Friday, January 13, 2017

The Living Dead

~ Honouring our poetic ancestors ~

You Were Brave in That Holy War

You have done well
In the contest of madness.

You were brave in that holy war.
You have all the honorable wounds
Of one who has tried to find love

Where the Beautiful Bird
Does not drink.

May I speak to you
Like we are close
And locked away together?

Once I found a stray kitten
And I used to soak my fingers
In warm milk;
It came to think I was five mothers
On one hand.

Why not rest your tired body?
Lean back and close your eyes.

Come morning
I will kneel by your side and feed you.
I will so gently
Spread open your mouth
And let you taste something of my
Sacred mind and life.

There is something wrong
With your ideas of God.

O, surely there is something wrong
With your ideas of God

If you think
Our Beloved would not be so

Hafez (1325/26–1389/90)

A friend posted this on facebook in December and I fell in love with it instantly. (Well, the kitten. And then, the beautiful conclusion.)

Hafez (aka Hafiz; full name Khwaja Shamsu d-Din Muhammad Hafez-e Shirazi) was an Iranian lyric poet of the 14th Century, still one of the most famous and beloved poets in his country. Wikipedia tells us he is the most popular poet in Iran, whose works can be found in almost every home, and are often used as proverbs or for a kind of fortune-telling. The country even celebrates a Hafez Day (Oct. 12). Among other things, he was a prolific writer of ghazals.

An editorial note at Amazon says that he lived

towards the end of what is often seen as the golden age of Persian poetry. He lived almost all his life in the southern city of Shiraz where he was involved in the court circles of various rulers and played an important role in the vibrant literary and spiritual life of the times. His poetry is collected in his Divan, which contains nearly 500 ghazals and some other verse. Little is known about his personal circumstances. His reputation was established in his own time and has continued to grow ever since, to the point where Iranians and many others regard him as one of that nation's greatest poets.

I'm guessing we don't have any definitive images of him from that time, but he is usually portrayed as looking something like this picture, which is an artist's idea of him – and I think it's a fair assumption that an Iranian man of that time would have looked quite like this.

Were his love poems erotic or mystical? Scholars are still arguing that. The one I've chosen here is clearly both romantic and spiritual – and I wonder if it is not himself he is addressing as the weary wayfarer. We are told that he was a great punner and satirist too, so perhaps we need not limited ourselves to only one kind of interpretation.

His work is still in print. You can find English translations at Amazon, at this link. You can read a number of his poems at Poetry Soup, also here and here. And there's this downloadable pdf.  Enjoy!

Material shared in 'The Living Dead' is presented for study and review. Poems, photos and other writings and images remain the property of the copyright owners, where applicable (older poems may be out of copyright).


  1. Every word--his and yours--is a gift this morning. Thank you.

  2. I adore this poet and had not come across this poem, which is gorgeous. From what I have read, his poems are to God, and also to a beloved friend, another mystic. Their friendship was a deep spiritual union. That must be why the beloved in his poems can be taken as either God or his friend and guide.

    1. Thanks, Sherry, for this added information, which I had not known.

  3. Truly a blessing his words.....thanks for sharing them as I delight in reading and rereading them.

  4. Like this poem very much, it made me reflect on the scriptural text of Psalm 84:3
    Even the sparrow has found a home, the swallow a nest to place its young: your altars, Yahweh Sabaoth, my King and my God.

    Thanks Rosemary for sharing this delightful dewdrop

    Much love...


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