Monday, November 07, 2016

More profound poetry from ancient Persia

Every once in a while along comes a poem and it stops you in your tracks. You read it over and over again and feel the words sinking into your blood and running through your veins. You are astonished that someone has written exactly what it is you needed and wanted to hear. You wish like heck that you'd written it yourself, but most of all you're just so glad somebody else did.

In this case, the poet who wrote the poem I have in mind lived hundreds of years ago. Hafiz, who lived from 1320-1389 (about 100 years after Rumi) is a highly celebrated Persian poet. Wikipedia claims that Hafiz' work can be found "in the homes of most people in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan," and that people "learn his poems by heart and use them as proverbs and sayings to this day." Westerners learned of Hafiz' poetry largely thanks to Goethe, and later to Ralph Waldo Emerson, who translated Hafiz' work in the 19th century.

According to the book where I saw this poem (see citation below), an Indian teacher named Hazrat Inayat Khan, who is said to have brought Sufism to the West, once said of the poet "the words of Hafiz have won every heart that listens."

And so Hafiz has won my heart with a poem called:

"Now is the Time."

Now is the time to know
That all that you do is sacred.

Now, why not consider
A lasting truce with yourself and God.

Now is the time to understand
That all your ideas of right and wrong
Were just a child's training wheels
To be laid aside
When you can finally live
With veracity
and love.

Hafiz is a divine envoy
Whom the Beloved
Has written a hold message upon.

My dear, please tell me,
Why do you still
Throw sticks at your heart
And God?

What is it in that sweet voice inside
That incites you to fear?

Now is the time for the world to know
That every thought and action is sacred.

This is the time
For you to deeply complete the impossibility

That there is anything
But Grace.

Now is the season to know
That everything you do
Is Sacred.

from The Gift, Poems by Hafiz, The Great Sufi Master, translations by Daniel Landinsky.

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