Poems from the Divan of Hafiz
Category: Islam
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SHEMSUDDIN MAHOMMAD, better known by his poetical surname of Hafiz, was born in Shiraz in the early part of the fourteenth century. His names, being interpreted, signify the Sun of the Faith, the Praiseworthy, and One who can recite the Koran; he is further known to his compatriots under the titles of the Tongue of the Hidden and the Interpreter of Secrets.

Poems from the Divan of Hafiz

Translated by Gertrude Lowthian Bell

London: Heinemann


To Hafiz of Shiraz

Thus said the Poet: “When Death comes to you,
All ye whose life-sand through the hour-glass slips,
He lays two fingers on your ears, and two
Upon your eyes he lays, one on your lips,
Whispering: Silence!” Although deaf thine ear,
Thine eye, my Hafiz, suffer Time’s eclipse,
The songs thou sangest still all men may hear.

Songs of dead laughter, songs of love once hot,Songs of a cup once flushed rose-red with wine,
Songs of a rose whose beauty is forgot,
A nightingale that piped hushed lays divine:
And still a graver music runs beneath
The tender love notes of those songs of thine,
Oh, Seeker of the keys of Life and Death!

While thou wert singing, the soft summer wind
That o’er Mosalla’s garden blew, the stream
Of Ruknabad flowing where roses twined,
Carried thy voice farther than thou could’st dream.
To Isfahan and Baghdad’s Tartar horde,
O’er waste and sea to Yezd and distant Ind;
Yea, to the sun-setting they bore thy word.

Behold we laugh, we warm us at Love’s fire,
We thirst and scarce dare tell what wine we crave,
We lift our voices in Grief’s dark-robed choir;
Sing thou the wisdom joy and sorrow gave!
If my poor rhymes held aught of the heart’s lore,
Fresh wreaths were theirs to lay upon thy grave —
Master and Poet, all was thine before!


SHEMSUDDIN MAHOMMAD, better known by his poetical surname of Hafiz, was born in Shiraz in the early part of the fourteenth century. His names, being interpreted, signify the Sun of the Faith, the Praiseworthy, and One who can recite the Koran; he is further known to his compatriots under the titles of the Tongue of the Hidden and the Interpreter of Secrets. The better part of his life was spent in Shiraz, and he died in that city towards the close of the century. The exact date either of his birth or of his death is unknown. He fell upon turbulent times. His delicate love-songs were chanted to the rude accompaniment of the clash of arms, and his dreams must have been interrupted often enough by the nip of famine in a beleaguered town, the inrush of conquerors, and the flight of the defeated.

The history of Persia in the fourteenth century is exceedingly confused. Beyond a succession of wars and turmoils, there is little to be learnt concerning the political conditions under which Hafiz lived. Fifty years before the birth of the poet, Hulagu, a grandson of the great Tartar invader Chinghis Khan, had conquered Baghdad, putting to death the last of the Abbaside Khalifs and extinguishing the direct line of the race that had ruled over Persia since 750. For the next 200 years there is indeed a branch of the family of Abbas living in Cairo, members of which were set up as Khalifs by the Mamluk Sultans of Egypt; but they were destitute of any real authority, and their position was that of dependants in the Mamluk court.

The sons and grandsons of Hulagu succeeded him as lords of Persia and Mesopotamia, paying a nominal allegiance to the Great Khan of the Mongols in Cambalec or Pekin, but for all practical purposes independent, and the different provinces of their empire were administered by governors in their name. About the time of the birth of Hafiz, that is to say in the beginning of the fourteenth century, a certain Mahmud Shah Inju was governing the province of Fars, of which Shiraz is the capital, in the name of Abu Said, the last of the direct descendants of Hulagu. On the death of Mahmud Shah, Abu Said appointed Sheikh Hussein ibn Juban to the governorship of Fars, a lucrative and much-coveted post. Sheikh Hussein took the precaution of ordering the three sons of Mahmud Shah to be seized and imprisoned; but while they were passing through the streets of Shiraz in the hands of their captors, their mother, who accompanied them, lifted her veil and made a touching appeal to the people, calling upon them to remember the benefits they had received from their late ruler, the father of the three boys. Her words took instant effect; the inhabitants rose, released her and her sons, and drove Sheikh Hussein into exile. He, however, returned with an army supplied by Abu Said, and induced Shiraz to submit again to his rule. In 1335, a year or two after these events, Abu Said died, and the power of the house of Hulagu crumbled away. There followed a long period of anarchy, which was brought to an end when Oweis, another descendant of Hulagu, seized the throne. He and his son Ahmed reigned in Baghdad until Ahmed was driven out by the invading army of Timur. But during the years of anarchy the authority of the Sultan of Baghdad had been considerably curtailed. On Abu Said’s death, Abu Ishac, one of the three sons of Mahmud Shah Inju who had so narrowly escaped from the hands of Sheikh Hussein, took possession of Shiraz and Isfahan, finally ousting his old enemy, while Mahommad ibn Muzaffar, who had earned a name for valour in the service of Abu Said, made himself master of Yezd.

From this time onward the governors of the Persian provinces seem to have given a nominal allegiance now to the Sultan of Baghdad, now to the more distant Khalif. The position of Shiraz between Baghdad and Cairo must have resembled that of Venice between Rome and Constantinople, and, like Venice, she was obedient to neither lord.

Abu Ishac had not steered his bark into quiet waters. In 1340 Shiraz was besieged and taken by a rival Atabeg, and the son of Mahmud Shah was obliged to content himself with Isfahan. But in the following year he returned, captured Shiraz by a stratagem, and again established himself as ruler over all Fars. The remaining years of his reign are chiefly occupied with military expeditions against Yezd, where Mahommad ibn Muzaffar and his sons were building up a formidable power. In 1352, determined to put an end to these attacks, Mahommad marched into Fars and laid siege to Shiraz. Abu Ishac, whose life was one of perpetual dissipation, redoubled his orgies in the face of danger. Uncertain of the fidelity of the people of Shiraz, he put to death all the inhabitants of two quarters of the town, and contemplated insuring himself of a third quarter in a similar manner. But these measures did not lead to the desired results. The chief of the threatened quarter got wind of the King’s design, and delivered up the keys of his gate to Shah Shudja, son of Mahommad ibn Muzaffar, and Abu Ishac was obliged to seek refuge a second time in Isfahan. Four years later, in 1357, he was given up to Mahommad, who sent him to Shiraz and, with a fine sense of dramatic fitness, had him beheaded in an open space before the ruins of Persepolis.

The Arab traveller Ibn Batuta, who visited Shiraz between the years 134o and 1350, has left a description of its ruler: “Abu Ishac,” says he, “is one of the best Sultans that can be found” (it must be confessed that the average of Sultans was not very high in Ibn Batuta’s time); “he is fair of face, imposing of presence, and his conduct is no less to be admired. His mind is generous, his character remarkable, and he is modest although his power is great and his territories extensive. His army exceeds the number of 30,000 men, Turks and Persians. The most faithful of his subjects are the inhabitants of Isfahan; but he fears the Shirazis, who are a brave people, not to be controlled by kings, and he will not trust them with arms.” This view of his relations with the two towns tallies with Abu Ishac’s subsequent history, and points to a considerable power of observation on the part of Ibn Batuta. But he relates a tale which would seem to show that Abu Ishac was not unpopular even in Shiraz: on a certain occasion he wished to build a great gate in that city, and hearing of his desire the inhabitants vied with each other in their eagerness to satisfy it; men of all ranks turned out to do the work, putting on their best clothes and digging the foundations with spades of silver. Abu Ishac shared the passion of the age for letters, and was anxious to be accounted a rival to the King of Delhi in his generosity to men of learning; “but,” sighs Ibn Batuta, “how far is the earth removed from the Pleiades!” The Persian historian who describes Abu Ishac’s execution, quotes a quatrain which the Atabeg is supposed to have written while he was in prison:

“Lay down thine arms when Fortune is thy foe, ‘ Gainst Heaven’s wheel, Wrestler, try not a throw Drink steadfastly the cup whose name is Death, Empty the dregs upon the earth, and go.”

So perished the first patron of Hafiz.

From 1353 to 1393, when Timur conquered Shiraz for the second and last time, the greater part of Persia was ruled by members of the house of Muzaffar. Scarcely a year passed undisturbed by civil war, scarcely a year in which one of the sons or grandsons of Mahommad did not suffer imprisonment or worse ills at the hands of his brothers. Mahommad himself was the first to fall. Shah Shudja seized his father while he was reading the Koran aloud with a poet of his court, and caused him to be blinded. A few years later the grim life beat itself out against the prison walls of Ka’lah-i-Safid. “Without just cause,” sings Hafiz, “the victor of victors suffered imprisonment; guiltless, the mightiest head was laid low. He had overcome Shiraz and Tabriz and Irak; at the last his own hour came. He who, in the eyes of the world, was the light he had kindled (i.e. Mahommad’s son, Shah Shudja), through those eyes which had gazed victorious upon the world, thrust the hot iron.” A stern and pitiless man was this Mahommad, brave in battle, wise in council, ardent in religion, but hard and cruel beyond measure, a perfidious friend and a relentless enemy. The Persian historian, Lutfallah, relates that on several occasions he had seen criminals brought before Mahommad while the Amir was engaged in reading the Koran. Laying the book aside, he would draw his sword and kill the offenders as they stood, and then return unmoved to his devotions. Shah Shudja once asked his father whether he had killed 1000 men with his own hand. “No,” replied Mahommad, “but I think that the number of them that I have slain must reach 800.”

After his death, Shah Shudja reigned in Shiraz, and his brother Shah Yahya in Yezd. Shah Shudia was a man of like energy with his father, but it was an energy directed into different channels; the stern religious ardour of the elder man was changed into a spirit of frenzied dissipation in the younger. Whenever he was not engaged in conducting expeditions against his brothers and nephews, he was taking part in. the wildest orgies in Shiraz. He was scarcely less cruel than Mahommad. In a fit of drunkenness he ordered one of his own sons to be blinded, and though, at the instance of his vizir, he repented and sent a second messenger hot foot after the first, it was already too late to save the boy. Before Shah Shudja’s death the knell of the house of Muzaffar had sounded — Tamberlain and his Tartar hordes had advanced into Northern Persia. In 1382 Shah Shudja sent a propitiatory embassy to him with gifts — jewels and silks, horses, a scarlet dais, a royal standard, and a Chinese umbrella; and Timur in return sent the King a robe of honour and a belt studded with jewels.

Worn out before his time with riotous living, Shah Shudja did his utmost to secure the welfare of his family before he died. He sent letters both to Timur and to Sultan Ahmed of Baghdad recommending to their protection his son Zein-el-Abeddin, his brothers, and his nephews. The curtain is drawn aside for a moment from the death-bed of the King, and an anecdote, such as Oriental historians love, reveals to us the fearless and terrible face. Hearing that his brother Ahmed was preparing to dispute the succession with Zein-el-Abeddin, he sent for him in order to persuade him to withdraw his claims. But when Ahmed entered the room where Shah Shudja lay sick to death, both brothers burst into tears, and Ahmed was so much overcome by emotion that he was obliged to withdraw. Thereupon Shah Shudja sent him a letter by the hand of a faithful servant. “The world,” he said, “is like unto the shadow of a cloud and a dream of the night; for the one has no resting-place, and when the dreamer awakens there remains to him but a vain memory of the other. I foresee much disturbance in Shiraz; Kerman is the home of our fathers. I have no complaint to lay at your door; but now that I am about to fare upon a long journey, if you were to become a sower of discord, not I alone would reproach you, but God also; and our enemies would rejoice. Go therefore to Kerman and renounce this unhappy city.” And Ahmed went.

Shah Shudja died in the odour of sanctity. Ten holy men were with him continually, reading the Koran aloud from end to end each day. He left behind him a name renowned for courage and for liberality. He was a poet, after the fashion of kings, and from boyhood be could repeat the Koran by heart.

The son, whose future he had spent his last hours in assuring, was not to remain for long upon the throne bequeathed to him by his father. During his short reign, Zein-el-Abeddin was engaged in defending himself from the attacks of his cousin Mansur, but in 1388 he was obliged to flee before an enemy more terrible than any he had yet known. Timur, who for several years had been hovering upon the borders of Fars, overran Southern Persia and took Shiraz. Zein-el-Abeddin sought refuge with Mansur, who repaid his confidence by imprisoning and blinding him. It must have been in the year 1388 that the celebrated interview between Hafiz and Timur took place (see note to Poem V.), and not at the time of the second conquest of Shiraz in 1393. The confusion between the two dates has led several writers to doubt the truth of the story, since it is almost certain that the poet had died before 1393. Timur bestowed Shiraz upon Shah Yahya, uncle to Mansur, and some time governor of Yezd; but no sooner was the Tartar army called away by disturbances in the northern parts of the empire than Mansur overthrew his uncle and possessed himself of Shiraz. Hafiz did not live to see the end of the drama, but the end was not far off. In 1393 Timur advanced with 30,000 picked men against Mansur. The Muzaffaride, with Only 3000 or 4000 men, twice charged into the heart of the Tartar force, and at one moment Timur’s own life was in danger. Mansur, who was himself fighting in the thickest of the battle, sent a message back to the wings of his army, ordering them to support his desperate charge; but they did not obey his command. He fell fighting beneath the sword of Shah Rukh Mirza, Timur’s son, leaving the conqueror to “march in triumph through Persepolis.” Courage was a quality in which the descendants of Mahommad ibn Muzaffar were not deficient, but among a race of soldiers Mansur seems to have been distinguished for his reckless bearing. He, too, like the other members of his family, was a patron of learning, and it is related that he used to distribute 200 tomans daily among the poor scholars of Shiraz. Both on account of their popularity and of their bravery, Timur saw that there would be no peace for him in Shiraz while one member of the house of Muzaffar remained alive; Mansur’s survivors were put to the sword.

Through all these changes of fortune, Hafiz appears to have played the prudent, if rather unromantic part of the Vicar of Bray. The slender thread of his personal history is made up for the most part of more or less mythical anecdote. He was the son, according to one tradition, of a baker of Shiraz, in which city he was probably educated. The poet Jami says that he does not know under what Sufi doctor Hafiz studied. As a young man, however, he was one of the followers of Sheikh Mahmud Attar, who would seem to have been somewhat of a free-lance among the learned men of Shiraz. Sheikh Mahmud did not give himself up completely to the contemplative life, but combined the functions of a teacher with those of a dealer in fruit and vegetables. “Oh disciple of the tavern!” sings Hafiz, “give me the precious goblet, that I may drink to the Sheikh who has no monastery.” Sheikh Mahmud’s attitude doubtless brought him under the condemnation of the stricter Sufis, of the disciples of a certain Sheikh Hassan Asrakpush in particular, who, as the title of their master denotes, clad themselves only in blue garments, and declared that their minds were filled with heavenly desires, just as their bodies were clothed in the colour of heaven. Hafiz falls foul of this rival school in several of his poems. “I am the servant,” he says, “of all who scatter the dregs of the cup and are clothed in one colour (that is, clothed in sincerity), but not of them whose bodies are clad in blue while black is the colour of their heart.” And again: “Give me not the cup until I have torn from my breast the blue robe,” by which he means that he cannot receive the teachings of true wisdom until he has divested himself of the errors of the uninitiated. From Sheikh Mahmud, perhaps, he learnt a wholesome philosophy which enabled him to see through the narrow-minded asceticism of other religious teachers, whether Sufi or orthodox, and he was not unmindful of the debt he owed him. “My Grey-Beard,” he sings, “who scatters the dregs of the wine, has neither gold nor power, but God has made him both munificent and merciful.” And indeed if he succeeded in unchaining the spirit of his disciple from useless prejudice, it may be admitted that the Sheikh went far towards providing him with a good equipment for life. Although he never submitted to any strict monastic rule, Hafiz assumed the dervish habit of which he speaks so contemptuously. We must suppose that he took the precaution, which he himself recommends, of washing it clean in the wine that Sheikh Mahmud provided for him; in other words, that he tempered his orthodoxy with the freer doctrines he had derived from his teacher. He also became a sheikh.

How he first revealed his inimitable gift of song is not known. There is a tradition that upon a certain day one of his uncles was engaged in composing a poem upon Sufiism, and being but a mediocre poetaster, could get no further than the first line. Hafiz took up the sheet in his uncle’s absence and completed the verse. The uncle was not a little annoyed; he bade Hafiz finish the poem, and at the same time cursed him and his works. “They shall bring insanity,” he declared, “upon all that read them.” Men say that the curse still hangs over the Divan, therefore let no one whose reason is not strongly seated venture to study the poet. Whatever were his beginnings, it was not long before the young man rose into high repute. Abu Ishac was his first patron. “By the favour of the victorious standards of a king,” says Hafiz, “I was uplifted like a banner among the makers of verse.” There is a long poem addressed to Abu Ishac, in which he is called the King under whose feet the garden of his kingdom bursts into flower. “Oh great and holy!” cries the poet, “every man who is a servant of thine is uplifted so high that the stars of Gemini are but as his girdle.” Hafiz must have been in Shiraz when Abu Ishac was brought thither, a prisoner, from Isfahan; he may even have witnessed his execution outside Persepolis. “Fate overtook him,” he sighs, “all too speedily — alas for the violence and oppression in this world of pitfalls! alas for the grace and the mercy that dwelt among us! Hast thou not heard, oh Hafiz, the laugh of the strutting partridge? Little considered be the clutching talons of the falcon of death.”

From the protection of Abu Ishac, Hafiz passed into that of Shah Shudja, but the relations between the two men seem to have been somewhat strained. Shah Shudja may have distrusted the loyalty of one to whom Abu Ishac had been so good a patron; moreover, he nursed a professional jealousy of Hafiz, being himself a writer of occasional verse. The historian Khondamir tells of an interview which cannot have increased the goodwill of either interlocutor towards the other. Shah Shudja reproached Hafiz with the discursiveness of his songs. “In one and the same,” he said, “you write of wine, of Sufiism, and of the object of your affections. Now this is contrary to the practice of the eloquent.” “That which your Majesty has deigned to speak,” replied Hafiz (laying his tongue in his cheek, though Khondamir does not mention the fact), “is the essence of the truth; yet the poems of Hafiz enjoy a wide celebrity, whereas those of some other writers have not passed beyond the gates of Shiraz.” But an occasional bandying of sharp speeches, in which the King usually came off second best, did little harm to a friendship which was based upon a marked correspondence in tastes. “Since the hour,” declares Hafiz, “that the wine-cup received honour from Shah Shudja, Fortune has put the goblet of joy into the hand of all wine-drinkers”; and in several poems he welcomes Shah Shudja’s accession to the throne and the consequent removal of an edict against the drinking of wine: “The daughter of the grape has repented of her retirement; she went to the keeper of the peace (i.e. Shah Shudja) and received permission for her deeds. Forth came she from behind the curtain that she might tell her lovers that she has turned about.” Partly out of gratitude, partly with an eye to future favours, Hafiz proclaimed the glory of Shah Shudja, just as he had proclaimed that of the hapless Abu Ishac, and the King was not averse from such good wishes as these from the most famous poet of the age: “May the ball of the heavens be for ever in the crook of thy polo stick, and the whole world be a playing-ground unto thee. The fame of thy goodness has conquered the four quarters of the earth; may it be for all time a guardian unto thee!”

One of Shah Shudja’s vizirs, Hadji Kawameddin Hassan, was also a good friend to Hafiz. In the poems he is frequently alluded to as the second Assaf (the first Assaf having been King Solomon’s vizir, renowned for his wisdom), while Shah Shudja masquerades under the title of Solomon himself. On his return from a journey, probably to Yezd, Hafiz spent some months in the house of the Vizir-induced thereto by a cogent argument. In one of the poems there is a dialogue between himself and a friend, in which the friend says to him, “When after two years’ absence thy destiny has brought thee home, why comest thou not out of thy master’s house?” Hafiz replies that the road in which he walks is not of his choosing: “An officer of my judge stands, like a serpent, in ambush upon the path, and whenever I would pass beyond my master’s threshold he serves me with a summons and hurries me back into my prison.” He goes on to remark that under these painful circumstances he finds his master’s house a sure refuge, and the servants of the Vizir useful allies against the officers of the law. “If any one proffers a demand to me there, I call to my aid the strong arm of one of the Vizir’s dependants, and with a blow I cause his skull to be cleft in two.” A summary manner, one would think, of dealing with the law, and little calculated to incline the heart of his judge towards the offender.

There is another Khawameddin who is frequently mentioned, the Vizir of Sultan Oweis of Baghdad. He founded in Shiraz a college for Hafiz, in which the poet gave lectures on the Koran, and read out his own verses, and whither his fame drew a great number of pupils. We find Hafiz asking his benefactor for money to support this school in the following terms: “Oh discreet friend (my poem), in some retired spot to which even the wind is a stranger, come to the ear of the master, and between jest and earnest place the pointed saying, that his heart may consent unto it; then, of thy kindness, pray his munificence to tell me, if I were to ask for a small stipend, would my request be tolerated?” One cannot but hope that so charming a begging letter, couched in verse withal, was more than tolerated. It was probably this Vizir who sent a robe of honour to Hafiz which, when it came, proved to be too short for him; “but,” says the poet politely, “no favour of thine could be too short for any man.”

From Oweis himself Hafiz is said to have received kindness, but he does not seem to have been satisfied with the Sultan’s conduct towards him: “From my heart,” he says, “I am the slave of Sultan Oweis, but he remembers not his servant.” The son of Oweis, Sultan Ahmed of Baghdad, whose cruelty caused his subjects to call in the aid of Timur against him, was very anxious to induce Hafiz to visit his court; but Hafiz, perhaps with prudence, declined the invitation, saying that he was content with dry bread eaten at home, and had no desire to taste the honey that pilgrims gather by the roadside. He sent to Ahmed a poem in which he loaded his name with extravagant praise. “On Persian soil,” he declared, “the bud of joy has never blown for me. How excellent is the Tigris of Baghdad and the perfumed wine! Oh wind of the dawn, bring unto me the dust from my friend’s threshold, that Hafiz may wash bright with it the eyes of his heart.”

Once only did he comply with the invitations of foreign kings, and his experience on that occasion was far from encouraging. He visited Shah Yahya, Shah Shudja’s brother, at Yezd, but the reward which he received was not commensurate with his expectations. “Long life to thee and thy heart’s desire, oh Cup-bearer of Djem’s court!” he writes — and the context shows that the allusion is to Shah Yahya — ”though while I dwelt with thee my cup was never filled with wine.” Moreover, a devoted lover of Shiraz, Hafiz was overcome with homesickness when he was absent from his native town. “Why,” he says in a pathetic little poem written while he was at Yezd — ”Why should I not return to mine own home? Why should I not lay my dust in the street of mine own beloved? My bosom cannot endure the sorrows of exile; let me return to mine own city, let me be master of my heart’s desire.” It was after this luckless visit to Shah Yahya that he is said to have remarked, “It seems that Fortune did not intend kings to be wise.”

He never again gathered the honey of the roads of pilgrimage. Once, indeed, in answer to the pressing invitation of Shah, Mahmud Purabi, Sultan of Bengal, he set forth for India; but a series of accidents befell him, he lost heart and returned home again. The story is told in a note to Poem XXI.

From the Sultan of Hormuz he received many favours, though he refused to visit him and his pearl fisheries in the Persian Gulf. He compares this Sultan with Shah Yahya, much to the disadvantage of the latter, saying that the King who had never seen him had filled his mouth with pearls, whereas Shah Yahya, to whose court he had journeyed, had sent him empty away.

Shah Shudja was not the only member of the house of Muzaffar who protected Hafiz; the warrior prince Mansur was his staunch friend. He appears to have been absent from Shiraz at the time of Mansur’s accession-perhaps he had accompanic imur s retreating army. “The wind has brought me word,” he cries, “that the day of sorrow is overpast; I will return to Shiraz through the favour of my friend. On the banners of the Conqueror (i.e. Mansur, of whose name this is the meaning) Hafiz is borne up into heaven; fleeing for refuge, his destiny has set him upon the steps of a throne.” Mansur held the poet in high esteem. There is a tradition that when he appointed one of his sons governor over a province, the young man asked his father to give him his vizir, Jelaleddin, as a counsellor, and Hafiz as a teacher. “What!” replied Mansur, “wouldst thou be King even in thy father’s lifetime, that thou demandest of him the two wisest men in his realm?”

Hafiz by this time had grown old. Youth had been very pleasant; not without a sigh the greyhaired man relinquished it. “Ah, why has my black hair turned white!” he laments, and tries to warm his old blood with the wine of former days. “Yesterday at dawn I came upon one or two glasses of wine-as sweet as the lip of the Cup-bearer they seemed to my palate. And then, my brain afire, I desired to return to my mistress, Youth, but between us a divorce had been pronounced.” And again: “Last night Hafiz strayed into the tavern, and it seemed to him that Youth, his mistress, had come back, and that love and madness had returned to his old head.” “Gieb meine Jugend mir zuruck!” Other poets besides Hafiz have sung to the same tune. Whether or no he lived to witness the overthrow of the race that had sheltered him, he foresaw the troubles that were coming upon it and upon his beloved Shiraz. There is a short poem full of foreboding which is said to have been written after the entry of Timur: “What tumult I see beneath the moon’s orbit, every quarter of the earth is full of evil and wickedness! There is strife among our daughters, and among our mothers contention, and the father is evilly disposed towards his son. Only the foolish are drinking sherbet of rose-water and sugar; the wise are nourished upon their own heart’s blood. The Arabian horse is wounded beneath the saddle, and the ass wears a collar of gold about his neck. Master, take the counsel of Hafiz: ‘Go and do good!’ for I see that this maxim is worth more than a treasure-house of jewels.” In several verses he congratulates Mansur upon a victory and a fortunate return to Shiraz, which may perhaps refer to the re-establishment of the Muzaffaride line after Timur’s departure. “Give me the cup,” he says in one of these, “for the airs of youth blow through my old head, so glad am I to see the King’s face again.”

The date of his death is variously given as 1388, 1389, 1391, and 1394, but it seems unlikely that he should have been alive as late as 1394. 1389 is the year given in a couplet by an unknown author, which is inscribed upon his tomb: “If thou wouldst know when he sought a home in the dust of Mosalla, seek his date in the dust of Mosalla.” The letters of the Persian words Khak-i-Mosalla, dust of Mosalla, give the number 791, that is 1389 of our era. He lies in the garden of Mosalla outside Shiraz, a garden the praises of which he was never tired of singing, and on the banks of the Ruknabad, where he had so often rested under the shade of cypress-trees. When, some sixty years after the poet’s death, Sultan Baber conquered Shiraz, he erected a monument over the tomb of Hafiz. An oblong block of stone on which are carved two songs from the Divan, marks the grave. At the head of it is inscribed a sentence in Arabic: “God is the enduring, and all else passes away.” The garden contains the tombs of many devout Persians who have desired to rest in the sacred earth which holds the bones of the poet, and his prophecy that his grave should become a place of pilgrimage for all the drunkards of the world has been to a great extent fulfilled. A very ancient cypress, said to be of Hafiz’s own planting, stood for many hundreds of years at the head of his grave, and It cast its shadow o’er the dust of his desire.”

It is not often that a teacher and the favourite of princes enjoys unmixed popularity, especially when his criticisms of such as disagree with him are as harsh and as often repeated as are those of Hafiz; nor does he seem to have been an exception to the general rule. Moreover, his own conduct gave his enemies sufficient grounds for complaint. His biographers, as biographers will, take a rosy view of his life. Daulat Shah, for instance, states that “he turned always to the company of dervishes and of wise men, and sometimes he attained also to the society of princes; a friend of persons of eminent virtue and perfection, and of noble youths.” But such accounts as these are not entirely borne out by other traditions, and his poems do not seem to the unbiased reader to be the works of a man of ascetic temperament. With all due deference to Daulat Shah, I would submit that Abu Ishac, Shah Shudja, and Shah Mansur were none of them persons of eminent virtue; indeed, it is difficult to imagine that a friend and panegyrist of theirs could have renounced all the joys of life. His enemies went so far as to accuse him of heresy and even of atheism, and so strong was popular feeling against him that, on his death, it was debated whether his body might be given the rites of burial. The question was only settled by consulting his poems, which, on being taken at haphazard, opened upon the following verse: “Fear not to follow with pious feet the corpse of Hafiz, for though he was drowned in the ocean of sin, he may find a place in paradise.” It is a fortunate age which will allow a man’s writings to stand his doubtful reputation in such good stead.

Hafiz was married and he had a son. He laments the death of both wife and child in two poems which are translated in this volume. In spite of all the favours which he received from the great men of his day, he is said to have died poor.

During his lifetime he was too busy “teaching and composing philosophical treatises,” says his great Turkish editor, Sudi, “to gather together his songs; he used to recite them in his school, expressing a wish that these pearls might be strung together for the adornment of his contemporaries,” This was done after his death by his pupil Sayyed Kasim el Anwar, and the Divan of Hafiz is one of the most popular books in the Persian language. From India to Constantinople his songs are sung and repeated by all who speak the Persian tongue, and the number of his European translators shows that his uncle’s curse has a special and peculiar influence in Western countries. Like the Aeneid, the Divan of Hafiz is consulted as a guide to future action. There are several stories of famous men who have had recourse to these Sortes Hafizianae. It is related that Nadir Shah took counsel from Hafiz’s book when he was meditating an expedition against Tauris, and opened it at the following verse: “Irak and Fars thou hast conquered with thy songs, oh Hafiz; now it is the turn of Baghdad and the appointed hour of Tabriz.” Nadir Shah took this as an encouragement to fresh conquest, and went on his way rejoicing.

It is not only as a maker of exquisite verse but also as a philosopher that Hafiz has gained so wide an esteem in the East. No European who reads his Divan but will be taken captive by the delicious music of his songs, the delicate rhythms, the beat of the refrain, and the charming imagery. Some of them are instinct with the very spirit of youth and love and joy, some have a nobler humanity and cry out across the ages with a voice pitifully like our own; and yet few of us will turn to Hafiz for wisdom and comfort, or choose him as a guide. It is the interminable, the hopeless mysticism, the playing with words that say one thing and mean something totally different, the vagueness of a philosophy that dares not speak out, which repels the European just as much as it attracts the Oriental mind. “Give us a working theory,” we demand. “Build us imaginary mansions where our souls, fugitives from the actual, may dream themselves away” — that, it seems to me, is what the Persian asks of his teacher.

Hafiz belonged to the great sect from which so many of the most famous among Persian writers have sprung. Like Sa’di and Jami and Jelaleddin Rumi and a score of others, he was a Sufi. The history of Sufiism has yet to be written, the sources from which it arose are uncertain, and that it should have found a home in Mahommadanism, the least mystical of all religions, is still unexplained. Some have supposed that Sufiism was imported from India after the time of Mahommad; some that it was a development of the doctrines of Zoroaster which the Prophet’s successors silenced but did not destroy. In reply to the first theory it has been objected that there is no historic proof of relations between India and Mahommadan countries after the Mahommadan era and before the rise of Sufiism, by which the doctrines of the Indian mystics could have been propagated; and as for the second, it seems improbable that Sufiism, of which the essential doctrine is unity, could have borrowed much from a religion as sharply opposed to it as that of Zoroaster, whose creed is founded upon a dualism. A third theory is that the origins of Sufiism are to be looked for in the philosophy of the Greeks, strangely distorted by the Eastern mind, and in the influence of Christianity; but though the works of Plato are frequently quoted by mystical writers, and though it seems certain that they owe something both to the Neo-Platonic school of Alexandria and to the Christian religion, this would not be enough to account for the great perversion of Mahommad’s teaching.

Baron Sylvestre de Sacy suggested the following explanation of the matter. The second century of the Hejira was a time of fermentation and of the rise of sects. This was due in the first place to the introduction of Greek philosophy, and in the second to the rivalry between the partisans of Ali and those of the Ommiad and Abbaside Khalifs. It was among the followers of Ali that the doctrines of the union of God and man, the infusion of the Divinity in the imams, and the allegorical interpretation of religious ceremonies grew up. Daulat Shah in his Biography of the Persian Poets traces back mysticism as far as to Ali himself, though it is probable that he is imputing to the son-in-law of the Prophet beliefs which were of a somewhat later date. By force of circumstances the Alides were placed in opposition to the ruling Khalifs, and were obliged to find a justification for their attitude, and for submitting to the observances enjoined by those whom they refused to recognise as true representatives of Mahommad. They read the Koran by the light of a new creed, and interpreted it in a manner far different from that intended by its author. From the moment when the division between Shi’ite and Sunni sprang into being, the Shi’ites, or followers of Ali, made the eastern provinces of the Khalifate their stronghold. It is not unreasonable to suppose that a mysticism, in every way contrary to the true spirit of the Koran, made in those provinces nearest to India so rapid a progress, because, before the conquest of Persia by the Arabs, Indian mysticism had already struck root there. That is to say, that there had grown up, side by side with Zoroastrianism, a mysticism eminently congenial to the peculiar temper of the Persian mind — so congenial, indeed, that it was not stamped out by the Arab conquerors, but insinuated itself into the stern and practical creed which they forced upon a nation of dreamers and metaphysicians. The author of the Dabistan, a book written in the seventeenth century, containing the description of twelve different faiths, relates that there existed in Persia a sect belonging to the Yekaneh Bina, of those whose eyes are fixed upon One alone: “They say that the world has no external or tangible existence; all that is, is God, and beyond him there is nothing. The intelligences and the souls of men, the angels, the heavens, the stars, the elements, and the three kingdoms of nature exist only in the mind of God and have no existence beyond.” “If this Indian doctrine of Maya, or Illusion,” adds M. de Sacy, “had been transferred to Persia, there is every reason to believe that mysticism, grounded on the doctrine that all things are an emanation from God and that unto him they shall return, may be traced to the same source.”

The keynote of Sufiism is the union, the identification of God and man. It is a doctrine which lies at the root of all spiritual religions, but pushed too far it leads to pantheism, quietism, and eventually to nihilism. The highest good to which the Sufis can attain, is the annihilation of the actual — to forget that they have a separate existence, and to lose themselves in the Divinity as a drop of water is lost in the ocean. In order to obtain this end they recommend ascetic living and solitude; but they do not carry asceticism to the absurd extremes enjoined by the Indian mystics, nor do they approve of artificial aids for the subduing of consciousness, such as opium, or hashish, or the wild physical exertions of the dancing dervishes. The drunkenness of the Sufi poets, say their interpreters, is nothing but an ecstatic frame of mind, in which the spirit is intoxicated with the contemplation of God just as the body is intoxicated with wine. According to the Dabistan there are four stages in the manifestation of the Divinity: in the first the mystic sees God in the form of a corporal being; in the second he sees him in the form of one of his attributes of action, as the Maker or the Preserver of the world; in the third he appears in the form of an attribute which exists in his very essence, as knowledge or life; in the fourth the mystic is no longer conscious of his own existence. To the last he can hope to attain but seldom.

This losing of the soul in God is only a return (and here we come near to such Platonic doctrines as those embodied in the Phaedrus) to the conditions which existed before birth into the world. Just as in the Dialogue the immortal steed which is harnessed to the chariot of the soul, longs to return to the plain of birth, and to see again the true justice, beauty, and wisdom of which it has retained an imperfect recollection, so the soul of the Sufi longs to return to God, from whom it has been separated by the mortal veil of the body. But this reunion is pushed much further by the Eastern philosophers than by Plato; it implies, according to them, the complete annihilation of distinct personality, corresponding to the conditions, quite unlike those described by the Platonic Socrates, which they believe to have existed before birth. There is nothing which is not from God and a part of God. In himself he contains both being and not being; when he chooses he casts his reflection upon the void, and that reflection is the universe. There is a fine passage in Jami’s Yusuf and Zuleikha in which he sets forth this doctrine of the creation. “Thou art but the glass,” the poet concludes, “his is the face reflected in the mirror; nay, if thou lookest steadfastly, thou shalt see that he is the mirror also.” In a parable, Jami illustrates the universal presence of God, and the blind searching of man for that by which he is surrounded on every side. There was a frog which sat upon the shores of the ocean, and ceaselessly, day and night he sang its praise. “As far as mine eyes can see,” he said, “I behold nothing but thy boundless surface.” Some fish swimming in the shallow water heard the frog’s song, and were filled with a desire to find that wonderful ocean of which he spoke, but go where they would they could not discover it. At last, in the course of their search, they fell into a fisherman’s net, and as soon as they were drawn out of the water they saw beneath them the ocean for which they had been seeking. With a leap they returned into it.

The story of the creation as told in the Koran it is impossible for the Sufis to accept; they are bound to give an outward adhesion to it, but in their hearts they treat it as an allegory. The world is posterior to God only in the nature of its existence and not in time: the Sufis were not far from the doctrine of the eternity of matter, from which they were only withheld by the necessity of conforming with the teaching of the Koran. They content themselves with saying that the world came into existence when it pleased God to manifest himself beyond himself, and will cease when it shall please him to return into himself again. It is more difficult to dispose of the resurrection of the body, which is constantly insisted upon by Mahommad. That the soul, when it has at last attained to complete union with God, should be obliged to return to the prison from whence it has escaped at death, is entirely repugnant to all Sufis nor can they explain satisfactorily the divergence of their opinions from those of the Prophet.

It has been well said that all religious teachers who have honestly tried to construct a working formula, have found that one of their greatest difficulties lay in reconciling the all-powerfulness of God with man’s consciousness of his will being free; for on the one hand it is impossible to conceive a God worth the name who shall be less than omnipotent and omniscient, and on the other it is essential to lay upon man some responsibility for his actions. Mahommad more especially, as Count Gobineau points out in his excellent little book, found himself confronted with this difficulty, since his primary object was to exalt the divine personality, and to lift it out of the pantheism into which it had fallen among the pre-Islamitic Arabs; but if he did not succeed in indicating a satisfactory way out of the dilemma, it is at least unjust to accuse him of having failed to recognise it. He insisted that man is responsible for his own salvation: “Whosoever chooseth the life to come, their desire shall be acceptable unto God.” There is a tradition that when some of his disciples were disputing over predestination, he said to them: “Why do you not imitate Omar? For when one came to him and asked him, ‘What is predestination?’ he answered, ‘It is a deep sea.’ And a second time he replied, ‘It is a dark road.’ And a third time, ‘It is a secret which I will not declare since God has seen fit to conceal it.’ “The Sufis were obliged to abandon free will: it was impossible to attach any responsibility to the reflection in the mirror. But here, again, they did not venture to give expression to their real opinions, and their statements are therefore both confused and contradictory. “A man may say,” remarks the author of the Dabistan, “that his actions are his own, and with equal truth that they are God’s.” In the Gulshen-i-Raz, a poem written in the year 1317, and therefore contemporary with Hafiz, it is distinctly laid down that God will take men’s actions into account: “After that moment (i.e. the Day of Judgment) he will question them concerning good and evil.” But such expressions as these are in direct opposition to the rest of Sufi teaching. There is neither good nor evil, since both alike flow from God, from whom all flows. Some go so far as to prefer Pharaoh to Moses, Nimrod to Abraham, because they say that though Pharaoh and Nimrod were in apparent revolt against the Divinity, in reality they knew their own nothingness and accepted the part that the divine wisdom had imposed upon them. There is neither reward nor punishment; Paradise is the beauty, Hell the glory of God, and when it is said that those in Hell are wretched, it is meant that the dwellers in Heaven would be wretched in their place. And finally, there is no distinction between God and man; the soul is but an emanation from God, and a man is therefore justified in saying with the fanatic Hallaj, “I am God.” Though Hallaj paid with his life for venturing to give voice to his opinion, he was only repeating aloud what all Sufis believe to be true. “Is it permitted to a tree to say, ‘I am God,’” writes the author of the Gulsheni-Raz (the allusion is to the burning bush that spoke to Moses) why then may not a man say it?” And again: “In God there is no distinction of quality; in his divine majesty I, thou, and we shall not be found. I, thou, we, and he bear the same meaning, for in unity there is no division. Every man who has annihilated the body and is entirely separated from himself, hears within his heart a voice that crieth, ‘I am God.’”

The conception of the union and interdependence of all things divine and human is far older than Sufi thought. It goes back to the earliest Indian teaching, and Professor Deussen, in his book on Metaphysics, has pointed out the conclusion which is drawn from it in the Veda. “The gospels,” he says, “fix quite correctly as the highest law of morality, Love thy neighbour as thyself. But why should I do so, since by the order of nature I feel pain and pleasure only in myself, not in my neighbour? The answer is not in the Bible (this venerable book being not yet quite free from Semitic realism), but it is in the Veda: You shall love your neighbour as yourselves because you are your neighbour; a mere illusion makes you believe that your neighbour is something different from yourselves. Or in the words of the Bhagaradgitah: He who knows himself in everything and everything in himself, will not injure himself by himself. This is the sum and tenor of all morality, and this is the standpoint of a man knowing himself a Brahman.”

The Sufis were forced to pay an exaggerated deference to the Prophet and to Ali in order to keep on good terms with the orthodox, but since they believed God to be the source of all creeds they could not reasonably place one above another; nay more, since they taught that any man who practised a particular religion had failed to free himself from duality and to reach perfect union with God, they must have held Mahommadanism in like contempt with all other faiths. “When thou and I remain not (when man is completely united with God), what matters the Ka’ba and the Synagogue and the Monastery?” That is, what difference is there between the religion of Mahommadan, Jew, and Christian? “One night,” says Ferideddin Attar in a beautiful allegory, “the angel Gabriel was seated on the branches of a tree in the Garden of Paradise, and he heard God pronounce a word of assent. ‘At this mornent,’ thought the angel, some man is invoking God. I know not who he is; but this I know, that he must be a notable servant of the Lord, one whose soul is dead to evil and whose spirit lives.’ Then Gabriel desired to know who this man could be, but in the seven zones he found him not. He traversed the land and the sea and found him not in mountain or in plain. Therefore he hastened back to the presence of God, and again he heard him give a favourable answer to the same prayers. Again he set forth and sought through the world, yet he saw not the servant of God. ‘Oh Lord,’ he cried, show me the path that leads to him upon whom thy favours fall!’ ‘Go to the Land of Rome,’ God answered, ‘and in a certain monastery thou shalt find him.’ Thither fled Gabriel, and found him whom he sought, and lo! he was worshipping an idol. When he returned, Gabriel opened his lips and said, ‘Oh Master, draw aside for me the veil from this secret: why fulfillest thou the prayers of one who invokes an idol in a monastery?’ And God replied, ‘His spirit is darkened and he knows not that he has missed the way; but since he errs from ignorance, I pardon his fault: my mercy is extended to him, and I allow him to enter into the highest place.’”

In the language of religious mysticism, God is not only the Creator and Ruler of the world, he is also the Essentially Beautiful and the True Beloved. Love, of which the divine being is at once the source and the object, plays a large part in Sufi writings, a part which it is difficult, and sometimes unwise, to distinguish from an exaggerated expression of the human affections. Jami describes Pure Being, before it had been manifested in Creation, “singing of love unto itself in a wordless melody,” and in the same strain Hafiz sings of “the Imperial Beauty which is for ever playing the game of love with itself.” Like the echo of a Greek voice falls Jami’s doctrine of human love: “Avert not thy face from an earthly beloved, since even this may serve to raise thee to the love of the True.” It is almost possible to read in the Persian poem the words of the wise Diotima to Socrates: “He who has been instructed thus far in the things of love, and has learnt to see the Beautiful in true order and succession, when he comes towards the end will suddenly perceive a nature of wonderful beauty, not growing or decaying, waxing or waning . . . he who, under the influence of true love, rising upward from these things begins to see that beauty, is not far from the end.”

The Sufis had no difficulty in finding in the Koran texts in support of their teaching. When Mahommad exclaims, “There are times when neither cherubim nor prophet are equal unto me!” the Sufis declare that he alludes to moments of ecstatic union with God; and his account of the victory of Bedr — ”Thou didst not slay them, but God slew them, and thou didst not shoot when thou didst shoot, but God shot” — they take as a proof of the Prophet’s belief in the essential oneness of God and man. The whole book is twisted after this fashion into agreement with their views.

Beautiful and spiritual as some of these doctrines are, they can hardly be said to form an adequate guide to conduct. The Sufis, however, are regarded in the East as men leading a virtuous and pure life. Even the etymology of their name points to the same conclusion: Sufi comes from an Arabic word signifying wool, and indicates that they were accustomed to clothe themselves in simple woollen garments. They occupy in the East much the same position that Madame Guyon and the Jansenists occupied in the West, and they teach the same doctrine of quietism, which, while it lends to its followers the virtues of exaggerated submission, saps the root of a faith that is manifested in works. So far as the Sufis are striving earnestly after union with God, they are saved from the logical consequences of their doctrines: “Their ear is strained to catch the sounds of the lute, their eyes are fixed upon the cup, their bosoms are filled with the desire of this world and of the world to come.” And in the same spirit Hafiz sings: “Though the wind of discord shake the two worlds, mine eyes are fixed upon the road from whence cometh my Friend.” The idealism of the Sufis led them to deny the morality of all actions, but they restricted the consequences of their principles to the adepts who had attained to perfect union with God, and even for them the moments of ecstasy are few. Most Sufis are good and religious men, holding it their duty to conform outwardly, and no discredit to use all artifices to conceal from the orthodox the beliefs which they cherish in their heart, but holding also that the practice of the Mahommadan religion, to the rites of which they have attached symbolic meanings, is the only way to the perfection to which they aspire. Nevertheless, Count Gobineau is of opinion that quietism is the great curse of the East. “The dominant characteristic of Sufiism,” he says, “is to unite by a weak chain of doctrine, ideas the significance of which is very different, so different that there is in reality but one connecting link between them, and that link is a quietism adapted to them all, a passive disposition of spirit which surrounds with a nimbus of inert sentiment all conceptions of God, of man, and of the universe. It is this quietism, and not Islam, which is the running sore of all Oriental countries.”

Unfortunately, as he points out, the conditions of Oriental life are such as to enforce rather than to control a disposition to mysticism. The poets found ready to their hand a mass of vague and beautiful thought eminently suited to imaginative treatment; whether they believed in it or not they used it, and thereby popularised it, delighting, as only an Oriental can, in the necessity of veiling it with exquisite symbolism, and throwing round it a cloud of charming phrases. These phrases caught and held the Oriental ear; and the Oriental mind is faithful to a formula once accepted. Moreover, when a man looked about him and saw the vicissitudes of mortal existence — nowhere more marked than in the East — how conqueror succeeded conqueror and empire empire, how the humble was exalted and the mighty thrown from his seat, how swift was the vengeance of God in sweeping pestilence and resistless famine, and how unsparing the forces of nature, he turned to a philosophy which taught that all earthly things were alike vain-virtue and patriotism and the love of wife and child, power and beauty and the bold part played in a hopeless fight; he remembered what he had learnt from poets and story-tellers — ”Behold the world is as the shadow of a cloud and a dream of the night.”

How far the Divan of Hafiz can be said to embody these doctrines, each reader must decide for himself, and each will probably arrive at a different conclusion. Between the judgment of Jami, that Hafiz was undoubtedly an eminent Sufi, and that of Von Hammer, who, playing upon his names, declared that the Sun of the Faith gave but an uncertain light, and the Interpreter of Secrets interpreted only the language of pleasure — between these two there is a wide field for differences of opinion. For my part, I cannot agree entirely either with Jami or with Von Hammer. Partly, perhaps, owing to the wise guidance of Sheikh Mahmud Attar, partly to a natural freedom of spirit, Hafiz seems to me to rise above the narrow views of his co-religionists, and to look upon the world from a wider standpoint. The asceticism of Sufi and orthodox he alike condemns: “The ascetic is the serpent of the age!” he cries. I think it was not only to curry favour with a king that he welcomed the accession of Shah Shudja, nor was it only to disarm the criticism of stricter Mohammadans that he described himself as a weary seeker after wisdom, praying God to show him some guiding light by which he might direct his steps. Of the two conclusions that are commonly drawn from the statement that to-morrow we die, Hafiz accepted neither unmodified by the other. “Eat and drink,” seemed to him a poor solution of the mysterious purpose of human life, and an unsatisfactory sign-post to happiness; “the abode of pleasure,” he says, “was never reached except through pain.” On the other hand, he was equally unwilling to despise the good things of this world. “The Garden of Paradise may be pleasant, but forget not the shade of the willow-tree and the fair margin of the fruitful field.” “Now, now while the rose is with us, sing her praise; now, while we are here to listen, Minstrel, strike the lute! for the burden of all thy songs has been that the present is all too short, and already the unknown future is upon us.” He, too, would have us cut down far reaching hope to the limit of our little day, though he cherished in his heart a more or less elusive conviction that he should find the fire of love burning still, and with a purer flame, behind the veil which his eyes could not pierce.

Be that as it may, one who sings the cool rush of the wind of dawn, the scarlet cup of the tulip uplifted in solitary places, the fleeting shadows of the clouds, and the praise of gardens and fountains and fruitful fields, was not likely to forget that even if the world is no more than an intangible reflection of its Creator, the reflection of eternal beauty is in itself worthy to be admired. I wish I could believe that such innocent delights as these, and a wholehearted desire for truth, had been enough for our poet, but I have a shrewd suspicion that the Cupbearer brought him a wine other than that of divine knowledge, and that his mistress is considerably more than an allegorical figure. How ever willing we may be to submit to the wise men of the East when they tell us that the revelry of the poems is always a spiritual exaltation, it must be admitted that the words of the poet carry a different conviction to Western ears. There is undoubtedly a note of sincerity in his praise of love and wine and boon-companionship, and I am inclined to think that Hafiz was one of those who, like Omar Khayyam, were wont to throw the garment of repentance annually into the fire of Spring. It must be remembered that the morality of his day was not that of our own, and that the manners of the East resemble but vaguely those of the West; and though as a religious teacher Hafiz would have been better advised if he had less frequently loosened the rein of his desires, I doubt whether his songs would have rung for us with the same passionate force. After all, the poems of St. Francis of Assisi are not much read nowadays. Nevertheless, the reader misses a sense of restraint both in the matter and in the manner of the Divan. To many Persians, Hafiz occupies the place that is filled by Shakespeare in the minds of many Englishmen. It may be a national prejudice, but I cannot bring myself to believe that the mental food supplied by the Oriental is as good as the other. But, then, our appetites are not the same.

The tendency in dealing with a mystical poet is to read into him so-called deeper meanings, even when the simple meaning is clear enough and sufficient in itself. Hafiz is one of those who has suffered from this process; it has removed him, in great measure, from the touch of human sympathies which are, when all is said and done, a poet’s true kingdom. Of a different age, a different race, and a different civilisation from ours, there are yet snatches in his songs of that melody of human life which is everywhere the same. When he cries, “My beloved is gone and I had not even bidden him farewell!” his words are as poignant now as they were five centuries ago, and they could gain nothing from a mystical interpretation. As simple and as touching is his lament for his son: “Alas! he found it easy to depart, but unto me he left the harder pilgrimage.” And for his wife: “Then said my heart, I will rest me in this city which is illumined by her presence; already her feet were bent upon a longer journey, but my poor heart knew it not.” Not Shakespeare himself has found a more passionate image for love than: “Open my grave when I am dead, and thou shalt see a cloud of smoke rising out from it; then shalt thou know that the fire still burns in my dead heart-yea, it has set my very winding-sheet alight.” Or: “If the scent of her hair were to blow across my dust when I had been dead a hundred years, my mouldering bones would rise and come dancing out of the tomb.” And he knows of what he writes when he says, “I have estimated the influence of Reason upon Love and found that it is like that of a raindrop upon the ocean, which makes one little mark upon the water’s face and disappears.” These are the utterances of a great poet, the imaginative interpreter of the heart of man; they are not of one age, or of another, but for all time. Fitz-Gerald knew it when he declared that Hafiz rang true. “Hafiz is the most Persian of the Persians,” he says. “He is the best representative of their character, whether his Saki and wine be real or mystical. Their religion and philosophy is soon seen through, and always seems to me cuckooed over like a borrowed thing, which people once having got do not know how to parade enough. To be sure their roses and nightingales are repeated often enough. But Hafiz and old Omar Khayyam ring like true metal.” The criticism and the praise seem to me both just and delicate.

To a certain extent it may be said that the Sufiism of Hafiz is partly due to the natural leaning of the Oriental poet towards a picturesque diction (for all poetry must, to satisfy Eastern readers, be couched in a veiled and enigmatic speech), and has partly been read into the Divan by later ages. But this is not all. With Shah Shudja, I would accuse him of mixing up inextricably wine and love and Sufi teaching, and perhaps more besides. To some at least of the innumerable difficulties which assail every man who turns a thoughtful eye upon life and its conditions, Hafiz seems to have accepted the solution presented to him by Sufiism. He understood and sympathised with the bold heresy of Hallaj, “though fools whom God hath not uplifted know not the meaning of him who said, I am God.” Sometimes we find him enunciating one of the abstruser of the Sufi doctrines: “How shall I say that existence is mine when I have no knowledge of myself, or how that I exist not when mine eyes are fixed upon Him?” — a man, that is, can lay claim to no individual existence; all that he knows is that he is a part of the eternally existing. Or, again, he declares that his words are metaphorical, and should receive the full Sufi interpretation, as in the following couplet: “Boon companion, minstrel, and cup-bearer, all these are but names for Him; the image of water and clay (man) is an illusion upon the road of life.” But he handles Sufiism in a broad and noble manner, which links it on to the highest codes of morality accepted among the civilised races of mankind. “For all eternity the perfume of love comes not to him who has not swept with his cheek the dust from the tavern threshold” — ”Blessed are the poor in spirit,” Hafiz is saying in phraseology suited to the ears of those whom he addressed. “If thou desire the jewelled cup of ruby wine,” he continues (and it is of the hunger and thirst after wisdom that he speaks), “ah, many tears shall thine eyes thread upon thine eyelashes!” He did not forget that “the Sufi gold is not always without alloy,” and he was not one of those who believe that they have discovered the answer to all human demands when their own heart is satisfied. “Since thou canst never leave the palace of thyself,” he warns us, “how canst thou hope to reach the village of truth.” The song that filled his soul with gladness might strike on other ears to a different measure; and “where is the music to which both the drunk and the sober can dance?” He was, indeed, profoundly sceptical as to the infallibility of any creed, judging men not by the practice, but by the spirit that lay beneath it: “None shall die whose heart has lived with the life love breathed into it; but when the day of reckoning comes, I fancy that the Sheikh will find that he has gained as little by his abstinence as I by my feasting.”

Sufiism apart, an undercurrent of mysticism runs through the poems which it is impossible to explain away. If we should attempt to ignore it, many of the odes would have no meaning at all, and most of them would lose a good half of their interest. Take, for instance, such verses as the following: “Heart and soul are fixed upon the desire of the Beloved: this at least is, for if not, heart and soul are nought. Fate is that which comes to the brink without the heart’s blood; if not, all thy striving after the Garden of Paradise is nought. Throw thyself not at the foot of its sacred trees hoping for their shade; dost thou not see, oh cypress, that even these are nought unto thee?” Hafiz is engaged in that terrible weighing of possibilities which every man who thinks must know: “Surely the soul which is filled with the desire of God must have some quality which shall be stronger than death? But if this were not so … then indeed the soul itself is nought. Surely Fate is like an empty bowl standing upon the edge of the river of life? But if the bowl had been already filled with blood then all your striving to reach the Garden of Paradise shall avail you nothing. For do you not see, you who dare to acknowledge the truth, that you cannot battle against an appointed Destiny, and however grateful may be the shade of the holy trees, they could afford you no protection.” Nor can I believe that it is an earthly love of whom he speaks when he says, “Since the Beloved has veiled his face, how comes it that his lovers are reciting his beauties? They can only tell what they imagine to be there.” We are all engaged in telling each other — only what we imagine to be there.

It is a curious coincidence (if it be nothing more) that at the time when mystical poetry was taking a recognised place in the literature of Persia and of India, it was also springing into existence in the West. The songs of the Troubadours were avowedly intended to convey a meaning deeper than that which lay upon the surface; the Romance of the Rose comes nearer than any other Western allegory to a full-fledged mysticism worthy of an Oriental poet. St. Francis addresses his Redeemer in terms not very different from those used by Hafiz to express his longing after divine wisdom, and the Beatrice, perhaps of the Vita Nuova, certainly of the Divine Comedy, is no less intangible than the allegorical mistress (when she is allegorical) of the Persian.

Hafiz and Dante, it is interesting to note, were almost contemporaries. At the time when Dante was climbing Can Grande’s weary stair, Hafiz was opening his eyes upon a yet more tumultuous world. Both were driven by the confusion around them to look for some solid platform on which to build a theory of existence, but Dante found it in that strenuous personal faith which is for ever impossible to minds of the temper of that of Hafiz. Moreover, the mysticism of Dante stands with its feet planted firmly upon the earth: man and his deeds might be fleeting, but they laid so strong a hold upon the poet’s imagination that he welded them into a stepping-stone to that which shall not pass away. His own life was spent in a ceaseless political activity; for all his visionary journeys through heaven and hell, Dante lived as keenly as any of his contemporaries. The fire still burns in the dead heart; the fierce and tender spirit, roused by turns to merciless condemnation and exquisite pity, still glows with a flame removed from mortal conditions, which the chill of death cannot extinguish as long as men shall read and understand. Through him his age lives. The people whom he had met, those of whom he had only heard, the smallest incidents of his time, the sum of all that it knew and of all that it believed, are struck out for ever, hard and sharp, in his vivid lines; and the fortunes of Florence, of one little town in a little corner of the world, loom to us, under the poet’s influence, as big and as tragic as they seemed to that most ardent of citizens. To Hafiz, on the contrary, modern instances have no value; contemporary history is too small an episode to occupy his thoughts. During his lifetime the city that he loved, perhaps as dearly as Dante loved Florence, was besieged and taken five or six times; it changed hands even more often. It was drenched with blood by one conqueror, filled with revelry by a second, and subjected to the hard rule of asceticism by a third. One after another Hafiz saw kings and princes rise into power and vanish “like snow upon the desert’s dusty face.” Pitiful tragedies, great rejoicings, the fall of kingdoms, and the clash of battle-all these he must have seen and heard. But what echo of them is there in his poems? Almost none. An occasional allusion which learned commentators refer to some political event; an exaggerated effusion in praise first of one king, then of another; the celebration of such and such a victory and of the prowess of such and such a royal general-just what any self-respecting court poet would feel it incumbent upon himself to write and no more.

But some of us will feel that the apparent indifference of Hafiz lends to his philosophy a quality which that of Dante does not possess. The Italian is bound down within the limits of his own realism, his theory of the universe is essentially of his own age, and what to him was so acutely real is to many of us merely a beautiful or a terrible image. The picture that Hafiz drew represents a wider landscape, though the immediate foreground may not be so distinct. It is as if his mental eye, endowed with wonderful acuteness of vision, had penetrated into those provinces of thought which we of a later age were destined to inhabit. We can forgive him for leaving to us so indistinct a representation of his own time, and of the life of the individual in it, when we find him formulating ideas as profound as the warning that there is no musician to whose music both the drunk and the sober can dance.

Renan has put into a few luminous sentences his view of the mystical poets of India and Persia. “On sait que dans ces pays,” he says, “s’est developpee une vaste litterature ou l’amour divin et Famour terrestre se croisent d’une facon souvent difficile a demeler. L’origine de se singulier genre de poesie est une question qui n’est pas encore eclaircie. Dans beaucoup de cas les sens mystiques pretes a certaines poesies erotiques persanes et hindoues n’ont pas plus de realite que les allegories du Cantique des Cantiques. Pour Hafiz, par exemple, il semble bien que l’explication allegorique est le plus souvent un fruit de la fantaisie des commentateurs, ou des precautions que les admirateurs du poete etaient obliges de prendre pour sauver l’orthodoxie de leur auteur favori. Puis l’magination etant montee sur ce theme, et les esprits etant fausses par une exegese qui ne voulait voir partout qu’allegories, on en est venu a faire des poemes reellement a double sens. Comme ceux de Djellaleddin Rumi, de Wali, &c… . Dans l’Inde et la Perse ce genre de poesie (erotico-mystique) est le fruit d’un extreme raffinement, d’une imagination vive et portee au quietisme, d’un certain gout du mystere, et aussi, en Perse du moins, de l’hypocrisie imposee par le fanatisme musulman. C’est, en effet, comme reaction contre la secheresse de l’Islamisme que le soufisme a fait fortune chez les musulmans non arabes. Il y faut voir une revolte de l’esprit arien contre l’effroyante simplicite de l’esprit semitique, excluant par la rigueur de sa theologie toute devotion particuliere, toute doctrine secrete, toute combinaison religieuse vivante et variee.”

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