The Nightingale and the Rose in watercolor

Watercolor painting of a nightingale and a rose

At dawn the nightingale spoke to the newly-risen rose:

“Don’t put on airs, for many like you have opened in this garden.”


The rose laughed, “The truth does not offend, but never

Has a lover spoken harshly to his love.”


1 Comment »

  1. nidanaushad

    May 8, 2014 @ 11:07 pm


    The ghazal is a famous style of poetry with strict stylistic constraints. Most ghazals are love poems, told from the point-of-view of an emotional lover, yearning for his beloved. Often, his beloved is cold and distant, and the love he feels is an unrequited love. The majority of these poems make use of similar symbolic elements; wine, intoxication, and nature all appear in a number of ghazals. Although these poems may appear to be about a very worldly, romantic type of love, they can also be interpreted to about a spiritual love for God. The yearning lover represents the Muslim who yearns to experience God, while the distant beloved represents God.

    In class, Professor Asani showed us examples of artists who chose to illustrate famous ghazals. I wanted to try to do the same and decided to illustrate the first two couplets of Ghazal 19 by Hafiz. The main reason these couplets stood out to me while I was reading was the fact that they contained enjambment, a relative rarity in ghazals, which are valued for the independent nature of each couplet. The lines feature a conversation between a nightingale and a rose, two common characters in ghazals.

    I chose to make a literal interpretation of this scene, using watercolor. The background features a pink, dawn sky, and the focus of the painting is a nightingale and a red rose. On the corners of the painting, I have written the original Persian text of the lines that inspired this illustration.

    I intentionally made my painting typically romantic, to represent the theme of earthly love that permeates ghazals when interpreting them literally. Pink and red hues dominate the image. The use of watercolor allows for a more delicate depiction of the scene, adding to its romantic nature. However, if one has an understanding of the symbolism typically used in these types of poems, a different interpretation becomes possible. The nightingale and the rose are typical symbols in ghazals, often representing lovers. After the nightingale criticizes it, the rose tells the nightingale that a lover never speaks harshly to his love; this suggests that the nightingale and the rose are not actually in love. Thus, despite the overtly romantic background, I tried to minimize the interaction between the nightingale and the rose. They are not touching in any way, and indeed the nightingale is not even looking directly at the rose. I interpreted these lines to stress that a love for God is pure and superior to earthly love.

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