To the Reader

THE following renderings from Hafiz have been made on the basis of two literal English translations of the poet; namely (1) the prose translation by Colonel Wilber­force Clarke (Calcutta: 1891) and (2) the verse transla­tion “in accordance with the original forms” by Mr. John Payne (London: 1901). As both these gentlemen are learned Persian scholars; as the aim of both has been exact verbal literalness, at any cost, rather then literary transmu­tation; and as they virtually corroborate each other, I feel myself justified in thinking that in their translations I have as trustworthy, if not more trustworthy, material for the making of an English rendering than if I had studied Per­sian for myself for ten years. Were I to make such original studies, I should arrive in the end no nearer to the poet's meaning than the previous labours of Colonel Clarke or Mr. Payne enable me to do by the comparatively light study of their translations.

It is true that I should have formed some notion for myself of the metrical music of Hafiz, and the rare delight it gives to those who, even through a foreigner's acquaintance with Persian, are able to catch echoes of it; but to have heard that music for myself would, I feel sure, more than ever have convinced me of the futility of any attempt to reproduce it in English.

It is surely, by this time, a platitude that the music of one language cannot be exactly reproduced in another. There is no need to travel as far as Persia for an illustration. Heine or Verlaine will suffice. All that a metrical translator in English can hope to achieve is to set the words of his original, in their nearest equivalents, to English music.

One reason why a translation is usually little more than the joyless shadow of a great classic is that translators will persist in attempting the impossible, insist on teasing or torturing their English into metrical schemes, and in at­tempting rythmical effects, literally foreign to the genius of the language. It thus results that unless the verse transla­tor is prepared to sacrifice the metrical letter of his original, in the interests of its spirit, or by a literal unfaithfulness achieve the essential faithfulness, prose translations are not only the more veracious, but much pleasanter reading— such prose renderings, for example, as Mr. Justin Huntly McCarthy's delightful versions of the poet with whom we are here concerned; and the complete translation into French by Mrs. Louis Haggin, the manuscript of which I have been privileged to consult.

Still, a poet is a poet, and his words were meant to go to the dance of feet and the sound of strings; and if in introducing him to another people it is necessary to fit his words to other dance-music than that to which they were originally written, is it not better so than that he should go without music at all? The music of Persian verse may be more captivating than the music of our English lyric poetry, but it could hardly seem so to English ears, and, at all events, English ears crave English music. Surely the only service of a translation is for it to make the foreign poet a poet of one's own country—not to present him as a half-Anglicized for­eigner speaking neither his own language nor our own. Most of the great foreign classics have not been so much trans­lated into English, as—translated into broken English. They might as well have remained untranslated for all the pleasure they give an English reader. Yet pleasure was the gift they gave in their own tongue. If they fail to give pleasure in their translated form, it is obvious that, however “faithful” the translator may have been, he has missed the first object of his task. No translation, however learned, is of any value that does not give at least some of the joy to the reader that was given by its original. Hafiz has for cen­turies been one of the great literary joys of the Orient. Is it good translation to turn what is such pleasure for the East into positive pain for the West?

Yet, so distasteful to English ideas are the metrical devices and adornments pleasing in a Persian ear, that the attempt to reproduce them in English can only result in the most tire­some literary antics, a mirthless buffoonery of verse com­pared with which Browning at his grotesquest is endurable. Rhythms which in Persian, doubtless, make the sweetest chiming, fitted with English words, become mere vulgar and ludicrous jingle. The Persian, too, delights in puerile puns and plays upon words which an English reader would find intolerable. Images, too, as grotesque as comparing his heart in Love's fire to roasting meat delight him.

Then take the very arrangement of the Divan. The word “divan” is applied to poetry by the Persian in somewhat the same way as we use the words “garland” or “treasury,” but under much more stringent conditions. It is the name given to a collection of “ghazels” or odes, arranged alpha­betically on a singular plan. The ghazel is a poem composed of from five to fifteen couplets, with one rhyme-sound through­out. The two lines of the first couplet rhyme with each other and with the second line of each succeeding couplet, the first lines of which are unrhymed. There are other peculiarities of the ghazel to which I will refer presently. Now, the al­phabetical arrangement of the Divan is based on the last letter of the rhyme-word of each ode, and a complete Divan contains poems whose rhyme-letters make up the complete al­phabet. Thus the Divan of Hafiz is arranged under the let­ters of the alphabet, as it might be A B C, entirely without regard to theme or any other, as we would say, more natural association. Could anything be more pointlessly fantastic? To our English ideas of poetic propriety such an arrangement seems childish, and, compared with it, an acrostic serious.

Then, to return to the ghazel itself, the constituent couplets are grouped together with hardly more regard to internal relation. To an English reader the majority of the odes seem merely a fortuitous concourse of unrelated couplets. It is but seldom that one continuous motive binds the couplets to­gether. There seems, and actually is, no reason why the couplets of one ode should not just as fittingly have been included in another ode—except the metre and the rhyme. But in that exception is all the unity the Persian seeks. “As Eastern poets are never tired of telling us,” says Mr. Leaf, in the introduction to his ingenious “Versions from Hafiz”—in the original metres—“the making of an ode is the threading of pearls upon a string; the couplet is the pearl, round and smooth and perfect in itself; the metre is but the thread which binds them all together.” Where we ask a thread of meaning, the Persian demands only a thread of metre.

Again, very frequently, in addition to the mono-rhyme, Hafiz completes each couplet with the same word or phrase—much like a refrain, yet differing from it in not being detached, but an integral part of the line. Occasion­ally, these words and phrases are of such significance as to serve as a motive, but usually, to an English reader, they seem too unimportant to account for their repetition.

These three opening couplets from Ode 495, as translated by Mr. John Payne, will make the scheme of the ghazel clearer to the reader:

“Why is it to her street That, heart, thy way thou makest not?
The means of union hast And yet assay thou makest not.
The mall of wish in hand Thou hast; yet ball thou strikest not:
With falcon such as this In hand, a prey thou mak­est not.
The blood that in thy heart Still billoweth, the col­ouring
Of yonder fair one's face, Why is it, pray, thou mak­est not?”

And so the ode goes on to its end with rhymes to “way,” and with the repetition of “thou makest not,” concluding with a picturesque, and invariable, feature, resembling the envoi of a ballade, a verse into which the poet works his own name—instead of the Provençal “Prince”— thus:

“Hafiz, how cometh it That thine obeisance at that court
Of hers, where all the world Their homage pay, thou makest not?”

This brief account of the ghazel—without going further into those metrical intricacies which may be explored by the curious in Mr. Leaf's and Mr. Payne's notes on the subject—will, I think, be enough to satisfy the reader how little adapted is the form for exact reproduction in English poetry.

First of all, we have the mono-rhyme—of all metrical ef- fects the most uninteresting to an English ear; then we have the inconsequence of subject matter; and again we have the repeating words. No English poet, however great or skilful, could clothe such a metrical skeleton as this with the gracious flesh and blood and bloom of English speech. Therefore, in making the following renderings, I have attempted no such impossibility, but have employed such various lyrical forms as seemed best suited to the various themes and moods of the individual poems. The signature-envoi I have, however, retained as a picturesque charac­teristic,—except in a few poems, where Hafiz himself omits it,—and I have also in a number of cases made a sparing use of the repeating phrase, a device which, so long as it can be made to seem natural rather than mechanical, justifies its employment as an effective emphasis and a mu­sical burden. As examples of my use of it, I would refer the reader to Odes 16, 24, 26, 192, 330. The phrase I have chosen to repeat is not always the phrase chosen by Hafiz, but sometimes one which struck me as vividly concentrating the life of the poem.

The difficulty of inconsequence I have endeavoured to overcome, partly by choosing those poems that were least in­consequent, partly by supplying links of my own, and partly by selecting and developing the most important motive out of the two or three different motives which one frequently finds in the same ode. Such material as I found myself able to use in each ode I have used. The rest I have left. Once or twice I have developed the suggestion of a couplet into a complete ode, but only once or twice; and I have through­out employed my own phrases and fancies as seemed best for conveying the meaning, the mood and atmosphere, of my original.

That the reader may judge for himself of my general prac­tice, I append an ode as translated by Colonel Clarke and another as translated by Mr. John Payne. If he will com­pare my versions with these, he will gain a trustworthy idea of the veracity of my renderings, as a general rule. In regard to Colonel Clarke's rendering I must warn the reader that Colonel Clarke is a believer in the Sufism of Hafiz—that is, he considers that Hafiz celebrated love and wine merely as symbols of mystical theology, and the words in brackets are not Hafiz, but Colonel Clarke's Sufistic and other glosses on Hafiz.

This is Ode 1 as translated by Colonel Clarke:

“Ho! O Saki, pass around and offer the bowl (of love for God):
For (the burden of) love (for God) at first (on the day of covenant) appeared easy, but (now) difficul­ties have occurred.

By reason of the perfume (hope) of the musk-pod, that, at the end (of night), the breeze displayeth from that (knotted) fore-lock,—
From the twist of its musky (dark, fragrant) curl, what blood (of grief) befell the hearts (of the lovers of God)!

With wine becolour the prayer-mat—if the Pir of the magians (the perfect murshid) bid thee,
For of the way and usage of the stages (to God) not without knowledge is the holy traveller (the per­fect murshid).

In the stage (this world) of the (true) Beloved,— mine what ease and pleasure, when momently,
The (loud) bell (of the call of death) giveth voice, saying:—
‘Bind ye up the chattels of existence!’

The dark night (of the world), and the fear of the wave (of grief), and the whirlpool so fearful (the time of death).
The light-burdened ones of the shore (ancestors who have passed the flood of death),—how know they our state?

By following my own fancy (in hastening to union with God), me (only) to ill fame all my work brought:
Secret,—how remaineth that great mystery (of love) whereof (great) assemblies speak?

HAFIZ! if thou desire the presence (union with God Most High)—from Him be not absent:
When thou visitest thy Beloved, abandon the world; and let it go.”

This is Ode 192, as translated by Mr. John Payne:

“Parting's day and night of sev'rance From the Friend, at last, is ended;
And my need, through favouring planets, Since the lot I cast, is ended.

All the weariful vexation, That from Winter came and Autumn,
In the footsteps of the breezes Of the Spring is past, is ended.

To Hope's morning, self-secluded In the curtain of the future,
Say, ‘Come forth, for lo! the business Of the night aghast is ended.’

God be thanked that, with the coming Of the cap-peak of the rose-bud,
Might of thorn and overweening Of December's blast is ended.

All the heart's grief and amazement Of the darksome nights of winter,
With the shadow of the loveling's Ringlets overcast, is ended.

Though my case's first embroilment From that tress of hers proceeded,
Yet the tangle of my troubles By her face as fast is ended.

To the winehouse-door henceforward Will I go with harp and tabret,
Now that, by her grace, the story Of chagrin, at last, is ended.

I'm no longer a believer In the perfidy of Fortune,
Since, in union with the Loved One, Parting's tale at last is ended.

Skinker, kindness hast thou shown us, (Be thy goblet full of liquor!)
Our cropsickness, by thy manage, From the head out-cast, is ended.

Hafiz in consideration And esteem though no one holdeth,
God be thanked that this affliction, Without limit vast, is ended!”

A few notes here and there explain certain orientalisms in the text, but, for the most part, I have endeavoured by a lit­tle expansion to let the allusions tell their own tale.

The hundred Odes here translated are, numerically, less than a sixth of the whole Divan—which is made up of 615 Odes or parts of Odes, 69 quatrains, and 9 poems in other metres, equal in all, according to Mr. Payne, to 20,000 English decasyllable lines—and I do not claim to have ex­hausted all its beautiful material; yet, though I may some day attempt a completer version, there is so much repetition of motives and imagery in the Odes that the material remaining for satisfactory presentation in English is not very great. Finally, while I have kept as closely as I deemed necessary to my original, my aim has been to make English poetry —rather than a joyless shadow of a great classic. I offer this rendering, in the first place as poetry, in the second as translation; but, at the same time, my aim has been, as faithfully as in me lies, truly to interpret the great Persian poet to English readers, so that the total result of my en­deavour is really—if not literally—Hafiz.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

Hafiz was born in Shiraz early in the fourteenth century. His personal names were Shams-ud-din Mohammed; his family name is unknown. The name by which we know him means “One who can recite the Koran,” and is not personal to him, but is something in the nature of a college distinction —as we might say Doctor of Divinity. Hafiz as a student seems, therefore, to have distinguished himself in the theo­logical classes; and, in fact, he was later on to become offi­cially a theologian. One of his patrons, the Vizier Kiwam-ed-din, founded a school of theology for his benefit at Shiraz, and there Hafiz characteristically lectured on the Koran and recited his own poems by turns. The exact dates of his birth and death are alike unknown, but it is considered that he died, an old man, not later than 1391. He was thus contemporary with Chaucer and almost contemporary with Dante.

Little is known of his history beyond a few traditional stories, which the reader will find woven into a delightful study of the poet by Miss Lowthian Bell, in the learned in- troduction to her graceful renderings from the Divan. Miss Bell, too, threads her way through the intricacies of the turbulent Persian history of the time, and identifies the vari­ous viziers and sultans who from time to time took Hafiz under their protection, and to whom occasional references will be found in the following poems.

Shiraz, as the capital of the important province of Fars, was a storm-centre for the various invasions and changes of dynasty which make the history of those times, and at first sight the fourteenth century in Persia might seem to be a precarious period for a poet to live in. But we must not, of course, forget the high state of culture Persia had already enjoyed for several centuries, and that even in more barbarous lands the beneficent superstition of learning cast a pro­tecting halo around the head of the poet and scholar, and that, paradoxical as it might appear, they were apt to be very much better off than they are to-day, when respect for intellectual attainments is certainly no longer super stitious.

Hafiz, at all events, though occasionally subject to the for­tune of war and the forgetfulness of patrons, seems to have led, on the whole, a safe and pleasant existence. From early manhood he seems to have been held in distinguished honour as a poet, and it is unlikely that he was ever actually with­out the means of living the life of elegant epicureanism that best pleased him, though he is said to have died poor. Whatever changes came about, there seems always to have been some admiring sultan or vizier to look after him.

We gather from two tender elegiac poems included in the Divan (see pp. 101 and 185) that Hafiz was married, and had a son, and that both his wife and son died young. Much of his poetry appears to have been written in his later years, for he is continually referring to himself as an old man, and lamenting the folly of so old a head being turned by such youthful passions. The names of some of his loves occur occasionally in the Divan,—Selma, Ferrukh, for ex­ample,—but no stories connected with them have come down to us. The roses have been forgotten. Only the nightingale is remembered.

As with Omar Khayyam, the question of the literal or sym­bolic meanings of the epicureanism of Hafiz has, of course, been raised, and answered in the same way. Some will have it that the wine of Hafiz was the wine of the Spirit, and the love he celebrates was the love of God. There is a type of mind which always prefers to interpret masterpieces after this fashion—abstract intelligences, with a holy horror of flesh and blood, who love to dehumanise literature, and prove our great warm-hearted classics cryptograms of fantastic philosophy or speculation. We need go no farther than the Bible for an illustration. We open it at the greatest love-song in the world's literature—that of Solomon—and we read:

“My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.
For, lo the winter is past, and rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in the land.
The fig-tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away.”

But someone says: “O no! this is not a love-song. This is an ecclesiastical allegory.”

Or we take down our Dante, and read the divine love-story of Dante and Beatrice: the boyish worship, the faithless— yet faithful—manhood, the tremendous purgation, the celes­tial forgiveness. But some wise fool comes and says that that divine lady who was called Beatrice by many, as Dante, lover-like, says, “who knew not wherefore,” was not a real woman, but a type of the eternal wisdom.

Similarly, Mr. Swinburne sings:

“Ask nothing more of me, sweet;
All I can give you I give.
Heart of my heart, were it more,
More would be laid at your feet;
Love that should help you to live,
Song that should spur you to soar,
Ask nothing more of me, sweet,
Ask nothing more.”

and someone says—it is Italy!

Indeed, the orthodox Persian, I believe, regards the Divan in much the same light as the orthodox Christian regards The Song of Solomon. Mr. Payne gives the history of what one might call the canonization of the Divan, and practi­cally the same thing happened with it as with The Song of Solomon. Just as our theologians sought to counteract the inflammatory beauty of the Song of Songs by foisting upon it a Christian interpretation, so the Sufis, alarmed by the great popularity of the Divan, endeavoured to counteract it by claiming Hafiz as a Sufi in disguise. During his life they had been his bitter enemies, and only the favour of the court had saved him from ecclesiastical persecution. They had on his death attempted to prevent his being buried with religious rites, denouncing him as a heretic and a profligate. According to tradition, he was saved from this indignity by his friends consulting his poems, in the manner of the Sortes Virgilianæ. Couplets from the Divan were written on slips and thrown into an urn. A child then drew a slip at ran­dom. The couplet that decided the issue, the last of Ode 60, ran: “Withhold not the foot from the funeral of Hafiz; for, though he be drowned in sin, he fareth to heaven.” So Hafiz was buried in consecrated ground.

His enemies thereon strove to prevent the circulation of his poems, which were first collected after his death by his friends, and speedily made Hafiz, as he has since remained, the favourite poet of the East. So great was the popularity of the Divan that the Sufis endeavoured to have it placed on the Mahommedan “Index,” and canonically forbidden as im­proper reading for the Faithful. They failed, however; for the chief mufti, Abou Suoud,—with whom the decision rested, and to whose good sense be everlasting honour,—not only withheld the interdict they expected, but practically gave ecclesiastical countenance to the poet by the issue of a formal decree to the effect “That everyone was at liberty to use his own judgment in the matter of the meaning to be assigned to the poems of Hafiz.”

Then it was that, as a last resource, the Sufis determined to appropriate the poet they were unable to silence, and the Divan was declared to be a mystical celebration of spiritual wisdom in terms of the senses, and such, as I have said, is the orthodox Persian view to this day. However, I presume that Abou Suoud's permission still holds, and those who are well content that the Rose of Sharon should be an earthly rose may similarly regard Hafiz as a mystic only in so far as every poet is a mystic, and in so far as all love is a spiritual mystery.

Whatever mystical meanings may lie beneath, on the sur­face, at all events, the poems of Hafiz seem easy to under­stand, and if they should have a secondary significance, most of us will, I think, be content to take them in their primary aspect as lyrical expressions of the joy and sorrow of earth. And, indeed, one cannot but feel that Hafiz was the last poet to have had the sour suspicion of sectarianism attached to his name; for the secret of that wide appeal which the Sufis in vain tried to check lies not only in the sweetness of his songs but in the fulness of his humanity. Compared with his infinite variety Omar Khayyam seems doctrinaire—for Hafiz, while he shares Omar's contempt for religious hy­pocrisy, and likewise sings the philosophy of pleasure, is not so seriously concerned in such criticism of life as Omar is, but is occupied rather with living itself. Omar was perhaps primarily a philosopher expressing himself as a poet, whereas the philosophy of Hafiz is a matter of daily wisdom, to act on rather than to preach—the tacit philosophy of a man of the world who was a poet as well. Omar has something of the spirit of the reformer, and the burden of the mystery lies heavy upon him. Hafiz, however, is less serious-minded. He is, as we say, more instinctively a pagan, and his poetry has thus a “human interest” that Omar lacks. It is more intime than Omar. It is, indeed, autobiographi­cally lyrical, and is continually engaging our interest by glimpses of a personal drama. It possesses, so to say, lyrical situation, as well as lyrical music, and is animated with vivid pictures of that old Persian world. He himself com­pares it to a “conserve of roses,” but sweetness is perhaps the least of its characteristics, and human breadth, vivid passion, pervasive humour, high spirits, and an intense love of nature, are the qualities by which the Divan will make its strongest appeal to an English reader.

Richard Le Gallienne.

New York; Easter Sunday, 1903.