‘Unṣurī is said to have been born in Balkh, today located in Afghanistan, and he eventually became a poet of the royal court of Mahmud of Ghazni, and was given the title Malik-us Shu'ara (King of Poets) under Sultan Maḥmūd of Ghazna.
His Divan is said to have contained 30,000 distichs, of which only 2500 remain today. It includes the romance epic Vāmiq u ‘Adhrā. The following dialog between an eagle and a crow, translated by Iraj Bashiri, is an example. In it the King of Poets, Unsuri, compares his own status vis-a-vis that of a young poet who has joined the court recently.
The Eagle and The Crow: A Dialogue
Translated by Iraj Bashiri
- A dialogue occurred, I happen to know,
- Betwixt the white eagle and the crow.
- Birds we are, said the crow, in the main,
- Friends we are, and thus we shall remain.
- Birds we are, agreed the eagle, only in name,
- Our temperaments, alas, are not the same.
- My leftovers are a king's feast,
- Carrion you devour, to say the least.
- My perch's the king's arm, his palace my bed,
- You haunt the ruins, mingle with the dead.
- My color is heavenly, as everyone can tell,
- Your color inflicts pain, like news from hell.
- Kings tend to choose me rather than you,
- Good attracts good, that goes for evil too.
- Cf. Thomas Hägg, 'The Oriental Reception of Greek Novels: A Survey with Some Preliminary Considerations', Symbolae Osloenses, 61 (1986), 99-131 (p. 106), DOI: 10.1080/00397678608590800 .
- Bashiri, Iraj. "A Brief Note on the Life of Abul Qasim 'Unsuri". Bashiri Working Papers on Iran and Central Asia.