Sen McGlinn's blog

                                  Reflections on the Bahai teachings

Parallelism as a literary device

Sun, 22 Nov 2009

I was asked
> why Bahá’u’lláh uses very often two different expressions to
> say the same (or almost the same) thing …. Example
> “It behoveth him who is a wayfarer in the path of God and a wanderer
> in His way to detach himself from all who are in the heavens and on
> the earth.”

Synonym pairs are a feature of literary style in the semitic
languages, adopted into Persian where it also serves to make the
language more precise. Persian words commonly have 5 different
meanings (4 if you leave out the camel), so using two terms enables an
author to narrow the range of interpretations. Abdu’l-Baha also uses
this device often to pair a Persian word with an Arabic loan word –
which is a message in itself about how he saw the two cultures, and
the Arabic/scientific side of life balancing the Persian/cultural
side. Persian was the language of culture in the Ottoman Empire and as
far as North India, in the same way that French once was in Europe.
These pairs often rhyme, so they are important in setting the pattern
of recitation:

saalik-e faarigh wa taalib-e saadiq
traveller, the free and asker, the truthful/good
unrestrained begger sincere, genuine
empty / joy inquisitor
regardless desiring knowledge
the detached wayfarer and the sincere seeker
(Iqan page 195 in Shoghi Effendi’s translation).

the sounds -ik -igh and -iq (all short i ) are near-rhymes. Note also
the pattern of a long vowel followed by two short vowels.

Translators either repeat the synonym pair or collapse it to a single
word, as it suits. Dreyfus often collapses the pairs in his
translations. Translating every pair as two words can be too much, if
there are five or six pairs in a sentence. English is, I think, more
tolerant of synonym pairs than French. Using a pair in the translation
gives the translator the chance to translate the core meaning and the
connotation, as in “a wayferar and a seeker”

Amitié Sen
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