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The Bawdy Tales of the Mathnawī in the Context of Persian Mystical Poetry

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Chapter Summary

The Persian language became one of the most refined forms of disclosing secrets under the veil of poetry that the Sufi masters employed. In the richness of its vocabulary and metaphors, in its characteristic flexibility that contributed to the primacy of puns and paradoxes, the Sufi masters found "an ideal vehicle" to make their poetic cosmos come alive. Arabic mystical poetry of the early ʿAbbāsid period relied on the conventions of non-mystical verse. The primary function of the bawdy passages of the Mathnawī is for mystical purposes. The communication of esoteric secrets is the leitmotif of the entire corpus of Rūmī's Mathnawī, it is what animates every page of this mystical book. In other words, these bawdy tales do not serve the purpose of satirizing of a rival, or entertaining a patron.

Keywords: bawdy tales; Mathnawī; Persian mystical poetry; Rūmī

10.1163/ej.9789004163539.i-260.8
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