Islamic and Friendship Studies at Oberlin College

Mary Post FYSP #4

Fourth Response Paper: 

Lyric poetry is one of the most important forms of Persian poetry. It is often sung and has a strong rhythem to it that only enhances the audience’s experience with it. There are many different poets of lyric poetry, but one of the most well known is Khwāja Shams-ud-Dīn Muḥammad Ḥāfeẓ-e Shīrāzī. In this paper, we will be exploring Lyric poetry in many different time periods. 

On page 42 of A.J. Arberry’s Persian Poems: An anthology of verse translations, the poet Sana’i writes the following in his poem the Devil’s Complaint: “He was my only passion, all other loves apart; The phoenix of devotion, nested within my heart.” 

In the first segment, “He was my only passion, all other loves apart” the author is differentiating passion and love. That is, there is an infatuation present that is certainly stronger than love, however, it is unbalanced and perhaps more dangerous. The second segment: “The phoenix of devotion, nested within my heart.” goes on to explain a devotion that is strong and fierce until it disappears, only to come back stronger and more persuasive, stuck in the author’s heart for all of eternity it seems. 

The full poem goes on to explain the shame and worry the author holds for being devout to the wrong holy figure. Because of this, one can assume that the adoration of the Devil (or really anything besides the Beloved) is not to be maintained by a devout follower. This poem, then, is an example of how lyric poetry intertwines devoutness, self-awareness, and human error; all to show an example of the power of G-d’s love and adoration. 

Later on, on page 46, the poet Rumi describes these same themes in Poor Copies: “Oh, never vex thine heart with idle woes: all high discourse enchanting the rapt ear, all gilded landscapes and brave glistering shows fade — perish, but is not as fear.”  In the first segment “Oh, never vex thine heart with idle woes: all high discourse enchanting the rapt ear,” Rumi is saying to the audience, don’t worry about the little things, as the ones that draw the most attention are the least important to one’s life in the long run. In the second segment, Rumi says “all gilded landscapes and brave glistering shows fade — perish, but is not as fear.” Here, he is telling the audience that those who shine the brightest will also die the fastest… don’t waste your time on the things that are most popular if they are not true to your essence, instead invest in this that balance one’s self-awareness. 

Throughout both of these poems, it is clear that the themes of self-awareness, adoration of others, and trust are present. This remains the same as we move into our discussion about Ḥāfeẓ. 

Khwāja Shams-ud-Dīn Muḥammad Ḥāfeẓ-e Shīrāzī was a poet who lived in the 13th and 14th centuries. He was incredibly influential to the Persian culture, as well as other cultures. In fact, his innate messages of love, adoration, and self-awareness are transcribed to different ages and cultures beyond his time. On page five of Faces of Love, written by Ḥāfeẓ, is a poem that examines the ability to be self-aware, as well as the influence of one’s beloved. As Ḥāfeẓ says: “A flower, without a friend’s face there, I think… that is not good;  and springtime, if there wasn’t wine to drink… that isn’t good.” That is, one cannot know joy if one cannot celebrate it with their friends. When one does not have others they can love, their lives are not full. Ḥāfeẓ saying this implies the value he wishes upon others for their relationships. 

On page seven, Ḥāfeẓ again gives us great guidance. “And when did kindness end? What brought the sweetness of our town to naught? The ball of generosity lies on the field for all to see.” Ḥāfeẓ charges the audience in that he poses the questions of how and why kindness would end. The answer, it seems, is when adoration of self is more important than adoration and respect of the heavens. 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a German poet who lived in the 18th century. Known for his adoration and respect for Ḥāfeẓ and his poetry, Goethe built on the values of Ḥāfeẓ creating his own style of poetry. As the Encyclopedia Iranica explains, Goethe began to study Ḥāfeẓ in 1814, due to his interest in lyric poetry. During this time he studied many volumes of Ḥāfeẓ’s works hoping to learn his practicum and apply it to his own works. Goethe eventually goes on to write poems addressed to Ḥāfeẓ — seemingly because of his respect and impression for him and his works. Like many great poets Ḥāfeẓ influenced poets and non-poets alike for centuries after his lifetime. Why? Because his works are approachable and continue to inspire individuals to recognize self, love for others, and the value of trust in higher powers. 

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My experience with calligraphy has been a trying one. It is difficult to be left-handed and tasked with the reproduction of such sacred and beautiful can be daunting at times but I’ve found the more I practice the more confident I become. I love memorizing the poetry and cannot wait for the day I am presenting at some conference or meeting and I recite a line of Rumi’s or Ḥāfeẓ’s lovely lines! 

Bibliography

Arberry, A.J., ed. Persian Poems: An Anthology of Verse Translations. N.p.: Yassavoli Publications, 2008.

“GOETHE, JOHANN WOLFGANG von.” Encyclopedia Iranica. Last modified December 15, 2001. Accessed February 9, 2012. http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/goethe.

Mahallati, Jafar. “Class Discussions.” Lecture, Oberlin College, Oberlin, OH, October 2019.

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