Diwan-e-Urfi Shirazi

About this text

Introductory notes

‘Urfi Shirāzi (1555-1591) was the son of a prominent provincial administrator from Shiraz, whose work with customary law (ʿurf) led to his son’s choice of ʿUrfi as his penname (taḵalluṣ). The young poet soon became a leading figure in the literary life of Shiraz, but like many of his contemporaries, ʿUrfi was drawn to India due to the prospect of more lavish patronage in the Mughal courts. Arriving in the Deccan (c.1584), ʿUrfi joined the literary salons of Ahmadnagar, where his arrogance made him unpopular; so he moved on to the imperial capital of Fathepur Sikri. He befriended Faiżi, the leading poet at Akbar’s court, and accompanied him on the campaign to Punjab in 1585. Around 1589, ʿUrfi gained patronage from the Mughal statesman Mirzā ʿAbd-ul-Rahim Khān-e Khānān, who introduced him into the service of Akbar, and his son Salim (Jahāngir). ʿUrfi accompanied Akbar on his retreat to Kashmir in 1588. He died of dysentery in Lahore in 1591. The contemporary historian ʿAbd-ul-Qādir Badāʾuni reported that “there is no street or bazaar where booksellers do not stand with copies of the divāns of ʿUrfi... prominently on display”, and the poet’s contemporary popularity is also suggested by the existence of more than 100 extant manuscripts of his works.


Qasida az ‘Urfi Shirāzi:

Sare dar ‘ahd-e- mā sāmān nadārad / kasi gar āb dārad nān nadarad
manādi mi zanad dar shish jihat yās / ke dard-e- muflisi darmān nadārad
be shirini sakhāwat kān buwad lek / kasi ku zar nadārad jān nadārad
chunān ‘āmast be ābi darin ‘ahd / ke bahrām āb dar paikān nadārad
ze qaht-e- nān be mehmāni-e-‘isā / bejuz yak nān falak dar khwān nadārad
hunarwar nān kuja yābad ke ‘Isā / be gardun raft-o-juz yak nān nadārad
maju lulu ke az bas tangdasti / khazaf ham dar sadaf ‘ammān nadārad
chunān az be zari shād ast Urfi / ke pindāri be zar imān nadārad.


The poet describes how in his times, no one has the wherewithal; if he has water, then there is no bread. Despair announces it to the entire world that poverty has no cure. Water (āb) is so scarce that even the arrow of the Mercury has no ‘āb (:sharpness). Only one bread is available and that is of the Moon. Do not seek pearls, the sea shells are empty of their treasure and have only pebbles to offer. ‘Urfi says he is so happy despite being penniless that you would think he has no faith in gold and silver.


zu‘af che zu‘afi ke ze jism-e- nazār / sāyah-e- simurgh kunam āshkār
hosh darin rāh-o- rawish masti ast / naghz tarin tuḥfah tahi dasti ast
hosh be sailāb deh-o- mast rau / toḥfah bar afshān-o- tahi dast rau
hān nakuni kaz rah-e- hirṣ-o- neyāz / suye gohar rizah bari dast-e- āz
māya-e- hasti chu tahi dasti ast / nisti az nist che khush hasti ast.


How feeble and weak I am; my poor, thin body reflects the shadow of the phoenix (: an imaginary bird that cannot be seen).

On this path, to be intoxicated is to be alert; the best gift is to be empty-handed. Get rid of your wisdom, throw away your riches and live like a pauper. Hark, do not give way to greed and desire; do not stretch your hand towards petty jewels. Life’s treasure is to be empty-handed.


sulṭān-o- gadā dar ṭalab-e- jāma-o- nān
tā bāz begirand jasad rā wa shikam rā


The king and the pauper both seek clothes and bread for restoring of the body and the stomach.


bekhwān-o- māidah shud dast-e- ishtehā muṭlaq
bekām-o- me‘ada ‘adāwat fazud ṭab‘a-e-laim


The hand of hunger abstains from food and the mean temper has enhanced its animosity towards the pallet and the stomach.

This text is an English-language translation of the original version:

This is a selection from the original text


bread, hunger, pauper, water

Source text

Title: Diwan-e-Urfi Shirazi

Author: Urfi Shirazi

Editor(s): Golām-Hoseyn Javāhari Wajdi

Publisher: Golām-Hoseyn Javāhari Wajdi

Publication date: 2016

Original compiled c.1584-1591

Place of publication: Tehran

Provenance/location: Original compiled c.1584-1591

Digital edition

Original author(s): Urfi Shirazi

Original editor(s): Md. Ehteshamuddin Institute of Persian Research, Aligarh Muslim University , Azarmi Dukht Safavi Institute of Persian Research, Aligarh Muslim University

Language: English


Texts collected by: Ayesha Mukherjee, Amlan Das Gupta, Azarmi Dukht Safavi

Texts transcribed by: Muhammad Irshad Alam, Bonisha Bhattacharya, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Muhammad Ehteshamuddin, Kahkashan Khalil, Sarbajit Mitra

Texts encoded by: Bonisha Bhattacharya, Shreya Bose, Lucy Corley, Kinshuk Das, Bedbyas Datta, Arshdeep Singh Brar, Sarbajit Mitra, Josh Monk, Reesoom Pal

Encoding checking by: Hannah Petrie, Gary Stringer, Charlotte Tupman

Genre: India > poetry

For more information about the project, contact Dr Ayesha Mukherjee at the University of Exeter.