Such a bad, bad translation


Multiple Personality Disorder
by Multiple Personality Disorder



Such a bad, bad translation was presented here for one of Hafez's poems that cause me to do my own translation, although I usually try to stay away from any poets who is remotely famous.


حافظ، غزل ٢٦ 

زلف آشفته و خوی کرده و خندان لب و مست
پیرهن چاک و غزل خوان و صراحی در دست

نرگسـش عربده جوی و لبش افسوس کنان
نیم شب دوش به بالین من آمد بنشسـت

سر فرا گوش مـن آورد بـه آواز حزین
گفـت ای عاشق دیرینه من خوابت هست

عاشـقی را کـه چنین باده شبگیر دهـند
کافر عـشـق بود گر نـشود باده پرسـت

برو ای زاهد و بر دردکـشان خرده مـگیر
کـه ندادند جز این تحفه به ما روز السـت

آن چـه او ریخت بـه پیمانـه ما نوشیدیم
اگر از خمر بهشت است وگر باده مـسـت

خـنده جام می و زلـف گره گیر نـگار
ای بسا توبه که چون توبه حافظ بشکسـت

Hafez, Sonnet 26

Untidy hair, sweaty, laughing lips and drunk
Shirt rifted, reciting sonnet, and pure wine in hand

Eyes quarrelsome and lips repenting
Midnight last night came to me, sat by my bed

Head bent to my ear, with a gloomy croon,
Said, “O, my old lover, did you have sleep in mind!”

Giving to a lover such a fine nightly wine
Unbeliever of love must be, not to become worshiper of wine

O the pious, go away and do not find fault with true lovers,
For none was given, other than this trove on the creation day

Whatever was poured in the chalice, we drank
Whether Heaven’s booze, or drunkenness’s wine

Smiling cup of wine and lover’s knotted curl,
O, so many repentance, which just like the rainbow, Hafez broke them all



In the absence of "Preposition" words, such as "of", in the original Farsi text of the poem, also the absence of gender specific "Personal Pronouns", such as "he" or "she", and also the absence of punctuation marks; translation of these types of text is extremely difficult.

For example, the difference between these three clauses is huge:

آن چـه او (مذکر) ریخت بـه پیمانـه

آن چـه او (مؤنث) ریخت بـه پیمانـه

آن چـه او (خدا) ریخت بـه پیمانـه

Also, there is big difference between these two:

آن چـه او ریخت بـه پیمانـه، ما نوشیدیم

آن چـه او ریخت بـه پیمانـهِ ما، نوشیدیم

And also, in the last verse, I decided to interperete it this way:

ای بسا توبه که، چون توبه، حافظ بشکسـت

In this way, the first (توبه) means "repentance", and the second (توبه) means (قوس قزح), which means "rainbow".



Recently by Multiple Personality DisorderCommentsDate
ناگهان، شاهین نجفی Suddenly, a song by Shahin Najafi
Nov 13, 2012
Universal Love
Oct 01, 2012
Shahin Najafi, When...
Sep 02, 2012
more from Multiple Personality Disorder
Multiple Personality Disorder


by Multiple Personality Disorder on


Thank you for the research and your comment.

As it has been said many times before, there is no way to tell whether the object of affection in this poem is a male or female person.  In the Farsi text part of the footnote, which you are not able to read, I was saying the third person preposition word “eo” could refer to a male, female, or even God, as in, ‘this is the way God created the world and, God allegorically pours wine in the cup, or in “our cup”,  and “we”, “humans” drink it.'  Meaning, this is the way we have been made.  But, to make the matter worth, translation-wise, many times in Farsi, instead of using “I” we use “we”, instead of the first person “man” we say plural “maa”, so if one wants to make it really confusing, you don’t know who poured the wine and who drank it.  Using masculine “Personal Pronouns” to translate this poem is completely incorrect, that's why I left it undefined.

But, in Shahriar Shahriari translation, when he uses “He”, he is referring to “God”; because the “H” in “He” is capitalized.  So, Shahriari has decided that it was “God” who poured the wine; whereas I left the part about who poured the wine ambiguous.

Also, in the original ghazal, the third person “eo” has been used only once, which could refer to a male, female, or God entity, however in the “gay translation" the word “he” has been used four times, and “his” has also been used four times!  That’s just amazing!  The translator tried really hard to hammer it in that the lover was a male person, and not a female. 

But anyhow, I know it’s really confusing, but one thing is for sure, from the poem itself it’s not possible to tell whether the midnight lover is a male or a female.  Knotted curly hair is not going to do it.  As you can see from any porterait of Hafez, he has long hair, so it's safe to say some men had long hair back then, and in that part of the world almost everyone has curly hair.  Color of eyes, men and women have similar eye colors of all different shades.  Ruby red lips, it wasn’t used in this poem, but wherever it was use, just based on that alone, to say ruby red lips indicates gender is not going to do it.  Make-up, for man and woman, was invented a long, long time ago.

I am sorry that I don’t have the time right now to read all the links you have provided in your comment, but hopefully I’ll do it at a later time.

Thank you,



by yolanda on

Hi! MPD,

   Thank you for your transtaion and thank for the important footnote! It is good to know that there is no gender-referenced pronoun in the original farsi poem. The version in AO's blog used masculine pronouns and so did the version translated by Shahriari. HFB feels that the lover is a girl 'cause the object of affection has long curly hair and ruby red lips. There are a lot of discussions on this poem on Internet regarding the gender of "lover" in Hafez poem:


In the following bio:


"His ghazals are infused with a homosexual mysticism that startles many Western minds because of the expression of male-male love as not merely approaching but actually reaching a state of divinity. Hafiz believed one can see an image of God in the face of one's beloved."


For gay readers, even the most cursory glance at a good translation of his work (be warned that some translators change the pronouns to make it appear that all the objects of his affection are female) is rewarding beyond expression. "With looks disheveled, flushed in a sweat of drunkenness / His shirt torn open, a song on his lips and wine cup in his hand / With eyes looking for trouble, lips softly complaining / So at midnight last night he came and sat at my pillow. . . ."

Here is what Wikipedia says about "Ghazal":


The ghazal not only has a specific form, but traditionally deals with just one subject: love, specifically an illicit and unattainable love. Ghazals from the Indian sub-continent have an influence of Islamic Mysticism and the subject of love can usually be interpreted for a higher being or for a mortal beloved. The love is always viewed as something that will complete a human being, and if attained will lift him or her into the ranks of the wise, or will bring satisfaction to the soul of the poet. Traditional ghazal love may or may not have an explicit element of sexual desire in it, and the love may be spiritual. The love may be directed to either a man or a woman.

Here is the shocking allegation from:


"Among many Middle-Eastern Muslim cultures, homosexual practices were widespread and public. Persian poets, such as Attar (d. 1220), Rumi (d. 1273), Sa’di (d. 1291), Hafez (d. 1389), and Jami (d. 1492), wrote poems replete with homoerotic allusions."


"A rich tradition of art and literature sprang up, constructing Middle Eastern homosexuality in ways analogous to the ancient tradition of male love in which Ganymede, cup-bearer to the gods, symbolised the ideal boyfriend. Muslim — often Sufi — poets in medieval Arab lands and in Persia wrote odes to the beautiful Christian wine boys who, they claimed, served them in the taverns and shared their beds at night."

The same website that identifies Hafez's poem as gay poetry also classifies some of Khayyam, Shakespeare, and Walt Whitman's poetry as gay poetry:



From what I read on Internet on this topic, it seems to me more people feel the "lover" is a boy! That is the impression I got!

Multiple Personality Disorder

Many thanks to all who read this blog and commented

by Multiple Personality Disorder on

I must confess that I was too quick with posting the first version of my translation, so I had to make several changes to it, including some from what I learned from the translation that was posted elsewhere in this website, which I did not like to begin with, and also from reading the translation by Shahriar Shahriari, which was posted here by All-Iranians.


Why can't we appreciate Iranian arts and culture critically

by Zendanian on

Is any hint of a critical take on our culture a sign of "hatred" or comeplete rejection of it?

A wholesale rejection of a critical take on our arts, culture and history would be very close to an infantile disorder. 

Some literature, specially calssical poetry of most cultures are truly untranslatable, and almost impossible to express in any other language.

MPD's production in here is a superb job, (most probably because of his command of Persian). The discussion pionts out to all the semantic and cultural diffculties involved in any effort in this regard.


Hafez for Beginners

very nice

by Hafez for Beginners on

very nice to see people standing up for Hafez. Draggin anything associated with "Iran" through mud is the fashion du jour - but it  just went too far, and good to see the support for Hafez, here. 


I agree with Sosoan khanoom.

by Albaloo on

When it comes to the spiritual love then it does not matter. 

I also enjoyed this fine translation. Thanks for the blog.


Mardom Mazloom

بسیار زیبا

Mardom Mazloom


Nazy Kaviani

Hafez masterpiece

by Nazy Kaviani on

Beautiful poem, beautiful translation. Affarin MPD!


I'd say

by Mehrban on

It is Hafez

It is Persian when speaking/writing in English

And it is Norooz. 

This is my story and I'm sticking to it!    

Multiple Personality Disorder

Curses to the earth!

by Multiple Personality Disorder on



Is it Hafiz or Hafez?

Is it Farsi or Persian?

Is it Norooz or Nowruz, or any of the other hundred versions of it?


Multiple Personality Disorder


by Multiple Personality Disorder on

Ok, so "passible" is the exact word for "dord keshaan", although people are going to think of it as 'passable'.

And, the first "tobeh" is repentance and then second "tobeh" is rainbow, see here and here.

Soosan Khanoom

For Hafez 'was ' She ' and for Rumi

by Soosan Khanoom on

was ' he ' ... Rumi dedicated everything to shams ...  But,  once love becomes Spritual then it doesn't matter anymore.   Like the argument you hear whenever there is the word God in comparison with the word Goddess ... The other blog was not a serious blog and yet I can't believe that it was taken so seriously by many   In any case, that atleast made you, dear MPD, to come up with such a wonderful translation.  

Thank you 






Dear MPD, great job

by Mehrban on

Just a small note, in the fifth couplet first verse,  I believe it is (dord keshaan), dord I believe is the sedimentation of the wine and dord keshan are meant as the true drunkards (true lovers).


Ps; I am intrigued by your translation of Zahed as Pious.  I like it.

Multiple Personality Disorder


by Multiple Personality Disorder on

Thank you all.

Shahriar Shahriari's translation is very beautiful, although the translation is more on the poetic side than the "verbum pro verbo" side, whereas mine is the other way around.


Thank you MPD

by Souri on

Great job!


Thanks MPD

by MM on

If this is the original poem in question, I do not see a pedophile poet.  Thanks.

First Amendment


by First Amendment on

Your undeniably superb talent in this line of artistic work doesn't need my approval........Now, let's go back to our poor Hafez who seems to be the latest victim of a nasty/kinky political campaign in our digital society......Is he less "gay" now?

I can't wait for someone from the opposite side, to come up with something for Ferdowsi and Afrasiab.......


Jenab-e MPD

by All-Iranians on

Congratulations & many thanks for your very insightful translation. It is much better than the one we liked it before:


You are a gem. Thanks again.