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Rowboat :: Translation Contest

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Hafiz you translate it.docx

You Translate It:

Khwāja Shams ud-Dīn muhammad Hāfiz-i Shirāzī

Editor’s Note: This issue’s poem to be translated by our readers is a ghazal by the Persian poet Hafiz. Readers are invited to create their own translation of this poem, with the help of the commentary provided below by Hafiz translator Elizabeth T. Gray, Jr. The version of this poem which the editors of Rowboat find most inspiring will be published in a future issue, and the writer will receive a free one-year subscription to Rowboat. What a deal! Translations can be submitted via our website (www.RowboatMagazine.com) or sent to Rowboat at 319 Center Street, Ithaca, NY 14850.

Ghazal […ghubār-i tanam.]

Hafiz of Shiraz (d. 1389 C. E.) is the acknowledged master of the classical Persian ghazal, a brief, strict lyric form. His Dīwān (collected works) stands next to the Qur’an in every Persian household, and is often used for divination and augury. In the eastern Islamic world you can hear his poetry recited or sung in households, bazaars, on the radio, and at spiritual gatherings. There is no equivalent poet in English literature. Hafiz’s poems about love (for a Beloved, a patron, or God) are not a King James Bible, and the poems of Shakespeare and Donne are not used for divination, nor are they sung by taxi drivers waiting at a traffic light.

Hafiz was born in Isfahan, in south central Iran, and lived most of his life in his beloved Shiraz, which lies along the Ruknabad river and was known for its vineyards and gardens. His pen-name, Hafiz, implies he knew the Qur’an by heart. In addition to his classical education and vast learning, he must have been politically astute: he remained at court for decades, writing poems while rulers and patrons came and went during the chaotic demise of the Il Khanid empire and the rise of Timur Lang (Tamerlane).

In 1972, in the western Iranian city of Tabriz, in an elderly and dreadful translation, I discovered the ghazals of Hafiz. Some months later, in Shiraz, standing at his alabaster tomb covered in calligraphy, I found myself surrounded by rose bushes, cypress trees, and pilgrims. Surely these pilgrims were not there for the late-Victorian versions I’d found in Tabriz. As I moved east toward Bam and Zahedan, I decided I needed to read the poems in the original, and started studying Persian in 1973.

This particular ghazal is one of the more overtly mystical of Hafiz’s ghazals. The Islamic mystic, like those in other traditions, seeks a direct and transformative relationship with God; he seeks to transcend this existence and to become one with the Divine.

The ghazal form is extremely strict. Each bayt (“line,” here rendered as a couplet) consists of two misra’ (“half-lines,” here rendered as single lines). In the opening bayt (the matla’), each half-line ends in a monorhyme. This same monorhyme is repeated at the end of each bayt thereafter. The final bayt (the maqta’) contains the poet’s takhallos (name or pen name).

The matla’ sets the ghazal’s meter, and each subsequent misra’ must strictly conform to it without variation. Although Persian is an accentual, Indo-European language, the meters used in classical Persian verse are quantitative, and adapted from Arabic prosody. The meter here is mujtathth makhbūn mahdhūf, which scans [r. to l.]: o-o-/oo--/o-o-/oo-. Whether a syllable is long or short depends on its length (e.g. consonant + long vowel, or consonant + short vowel + consonant, etc.), not on whether it receives spoken emphasis.

I have not used one of the scholarly systems for my transliteration of the Persian. Instead, I have tried to render the transliteration to enable any reader of English to get a rough approximation of how the original sounds. Likewise, I have omitted the diacritical marks that identify which h or s or z is being used in a word.

I am deeply grateful to Iraj Anvar, on the faculty at Brown University, for his advice and illumination.

THE TEXT
حجاب چهرۀ جان میشود غبار تنم
خوشا دمی که از آن چهره پرده بر فکنم
چنین قفص نه سزای چو من خوش الحانیست
روم به گلشن رضوان که مرغ آن چمنم
عیان نشد که چرا آمدم کجا بودم
دریغ و درد که غافل ز کار خویشتنم
چگونه طوف کنم در فضای عالم قدس
چو در سراچۀ ترکیب تخته بند تنم
اگر ز خون دلم بوی شوق میآید
عجب مدار که هم درد نافۀ ختنم
طراز پیرهن زر کشم مبین چون شمع
که سوزهاست نهانی درون پیرهنم
بیا و هستی حافظ ز پیش او بردار
که با وجود تو کس نشنود ز من که منم

حافظ شیرازی

(1)        hejab-e chehreh-ye jān mīshavad ghobār-e tanam

        the veil of the face of my soul is the dust of my body

khoshā damī keh az ān chehreh pardeh bar fakanam

        happy that moment when from that face the veil I throw away

(2)        chonīn qafas nah sezāī cho man khosh-alhānīst

such a cage [is] not appropriate/deserved because I am beautiful-of-voice

ravam beh golshan-e Rezvān ke morgh-e ān chamanam

        I will go to the rose-garden of Rezvān because I am the bird of that field

(3)        ‘ayān nashavad keh cherā āmadam kojā būdam

        it isn’t clear/visible why I came [and] where I was

darīgh-o dard keh qhāfel zeh kār khīshtanam

        alas [lit. pain and regret] that I am unaware of my situation

(4)        chegūneh tauf konam dar fazā-ye ālam-e qods

        how can I circumambulate in the space/expanse of heaven

chū dar sarāche-ye tarkīb takhteh-band-e tanam

        when in the mixed/alloyed small house/palace my body is boarded-up/imprisoned

(5)        agar zeh khūn-e delam bū-ye showq mīāyad

        if from the blood of my heart the scent of joy/longing comes        

‘ajab madār keh hamdard-e nāfeh-ye khotanam

        do not be surprised because I am a fellow-sufferer/empathizer of the musk-gland of Khotan

(6)        tarāz az pīrohan zar-kesham mabīn chūn shameh’

        do not look at/be distracted by the decoration/adornment of my gold-emboidered shirt

[which is] like a candle

keh sūzhāst nehānī darūn pīrahanam

        for there are hidden/secreted fires [i.e. hidden pain] within my shirt

(7)        biyā o hastī-ye Hāfiz zeh pīsh-e oo bar dār

        come and take the life/existence of Hafiz from him [lit. from his, i.e. Hafiz’s, presence]

keh bā vojūd-e to kas nashenūd zeh man keh manam

for with your existence/as long as you exist no one will hear from me that I am

Notes

(1)        damī: “moment” literally means “a breath”

bar fakanam: a contraction of bar afkanam, means “I throw away/aside” or “I pull away,” but does not mean “I tear/rip off/away.”

(2)        sezāī: this adjective means “suitable” or “deserved,” often used in the context of punishment (as in “he got his just deserts”; thus this phrase means something like “this cage is not a suitable/just punishment”

        Rezvān: Rezvān is the Qur’ānic angel who tends Paradise

(3)        kār: lit “work” has a broad range of meanings and is commonly part of compound words and phrases; here it means “situation” but also implies “my actions/work”

(4)        tauf kardan: this compound verb means “to walk around, to circle”

        qods: [precise transliteration = quds] means “heaven,” thus “’ālam-i qods” means “the earth/world of heaven.”

        sarāche: a small palace or small house, an interior building or even a closet

        tarkīb: mixed or compounded (as in chemistry or metallurgy), here implying a taint or impurity

takhteh-band: “tied to a board” meaning detained or imprisoned; during the Mongol era (in which Hafiz lived) prisoners were often tied to a large wooden board as punishment

(5)        khūn-e del: intense love spills one’s heart-blood

        nāfe-ye khotan: nāfe: the scent-gland of the male musk deer. When dried, the sac breaks open and spills out the musk as a red powder, highly-scented and more valuable than gold; the most highly-prized musk came from the oasis town of Khotan (in present-day Xinjiang Province, China)

(6)        A beautiful person of tall stature is often compared to a candle.

(7)        keh bā vojūd-e to kas nashenūd zeh man keh manam: The second misra’ seems to speak from a place of union with the divine Beloved, an experience of the mystical state of fana’, or “annihilation” [of self] in the Divine. It can be read, roughly, as: “As long as You exist, then no one can/will hear me say ‘I am’ [because ‘I’ have died/been dissolved in/become one with You].”


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