Main CategoriesIslam and SufismMazdaism and Sacred Sufi Poetry Conference of the Birds, The

Conference of the Birds, The

Product no.: 0-14-044434-3
Composed in the twelfth century in northeastern Iran, Farid Attar’s great mystical poem is among the most significant of all works of Persian literature.

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Publisher's Synopsis

A marvellous, allegorical rendering of the Islamic doctrine of Sufism, an esoteric system concerned with the search for truth through God, it describes the consequences of the conference of the birds of the world when they meet to begin the search for their ideal king, the Simorgh bird.

On hearing that to find him they must undertake an arduous journey, the birds soon express their reservations to their leader, the hoopoe. With eloquence and insight, however, the hoopoe calms their fears, using a series of riddling parables to provide guidance in the search for spiritual truth. By turns witty and profound, The Conference of the Birds transforms deep belief into magnificent poetry.


"Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis’ Penguin Classics edition, The Conference of the Birds (1984), which represents the poem’s first complete English translation (minus the invocation and epilogue), is based on the oldest extant manuscripts, and is skillfully rendered into heroic couplets pleasingly faithful to the letter and spirit of Attar’s allegory."      ~Chad G. Lingwood, Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations

"Attar, along with Chaucer and Dante, is a great genius of community and how that involves the path toward enlightenment. We are these bird-beings searching for the source of what we are together."      ~Coleman Barks, The Essential Rumi


The Indecisive Bird

"I am delicate of mind and spirit, even fragile
I would say," another bird sets out his evasions.

"You see, I vacillate, sometimes good and agile
In thought and judgment, but on other occasions
I am depleted by coiffeured acts which extract
With dissolute skill from my virtues' account.

I can pray and fast and I often do, I can detract
From vices that don't attract my palate; I recount
New stories for myself in taverns or places
Of ill repute, oh yes I enjoy myself with lust
And vice, surely my errors must leave their traces
On my long-suffering soul? I cannot myself trust."

The hoopoe is not put off, he replies: "But every man
Is thus afflicted, and if you weren't then God
Would have nothing to show, no clemency, no brand
To mark retrieved sinners, you would be like the clod
Which naturally acts in accordance with its inert matter.

You may be like a weather cock but you can learn
To obey the law and surely escape the noisy clatter.
Of your deeds and squalid thoughts, you must burn.
For goodness and the real, eschew the dogs of desire.
Then you will command yourself and learn to be on fire."


Farid ud-Din Attar

Born in Nishapur, in northeastern Persia around 1142. He traveled widely, Tehran, Egypt, Damascus, Mecca, and Turkestan, then settled in Nishapur. He worked as a healer and saw patients in his shop where he prescribed herbal remedies. Attar is considered one of the greatest Sufi mystic poets - his work inspired Rumi and many others.

His greatest work Mantiq al-Tair (The Conference of the Birds) is a symbolic story of the soul's search for truth and one of the definitive masterpieces of Persian literature. Attar was charged with heresy and banished by the ruling Islamic orthodoxy because of his poetry. He died around 1220-30. His tomb is in Nishapur.

Author Attar, Farid ud-Din
Translator Darbandi, Afkham
Cotranslator Davis, Dick
Book Type Trade Paperback
Page Count 234 pp.
Publisher Penguin Books 1984
Gold Medal

Gold Medal


  Gold Medal Essential Reading

Browse these categories as well: Mazdaism and Sacred Sufi Poetry, Sufism and Dervishes, Mythology, Folk and Fairy Tales, Inspirational Poetry, Prose and Sacred Art, Gold Medal Essential Reading

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