An American Take on Six Hâfezian Ghazals (QG1, QG3, QG26, QG142, QG182, and QG255) as Lyric Poetry and

as Cultural Expression: A Discussion at The University of Texas at Austin
Michael Craig Hillmann 100911 Two facts about Persian poetry may well initially surprise American lovers of poetry. First is the special significance that poetry has in Iranian culture and society. Second is the continuing popularity of medieval Persian poetry vis-à-vis the relative anonymity of contemporary Iranian poets, that is to say, poets born since 1950. And in that popular world of medieval Persian poetry, the special appeal that Ferdowsi’s 11th-century Shâhnâmeh and Hâfez’s 14thcentury ghazals have for many Iranian readers also has its elements of surprise for the American lover of poetry. For example, contemporary Iranian readers who may have wholly negative feelings about monarchy cherish episodes in Ferdowsi’s narratives in which kings constitute the quintessential Iranians and good young men like Sohrâb, Siyâvash, and Esfandiyâr, who challenge kings, suffer tragic ends at the hands of those kings or their representatives. Moreover, those same readers say they feel culturally nationalistic pride in the Shâhnnâmeh epic as a whole despite the fact that it ends with the ignominious defeat and demise of the Sâsânid Empire at the hands of invading Muslim Arabs. As for Hâfez’s ghazals, which many readers did consider a premier manifestation of the distinctive greatness of Iranian culture , at least two facts behind that special regard and popularity may initially strike American poetry-lovers as surprising. First, Hafez composed his ghazals as a court poet presumably facing the constraints that artists everywhere have faced and face if obliged to exercise their craft as salaried government employees. Most of Hafez’s Iranian readers today are, at the very least, both wary of any works of art that derive from state sponsorship and unsympathetic to panegyric verse. Second, as commentators and critics note, the culture of Hâfez’s ghazals is not Iran, historical or putative, but rather medieval Persian-speaking Islam, the very orientation that some educated Iranians today find anethma. As a Persian-reading, American poetry-lover, I recognize the need to learn about and become comfortable in that medieval Muslim world in which Hâfez lived and which permeates his ghazals. At the same time, I am not inclined to read Hâfezian ghazals as many Iranians read them. First, Iranian readers appear to assume that Hâfez’s speakers and Hâfez the poet are the same person(ality). Second, Iranians also appear to assume that Hâfez exhibits a consistent, possibly evolving, outlook or world view throughout his ghazals. Third, Iranian readers have long felt comfortable quoting individual Hâfezian couplets out of context as illustrative epitomes of Hâfezian ideas and craft. Fourth, some Iranian readers appear to think of Hâfez’s whole Divan as a discrete work of art. Fifth, many Iranian readers assume that a symbolic level of meaning exists behind or beyond common Hâfezian images, metaphors and allusions. Here follow aspects of my contrasting American critical perspective–with no implication that either a culture-specific Iranian or a culture-specific American approach better serves Iranian or American readers, respectively–in reading Hâfezian ghazals for the reasons why they read lyric poetry). First, Hâfez and his speakers do not share personhood or personality for me and, for that matter, individual ghazals have for me individual speakers not identical with speakers in

other ghazals. Parenthetically, because in the view of Iranian scholars almost nothing is known about Hâfez’s life, readers may have no bases for supposing that Hâfezian speakers stand in for the historical Hâfez. Second, any lack of consistency of outlook among speakers and themes in special ghazals is unproblematic, in part because ideas strike me as secondary in the experience of Hâfezian ghazals qua poetry. Third, for me the whole ghazal constitutes the only art object to which I need respond as a literary critic. Even if an individual couplet may stand on its own as poetic statement, it more importantly serves for as part of the artistic whole of the ghazal in which it appears. Fourth, in one sense I need read no more than one Hâfezian ghazal to have a full experience of Hafezian poetry. That Hâfez’s Divân contains approximately 500 ghazals means that 500 possible poetic experiences await me, with no poetic experience larger or longer than an individual ghazal. Of course, for the linguist, the historian, and the student of culture or religion, the whole Divân matters significantly. And the whole Divân matters for me too in one linguistic regard; that is to say, to appreciate the texture of a specific lexical item or image or illusion in a particular Hâfezian ghazal, I need to familiarize myself with Hâfez’s uses of that word, image, or illusion in his other ghazals. Fifth, on the matter of symbolism and allegory in Hâfêzian ghazals, I find such in those ghazals which appear to direct me to such readings, but I do not find such in many other ghazals. Of course, an American reader of Hâfez like me who did not grow up in a Persian-speaking environment in Iran and who learned Persian as an adult cannot make up for the almost life-long exposure to Hâfez’s ghazals that many Iranian readers have. However, partial compensation can come through the study of Iranian writing in Persian about Hâfez’s poetry, including at least five critical editions of Hâfez’s Divân, an equal number of commentaries on Hâfez’s ghazals, two or three dictionaries that cover medieval Persian texts, more than a dozen critical monographs, and scores of critical articles. One result of this study is that, although my conclusions about the poetic effects of individual ghazals may remain wholly American, everything about my interpretation of words, images, and illusions has Iranian roots and reflects what those words, images, and illusions communicated to readers of Persian in the region of Fars in the 14th century, as described in Iranian writing on the subject. As for any suggestions I might make about poetic qualities and effects resulting from an explication de texte of specific Hâfezian ghazals, such suggestions do not comprise an argument or imply interest on my part that others accept my views. Rather, my commentary as an American reader of Persian poetry merely engages individual ghazals appreciatively in experiencing the experiences that Hâfez’s speakers communicate and enjoying how Hâfez combines sound and sense and form and content through his wordsmithing to produce appealing pieces of art. My commentary, therefore, intends merely to encourage auditors and readers to make up their own minds about what they find in individual Hâfezian ghazals that may make each of those ghazals an effective and appealing poetic statement. As for my take on Hâfezian ghazals as depictions of culturespecific Iranian experiences and expressions of culture-specific Iranian feelings and views in a culture-specific Iranian verse form with culturespecific Iranian images, figures of speech, and diction, here follows a list of ten arguably Iranian orientations toward traditional Persian poetry with citation of Hâfezian ghazal which appear to embody or voice those

orientation. 1. An arguable cultural predisposition of some Iranians to see mystery or find unverbalizable meaning in life, to revel in the depiction of such in literary art, and to feel that poets like Hâfez who do so are kindred spirits or guides. (QG1.5). 2. Arguable Iranian cultural comfort with and an arguable penchant for ceremony, ritual, the ornamental, and stylized performance. Something about ceremony, formality, ritual, and an aesthetics of decoration may reassure people that things make sense and not chaotic; e.g., everything about the Hâfezian ghazal, from the opening rhymed couplet to the closing takhallos couplet, from the always regular metrical patterns and pervasive end rhyme schemes to ubiquitous prescribed figures of speech, and from poetic diction and imagery to the set repertoire of subject matter. (QG1.1 and 7). 3. Many Iranian readers sense a special intensity of feeling, sincerity, and spiritual experience in Hâfez's poems,which leads some readers to connect Hâfez with gnosticism and Sufism and even to argue that almost everything Hâfez says has meaning on a mystical level. Qualities of a dervish orientation and Sufistic individualism, rejection of the blandishments of this world, and unswerving spiritual principles remain part of Iranian culture even if the facts of everyday IranianAmerican life may make such a life style impossible. (QG142) 4. The distinctive optimistic joie de vivre of Hâfez's poetic speaker and his refusal to submit to discouragement or despair in the face of the difficult times in 14th-century Shirâz. Hâfez's tone might buoy up those readers in subsequent ages who have perhaps found much discouragement and despair in Iranian life. (QG255). 5. A thematic core of love in Hâfez's ghazals as the most significant human capacity and commitment to it as the noblest sort of human living. As for what kind of love Hâfez declares a commitment to and advises readers to commit to as their chief priority in living, even with emphasis on abstract concepts, metaphysicality, spirituality, and perhaps gnosticism, Hâfez also rejoices in the mundane, this-worldly romantic level of love and depicts ambivalence that takes readers down parts of twin paths of physical and metaphysical realms and experiences. Hâfezian ambivalence forces readers to visualize simultaneously physical, metaphysical, and gnostic aspects of the beloved and this-worldly and other-worldly dimensions of levels of love experiences and emotions. (QG26). 6. Ambivalence in the depiction of love highlights an arguably broader and more pervasive ambivalence that could constitute Hâfez's most engaging and appealing aspect for Iranian lovers of his ghazals. Readers experience in Hâfez's medieval, classicist art from six hundred years ago parallels, dipolarities, and dilemmas they may confront at every turn in their lives. Hâfez's quintessential Iranianness may lie in his expression of such pairs of opposites or contraries as faith and apostasy, endeavor and nonchalance, and physical and spiritual realms. Today's Iranian-born readers can find in Hâfez a kindred spirit in their dealing with such culture-specific polar opposites as traditional values and modernity, religiosity and secularism, patriarchal orientations versus egalitarian individuality, the appeals of past and present, and xenophobia and gharbzadegi. The life which Hâfezian ghazals invite readers to live to the fullest will always involve dualities and dipolarities, with tense harmony or harmonious conflict serving as necessary and energizing cultural force. 7. Hâfez's embodiment of the Khayyâmic recognition of earthly

transience (QG1.3) and an invitation to prize the value of the moment and to live in the present (QG3.2). That would ideally mean spring-time moments and trying to make the rest of the year a psychological, aesthetic, or spiritual spring despite the weather outdoors. Hand and hand with carpe diem images and themes comes Hâfezian expression of regret at the transience of things and lament at inexorability of fate. Moreover, Hâfez's poetic speakers take solace and find pleasure in wine and voices an almost blasphemous Khayyâmic disregard for orthodox values and criticism of authorities. (QG1.4). 8. The related embodiment of a rendi stance (Encyclopedia Iranica, “Hafez i. Overview”). "Drink wine, behave like a rend , and be happy," the speaker tells himself in one of HIafez’s ghazals, And the poet’s continuing popularity, especially for secular-minded intellectuals, has much to do with the perception of him as a rend, as a nonconformist individual unconstrained by prevailing mores, a lover of life and love willing for those values to suffer loss of good name and everything else. The special appeal of Hâfez's rend personality–and the word rend appears nearly a hundred times in his poetry–is at least threefold. First is the significance of behaving without regard to personal reputation in a culture in which propriety, circumspectness, and approved style count for so much. Persons who cannot afford to be spontaneous or reckless in their own behavior may prize such qualities in their vicarious experience of the lives and works of their culture's literary heroes. Second, insofar as those political concerns and fears endemic in monarchies and theocracies have always figured in traditional Iranian circumspectness, behavior that exhibits disregard for public opinion may strike privately dissident individuals as heroically antiestablishment. Hâfez's poetic personae have convinced some readers that he courageously resisted the religio-political orthodoxy of his day. Third is the sheer romantic appeal of individualistic behavior for those who cannot achieve great public individuality in a patriarchal culture in which monarchs or religious leaders or their chief representatives stand out as full-fledged individuals. 9. Many Iranian lovers of Hâfez accept the sacralization of Hâfez as the embodiment of the manifestation of the Iranian spirit since the late 1920s (Ali Ferdowsi, “Hafiz and the Rise of the National Cult of Persian Poetry,” Iranian Studies 41) by Muslim and secular-minded and establishment and non-establishment Iranian lovers of his poetry. For example, QG255 presents a speaker whose cultural heritage and personal faith is Islam, while the speaker of QG142 presents himself in heir to both Islam and pre-Islamic Iranian lore. 10. Many Iranian lovers of poetry have the view that their most loved poets were above-average human beings who thus can serve as guides to readers (QG 184.7) and whose statements can serve as truths and lessons about life. Hâfez stands out in this regard, despite the facts that history offers readers almost no information about his life (Encyclopedia Iranica, “Hafez ii. Hafez’s life and times”) and that poetry experts rarely assume that speakers in lyric poems represent their poets outside of the poems. *** The six ghazals presented in translation below–QG1, QG3, QG26, QG142, QG184, and QG 255–illustrate six sorts of Hâfezian speakers and settings, among a dozen or more discrete and distinguishable speakers and/or settings in Hâfez’s Divan, from the arguably pious medieval Muslim in QG255 and the lover of a this-worldly beloved (QG95, QG140, QG148, QG163) the spiritual and arguably gnostic

thinker in QG142. The selected ghazals do not include Hâfezian paeans to spring (QG9.1-2) or physical locales (QG279), full-fledged carpe diem statements (QG...), descriptions of dervish attitudes (QG9, QG 268), panegyric tributes to patrons (QG309), nostalgia for bygone days (QG103), critiques of hypocrisy on the part of professed Sufis and other Muslim clerics (QG133.1), and expressions of rendi stances (QG101.1). Of course, many Hâfezian ghazals depict multiple subjects and voice multiple views and themes
Texts

be it celestial wine or that of intoxication.
7 The wine cup's smile and the beloved's curled tresses,

o how many repentances such as Hâfez's have they broken! QG142/Kh136 1 For years my heart sought Jamshid's cup from me, from a stranger it sought what it itself had. 2 A jewel beyond the shell of being and space it sought from the lost ones at the sea's edge. 3 I took my problem to the Magian elder last night because he solved enigmas with visionary grace. 4 I saw him vibrant, smiling, a cup of wine in hand; and in that mirror he was viewing myriads. 5 I said: "When did the Sage give the world-seeing cup to you?" He said: "On the day He made this blue dome." 6 He said: "That friend (Hallâj) for whom the head of the gallows rose, his crime was that he revealed secrets. 7 If the Holy Spirit's (Gabriel’s) grace again gives aid, others also will do what Christ used to do." 8 "Beloveds' chain-like tresses are for what?" I asked. Hâfez, he said, was complaining because of a frenzied heart. QG184/Kh179 1 Last night I saw angels knocking on the wineshop door. They had molded Adam's clay (mixed with wine) and fashioned it into a cup. 2 The inhabitants of heaven's sanctuary of veiling and purity drank intoxicating wine with me the indigent stranger. 3 The heavens were not able to shoulder the burden of the (love) trust; they cast lots for this task to me the crazed (with love) one. 4 Excuse the warring of the 72 sects, all of them; not seeing the truth, they set out on the road of fantasy. 5 Thanks be to God that peace has come between Him and me: the Houris dancing drank cups of wine in thanks. 6 Fire is not that from whose flame the candle laughs: fire is what they put to the body of the moth. 7 For as long as poetry's tresses have been combed with the pen, no one has drawn aside the veil from thought's visage like Hâfez. QG255/Kh250 1 Lost Joseph is coming/will come again to Canaan. Don't grieve. The (Jacob's) hut/room of sorrows will become a flower garden. Don't grieve. 2 This grief-stricken heart will get better. Don't despair. And this frenzied head will again find peace. Don't grieve. 3 If the heavens have not revolved for two days in accord with our wishes, the business of the ages is not continually the same. Don't grieve. 4 Hey, don't despair because the hidden remains secret. Behind the curtain there are hidden machinations. Don't grieve. 5 O heart, if transience should flood the foundation of being, when/since you have Noah as captain in the storm, don't grieve. 6 If out of zeal for the kaaba you walk in the desert and acacia thorns offer rebukes, don't grieve. 7 Although the halting place is dangerous and the destination distant, there is no road which does not have an end. So don't grieve. 8 God, the changer of conditions, knows my condition, all of it, if separated from the beloved and importuned by the rival: don't grieve. 9 In isolated indigence and lonely dark nights, don't grieve, Hâfez, as long as your chant is prayer and the lesson of the Koran.

QG1/Kh1 1 O cupbearer, pass around a cup and hand it to me: for love appeared at first easy, but difficulties ensued. 2 For the musk pod the zephyr eventually opens from those tresses, what blood split in hearts because of musky curls. 3 Color the prayer-carpet with wine should the Magian elder so advise: for the wayfarer knows the way, and the stages. 4 At the beloved's abode what security of pleasure exists for me? Every second the caravan bells cry out: tie up the loads. 5 The dark night, fear of the waves, and such a terrifying whirlpool, how can the light-burdened and shore-bound know my state? 6 Everything has drawn/pulled me from willful self-interest to infamy. How can that secret which inspires gatherings remain secret? 7 If you desire the beloved's presence, be vigilant, Hâfez. When you meet whom you desire, let the world go, give it up. QG3/Kh3 1 If that Turk of Shirâz takes my heart into his hand, for his Indian mole I will give up Bokhârâ and Samarqand. 2 Cupbearer, pour the remaining wine, since you will not find in paradise Roknabâd's banks and the Mosallâ rose garden. 3 Alas that these vivacious, beguiling, city-disrupting gypsies have plundered patience from the heart just as Turks plunder feasts. 4 The beloved's beauty is beyond needing my imperfect love; what need has the beautiful face of color, beauty marks and eyeliner? 5 I have known Joseph's daily-increasing beauty by which love could bring Zolaykhâ from behind chastity's curtain. 6 Should you malign or curse me, I will still pray for you; bitter answers suit the ruby, sugar-chewing lip. 7 Heed advice, o love, since fortunate youths love the advice of the wise more than life: 8 Talk of minstrels and wine, and search less for the world's secrets, a puzzle no one will ever solve with philosophy. 9 You've composed a ghazal and pierced the pearl, Hâfez; come recite it pleasantly/cheeringly that/because upon your verse the heavens thread the necklace of Pleiades. QG26/Kh22 1 Perspiring and hair in disarray, smiling and intoxicated, shirt wide open and singing a ghazal, a wine-pitcher in hand, 2 narcissus eyes bellicose and lips mouthing "alas," midnight he came to my bedside and sat down. 3 He brought his head to my ear and in a sad voice said: "O my old love, are you asleep? 4 A lover given such a night-ending cup is an infidel to love if he is not a wine-worshipper." 5 Be gone, o ascetic, and do not scorn drinkers of the dregs; for only this was given us from the very beginning. 6 What He poured into our cup we drank,