Born between 1310 and 1325, Shamseddin Mohammad was a Persian poet known by his pen name, Hafiz or Hafez. Some claim that this name was given to him because he had memorized the Quran in 14 ways. Persian-speaking households have the poetry of Hafiz in their homes and many of them have memorized his poems and use the verses as proverbs. He was the most loved and influential poet of the century. Even today, he is regarded as one of the seven literary wonders. Emerson said about Hafiz that ‘’Hafiz is a poet for poets’. He had such a huge impact on the literary world that even Sherlock Holmes quotes his verse.
Poetry style and Inspiration
Hafiz’s style was lyrical or ghazal which is a style used to express ecstasy in mystical love poems. In his poems, he expressed faith, religious hypocrisy and spiritual romanticism. After his death, a lot of stories were made about his life. It is said that he learned the Quran by listening to his father recite it. Later, at a very young age, he also memorized the work of Saadi, who was his inspiration, Farid, Rumi and Nizami.
A tradition narrates that he used to work at a bakery, while he was under the mentorship of Hajji Zayn al-attar who was his Sufi master. At the bakery, he saw Shak-e-Nabat; a beautiful and wealthy woman. It is said that some of Hafiz’s poems are addressed to her. William Jones translated his work from Persian to English in 1771 and this inspired many Western writers like Goethe, Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Such great is his influence that Iran celebrated October 12th as Hafiz Day.
Hafiz in today’s World
Today, Iranian and Afghani music is inspired by his poems. Still, translators and interpreters are not certain about the meaning of his poetry. While some say it is lyrical, others find mysticism in it. Wheeler Thackston explains this by saying that the poet ‘’ sang a rare blend of human and mystic love so balanced… that it is impossible to separate one from the other’’. Today, many people find solace in his words and get memorized by the depth of these verses and how they can resonate so closely with his poetry. All the Hemispheres is a beautiful poem by Hafiz, translated into English by Daniel Ladinsky.
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
From: ‘The Subject Tonight is Love’
Translated by Daniel Ladinsky