Hafiz and His Critics

Hafiz and His Critics
Studies in Islam
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One of the great experiences in Iran is a visit to Shiraz and the
delightful garden that is laid out around the tomb of Hafiz; to enter
under the white marble baladchin that covers the tombstone on which
some of the poet's verses are engraved in elegant nasta"'liq; and to open
the Diwan-i -'fafif to look for a fa'!l, an augury, according to well
established rules, as it has been done for centuries. During such a
moment the visitor may perhaps recall the beautiful lines written by the
'last classical poet' of Turkey, Yahya Kemal Beyatli (1881-1958),
who uses one of lfafif's central concepts, that of rind, 'vagrant', in his
poem Rindlerin oliimii:
In the garden at lfafif's tomb there is a rose
Which opens every day with blood-like colour;
At night, the nightingale weeps until dawn turns gray,
With a tune that reminds us of ancient Shiraz.
Death is a calm country of spring for a vagrant;
His heart fumes everywhere like a censer-for years . ..
And over his tomb that lies under cool cypresses
A rose opens every morn, every night a nightingale sings.
During the long history of Islam, Shiraz was always an important
centre of learning, mysticism and poetry. In spite of the frequent
changes in government, numerous wars and internecine feuds of its
rulers the city can boast of a long-standing cultural tradition. To
be sure, the 14th Century, when I:Iafi? lived, was no longer the time of
Ibn-i Khafif's (d. 982) asceticism nor of Riizbihan Baqli's (d. 1209)
high-soaring mystical experiences; and the days of Saedi, whose works
* Paper read at Indian Institute of Islamic Studies, New Delhi on 11 November 1978.
The main sources are E. G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia. vol. III, Under
Tartar Dominion (Cambridge 1920) pp 271-319; H. Ritter, 'Hafiz', in Islam
Allsiklopedisi (Istanbul, 1950) V,p. 65ff; A.J. Arberry, Classical Persian Literature
(London, 1958), Chapter XIII; A. Bausani, 'Letteratura Neopersiana' in: A.
Pagliaro eA. Bausani, Storia della letteraturapersiana (Milan, 1960) pp 437-450;
Jan Rypka, History of Iranian Literature (Dordrecht, 1968).
~"", JANUARY 1979
made the name of Shiraz known in the West precious to that of most
other places in Iran, had long passed. But the religious tradition was
embodied in one of the leading AshGarite theologians of the later
Middle Ages, GAQud aI-Din Iji (d. 1355), who held the office of chief
qaj; under Abu Isl;tiiq Injii, although he later withdrew from Shiraz.
His Mawiiqif, a kind of summa the%gica, were to become a standard
work in scholastic theology, and it is said that I;Iiifi?: too studied it.
The Mawaqif was often commented upon by later theologians;
among them was-still during I;Iafi?:'s lifetime-al-Saiyid aI-Sharif
al-Jurjani (d. 1413) who, after long wanderings in Egypt and Turkey,
was called to the Muzaffarid capital in 1377 as a professor in the Dar
al-Shifa madrasa, and returned once more to Shiraz after a prolonged
stay in Samarkand where Timiir had carried him. Jurjani's TaGrifiit
is still a helpful instrument for our understanding of theological
Poets were not lacking either in Shiraz and other Persian cities
around 1350. E.G. Browne goes so far as to call the 14th Century the
richest period of Persian literature, a fact which he ascribes to the
existence of numerous small courts that competed with each other in
attracting literati. Salman Sauaji (d. 1376), the panegyrist of the
Jala"irids in Baghdad and Tabriz, is noted for his 'fluency oflanguage'
and his skilful use of ihiim (amphibiology) which he displayed in
artistic qa$idas (qa$ida-i ma$nuG). His contemporary Kamal ad-Din
Khwajii Kirmani settled finally in Shiraz, where he died in 1352 or
1361; he left a diwan with enjoyable ghazals. Certain similarities
between his verses and those of I;Iiifi?: have been pointed out by the
critics. Besides lyrical poetry he composed a Khamsa out of whose
five-mostly mystically tinged-epics the story of Humay and Humayiin
has attracted the scholars because of the exquisite miniatures that adorn
one of the manuscripts which can be dated to the early 15th Century.l
Somewhat later we find Kamal Khujandi (d. 1391 or 1400) in Tabriz;
he and I;Iafi?: seem to have been acquainted, although Kamal, an interpreter
of the theory of wa/.zdat al-wujud, is blamed as 'abstruse' by the
sober commentator Siidi in the 17th Century.
In Shiraz itself the poetry of c:.lmiid ai-Din Paqih Kirmani
(d. 1371) was widely acclaimed. He was the chief panegyrist of the
Muzaffarids, a fertile lyrical author, and produced also five mystical
mathnawis. c:.lmiid ai-Din and I;Iiifi?: were allegedly not on very friendly
1 Reproduced most reCently in A. Papadopoulo, Islamische Kunst (Freiburg, 1977);
L'Islam et I'Art Musulman (Paris, 1967), pl. 41.
terms, as some biographers assume, who spin out a story from l;Iafi?:'s
Don't be duped by the devotee cat that performs the ritual prayer .. 1
which is interpreted as referring to Glmad's well trained cat. However,
as E.G. Browne has already pointed out, l;Iafi?:'s expression can
be more safely traced back to a verse in GUbaid-i ZakanI's Mush wa
gurba. This little Cat-and-Mouse epic is still widely read in Iran and
has often been lithographed or printed with simple illustrations.
Its author, "Ubaid-i Zakanl (d. 1371), a citizen of Shiraz which he
dearly loved, is mainly noted for his satires; his prose satire Akhliiq
al-ashriif offers an interesting picture of the vices of Persian society
in the 14th Century.
However, to speak of Shiraz in the 14th Century, even to mention
the city's name at all among educated Westerners, means to recall
immediately the one name that has become the epitome of Persian
lyrics for both Oriental and Western readers, that of Mul).ammad
Shams aI-Din l;Iafi?:. Superseded in popularity, particularly in the
English speaking world, only by GUmar Khayyam, the name of l;Iafi?:
stands in the West for everything Persian; for the apogee of uninhibited
sensual delight; enjoyment of the prohibited wine; and the predominance
of love in all its shades, while most of the Oriental interpreters
see in him 'the tongue of the Unseen World' singing of Divine Love
and spiritual intoxication. In the German speaking world, I;Hifi?:'s
name has become almost a household word since the days of Goethe.
But famous as l;Iafi?: is in both East and West-interpreted as
embodiment of sensuality and free thinking on the one hand and of
highest mystical enthusiasm on the other-it is difficult to give a satisfactory
account of his life; and the orientalist views with envy his
colleagues in the field of German or English philology who can follow
the development of their great writers step by step, almost day by day.
In the case of Oriental poets it is next to impossible to transgress the
narrow framework offered by the biographers and to infuse real life
into the numerous anecdotes which are repeated time and again by the
1 H. Brockhaus, Die Lieder des Hafiz. Leipzig 1854-60, repro 1969, Nr. 122; Dfwiin-iQiifi+.
based on a manuscript dated 824 A.H., ed. by Dr Nazir Ahmad and
Dr S.M. Reza Jalali Na~ini (Tehran, 1971), Nr. 102.
JANUARY 1979 3
writers. A few remarks in contemporary historical source$, perhaps
a tombstone, or some scattered hints in the poetry itself may prove
helpful for the chronology of a Persian lyrical poet's life. On the
whole, however, our knowledge of I:Hifi?'s life is woefully inadequate.
The Preface of one of the oldest manuscripts-used intensely
for the first time by Qasim Ghani and MuQ.ammad QazwinP-contains
at least some biographical material. But even the date of I;Iafi~'s
birth is not yet established. Some authors, like Qasim Ghani, put it
in 717/1317-18 while others (so M. Mu"'in) plead for 725/1325-26, a
date which would fairly well agree with the statement in "'Abd
al-Nabi's Maikhiinah (written in 1626) that I;Iafi? died at the age of 65
lunar years. Most European scholars seem to have accepted a date
of circa 719/1319-20.
I;Iafi?'s father, a merchant, had migrated from Isfahan to Shiraz.
He died early, leaving the family in straitened circumstances. Yet,
young I;Iafi? apparently enjoyed the traditional education in a madrasa.
Some sources speak of his poverty, and tell that he apprenticed himself
to a doughmaker to earn his livelihood. It seems that he worked
as a copyist for quite some time, for the library in Tashkent owns a
copy of Amir Khusrau's Khamsa by his hand, dated 9 February
1355.2 That means that even in his thirties he had to do some menial
work. However, he must have been very well versed in the Qur'iinic
sciences-hence his nom-de-plume I;Iafi? His Arabic was excellent,
and in later years he taught exegesis and other theological courses in
Shiraz. According to the Preface he studied Zamakhshari's Kashshiif
(to which he incidentally alludes in one of his ghazals), Sakkaki's
Miftiib and several other Arabic works. According to A. Krimsky,
some of his Arabic works are extant in autographs.s
A charming story tells that he received his initiation in the art of
poetry at Baba Kuhi's tomb on the hillside near Shiraz, where'" Ali
ibn Abi T:llib appeared to him and offered him some heavenly food.
The beautiful ghazal:
,u.)b ~~ ~ j\ J- .:A.J ..r.J.)
,u.)b rj~ ..,..T ~ ..::.....lli .;T J,u\J
1 Qasim Ghani and Muhammad Qazvini, Diwiin-i Ifiifi~. Tehran, 1320 sh/1941-2.
2 Rypka nach Y. E. Bert'els, 'Literatura na persidskom yazika v Sredney Azii'
in Sovetskoye vostkovedeniye. 1948, pp 199-228, esp. p. 201.
3 Rypka, p. 277 note 95.
Yesterday at dawn I was given relief from my grief,
And in the darkness of the night I was administered the elixir of
life .. . .1
is taken as an allusion to this event, although the story was most probably
invented to fit the poet into the Shi<:.a tradition. But in spite of
A. Krimsky's opinion, he was not an avowed Shi<:.ite, for no authentic
Shi<:.a verse appears in the Diwlin.
Several invitations from rulers outside Fars show that his poetry
attracted some interest quite early. Al)mad JallPir, himself a skilful
poet, talented calligrapher, etc., invited him to Baghdad-perhaps
\ after Shah Shuja<:"s death (1385). But before that the ruler of the
Bahmanid kingdom in South India sent for him (as one century earlier
the ruler of Multan, Prince Mul)ammad ibn Balban, the maecenas of
Amir' Khusrau, had invited Sa<:'di to leave Shiraz for India). Ijafi:?
did not follow any of the invitations, but in one of his ghazals he
speaks of far away Bengal where his poetry was appreciated-poetry
which, like a perfected $iifi, can perform the miracle of tayy al-maklin
(ubiquity) and, though only a child one night old, can immediately
make one year's journey. . . . In this poem he says in a line that connects
in a clever murli<:.lit al-na~ir three items from the geographical
sphere and the traditional combination of the sweet-speaking parrot
with sugar:
.u.. .; l::kJ. 0\--.1> .s.;y §.:. ~
::'JJ:" .J~ ~ .s- ~..)[j.w ~j
All the parrots of India become sweet-spoken
From that Persian candy that goes towards Bengal-2
a line in which we find a subtle allusion to his superiority even over
Amir Khusrau, commonly called tuti-i Hind, whose works Ijiifi:? himself
had copied.
Very little is known about Ijiifi:?'s personal life. He must have
been married, and one of his ghazals is interpreted as an elegy for his
son who died probably in 764/1462-63.. According to Firishta, who
is followed by the 18th Century Indian polyhistor Azad Bilgrami,
in Burhanpur.
We do not know whether I:Jiifi:? belonged to one of the numerous
$ufi orders which were then quite active in the Middle East. The area
1 Brockhaus Nr. 218; Ahmad-Na"'ini Nr. 112.
2 Brockhaus Nr. 158; Ahmad-Na"ini Nr. 149.
JANUARY 1979 5
of Shiraz was the first part of Iran where a more closely knit community
of dervishes had,been formed by Abu Isl)aq-i Kazaruni (d. 1035) and
his followers, who were active in helping the needy not only in Fars but
soon extended their activities as far as India and China.1 I:Iafi:?'s
colleague, Khwaju, was a member of the Kazaruniyya. No name
of any of the leading ~ufi masters-be it GAbd aI-Qadir aI-GHani,
the Suhrawardis or Maulana Rumi-occurs in his verse, at least not
openly. Maybe that the frequent use of musical terms and allusions to
the san;iiG point to I:Iafi?-'s knowledge of Rumi's poetry in which such
imagery abounds. But this is only a vague supposition. If it is correct
that one Pir MUDammad GAgar was his shaikh, he would be connected
with the silsila of R iizbihan Baq Ii, as H ellmut Ritter has stated.2
The poet apparently used to attend the se~sions of Maulana Qawam
aI-Din GAbdallah. That is stated not only in the Old Preface, but also
in an account according to \\-hich the mystical leader Saiyid Ashraf
Jihangir Simnani (d. 1405), the patron saint of Kichhaucha in
Eastern Awadh, met I:Iafi? around 782/1380.3
The only way to find out more details about I:Iafi?-'s life is, as has
been done recently, to look for the overt and covert allusions to
political figures whom he praises or blames with subtle allusions.
H. Ritter has summed up his various mamdul;s in his admirable article
in the Turkish Islam Ansiklopedisi.
When the poet was stilI very young, the Ilkhan Abu SaGid died
(1335). One should not forget that eight months later TImur was
born. Abu Sacid's successor executed Sharaf aI-Din Mal)miid Shah,
who had been semi-independent in Shiraz since 1325. After a struggle
of seven years Mal)miid Shah's son, Abii Isl).:iq Injii, took over. Some
of I:Iafi:?'s poems praise the tolerant and artistically-minded prince and
his vizier Qiwam aI-Din I:Iasan. But soon, in 1353, Shiraz fell to the
Mu:?affarids whose first ruler, Shah Mubariz aI-Din, was orthodox,
harsh, and not inclined to spare human life. He in turn was deposed
and blinded by his own son Shah ShujaC after five years of reign. One
usually understands those poems in which I:Iiifi? derides or attacks
the detested mul;tasib, the market police inspector, as pertaining to
1 See Fritz Meier, Die Vita des Scheich Abu lsl)iiq al-Kiizariini. Leipzig, 1948.
2 Ritter, in Islam Ansiklopedisi, p. 67.
3 Rypka according to A.A. Hikmat, 'Maniibi':o-i jadid dar piriimiin-I)ayiit-i Qiifi?:
in Majalla-i Danishkada-i Adabiyat (Shiraz, 1341 sh/1962) VII, pp 3-38; the
source is Ni~m aI-Din Gharib-i Yamani's Lalii~if-i ashriif
, , ,
M ubiiriz al-Din's reign. The most famous of these poems:
-:.,.... ~J.f ~4 J <oJ..';.;..; [.I; . • ~4 ~ )"1
<'" f'. f' .
..:.. ... j:j ~ • .u ,fJy... ~ .....N~!
Even though the wine is pleasure-granting and the wind scattering
Don't drink wine at the sound of the harp, for the mul;tasib is
alludes in its last line
for now it is time for Baghdad and Tabriz
to the two Jalii=>irid capitals as more congenial places for the poet
to sing. Incidentally, both cities were later conquered by Shiih
Shujii<:'. It seems however difficult to place all mubtasib poems in
Mubiiriz al-Din's time: how should one explain a verse like this?
j::-i )1 .s- J.:~ J~ ~ r=--- 4
.::-.I..l,. (..r-:") Yr ~ J~ L.J';" o.::...-,=?
Don't tell the mubtasib my faults
For he, too, is continually, like me, in search of wine (or: of
good life)2
The solution of these problems is left to the interpreters' understanding.
When Shah Shujiie ascended the throne, times changed for the
better, and l;Iii.fi~ sings cheerfully:
,_h~ .~;. J.:"'J r-:J- ";';l"'j J-.;
~ J:h ,f .::-., l.;..! • t; J)~ .s-
At dawn, glad tidings reached my ear from the voice of the Unseen
It's the time of Shah Shujae-drink, boldly, wine!3)
Shiih Shujiie himself, an educated man, was a mediocre poet; his court
poet proper was <:'Imiid aI-Din Faqih, but l;Iiifi?: belonged to his eulogists
too, and it seems that shhiisuwar, who repeatedly represents
'the beloved', is a subtle allusion to this ruler's surname Abu'l-Fawiiris.
1 Brockhaus Nr. 57; Ahmad-Nai!>ni Nr. 68.
2 Brockhaus Nr. 34; Ahmad-Nai=>ni Nr. 57; here the reading is <:'aish instead of biida.
The whole poem speaks of enjoyment and drinking.
S Brockhaus Nr. 327; Ahmad-Na!>ini Nr. 251.
JANUARY 1979 7
When the prince left Shiraz between 1363 and 1366 lJafi~ composed
some poems that complain of the separation from the friend. During
those years Shah ShujaC had to fight his own brother Ma1}miid who
in ] 365 even laid siege to Shiraz, along with Uwais Jala!)ir. For some
time the relations between the ruler and the poet apparently cooled
down; at least the biographers hold that lJari~'s verse
~.;I~ .lii~.s- .;:.......;T jl Jw-' }'
JI~) ~~ j.,.rl <.$; jl }' <.SI.,
If the state of a Muslim is such as lJafi; possessesWoe,
if there were a tomorrow after today!l
estranged him from the ruler because of its apparently non-Islamic
character. Farda has of course to be interpreted as the Day of Judgment,
which in the Qur!)an is often called 'tomorrow', just as dftsh or
'yesterday' in Persian poetry usually points to the time before creation,
the Day of the Covenant (ru;-i alast, see Qur!) an 7: 17) when 'the angels
kneaded Adam's clay':2
J.j~j .ulh:~ .;~ 6Jj.....s- i~~ I.h~
- .L.i~j .w~ '-! ., ..v.:;.r. i~T $
lJafi:? may have travelled to Isfahan and Yazd during the 'estrangement'
around 1337, but the relevant traditions are weak.
Shah ShujaC was succeeded in 1385 by Zain al-ci\bidin, and the
latter, after a brief reign, by Shah Ya1}ya. During this time the internecine
feuds in the Mu~ffarid family continued. More importantly,
Timiir, in the course of his incessant conquests, reached Shiraz in
1378, the same year when he massacred 70,000 people in Isfahan. He
stayed in Shiraz for two months and may well have met lJiifi:?, interested
as he was in gathering learned men and artists from all over the Muslim
world. The anecdote about the dialogue between the world-conqueror
and the poet has been told and retold-probably spun out for the
famous matlac about the Turk-i shirazi.
I.;t.. J~ ~.;T .:.. .. -4 <.Sj~ ...s Jj cJT .}'I
I. ;.; l;..,. ., .wr -- ~•. ~.• , ..\.\J> Jt;...
The story is found in a rather early source, ShujaC-i Shirazi's AnTs
aI-ntis of 830/1426-7 so that it may contain some truth. It was then
1 Brockhaus Nr. 525; Ahmad Na!)ini Nr. 374.
2 Brockhaus Nr. 222; Ahmad Na!)ini Nr. 115.
popuiarized by Daulatshah, from whom Eastern and Western writers
alike took it over.!
Hafi:? died in 791/1389, to which the chronogram khiik-i mu~allii
would fit, or in 792/1390-thus the chronogram b-s-dh in the Old
Preface. It is said that the orthodox refused to have him buried in
a Muslim cemetery because of his anti-orthodox, sensual poetry, but
by means of an oracle taken from his poetry they finally agreed to a
correct burial. The story mayor may not be true-the custom of asking
the Diwiin for good advice in every situation has continued.
Since J::Iafi:{: had been too busy with teaching and scholarly work
\ he had no time, according to the early sources, to collect his Diwiin
himself-this work was left to later scholars. And here the major
problem for every interpreter of I;Iafi:?'s poetry begins, e.g. the lack
of an authentic text. We do not even know exactly how the 'friend'
was-usuaUycalled Mul}ammad Gulandam-who speaks in the Preface
about his acquaintance with the poet. After E. Boelke had made,
in 1958, some inquiries into the oldest available manuscripts,2
Robert M. Rehder discussed in 1974 once more the textual tradition
of J::Iafi:?'s poems in a brief, well-documented article3. He gives an
account of fourteen dated manuscripts which predate the year
827, which is the date of the Ghani-Qazwini edition. Was the 'friend'
the only collector of J::Iafi:{:'s verse? Or did independent collections
exist soon after the poet's death? That seems more likely. Single
ghazals of J::Iafi:{: are found in manuscripts written during his lifetime,
for example in a collection written in Baghdad in 781/1379-80. A
sa/ina, collected one year later in Shiraz, contains four of I;Hifi:?'s
ghazals. In 1937, Christian Rempis drew the attention of the scholars
to a manuscript dated 810/1417 that belongs to one Mu~affar J::Iusain
in Hyderabad/Deccan,4 but as Rehder states with regret, the whereabouts
of this manuscript, which was taken to Pakistan by its owner
in 1948, are at present unknown. It is not found in the library of
Khairpur Mirs which acquired the bulk of Mu:{:affar I;Iusain's library.
The National Museum in Delhi has a manuscript dated 818/1415
1 Jamalzadeh, in 'Ralliij-i biiziir-i shi"'r II shii"'iri' in Armaghiin 46/3, pp 129-142
offers a text that speaks for the truth of the meetings.
2 E. Boelke, Zum Text des Hafiz. Kaln, 1958.
3 Robert M. Rehder, 'The Text of Hafiz' in J. American Oriental Society, 94,
1974, pp 145-156; further his 'New Material for the text of Hafiz' in Iran III,
4 Christian Rempis, Beitriige zur Chajjam-Forschunc, AM. z. Kunde des
Morgenlandes 22/1, 1937, p. 126, note 2.
JANUARY 1979 9
with 385 ghazals (on loan from Hyderabad). Another manuscript,
mentioned by Rehder as Nr. 13, consists of an anthology and
was formerly in Gawanpur; since it contains the Preface it seems to be
the same manuscript which has been carefully edited by Dr Nazir
Ahmad and Dr S.M. Reza Na~ini in 1971. It contains 435 ghazals.
H. Ritter had studied two very valuable manuscripts in the Aya Sofya
Library in Istanbul (AS 3945 and 3857) dated 1410 and 1413 respectively.
One of them was written for the library of the Timurid prince Iskandar
ibn ~Umar Shaikh from whose library another copy is preserved in the
British Museum which contains 152 ghazals and was edited by
Dr Khanlari in 1337 sh/1958.1 The Revan Koshk in the Topkapi Serayi,
too, owns a pre-827 manuscript of I:Iafi~'s poems, and an important
manuscript is preserved in the library of the Tajik Academy of Sciences
(N. 555). It was described by Dr G. Galimova.2
That the text of I:Iafi~'s Diwlin was rather garbled as early as
about a century after his death is understood from the statement of the·
many-sided Timurid author, Sharaf aI-Din Marwarid,3 who writes:
through the transcribing of the text by various scribes of defective
understanding many of the pearls and precious stones of the Pattern of the
Praiseworthy and Eminent (i.e., Hafiz) became the pray of the plundering
fingers of a handful of fools ... 4
and that one of I:Iusain Baiqara's sons, Prince Faridiin Khan, decided
in 907/1501-2 to produce a better edition, which has found its way
later into the British Museum.s
Almost every Persian Diwiin has a tendency to become inflated,
but in the case of I:Iafi~'s poems this process is even more natural.
After all, it was the only book besides the Qur~iin out of which prognostication
was taken. Therefore poets, scholars and eager copyists
may have inserted their own verses or fitting poems in I:Iafi~ian style
1 Ghazalhii-i Khwiija Qiifi?-i Shiriizi, ed. P. N. Khanlari. Tehran 1337 sh/1958.
2 Dr G. Galimova, 'The oldest manuscript of the poems of Hafiz' in Sovetskoye
vostokovedeniye, 1959, pp 105-112.
3 H. R. Roemer mentioned this information first in his 'Probleme der Hafizforschung
und der Stand ihrer Uisung' in Abh. Akad. der Wissenschaften, Kl.
der Literatur (Mainz, 1951) pp 97-115; the text is published in facsimile in his
Staatsschreiben der Timuridenzeit (Wiesbaden, 1952) pl. 97g, the German
translation id. pp 134-141.
, R. M. Rehder's translation, 'The Text of Hafiz', p. 147.
5 Ch. Rieu, Catalogue of the Persian Manuscripts in the British Museum. Suppl.
Pers. Nr. 268.
\ ,
for the sake of gaining fame under his name or of participating in the
baraka of the book. Others may have tried to improve verses according
to their own taste. Besides, we cannot exclude the possibility
that a certain number of variant readings exist because I;Hi.fi?: may
have written more than one version of a poem or revised his words
(thus Rehder's assumption). The commentary of Siidi comprises,
in one print, 575 poems, in the Brockhaus edition, 692 poems; the
edition princeps (Calcutta, 1791) has no fewer than 725 poems. The
inflation of the text is most conspicuous in areas where Persian was a
living language, as was the case in Iran and India.
People's admiration for I:Jafi?: is reflected in the care the calligraphers
took to transcribe his verse on beautiful coloured paper, surrounded
by margins full of delicate golden drawings. His poems were
not only repeated by the masters of nasta"liq but also by the specialist
in shikastah. Did the artists perhaps think of the poet's clever use
of letter images of his complaint that the friend did not send him a letter
to catch his heart's bird with chainlike script?1
.;......:. jl J.:. b~ ~J..! .1.1>1.» ..) .;......;1.:.
.:.L::....J.ii ifl.:. ....L 0.>'; . .k..:. 0T jJ
Several copies of the Diwiin have been decorated with miniatures,
one of the finest being the one in the Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge,
Mass.) datable to circa 1527; it originally contained two miniatures
by Shaikhzadah and five by Sultan Mul)ammad. The most attractive
and at the same time intriguing picture is the one by Sultan Mul)ammad
which shows the various stages of heavenly and mundane intoxication,
where "I:Jafi?: himself, popeyed with booze or religious inspiration,
sits in a window about the huge wine jar2 closely beneath the roof on
which angels are dancing and drinking while in the lower level wild
looking dervishes produce a strange music. It is indeed a picture
which demolishes the conventional split between the effects of wine
and divine ecstasy. In this extraordinary transcendental painting,
low comedy and high religion meet. ... "3 And thus the problem
that has puzzled generations of scholars and admirers of I:Jafi?:,
1 Brockhaus Nr. 247; Ahmad-Na~inj Nr. 203.
2 Stuart Cary Welch, Persian Painting (New York, 1976) text to pI. 18; the three
other extant miniatures are pI. 15 'Lovers Picknicking', pl. 16 'Scandal in a
mosque', and pI. 17 'The Feast of eId begins'.
a id., Introduction, p. 20.
whether to interpret his poetry as sensual or mystical, seems to be
solved by the brush of one of the greatest Persian painters.
About the time when I;Iafi?: passed away in 1389, the Ottoman
Sul!an Murad I defeated the Serbs at Kosovo Polye and thus subjugated
the Balkans. Subsequently, the representatives of the developing
Turkish literature began to take a more intense interest in the
works of Persian poets, who became their literary masters and whose
style deeply influenced the so-called Divan edebiyati. Shaikhi
(d. circa 1451) and even more Ahmad Pasha (d. 1496) are obviously
influenced by I;Iafi?:'s lyrical style. Ottoman interpreters and commentators
carefully preserved the I;Iafi?:ian heritage without interfering too
much with the actual text. Yet, I;Iafi?:'s poetry was apparently viewed
with some suspicion in orthodox Turkish circles, otherwise it would not
have been necessary to ask the famous mufti Abu SuC.ud (d. 1578)
for a fatwa concerning the poet's religious stance. The wise mufti
gave an elegant ambiguous answer, explaining that I;Iafi:?'s poetry
on the whole was not really objectionable but that some expressions
were prone to a wrong interpretation; it was left to the reader's discrimination
to select the correct interpretation. This fatwa inspired
one of Goethe' poems in the West-ostlicher Divan. Abu SuC.ud's
judgment is important because during and shortly after his time three
most widely used commentaries were written to elucidate I;Ilifi:?'s
verse. Sham ei and Suriiri took to the mystical interpretation while
the Bosnian Siidi gives sober, grammatical explanations. His dry
but useful commentary was to form later the basis for most European
interpretations of the Shirazi poet. The mystical understanding of his
Dlwiin was prevalent in Safavid Iran and the countries east of Iran.
There, his admirers allegorized his verse by applying the standard
equations as laid down by authors like Mul;1sin FaiQ.-i Kashiini: 1
every curl of the beloved means the dark manifestations of contingent
beings which veil and yet enhance the radiant Absolute Beauty of the
Divine Face, or may pertain to God's jaliil-side, His Majesty and
Wrath, while every wine was only the Wine of Love, every tavern
represented non-qualified Unity, etc. This kind of mystical interpretation
is the reason for some Indian ~ufi leader's keeping only three books
in their libraries, viz. the Qur':lan, Maulana Rumi's Mathnawi, and the
Diwiin-i /fiifi? Europe heard of I;Iai4 probably for the first time in
1650 when Pietro della Valle mentioned his name in his travel account
1 See the examples in A. J. Arberry, Sufism, pp 113 f. London, 1950.
(Viaggi, printed in Venice). Almost half a century after Della Valle's
remark, in 1697, the Austrian orientalist Franz Meninski, author of
a useful Turkish lexicon, translated one of his ghazals. Shortly before
him, Thomas Hyde of Oxford had translated the first ghazal from
I;Iafi?,:'s Diwan (1690), but it was published only about a century
later. The next steps in discovering I;Iafi?,:'s poetry were made by an
amateur orientalist, the young Austrian diplomat Count Rewiczki,
and a British scholar, the learned and versatile William Jones (later
of Fort William, Calcutta).1 They enthusiastically exchanged their
views about oriental poetry in generai and l;Iafi?,: in particular in a
correspondence that lasted from 1768-1770, the year that William
Jones offered thirteen l;Iiifi?,:ian ghazals in an elegant French version.
A year later, in 1771, Rewiczki produced a Latin verse translation of
sixteen ghazals with a literal paraphrase and explanatory notes in his
Specimen Poeseos Asiaticae.2 Three years later, his British friend
published his Poeseos Asiaticae Commantariorum libri sex (1774),
the first survey of Arabic and Persian poetry.3 In a special chapter he
turns against the mystical interpretation of Persian love lyrics, and
especially of l;Iiifi?:'s verse. William Jones, who went so far as to
offer l;Iafi~ in Latin and Greek verse translation to his readers, composed
also a free variant of the Turk-i shirazi, i.e., his well known
'Persian Song':
Sweet maid, if thou would'st charm my sight ....
Jones's services to oriental literature during his stay in Calcutta are
unforgettable. During his lifetime, in 1791, Upjohn produced the
first edition of l;Iiifi?,:'s Dlwiin, printed in Calcutta in nastat:./iq characters.
Although this edition is highly inflated, it nevertheless gave
the scholars a first basis for their work. Still quite a few of them
preferred to go back to manuscript sources, which were found in many
libraries, or they relied upon Siidi's text.
In 1800, a British orientalist, J. H. Hindley (d. 1837) published
his 'Persian Lyrics', a collection of l;Iiifi:(s poem, but he deliberately
1 See J. Flick, Die arabischen Studien in Europa. pp 130 jf. Leipzig, 1955.
2 Karl Emerich Graf Revitzky, Freiherr von Revisny, Specimen poeseos Persicae
rive Muhammedis Schems-eddini notioris agnomine Haphyzi ghazelae. sive Odae
sexdecim ex initio Divani de promptae. mmc primum latinitate donatae. cllm
metaphrasi ligata et soluta. paraphrasi item ad notis. Vindobonae 1771.
3 For the English school of translations in general, see A.J. Arberry 'Hafiz and his
English translations' in Islamic Culture XX. 1946, pp 111-28, 22949.
JANUARY 1979 13
avoided in his translations the form of the ghazal because he was of the
opinion that
The constant recurrence of the same rhyme ... is not suited to our language,
which ... will not bear reiterated monotonies.
The British and also many German translators henceforward
preferred a looser, truly 'European' style, often inflating a single verse
into a whole stanza a.nd thus blurring the peculiar character of I;Hifi?:'s
crystal clear, succinct verse.
Briefly after Rewiczki's and William Jones's works had appeared,
we read with some amazement the judgment of J. G. Herder, who
endeavoured to realize his dream of Weltliteratur, of poetry as the
common language of the human race, and has therefore eagerly
collected every available translation of foreign poetry. He wrote:
An Hafyz' Gesiingen haben wir fast genug, Sadi ist uns niitzlicher
We have almost enough of /fiifi?'s songs; SaG di has proved more
useful for us. --,
The erudite German clergyman Herder preferred the moralizing
tone of Saedi's Gulistiin, known in Europe for more than a century
(first in Adam Olearius's fine translation of 1651) to the elegant playfulness
of I:Iflfi?:'s lyrics as offered by his first translators.
But in spite of Herder's grudging verdict, I:Iflfi?: attracted the best
minds in those early days of European Orientalism. Even the leading
French authority on Arabic and things Islamic, Silvestre de Sacy,
devoted some studies to him.l But it was left to the indefatigable
Austrian orientalist Joseph von Hammer (1774-1856) to translate the
whole Diwlin into German. Hammer, who had studied 1;Iiifi?: in
Istanbul during the late 1790, relied upon Siidi's commentary and,
contrary to Silvestre de Sacy, could not find anything mystical in the poet
of Shiraz. His translation appeared in two volumes in Stuttgart in
1812/13,2 marred by all too many printing mistakes which often
change the meaning, but can easily be corrected by everyone who knows
the Persian original. The translation cannot claim to be poetry,
although Hammer thought it was, yet this very book inspired Goethe
to compose his West-ostlicher Divan.3 Hammer's introduction is
1 Silvestre de Sacy, Notices et extrails 4, p. 238 ff.
2 J. von Hammer, Der Dill'an von Mohammed Schemsed-dill Hafts. Aus dell
Persischell zum erstenmal ganz ubersetzt.
3 See Ingeborg H. Sol brig, Dem Meister das Werkzeug (Bern, 1974) about the
relations of Hammer and Goethe.
\ 1
, \
still valuable because he points out some stylistic peculiarities of
I;Iafi?, such as the frequent change of acting persons in a ghazal, a
feature that contributes to the alleged 'lack of unity' in his poetry.
Hammer was also honest enough to translate the object of love as
male, for he was "afraid of getting entangled in contradictions by
praising girls for their green sprouting beards." Here, he is certainly
superior to most of the translators and imitators of I;Iafi? in the 19th
and early 20th centuries.
Five years after this translation had been published, Hammer
once more turned to I;Iafi? in his Geschichte der schOnen Redekiinste
Persiens (Vienna 1818), a history of Persian literature mainly based
on Daulatshah.1 I;Iafi? is called here "the most beautiful and fiery
aromatic flower in the wrath of Persian poets in the eighth century
hijri," and he is for Hammer a 'preserver' (Mfi?) "not only of the
Qur?iin but also of the holy fire on the altar of poetical art." Punning
in good oriental fashion on the poet's name and sobriquet, Hammer
claims that he did not at all deserve to be called 'Sun of Religion'
(shams ai-din) and 'translator of mysteries', tarjumiin al-asriir:
For badly did he beacon to religion as a sun, and his tongue translated
only the doctrines of sensual pleasure and not the mysteries of divine love.
Only in the Siiqi-niima, a small mathnavi, Hammer found true mystical
Hammer's interpretation remained a model for most German
lovers of I;Iafi~ during the 19th Century. Briefly after Goethe's Westostlicher
Divan (1819) had been published, part of the I;Iafi~an poetry
of Friedrich Ruckert (1788~1866) appeared. Ruckert, for one term a
student of Hammer in Vienna, plucked out first poetical selections
from Hammer's translation and then, about 1820, turned to the original
text. 2 His Ostliche Rosen (1822), free adaptations, carry the fragrance
of Shirazian poetry and are the only congenial adaptation of
I;Iafi~ in German. If one wants to understand how I;Iafi~ may sound
to a native speaker of Persian, the elegant and singable Ostliche Rosen
with their perfect harmony of images, masterly ghazals and hidden
1 Der Diwtin von Mohammed Schemsed-din Ha/is,pp.261-62.
2 Friedrich Riickert, Brie/e, hersg. von Riidiger Riickert, Schweinfurt 1977,
2 vols, Nr. 98, dated 12 December 1819. Seeaiso, Orientalische Dichtung in der
Obersetzung Friedrich Riickerts, hersg. und eingeleitet von Annemarie Schimmel
(Bremen, 1963) (Sammlung Dietrich 286); O. Paul, Die Vers/orm ill Riickerts
Ha/is-Obersetzung (Studia Indo-Iranica), 1931.
puns are the best introduction. In later years, Ruckert translated
altogether 85 I;Iafi?:ian poems into German ghazals, a form which
he had successfully introduced in Germany by his renderings of Maulana
Riimi's ghazals in 1819 and which, contrary to the development
in English literature, became a legitimate poetical form in German.
However, Ruckert's translations, faithfully reproducing both the rhyme
and the spirit of the originals, never became popular in Germany;
they were published only long after the translator's death-43 ghazals
and 28 rubif"iyat by Paul de Lagarde in 1877;1 the complete selection
by Herman Kreyenborg in 1926;2 Wilhelm Eilers added an edition of
Ruckert's versions of I;Iafipan rubii"'iyiit in 1940.3 During Ruckert's
lifetime two major scholarly works appeared in Germany and
Austria respectively. One was the edition of the Divan of I:bifi?
with the commentary of Siidi added to the first eighty ghazals
by Herman Brockhaus (1854-60);4 the other was the three volumes of
text and verse-translation by Vincenz von Rosenzweig-Schwannau,
a remarkable achievement of one of Hammer's compatriots.5 These
two works remained indispensable for most students of I;Iafi~ until
the first truly critical edition was published in 1927/8 by S. A.
Khakhali in Iran.
A gifted linguist and versatile poet, Ruckert had been able to
interpret I;Iafi~ most correctly, and a brief ghazal in his Poetisches
Tagebuch proves that the poet of Shiraz was his companion in some
lonely hours towards the end of his life. Ruckert's young friend Count
Platen (d. 1835) used the form of the ghazal and the name of the Persian
poet in his 'Spiegel des Hafis' (1821) to express his melancholia and
his homoerotic feelings under a foreign garb, thus hiding his own
problems from the suspicious eyes of his compatriots. His introducing
Wach auf, wach auf, 0 Hafts-wir [ieben den Wein, wie du ....
sets the stage for an exclusively wordly interpretation of the poet
1 Paul de Lagarde, Symmicta I, 1877, pp 178-98; republished in Leopold Hirschberg,
Riickert-Nachlese, Weimar 1910-11, 2 vols, pp 197-227.
2 Herman Kreyenborg, (Herausgeber) Ghaselen des Hafts. Munchen, 1926.
3 Wilhelm Eilers, Ha/isische Vierzeilen. persisch und deutsch. Dessau und Leipzig,
4. Hermann Brockhaus, Die Lieder des Hafts. 3 vols. Leipzig 1854-60, repro 1969.
5 Der Diwan ..• im persischen Original. herausgegeben. ins Deutsche metrisch
iibersetzt von Vincenz Ritter von Rosenzweig-Schwannau, 3 vols. Vienna,
of Shiraz. This anacreontic interpretation remained the rule for all
the later poets who used the name of Shiraz, threw in some roses and
nightingales, proclaimed free love and drinking, and poured out their
aversion to the clerics under the mask of I:Iafi~. The most famous representative
of this trend is G.P. Daumer (d. 1875). A man with great
technical skill in writing ghazals, he read into I:Iafi~ his own aversion
to the established church with which he, a trained theologian and
philosopher, had just broken. Yet, some of his alleged 'translations'
have inspired even Brahms to beautiful music, as Ruckert's Ostfiche
Rosen have been set to music by more than one leading composer of
the 19th Century-an appropriate homage to the spirit of I:Iafi~,
whose poetry is widely sung in Jran.1
A strange echo of I:Iafi~'s poetry is found in a place where one
would barely expect it: Nietzsche sensed the poet's more than worldly
intoxication and addressed him:
Die Schenke, die du dir gebaut
ist grosser als jedes Haus,
Die Triinke, die du drin gebraut,
die trinkt die Welt nicht aus ...
Bist aller Hohen Versunkenheit,
hist aller Tie/en Schein,
Bist aller Trunkenen Trunkenheitwozu,
wozu dir-Wein?
Many orientalists, too, followed the purely 'worldly' interpretation
of I:Ia~. The leading German authority on Persian literature
around 1900, Hermann Eth6, who calls I:Iafi~, "one of the greatest
lyrical poets of all times," quotes with approval the saying of the noted
historian of literature, Johannes Scherr, that I:Iafi~ sang "songs which
1 F. C. Daumer. Hafts. 1846; s.a. Fr. Fischbach. Rosen aus Schiras. 1898. Special
fame was gained by the pretty flat adaptation of select l;Iafi~ian poems by the fertile
Friedrich Bodenstedt, Der Sanger von Schiras. Hafisische Lieder (Berlin. 1880).
Hans Bethge invented his own highly romanticizing versions (Lieder des Hafts.
Nachdichtungen. Insel-Biicherei. Leipzig, Nr. 542, 1938), and Ernst Bertram's
Persische Spruchgedichte (lnsel-Biicherei, Leipzig. Nr. 87, 1944) pp 34-49, wrap
the serene l;Iiifi~ in a heavy and awesome Nordic garb. For the 'Oriental trend
in German literature' see A. F. J. Remy, The influence 0/ India and Persia on
the poetry 0/ Germany. Diss. Columbia University (New York. 1901); and the
excellent summary by Diethelm Balke, 'Orient und orientalische Literaturen'
in: Merker-Stammler. Reallexikon der deutschen Literaturgeschichte. 2 Aufl.,
Berlin 1965, vol. II. pp 816-869. esp. 841 if.
JANUARY 1979 17
-jestingly but inexorably-make war upon every kind of zealotry,"
and he himself held that I:Hifi~ wrote his poetry
. to celebrate the moderate enjoyment of nature and life, and to praise
that frankness that relentlessly fights against fraudulence and hypocrisy, and
to extol the indefatigable striving after the highest spiritual values of men.
Such words from an outstanding orientalist were certainly directed
against the British Lieut. Col. H. Wilberforce Clarke who had just
translated I:Iafi?:'s Diwiin in prose 'with critical and explanatory
notes' (1891) but had completely taken to a cumbersome mystical interpretation
of the Persian poet. Ethe's words also implicitly refuse
the tendency of Aialbert Merx who claimed in a famous university
address in Heidelberg in 1893 that everyone in the East understands
I:Iafi?: in a mystical sense.!
While the interest in l:Iafi?: came to a certain standstill in Germany
by the turn of the century, the British once more took up the thread.
One of the finest essays on l:Iafi~ is that by E.G. Browne in his A Literary
History of Persia (vol. III, 1920), where he places the poet in his
historical environment; much of his aesthetic judgment is based on
Shibli Nuc'mani's valuable Urdu work Shirc'r al-c'ajam, a mine of information2•
Later, A. J. Arberry has supplemented Browne, and with
his wide knowledge of the history of oriental studies also projected
I:Iafi~ as seen through the eyes of Western, mainly British, translators.3
Arberry proves that Fitzgerald discussed Hafiz with Lord Tennyson
in 1854, and that they approached Carlyle who, however, showed no
interest in the Persian poet. The poetical translations by young
Gertrude L. Bell, published in 1897, were highly praised by both E. G.
Browne and A. J. Arberry;4 formally, they follow the tradition of
'inflated' poems. But her versions certainly read better than the 189
versified adaptations by Herman Bicknell, who had taken great pains
to stay for some time in Shiraz to imbibe the atmosphere, but did not
live to see his labour of love published in 1875. And when J. H.
Hindley in 1800 had warned his compatriots against the ghazal form
1 Adalbert Merx, idee und Grundlinien einer allgemeinen Geschichte der Mystik.
Heidelberg, 1893.
2 ShiC.r al_C. ajam. 2 vols. Aligarh, 1907.
3 A. J. Arberry, Classical Persian Literature (London, 1958) Ch. XIII; and his
article 'Hafiz and his English Translations' in Islamic Culture XX, 1946,
pp 111-28, 229-49.
4 The book is accompanied by notes after Sodi's commentary; it was reprinted
in 1977.
then the translations of eighteen ghazals by Walter Leaf (An Essay
in Persian Metre, 1898) showed that he was right. John Payne, too,
produced a version of 1:Iiifi~'s poems in perhaps even less satisfactory
ghazal form in 1902; he rejected, however, the mystical ideas which
had been popularized by H. Wilberforce Clarke. The English version
by R. Ie Gallienne in 1905 can also not be considered to be really
successful. In the same line belongs a French version by A. Guy
(1927), as can be understood from its very title: Les poemes erotiques
ou ghazals de Chems ad-Din Mohammad Hafiz en calque rhythmique
et avec rhyme a fa persane.
In 1924, A Krimsky offered an introduction to the works of
1:Iiifi~ and showed how they found their way to the West; his book,
Kha/iz to yoho pisni, published in Kiev, contains an excellent bibliography
that points to many rare works and would, in an English translation,
form the basis for a much needed bibliography of 1:Iiifi~ studies,
including translations.1
1:Iiifi~ was more and more becoming a truly international poet.
The first Czech translation appeared as early as 1881, and the Danish
scholar Rasmussen devoted a study of 1:Iiifi~ in 1892;2 a Norwegian
version was published much later, in 1927. The number of minor English
and German translations grew, and between the two World Wars and
after 1945 several Russian and Polish translations appeared. In 1960
a Hungarian version of 1:Iiifiz came out, and a first attempt to make
I;Iiifi~ popular in the Arabic-speaking world dates back to 1944.
It goes without saying that the countries where 1:Iiifi~ had been studied
throughout the centuries-India and Turkey-produced many translations
and commentaries in the indigenous languages. Urdu offers
quite a few poetical or interlinear translations from the late 19th
Century onwards. Some of the prints have even ajuCof-niimiih attached to
them. Numerous editions of or selections from the Diwiin have been
brought out by Indian devotees of I:Iiifi~, seometimes with an English
translation. We know of a Hindi interlinear version as well as of
several Panjabi poetical renderings of 1:Iii~;3 material in Sindhi is
likewise available. In Turkish, the last major attempt was that of
1 An excellent survey in Rypka, Selected Bibliography VI b, pp 784-85.
2 Harald Rasmussen, Studier over Hafiz med sideblik til andre persiske Lyrikere.
Diss. Copenhaguen, 1892.
3 See A.J. Arberry, Catalogue of the Library of the India Office, vol. II, Part VI,
Persian Books (London, 1937) pp 109-115, an impressive survey of various editions,
translations and studies.
JANUARY 1979 19
Abdulbaki G6lpinariy, whose Hafiz Divani in Turkish translation
(Istanbul 1944) proves his amazing erudition.1
The chain of translations into English continued after World
War II. A.J. Arberry has elegantly put together various versions in
his Fifty Poems of Hafiz (Cambridge 1947, 1953), a book that is a fine
introduction to the poet's style. Five years later, a selection of thirty
poems in translations by Peter Avery and John Heath-Stubbs followed
(London 1952).
In France, it was primarily Henri Masse who dealt with I:Iafi:?
in his Anthologie Persane (Paris 1950);2 the Persian scholar and poet
Dr Khanlari contributed an article on 'Hafiz de Chiraz' to the
collection L'ome de l'Iran (Paris 1951). It is to him that Vincent
Monteil dedicated his annotated translations of Neuf ghazals de Hafiz
in 1954;3 which he transcribes in order to evoke the impression of the
sound of the recitation.
In Germany, I:Iafi:?'s work incited Georg Jacob-always interested
in the realia of oriental poetry-to devote a study to the Tavern and
its Implements according to I:Iafi:? in the Noldeke Festschrift (1906)
and later joined those who translated I:Iafi:? into German verse.4
When the time came to present a Festschrift to Georg Jacob, Hellmut
Ritter contributed some fine German verse translations from I:Iafi:?'s
Diwiin.5 Ritter's magistral article about I:Iafi:? in the Islam Ansiklopedisi
has already been mentioned. The last major attempt to translate
I:Iafi~ into modern GIerman is that of Rudolf Keil in 1957;
J. Christoph Burgel, then, issued a useful anthology in 19726 which IS
in some way comparable to Arberry's Fifty Poems, and gives a survey
of I:Iafi:? studies and a fine account of I:Iafi:?'s poetical art. In a
small booklet, Drei Hafis-Studien (Bern 1975) Burgel continues his
1 Golpinarli relies upon the Khalkhali edition and the Manuscript Aya Sofya
3945 of 813-14/1410-12.
2 French prose-translations on pp 160-167; see also his 'Vingt poemes de Hafiz',
Cinquantenaire de la Faculte des Lettres (Alger, 1932) pp 343-59.
a Vincent Monteil, 'Neuf ghazals de Hafiz' in Revue des Etudes /slamiques 22/1954,
pp 21-57. - A translation: Les ghazals, by Ch. Devilles, was published in Paris
in 1959.
4. Georg Jacob, 'Das Weinhaus nebst Zubehor nach den Gazelen des Hafis. Ein
Beitrag zu einer Darstellung des altpersischen Lebens in Orientalische Studiell
Theodor Noldeke gewidmet, ed. Carl Bezold (Giessen, 1906) pp 1055-76.
6 Festschrift Jur Georg Jacob, pp 226-233. Leipzig, 1932.
6 J. C. Burgel, Muhammad Schams ad-din Hafis-Gedichte aus dem Diwan. ReclamBiicherei
Nr. 9420. Stuttgart, 1972.
translations and interpretations, devoting special attention to the
concept of rindi, which he translates as Freisinl1, a meaningful word
from Goethe's West-ostlicher Divan.
A new vivid interest in I;Hifi? is visible in his native country, beginning
with Sayyid "'Abd al-RaQim Khalkhiili's publication in 1927-8 of
the first truly critical edition based on a manuscript written only
35 years after the poet's death. His pioneer work formed the basis
for a new, widely enlarged edition by Qiisim Ghani and Mul)ammad
Qazvini who corrected the text with the help of a considerable number
of other old manuscripts and published extensive and most useful
studies about I;Iiifi? and his time most of which appeared during
World War II.I By their painstaking studies, both scholars discovered
that f,Iiifi?'s poetry contained many more allusions to contemporary
events than had been previously realized. A number of studies by
leading Persian scholars such as MulJammad Mu""In,2 Sa"'id-i Nafisi3
and Dr Khanlari4 prove the growing interest in the textual reconstruction
of the Diwiin and its correct interpretation on modern scholarly
lines. The work of these Persian scholars has, of course, great importance
for the solution of problems which have been discussed
over and over again in the West, particularly that of the alleged incoherence
of Ijiifi?'s lyrics. A solution of this problem was attempted
also by European scholars during World War II, a time during which
communication with colleagues was largely impossible so that duplications
are not infrequent. Tradition has it that already the contemporaries
of the poet, headed by Shah Shujii "', criticized a certain
incoherence in his verse, and European critics of the 18th and 19th
centuries followed them in complaining of the lack of a higher logical
order. As Hindley wrote in 1800:
Hafiz ... takes the liberty of glancing with the frenzied eye of inspiration
from earth to heaven, from heaven to earth, in search of objects
adapted to the subject of his composition.
Gertrude L. Bell, who tried in the foreword to her translation to
evaluate Ijiifi?'s greatness from a Western viewpoint, wondered why
1 Qasim Ghani, Babth dar iithiir u a/kiir u abviil-i I;fiifi~. i) Tiirikh-{· a$r-i I;fiifiz,
Tehran 1321 sh/1942; ii) Tiirih-i ta$awwuf Tehran 1330 sh/1951 , 2nd ed. 1340
2 MUQammad Mu"'in, I;fiifi~-i shirfn sukhan. Tehran 1319 sll/1940.
3 SaGid Nafisi, Dar piriimun-i ashC.iir u abviil-i I;fiifiz. Tehran 1321 sh/1942.
4 Khanlari, Chand nuqla dar la$bib-i diviin-i I;fiifi? (a series of articles in Yaghma).
JANUARY 1979 21
there is 'almost no echo' of the political and martial events that occurred
during his lifetime. She touches here a point that was to arouse major
discussions fifty years later. But she concluded:
It is as if his mental eye, endowed with wonderful acuteness of vision,
had penetrated into those provinces of thought which we of a later age were
destined to inhabit.
Friedrich Veit, who wrote his thesis 'Des Grafen von Platen
Nachbildungen aus dem Diwan des Hafis' in 1908, found a 'unity
of thought' in the poems; but his interpretation is mainly concerned
with the homoerotic aspects of !:Iafi:?'s and Platen's verse. H. H.
Schaeder, in his masterly book Goethe Erlebnis des Ostens (Leipzig
1938) expressed the opinion that in a !:Iafi:?ian poem several themes
are combined as a kind of leitmotifs; he is thus not too far from A. J.
Arberry who saw in !:Iafi?,:'s poetry a progress towards a kind of polyphony:
beginning as a poet who is almost 'a perfect Sa Co di' in his onelined
ghazals, he then develops the art of inserting two or more themes
and elaborates them in an intricate pattern whose various 'melodies',
so to speak, stand in a contrapunctual relationship; this art would have
become more and more refined in the poet's later years.
H. H. Schaeder remained faithful to the 'classical' interpretation
of !:Iafi:?'s lyrics and harshly contradicted Karl Stolz who had claimed
in an article in 1941 that one could understand !:Iafits spiritual development
to a certain extent by observing the changes in emphasis,
allusions to persons etc.1, referring to MaQmiid Human's study
80ft:? chi miguyad?2 which points to the same direction of research.
Schaeder's question: "Uisst sich die 'seelische Entwicklung' des
Dichters Hafiz ermitteln ?"3 was answered by himself without hesitation
in the negative; Stolz, however, insisted upon his, though slightly
modified, thesis on very acceptable grounds.4 He found strong support-
though unwittingly-in the work of the French scholar, R.
Lescot, who wrote a Chronology de I'oeuvre de Hafiz, which appeared
in 1944 in the Bulletin des Etudes Orientales.5 Lescot, basing his
1 Karl Stolz, 'Die seelische Entwicklung des Dichters Hafiz' in WZKM 48, 1941,
pp 97-120. One year later, Stolz published an article on I;Iiifi~'s colleague
C,Imiid aI-Din Faqih in WZKM 49, 1942, pp 31-71.
2 Tehran 1371 sh/1938.
3 Orientalische Literaturzeitung 45/1942, pp 201-10.
4 id. pp 97-120: 'Die seelische Entwicklung des Dichters Hafiz lasst sich
6 Vol. X. Beirut 1944.
research mainly on Qasim Ghani and Mul;ammad Qazvini, found
that un fil conducteur, a chain of associations, connects each verse with
the previous and the following one, and ascribed much of the apparent
incoherence to negligent copyists. Like Stolz, Lescot discovered in
I:Iafi?'s poetry certain cycles that can be ascribed to different phases
of his life, and detected a relative chronology by disclosing the identity
of people alluded to in the ghazals. Now for the first time the idea
was put forth that I:Iafi? was in reality a panegyrist who had cleverly
used the more or less lyrical introductory part of the qa,#da for his
panegyrics so that the invoked maC,shuq, 'beloved', is in reality the
mamdub, the object of the poet's praise, e.g. the prince or the vizier.
When H. R. Roemer published his lecture on Probleme der
Hafizforschung in 1951 he came close to Lescot's theories and defended
the possibility that at least parts of the poems are datable. The
problem is, however, that the application of Lescot's and Arberry's
methods sometimes places the same ghazal in two completely different
categories of time so that neither of the approaches can offer a perfect
solution of the chronology.
One year after Roemer's useful survey of 'Hafizology' two articles
by G.M. Wickens in the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African
Studies deeply disturbed the students of I:Ia.fi?l In his brief note
on the 'Persian Conception of Artistic Unity' Wickens stresses convincingly
the lack of significant or 'dramatic' development in Persian
poetry, a fact which he explains in the context of the Islamic way of
thinking in general; his example of interpretation reads as if he were
simply over-extending one principle of Persian rhetorics, e.g. that of
muritiit al-na;ir from one verse to a whole ghazal. In his second
article, however, 'An Analysis of Primary and Secondary Significations
in the Third Ghazal of Hafi?' he tried to find in each and every word
of the oft mistreated Turk-i shirazi every conceivable and inconceivable
connotation of the written word in order to establish the underlying
'Turkish' feeling of the ghazal. Mary Boyce wrote a very outspoken
rebuttal of this interpretation and the learned scholar's preoccupation
with the ambiguities of written Persian.2 She rightly stressed the
fact that in the east poetry is usually recited or sung, rather than read,
so that the sound is more important than the script; and indeed, how
1 Bulletin 0/ the School 0/ Oriental and A/deem Studies 1952, XIV, pp 239-53 and
pp 627-38.
2 'A Novel Interpretation of Hafiz', id. XV, 1953, pp 279-88.
JANUARY 1979 23
many semi-illiterate people in Indo-Pakistan or among the elder generations
in Turkey used to know their I:Iiifi~ by heart and could insert
fitting quotations from his Diwiin in every conversation! Mary
Boyce correctly stated that many words which at first reading may
convey only one meaning prove to carry secondary and associate ideas;
but these ideas are either implicit in the meaning of the word itself or
conveyed by delicate punning-an observation that brings her close
to Schaeder's position. As a working hypothesis, Wickens's 'focal
theory' can prove helpful; but it should not be taken as an absolute
Schaeder's viewpoints were taken over-though with slight
modifications-by the Italian scholar A. Bausani in 1958.1 He emphasizes
the elemento nOll emozionaie, jinemente razionale, which distinguishes
I:Iiifi?o's verse from lyrics in the Western, romanticizing tradition.
Bausani, however, lays special stress on the two small mat/mavis
which are ascribed to I:Iiifi~, e.g. the Siiqi-mimah and the Ahii-yi wabshi,
which he translates and counts among the most personal and inimitable
compositions of I:Iiifi~. Both mathnavis, however, are missing
in some of the oldest manuscripts. H. H. Schaeder had branded
the sweet and delicate Wild Gazelle-which is indeed much more
'personal' than the ghazals-as much inferior to I:Iiifi?o's lyrics. The
Siiqi-niimah, again, contains the praise of the wine of ecstasy, and stands
in the line derived from Ibn al-Farid's (d. 1235) famous Khamriyya,
the Wine Ode.
Lately, American scholarship has turned to l.Iiifi~, thus Michael
Hillman with a very critical approach,2 criticizing Mas''"iid Farziid's
work, an attempt to collate all versions of I:Iiifi~'s Diwiin in seven big
volumes. Hillman has also devoted a study to 'Unity in the Ghazals
of Hafiz' (Chicago 1976), which was critically reviewed by Gernot
Windfuhr.3 Hillmann's criticisms of the Turk-i shiriizi4 seems unfounded.
We also meet with a structuralist interpretation of the Turk-i
1 A. Bausani, in Pagliaro-Bausani, Storia della letteratura Persiana, pp 437-50;
translations of several ghazals on pp 247, 253, 255. See also his article 'La
rappresentazione della natura del poeta persiano Hafiz' in Oriente Moderno
23/1943, pp 28-39.
2 Michael Hillmann, 'Kushishha-i jadid dar shiniikht-i diviin-i l;fiift?' in Rahnuma-yi
kitab, 1971/13.
3 Gernot Windfuhr, in Middle East Studies Association Bulletin XI 3, October 1977.
4 'Hafez's 'Turk of Shiraz' again' in Iranian Studies. VIII 3, pp 164-182.
shirazi by Iraj Bashiri1 who discovers numerous astrological and
mythical concepts in the poem. And in Finland, Henri Broms has
tried to see I;Hifi~ in a certain relation to French symbolist poetry;
but has also taken the first steps towards a much needed I:Hifi~
Contrary to these more and more abstract interpretations, the
discovery that I;Iafi~ was probably more of a court poet than we had
realized and that his verse was neither erotic nor mystical but rather
panegyric, even 'political', led some Persian and Russian scholars to
the assumption that wine, beloved, and muhtasib should all be interpreted
afresh, thus turning I;Iafi~ into a political poet. I. S. Braginsky
follows Mul}ammad Bahar in this interpretation; he claims that he can
almost feel from I;Iafi~'s verse the horrors of the period, and that his
alleged mystical ideas were rather 'tricks of style' than expressions of
his genuine conviction. I;Iafi~ becomes for him the exponent of a
longing for personal liberty--the word rind, 'vagrant', means for him
"the personification of his imagined heroism" (thus Jan Rypka).
Braginski is followed, if not surpassed, by another Soviet scholar,
Shoislam Shomuhamdedov, who claims that I;Iii~ put his great talent
into the service of common man.3 According to him "man was on
the lowest steps in both the feudal hierarchy and the ~iifi tariqat."
But I;Iiifi~'s common man, the true rind, wants to enjoy real life, and
not dream of a Paradise beyond imagination. I;Iiifi:?'s line:
:...,$' tr...r.,.J .s' ~T ~ ('j.;:.
.:-:.!iT :'J~A ..... .w .....~. J ~ J".J
I am the servant of the high soaring intention of him, who
under the dark blue sky
is free from everything that accepts the colour of reiationship.4
is taken by him to prove that l;Iafi~'s work is "of great importance for
the liberation of human spirit from religious narcotics"-although the
1 !raj Bashiri, 'Hafiz' Shirazi Turk: a structuralist's point of view'. Paper in the
MESA meeting, New York, November 1977, in the panel on Literary Theory and
Middle Eastern Genres. The Muslim World, July & Oct., 1979.
2 Henri Broms, 'Two Studies in the Relations of Hafiz and the West' in Studia
Orientalia, Soc. Or. Fennica, Nr. 34 (Helsinki, 1963); and 'Towards a Hafiz
Bibliography', Proc. of the Vaasa School of Economics (Vaasa, 1969).
3 'Hafiz and His Humanism' in Yadllame-ye Jan Rypka, ed; Jiri Becka. Prague,
4 Brockhaus Nr. 32; Ahmad-Na~ini Nr. 55.
diction of the verse, particularly the word himmat, and the goal of
complete freedom from everything created is a most typical expression
of Sufi ideals. J:Iafizbecomes Shomuhamedov's Renaissance Man,
and embodies the most progressive tendencies of his times.1 This
article was published in the second Festschrift dedicated to Jan Rypka,
whose comprehensive chapter on J:Iafi~ in his History of Iranian
Literafure (1968) with its extensive bibliography is a mine of
There are critical voices, too. Mul}ammad Iqbal, the poet of
Indo-Pakistan, vehemently revolted against J:Iafi~ in the first edition
of his Persian mathnal'i Asriir-i khiidi in 1915; here, the Shirazi poet,
venerated for ages in the Persian speaking world, becomes a model of
that brand of beautiful but basically meaningless poetry which is more
dangerous for the masses than the hordes of Attila of Jenghiz Khan,
and his sweet verse is really opium for the people because it lulls them
in happy dreams and does not raise them to active participation in the
struggle for a better life. Later, Iqbal deleted this passage from the
Asriir and even alluded to some of J:Iafiz's lines in his own lyrics;
but he certainly created a new attitude towards J:Iafiz in the minds of
quite a few of his compatriots.2 In Iran, Al}mad Kasravi would
agree with Iqbal's early criticism; he speaks against the corrupt morals
of J:Iafi?: and goes so far as to claim that J:Iafiz is the favourite Oriental
poet in the West because he very well reflects the depraved image of the
sensual, unproductive Oriental which the Westerners love to see .... 3
But what is it that makes J:Iafiz so incomparable? He has relied
upon the poetical tradition as it has been perfected by his compatriot
Sa" di, and a comparison between the motifs and metaphors used by
him and his contemporaries-poets like Salman, Khwajii, and othersprove
a great similarity in their use of words and images. However,
it was J:Iafi~ who was able to weave the best threads of the tradition
into a perfect, colourful fabric.
We have to beware of interpreting J:Iiifiz too much according to
our own, Western understanding of poetry. H.H. Schaeder, followed
1 Yadname-ye Jan Rypka. p. 137.
2 Mul,J.ammad Iqbal, Asriir-i khudi (Lahore, 1915); for his life and thought in
general, cf A. Schimmel, Gabriel's Wing. A Study into the religiOUS ideas of
Sir Mul,zammad Iqbal (Leiden, 1963). His aversion to 1;Iafi~ notwithstanding,
IqbiU produced the Payiim-i Mashriq. a poetical answer to Goethe's Westastficher
Divan. with an interesting survey, in Urdu, of the 'Oriental Current in
German Literature' (Lahore, 1923).
3 Quoted by Burgel, Aus dem Diwan. pp 28-29.
by A. Bausani, has put his finger upon the main problem when he says:
For the German the understanding of Persian poetry begins by his
attempt to forget all his ideas about poetry as an expression of personality or
of experience (Erlebnis)l
and he advises the reader to go back to Baroque poetry (incidentally,
MasC:ud Farzad, too, drew a comparison between I;Iftfi=? and John
Donne,)2 or even to the medieval minnesingers who followed prescribed
conventions and images to express their feelings in a stylized form.
I;Iftfi?,: is after all a master of rhetorics, a poeta doctus, and one of the
great difficulties for the Western reader is to disentangle the complicated
web of allusions and rhetorical figures that make a line of Persian
poetry true 'poetry'. In his numerous studies, Jan Rypka has given
fine examples of this important art of correct interpretation.s For
only when the rhetorical figures have been understood a verse can
be interpreted according to its various levels. Verses of a supreme
master of this art, like I;Iftfi?,:, are like diamonds, hard and well
polished so that they send out rays of different colours every moment.
Among the German translators, Riickert was the only one to catch
some of this 'un-romantic' hue of the I;Iftfi?,:ian lyrics, and when
R. M. Rilke says in the Sonette an Orpheus:
Singe die Garten, mein Herz, die du nicht kennst ...
wie in Glas
eingegossene Garten von Isfahan oder Schiras ...
thus praising the gardens which are, so to speak, kept motionless in
glass, he has intuitively caught this aspect of classical Persian poetry.
We should not expect our poet to pour out his feelings in sheer lyricism
as it is usually done in post-enlightenment poetry in Europe; rather,
the highest art is to condense a personal experience so perfectly that
1 Orlentalistische Llteraturzeitung, 1942, p. 202.
2 Quoted by Arberry, Classical Persian Literature, p. 359. MasC.ud Farzad had
published in 1935 a study 'To translate Hafiz'; in 1949 his Haa/ez and His
Poems appeared in London.
3 See J. Rypka's approach in Baqi als-Ghazel-Dichter (Prague, 1926) and his review
of Hellmut Ritter's important study (Jber die Bildersprache Nizamis (Berlin,
1927): 'Neue Streiflichter auf die persische Metapher' in Orientalistische Literaturzeltung.
1928, pp 942-52. H. Ritter, too, warned against too much allegorizing
in our dealing with Persian poets; see his review of R.A. Nicholson's edition and
translation of Rumi's Mathnawi in Orientalistische Literaturzeitung, 1941,
pp 247-53.
JANUARY 1979 27
it always remains valid, just as one drop of rose-oil represents the
'spirit' of hundreds of roses. The reader can use it at every moment,
whether he needs a line for a drinking party or a verse that consoles
him by speaking of the beloved's wisdom or God's inscrutable will.
As Arthur Christensen puts it:
As the love-verses of a poet be applied by every lover to a new individual
(which differs from the person of whom the poet was thinking), thus
these verses can express moods which offer analogies to a love relationship and,
vice versa, mystical verses can be filled with individual contents'!
Christensen compares the poetry of I:Hifi?: to the dreamlike play with
rapidly changing images and thoughts; they are thus similar in
character to the faience ornaments on Persian mosques where letters,
arabesques, geometrical and floral decorations grow out of each other
and-as we may add-change colour at every moment according to
the light of the sun. This comparison, incidentally, brings the Danish
scholar close to Wickens's statement about the 'non-dramatic' character
of Persian poetry, a distinctive feature which one also may call
'carpet like' -as Goethe addresses I;Iiifi?: in the West-ostlicher Divan:
Dass du nicht ellden kallllst, das macht dich gross,
Und dass du nie beginnst. das ist dein Los ...
thus pointing to the circular movement of the Persian ghazal.
H. H. Schaeder largely relied upon Goethe's interpretation of
I;IMi?: whose greatness the German poet discovered even through
Hammer's not exactly poetical translation. Goethe was aware that
the very character of Persian poetry is determined by the form of the
ghazal; for the given rhyme scheme makes the poem assume 'a tinge
of quodlibet' because the poet's mind does not focus on one point but
is rather directed towards different directions in order to comply with
the exigencies of the rhyme and, as Goethe continues:
We forgive him the most daring metaphor for the sake of an unexpected
rhyme and enjoy the presence of mind which the poet can maintain in such a
complicated position.2
1 Kulturskitser fro Iran (Copenhaguen, 1937) pp 88-90, quoted in Schaeder,
Goethes Erlebnis des Ostens. p. 177.
2 Noten und Abhandlungen zum West-ostlicllen Divan: ()bergang von Tropell
Zll Gliechnissell.
Goethe recognized the 'guiding spirit' (Dos Vorwolten des oberen
Leitenden) as characteristic of this poetry, and he admired the readiness
to establish human contacts in I;Hifi?:'s poetry. Such poetry can lift
up problems which fill the soul with extreme tension, transporting
them into a realm where tension and calmness are no longer valid,
namely into the realm of pure spirit. Sensing this deeply spiritual
character that underlies great Persian poetry, he knew that I;Iafi?:'s
verse should not be interpreted exclusively at face value; for the wordas
Goethe thinks-is a fan that hides a beautiful eye and yet makes the
observer feel that it exists and may suddenly smile at him.
One may claim that I;Iafi?: is perhaps the first poet in the Persian
speaking world who pefectly realized the unity of the mundane and the
spiritual sphere. To be sure, Maulana Rftmi had taken his images
and symbols from every walk of life, changing even pebbles into poetical
rubies, but his poetry was so deeply tinged by his experience of mystical
love that it became regarded, for centuries, as the veritable Qur"an
in the Persian tongue. Mystical poetry had developed particularly
in Iran. The introduction into ~ufi thought of the shahid, the human
'witness', of Divine beauty, (e.g. the charming human object of love)
and not to forget the maxim ol-majaz qon!orot al-/:zaqiqa, that
metaphors, and thus metaphorical, i.e. human, love forms the bridge
to the Divine Reality, had deeply permeated literature. Already the
early ~itfi in the time of Kharraz (d. c. 890) and his disciple Junaid of
Baghdad (d. 910) had developed the art of speaking in subtle hints,
isharat. It would be surprising if I;Iafi?:, who lived in the city where
Riizbihan BaqIi had composed one of the most important works on
chaste love, the "'Abhar al-ashiqclI, and had contributed to our
understanding of the theopathic utterances of early ~fis, particularly
I;Iallaj, in his SharlJ-i shat/:ziyat-if I;Iafi?:, living in Shiraz and perhaps
even related to Baqli's silsila, had not been familiar with the finest
mystical ishfirat. He would certainly have agreed with Maulana
Riimi who states in the beginning of the Mathnavl that "the secrets of
the loved ones can better be expressed in the stories of others"-
.:,,~~ .r' .s- ~4 .:"I?Y'.:,,~~
.!.i.~ J~ ~T d
e.g., by veiling the truth under poetical symbols. It was this art which
I;Iafi?: has led to perfection.1 In almost each of his verses a constant
1 Ch. A. Schimmel, Mystical Dimensions 0/ Islam. pp 287-300. Chapel Hill, 1975.
JANUARY 1979 29
oscillation between the wordly and the spiritual level can be discovered.
That is why his poetry can be interpreted and, what is more, enjoyed
on two, if not on three levels (and there may be even more hidden
meanings). The object can be the beautiful beloved, preferably a
fourteen-year old boy who is as cruel as he is charming and hence called
with the traditional term, a Turk; or the object can be the Divine
Beloved Who Acts as He Wills, and who is loved by the poet because
He combines jamal and jalat, Beauty and Majesty, and in spite of the
fact that He is 'the best of rusers' (Sura 3 :47); the object can also
be the prince, whose whims are endured by the subject and who has
to be flattered in terms of utter subjection (as has the beloved) and
expects high praise. In every case the poet remains the Co abd, the
loving, admiring and obedient servant. This intended double entendre
does not exclude, however, the possibility of discovering historical
data in the lyrics.
If we approach a poem like the ever-present Turk-i shirazi by
a simple analysis of the rhetorical devices in the first verse we certainly
do not find the 'charming maid of Shiraz', although the basic idea is
as simple as can be-the lover would give away even the most precious
things imaginable for a single moment of kindness from his beloved;
or for a moment of Divine grace, or for a sign of royal favour. The
charm of this line does not consist in the rather commonplace idea
but in the expression: I:!afi:(,: produces a complete mura<'at al-na;ir
of five geographical concepts-Turk, Hindu, Shiraz, Samarkand, and
Bukhara, and another one from three parts of the body, i.e., heart,
hand, and mole. Besides, there is the juxtaposition of Turk and Hindu,
which is quite common in Persian poetry, particularly since the days
of Ni~mi. The Turk supplied, from Ghaznavid times onwards,
the model for the beloved with his round, light-coloured moon face,
a mouth like a mim or a dot, and slightly slanting eyes-an ideal that
appeared in Persian miniatures. The Hindu again was the black,
lowly and often cunning slave; so much so that mystics like Majd
aI-Din Baghdadi could compare angels and devils to Turks and Hindus
respectively. Given this extremely lowly position of the Hindu in
Persian imagery, I:!afi?'s claim to give away two major cities in the
Turkish area for the Hindu mole of his friend gains even more momentum.
Besides, the reader may think of the turk-i falak, the planet
Mars, and the hindu-yi falak, Saturn, stars connected in astrology with
minor and major misfortune, and with bloodshed and melancholia
respectively.l The clever combination of this verse has often been
imitated, but never surpassed. But a translation that leaves out the
meaningful puns can never capture its real charm.
Another line that has been quoted by Oriental poets time and
again, and in which mystical and profane meanings are most skilfully
intertwined, comes from the ghazal that starts with the daring outcry:
(:.l.!h :,y. • d jl.1 ~~ <.S" .}ti
(:.ljT 0~ .1:> J" jl .1 ~ :-'-'!
I declare it openly and am happy about my saying:
I am the slave of 101'e, and free from both wor/dsa
marla'" that makes the reader immediately think of the imminent
danger of ifshii al-sirr, the divUlging of the secret of loving union
which, according to the ~iift tradition, was I;IaIIaj's sin and caused his
death on the gallows. The line in question reads:
'::'-.1:..::....ti ...AJ 1 .r. r-1.) UJ.r. ~
(.)\.:....1 .)I.li :.4, f:. ...:sf" ~ "':
On the tablet of my heart there is nothing but the alif of the
friend's stature-
What can I do? My master did not give me any other letter
to memorize.2
To play with letters is common in Persian and related poetry,
and I;Iafi?: is no exception. The importance of the letter alifhas always
been stressed: as the first letter of the alphabet with the numerical value
.. One, and consisting of a slim vertical line, it was interpreted as the
symbol of Allah's unity and unicity, but is at the same time the cypher
for the elegant slender stature of the beloved. Why should one go
farther than this letter? The alifrepresents everything that is neededas
the Turkish mystic Yunus Emre (d. c. 1321) says in one of his
The meaning of the four holy books
is contained in one alif.3
1 A. Schimmel, 'Turk and Hindu: A Poetical Image and its Application to
Historical Fact' in Islam and Cultural Change in the Middle Ages. ed. Speros
Vryonis Jr. Wiesbaden, 1975.
2 Brockhaus Nr. 416; Ahmad-Na:lini Nr. 315.
3 Yunus Emre Divani. ed. Abdulbaki Goipinarli, p. 200 Nr. XXIV. Istanbul,
JANUARY 1979 31
Verses like this form the basis for the claim of quite a few mystics
in Iran, Turkey, and Muslim India to be illiterate and to know only
the alif which the gre~t master of "'ilm laduni, immediate wisdom from
God (Sura 18 :65) has taught them. For the mystic it is enough to
remember God's unity as expressed in the alif; as for the lover, the
reminiscence of the slender body of his beloved completely fills his heart
and mind.
One more example is taken from a poem in which ij.:ifi:? complains
of the separation from the friend.l The last line mentions his pen,
this instrument which he so of tens praises with grand hyperbolae
because of its miraculous powers:
~I J:l .ld~ :.I.!.r. .J~j ....sJS""
:l~ Y'...5',; [j .J; jlJ ~ ~l~
the pen, with cut-off tongue, reveals the friend's secret only after its
head is cut. Just as the reed-pen has to be cut for proper writingwhich
means: telling the mind's secret-thus the lover will rather
give his head than reveal the secret entrusted to him: 'I give the head,
sal', but not the secret, sirr' is a common saying. It does not matter
whether the poet thinks of the secret of loving union with a human being
whom he does not want to expose to blame, or of revealing, as ij.aU:ij
did, the secret of divine love and the experience of ecstatic extinction
of the self; or whether he is one of the confidents of his prince who has
entrusted him with information that should be kept secret-be it a
political consideration, be it, as in the story of King Midas with the
donkey's ears, a personal problem of the ruler (the pen, made of reed,
is cut off from the reed-bed like the reed-flute, which revealed, according
to the legend, Midas's pitiable state to the world.2 On whichever level
we interpret the seemingly pleasant and easy verse, it makes perfect
There is no doubt that ij.:ifi:? "composed some of the world's
most sublime and technically exquisite poetry", as G.M. Wickens
states.3 It is a sign of truly great poetry that every reader tries to
explain it according to his own understanding, and therefore the manifold
interpretations have a certain legitimacy. But it would mean
1 Brockhaus Nr. 130; Ahmad-Na":>ini Nr. 105.
2 Cf. for this story H. Ritter, 'Oas Promium des Matnawi-i Maulawi' in ZDMG
93/1939, pp 169-96.
3 Art. 'l;Iii~' in the new ed. of the Encyclopedia of Islam. vol. III, pp 55-57.
injustice to Hafiz to interpret his verse exclusively as an expression of a
hedonist and lucky-go-merry attitude, as much as it would be wrong
to see him exclusively as the Tongue of the Unseen world by applying
to his verse an overall allegorical interpretation. The greatness of his
poetry lies in the unsurpassable balance between the world of senses
with its wine and beauty, but also its politics, and the world of unchanging
Perfect Beauty, which is reflected in the changeful manifold.
His 'deep optimism' (Ritter) has probably to do with his talent to offer
the perfect Glasperienspiel, and we can see him, as Ritter did, as the
perfect rind, a man who represents a life style in which lib al-qalbi,
cheerfulness and goodness of the heart, is preferred to everything elsean
attitude that is certainly contrary to every kind of fanaticism.
Perhaps only a poet can fully understand the secret of I:Iafi?:'s
verse as Goethe certainly did. Therefore we owe the best explanation
of I:Iafi?:'s poetry to Riickert, the Orientalist poet who sings in truly
I:Iafi?:ian style of the double-sided fabric of I:Iiifi?'s colourful lyrics
in which sensual and supra/sensual experience are inextricably woven
Hafts, wo er scheint Obersinnliches
nur zu reden, redet iiber Sinnliches,
oder redet er, wo iiber Sinnliches
er zureden scheint, nur tlbersinnliches?
Sein Geheimnis is tuniibersinnlich,
denn sein Sinnliches ist iibersinnlich.

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