An Apology for Flowers

Mehdi Aghamohammadi


Prompting critical reflection on the common claim that flowers are always symbolic of female sexuality, the present article intends to explore symbolic roles of flowers in Persian literature and provide examples, mainly from Persian poetry, with the aim of refuting the claim. The writer, in fact, attempts to highlight overshadowed facets of flower symbolism by overshadowing carnal and ignoble readings of it. The reason why Persian literature has come into the focus of this study is that flowers have always had a prominent role in Iranian culture and Persian literature; however, those delving into flower symbolism have never paid due attention to the significance of flowers in Persian literature, otherwise they would have never placed undue emphasis on the sexuality of flowers.  



Persian Poetry, Female Sexuality, Flower Symbolism

Full Text:



A’lam, H. (2003). Gol [Flower]. In E. Yarshater (Ed.), Encyclopaedia Iranica (Vol. XI, Fasc. 1, pp. 46-52). New York: Bibliotheca Persia Press.

Amir Mahallati, M. J. (2016). Ethics of war and peace in Iran and Shi’i Islam. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Anvari, H. (Ed.). (2009). Farhang-e feshordeh-ye sokhan [Sokhan concise dictionary] (5th ed., Vols. 1-2). Tehran: Sokhan Publications. [Persian]

Arbit, A. (2010). Flower symbolism as female sexual metaphor. (Senior honors thesis, Eastern Michigan University). Retrieved from

Berman, J. J. (2009). Neoplasms: Principles of development and diversity. Boston: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.

Bewell, A. (2010). “On the banks of the South Sea”: Botany and sexual controversy in the late eighteenth century. In D. P. Miller & P. H. Reill (Eds.), Visions of Empire: Voyages, botany, and representations of nature (pp. 173-94). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Burke, K. (1966). Language as symbolic action: Essays on life, literature, and method. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Carter, M. L. (2005). A silver statuette from the Oxus treasure: Aspects of Indo-Iranian solar symbolism. In A. Daneshvari & J. Gluck (Eds.), A survey of Persian art from prehistoric times to the present: Prehistoric times to the end of the Sasanian Empire (pp. 1-34). Costa Mesa: Mazda Publishers.

Cartlidge, C. (2002). Iran. San Diego: Lucent Books.

Chwalkowski, F. (2016). Symbols in arts, religion and culture: The soul of nature. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Cuddon, J. A. (1999). Dictionary of literary terms and literary theory. (C. E. Preston, Rev.). New York: Penguin Books.

Dad, S. (2001). Farhang-e estelahat-e adabi [Dictionary of literary terms] (4th ed.). Tehran: Morvarid Publications. [Persian]

D’Alleva, A. (2005). Methods and theories of art history. London: Laurence King Publishing.

Daniel, E. L., & Mahdi, A. A. (2006). Culture and customs of Iran. Westport: Greenwood Press.

Dean, N. (2006). Discovering voice: Voice lessons for middle and high school. Gainesville: Maupin House.

Ehnenn, J. R. (2008). Women’s literary collaboration, queerness, and late-Victorian culture. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Eliade, M. (1961). Images and symbols: Studies in Religious Symbolism. (P. Mairet, Trans.). New York: Havill Press.

Emerson, R. W. (2001). Nature. In R. W. Emerson, Nature, addresses and lectures (pp. 13-80). Honolulu: University Press of the Pacific.

E’tesami, P. (n.d.). “Degar-bareh shod az tarajeh Bahman” [Once more from the plunder of Bahman]. In P. E’tesami, Divan-e Parvin E’tesami [Divan of Parvin E’tesami] (pp. 49-50). Tehran: Ketab-e Nemooneh. [Persian]

Foroozanfar, B. (2008). Sokhan va sokhavaran [Word and worders]. Tehran: Zavvar Publications. [Persian]

Haarmann, H. (1997). The development of sign conceptions in the evolution of human cultures. In R. Posner, K. Robering, & T. A. Sebeok (Eds.), Semiotics: A handbook on the sign-theoretic foundations of nature and culture (Vol. 1, pp. 668-709). Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.

Hafez. (2009). Divan-e Hafez [Divan of Hafez] (8th ed.). (N. Farshadmehr, Ed.). Tehran: Ganjineh Publications. [Persian]

Hall, J. (1994). Illustrated dictionary of symbols in Eastern and Western art. Boulder: Westview Press.

Hargrove, S. (2012). Remembrances of Hawaii. Raleigh: Lulu Press.

Jordan, A., Lockyer, N., & Tate, E. (2002). Philosophy of religion for A level. Cheltenham: Nelson Thornes.

Kesa’i Marvazi, A. (1988). “Na’im-e gol ya hadie-ye behesht” [The blessing of the flower or the gift of Heaven]. In M. Derakhshan, Ash’ar-e Hakim Kesa’i Marvazi va tahqiqi dar zendegani va asar-e oo [Poetry of Hakim Kesa’i Marvazi and research on his life and works] (p. 32). Tehran: The University of Tehran Press. [Persian]

Lossi, A. (2010). Metaphor. In H. R. Sepp & L. Embree (Eds.), Handbook of phenomenological aesthetics (pp. 211-13). Dordrecht: Springer.

Mahsati Ganjavi. (1985). Roba’i 171 [Quatrain 171]. In Mahsati Ganjavi, Roba’iyyat [Quatrains] (p. 86). (R. Huseynov, Ed.). Baku: Yazichi. [Persian]

Matus, J. L. (1995). Unstable bodies: Victorian representations of sexuality and maternity. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Messervy, J. M. (2007). The inward garden: Creating a place of beauty and meaning (2nd ed.). Piermont: Bunker Hill Publishing.

Milner, M. (2005). The suppressed madness of sane men: Forty-four years of exploring psychoanalysis. Hove: Brunner-Routledge.

Molana Jalal ad-Din Mohammad. (2008). Ghazal 570. In Molana Jalal ad-Din Mohammad, Kolliyat-e Shams, ya, divan-e kabir [Poetry collection of Shams, or, great divan] (4th ed., Vol. 2, p. 27). (B. Foroozanfar, Rev.). Tehran: Amir Kabir Publications. [Persian]

---. (2008). Ghazal 1674. In Molana Jalal ad-Din Mohammad, Kolliyat-e Shams, ya, divan-e kabir [Poetry collection of Shams, or, great divan] (4th ed., Vol. 4, pp. 29-30). (B. Foroozanfar, Rev.). Tehran: Amir Kabir Publications. [Persian]

Mosse, G. L. (1985). Nationalism and sexuality: Respectability and abnormal sexuality in Modern Europe. New York: Fertig.

Nielson, K. J. (2007). Interior textiles: Fabrics, application, and historic style. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Penney, S. (1995). Buddhism. Oxford: Heinemann Educational Publishers.

Pourjavady, N. (2012). Love and the metaphors of wine and drunkenness in Persian Sufi poetry. In A. A. Seyed-Gohrab (Ed.), Metaphor and imagery in Persian poetry (pp. 125-36). Leiden: Brill.

Rieff, P. (1979). Freud: The mind of the moralist (3rd ed.). Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Riley, R. B. (1990). Flowers, power, and sex. In M. Francis & R. T. Hester, Jr. (Eds.), The meaning of gardens: Idea, place, and action (pp. 60-75). Massachusetts: The MIT Press.

Sa’di Shirazi. (n.d.). Ghazal 369. In Sa’di Shirazi, Ghazaliyyat-e Sa’di [Ghazals of Sa’di] (p. 290). (M. A. Forooghi, Rev.). Tehran: Eqbal Publications. [Persian]

Schimmel, A. (1992). A two-colored brocade: The imagery of Persian poetry. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.

Scott, C. (1990). Symbolism, Decadence and Impressionism. In M. Bradbury & J. McFarlane (Eds.), Modernism: 1890-1930 (pp. 206-27). London: Penguin.

Sepehri, S. (1998). “Chand” [Some]. In S. Sepehri, Hasht ketab [Eight books] (21st ed., pp. 221-22). Tehran: Tahoori Library. [Persian]

---. (1998). “Dar Golestaneh” [In Golestaneh]. In S. Sepehri, Hasht ketab [Eight books] (21st ed., pp. 348-51). Tehran: Tahoori Library. [Persian]

Sharifi, M. (2008). Farhang-e adabiyyat-e Farsi [Dictionary of Persian literature] (2nd ed.). (M. R. Jafari, Ed.). Tehran: Farhang-e Nashr-e No’ & Mo’in Publications. [Persian]

Stephens, J., & Waterhouse, R. (1990). Literature, language and change: From Chaucer to the present. New York: Routledge.

Stevenson, A., & Waite, M. (Eds.). (2011). Concise Oxford English dictionary: Luxury edition (12th ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Subtelny, M. E. (2007). Visionary rose: Metaphorical interpretation of horticultural practice in medieval Persian mysticism. In M. Conan & W. J. Kress (Eds.), Botanical progress, horticultural innovation and cultural change (pp. 13-34). Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library & Collection.

Tresidder, J. (2006). Symbols and their meanings. New York: Barnes & Noble.

Triefeldt, L. (2008). Plants & animals. Sanger: Quill Driver Books.

Tyler, C. A. (2003). Female impersonation. New York: Routledge.

Vahshi Bafqi. (1963). Ghazal 260. In Vahshi Bafqi, Divan-e kamel [Complete divan] (p. 100). (M. Darvish, Ed.). Tehran: Javidan Publications. [Persian]

Van Maanen, J., Manning, P. K., & Miller, M. L. (1996). Series editors’ introduction. In M. O. Jones, Studying organizational symbolism: What, how, why? (p. v). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Walker, P. M. B. (2002). Chambers dictionary of science and technology. New York: Chambers Harrap Publishers.

Wirt, E. W. G. (1832). Flora’s dictionary. Baltimore: Fielding Lucas.

Yarshater, E. (2010). Foreward. In E. Yarshater, P. G. Kreyenbroek, & U. Marzolph (Eds.), A history of Persian literature, volume xviii: Oral literature of Iranian languages (pp. xxi-xxv). New York: I. B. Taurus.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

2013-2023 (CC-BY) Australian International Academic Centre PTY.LTD.

International Journal of Comparative Literature and Translation Studies

You may require to add the '' domain to your e-mail 'safe list’ If you do not receive e-mail in your 'inbox'. Otherwise, you may check your 'Spam mail' or 'junk mail' folders.