Published November 28, 2009 · Estimated reading time: 3 minutes · Filed under , , ,

I was fortunate enough to find a print of a painting of this Sepehri poem when I was going through the old things I had carefully preserved in my grandmother’s house in the third grade. I had a series of these prints. Each illustrated a few verses from modern Persian poetry, and I was unusually attached to them.

Where is the home of the friend?
Calligraphy and painting by Seddigh (1995) – (خط و نقاشي اجراء صديق (١٣٧٤

“خانه دوست كجاست؟” در فلق بود كه پرسيد سوار.
آسمان مكثي كرد.
رهگذر شاخه نوري كه به لب داشت به تاريكي شن‌ها بخشيد
و به انگشت نشان داد سپيداري و گفت:
“نرسيده به درخت،
كوچه باغي است كه از خواب خدا سبزتر است
و در آن عشق به اندازه پرهاي صداقت آبي است
مي‌روي تا ته آن كوچه كه از پشت بلوغ، سر به در مي‌آرد،
پس به سمت گل تنهايي مي‌پيچي،
دو قدم مانده به گل،
پاي فواره جاويد اساطير زمين مي‌ماني
و تو را ترسي شفاف فرا مي‌گيرد.
در صميميت سيال فضا، خش‌خشي مي‌شنوي:
كودكي مي‌بيني
رفته از كاج بلندي بالا، جوجه بردارد از لانه نور
و از او مي‌پرسي
خانه دوست كجاست.”
– سهراب سپهری
(حجم سبز ١٣٤٦)


“Where is the home of the friend?”2
Asked the rider at dawn.
The sky stood still.
The passerby bequeathed
the branch of light he held to his lips
to the darkness of sands
and pointed to a poplar and said:

“Before the tree,
there is a garden lane greener than God’s dream
where love is as blue as the wings of fidelity.
Go on till that alley which emerges from maturity,
then turn to the flower of loneliness,
two steps before the flower
remain at the foot of the eternal fountain of earthly legends
where a transparent fear overtakes you.
In the flowing sincerity of the space, you hear a rustling
A child you see
has climbed a tall pine, to take a chick from the nest of light
and you ask him
where is the home of the friend?”

Notes: I’ve written earlier about the challenge of translating old Persian poems where the meaning is carried in the form of the couplets, as well as in the cultural/historical/religious symbolism used. Modern Persian poetry tends to be more abstract and encompassing in meaning. As well, the poems are frequently in free verse, so there is no meter and no rhyme to be concerned with.

Nonetheless, it can be exceptionally difficult to translate because to compensate for not relying on broader symbolism in verses; these poems rely on the ambiguity of words, even tenses to convey meaning. So while there is no rhyme, the poems often contain alliterative elements. For example in “bodhi” Sepehri uses budan (and verbs budam/budi/bud) which means to be, to exist in Persian in corroboration with the bodhi and buddha in the last verse har budi buda shodeh bud. These alliterative elements create images that transcend what is said literally.

1Neshani literally means address in Persian, however the word can also mean “indication” stemming from the root neshan (noun:sign, point, verb:to show).
2This line is very famous and is often translated as “Where is the friend’s house?” or “Où est la maison de mon ami?” in French as it was in the title of the brilliant & tragic film by Abbas Kiarostami. However, I felt that “the friend’s home” was much choppier than it should be. “Where is the home of the friend?” is more in line with the original verse “Khane-ye (home of) doost (friend) kojast (where is)?” as Persian does not use possessive nouns that English does, possession appears before the possessor in a sentence and is indicated by of. As well, this gives a sense of ambiguity in reference to the “friend” that the other construction lacks.

On a final note, there is a gorgeous site up dedicated to the works of Sohrab Sepehri by someone who “loves Sohrab”. It’s an incredible collection of all his paintings, writings and poetry (in English/en Français).

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Permanent linkMarzieh Ghiasi

6 responses so far

  1. 😉 zibatarin ashar. 🙂 aramesh roh 😕


    nastaran Reply:

    @nastaran, 😕 vaghan khane dos kojas 😉


  2. wow….it is amazing
    everytime i read this poem i star to cry…
    R.I.P sohrab sepehri …he was the greates poet I ever known….


  3. God bless u who try to make Iranians known to the world.


  4. Thank you for this post and translation of the poem. Axiom of choice have recorded an absolutely beautiful version of this poem as a song. Can you recommend any books of Sepheri’s poetry available in English? Many thanks


    Marzieh Ghiasi Reply:

    @Yassir, Thank y0u for directing me to the song, just saw it on Youtube it’s very lovely!

    I don’t have any of Sepehri’s translated works to recommend. This site has a number of his poems translated in English and French and the translations are pretty good for example, there is a decent translation of what is probably his most famous poem the sound of water’s footsteps


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