From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Khwāja Šamsu d-Dīn Muḥammad Hāfez-e Šīrāzī, known by his pen name Hāfez (born 1315 Shiraz-died 1390 Shiraz) was the most celebrated Persian lyric poet and is often described as a poet's poet. His Divan is to be found at the home of most Iranians who recite his poems by heart and use as proverb and saying to this day. His life and poems have been the subject of much analysis, commentary, and interpretation and had influenced the course of post-fourteenth century Persian lyrics more than anyone else has.
Intellectual and artistic legacy
His work was first translated into English in 1771 by William Jones. It would leave a mark on such Western writers as Thoreau, Goethe, and Ralph Waldo Emerson (the last referred to him as "a poet's poet"). Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has his character Sherlock Holmes state that "there is as much sense in Hafiz as in Horace, and as much knowledge of the world" (in A Case of Identity). Friedrich Engels mentioned him in an 1853 letter to Karl Marx:
- "It is, by the way, rather pleasing to read dissolute old Hafiz in the original language, which sounds quite passable and, in his grammar, old Sir William Jones likes to cite as examples dubious Persian jokes, subsequently translated into Greek verse in his Commentariis poeseos asiaticae, because even in Latin they seem to him too obscene. These commentaries, Jones’ Works, Vol. II, De Poesi erotica, will amuse you. Persian prose, on the other hand, is deadly dull. E.g. the Rauzât-us-safâ by the noble Mirkhond, who recounts the Persian epic in very flowery but vacuous language. Of Alexander the Great, he says that the name Iskander, in the Ionian language, is Akshid Rus (like Iskander, a corrupt version of Alexandros); it means much the same as filusuf, which derives from fila, love, and sufa, wisdom, ‘Iskander’ thus being synonymous with ‘friend of wisdom’.
In contemporary Iranian culture
Hafez is the most popular poet in Iran, and his works can be found in almost every Iranian home. In fact, October 12 is celebrated as Hafez Day in Iran.
Twenty years after his death, a tomb, the Hafezieh, was erected to honor Hafez in the Musalla Gardens in Shiraz. The current mausoleum was designed by André Godard, a French archeologist and architect, in the late 1930s, and the tomb is raised up on a dais amidst rose gardens, water channels, and orange trees. Inside, Hafez's alabaster sarcophagus bears the inscription of two of his poems. His tomb is "crowded with devotees" who visit the site and the atmosphere is "festive" with visitors singing and reciting their favorite Hafez poems.
Many Iranians use Divan of Hafez for fortune telling. Iranian families usually have a Divan of Hafez in their house, and when they get together during the Nowruz or Yaldā holidays, they open the Divan to a random page and read the poem on it, which they believe to be an indication of things that will happen in the future.
There is no definitive version of his collected works (or Dīvān); editions vary from 573 to 994 poems. In Iran and Afghanistan, his collected works have come to be used as an aid to popular divination. Only since the 1940s has a sustained scholarly attempt (by Mas'ud Farzad, Qasim Ghani and others in Iran) been made to authenticate his work and to remove errors introduced by later copyists and censors. However, the reliability of such work has been questioned, and in the words of Hāfez scholar Iraj Bashiri, "there remains little hope from there (i.e.: Iran) for an authenticated diwan". Even libraries in Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia carry his Diwan.
In Iranian music
Many Iranian composers have composed pieces inspired by or based upon Hafez's poems. Among Iranian singers, Mohsen Namjoo composed music and vocals on several poems such as Zolf, Del Miravad, Nameh, and others. Hayedeh performed the song "Padeshah-e Khooban", with music by Farid Zoland. Mohammad-Reza Shajarian performed the song "Del Miravad Ze Dastam", with music by Parviz Meshkatian. The Ottoman composer Buhurizade Mustafa Itri composed his magnum opus Neva Kâr based upon one of Hafez's poems. The Polish composer Karol Szymanowski composed The Love Songs of Hafiz based upon a German translation of Hafez poems.
In Afghan music