Hafez, one of the classical masters of Persian poetry, was born in Shiraz, Iran, in the early 14th century. His ghazals excel both in musicality as well as in intricate wordplay. Because of both its incredible style as well as its deft philosophical treatment of such themes as death, love, and divine worship, his verse has had a lasting and pervasive influence on Persian language and culture.
Roger Sedarat (translator) is the author of Dear Regime: Letters to the Islamic Republic, which won Ohio UP’s Hollis Summers Open Book Competition, and Ghazal Games (Ohio UP, 2011). His translations of classical and modern Persian verse have appeared in World Literature Today, Drunken Boat, and Arroyo. His translated collection of the Iranian poet Nader Naderpour is forthcoming from Teneo Press. He teaches poetry and translation in the MFA Program at Queens College, City University of New York.
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,
Look, for 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.