We’d like to share the Persian poet Hafez, translated by Roger Sedarat. Again, remember, in February and beyond: read, write, and share your favorite translated poems.
—Claudia Serea & Loren Kleinman
Hey wine boy! Keep giving us more to drink.
Love’s not something we endure or outthink.
The musky flower’s perfume in the breeze
Buzzes bees blindly to its core to drink.
Bound to the world, my beloved jangles
Chains of existence to sever the link.
The holy man knows best. If he insists,
Paint prayer rugs with rags and wine-colored ink!
We who’d drown in love know the wave’s terror.
Those with closed hearts, safe on the shore, won’t sink.
My selfish verse made me notorious.
(Truth remains hidden when the liars speak).
Hafez, don’t run away from his presence.
When caught by him, release the world and sing.
Who will recite this prayer to the sultan:
“Let love link the beggar to the sovereign” ?
When demon eyes watch me in the dark woods,
Offer light and shelter to the sovereign.
Idol, be mindful of dark eyelashes.
Deceit doesn’t matter to the sovereign.
A loving expression consumes a world.
Your selfishness looks poor to the sovereign.
In restless nights, I pray the morning breeze
Will carry the lover to the sovereign.
Moon-strike them, beloved! Cypress-shake them.
Show the lovers’ nature to the sovereign.
For God’s sake, give Hafez a morning drink.
He’ll bless you in a prayer to the sovereign.
You don’t know words, just language of the heart.
Your sense of truth’s a pure gauge of the heart.
I need not bow my head to this cold world.
My thoughts live in hermitage of the heart.
I cannot find myself in clean order.
I’m lost in frenzied garbage of the heart.
My love goes looking for you in music,
Performing on the grand stage of the heart.
I need not be paid in their currency.
Your beauty gives me the wage of the heart.
Bad dreams won’t let me sleep. Where’s the tavern?
I’ll drink to the sacrilege of the heart.
I stained the sacred walls with my own blood.
Can wine clean me? Tell me, judge of the heart.
To keep my love eternally burning,
The mystics make a hostage of the heart.
I can’t stop singing that song from last night,
(Instilled melodic knowledge of the heart).
Though they shout it while I keep it within,
My love contains a strong surge of the heart.
This dark sky knows how powerful night is.
Stars, can you say why our luck’s the brightest?
To keep outcasts from reaching your great trees,
Prayers in our circle hold your love highest.
I’m one of many killed by your dimple.
Under your chin’s where all beauty’s might is.
The moon mirrors the dark face of my horse.
His light hooves track where the sun’s gold ride is.
I can’t leave wine or the beloved’s lips.
They are my only religious guidance.
“Life swiftly flows in stealth, a cold dark breeze.”
(The black crow uses my pen to write this).
Who’s look has shot an arrow at my heart?
Hafez’s smile, a shield, lives as it dies.
Do your own work; don’t judge what we have done.
We broke our hearts. Tell us what you have done.
God created Adam out of nothing.
No man knows the miracle you have done.
I am the reed; his lips hold my desire.
The wind tells me my job’s only half done.
The beggar stands removed from paradise.
Between these worlds you’ve made us stand alone.
Love’s ecstasy overwhelmed my being.
My mind couldn’t grasp what the heart has done.
Don’t fight the beloved’s violence toward you.
By his strict outrage true justice was done.
Hafez, enough of your poems. Stop here.
The world feels the power your verse has done.
Roger Sedarat is the author of two poetry collections: Dear Regime: Letters to the Islamic Republic, which won Ohio UP’s 2007 Hollis Summers’ Prize, and Ghazal Games (Ohio UP, 2011). His translations of classical and modern Persian verse have appeared in World Literature Today, Drunken Boat, and Asymptote. Current translation projects include a collection of ghazals by Hafez and a prison diary by an Afghani child bride. He teaches poetry and translation in the MFA Program at Queens College, City University of New York. More at is website.