Hafiz

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Authors born between 1300 and 1450 CE

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            Contents  

Introduction

You Little Turk of Shiraz-Town

Preacher, it is All in Vain

Last Night, as Half Asleep I Dreaming Lay

We are Deep in Love with Solitude

Before You Wander in Love’s Street

On the Death of His Wife

A Grievous Folly Shames My Sixtieth Year

Forget Not, My Heart, Your Ancient Friends 

My Heart Aches with Happiness To-night

I Sought the Tavern at the Break of Day

Rejoice My Heart, Before the Springtime Goes

On the Death of His Little Son

Source

 

Introduction

Hafiz (1320-1391) was the pen-name of Shams-ud din Mahommed, one of the greatest of Persian lyric poets. He was born in Shiraz, where he spent most of his life. Although Hafiz once began a sea journey to India at the invitation of a southern prince, he got off the boat at the first opportunity and made his way back to Shiraz. He began as a student of poetry and theology, enrolled in the Sufic order of Dervishes, and became a professor of Koranic exegesis. This may account for his pen-name, which means “one who remembers”—a term technically applied to a person who has learned the Koran by heart. However, Hafiz’s freewheeling lifestyle and love of wine—reflected in his poetry—caused him to be censured by his monastic colleagues. He in turn satirized them relentlessly. 

Hafiz was a Shi’ite Muslim, rejecting the sayings of Mohammed that form the Sunna or supplementary code of Sunni law. His life and heretical opinions were such that the religious authorities questioned whether Hafiz could be buried in sacred ground. But his works had become so famous that they were used for divination. When consulted appropriately by the authorities, the poetry of Hafiz provided the following advice:

                        Turn not away from the bier of Hafiz,

                        Steeped in sin, he will enter Paradise.

Hafiz was buried in the center of a cemetery in Shiraz.

There is a story that the invader Timur angrily summoned him and demanded if he was the poet who would exchange two of Timur’s great cities, Samarkand and Bokhara, for the mole on his mistress’s cheek. “Yes, sir”, replied Hafiz, “and it is through such acts of generosity that I have reached a state of destitution that forces me to solicit your bounty.” Timur was amused enough to send the poet away with a gift. The truth of this story is questioned by those who claim Timur arrived at Shiraz after Hafiz had gained his tomb.

The following odes are taken from the Divan, a collection of short poems called ghazals, each five to sixteen couplets in length, with the poet’s name in the last couplet. As with other Persian poets, and with regard to the author’s Sufi philosophy, there are generally two interpretations of each poem: either sensual and materialistic, or mystic and philosophic. It would seem important to be well acquainted with the former if one is to be able to express the latter through the poet’s chosen symbolism. A familiarity with the one who brings the wine cups—the Saki—also develops.

 

You Little Turk of Shiraz-Town

You little Turk of Shiraz-Town,

     Freebooter of the hearts of men,

As beautiful as, says renown,

     Are your freebooting Turkomen;

Dear Turko-maid—a plunderer too—

     Here is my heart, and there your hand:

If you’ll exchange, I’ll give to you

     Bokhara—yes! and Samarkand.

     Indeed, I'd give them for the mole

Upon your cheek, and add thereto

Even my body and my soul. . .

 

You little robber-woman, you

     Who turns the heads of Shiraz-Town,

With sugar-talk and sugar-walk

     And all your little sugar-ways—

Into the sweet-shop of your eyes

     I innocently gaze and gaze,

     While, like your brethren of renown,

O little Turk of Shiraz, you

Plunder me of my patience too.

 

Yet all too well the lover knows

     The loved one needs no lover’s praise;

What other perfume needs the rose?

Perfection needs no word of ours,

     Nor heeds what any song-bird says—

Sufficient unto flowers are flowers. . .

 

O love, that was not very kind!

     That answer that you gave to me;

Nay, I mistook, you spoke me well!

     For you to speak at all to me

     Is unforeseen felicity;

Yes, bitter on your lips grows sweet,

And soft your hardest words to me.

 

Sweetheart, if you would hear me out,

     I am a very wise old thing,

And it were wise for you to hear.

My little Turk, my cypress dear,

     So wise this wisdom that I sing,

That some day on a shining string

High up in heaven, tear by tear,

     As star by star, these songs shall hang

At evening in the virgin sky,

     These little songs that Hafiz sang

      To one not listening on his knees:

So well I sang them, even me,

     That, listening to them, Heaven’s Lord

     Tossed me from heaven as reward

     The small change of the Pleiades!—

These little songs that Hafiz sang

To one not listening on his knees.

                                                       Ode 8

Preacher, it is All in Vain

 

Preacher, it is all in vain you preach to me,

No business of anyone’s but mine

Where I have sinned and what my end will be.

I ponder too on subtleties divine—

Pray solve me this: how Allah from the void

The waist of my Beloved made so fine

That it exists but in the lover’s thought,

Nor can be apprehended of the eye,

A metaphysic fancy of the mind—

Solve me this riddle, preacher: how and why.

 

Again, you promise, when we leave behind

This jasmined earth, its roses and its dew,

Eight paradises up there in the sky;

In truth, it gives a man a haste to die

To think of living after death with you!

Listen! One corner of the earth with her

Is more to me than all the stars on high;

Down here’s my heaven, though yours may be up there!

 

What if to ruin all my life has gone?

Upon that very ruin do I rear

This building of my dreams, and very fair

Is it to dwell in and to look upon—

This tavern-temple of the Thought of Her.

And, if to you my fate should seem unkind,

Unjust my love, and oft-times harsh to me,

It is enough that she it was designed

This exquisite anguish of my destiny.

 

Hafiz is but a pipe for her to play;

So that he feels the sweetness of her breath

Through all his being make its thrilling way,

He does not heed what any preacher says;

And only when she takes her lips away

Shall Hafiz taste the bitterness of death.

                                                       Ode 39

 

Last Night, as Half Asleep I Dreaming Lay  

Last night, as half asleep I dreaming lay,

Half naked came she in her little shift,

With tilted glass, and verses on her lips;

Narcissus-eyes all shining for the fray,

Filled full of frolic to her wine-red lips,

Warm as a dewy rose, suddenly she slips

Into my bed—just in her little shift.

 

Said she, half naked, half asleep, half heard,

With a soft sigh betwixt each lazy word,

“O my old lover, do you sleep or wake?”

And instant I sat upright for her sake,

And drank whatever wine she poured for me—

Wine of the tavern, or vintage it might be

Of Heaven’s own vine: he surely were a churl

Who refused wine poured out by such a girl,

A double traitor he to wine and love.

Go to, you puritan! the gods above

Ordained this wine for us, but not for you;

Drunkards we are by a divine decree,

Yes, by the special privilege of heaven

Foredoomed to drink and foreordained forgiven.

 

Ah! Hafiz, you are not the only man

Who promised penitence and broke down after;

For who can keep so hard a promise, man,

With wine and woman brimming full of  laughter!

O curling locks, filled like a flower with scent,

How have you ravished this poor penitent!

                                                           Ode 44

 

We are Deep in Love with Solitude

 

Now that the rose bush in its dainty hand

Lifts high its brimming cup of blood-red wine,

And green buds thicken in the empty land,

Heart, climb out of speculation's mine

And seek the grassy wilderness with me.

Who cares for problems, human or divine!

The dew of morning glitters like a sea,

And listen how that happy nightingale

Tells with his hundred thousand new-found tongues

Over again the old attractive tale.

 

Yes, close your books; let schools and schoolmen be;

Only a little lazy book of songs

Snatch up, and take the long green road with me.

 

Men left behind us, like that fabled bird

Anca, that dwells in Caucasus alone,

Remote from footfall, secure from human word,

We ask no company except our own:

For we are deep in love with solitude,

And green-leaved peace, and woodland pondering—

Yes, even Love itself would here intrude.

Hafiz would be alone with the sweet spring,

Hafiz would be alone with his sweet song.

Of the immortal lonely ones is he anew,

Whom solitude and silence have made strong.

Therefore, he laughs at rivals such as you

Who think to match his inaccessible fame;

Yes, you remind him, poor presumptuous fools,

Of that rush-weaver of the olden time

Who to the shop of a great goldsmith came  

And said: I too an artist amfor tools

I also use, and keep a shop the same.”

Yes, you too keep your little shop of rhyme!

                                               Ode 49

 

Before you Wander in Love’s Street

 

O, I’ve good news for youthe spring, the spring!

The blessed grass is green for one more year,

And all is piping sweet and busy wing;

Wild nightingales and roses everywhere.

 

Ah! when the money comes, I vow I’ll burn

This patched old saintly dervish coat of mine,

Like the young year be young too in my turn,

And spend it all on roses and on wine.

 

For yesterday, in deep distress for drink,

I took it to the taverner at morn,

Asking a cup of wine for itand think!

He said it wasn’t worth a barley-corn.

 

See the red roses in the Saki’s cheek,

And on her garden-lips the violet blows;

No one has kissed me for a whole long week

O lovely one, grant me to pluck a rose.

 

My friend, before you wander in Love’s street,

        Do not forget to take with you a guide

So perilous for your undirected feet

  The twists and turns once you are inside.

 

Yet many wonders you will meet with there,

And of the many this one not the least

That there the timid deer it is pursues

The lion, and pulls down the lordly beast.

 

And when in doubt of what to do or think,

Hafiz, raise high, drain deep, the golden cup:

Take counsel of the vine, Hafiz, and drink

At once the wine and the dilemma up.

 

Poor Hafiz! After all, the spring is gone,

The roses and the nightingales are going;

Yet of the roses you have plucked not one,

Nor drunk one cup of wine, for all its flowing.

                                                   Ode 207

 

 

On the Death of His Wife

         

This house hath been a fairy’s dwelling-place;

As the immortals pure from head to feet

Was she who stayed with us a little space,

Then, as was meet,

On her immortal journey went her ways.

 

So wise was sheyet nothing but a flower;

Only a childyet all the world to me;

Against the stars what love has any power!

Or was it she

Went softly in her own appointed hour?

 

The moon it was that called her, and she went;

In Shiraz I had lived to live with her,

Not knowing she was on an errand bent

A traveler,

To sojourn for a night, then strike her tent.

 

How sweet it was on many a summer’s day

On the green margin of the stream to lie

                  With her and the wild rose, and nothing say.

Little knew I

That she was running like the stream away.

 

That was the sweet of life when, pure and wise,

In her dear neighborhood I drew my breath;

That was the truth of lifethe rest is lies,

Folly and death,

Since toward another land she turned her eyes.

 

Blame her not, heart, because she left you so;

The heaven of beauty called her to be queen;

Back to her hidden people must she go,

Behind the screen;

Nor when she will return does Hafiz know.

                                                   Ode 227

 

A Grievous Folly Shames My Sixtieth Year

 

A grievous folly shames my sixtieth year

My white head is in love with a green maid;

I kept my heart a secret, but at last

I am betrayed.

Like a mere child I walked into the snare;

My foolish heart followed my foolish eyes;

And yet, when I was youngin ages past

I was so wise.

 

If only she who can such wonders do

Could from my cheeks time’s calumny erase,

And change the color of my snow-white locks

Give a young face

To my young heart, and make my old eyes new,

Bidding my outside tell the inward truth!

O! It is a shallow wit with which time mocks

An old man’s youth!

 

Ah! it was always so with us who sing!

Children of fancy, we are in the power

Of any dream, and at the bidding we

Of a mere flower;

Yet Hafiz, though full many a foolish thing

Ensnared your heart with wonder, never were

you wont to be imagination’s slave

As you are now.

                                                      Ode 232

 

Forget Not, My Heart, Your Ancient Friends

 

Forget not, my heart, your ancient friends:

The sweet old faithful faces of the dead,

Old meetings and old partingsall that ends;

So loved, so vivid, and so vanished:

Forget not, O my heart, your ancient friends.

 

The times are faithless, but remember now

Those that have loved you, though they love no

more;

You unto them are dim and distant now;

Still love them for the love they gave before—

The times are faithless, but remember now.

 

And the red wine remember, and the rose,

And the old cry at dawn, the stream that ran

In Paradise no sweeter river flows

      Through banks of gardens on to Ispahan:

Yes! the red wine remember, and the rose.

 

The dead who kept our secrets remember well;

They forgot muchwe should not them forget:

Ah! Hafiz, now they’re gone, no man can tell

Your secret: it remains a secret yet.

                                                       Ode 253

 

My Heart Aches with Happiness To-night

 

How my heart aches with happiness to-night

Here by your shadowy side under the moon!

How strange your face is in the ghostly light—

Under the willows underneath the moon.

O spirit ! O child! O unconceived bliss!

For this good night, kind Fates, we give good thanks.

We shall not know again a night like this

Under the willows on the river-banks.

 

Love, shall I bid the Saki bring the wine?

She waits but nearby underneath the moon;

I have already drunken deep of mine,

Here at these starsjust down below the moon.

Ah! How it tips the tongue with witty fire,

And makes one’s fancy play a thousand pranks!

O! I could singyes! will I to this lyre,

Under the willows on the river-banks.

 

The fairest jewels of my purest thought

Here will I deck you with beneath the moon

Strange deep-sea pearls up many a fathom brought

From my deep heart, far underneath the moon;

And from Earth’s center my spirit shall bring to light

Gems without name and number for my bride

The bride that nature gave me, this fair night,

Under the willows on the river-side.

 

How sweetly runs the river round that bend

O Ruknabad is fair under the moon!

Would that this night of nights might never end,

Or we might die thus underneath the moon!

Too soon shall morning take the stars away,

And all the world be up and open-eyed,

This magic night be turned to common day

Under the willows on the river-side.

 

Hafiz must throw him rue upon the fire,

Lest, for this happy night beneath the moon,

The evil eye of envious desire

Fall on him, singing underneath the moon.

                                                 Ode 330

   

 

10  I Sought the Tavern at the Break of Day

 

With last night’s wine still singing in my head,

I sought the tavern at the break of day,

Though half the world was still asleep in bed;

The harp and flute were up and in full swing,

And a most pleasant morning sound made they;

Already was the wine-cup on the wing.

“Reason,” I said, “it's past the time to start,

If you would reach your daily destination,

The Holy City of Intoxication.”

So did I pack him off, to then depart

With a stout flask for fellow-traveler.

 

Left to myself, the tavern-wench I spied,

And sought to win her love by speaking fair;

Alas! she turned upon me, scornful-eyed,

And mocked my foolish hopes of winning her.

Said she, her arching eyebrows like a bow:

“You mark for all the shafts of evil tongues!

You shall not round my middle clasp me so,

Snugly like my belt not for all your songs!

So long as you in all created things

See but yourself the center and the end.

Go spread your dainty nets for other wings

Too high the Anca’s nest for you, my friend.”

 

Then I took shelter from that stormy sea

In the good ark of wine; yet, woe is me!

Saki and comrade and minstrel, all by turns,

She is of maidens the compendium

Who my poor heart in such a fashion spurns.

Self, Hafiz, self! That must you overcome!

Turn to the wisdom of the tavern-daughter!

Vain little baggagewell, upon my word!

You fairy figment made of clay and water,

As busy with your beauty as a bird.

Well, Hafiz, Life’s a riddlegive it up:

There is no answer to it but this cup.

                                               Ode 487

 

11  Rejoice My Heart, Before the Springtime Goes

 

Rejoice my heart, before the springtime goes

With her fresh laughter;

You soon will die, and ah! how thick the rose

Shall blossom after.

 

Only its roots shall crown your rotting head,

While other youngsters

Shall shed its petals on the glossy curls

Of other songsters;

 

You nostrils with the smell of death are filled

They smell the roses;

O be your attar from each rose distilled

Before it closes.

 

Listen to the harp, and wisely heed

What it is saying:

Laugh and be glad; dead you are dead indeed

Make no delaying.

 

I fix not what you drink, or at whose side

You should be sitting;

You are a man of sense, and can decide

What is befitting.

 

Only make haste: each blade of grass you tread,

Clear for your reading,

Teaches the myriad lessons of the dead;

Be not unheeding.

 

Give not to worldly cares and wasting thought

Your hours of pleasure;

The world will take your all and give you nought;

Guard well your treasure.

 

Strange is our path and dread; whither it goes

There is no knowing;

Hafiz half thinks that the Beloved knows

Where we are going.

                                           Ode 565

 

12  On the Death of His Little Son

     

Little sleeper, the spring is here;

      Tulip and rose are come again,

      Only you in the earth remain,

Sleeping, dear.

 

Little sleeper, the spring is here;

      I, like a cloud of April rain,

      Am bending over your grave in vain,

Weeping, dear.

 

Little flower, the spring is here;

      What if my tears were not in vain!

      What if they drew you up again,

Little flower!  

                                    Ode 606

        

 

Source

Adapted from Odes From The Divan Of Hafiz, freely rendered from literal translations by Richard Le Gallienne. The Page Company, Boston. 1903. Ode titles added.

                            Adaptation and selection Copyright © Rex Pay 2000