Hafiz: Ghazal 42 "Lament for Drinks Past" (From Persian)

Written sometime between 1353 and 1358 A.D, under the reign of Mubāriz al-Dīn Muhammad who had conquered Shiraz from the last of the Injuids, Hafiz' former patron Abū Ishāq, and executed him. Ever the orthodox pietist, he had ordered the closing of all wineshops and prohibited many religiously illicit pleasures, including song and dance.

I tried out a slightly different technique for rendering the Persianate monorhyme. Because Persian rhymes tend to be more prominent (due to the common use of phrasal rhyme) I have employed a mixture of assonance and full rhyme. Every four lines of mine correspond to one verse of Persian. Every fourth line of mine rhymes in /i:z/ as every verse of Persian rhymes in /e:z ast/. Because rhymes with nuclear /i:/ are the easiest to employ in English this seemed like I was cheating a bit, and like the rhyme was still not prominent enough. So additionally, every second line ALSO contains assonance with the nuclear vowel /i:/. (Except for the first verse where I use even fuller rhyming.) This should hopefully make it work more like sung lyric does in contemporary English, as after all Hafiz' verses were sung in his own day, and it was transmission by (often illiterate) singers that probably gained him the fame that he occasionally boasts of. At the same time, having full rhyme to give a more prominent finality to the points corresponding to verse-ends in Persian seemed like it would do nicely, and would be a way of respecting the fact that the lyric verse-unit of the medieval Islamicate world was characterized more by external than internal rhyme. I don't always try and approximate the monorhymes of Chinese, Persian, Urdu, Turkish, Arabic or Medieval Hebrew verse. But when I do, I copy a meme phrase from the most interesting man in the world.

Ghazal 42: Lament for Drinks Past
By Hafiz
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Though wine be pleasing and the breeze  
be rife with roses, we must cease 
  Drinking to harp music, for here 
  come the sharp-eared sharia police.1
If you find wine and a fine friend  
to drink with, drink, but be discreet.  
  The times we're living in are dire 
  days of oppression and caprice. 
Gather no more in public. Hide  
the wineglass up your ragged sleeve. 
  For as your flask weeps wine, the times
  are shedding all the blood they please. 
With salt tears we must wash the sweet   
red stain of wine out of our cloaks, 
  For 'tis the season to be sober,
  time to abstain and bend our knees. 
O turn not to the turning heavens 
for any comfort or relief.  
  The very brim of that cruel bowl
  is soiled with the godawful lees.
The heavens have become a sieve 
that strains blood upon you and me 
  Filled with the skulls of Persian kings,
  the severed crown of dead Parviz.2  
You've made a captive of Iraq  
and Fars with well-versed song, Hafiz! 
  Move on. It's time you did a number  
  at court in Baghdad or Tabriz.3


1 - This verse is one of many references in Hafiz' poetry to the rule of the Muzaffarids. 

2 - "Persian kings" is my addition, replacing Kisrā (Arabic for "Khusraw") in the original. Khusraw is a more or less general term for pre-Islamic Persian rulers, whereas Parviz refers to the last great king of the Sassanid empire. These terms are used here to evoke the kings whom Mubāriz al-Dīn fought, such as Abū Ishāq. There may also be an implication that Mubāriz al-Dīn's Persianness is suspect, that no True Persian king would be so draconian and cruel in forcing compliance with Islamic law upon his subjects. This is all the more poignant given that Abū Ishāq styled himself a Shahanshah in the Sassanid tradition.

3- Fars, with its capital of Shiraz, was Hafiz' stomping ground. The term "Iraq" in Hafiz' time referred to what is today western Iran. Baghdad and Tabriz were the winter and summer courts of King Uways Jalāyir, an enemy of Mubāriz al-Dīn and avid patron of the arts, who took a more tolerant position toward wine, boys and song. Hafiz is giving the reigning potentate a verbal nudge, warning him that he can take his services elsewhere. 

The Original:

اگر چه باده فرح بخش و باد گل‌بیز است  به بانگ چنگ مخور می که محتسب تیز است
صراحی ای و حریفی گرت به چنگ افتد  به عقل نوش که ایام فتنه انگیز است
در آستین مرقع پیاله پنهان کن  که همچو چشم صراحی زمانه خون‌ریز است
به آب دیده بشوییم خرقه‌ها از می  که موسم ورع و روزگار پرهیز است
مجوی عیش خوش از دور واژگون سپهر  که صاف این سر خم جمله دردی آمیز است
سپهر برشده پرویزنیست خون افشان  که ریزه‌اش سر کسری و تاج پرویز است
عراق و فارس گرفتی به شعر خوش حافظ
بیا که نوبت بغداد و وقت تبریز است


Agar či bāda farahbaxš o bād gulbēzast 
 Ba bāng-i čang maxwar may ki muhtasib tēzast
Surāhīē o harīfē garat ba čang uftad 
 Ba 'aql nōš ki ayyām fitnaangēzast
Dar āstīn-i muraqqa' piyāla pinhān kun 
 Ki hamčo čašm-i surāhī zamāna xūnrēzast
Ba āb-i dīda bišōyēm xirqahā az may 
 Ki mawsim-i wara' o rōzgār-i parhēzast
Majōy 'ayš-i xwaš az dawr-i wāžgūn-i sipihr 
 Ki sāf-i īn sar-i xum jumla durdē āmēzast
Sipihr-i baršuda parwēzanēst xūnafšān 
 Ki rēzaaš sar-i Kisrā o tāj-i Parwēzast
'Irāq o Fārs giriftī ba ši'r-i xwaš Hāfiz 
 Biā ki nawbat-i Baɣdād o waqt-i Tabrēzast

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