81 poems from Hafez
[ 59 ]
Last night, my Beloved rose to me: a full white moon.
That cheek’s cold light singed my heart.
The One for whom overwhelming Lovers and overturning
cities seem as natural as pulling off a robe.
The One to whom each soul is a reason for being Sun – these
shreds of smoke and cloud to be reabsorbed.
Those black distractions of hair lour over stony faith – to draw
greater attention to that incandescence of Face.
Ah, these eyes have expended what blood in me heart mustered.
Love should account such tears as profit, as loss.
What can be given, then, to one whose soul is removed? Silver
is deemed dull, set against the plenty-coloured coat.
The One spoke outwardly – I’ll despatch you at my whim. Yet
an inward glance flashed unseen to this ﬁre within.
Then whispers, serenely whispered: Love, let burn this mortal
cloak. Beloved, oh: who taught You such love?
* * *
[ 11 ]
Vintner – tread my vine entire, oblivious, into wine.
Unstoppable dancer! Chance upon me, break me down.
You ask: When shall you, as solitary grape, desist? In a rush,
even as You make this sweet request, I’m eager for the must.
Or am I the drunk unseemly as empty bottles, whom none attends?
If only Your steward would pour, serenely downwards I’d ascend.
As the groom to his bride, Time strides to Doom with splayed arms.
I am sand in their hourglass, for lack of Your greyest sideways glance.
You say: My lips that draw blood are also a pitcher brimming elixir.
Either way – be it dread kiss or tongued flood – I’ll sweetly expire.
But yes, how daintily You tread. Toes unstained, no sloe-eyed evil
alights on Your frame. I swell one hope: as a grape Underfoot, to go.
Winemaster, if I’m never to glut at your private vat, grant me this wish:
as a dewdrop sensing its ocean, let me once taste You and be finished.
* * *
[ 70 ]
In a hidden chamber of my heart resides a sweet One. A silk cheek, a hook
of curl – and I begin to spark and shudder inside like the hammered horseshoe.
Across the street, they look and shout: Waster! Profligate! Wine-lover! All true.
We drinking companions, unworldly spirits, keep mild eyes wide, dark with You.
Hold me here, languid in the liquid fall of Your locks, and, with easy sighs, I’ll
stop dawn rising – no sun will come to comb the unkempt dark from Your hair.
Dare even the tiniest step towards the drunkards’ den and You’ll find me there,
ready, with wines unwatered, the stanzas honeyed.
When the Master arrives like this, that fine old face bearing a splendid beard
of reddish gold, my jaundiced face, likewise, turns aurous.
Those bows of Your tresses deliver glances in volleys: in my heart, already
wounded, so many targets remain, desiring the delicious calamity.
One tip of plait I grip with both hands; another is held by the Master:
for years, to and fro, this way and that, I thought that rope a tug of war.
Bliss and hopelessness slip equally, finally, away – as sand of two kinds.
Is it not best, then, to hold to one’s heart, as though happy with its world?
* * *
[ 80 ]
I leaned in for a kiss – drained Beloved lips with sipping.
From source to delta, I plant one foot in life’s deep river.
Nothing, no one, comes near to what I am tasting. I live
to convey the mystery, but must carry that wine in a sieve.
This cup in my chest fills again at the holy Mouth: happy wound!
The dawn rose flushes blood, sweats dew, to glimpse a higher bloom.
That flawless rose tore itself, root and thorn, from far hills to this throne
in the garden: the stern mats we fold away, by its green light, turn into buds.
A glance into the flooded wine-cup will see the world both whole and passing.
Lost in such drinking, who will remember Jamshid, or any other worldly King?
So, minstrel moon: raise in me a tide of music – lengthen those fingers of light
to play this harp of bones; caress my veins as though they were bright strings.
For those too full with the wine of earth, with themselves, there is merely
the staggering – bring them wine of a different kind, and eyes soon clear.
When vein and bone, all flesh and brain, are awash with what unbloodily
bleeds from Love, it’s only soul confirming its intimate terms with body.
The mindful owl seems to stall incoming light with its brash Who-You?
Seize dawn’s goblet with both hands: hear one cry I Am!, another Alas!
Heart – be a lunatic sun, leaping in pursuit of your whitely setting Love.
Run to the level horizon: there, look in the eyes of every deathless Lover.
Share elixir with the bending gardener. With that fine Sultan who tends
the rose, grow slow with wine. Toast authority first – freedom, later on.
Now I swallow words that rise too quick. Reader – learn from the reed,
tongued by that blessed aether, writing its tonguelessness into the breeze.
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