barī
– u – – u u – – u u – – – –
– u – – u u – – u u – – u u –
u u – – u u – – u u – – – –
– u – – u u – – u u – – u u –
"Cloud and wind and moon and sun and firmament are at work
so that you may get some bread in your hand and not eat it neglectfully.
All for your sake are perplexed and obedient to command;
it is not a fair condition that you should not obey the command."

The metre requires the second o "and" to be pronounced long. This in effect separates into two groups "cloud and wind" on the one hand and the astronomical "moon and sun and firmament" on the other. Another adaptation to the metre is Saadi's use of the form مه‎ mah for "moon" instead of the usual ماه māh.


The same metre is found in some of Hafez's ghazals, such as this one:

زلف آشفته و خوی کرده و خندان لب و مست
پیرهن چاک و غزل خوان و صراحی در دست
zolf-'āšofte-vo xoy-karde-vo xandān-lab-o mast
pīrhan-čāk-o qazal-xān-o sorāhī dar dast
x u – – u u – – u u – – u u –
x u – – u u – – u u – – – –
"Hair tousled, perspiring, smiling-lipped, and drunk,
shirt torn, singing songs, and wine-flask in hand"

The ending – – can freely alternate with u u –, as in the metre 4.1.15

korkma! sönmezEdit

This metre is also used in formal Ottoman Turkish poetry, for example in the Turkish National Anthem, the İstiklâl Marşı written in 1921 by Mehmet Akif Ersoy, though the effect in Turkish is different:

قورقما! سونمز بو شفقلرده یوزن آل صانجاق
سونمه دن یوردیمڭ اوستنده توتن اڭ صوڭ اوجاق
Korkma! sönmez bu şafaklarda yüzen al sancak;
Sönmeden yurdumun üstünde tüten en son ocak.
x u – – u u – – u u – – – –
x u – – u u – – u u – – u u –
"Fear not! for the crimson banner that proudly ripples in this glorious dawn shall not fade,
Before the last fiery hearth that is ablaze within my homeland is extinguished."

mard-e XodāEdit

Another shorter version of this third pattern, 3.4.11, is found in the following poem by Rumi. Theoretically the pattern requires a short syllable in the 11th position, but as the final syllable of a line always counts as long it is replaced by a long syllable:

مرد خدا مست بود بی شراب
مرد خدا سیر بود بی کباب
mard-e Xodā mast bovad bī šarāb
mard-e Xodā sīr bovad bī kabāb
– u u – – u u – – u –
"The man of God is intoxicated without wine;
the man of God is satisfied without meat."

har ke delārām dīdEdit

A different metre in pattern 3 is the following, where each line breaks into two halves. The metre is 3.3.7(2) but it could also be classified as 4.4.7(2).[41] It is exemplified by the following ghazal (love poem) by Saadi:

هر که دلارام دید* از دلش آرام رفت
چشم ندارد خلاص * هر که در این دام رفت
har ke delārām dīd * az del-aš ārām raft
čašm nadārad xalās * har ke dar īn dām raft
| – u u – | – u – || – u u – | – u – |
"Whoever sees a sweetheart, from his heart peace disappears.
His eye has no release, whoever has fallen into this trap."

The metre 3.3.13 – – u u – – u u – – u u – of pattern 3 is one of the two metres used to make ruba'iyat (quatrains) (see below).

Pattern 4Edit

šekofte šod gol-e hamrāEdit

One of the most common[31] lyric metres is 4.1.15, exemplified by the well-known ghazal of Hafez, which begins with this line:

شکفته شد گل حمرا و گشت بلبل مست
صلای سرخوشی ای صوفیان باده پرست
šekofte šod gol-e hamrā vo gašt bolbol mast
salā-ye sarxoši ey sūfiyān-e bāde-parast
u – u – u u – – u – u – – –
u – u – u u – – u – u – u u –
"A red rose has flowered and the nightingale has become intoxicated:
it is the call to enjoyment of pleasure, o sufis, worshippers of wine!"

In this metre, as in the similar metre 3.1.15, the final u u – can be replaced by – –.

ranj o 'anā-ye jahānEdit

Another metre of pattern 4, named after the Arabic munsariḥ ( x – u – | – x – u | – u u – ) but not closely resembling it, is 4.4.13. This was used in this short poem by Naser Khosrow to complete the safarnāme, the account of his seven-year journey to Mecca, in 1052:

رنج و عنای جهان اگرچه درازست
با بد و با نیک بی گمان به سرآید
چرخ مسافر زبهر ماست شب و روز
هرچه یکی رفت بر اثر دگر آید
ما سفر برگذشتنی گذرانیم
تا سفر ناگذشتنی به درآید
ranj o 'anā-yē jahān 'agarče darāz ast
bā bad o bā nīk bī gomān be sar āyad
čarx mosāfer ze bahr-e mā-st šab ō rūz
har če yekī raft bar 'asar degar āyad
mā safar-ē bar-gozaštanī gozarānīm
tā safar-ē nā-gozaštanī be dar āyad
– u u – – u – u – u u – –
"Although the tribulation and toil of the world is long,
with good and with bad without doubt it comes to an end.
The wheel is travelling for us night and day;
each time one person goes, in his footsteps comes another.
We are passing through the journey that must be passed,
until the journey which will never end begins."

har dam az 'omrEdit

An 11-syllable metre of this pattern 4.5.11 is used for masnavi writing (poems in rhyming couplets). In the introduction to his Golestān, Saadi includes a short 12-couplet masnavi of philosophical reflection, which begins as follows:

هر دم از عمر می رود نفسی
چون نگه می‌کنم نمانده بسی
ای که پنجاه رفت و در خوابی
مگر این پنج روز دریابی
har dam az ʾomr mī-ravad nafas-ī
čon negah mī-konam, na-mānde bas-ī
'ey ke panjāh raft-o dar xāb-ī
magar īn panj rūz dar-yābī?
x u – – u – u – u u –
"Every moment a breath goes from my life;
when I look, not enough has remained.
O you for whom fifty has passed and you are still asleep;
do you think you will find the answer in these five days?"

It includes the famous advice:

برگ عیشی به گور خویش فرست
کس نیارد ز پس ز پیش فرست
barg-e ʾeyšī be gūr-e xīš ferest
kas nayārad ze pas, ze pīš ferest
"Send sustenance for the afterlife to your own grave;
no one will bring it later, send it in advance."

be če kār āyad-atEdit

In the same metre is this poem also from the introduction to the Golestān:

به چه کار آیدت ز گل طبقی
از گلستان من ببر ورقی
گل همین پنج روز و شش باشد
وین گلستان همیشه خوش باشد
be če kār āyad-at ze gol tabaq-ī?
az golestān-e man bebar varaq-ī
gol hamīn panj rūz-o šeš bāšad (or: rūz panj)
v-īn golestān hamīše xoš bāšad
x u – – u – u – u u –
"What use to you is a bowl of flowers?
Carry away a leaf from my Golestan (flower garden)!
A flower lasts only for these five or six days,
But this flower-garden is delightful for ever."

Pattern 5Edit

pīrāhan-e bargEdit

Except for the robā'ī metre (see below), pattern 5 is much less commonly found than patterns 3 and 4.[42] The most common is 5.1.10, of which an example is the following couplet from Saadi's Golestān:

پیراهن برگ بر درختان
چون جامه عید نیکبختان
pīrāhan-e barg bar deraxtān
čun jāme-ye ʾeyd-e nīk-baxtān
– – u u – u – u – –
"A shirt of leaves on the trees;
like the festival clothes of fortunate people."

ey nām-e toEdit

The same metre is used for masnavi writing, including Nezami's story of Leyli and Majnun (completed 1192), which begins as follows, with a play on the words nām (name) and nāme (account or story):

ای نام تو بهترین سرآغاز
بی‌نام تو نامه کی کنم باز
'ey nām-e to behtarīn sarāqāz
bī-nām-e to nāme key konam bāz?
– – u u – u – u – –
"O you whose name is the best beginning;
without your name when shall I open my story?"

Unlike the other masnavi metres, which all have eleven syllables, this one has only ten.

Ruba'i metresEdit

Bahrām ke gūrEdit

The metre 5.1.13 is used for rubā'īyāt (or robā'īyāt) (quatrains), as in this couplet ascribed to Omar Khayyam, which plays on the two meanings of the word gūr (wild ass / tomb):

بهرام که گور می‌گرفتی همه عمر
دیدی که چگونه گور بهرام گرفت
Bahrām ke gūr mī-gereftī hame ʾomr
dīdī ke če gūne gūr Bahrām gereft?
– –u u –u – u – – u u –
– – u u – u –u – –u u –
"Bahram who used to catch wild asses all his life,
did you see what kind of wild ass (tomb) caught Bahram / Bahram caught?"

'ey dūst biyāEdit

However, robā'īyāt can also be written in another similar metre, 3.3.13, which is the same except that the 6th and 7th syllables are reversed. Often the two metres are mixed together in the same poem:

ای دوست بیا تا غم فردا نخوریم
وین یکدم عمر را غنیمت شمریم
'ey dūst biyā tā qam-e fardā na-xorīm
v-īn yek-dam-e ʾomr-rā qanīmat šomorīm
– –u u – || – u u – – u u –
– – u u –u – || u – – u u –
"O friend, come, let us not eat the sorrow of tomorrow,
but count this one moment of life as a blessing."

In the ruba'i there is a usually a sentence-break[43] or potential pause either after the fifth element or after the 7th, as noted by the symbol || in the above scansions.

Other metresEdit

če šavad be čehre-ye zard-e manEdit

Although the patterns listed above cover virtually all the poems of the classical period, sometimes other metres are found, used experimentally. The following poem, for example, by the 18th-century poet Hatef Esfahani, is written in the kāmil metre, rare in Persian but common in Arabic. It begins as follows:

چه شود به چهرهٔ زرد من * نظری برای خدا کنی
که اگر کنی همه درد من * به یکی نظاره دوا کنی
če šavad be čehre-ye zard-e man * nazar-ī barā-ye Xodā konī
ke 'agar konī hame dard-e man * be yekī nazāre davā konī
uu – u – uu – u – | uu – u – uu – u –
"If only you could look at my sallow face for the sake of God,
since if you did, you would heal all my pain with that single glance!"

It is traditionally sung to a melody (gušeh) called Čahārbāq, named after the well-known avenue Chaharbagh in Isfahan.[44]


  1. ^ Deo & Kiparsky (2011), p. 7.
  2. ^ See external links (Pritchett).
  3. ^ a b Deo & Kiparsky, p. 7.
  4. ^ Elwell-Sutton (1976), p. 172.
  5. ^ Perry (1978), page 157.
  6. ^ Maling (1973), p. 131.
  7. ^ Elwell-Sutton (1975).
  8. ^ a b De Blois (2002), p. 49.
  9. ^ Elwell-Sutton, article ʾAruz in the Encyclopedia Iranica.
  10. ^ Maling (1973), pp. 118-135.
  11. ^ a b Elwell-Sutton (1976), p. 214.
  12. ^ Elwell-Sutton (1976), p. 207.
  13. ^ Heny (1981), pp. 88-89.
  14. ^ Heny (1981), pp. 143-145.
  15. ^ Elwell-Sutton (1976), pp. 215-6.
  16. ^ Heny (1981), p. 95.
  17. ^ For discussion see Heny (1981), pp. 116-135.
  18. ^ Elwell-Sutton (1976), p. 121; Heny (1981), p. 161.
  19. ^ Saadi, Golestān, 1. Some texts have a'zā-ye yek dīgar and "are members of one another".
  20. ^ Hosseini, Seyed Ayat (2014), p. 22f for a review of the literature; also p. 35.
  21. ^ Bashiri (1979).
  22. ^ For discussion see Heny (1981), pp. 281-341.
  23. ^ Elwell-Sutton (1986), table 17.
  24. ^ Hayes (1979), p. 217.
  25. ^ Farzaad (1967), p. 113.
  26. ^ Elwell-Sutton (1976), p. 81.
  27. ^ Heny (1981), p. 208.
  28. ^ a b Elwell-Sutton (1976), p. 244.
  29. ^ Elwell-Sutton (1986), table 21.
  30. ^ Hayes (1979), p. 212.
  31. ^ a b Elwell-Sutton (1976), p. 162.
  32. ^ Hayes (1979), pp. 210-211.
  33. ^ New Persian Romanization System. E/CONF.101/118/Rev.1*. Tenth United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names. New York, 31 July – 9 August 2012.
  34. ^ Golestan 1.10
  35. ^ Payvand News 24 August 2005
  36. ^ A variant reading is بنى‌آدم اعضای یکدیگرند‎ "The sons of Adam are members of one another". See Bani Adam.
  37. ^ Iranian Studies, vol 8. (1975), issue 3, p. 164
  38. ^ For the male gender and the Turk cf. "Homosexuality iii. in Persian Literature" (Encyclopaedia Iranica)
  39. ^ Maling (1973), p. 128.
  40. ^ See further Mahdavi Mazdeh (2017) on the metres of modern Persian songs.
  41. ^ Hayes (1979), p. 214
  42. ^ Elwell-Sutton (1976), p. 162; Hayes (1979), p. 222; Deo & Kiparsky, p. 7
  43. ^ Heny (1981).
  44. ^ Tsuge, Gen'ichi, (1970) "Rhythmic Aspects of the Âvâz in Persian Music", Ethnomusicology, 14, 2, p. 210


External linksEdit