Kristof D'hulster deposited Licit Magic – GlobalLit Working Papers 6. Nevāʾī’s Meter of Meters. Introduction & Partial Translation in the group Digital Middle East & Islamic Studies on Humanities Commons 1 year, 3 months ago
Are you tripping over your own feet, incapable of advancing even a single metre, when it comes to understanding the technicalities of the feet and metres of pre-modern Islamicate poetry? Then you should probably not consult Nevāʾī’s Meter of Meters, since you are better off with the works of a Wheeler Thackston or a Finn Thiesen… If, however, you want to see for yourself just how sophisticated a toolbox Islamicate rhetoricians had developed to discuss poetic meter, then you are well off with Nevāʾī’s Meter of Meters.
While the name of Nevāʾī might well not ring a bell with many of us, across vast swaths of the Islamic world it resonates deeply. Indeed, ever since the late 15th century, both professional poets and aficionados have marvelled at his countless verses, and this they did well beyond the poet’s homeland in present-day Uzbekistan: in the Balkans and in Sinkiang, and pretty much everywhere in between.
Introduced and partially translated here is not one of his celebrated divans or versified romances, but a didactic work that focuses squarely on the technicalities of the meter of classical Islamicate poetry. While his work, contrary to his own statement, is not the oldest of its kind in Turkic, it is still by far the best-known one, celebrated by Ottomans, Mughals, and Qajars and Ottomans alike. Starting from the bare letter as poetry’s fundamental building blocks, Nevāʾī details how these letters combine into pillars, how these pillars combine into feet (both the basic ones and the ones derived thereof), and, eventually, how these feet combine into nineteen sound and plenty more derivative meters. His analysis is sprinkled with illustrative verses in Chaghatay Turkic, and topped with a succinct defence of poetry, the tricks of poetry scansion, an appraisal of his patron and brother-in-arms, the Timurid ruler Ḥusayn Bayqara, and a rare discussion of Turkic prosodic forms that stretches the limits of classical prosody.