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No Reproach for the Drunkard

Lay not reproach at the drunkard’s door
O Fanatic, thou that are pure of soul;
Not thine on the page of life to enroll
The faults of others! Or less or more
I have swerved from my path—keep thou to thine own
For every man when he reaches the goal
Shall reap the harvest his hands have sown.

Leave me the hope of a former grace—
Till the curtain is lifted none can tell
Whether in Heaven or deepest Hell,
Fair or vile, shall appear his face.
Alike the drunk and the strict of fare
For his mistress yearns—in the mosque Love doth dwell
And the church, for his lodging is everywhere.

If without the house of devotion I stand,
I am not the first to throw wide the door;
My father opened it long before,
The eternal Paradise slipped from his hand.
All you that misconstrue my words’ intent,
I lie on the bricks of the tavern floor,
And a brick shall serve me for argument.

Heaven’s garden future treasures may yield—
Ah, make the most of earth’s treasury!
The flickering shade of the willow-tree,
And the grass-grown lip of the fruitful field.
Trust not in deeds—the Eternal Day
Shall reveal the Creator’s sentence on thee;
But till then, what His finger has writ, who can say.

Bring the cup in thine hand to the Judgment-seat;
Thou shalt rise, O Hafiz, to Heaven’s gate
From the tavern where thou hast tarried late.
And if thou hast worshiped wine, thou shalt meet
The reward that the Faithful attain;
If such thy life, then fear not thy fate;
Thou shalt not have lived and worshiped in vain.


Note: Hafiz is known in English also as Hafez.
In the book in which this poem is found, Hafiz (2004; in The Mystic Poets series), the author of the Preface, Ibrahim Gamard, writes that Khwaja Shamsu d’din Muhammad Hafiz (1320 – 1389) was known as the “Tongue of the Invisible World”; like Rumi, who lived in the 13th century, Hafiz was a Persian Sufi (Sufism is the mystical dimension of Islam). The Orientalist Wheeler Thackston says that Hafiz “sang a rare blend of human and mystic love so balanced…that it is impossible to separate one from the other” (Wikipedia). He is, in the words of Daniel Ladinsky, one of his recent interpreters, “a profound champion of freedom; he constantly encourages our hearts to dance! . . . Hafiz reveals a God that would never cripple us with guilt or control us with fear.” (from Ladinsky’s book The Gift: Poems by Hafiz, the Great Sufi Master, 1999. The brief Preface and Introduction to this book, by Ladinsky and Henry S. Midlin, respectively, are themselves small masterpieces which sing of Hafiz’s life and the challenging sociopolitical climate in which he did his work, as well as of his legacy in Persia and the world. I’ve only begun to discover the simple exuberance of Hafiz’s poetry, and must revisit very soon to plug into such a luminous source of meaning-enlivening and healing energy.)

Some of Hafiz’s work was first translated into English in 1771 by Sir William Jones. Western writers Goethe, Thoreau, Emerson and Conan Doyle, among others, appreciated and found inspiration in the poetry of Hafiz, and brought him to the attention of new readers in Europe and the Americas. I’ve really enjoyed the rather old-style and very musical translation by Gertrude Bell. Gamard tells us that, writing in 1947, A. J. Arberry, the well-known British scholar and translator of Rumi, described Gertrude Bell as “Hafiz’s most felicitous translator”. Her English translations were first published in Victorian England in 1897, but they remain among the most highly-regarded.


Finally, I admire the poetry of Johann Wolfgang Goethe, and am motivated by reading of his connection to Hafiz to finally begin to search for and select a poem to post. I actually own a paperback edition of Goethe’s late work, the Westöstlicher Diwan, a collection of lyrical poems inspired by Hafiz; that is the place to begin my exploration.