Polo Week: Love on the Polo Field

The Khamsa is made up of five narrative poems by the twelfth-century Persian poet Nizami, including the story of the lovers Shirin (an Armenian princess) and Khosrow (a Sassanian king), who meet playing polo. Of course, it all ends tragically, but the Armenian ladies’ team make a great entrance onto the pitch:

“Seventy maidens like lionesses presented themselves before Shirin, all blazing with ardor. The maidens were seated in their saddles like cypresses. They all had moonlike faces veiled, and thus proceeded into the Shah’s presence. The king of kings was overcome at seeing them.”

Quoted in The Evolution of Polo, by Horace A Lafayette.

Here’s a beautiful sixteenth-century illustration of Shirin and Khosrow at play, part of St John’s College, Cambridge collection. I also have a poem fragment from elsewhere in time that compares the lover’s head to a polo ball hit sky-high by the polo mallet chin and tresses of his beloved, but I’ve failed to copy it down accurately and will need to re-check it before I add it to the blog!

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