A simple way to understand the poetry of Hafiz is to consider it a reflection of the eternal emotional struggle between the existential pain of living and the natural love of life. The love in Hafiz, and in many other inspired works, is not solely the love for a girl or a boy … it is the love for all things life … despite the endless hardship that living inflicts on all the life’s lovers.
Living our lives makes it impossible to receive any fulfillment and satisfaction, without the inevitable pain and suffering. Actually, the pain and the pleasure are so mixed and intertwined, that often it is impossible to tell them apart. Many enjoyable experiences can lead to most horrible ends; while difficulty and hardship can lead to enormous satisfaction. What is a true lover to do, except be thankful for the hardships and mindful of the enjoyments?
That’s how the love in Hafiz poetry transcends the physical, the sexual and even the emotional … it becomes existential. It goes beyond the immediate realm of physical attraction to a parent, sexual attraction to a partner, and even emotional attachment to a child. The Hafiz love poetry is an “impression” of all affections, an abstraction of all loves, and an immortalization of our collective desires towards life.
Such eternal attraction is not even considered singular to man. Every piece is attached to its whole, every child attracted to its life giver. Hafiz sees the entire world in love, and also in pain. Because the fact of coming implies going and the event of life requires death. Without destruction there cannot be rejuvenation, and without autumn there cannot be spring. If it wasn’t for death, there could be no life. If others were not to decay and die, there couldn’t have been us … there would only be a uniform and boundless stretch of darkness.
So the lover supreme (life) is also the killer supreme (death), and this ying-yang relationship pains all beings. Hafiz says that sitting beside this never ending river and observing its comings and goings, teaches him all he needs to know about the fleeting nature of life. He knows that all possessions will be lost, but we can’t help wanting them. He knows that all the joys will turn to pain, but we can’t help loving them.
Furthermore, influenced by the mystic of Sufism; the concept of life and being in its totality, is fused and crystallized with the omnipotent and omnipresent. However, unlike the high priests, the abstract lover in Hafiz does not imprison himself in an ivory tower of worship to become a recluse Sufi. He avoids looking down on the everyday and the everyone. For Hafiz, such haughty reclusion turns the soul into a negative and nagging status, which Hafiz criticizes in the typical “Sufi” and “Zahed”. To get frightened by the pain of living and disgusted by the acts of life: we may end up trapped in a hermitic seal, and ultimately turned against life and god.
Instead, the all human and humane Hafiz constantly walks this earth and revitalizes himself, by visiting his roots and ties, and renewing his vows and affections. Every day, Hafiz comes down the high mountain of abstract love to embrace the actual, the physical, the sensual and the emotional instances of love … with a parent, a lover or a child. Little instances of passion and pain … little streams of endless droplets … creators of this giant rolling river.
Inspired by: “Hafiz and the Religion of Love in Classical Persian Poetry” – edited by Prof. Leonard Lewisohn.