The following description is reposted with permission from The Poets Garret, with thanks to Ryter Roethicle and Kathy Anderson.


Mathnawi or Masnavi is normally poetry written in rhyming couplets. It is believed it emerged from an Iranian form around the 4th – 10th century, and the name is Persian and is not Arabic as some claim. The subject is usually heroic, romantic, or religious. Some Persian Mathnawi are especially significant in Sufism, Rumi’s Mathnawi-i-Ma’nawi is an outstanding example.

Most Persian Mathnawi are normally eleven (11) syllables, occasionally ten (10). There is no limit to the number of couplets. It has a rhyme scheme a. a.. b. b.. c. c. etc as shown in the following example:


Each and every plant that pushes forth new leaves
Is well aware of the life that it conceives

Richly blossoming forth its symbolic scenes
That helps to procreate and pass on its genes

So reliant on symbiosis for the key
It needs the help of creatures like worker bees

And all the other creatures that pass on seed
Those creatures fertilize each plant and weed

And as the seasons each year wax and wane
With time we see one year’s loss is another’s gain

We discover that Nature balances out with time
Making certain that nothing can e’re out-climb

All things are equal with Nature we must learn
And a balanced life must be our main concern.

Ryter Roethicle

Persian poetry also influenced other nations and whilst Turkish poetry also developed it was slightly later and influenced by Persian poetry and was popular in Turkey until the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

Early Urdu Mathnawi was at first religious in nature, but because of Persian influence included romance, and adventure and even secular stories.

Arabic Mathnawi (Also called Muzdawidj) has one major difference in that it is presented as a triplet; a. a. a. / b. b. b. / c. c. c.. pattern, rather than a couplet shown previously.


It went to my head what you said yesterday
And again the thoughts burn yet become doubts play
For whenever hearts are involved I must pray.

How goes these whispers into the heavenlies
To evoke imaginative displays, please
Me as much as the cello with bow glories.

Charms take me away as do the words we speak,
When there are clouds in our eyes they tend to leak
For far gone days and flung desires bespeak.

Kathy Anderson



My Examples

Form: Mathnawi

Enough With the Snow (Persian)

‘Twas frigid, icy, wet and damnably cold
and by now, I’ll bet you know, it’s getting old.
One dismal tidbit hidden in winter facts
is the rise in shovel sponsored heart-attacks.

© Lawrencealot – February 21, 2015

OK, Let it Snow (Arabic)

I refuse to be among the number dead.
I’ll hire teenage boys to do the work instead
‘cus I’m a codger who’s learned to use my head.

© Lawrencealot – February 21, 2015