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Translation of Poetry: A Case Study of Shamlou’s "The Song Of Abraham In Fire" Through Vahid’s Practical Model For Translation Analysis and Assessment of Poetic Discourse

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This study presents an English translation of a Persian piece of modern poetry, “The Song of Abraham in Fire” by Shamlou, A. (1972), in order to assess the translator’s performance in preserving the form and the content of the original poem in terms of a product-oriented model for translation analysis by Vahid, D. H. (2008). The two texts are analyzed at both textual (linguistic) and extra-textual (cultural) levels and the results obtained from this analysis are used in the assessment of the poetic discourse. Finally, the outline of the practical model of Vahid (2008) is presented in two figures in the appendix.

Key terms

Translation assessment, textual analysis, extra-textual analysis, poetic discourse.


Translation of poetry is probably the subject in translation studies that triggers the strongest polemics. Many translation scholars have studied the issues of "literary translation" and expressed their ideas about the problems that confront translators in the act of translating literary texts. Even those not specialized in translation often have an opinion on the subject. The problems often originate from the multiplicity of meaning in a literary text and also from the integration of form and meaning in it.

Since the style of poetry is very imaginative and complex, it is very difficult, sometimes impossible, to transfer all the linguistic features of a poem from one language into another. The style contains part of the meaning so that a loss in transferring the style leads to a loss in transferring the total meaning. For poetry, the translation dilemma is either creating a text enabling reader to access the original, or creating a beautiful poetic text inspired by the original.

Lazim (2007) in his article considers poetry translation and points that poetry arouses doubts and queries on the possibility of its translatability. The opponents of poetic translation propose their reasons: when poems, especially philosophical ones, satires, lyrics, etc, are translated into another language, they become not only flabby poems, but rather new ones in a new language. They stress that poetry in translation surely loses its basic elements. Such views go with the belief that poetry is wholly lost in translation. Should we, then, refrain from translating poetry, or should we attempt at translating it irrespective of all precautions? The second view is advocated here for if poetry is left inaccessible to translation, mankind would be deprived of a huge number of poetic works which are masterpieces themselves.

The present study will benefit from the practical model of Vahid, D.H. (2008) for translation analysis and assessment of poetic discourse as its theoretical framework to analyze a Persian blank verse by Shamlou, A. (1973) with its English translation by Kho’I, E. (1998) at both textual (linguistic) and extra-textual (cultural) levels in order to assess the translator’s performance in preserving the form and the content of the original poem.



  • ‘The Song of Abraham in Fire’ by Shamlou, A. (1973)
  • Its English Translation by Kho’I, E. (1998)


  • The original poem with its corresponding translation has been read carefully.
  • The two versions have been compared and contrasted at both textual and extra-textual levels. Here, the textual analysis involves mainly the analysis of music (alliteration (consonance, assonance) and rhyme) and tropes; and the extra-textual analysis includes mostly the consideration of meaning suggestions and cultural implications.
  • The obtained data have been formulated in the practical model of poetry translation by Vahid (2008).
  • In the results and conclusion section, the translator’s performance in preserving the closest possible form and content have been assessed.

Data Analysis

Textual Level

Music: Alliteration

1st Stanza: In the original Persian poem, the words ‘خونین’/khunin/, ‘خاک’/khaak/, ‘می خواست’/mikhaast/ have the alliterative sound of /kh/ as consonance. It seems that Shamlou has made use of this harsh sound to inculcate the feeling of violence (خشونت) pertaining to the context of the poem into the readership. ‘گرگ’/gorg/, ‘دیگر’/digar/, and ‘گونه’/guneh/ have the alliteration of /g/ sound in common. This shows that the poet has intended to put emphasis on the otherness (دیگریت) of this another kind of man who is different from his surrounding throng. The consonance of /sh/ which has been repeated in the words ‘شایسته’/shaayesteh/, ‘عشق’/eshgh/, and some lines later in ‘شمشیر’/shamshir/, ‘نشیند’/neshinad/, ‘شیر’/shir/, ‘عاشق’/aashegh/, ‘سرنوشت’/sarnevesht/, ‘پاشنه’/paashne/, ‘آشیل’/aashil/, ‘درنوشت’/darnevesht/, seems to convey mainly the sweetness (شیرینی) and on the other hand the power of love, through using the two words ‘شمشیر’/shamshir/ and ‘شیر’/shir/. And this is the very power with which this different man could cross the bloody battlefield of destiny. In other places, the poet has utilized the alliteration of /z/ consonant in ‘زیباترین’/zibaatarin/ and ‘زنان’/zanaan/ and the alliteration of /b/ consonant in ‘بها’/bahaa/ and ‘بود’/bud/ and /r/ consonant in ‘رویینه تن’/ru’eineh tan/ and ‘راز’/raaz/ to add to the musicality of the poem. The repetition of the vowel /aa/ as assonance in such words as

آوار/aavar/ ,شایسته/ ,/shaayestehزیباترین ,/zibaatarin/بها/,/bahaa بشاید/ ,/beshaayadبایسته تر/ ,/baayesteh tar نام ها/ ,/naamhaعاشق/ ,/aasheghمیدان//meydaan

roughly indicates the height (بلندی) of worthiness (شایستگی), beauty (زیبایی), and love (عشق).

In the English translation of the poem, the alliteration of the harsh sound of /t/ in the words ‘tumbling’ and ‘twilight’ evokes the violence felt with the alliteration of /kh/ in the original poem. The translator has successfully accomplished to make use of the consonance /th/ in ‘there’ and ‘another’ to create the same effect that /g/, as a harsh sound, in دیگر’/digar/, and ‘گونه’/guneh/ has had in the Persian version. The author’s disdain for ‘خاک’ and ‘سنگ’ and their worthlessness in his viewpoint have been conveyed through the alliteration of /s/ in their translations, ‘dust’ and ‘stone’ respectively. The repetition of /l/ in the words ‘land’ and ‘love’, ‘love’ and ‘lips’, and ‘like’ and ‘love’ reflects the /l/ sound in the key word /love/, the similar role /ش/ plays in the corresponding Persian equivalents. /b/ in ‘blood’ and ‘by’, and ‘bloody’ and ‘battlefield’ seems to evoke the wild boiling and bubbling sound of blood in the battlefield of destiny. The words ‘sink’, ‘seven’ and ‘sword’ make consonance. ‘Secret’, ‘sorrow’ and ‘solitude’ also have the alliteration of /s/ that apparently conveys the feeling of sadness the different man of the poem experiences. The consonant /d/ is a case of consonance in the words ‘death’ and ‘depth’. There exist two cases of assonance of /Λ/ in ‘under’, ‘bloody’, ‘tumbling’ and in ‘blood’, ‘love’.

2nd Stanza: In the Persian version, the words ‘چشم'/chashm/, 'پوشیده’/pushideh/, and ‘باشی’/bashi/ have the consonant of /ش/ in common. Seemingly, the author has intended to evoke the feeling of comfort (آرامش), with applying the alliteration of /ش/, which may result from ‘closing the eyes’ (چشم پوشیدن). The alliteration of /b/ is obvious in ‘بسنده’/basandeh/, ‘بود’/bud/ and ‘بسازد’/besaazad/. ‘فریاد’/faryaad/ and ‘فرو رفتن’/foru raftan/ make the alliteration of /ف/; ‘شکلی’/shekli/ and ‘اشکال’/ashkaal/ the alliteration of /ش/; and ‘بر’/bar/ and ‘برد’/barad/ the alliteration of /b/. The repetition of the vowel /aa/ in the words ‘یافتم’/yaaftam/, ‘معنایی’/ma’naa’ei/, ‘فریاد’/faryaad/, and ‘تنها’/tanhaa/ and also the vowel of /i:/ in the words ‘غنچه یی’/ghoncheh’ei/, ‘ریشه یی’/risheh’ei/, ‘جوانه یی’/javaaneh’ei/, ‘مردی’/mardi/, and ‘شهیدی’/shahidi/ as assonance can be seen in this stanza.

In the English version of the poem, the translator has tried to emphasize on the commonness (عامیت) of this different man, who becomes promoted to the rank of the heavenly as a ‘martyr’ as a result of crying ‘No’ to the oppression of his time, using the alliteration of /m/ in ‘common’, ‘man’, ‘becomes’, and ‘martyr’. In the other lines, ‘bud’ and ‘becomes’ create the consonance of /b/, and ‘make’ and ‘my’ the consonance of /m/. Also, there are two cases of assonance, /eı/ and /u: /, in the words ‘make’ and ‘fate’, and the words ‘root’ and ‘shoot’ respectively.

3rd Stanza: In the original Persian blank verse, Shamlou has used the alliteration of the /b/ sound in the words ‘بی نوا’/bi navaa/, ‘بندگکی’/bandegaki/, ‘به’/beh/, ‘نبودم’/nabudam/, ‘بهشت’,/behesht/ ‘بز’/boz/, and ‘نبود’/nabud/ to make the sound of /b/ in the key word ‘بز’/boz/ echo round this stanza. In this poem, ‘بز’/boz/ (goat) is the symbol of submission and servility and reminds the reader of a human-being who has like slaves no power to opt for his/her own way of life. As the other cases of alliteration, ‘من’/man/ and ‘مینو’/minu/ make the consonance of /m/, ‘نواله’/navaaleh/ and ‘ناگزیر’/naagozir/ create the consonance of /n/, ‘ناگزیر’/naagozir/ and ‘گردن’/gardan/ and also ‘گونه’/guneh/ and ‘دیگر’/digar/ have the consonance of /g/, and finally the words ‘شایسته’/shaayesteh/, ‘آفرینه’/aafarineh/, ناگزیر’/naagozir/ and ‘را’/raa/ make the assonance of /aa/.

In the English rendering of this blank verse, the repetition of the sound /s/ in the words ‘servile’, ‘slave’, ‘submission’, and ‘servility’ seems to amplify the effect of this sound in the key word 'slave' because slavery is the most distinguishing feature of a goat ('بز'/boz/) in this stanza. The alliteration of the /h/ sound in the words 'humble' and 'himself' suggests to the reader the harsh pain from which a man has to suffer if he humbles himself for the indispensable morsel. The sound /k/ has been repeated in 'kind' and 'created' to possibly show the emphasis of the author on the creation of another kind of God. In this stanza, 'little' and 'slave' have the consonant of /l/ in common. In the English version of this stanza, no case of assonance has been detected.

4th Stanza: In the Persian version, the words 'کوه'/kuh/, 'که'/keh/, 'کوه وار'/kuhvaar/ have the alliteration of /k/. There is a case of consonance of /st/ in the words ‘استوار’/ostvaar/ and ‘نستوه’/nastuh/. ‘سرنوشت’ and ‘شیطان’ make the alliteration of /sh/, and /r/ as the consonance has been repeated in ‘رقم’/ragham/ and ‘راه’/raah/. The vowel /aa/ in ‘مردا’/mardaa/, آهن’/aahan/, ‘دریغا’/darighaa/, ‘اما’/ammaa/, ‘خدا’/khodaa/, ‘شیطان’/shaytan/, ‘را’/raa/ and ‘دیگران’/digaraan/ has been repeated as the assonance.

In the translation of this stanza, the repetition of the sound /f/ in the words ‘formidable’, ‘firm’, ‘before’, and ‘falling’ is likely to accent the firmness of the hero of the poem. There is a case of assonance of /ɔ:/ in ‘formidable’ and ‘falling’. 


1st Stanza: In the original Persian poem, the pairs ‘بایسته تر’/baayesteh tar/ - ‘شایسته تر’ /shaayesteh tar/, ‘بگوید’/beguyad/ - ‘نشیند’/neshinad/, ‘سرنوشت’/sarnevesht/ - ‘در نوشت’/darnevesht/ rhyme. In the corresponding English translation, ‘under’ - ‘there’ - ‘another’, ‘better’ - ‘utter’ , and ‘bloody’ - ‘destiny’ produce the same sound.

2nd Stanza: In the Persian version, some lines are rhymed, i.e. ‘شهیدی’/shahidi/ - ‘مردی’/mardi/, ‘دانه’/daaneh/ - ‘جوانه’/javaaneh/ - ‘ریشه’/risheh/ - ‘غنچه’/ghoncheh/ - ‘گونه’/guneh/, ‘جنگلی’/jangali/ - ‘گلی’/goli/, ‘شدم’/shodam/ - ‘بودم’/budam/. In the English translation, there is only one case of rhyme in the words ‘root’ - ‘shoot’.

3rd Stanza: In the original stanza, no case of rhymes has been detected but in its English translation the words ‘another’ and ‘creature’ rhyme.

4th Stanza: In the original Persian poem, the only rhyming terms are ‘استوار’/ostvaar/ - ‘کوه وار’/kuhvaar/ and in the English translation of this part ‘nor’ - ‘your’ are rhymed.


1st Stanza: The following tropes have been detected in this stanza: the metaphorical use of ‘twilight’ as ‘tumbling’, ‘love’ as ‘sword’, and ‘destiny’ as ‘battlefield’ – the allusion of ‘heels of Achilles’ to Achilles, a mythical Greek semi-God/semi-human hero of the ‘Iliad’ by ‘Homer’ - the synecdochical application of ‘lips’ for ‘man’. An image shift has been occurred in the translation of the first two lines of this stanza.

Under the bloody tumbling of twilight / there stands a man of another kind:

در آوار خونین گرگ و میش/ دیگر گونه مردی آنک 

In the two Persian lines, the poet may intend that the hero of the poem lives among the other common men and the simultaneous existence of this different man and the others results in a tumbling. In contrast in the two English lines, the translator may intend that the hero is so powerful that he has stood straight under this heavy tumbling.

The word ‘tumble’ means to go down from an upright position suddenly and involuntarily. It does not have the exact meaning of ‘آوار’/aavaar/. We could use the word ‘debris’ to preserve both the meaning and the musicality of the line: We then have the alliteration of /d/ in under/bloody/debris. The word ‘offer’ does not have the equal semantic load as ‘هدیت’/hadiyyat/, even if the word ‘offering’ cannot convey its exact meaning. The word ‘present’ or ‘gift’ may be a better choice. The verb ‘become’ is not as loaded and literary as ‘بشاید’/beshaayad/. ‘Deserve’ can be used instead: it is closer in meaning and alliterative with ‘dust’. The adjective ‘better’ is weaker in meaning than the adjective ‘شایسته تر’/shaayesteh tar/ and it is not exactly of the same sense as the adjective ‘بایسته تر’/baayesteh tar/ as well. One may use the adjectives ‘more decent/more sound’ and ‘more necessary’ respectively. The verb ‘utter’ is more formal than ‘بگوید’/beguyad/. ‘Say’ could be a better equivalence. The shift of ‘گلو’ /galu/ into ‘lips’ in the translation of this stanza is obvious. The adjective ‘mountain-like’ is not as emphatic as the neologism ‘شیرآهنکوه’/shir aahan kuh/ which has been coined by Shamlou; here the translator has somehow lost the image, alternatively the combination ‘a lion-hearted iron-willed rock-hard hero’ may be a better choice. The verb ‘cross’ doesn’t have the same semantic load as ‘در نوشتن’/dar neveshtan/. ‘Weather’ can be used to have a closer meaning and a greater aesthetic efficacy making a consonance with the word ‘with’ in the next line. We have an addition of image in translation: ‘the depth of solitude’ (غم تنهایی /ghame tanhaaei/). In the Persian poem we have a mere combination of ‘غم’/gham/ and ‘تنهایی’ /tanhaaei/, one may consider it as a personification regarding the whole theme of the poem; it may be better not to take it as personification. Here a mere combination in the Persian poem has changed into a metaphoric expression in the translation: solitude as a sea or an ocean.

The translation of this stanza is literal-semantic and communicative. The lexis used here is simple, familiar, with both abstract and concrete terms (abstract: twilight, love, name, destiny; and concrete: land, dust, and stone).

2nd Stanza: The following figures of speech are included in this stanza: the allusion of Esfandiar’ to a mythical hero in Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, Esfandiar, the personification of ‘heavens’;  also we have a case of simile: the hero likens himself to ‘bud’, ‘root’, ‘seeding’.

‘Sad’ means unhappy while ‘مغموم’/maghmum/ as its equivalent possesses a deeper literary sense; the adjective ‘melancholic’ is more likely to convey the intended meaning. ‘Enough’ is less formal than its equivalent ‘بسنده’/basandeh/. A shift may occur in the structure of the sentence to preserve the formality of ‘بسنده’/basandeh/:

Didth one No / just one No / suffice / to make my fate?

It seems that the translator has mistakenly translated the adverb ‘تنهاas ‘only’. Taking a closer look at the text of the poem clarifies this point. ‘Only’ should be replaced with ‘alone’, because the character wants to say that among the other people he was the only person that spoke out, he does not mean that he only uttered a ‘No’. Using ‘alone’ instead of ‘only’ can clarify the meaning.

The similes used at the end of this stanza serve as an explicitation of the original: ‘I was / and I became / not as a bud become a flower…

من بودم / و شدم / نه زان گونه که غنچه یی گلی... 

The overall type of translation used in this stanza is semantic, communicative, and partly pragmatic. It seems that the last line has been pragmatically translated because worshipping the character of the poem requires performing Salât before him. Words are simple, familiar, and mostly concrete (eyes, bud, flower, seedling, etc.) in both source and target texts.

3rd Stanza: The only case of trope in the third stanza is the metaphorical application of ‘submission and servility’ as ‘path’.

 The word ‘بی نوا  has been translated as ‘servile’ which has a disapproving sense unlike the Persian one for the sake of making alliteration with ‘slave’. We can simply use ‘poor’, instead, but at the cost of losing the alliterative effect of the phrase. In the same way, ‘servility’ that has been chosen for ‘خاک ساری’ should be replaced with ‘humbleness’. ‘Path’ is quite weaker in meaning than its source form ‘بز رو’ because the latter emphasizes the obligatoriness of traveling through this path like the path the flocks of sheep and the herds of cattle, having no option, are forced to go through. A more appropriate and alliterative choice would be achieved using a descriptive translation: ‘a flock-like forced path’.

Semantic, communicative and partly pragmatic translation is the type of translation which has been applied by the translator in this stanza. Words are simple, familiar, and mostly abstract (paradise, submission, servility).

4th Stanza: In the original Persian stanza, we have the metaphorical use of ‘oppression’ as ‘idol’. The nature of the hero of the poem is illustrated by the simile of the ‘mountain’ in adjectival phrase ‘mountain-like’.

According to the last two lines:

بتی رقم زد که دیگران می پرستیدند / بتی که دیگرانش می پرستیدند.

an idol whom others worshipped

an idol whom others worshipped.

The translation here lacks the emphasis applied in the two Persian lines using the additional object /ش/ in ‘دیگرانش’/digaraanash/. A more emphatic translation would be:

an idol the others worshipped

an idol whom the others worshipped.

The type of translation used in this stanza is literal-semantic and communicative translation. Here, the words used such as ‘God’, ‘Satan’, ‘destiny’ are simple, familiar, and mostly abstract.

Extra-Textual Level

 ‘The Song of Abraham in Fire’ was composed by Ahmad Shamlou as an elegiac poem for the execution of one of his friends, Mehdi Rezaei, in Chitgar Square. The language of the poem’s narrator is epic and the language of the character or the hero of the poem is the one that indicates the social/human commitment, i.e. the observation of human and love.

The poem starts with the narration of ‘the omniscient narrator’ about a man who is not like the other people, the man who is the lover of the beauties and of telling about them. He loves prosperity, freshness, and love for the others.

دیگر گونه مردی آنک   / که خاک را سبز میخواست                              Who wanted the land to be green    

We can have allusion here to one of Hafiz’s sonnets:

آدمی در عالم خاکی نمی آید به دست / عالمی دیگر بباید ساخت و ازنو آدمی

In this dusty world, to hand cometh not a man

It is necessary to make another world, and anew a man (Clarke, 1891)

The epic elements of this poem mostly refer to the desire for another world; a green world that emerges from the land of our world. According to H. W. Clarke, the equivalent ‘dust’ is a more exact choice for ‘خاک ’.

Therefore in this narrative, the other people and in fact the other men lack these features. The women have been omitted from this manly narrative that is expressed with the seemingly archaic language; instead, the description of “beauty” and the metaphoric expression of “the sword of love” have been replaced. And in fact, this has been observed and preserved by the translator.

The reference of the omniscient narrator to “the bloody tumbling of twilight” in the first stanza suggests the metaphorical application of this phrase as the difference between this man and the people and the result obtained from that.

There are some points to be discussed about the word ‘گرگ و میش’:

1.      Shamlou’s friend has been executed at the dawn of a gray morning.

2.      The word ‘ گرگ و میش’ in Persian means the faint light that distinguishes the night from the day and/or the day from the night and therefore it means both ‘dawn’ and ‘dusk’. However, ‘twilight’ in English means only the faint light just after the sun has gone down.

3.      Some believe that we always have the darkest and the blackest time of night before the sunrise, at dawn. And it can be interpreted that Shamlou has compared the hard conditions of his and his friend time to this period of extreme darkness and blackness of night.

4.      As another interpretation, we encounter an unclear combination of night and day when it is neither completely dark nor completely light. Again, we may claim that Shamlou has compared the simultaneous existence of this man, as the light, and the other people, as the dark, in the society. And this kind of existence requires the combination of their color, that is gray, and this is the very color of the dawn.

5.      We can conclude from the above four points that the equivalent ‘dawn’ is a more appropriate choice in terms of both meaning and musicality. We suggest the following translation: ‘under the bloody debris of dawn’ (with the alliteration of the sound /d/).

With expressing these lines and applying the neologism ‘شیر آهنکوه’, the omniscient narrator describes the portrait of a mythical lover and makes this portrait similar to Achilles, a mythical Greek semi-God/semi-human hero of the ‘Iliad’ by ‘Homer’. A man that is not like the other people, with the exaggeration of the narrator, is an invincible invulnerable hero whose Achilles’ heel is love and solitude. This TL-oriented allusion to Achilles applied by Shamlou has been successfully rendered by the translator. But since the afore-mentioned neologism has not been translated correctly and exactly, the description of the source text has been failed to be transferred. A foul but a faithful equivalent for that is: a lion-hearted iron-willed rock-hard hero.

This oratory language expands the intertextual relationship of the poem from Homer’s Iliad to Firdausi’s Shahnameh. This reveals another point about the character of the poem. The reason for the love and the solitude of this man is his eyes. This man can see while the others cannot see either the greenness of the land or the beauty of love. The difference lies in the very act of seeing, in the knowledge obtained from the eyes. Up to this part, we haven’t yet heard any word from the man different from the others. Thus this oratory expression has been mentioned by the omniscient narrator, a regretful expression which has ambiguity and equivocation: it refers both to closing the eyes to the blood of the dragon and the story of invulnerability of Esfandiar and to closing the eyes to life and the death. While in Esfandiar‘s story the reason for closing the eyes to life is the very act of closing them to the dragon’s blood,  in this poem, the act of seeing and not closing them is the reason for the death of this distinguished man. ‘Esfandiar’ as a cultural word has been literally transferred and no explanation has been provided for that. In the same way, the ambiguity of closing the eyes, the regretful expression of that, and its allusion to Esfandiar’s story have not been successfully transferred. ‘Ay’ is an interjection that means ‘yes’. However, to express this regret it is appropriate to use the equivalent ‘Ah’ or ‘Oh’ for ‘آه’.

From this line, we can hear the voice of the character of the poem, who expresses the results of his own seeing and sagacity. To see or not to see, that’s the difference which shows itself with crying ‘No’ and opposing. One No among all yeses the reason of which is ‘not seeing’ and ‘ignorance’. Therefore, ‘I’ and ‘No’ have been scanned in separate lines in source text so as to emphasize their equivalence in the textual convention of the poem. But we cannot see this emphasis in the target text. Saying yes or being silent had been made equivalent to sinking in these lines and has conformity with its Persian equivalent ‘فرو رفتن’.  Devoid of crying ‘No’, there exists neither any voice nor any meaning. And choosing the equivalent ‘I got to possess’ has been successfully made in conveying this message.

From the viewpoint of this man, ‘being’ and ‘becoming’ are just proved applicable for a human-being; the qualitative change or the plant growth are not worthy of such concepts. Being promoted from a commoner to a person of a higher rank before whom the sky and the heavenly prostrate themselves is the result of the very act of crying ‘No’. In other words, if you don’t shout ‘No’ to oppression, you may not even promote to the rank of the heavenly as a ‘martyr’. Godliness plays a significant role in the character’s viewpoint, but it is not involved with yielding completely to the fate. The other men have submitted to what fate has ordained for them and even if they experience a change, it is equal to just the growth of a plant over which they don’t have any control. And this is what has hindered them from promoting. With the literal-semantic translation of these lines, all of these messages have been transferred, except for the cultural word ‘نماز’ in the last line that has been rendered to ‘worshipping’. Since this concept is absent from the TL culture and ‘worshipping’ doesn’t have the same semantic load as ‘نماز’, a more appropriate choice would be ‘for heavens to perform Salāt before him’ with a clear and sufficient footnote about Salāt.

This different man clarifies his Godliness in these lines. From his viewpoint, human-beings as the creatures of God are too superior to travel the path of life in a flock-like forced movement as the flocks of sheep and the herds of cattle do. According to the poem, this kind of path is called ‘بز رو’/boz ro/. However, as we can see, the translator has not been able to convey the special features of this path. He has rendered it to simply ‘path’. One TL reader cannot get to figure out the extra-textual load of ‘بز رو’/boz ro/ with the simple word ‘path’. A more appropriate choice for that would be: a flock-like forced movement. The man of another kind deserves a God of another kind: the God who has created his beings to be free and to opt for their own way, not the God who has possessed some obligated beings having no option. This is the reason for not being in company with the others. Here the literal translation of ‘paradise’, ‘a God of another kind’, etc. and the pragmatic translation of ‘گردن کج کردن’/gardan kaj kardan/ as ‘humbling oneself’ successfully convey the above issue about his Godliness.

In these lines, the narrator comes back to the poem to conclude the narrative. He continues expressing his regret. The repetition of the neologism ‘شیر آهنکوه’ with the tone expressed in the last stanza has an intertextual relationship with the story of the hanging of ‘Hasanak the Vizier’ in Bayhaqi’s History: Hasanak’s mother has been a woman whose voice is clearly heard, though scarcely, in some lines of the History. We may say that she has imposed her sorrowful voice on the manly history. In our poem, no woman’s voice is heard but the tone of the narrator reflects this very voice that has been omitted from the history and has emerged from the contemporary Persian poem after a millennium. Since the translator has not achieved to convey this tone of the poet, no trace of this allusion is observed in the target text: ‘شیرآهنکوه مردا’ has been rendered simply to ‘mountain-like hero’. Addressing the character of the poem, the narrator explains another point in his absence: he speaks about the binary opposition of God/Satan. He reminds the different man it is not this opposition that has written his destiny rather it is the ignorance of the people who cannot differentiate between good and evil, and make the oppression an idol that replaces God. The death of the poems character has occurred before his falling on the ground; when he has not been in company with the other people; when he has cried ‘No’. Again the literal translation has helped the translator to convey these messages of the poet.

The name of the poem is ‘The song of Abraham in Fire’ which has an allusion to the story of the Prophet Abraham. He was sentenced to be burned in fire because of his shouting ‘No’ to the oppression of Namrud and his iconoclasm. In our narrative, common people’s saying yes to the oppression and their dependency to that pronounce the burning sentence on Abraham but God has ordained that he will not burn in fire. The hell that idolaters have provided for him is quenched and cooled by virtue of his prayers.

And Shamlou, with making use of this naming and this intertextual relationship, has converted the whole of this poem to the prayers of Abraham. Thus, the life and death, as well as the narrator and character, and the idol and oppression all correspond to each other in the narrative. Thus, we may conclude throughout the whole poem we hear only one voice that is the voice of opposition to the oppression and idolatry. And this very single voice plays two apparently separate roles, one is of the omniscient narrator the other is of the character of the poem, the man is not like the others. 

The literal translation of the name of the poem without any further explanation is not sufficient to remind the TL reader of the afore-mentioned intertextual relationship.

Results & Conclusion

In the present study, the contemporary Persian blank verse, ‘The Song of Abraham in fire’ by Ahmad Shamlou (1972) with its English Translation by E. Kho’i (1998) was analyzed both at textual and extra-textual levels.

The poem was analyzed according to Vahid’s practical model (2008) first at the textual level.

The look of the text: since the poem is a blank verse, rhythm was not taken into account. In contrast to nineteen cases of rhyme in the Persian version, only thirteen cases were found in the English version. We see four stanzas in the Persian poem, which have been separated from each other by small squares (□), a tool usually applied by Persian poets in their writings. But this separation is absent from the English version, which may somehow distort the comprehensibility of the poem for the reader. In terms of line length and rhyme-scheme, it seems that there is no consistency in the pattern of the stanzas. The translator has successfully accomplished to preserve the structural patterns of the original poem: simple past tense, infinitives, simple present tense, and relative clauses; except for the translation of past continuous tense that has been translated into simple past, which itself is a common method in translating. In several parts of the poem, the punctuation marks used in the Persian version have not been correctly incorporated into the translation: some of them have been omitted and some have been replaced with the other marks.

The music of the text: fifty-seven, forty, and nineteen cases of consonance, assonance, and rhyme respectively have been found in the four Persian stanzas while in the translation forty-five, eleven, and thirteen cases of the corresponding phonaesthetic devices have been identified. Therefore, it is concluded that the original is more alliterative and musical than the translation. Stress patterns are included in the spoken language and cannot be considered for the present analysis. The above data obtained from the analysis concerning the music of the text is shown in the Figure 1.

Figure 1: Data obtained from the analysis concerning the musicality of the text

Data obtained from the analysis concerning the musicality of the text

The lexis of the text: concerning the complexity level of the words used in the poem, it is claimed that both source and target text mostly make use of simple and familiar words. Also, it can be said that the original poem and its English translation have applied a roughly equal number of concrete and abstract terms. Resulting from what was mentioned in the data analysis section, the English version is generally not as literary and loaded as the Persian version. Since the equivalents chosen for some Persian words have less semantic load than their corresponding original ones, there are meaning suggestions in some of the Persian words, which have not been successfully conveyed in the translation process; for example, the words ‘path’ for ‘بز رو’, ‘sad’ for ‘مغموم’, ‘enough’ for ‘بسنده’, etc.

The figure of the text: among the figures of speech used in this poem, simile, metaphor, and personification have been successfully preserved in the target text. However, some words which have connotational meaning, like ‘نماز’, ‘ابراهیم’, ‘اسفندیار’, have been mostly literarily, and in few cases, pragmatically translated without any additional explanation.

The aura of the text: the translator has been achieved to convey the tone of the poem that is political, serious, elegiac, and heroic. ‘The Song of Abraham in Fire’ was composed by Shamlou as an elegiac poem for the execution of one of his friends in 1972.

The message of the text: the message of the text is mythical, epic-like, and at the same time descriptive. It depicts the great character of one of Shamlou’s friends as an invulnerable hero who is different from his surrounding common people. His different love, thoughts, ambitions, ideology, death, God, and destiny are all what make him distinguished from the others.

Second, the poem is analyzed at the extra-textual level. Based on the above discussion, the literal-semantic translation of Shamlou’s poem in this study is more author-oriented, and except for some shortcomings in the translation of culture-bound terms and proper-name allusions it has coherence at the extra-textual level.

The cases of consonance, assonance, and rhyme detected in the two Persian and English versions of the poem under question are illustrated stanza by stanza in the following pages.


We wish to acknowledge our sincere thanks to Dr. H. Vahid Dastjerdi for supervising the present study. We alone take full responsibility for any mistakes and shortcomings. 

Translation of Poetry 1

Translation of Poetry 2

Translation of Poetry 3

Translation of Poetry 4

Translation of Poetry 5

Translation of Poetry 6

Figure 1. The Practical Model of Poetic Translation Analysis and Assessment by Vahid (2008): Textual Level - click here

Figure 2. The Practical Model of Poetic Translation Analysis and Assessment by Vahid (2008): Extra-Textual Level - click here


Kho’i, E. (1998). The Song of Abraham in Fire. Retrieved 2009, from

Lazim, H. G. (2007). Poetry Translation. Retrieved 2009, from

Vahid, D. H. & Hakimshafaaii, H. & Jannesaari, Z. (2008). Translation of   Poetry: Towards a Practical Model for Translation Analysis and Assessment of Poetic Discourse. Journal of Language and Translation, 9(1) 7-40.

آزرم، م. (2008). راز مرگ رویینتن: خوانش تفسیری شعر «سرود ابراهيم در آتش» اثر احمد شاملو. بازيابی در 2009، از تفاوط:

پورنامداريان, ت. (1987). تاملي در شعر احمد شاملو. تهران: آبان.

داﻧﺎﺋﻴﺎن، ﻧ. (2008). ﻧﮕﺎهی به ﺷﻌﺮ ﺷﺎﻣﻠﻮ و ﻗﺒﺎﻧﻲ. بازيابی در 2009، از دیدگاه: 

شاملو، ا. (1972). کاشفان فروتن شوکران. بازيابی در 2009، از 

شيدا، ب. (1999). از حماسهى آرزو تا تراژدى تنهايى (تفرجى کوتاه در چهار شعر احمد شاملو). بازيابی در 2009، از کانون پژوهشى «نگاه»:

نفيسي، م. (2008). چهره زن در شعر شاملو. بازيابی در 2009، از حيات انديشه: 




Published - July 2009

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