HAFIZ: THE SUN OF SHIRAZ Essays, Talks, Projects on the Immortal Poet

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There seems to be no disagreement that reliable sources on Hafez are exceptionally limited.

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But interpreting those words again brings the problem of subjectivity into the study. To begin with, converting poetic language into evidentiary material for explanatory exposition of what Hafez said is hazardous. Poems are the distillation of the complex combination of various, sometimes clashing, emotional responses of a skillful bard. An ode, therefore, does not necessarily, develop a unified idea or ideas. Rather, the compiler, who was not Hafez himself, organized the ghazals on the basis of the letters in the ending word of the lines.

The interpreter of Hafez has no choice but to organize the poems, as well as individual lines, in sequences not ordained by the poetbut by his own choice to make the sense that he offers. Therefore, the best that can be hoped is a diligent and disciplined effort to produce an objective and inductive interpretation of what Hafez said. An interpretation, even that faulty, is still worthwhile, because the alternative is to leave the collection as others had compiled it which still needs to be subjectively interpreted by the reader.

Even in that case, this work can be useful as an introduction to Hafez. His poems are venerated by Muslims, Christian, Jews, and secular non-believers alike. Many of them are memorized and recited in casual conversation.

Much more than documents.

His Divan is widely consulted by Iranians in bibliomancy for divination fal-e Hafez ; belief in his inspired predictions encouraged by many stories which have given him the sobriquet the Tongue of the Unseen lesan-al- gheyb [1]. These were done by professional calligraphers and illuminators, for highly placed patrons [4]. In lands east of Iran, however, mystical commentaries on the Divan were the major development. The Mughals court hosted several great Persian poets at this time [8].

On the other hand, no notable major poets existed in Iran under the contemporaneous Safavid rulers Focusing on the propagation of the Shiite doctrine, the Safavid Kings intentionally injured and harmed poetry, as well as Sufism [9]. The lyric poems such as ghazals were not routinely collected in Divans.

Completed in , it consisted of specimens of some poets with their biographies and some historical information [3]. Another manuscript, dated , however, is considered far more reliable. Not until was one produced in Iran. It is still accepted as one of the best. The first was based on an anthology from collated with three later manuscripts. The second edition was based on fourteen old manuscripts, dating from to This edition of the Divan was later revised and reprinted.

It is now generally used in scholarly writings on Hafez [6]. On the other hand, the versions accepted as most reliable do not show great differences.

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By far the largest part of his Divan consists of ghazals which, usually, are lyrical poems of 7 to 12 lines. The brief references in anthologies are often purely fictitious. Yet, these three groups are the best among sources available.

According to them, the following sketch may be drawn of the man. He was especially well acquainted with Kashshaf , the iconic scholarly book of learning about the Koran [13]. Hafez was a poor man. He depended on the patronage of the rulers and their ministers, although he could have also had some earnings by reciting the Koran for others. He witnessed the political turmoil and fluctuating fortunes of the last Inju King and the following six Muzaffarid rulers of Shiraz.

There is no information about other members of his family, if any, or his parents. He probably lived a life alone. He probably spent all of his life in Shiraz [15]; he might have travelled briefly to Yazd. Critical studies of Hafez and his poetry have proliferated in Iran during this generation [1]. It is a phenomenon which has generated another: a Hafez phenomenon. The application of modern, largely Western, methods of rigorous and meticulous investigation which aimed at an objective picture of Hafez have produced, instead, many Hafezes, each a refracted subjective perception of Hafez by different investigators.

The investigators have been widely diverse in political, religious, moral and aesthetic predispositions.

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This was a result of the unusually fertile market place of ideas and in the freedom unleashed by historical events since , when the two decades of autocratic rule by Reza Shah was ended by the World War Two Allies occupation of Iran. He was closely associated with Edward G. Browne and R.

Qazvini also wrote several important essays about Persian poets, but none on Hafez. A number of scholars published works lauding the poet. He saw Hafez as the example of socially useless poets who simply spun words to perfect the rhyme without providing any coherent or consistent worldview. They were rooted in his nationalistic Iranism Irangari and advocacy of a rationalist approach to modernize the country, based on kherad reason. Kasravi, however, viewed them as implementing the evil plan by the Orientalists, especially Edward G.

Two other influential Iranian intellectuals of this time also opposed Sufism. But considerably more than all those three including Arani , Tabari was interested in the rich tradition of philosophy in Iran, which he explored in great depth during his 30 years of political exile while he received advance and doctorates degrees in philosophy, respectively, from universities in Moscow and Berlin.

The results were published abroad during in Donya, compiled in the book form in [11]. Tabari expressed his methodology as critical scientific and historical , his approach as Marxist, humanist, Iranian and revolutionary. There is something new and contemporary in it. Shamlou was an immensely popular poet and his comments provoked strong reactions from the clerics in Iran.

Khorramshahi has critiqued the works of many other contemporary writers on Hafez [16]. Iranian literary scholars, on the other hand, have ignored such exclusion. For eminent contemporary Iranians poets being compared with Hafez is considered a great honor [19].

The phenomenon of Hafez, thus, changes depending on the person creating it. It is the creature of the perception of the poet by critics of various backgrounds [21]. Ultimately, Hafez is the image in the mind of his reader. To understand him, and fathom his thoughts, one needs to read his poetry afresh for himself. These ghazals are lyric poems of about 8 lines. The lines are held together by the same single meter and single rhyme, and sometimes, further, by a radif, which is a word or phrase ending the line.


The mood of each ghazal is usually set by the first line, but the other lines may show other thoughts and sentiments. He uses repetition a lot, a method which is important in other Persian arts, like music [24]. It was mainly regarded as a type of oral poetry, not worthy of recording in writing. In Persian literature specimens of love poetry are attributed to the 10 th century poet Rudaki.

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The earliest collection of Persian ghazals, however, dates to the 12 th century Divan of the poet Sanai. The Koran which was a major model used by Hafez employed some of them.

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Hafez spent more than forty years on about 4, lines of his some qhazals, or roughly 10 poems a year. The horizon of the physical world which Hafez observes in these poems is exceptionally limited. It is almost exclusively two sites in his hometown of Shiraz, a few flowers and birds, only the season of spring. His descriptive observations become at times tedious. He reports almost nothing about the various interesting types of people who lived in the bustling environment of the center of international trade that Shiraz was at his time. He tells no stories other than brief reference to old legends.

He is a biographer of his own introspection. But he also has many that are simply sublime. He is understood by contemporary Persian speakers of our time [36]. Hammer himself relied on three Turkish translations of Hafez [45]. An experienced author in Persian, he also manages to be remarkably faithful to the language of Hafez.