How might someone in Tajikistan, the only Persian-speaking republic in the former Soviet Union, describe a beautiful and lively night spent in the company of family and friends?
Perhaps he or she would use the word dilafruz, which literally means ‘firing the heart’.
If that person spent the night alone in a depressed state, however, the word chosen might be diltang, which would indicate a ‘narrowing of the heart’.
In a country where poetry runs in the blood, falling in love can be described in a dozen different ways. One can be dil bastan (heart-tied), or have a dil gum zadan – a racing heart.
Correspondingly, the person that triggers this state might be called a dilrabo (heart stealer), while freezing someone’s heart is dil khunuk shudan, a somewhat dramatic take on getting dumped.
Languages full of heart – and verse!
The Tajik language is closely related to the Indo-Iranian languages spoken in Iran (Farsi) and Afghanistan (Dari). In Farsi, the literary word for heart is closer to del in pronunciation. Dari’s dil is like the Tajik.
World map adapted by Mani1 to show areas where Persian is spoken. Creative Commons.
Moreover, across the Eurasian sub-region indicated above, dil (written “дил” in the Cyrillic alphabet Tajkstan still uses) is the heartbeat of a rich poetic tradition stretching back at least as far as the first milennium AD.
One day I will lose myself among memories,
Look for heart in the memories, dear
I cut my heart out of spring against my will,
Because, (they) glued me to a cold autumn.
Happy World Poetry Day!
In 1999 that the United Nations decided World Poetry Day should be marked on March 21, a date that also marks the celebration of the Spring Equinox across much of Eurasia.
It is unlikely that this decision was a coincidence. A key to the UN’s thinking on the day comes in former UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova’s comment that “poetry embodies the creative energy of culture, for it can be continuously renewed.”
For members of the Persian-speaking world, Nowruz is one of the most important dates of the year. Thus, the fact that the poetic tradition to which it has contributed so greatly is also recognised, feels deeply symbolic.
As one saying goes, “a heart finds its way to a heart”.
Cover image: Azerbaijani folk art based on the Layla and Majnun novel by Nizami Ganjavi. CC BY 3.0.