It may be safely asserted that the great charm of Persian poetry lies in its language and its music rather than in its meaning, and, in consequence, whatever form a translation may take, whether it be purely literal or imitative or mere adaptation, the English reader has perforce to forego the essence of the matter. The Persian ode in especial is so dependent for its effectiveness on the turn of phrase, the choice of words or the metre and rhyme that a literal translation is often tiresome, and very often unintelligible without a commen­tary. The close translation into English verse in which an attempt is made to imitate the metre and even to preserve the mono-rhyme must at best appear artificial, though it may succeed in conveying everything but the natural beauty of the original. The free translation into English verse with English metres and rhymes, when successful, comes nearest to compensating for the exchange of medium. There are three main types of translation:

1. Literal prose translations.

2. Translations in which either the metre or the mono-rhyme or both together are imitated.

3. Free translations into English verse.

Many English translators have tried their hand at the poems of Hafiz, and the three varieties of translation referred to have all been attempted. Colonel Wilberforce-Clarke in 1891 published a complete prose translation with copious notes and an exhaustive commentary. This translation is so slavishly literal as to be almost unreadable, except as a crib.

In 1898 the late Mr. Walter Leaf published twenty-eight Versions from Hafiz, in which he attempted to reproduce both the metre and the mono-rhyme of the Persian, and probably came as near to success as is possible in the circumstances.

In 1875 there appeared posthumously a large selection from the Poems of Hafiz translated by Herman Bicknell, comprising no less than one hundred and eighty-nine odes, out of the five hundred and seventy-three contained in the fullest Persian editions. Bicknell, while making each verse of his translation correspond with its original, adopted the rhyming couplets and did not attempt to preserve the mono-rhyme. Finally there is the free translation into English verse without regard to the form, metre or rhyme of the original. Numerous efforts have been made in this style, but those of Gertrude Bell are incomparably the best.

In order to show the exact material she had to work on I take this opportunity of giving a quite literal translation of the original of one of the most beautiful of all Miss Bell's renderings (No. XXXVIII.), beginning:

I cease not from desire till my desire
Is satisfied; or let my mouth attain
My love's red mouth, or let my soul expire
Sighed from those lips that sought her lips in

Dast az talab nadaram ta kam-i dil bar ayad
Ya tan rasad bijanan, ya jan zi tan bar ayad

I will not hold back from seeking till my desire is realised,
Either my soul will reach the beloved, or my soul will
leave its body.

I cannot always be taking new friends like the faithless
I am at her threshold till my soul leaves its body.

The sould has reached the lip, and in the heart is regret,
because from her lips
No desire having been attained, the soul is leaving the

From longing for her mouth my soul is distressed;
When will the desires of the distressed ones find satis-
faction from that mouth?

Open my grave after my death and look
How by reason of the fire within me smoke rises from
my shroud.

Arise! so that in the meadows, seeing thy stature and thy
Even the cypress may bear fruit, and even the beech

In hope of finding in the Garden a rose like thy face
The zephyr blows; and is continually encircling the

Reveal thy face so that the world may be astonished
and distraught:
Open thy lips: for cries of distress come from men and

Every single curl of thy locks has fifty hooks,
What can this broken heart do against such clutching?

They pour blessings in his memory in the company of
Whenever the name of Hafiz is mentioned in their midst.

Edward Browne says of these versions that “though rather free, they are in my opinion by far the most artistic, and, so far as the spirit of Hafiz is concerned, the most faithful renderings of his poetry.” (Persian Literature under Tartar Dominion, p. 303.) The same great authority further says: “Miss Bell's [Translations] are true poetry of a very high order and, with perhaps the single exception of Fitz-Gerald's paraphrase of the Quatrains of Omar Khayyám, are probably the finest and most truly poetical renderings of any Persian poet ever produced in the English language.” Such praise coming from one who himself produced inspired renderings from all the great Persian poets is praise indeed, and I feel that it leaves nothing more to be said by way of commendation to the poems contained in this little volume.

Edward Browne in the work referred to gives a concordance of Miss Bell's forty-three translations with the numbers of the originals in the German edition of the text and in Bicknell's translation. Gertrude Bell unfortunately did not arrange her versions in any order, nor did she indicate the opening words or the rhyme. Edward Browne had therefore considerable difficulty in identifying them, and failed to identify No. XV., beginning: “Return! that to a heart wounded full sore …” For the sake of those interested I may say that the original begins:

Dar a ki dar dil-i khasta tawan darayad baz
Biya ki dar tan-i murda rawan darayad baz

which may be found in Rosenzweig-Schwannau's famous Edition of Hafiz, Vol. II., p. 60.

My thanks are due to Messrs. Ernest Benn Ltd. for permission to quote in this Preface from the Letters of Gertrude Bell.