Authors: Hafiz

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Persian poet

Author Works


Divan, c. 1368 (The Divan, 1891)


Hafiz (HAH-fehz), also spelled Hafez, was the pen name of Shams al-Din Muhammad, the most celebrated of the Persian lyric poets. As a youth he studied poetry, theology, and philosophy under Shaik Mahmud ‘Attar, a Sufi mystic and head of an order of Dervishes. He joined the order and, for a while, taught the Koran, becoming a Hafiz, one who has memorized and recites the Koran. It is apparent from his poetry, however, that he soon withdrew from formalistic Sufism. Hafiz’s first literary patron was the shah of Fars, Abu Ishaqi Inju. Twelve years of serene life ended for Hafiz when the shah was ousted in 1353 by the ascetic Mubariz al-din Muhammad. Judging from Hafiz’s poetry, in which he chafes at even the thought of asceticism, the five-year reign of Mubariz al-din must have been a most unhappy time for the poet. In 1358 Shah Shuja overthrew his father, returned Fars to a more genial rule, and became the patron of Hafiz.{$I[AN]9810000600}{$I[A]Hafiz}{$S[A]Muhammad, Shams al-Din;Hafiz}{$S[A]Shams al-Din Muhammad;Hafiz}{$S[A]Din Muhammad, Shams al-;Hafiz}{$I[geo]IRAN;Hafiz}{$I[tim]1320;Hafiz}

By this time Hafiz had established his reputation in the Muslim world. Although he remained in Fars, he seems to have had several offers of patronage from neighboring rulers who wanted the poet to grace their courts with his presence and poetry. Almost no biographical information on Hafiz has survived, so little is known of his personal life, but according to references in his poetry, Hafiz was married and had a son who was lost while still a youth.

His most important work is The Divan, composed of more than five hundred poems, most of them short pieces in the form called ghazals. Ghazals are lyric poems consisting of six to fifteen couplets and are roughly equivalent to sonnets; they lack a logical sequence of ideas, being unified instead by symbolism and structure. Students of Persian poetry claim for the ghazals of Hafiz the height of subtlety and lyric expression. Although much of his poetry is about natural beauty, drinking, and love, Hafiz was a truly religious man, and he satirized hypocrisy in both laymen and religious leaders. The first compilation of Hafiz’s poetry by Muhammad Gulandam, a personal friend of Hafiz, contains 495 ghazals and is a manuscript dated about thirty-five years after Hafiz’s death. Later compilations bring the total number of poems ascribed to Hafiz to about one thousand; most of these probably are not authentic. His poetry influenced a number of Western writers, notably Ralph Waldo Emerson and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

BibliographyBell, Gertrude Lowthian. The Teachings of Hafiz. London: Octagon Press for the Sufi Trust, 1979. Includes a preface by E. Denison Ross with a detailed account of the fourteenth century historical and political setting in which Hafiz lived.Browne, Edward G. “Hafiz of Shīrāz.” In A Literary History of Persia. 1926. 4 vols. Reprint. Vol. 3. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1969. A review by an eminent Western Persianist of the biographical lore on Hafiz, as well as a commentary on Hafiz translations and attendant problems. Bibliography.Cloutier, David. News of Love. Greensboro, S.C.: Unicorn Press, 1984. Translations of Hafiz’s poems. Discusses the theme of separation and union in the process of love relationships.Hafiz. The Divan of Hafez: A Bilingual Text, Persian-English. Translated by Reza Saberi. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 2002. Presents a translation of Hafiz’ Divan, with facing Persian-English pages. Hafiz’ life and work are discussed in the introduction. Includes a glossary.Hafiz. Drunk on the Wine of the Beloved: One Hundred Poems of Hafiz. Translated by Thomas Rain Crowe. Boston: Shambhala, 2001. This translation of some of Hafiz’s poems includes a useful introduction and a section on the poet.Hafiz. The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Master. Translated by David Ladinsky. New York: Penguin Putman, 1999. A well-known translator of Hafiz presents a major collection of English translations preceded by an introduction that surveys the life and work of Hafiz. Ladinsky’s translations are playful, contemporary, and rich in surprising metaphors.Hafiz. Hafez: Dance of Life. Translated by Michael Boylan. Washington, D.C.: Mage, 1988. Twelve plates by a leading Iranian painter giving a Sufi interpretation to twelve poems, which are translated freely by an American poet who emphasizes their earthbound and romantic elements, followed by an afterword that treats reasons for Hafiz’ special appeal to Iranians. Brief bibliography.Hafiz. Poems from the “Divan” of Hafiz. 1897. New ed. Translated by Gertrude Lowthian Bell. London: William Heinemann, 1928. Still the most highly regarded English versions of Hafiz, containing forty-three ghazals in translation following a lengthy (and sometimes inaccurate) introduction presenting the historical background, the standard biographical lore, and a recapitulation of the extent of Sufi influence on Hafiz.Hillmann, Michael C. “Classicism, Ornament, Ambivalence, and the Persian Muse.” In Iranian Culture: A Persianist View. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1988. An attempt to discern enduring Iranian cultural attitudes in an examination of aesthetic aspects and criteria discernible in Hafiz’ ghazals, among them appreciation of tradition, formality, and ceremony, a penchant for embellishment and the ornamental, and a capacity for ambivalence in attitudes, ideas, beliefs, and standards. Bibliography.Hillmann, Michael C. Unity in the Ghazals of Hafez. Minneapolis, Minn.: Bibliotheca Islamica, 1976. A formalist analysis of sixteen Hafizian ghazals in a response to long-standing charges by Iranian scholars and scholars of Asia that Hafiz’ poems lack unity. Includes an extensive list in notes and bibliography of writings on Hafiz in European languages. Bibliography, index.Meisami, Julie Scott. Medieval Persian Court Poetry. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1987. A medievalist’ attempt to rescue traditional Persian court poetry from the disfavor into which it has fallen, through a demonstration of its similarities with medieval literature in the West. A chapter entitled “Ghazal: The Ideals of Love,” deals with Sanā (1050-1131) and Hafiz, who stand at the beginning and end of the period in which ghazal writing was at its peak. Bibliography, index.Pourafzal, Haleh, and Roger Montgomery. The Spiritual Wisdom of Haféz: Teachings of the Philosopher of Love. Rochester, Vt.: Inner Traditions, 1998. A good introduction to Hafiz’ poetry. Explores how his work speaks to current scholarship in philosophy, psychology, social theory, and education. Bibliographical references, index.Yarshater, Ehsan, comp. and ed. Persian Literature. Albany, N.Y.: Bibliotheca Persica, 1988. The first comprehensive overview of Persian literature since shortly after World War II, with an article on medieval lyric poetry and another on Hafiz. Bibliography, index.
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