For the Love of God and His Prophet

Weblog for Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding 54

Week 9 Response: The Ghazals of Hafez

Filed under: drawing — cspendleton at 8:32 am on Monday, April 7, 2014

For this week, I copied out two bayts from one of the ghazals of Hafez assigned this week. Elizabeth Gray had translated them as follows:

“My reason fled its house, and if this is wine’s work,

From what I’ve seen, what will happen to the house of my faith?

I spent my precious life on the beloved and on wine.

Let’s see what will come to me from the one, and from the other.”

The selection shows how Hafez adhered to the “rules” he set for this particular ghazal in the first bayt with the radif and ghafieh (in the original Persian, the radif and ghafieh are che shavad and dinam / azinam, respectively) and also how he incorporated several of the symbols and themes common to the Persian ghazal (wine, religion, beauty, and perhaps most common of all, the Beloved), making this ghazal a great representation of Persian ghazals at large.

One of the readings mentioned that before being adapted by the Persians, the Arabic ghazals were almost exclusively about love. While the beloved is an almost constant presence even in Persian ghazals, the Persians began addressing broader issues of religion and society. Here Hafez makes such a connection, wondering what will happen to the “house of his faith” — perhaps as a result of a lifetime of wine-drinking with the beloved.

In my drawing vines connect each of the four corners, which each have a symbol that Elizabeth Gray identifies in the introduction to her book as the most common in Persian ghazals, including those of Hafez — namely, wine, love, the rose, and the moon. Wine is a contested presence in Hafez’s ghazals; it is often a symbol for communion with the divine rather than literal wine, with many hedonistic interpretations of Hafez’s poetry overlooking this symbolism (Gray 25). Love is depicted through the narrator’s passionate relationship with the Beloved, who often spurns the Lover or is tragically separated by distance. Although not in this particular ghazal, the rose and the moon are both often used by the narrator, the Lover, to describe the overwhelming beauty of the Beloved.

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