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Original Ancient Persian Proverb Poem
 

Who Knows and Who Knows Not? (Persian Proverb)
Original Ancient Persian Proverb Poem in Persian and English

Compilation and Translation: Ahreeman X
December 13, 2020


Persian Gothic Miniature Painting
Based on Grant Wood’s American Gothic Painting (1930)

I have researched in old texts and resources to find the origins of this famous proverb. A vast search amongst the ancient poetry, literature and philosophy texts had finally shed a light on the origins of this proverb. This proverb is not only limited to Iran but it is global. This proverb has the characteristic of all three branches:

The Proverb is a Poem
The Proverb is Literature
The Proverb is Philosophy

Even though this proverb is a lovely poem and a fine piece of literature, yet the deep philosophical meaning of the proverb is food for the thought and is mind pondering.

This is an old Persian Proverb Poem. It is so old that no one knows how far back it goes. It is an ancient proverb which has been revised through the years. This Persian Proverb Poem was originally written in Iran and from there moved to India, China, Arabia and elsewhere. Each time it travelled, the content changed to the point that the proverb was not a poem anymore and the meaning also transformed to many formats. The most popular format is this one:

Who Knows and Who Knows Not?
Popular Version

He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool; avoid him.
He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a student; teach him.
He who knows and knows not that he knows is asleep; wake him.
He who knows and knows that he knows is a wise man; follow him.

But this format is far from the original poem! The original poem has been changed many times to become in this format. This format is not even a poem!

Long ago, we have started to publish various versions of this proverb. The evolution of this proverb is published in a forum thread related to this article which the link is posted at the bottom of this article for comments. You can review a number of different versions there.

There are various versions of this proverb which are not the original version. The original version is a Persian poem. Below is the original Persian Proverb Poem which I have compiled and then translated it to English in a way that it makes sense. Persian poetry is tricky to be translated to English. One must be creative in translation to make sense in English.

This proverb poem is a famous tale amongst the students and scholars of the Persian literature and philosophy. After various research, it came time to publish the original form and translation of this wonderful poem. First, the Persian version and then the English version is printed below. Enjoy:

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Ke Danad, Ke Nadanad?
Asl-e Parsi

An kas ke bedanad va bedanad ke bedanad,
Asb-e Kherad az gonbad-e gardun bejahanad

An kas ke bedanad va bedanad ke nadanad,
Bar pir-o javan danesh-o binesh betaravad

An kas ke bedanad va nadanad ke bedanad,
bidarsh namaid ke bas khofte namanad

An kas ke nadanad va bedanad ke nadanad,
Langan kharak-e khish be manzel beresanad

An kas ke nadanad va bedanad ke bedanad,
Az bi kheradi khosh natavanad berahanad

An kas ke nadanad va nadanad ke nadanad,
Dar jahl-e morakab abad ol dahr bemanad.

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Who Knows and Who Knows Not?
Original Persian Version of the Ancient Proverb
English Translation: Ahreeman X

He who knows & he knows that he knows,
Jumps the horse of intelligence above the global dome

He who knows & he knows that he knows not,
Sheds light to young and old as a true scholar

He who knows & he knows not that he knows,
Wake him up from his deep sleep

He who knows not & he knows that he knows not,
Reaches his limping donkey to its destination

He who knows not & he knows that he knows,
Can’t escape from his foolishness

He who knows not & he knows not that he knows not,
Will remain in grand ignorance for eternity

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