Authors born between 1300 and 1450 CE
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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
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.
was buried in the center of a cemetery in Shiraz.
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
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,
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
So wise this wisdom that I sing,
That some day on a
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.
Preacher, it is all in vain you preach to me,
business of anyone’s but mine
Where I have sinned and what my end will be.
ponder too on subtleties divine—
Pray solve me this: how Allah from the void
waist of my Beloved made so fine
That it exists but in the lover’s thought,
can be apprehended of the eye,
A metaphysic fancy of the mind—
me this riddle, preacher: how and why.
Again, you promise, when we leave behind
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;
here’s my heaven, though yours may be up
What if to ruin all my life has gone?
that very ruin do I rear
building of my dreams, and very fair
Is it to dwell in and to look upon—
This tavern-temple of the Thought of
if to you my fate should seem unkind,
my love, and oft-times harsh to me,
It is enough that she it was designed
exquisite anguish of my destiny.
Hafiz is but a pipe for her to play;
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
Hafiz taste the bitterness of death.
Last night, as half asleep I dreaming lay,
naked came she in her little shift,
tilted glass, and verses on her lips;
Narcissus-eyes all shining for the fray,
full of frolic to her wine-red lips,
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,
drank whatever wine she poured for me—
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
promised penitence and broke down after;
For who can keep so hard a promise, man,
wine and woman brimming full of laughter!
O curling locks, filled like a flower with scent,
How have you ravished this poor penitent!
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
with his hundred thousand new-found tongues
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
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 am—for tools
I also use, and keep a shop the same.”
Yes, you too keep your little shop of rhyme!
O, I’ve good news for you—the
spring, the spring!
blessed grass is green for one more year,
And all is piping sweet and busy wing;
nightingales and roses everywhere.
Ah! when the money comes, I vow I’ll burn
This patched old saintly dervish coat
the young year be young too in my turn,
And spend it all on roses and on
For yesterday, in deep distress for drink,
took it to the taverner at morn,
Asking a cup of wine for it—and
said it wasn’t worth a barley-corn.
See the red roses in the Saki’s cheek,
on her garden-lips the violet blows;
No one has kissed me for a whole long week—
lovely one, grant me to pluck a rose.
friend, before you wander in Love’s street,
not forget to take with you a guide—
So perilous for your undirected feet
twists and turns once you are inside.
Yet many wonders you will meet with there,
of the many this one not the least—
That there the timid deer it is pursues
lion, and pulls down the lordly beast.
And when in doubt of what to do or think,
raise high, drain deep, the golden cup:
Take counsel of the vine, Hafiz, and drink
once the wine and the dilemma up.
Poor Hafiz! After all, the spring is gone,
roses and the nightingales are going;
Yet of the roses you have plucked not one,
drunk one cup of wine, for all its flowing.
This house hath been a fairy’s dwelling-place;
the immortals pure from head to feet
Was she who stayed with us a little space,
as was meet,
On her immortal journey went her ways.
So wise was she—yet nothing
but a flower;
a child—yet all the world to me;
Against the stars what love has any power!
was it she
Went softly in her own appointed hour?
The moon it was that called her, and she went;
Shiraz I had lived to live with her,
Not knowing she was on an errand bent—
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.
That she was running like the stream away.
That was the sweet of life when, pure and wise,
her dear neighborhood I drew my breath;
That was the truth of life—the
rest is lies,
Since toward another land she turned her eyes.
Blame her not, heart, because she left you so;
heaven of beauty called her to be queen;
Back to her hidden people must she go,
Nor when she will return does Hafiz know.
A grievous folly shames my sixtieth year—
white head is in love with a green maid;
I kept my heart a secret, but at last
Like a mere child I walked into the snare;
foolish heart followed my foolish eyes;
yet, when I was young—in ages
was so wise.
If only she who can such wonders do
from my cheeks time’s calumny erase,
change the color of my snow-white locks—
a young face
To my young heart, and make my old eyes new,
my outside tell the inward truth!
O! It is a shallow wit with which time mocks
old man’s youth!
Ah! it was always so with us who sing!
of fancy, we are in the power
any dream, and at the bidding we
a mere flower;
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.
Forget not, my heart, your ancient friends:
sweet old faithful faces of the dead,
Old meetings and old partings—all
loved, so vivid, and so vanished:
Forget not, O my heart, your ancient friends.
The times are faithless, but remember now
that have loved you, though they love no
You unto them are dim and distant now;
love them for the love they gave before—
The times are faithless, but remember now.
And the red wine remember, and the rose,
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;
forgot much—we should not them forget:
Ah! Hafiz, now they’re gone, no man can tell
Your secret: it remains a secret yet.
How my heart aches with happiness to-night—
by your shadowy side under the moon!
strange your face is in the ghostly light—
the willows underneath the moon.
O spirit ! O child! O unconceived bliss!
this good night, kind Fates, we give good thanks.
We shall not know again a night like this
the willows on the river-banks.
Love, shall I bid the Saki bring the wine?
waits but nearby underneath the moon;
I have already drunken deep of mine,
Here at these stars—just 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 sing—yes! will I to this lyre,
the willows on the river-banks.
The fairest jewels of my purest thought
will I deck you with beneath the moon—
Strange deep-sea pearls up many a fathom brought
my deep heart, far underneath the moon;
And from Earth’s center my spirit shall bring to light
without name and number for my bride—
The bride that nature gave me, this fair night,
the willows on the river-side.
How sweetly runs the river round that bend—
Ruknabad is fair under the moon!
Would that this night of nights might never end,
we might die thus underneath the moon!
Too soon shall morning take the stars away,
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,
for this happy night beneath the moon,
The evil eye of envious desire
on him, singing underneath the moon.
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 baggage—well, upon my word!
You fairy figment made of clay and water,
As busy with your beauty as a bird.
Well, Hafiz, Life’s a riddle—give
There is no answer to it but this cup.
Rejoice my heart, before the springtime goes
her fresh laughter;
You soon will die, and ah! how thick the rose
Only its roots shall crown your rotting head,
Shall shed its petals on the glossy curls
nostrils with the smell of death are filled—
smell the roses;
O be your attar from each rose distilled
the harp, and wisely heed
it is saying:
Laugh and be glad; dead you are dead indeed—
I fix not what you drink, or at whose side
You should be
You are a man of sense, and can decide
Only make haste: each blade of grass you tread,
for your reading,
Teaches the myriad lessons of the dead;
Give not to worldly cares and wasting thought
Your hours of pleasure;
The world will take your all and give you nought;
well your treasure.
Strange is our path and dread; whither it goes
is no knowing;
Hafiz half thinks that the Beloved knows
we are going.
sleeper, the spring is here;
Tulip and rose are come again,
Only you in the earth remain,
sleeper, the spring is here;
I, like a cloud of April rain,
Am bending over your grave in vain,
flower, the spring is here;
What if my tears were not in vain!
What if they drew you up again,
Odes From The
Divan Of Hafiz,
freely rendered from literal translations by Richard Le Gallienne. The Page
Company, Boston. 1903.
Ode titles added.
Ode titles added.
Adaptation and selection Copyright © Rex Pay 2000