Islamic and Friendship Studies at Oberlin College

Anna Francis: Oral Culture and Poetry Response Paper 4

Anna Francis

Professor Mahallati

FYSP 181

6 November 2019

Lyric Poetry, Goethe, Calligraphy, and Memorization

In this paper, I will discuss Hafez’s ideas of spiritual unity, the discovery of truth, and the divine love of friends in his lyric poetry. I will also discuss the bridge between Goethe and Hafez as well as reflect on my experience with calligraphy and memorization. 

To begin with, lyric poetry is a type of poetry that expresses emotions. Hafez highlights the idea that spiritual unity with God is the most desirable connection to have. He evokes feelings of desire, passion, and intimacy with God. On page 12, he writes, “And it’s not strange that I should choose your street in which to wait – thousands of strangers in this world are in the selfsame state. The loved one doesn’t spare a glance – the lover must endure it” (12). Here, he is implying that it is not strange to choose God’s street because God’s path is ideal and conventional. It is the only path that should be followed because God is superior. Hafez continues to illustrate God’s superiority in the second line. It states that “Thousands of strangers in this world are in the selfsame state” (Ibid). In other words, thousands of strangers chose to follow God’s path and worship his greatness. This exhibits God as a desirable figure to follow.

Hafez expands on the notion of spiritual unity by hinting at the hardships that come with seeking a deeper connection with God. He writes, “The loved one doesn’t spare a glance – the lover must endure it” (Ibid). The loved one is God, also known as the Beloved, who does not acknowledge the lover, the seeker of spiritual unity. Therefore, the lover must endure the disregard of the Beloved. This line suggests that the journey to achieving spiritual closeness with God is not easy, as it requires great endurance and personal drive. Hindus in Ancient India followed a doctrine of Bhakti, which referred to the devotion to one supreme deity. Bhakti rituals emphasized the importance of darshan, a term used to describe the action of seeing or being seen by God. Hafez’s poem regards darshan as the ultimate goal of a lover who must endure the journey that leads them to seeing God. 

Hafez’s poems also touch upon the discovery of the truth of the world’s reality. His poem reads, “Last night I took my troubles to the Magian sage whose keen eyes see a hundred answers in the wine; laughing he showed the cup to me – I asked him, ‘When was this cup that shows the world’s reality handed to you?’ He said, ‘The day Heaven’s vault of lapis lazuli was raised, and marvelous things took place by Intellect’s divine decree, and Moses’ miracles were made and Sameri’s apostacy’ (42). In retrospect, magnificent, divine events led to the sage’s ownership over the cup of truth. Moses, as mentioned in the poem, was a prophet who wrote the Torah, a book of the law of God. In doing so, he uncovered God’s truth.

Furthermore, Lapis lazuli is a deep, celestial blue stone that was used to produce ultramarine, the finest and most expensive blue pigment. It was popular among Renaissance artists who used ultramarine in their paintings as an icon of royalty and spirituality. It was specifically used as the color of the dress of the Virgin Mary to symbolize her direct connection to God as the mother of Jesus. “Heaven’s vault of lapis lazuli” represents the high degree of spirituality. The raising of the vault conveys that the flourishing of spirituality led to the discovery of truth.

In addition, Hafez teaches that the love of friends resembles the divine love of God. Hafez writes, “On Glory’s highway, and upon Good Fortune’s throne, I raise the wine-cup, and recieve my friends’ warm welcome and their praise! And from that moment that your glance first troubled me, I’m sure I’ve been immune to all the troubles the last days have in store” (3). Glory’s highway represents the road to glory. On the road to glory, one is prosperous, wealthy and healthy. On Glory’s throne, in other words, in the presence of good fortune, one will raise their cup of wine to receive the respect and praise of friends. According to Clifton Miller, wine refers to the substance that causes spiritual inebriation. The cup that carries the wine is used by those who thirst after spiritual joy and inebriation from divine love (Miller). Therefore, friends are capable of offering spiritual joy and divine love. This suggests that the love of friends closely resemble the love of God. 

The West-Eastern Divan is a collection of lyrical poems created by Goethe, a renowned poet of German literature, who was inspired by the Persian poet Hafez. In 1814, Goethe was introduced to the German translation of Hafez’s poems by Joseph von Hammer. The West-Eastern Divan illustrates the exchange in dialogue between the two poets and bridges the different cultures from the West and the East. In the collection, Goethe combined elements of Eastern poetry, the Christian Orient, travel descriptions by visitors to the East, and German translations of Oriental works (Nazari).  

As I continue my calligraphy practice, I encounter new areas of improvement. One area of improvement is to properly write dots on the vowels. Rather than geometrically resembling a diamond, the shape of the dot is slightly curved on the top and diagonally points downward at the bottom. Another area of improvement is to create letters, such as teh and sin, with a wider and more natural curve. In class, we practiced arabic calligraphy on the chalkboard. This class activity allowed me to get a sense of my peers’ calligraphy styles as well as their areas of strength. 

Memorization continues to teach me about rhythm and accents in Persian poetry. The lines “be nam-e khodavand-e jan afareen hakeem-e sokhan dar zaban afareen” have a bold rhythm where the accent is placed on every a vowel. On the other hand, the lines “cho ghon-cheh gar-che foroo-bastegist kar-e jahan to ham-cho bad-e bahari gereh gosha mi-bash” have a softer, wave-like rhythm. 

Works Cited

Hafez. Faces of Love – Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz.

Miller, Lloyd Clifton. Music and Song in Persia: The Art of Āvaz. Salt Lake City: The University 

of Utah Press, 1999.

Nazari, Morad. “Hafez and Goethe.” Morad Nazari: Philosophy & Religion, Love & Seduction, 17 Dec. 2015, http://www.moradnazari.com/hafez-and-goethe/.

I have adhered to the Honor Code on this assignment. Anna Francis.

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