Shams al-Din Hafez Shirazi:
Hafez created the best literary and Gnostic concepts in the form of eloquent and pithy lyrics. His concepts surpassed those of other contemporary philosophers, thinkers and scholars. His marvelous poems, not complying with the existing norms of his time, contributed a valuable and unique treasure to the Persian literature. He made excellent use of allusions, metaphors, parables and other figures of speech, never achieved before or after him.
Hafez is one of the rare poets capable of expressing the lovers' grief, the feelings of burning butterflies, a candle's sigh and a nightingale's love with great eloquence. He has preserved his words in an ocean of accessible and unique definitions and images, which are an honor for the Persian culture.
From his large collection of poems, nearly 400 well-known verses and lyrics has so far been rewritten and printed thousands of times and translated into tens of other languages.
Hafez recited the Qoran beautifully and cited Qoranic passages by heart according to all the seven reliable related versions of pronunciations.
Hafez died in 803 AH. He was buried adjacent to the public prayer ground in a suburb of Shiraz. His shrine is the place of pilgrimage for the yearning mystics, lovers of poetic perfection and the seekers of truth and humanism.
The poetic heritage of Hafez includes approximately 4000-5000 verses, 400-500 lyric-poems, several long elegies, short couplets and a few pieces of 9th century inscriptions.
His lyrics, attributed to divine grace and the complete messages of the great Qoran, have always been held in great esteem by Persian speakers, enthusiasts and Muslims. People's respect for this great poet is so great that his Divan is found in almost every house.
Before beginning any new venture, or when hesitant about any particular decision, people consult his Divan to seek a convincing answer, which they often find.
It is two hundred years since the birth of Sir William Jones
(1746-1794), the father of Persian studies in the west; 170 years
since the publication of A Persian Song, his celebrated translation
which introduced Hafez of Shiraz to the literary world of London and
Europe. The present is thus a peculiarly opportune time to review what
his successors have done in furthering the study and interpretation of
this, the greatest lyric poet of Persia; the more so since it has long
been desirable to furnish students with a text-book appropriate to
their needs as beginners in the appreciation of Persian lyrical
poetry. The selection now presented has been made with the double
object of exhibiting the various aspects of Hafez style and thought,
and of representing how English scholars have attempted to render his
poetry in their own language. Lest it should be supposed that the work
of two centuries has exhausted every aspect of the study of Hafez, and
that the last word on his interpretation has been said, these
introductory remarks will suggest fresh approaches to the subject, and
propose a number of lines along which future research might with
advantage be directed.
Hafez is by universal consent the supreme master of the art of the Persian ghazal, a literary form generally equated with the lyric; though perhaps the sonnet is in some respects a closer equivalent. When it is considered that literary critics of undoubted authority have estimated Persian poetry as an important contribution to the art of self-expression in metre and rhyme, and the Persian ghazal as a form unsurpassable of its kind, it may be readily conceded that Hafez is a poet eminently worth study; and it may without undue optimism be conjectured that as a master of a splendid art-form he can still teach useful lessons to all who are interested in the evolution of poetic expression. If it is added, as a personal opinion, that Hafez technique can by modified imitation inspire new developments in western poetry, perhaps a claim so extravagant will not be rejected so summarily as similar claims less solidly founded; for Hafez is as highly esteemed by his countrymen as Shakespeare by us, and deserves as serious consideration.
There is little reliable information on which to construct a biography
of Hafez; though modern scholars have displayed great learning and
ingenuity in attempting to recover the salient facts of his
career. The student is recommended to consult the charming preface to
Gertrude Bell's Poems from the Divan of Hafez; the section on Hafez in
E.G. Browne's Literary History of Persia; the introduction to Hossein
Pezhman's edition of the Divan; and, above all, the voluminous and
profound study of the poet by Dr. Qasem Ghani (Bahth dar Athar u
ahval-e Hafez) which is now appearing in Tehran. Not to duplicate what
is readily accessible elsewhere, we confine ourselves here to the
barest outline of the poet's life.
Shams al-Din Hafez of Shiraz was born at the capital of the province of Fars about the year 720/1320; some sixty years after the great catastrophe of Islamic history, Hulagu Khan's capture and sack of Baghdad; and fifty years after the death of Jalal al-Din Rumi (d. 672/1273), Persia's most original mystical poet. He grew up in an age when the finest Persian literature had already been written, and in the shadow of the reputation of his distinguished fellow-citizen, Sheikh Sa'di (d. 690/1291 or 691/1292). Persian poetry had thus reached its consummation in the romantic epic (Nezami probably died in 599/1202), the mystical Mathnavi, the Robaii, the Qasideh (Anvari died between 585/1189 and 587/1191), and gnomic verse; Hafez spent little time on Qasideh, and Robaii, and none at all on the other classical forms, but elected to specialize in the Ghazal, no doubt supposing-and not without cause-that he had something to contribute to this most delicate of all poetic forms.
As a student, Hafez evidently learned the Qoran by heart (for so his name implies), and his poetry proves that, like other Persian poets, he acquired a competence in all the Muslim sciences taught in his day; for the Persian poet must have learning as much as original genius. It seems likely that he was a man of no great substance, especially if we admit the evidence of a manuscript of the Khamse of Amir Khosro of Delhavi (d. 725/1325) now preserved in the State Library of Tashkent which bears a colophon stating that it was written by "the humblest of God's creatures Muhammad nicknamed Shams al-Hafez al-Shirazi" and completed on 24 Safar 756/9 February 1355 (see A. A. Semenov's note in Sukhan, vol. II, pp. 95-6); for only a relatively poor man would seek his bread by transcribing other men's poems for pay. It remained for him therefore to develop and perfect his God-given genius for song, and by soliciting the favor of wealthy and powerful patrons to emulate in the fourteenth century those already legendary figures of the twelfth who had risen in the courts of princes to great eminence and abundant riches, and yet secured the highest prize of all, immortality in the hearts and on the lips of succeeding generations. Wealth, as it seems, was destined to elude Hafez grasp, for the age in which he lived was an age of insecurity and sudden catastrophe; but he achieved in full measure the ampler portion of eternal fame, even in lands whose very names were unknown in his day and among peoples speaking a language cognate with his own, yet never imagined in his mind.
Shiraz, "a large and flourishing town with many riches and many inhabitants" (as the anonymous author of the Hudud al-alam called it, writing towards the end of the tenth century), capital of the province of Fars from which Persia obtained her name in the West, at the time of Hafez birth formed part of the dominions of Sharaf al-Din Mahmood shah of the Inju dynasty, a fief of the Mongol overlord Uljaitu and his successor Abu Sa'id. The territories about the city were infested with robber bands, to prevent whose depradations formed no small part of the cares of the ruler. The death of Abu Said in 736/1335 provided the youthful Hafez with his first personal experience of the transient nature of human glory; for his follower Arpa Khan had Mahmood shah immediately put to death. There followed a struggle for power between his four sons, Jalal al-Din Masood shah, Ghiyath al-Din Keikhosro, Shams al-Din Muhammad and Abu Ishaq Jamal al-Din; Keikhosro was the first to pay the supreme penalty of unwise ambition (739/1339), to be followed to his grave the next year by Muhammad. Meanwhile Shiraz passed into the hands of Pir Hossein, the Chupanid princeling with whom Muhammad had conspired and who requited his confidence by slaying him; but the intruder had little joy of his filched possession; the infuriated populace drove him out, and when he would have returned the following year he fell out with a confederate and met his end. Masood shah, the eldest of Mahmood shah's sons, fell victim to an imprudent intrigue in 743/1343; and after a further bout of violence the youngest of the brothers, Abu Ishaq, at last succeeded in establishing his authority throughout Fars. We have a fragment of Hafez (Brockhaus' edition of the Divan, no. 579), written many years after these events, in which the poet recalls the reign of "Shah Sheikh Abu Ishaq when five wonderful persons inhabited the kingdom of Fars" --the Shah himself, the chief judge of Shiraz Majd al-Din Ismail bin Mohammad bin Khodadad, a certain Sheikh Amin al-Din, the eminent theologian and philosopher Adud al-Din Abd al-Rahman bin Ahmad al-Iji (d. 756/1355), and Hajji Qawam al-Din Hassan, a favorite of the Shah, whose death in 754/1353 Hafez celebrated with a necrology (Brockhaus no. 610).
Abu Ishaq was an ambitious man; having secured the mastery of Shiraz and Fars he sought to extend his dominion to embrace Yazd and Kerman, and so brought himself into conflict with the neighboring dynasty of the Mozaffarids. This house, founded by Sharaf al-Din Mozaffar (d. 713/1314) the fief successively of the Mongol Ilkhans Arghun, Ghazan, and Uljaitu, had its capital at Maibudh near Yazd. Mozaffar was succeeded by his son Mobarez al-Din Muhammad, at that time a lad of thirteen; he grew into a resolute and ruthless ruler, taking Yazd in 718/1318 or 719/1319 and holding his petty empire in the face of bloody rebellion; profiting by the chaos that resulted from the death of Abu Said, in 740/1340 he annexed Kerman. Twice Abu Ishaq essayed to wrest Kerman from the grasp of its new master, and twice he failed; in 751/1350-1 he tried his hand against Yazd, but was speedily repulsed; a third attempt at Kerman ended in a signal defeat (753/1352). Mobarez al-Din, encouraged by this final verdict, now took the offensive into the enemy's camp, and in 754/1353 he captured Shiraz; he pursued his triumph, took Isfahan, and put his stubborn foe to death in 757/1356 or 758/1357.
It appears that Shiraz did not greatly enjoy its change of rulers, for Mubarez al-Din was a Sunni zealot; the story of the closing of the wine-taverns, and Hafez supposed reference to the event, may be read in Browne (Literary History of Persia, vol. III, pp. 277-5). However, the conqueror did not long prevail in his new empire; for in 759/1358, while on a military expedition that had won for him the temporary possession of Tabriz, he was made prisoner by his own son Shah Shoja and, after the barbarous fashion of those days, blinded; he died in 765/1364. Hafez does not appear to have esteemed it profitable to solicit the favor of the austere Mobarez al-Din, though he has two poems in praise of his chief minister Borhan al-Din Fath Allah (Brockhaus, nos. 400, 571).
Shah Shoja enjoyed a relatively long reign, though he saw his share of fraternal envy and neighborly rivalries. His brother Shah Mahmood, who ruled over Abarquh and Isfahan, in 764/1363 seized Yazd; to be in turn besieged in Isfahan until the two princes came to an understanding. The reconciliation was short-lived; the following year Mahmood allied himself to Oweis the Jalairid ruler of Baghdad since 756/1355, and after laying siege to Shiraz for eleven months captured the city, only to lose it again in 767/1366. Shah Mahmood died in 776/1375, and thereupon Shah Shoja possessed himself of Isfahan. Oweis succumbed suddenly in the same year; and the lord of Shiraz thought the moment opportune to enlarge himself towards Azarbaijan at the expense of Hossein, the new sovereign of Baghdad. However, what success Shah Shoja' achieved was soon undone when he found his nephew Shah Yahya conspiring against him; he renounced his spoils, made peace with Hossein, and married his son Zein al-Abedin to the Baghdadi's sister. This was far from the end of trouble between the two neighbors; and when Hossein was murdered by his brother Ahmad in 783/1381, the latter, confronted by the inevitable succession of hopeful pretenders, was glad to solicit the friendly support of Shah Shoja, and to repudiate it as soon as his throne seemed secure. But meanwhile a cloud was gathering on the horizon that would presently grow into a storm sweeping all these petty conspiracies into ruin and oblivion. Teymur Lang, born at Kash in Transoxiana in 736/1336, had won his way through blood to the throne as "rightful heir" to Chaghatai and true descendant of Chingiz; after ten years' wars of consolidation, he invaded Khorasan in 782/1380-1, and within two years mastered Gorgan. Mazandaran and Seistan. Shah Shoja, recognizing the portents, bought the favor of the mighty conqueror with rich gifts and a daughter; death spared him further anxieties in 786/ 1384.
The reign of Shah Shoja saw the full blossoming of the flower of Hafez genius. Being a man of more liberal views than his predecessor, he created the conditions indispensable to the free display of poetic talent; and though it is said that relations between the poet and his royal patron were at times lacking in cordiality (see Browne, op. cit. vol. III, pp. 280-2), Hafez immortalized him by name in four poems (cf. Brockhaus, nos. 327, 344, 346) and wrote a noble necrology for his epitaph (Brockhaus, no. 601); it is as certain as such conjectures can be that very many other poems in the Divan, though not naming Shah Shoja directly, were composed for him. Future researchers may recover much from the obscure hints scattered up and down the poet's verses to shed new light on the dark history of these years in the chequered fortunes of Shiraz.
Shah Shoja shortly before dying nominated his son Zein al-Abedin Ali to rule over Shiraz, and his brother Emad al-Din Ahmad to govern Kerman. Ali was immediately opposed by his cousin Shah Yahya bin Sharaf al-Din Mozaffar (Hafez courted him by name in five poems) who although subsequently reconciled lost his command of Isfahan and fled to Yazd. In 789/1387 Ali, learning that his nominee at Isfahan, Mozaffar-e Kashi, had yielded before the approach of Teymur, abandoned Shiraz for Baghdad and left it to Shah Yahya to make what terms he could with the formidable invader. The people of Isfahan were so imprudent as to kill Teymur's envoys, and expiated their rashness in a fearful massacre. Teymur declared Sultan Ahmad the governor of Fars, as well as Kerman; then followed a bewildering series of events, characteristic of the kaleidoscopic nature of the destinies of those times. Zein al-Abedin Ali on quitting Shiraz had secured the friendship of his cousin Shah Mansoor b. Sharaf al-Din Mozaffar at Shushtar, but was almost immediately attacked and imprisoned by him. Shah Mansoor (whom Hafez complimented in a number of poems, including, according to some manuscripts) now walked into undefended Shiraz; and when Ali, released by his jailers, made common cause with Shah Yahya and Sultan Ahmad against him, Mansoor defeated the coalition and occupied all Iraq. Ali fled, but was captured by the governor of Raiy and handed over to Shah Mansoor, who ordered him to be blinded. Flushed with these successes, Mansoor thought to match his fortunes against the dread Teymur's. It was an unlucky speculation. The mighty conqueror marched. to the gates of Shiraz, and there, after a desperate resistance, Mansoor fell. The rest of the Mozaffarids immediately declared their submission to Teymur; but their tardy realism secured them only a week's further lease of life, and in Rajab 795/March l393 they were all executed.
Hafez had not lived to see the final ruin of the house that had patronized his genius and been immortalized in his songs. In the year 791/1389 (or, according to some authorities, 792/1390) he passed to the mercy of God, and discovered at last the solution to the baffling riddle of human life. His death took place in the beloved city that had given him birth; he lies buried in the rose-bower of Mosalla, on the banks of the Roknabad, so often celebrated in his poems; his grave is marked by a tablet inscribed with two of his songs.
Such, in brief outline, were the main events of fourteenth-century Fars, so far as they affected Hafez life. The legends of his relations with distant rulers, of his intended journey to India, of his debate with Teymur Lang, may be read in Gertrude Bell and the other biographers, for what they are worth; it is sufficient to say that we have no contemporary evidence for them, and that they rest in all likelihood upon no securer basis than the intelligent speculation of his readers in after times; modern criticism is perhaps entitled to make its own guesses with equal measure of certainty and uncertainty. What is indisputable is that these were the times in which the poet lived, and these the verses (or as much of them as are genuine, of which more hereafter) in which he expressed his reactions to the world about him. Being a near and interested witness of many transactions of great violence, and the incalculable destinies of kings and princes, he might well sing:
"Again the times are out of joint; and again
For wine and the loved one's languid glance I am fain.
The wheel of fortune's sphere is a marvelous thing:
What next proud head to the lowly dust will it bring?
Or if my Magian elder kindle the light,
Whose lantern, pray, will blaze aflame and be bright?
'Tis a famous tale, the deceitfulness of earth;
The night is pregnant: what will dawn bring to birth?
Tumult and bloody battle rage in the plain:
Bring blood-red wine, and fill the goblet again!"
3. Various Editions of Divan
It is said that in the year 770/1368-9 Hafez Prepared a definitive
edition of his poems. What truth there is in this tradition it is
impossible now to decide; in any case we possess no manuscripts based
upon this archetype; for all our transcriptions they must surely run
into many thousands scattered all over the world probably go back
ultimately to the edition put out after the poet's death by his friend
Muhammad Golandam with a florid but singularly uninformative
preface. Unless therefore the unexpected should happen, and beyond all
reasonable hopes a manuscript or manuscripts turn up representing a
tradition anterior to Golandam's edition, we cannot get any nearer to
the poems as Hafez himself wrote them than the text authorized after
his death by a friend whose piety is unquestionable, but concerning
whose scholarship and accuracy we are not in a position to form any
judgment. The only other slight chance of escaping from this impasse,
a slender one indeed, is to examine all the commentaries on the Divan
(four in Persian and three in Turkish are known), every takhmis or
tasdis (poems incorporating in Divan of Hafez) composed by later
poets, and every Jung (commonplace book) and tadhkira (biographies) in
which Hafez is quoted, as well as every poem written since his time in
which his verses are introduced by the figure known as tadmin; and it
might well be found, at the end of all these labors, that we had still
not progressed far beyond Golandam.
Certainly well over a hundred printed or lithographed texts of Hafez have appeared, since the editio princeps issued by Upjohn's Calcutta press in 1791. Of these all but a very few represent a completely uncritical approach to the task of editorship. The best European edition is no doubt that of H. Brockhaus (Leipzig, 1854-63) which is based on the manuscript of the Turkish commentator Sudi (d. 1006/1598) and includes a considerable part of his commentary. Several critical texts have been prepared in recent years by Persian scholars; of these the most reliable is that published at Tehran in 1320/1941 under the editorship of Mirza Mohammad Qazvini, E.G. Browne's friend and the doyen of modern Persian studies, and Dr Qasem Ghani, whose valuable and comprehensive monograph on the life and times of Hafez has already been mentioned. The most serious drawback to this otherwise admirable and beautiful text-it is a reproduction of an excellent original written in calligraphic nasta'liq is its deficient critical apparatus. This text is based on a comparison of no fewer than seventeen manuscripts, several of them exceedingly old, and has been made by two of the most eminent Persian scholars, Hossein Pezhman (Tehran, 1318/1939), and Masood Farzad.
The first and most fundamental problem attending the task of editing Hafez is to decide which of the poems attributed to him in the various manuscripts are genuine products of his pen. An indication of the complexity of this problem is provided by the following figures. The Calcutta 1791 edition contains 725 poems; Brockhaus printed 692; Pezhman has 994 items, many of them marked as doubtful or definitely spurious. The Qazvini and Ghani edition of Divan has 495 ghazals as unquestionably genuine, beside 3 qasidehs, 2 mathnavis, 34 occasional pieces (muqatta'at) and 42 robais, a total of 573 poems. Their peer editorship causes a number of popular favorites (popular rather in India and Europe than in Persia) to disappear, perhaps the best known of them being the jingle "taza ba-taza nau ba-nau" which B. H. Palmer and Gertrude Bell made into pleasant English verses.
When the supposititious poems have been rejected, the next task is to determine what lines of each genuine poem are authentic; for very many of them have been inflated in the manuscripts, sometimes by as much as four or five couplets. This labor accomplished, it yet remains to establish the correct order of the lines of each poem-there is sometimes the wildest variation in this respect between the manuscripts. Finally, and in many ways most troublesome of all, we have to settle the innumerable problems of verbal variants.
There are a number of different reasons for this wide inconsistency between the manuscripts. To consider the spurious poems first: the explanation of this phenomenon is fairly simple; no doubt the prevailing cause is the desire of copyists at one stage or other of the transmission of the text to secure for their own inferior versifying an unmerited immortality by signing their products with Hafez name. This is the conclusion reached by all scholars who have looked at the problem, and not only in connection with Hafez; for it is a very prevalent malaise of Persian literature. But it seems reasonable to suppose that this does not tell the whole story. It may well be, in the first place, that other poets, possibly in Hafez lifetime even, used the same pen-name as the great master; and that lyrics by them, quite innocently confounded with the poems of the supreme Hafez, have been diligently incorporated into the Divan. Again, it is not an impossible conjecture that, just as painters of great eminence in Persia are known to have signed the work of their pupils after making a few masterly retouches, so a celebrated poet would add to his income by teaching the craft to promising aspirants and would permit their "corrected" exercises to bear his name; he would be able during his lifetime to exclude such school specimens from the canon, but if they survived into later times there would be nothing but consummate literary taste to distinguish them from the poet's own work; and literary taste declined lamentably in the generations that followed Hafez, if indeed it ever existed to any marked extent among professional copyists. Lastly we have perhaps to reckon with a third group of poems written by Hafez himself-juvenilia and such-like-but rejected by him in the fastidiousness of his mature judgment. It would interest the scribe who worked for pay, especially if he had in prospect a wealthy but ill-educated patron, by dint of drawing on all these subsidiary sources to impress and please his master with "the largest and the most complete copy of Hafez poems yet assembled"; and so the evil tradition of an inflated text, once securely founded, would continue into later times and ultimately gain the deceptive respectability of age.
The phenomenon of obtrusive lines calls for a rather different diagnosis. The chief causes of this blemish seem to be twofold. First, we may conjecture that men of parts, while reading a good and uninflated manuscript of Hafez, might amuse themselves by noting in the margin verses of other poets, in the same metre and rhyme, which seemed to them comparable and apposite; these annotations would of course be incorporated by a later scribe into the body of the text. Secondly, it is highly likely-and there are numerous passages in the Divan which lend support to this supposition-that a considerable number of these extra lines go back to Hafez himself, and represent stages in his workmanship.
Verbal variants have their own variety of causes. Primarily there is the well-known carelessness of scribes, and, what is perhaps even more deplorable, their dishonesty; failing to understand a word or a phrase, they sometimes did not hesitate to bring their archetype within the range of their own limited comprehension. In the second place, these variants in many instances doubtless perpetuate the poet's first, second, third, or even fourth thoughts.
The foregoing analysis is not, the reader must believe, mere speculation; it is based upon a wide experience of manuscripts and a considerable apprenticeship in the trade of editing oriental texts; and chapter and verse could readily be quoted to illustrate every variety of contrariety and corruption. We will leave the subject with a recommendation that future editors of Hafez should exercise their scholarship, not unprofitably, by classifying according to their causes the outstanding variants in the codices.
4. Hafez' Poetic Style
Hafez found in the ghazal a well-developed art-form; it had been an instrument
of many famous poets, each of whom had contributed in his turn something
towards its evolution. Limited by circumstance and tradition to a comparatively
short length convenient for singing, it had begun its life as a poem of love
and wine; the Sufis had exploited its libertine reputation in their quest for
worldly shame, until the allegory had come finally to dominate the simple
reality. This new treatment of the form, that must have seemed startlingly
novel at first, was not long in fossilizing into a hard convention;
the miraculous facility of Sa'di's style might well have rendered further
development impossible. The problem Hafez faced was similar in its own way to
that which confronted Beethoven how to improve upon the apparently perfect
and final; Hafez solution was no less brilliantly original than Beethoven's.
Just as Beethoven's earliest compositions strikingly resemble the mature Haydn, so Hafez in his first period is perfect Sa'di. It is only natural to suppose that the young poet was captivated by the legend of the most famous singer Shiraz had ever produced; he must have been eager to learn every detail of his fame from the lips of those still living who had seen and heard him; to his youthful spirit it may well have seemed the acme of ambition to imitate his flawless style. Though his editor Golandam, by following the tradition of arranging his poems alphabetically according to rhyme, destroyed all vestiges of a chronological sequence, it is still possible within certain limits to assign the ghazals to definite periods in the poet's life; further research will doubtless establish a more exact precision in this respect than we have yet achieved.
The outstanding characteristic of the poems of Hafez' first period is that each deals with a single theme. This theme is elaborated to the poet's content and satisfaction; but he does not introduce as he always did later a second or a third theme to combine with the first; much less (as we find increasingly in the last period) does he make brief and fragmentary references to themes (for it was only after his fame had been established and his style become known that he could afford such refinements and be confident of remaining intelligible). A second point to note in the early poems is the complete absence of that distinctive philosophy which is the invariable accompaniment of his mature compositions: what may be epitomized as the doctrine of unreason, the poet's final answer to the inscrutability of fate, the utter incapacity of man to master the riddle of the universe. Thirdly, and as a natural corollary of the preceding point, we find in these products of early manhood very little of the Sufi allegory love in them is human love, wine is the red wine of the grape.
Hafez' second or middle period is marked by two important developments, the one relating to words and the other to meaning (to borrow the terminology of the Persian critics). The poet has found the escape for which he had been looking to rescue him from the impasse of Sa'di's technical perfection. Hitherto the ghazal had treated only one theme at a time, and had measured perfection in relation to the variations composed upon that single subject. In the works of many of the older poets (and Sa'di himself is not wholly exempt from this fault), the interest and ingenuity of the variations tended often to overshadow the significance of the theme itself; as a result the poem would cease to be an artistic unity; it would grow longer and longer; and there would be little difficulty for the critic actually to improve upon the poet's performance by pruning away the luxuriance of his imagination. Even in his younger days Hafez had always possessed too fine a critical sense to sacrifice unity on the a]tar of virtuosity; the new technique which he now invented depended wholly for success upon a rigid artistic discipline and an overwhelming feeling for shape and form.
The development in words (or, as we should say, poetic technique) invented by Hafez was the wholly revolutionary idea that a ghazal may treat of two or more themes, and yet retain its unity; the method he discovered might be described (to borrow a term from another art) as contrapuntal. The themes could be wholly unrelated to each other, even apparently incongruous; their alternating treatment would be designed to resolve the discords into a final satisfying harmony. As the poet acquired more and more experience of his new technique he was able to introduce further exciting innovations. It was not necessary to develop a theme to its logical conclusion at all; fragments of themes could be worked into the composition without damage to the resulting unity. It was the more easy to accomplish these experiments because convention had produced a regular repertory of themes to which Hafez added a few of his own creation and the audience would immediately recognize a familiar subject from the barest reference to it.
This brings us to Hafez' second development, that in meaning. This is called his philosophy of unreason, which constitutes the central core of the poet's message. It is not of course suggested that Hafez was the first Persian to discover, or to teach, that life is an insoluble mystery; the doctrine is implicit in the pessimism of Omar Khayyam, the mysticism of Rumi, even the pragmatism of Sa'di; its roots are deeply grounded in both Neoplatonism and the transcendental theism of the Qoran, those twain fountain-heads of Sufi theosophy. What Hafez did was rather to isolate this element from the mass of related and unrelated matter in which he found it embedded, and to put it forward as the focal point from which all theory, and all experience too, radiated. It was his justification for rejecting alike philosophy and theology, mosque and cloister, Legalistic righteousness and organized mysticism; it enabled him to profess his solidarity with the intoxicated Sufis like martyred Hallaj, and to revive the dangerous antinomianism of the Malamatis; but above all it provided him with a spiritual stronghold out of which he could view with serene equanimity, if not with indifference, the utterly confused and irrational world in which it was his destiny to live. Indeed it is scarcely surprising that Hafez should have found his only comfort in this doctrine, for the events he witnessed, and still more the events of which he must have heard all too much in his childhood the Mongol devastations and massacres were sufficient to shatter all belief in a reasonable universe, and to encourage the most pessimistic estimate of the significance of the individual life. We who have witnessed two world-wide wars, and have survived into what the journalists so appositely call the atomic age, are well placed to understand Hafez, and to appreciate the motives underlying his doctrine of intellectual nihilism. We can even understand how profoundly his philosophy differs from the hearty hedonism with which it has sometimes been confounded; the world's tragedy is too profound to be forgotten in unthinking mirth; and man for all his littleness and incapacity need not be unequal to the burden of sorrow and perplexity he is called upon to shoulder. Indeed, by abandoning the frail defences of intellectual reason and yielding himself wholly to the overwhelming forces of the spirit that surround him, by giving up the stubborn, intervening I m absolute surrender to the infinite thou man will out of his abject weakness rise to strength unmeasured; in the precious moments of unveiled vision he will perceive the truth that resolves all vexing problems, and win a memory to sustain him when the inevitable shadows close about him once more.
The middle period of Hafez artistic life the period of his greatest productivity was devoted to the working out of these two developments and their exploitation in a wide variety of forms. It should be remembered that all the time the poet was under the necessity of earning a livelihood; and this aspect of his poetry should not be neglected in any broad review. The praise of patrons, and the poet's own self-applause, are readily explained by the hard circumstances of his life, even if to Western taste they form the least attractive features of his work. In any case, as Persian critics have justly remarked, patron-flattery plays a far smaller part in Hafez' poetry than in that of any other court-minstrel, and his panegyric has little of the extravagance that characterizes so much of Persian literature.
The salient feature of the third and last period of Hafez' work is an increasing austerity of style, coupled with a growing tendency towards obscurity and allusiveness. It is as though the poet was growing weary, or perhaps feeling a distaste for the display of virtuosity; and having established his philosophy and perfected his technique, he was now experimenting in a sort of surrealist treatment of the ghazal. The poems of this period are comparatively few in number, but they are in many ways the poet's most interesting productions; they will repay extended study, for they are quite unique in Persian literature, and have perhaps never been fully understood and appreciated; certainly no later poet seems to have attempted to continue these final experiments of the master craftsman.
It will be useful to conclude by giving a few notes on the more
important of the manuscripts used in the edition of Qazvini, and
described fully in the introductory remarks of Mirza Mohammad. From
these details it may be easier for the future editor of Hafez, when he
comes to collate the best copies in Europe, to compare their merits
with those of the finest manuscripts in Iran.
This is a list of selected books on Hafez and his poems: