Today’s featured poet is a figure out of modern day Iran: the legendary Hafez. Born of the 14th century, this Persian poet performed in the Persian lyric forms (ghazals, in his case–a poetic form consisting of rhyming couplets and a refrain, with each line sharing meters), his Diwan–ritualized and often highly symbolic collections of poems popular with the courts of the Middle East–remaining some of the most popularized and influential pieces of Persian writing to this day.
While normally I would weave a bit of history for you here, it’s a sad truth of the world that even the most famous of figures can find their details lost to the sands of time. Hafez, for all that his poetry is remembered, has found the details of his actual life largely lost to legends, myths, and frail human minds. What is known is that Hafez was a poet of many courts, from more localized Shahs to the brutal and expansive regime of the legendary Tamerlane. Where many rose and fell, he was a figure that remained, and his art flourished for it. He was a teacher, and likely quite devout and knowledgeable in the words of the Koran. And of course, we know that he died, and that he is buried today in the city of Shiraz, in the gardens of Musalla.
Translations, as you all well know, lose something of the power of the original, but today I offer to you “All the Hemispheres,” one of Hafez’s many works, with the encouragement that you hear it also in its native tongue–and if you know a good translator, to hear their take on the English version as well.
All the Hemispheres
Leave the familiar for a while.
Let your senses and bodies stretch out
Like a welcomed season
Onto the meadows and shores and hills.
Open up to the Roof.
Make a new water-mark on your excitement
Like a blooming night flower,
Bestow your vital fragrance of happiness
Upon our intimate assembly.
Change rooms in your mind for a day.
All the hemispheres in existence
Lie beside an equator
In your heart.
In your thousand other forms
As you mount the hidden tide and travel
All the hemispheres in heaven
Are sitting around a fire
While stitching themselves together
Into the Great Circle inside of
Written by: Hafez
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky