Hafiz, Three Ghazals
Teachings of Hafiz
, translated by Gertrude Lowthian Bell (1897)
The Persian poet Shams al-Din Muhammad (pronounced Shamsuddin Muhummad) was born in Shiraz c. 1325, and
died there c. 1389. He wrote under the pen-name Hafiz, which is a title given to those who can recite the Qu’ran
from memory. When he was about twenty-one years old, or about sixty after Dante first saw Beatrice, Hafiz
glimpsed the beautiful Shakh-e Nabat from afar and, though (again like Dante) he later married and had children
with another woman, Hafiz’s adoration of Shakh-e Nabat became a constant in his poetry throughout his life. In all,
Hafiz wrote more than 500 ghazals, a short form of Persian poetry, usually lyrical and not narrative, formed as a
series of almost unconnected couplets, and often celebrating love and other pleasures. A Persian folk custom has
long associated the poetry of Hafiz with divination, in which a couplet chosen at random is used to predict the
future, a practice known as
, which suggests the high regard in which Hafiz was and is still held.
Arise, oh Cup-bearer, rise! and bring
To lips that are thirsting the bowl they praise,
For it seemed that love was an easy thing,
But my feet have fallen on difficult ways.
I have prayed the wind o’er my heart to fling
The fragrance of musk in her hair that sleeps
In the night of her hair-yet no fragrance stays
The tears of my heart’s blood my sad heart weeps.
Hear the Tavern-keeper who counsels you:
“With wine, with red wine your prayer carpet dye!”
There was never a traveler like him but knew
The ways of the road and the hostelry.
Where shall I rest, when the still night through,
Beyond thy gateway, oh Heart of my heart,
The bells of the camels lament and cry:
“Bind up thy burden again and depart!”
The waves run high, night is clouded with fears,
And eddying whirlpools clash and roar;
How shall my drowning voice strike their ears
Whose light-freighted vessels have reached the
I sought mine own; the unsparing years
Have brought me mine own, a dishonored name.
What cloak shall cover my misery o’er
When each jesting mouth has rehearsed my shame!
Oh Hafiz, seeking an end to strife,
Hold fast in thy mind what the wise have writ:
“If at last thou attain the desire of thy life,
Cast the world aside, yea, abandon it!”
Oh Turkish maid of Shiraz! in thy hand
If thou’lt take my heart, for the mole on thy cheek
I would barter Bokhara and Samarkand.
Bring, Cup-bearer, all that is left of thy wine!