Building Our Space in a Shifting Universe

by Fatemeh Keshavarz


Hafez starts simple, builds brick by brick (word by word, if you like) and adds subjective layers along the way. This enables him to move between the inner and the outer worlds often and with ease. In the process, he constructs bridges and doors that connect the two in a rather matter-of-fact way:

My heart forgets the green landscape when it sees the moon of your face aglow.
For like a cypress, it [my heart] is bound to earth, and like a tulip’s red heart, it is filled with sorrow.

To make sure that we have noticed the co-existence of the inner and outer geographies, here reflected in the beloved’s beauty and the heart’s sorrow, he highlights the tension between the two, the deep interconnection that sometimes reveals itself in a confrontational manner:

The inner world of hermits does not owe anything to the physical world.
We do not bow, not even before the prayer niche of an arched eyebrow.

A claim easily refuted by its own central image—an arched eyebrow—not to mention the first verse: the earthbound heart forgetting its captivity with a glance at the beloved’s moon-like face. Then, we are outside again:

Look at the violet! It compares itself to her dark perfumed curls.
A simple servant and such extraordinary designs!
Come to the garden and see that next to the rose’s thrown
Tulip stands like a royal attendant holding a goblet of wine.

Although somewhat ambiguous, the parallel between the beautiful verses that our poet is giving us, his conversations with the divine, and the wine that revives the “inner faculties,” are unmistakable. Besides, in lyrically expressed true love, the longing never ends. He longs for the conversations and we long for hearing them. We will never truly know if he is the wine-seller who knows the divine mystery or not, but we take charge of our own journey as we read them.