Seyyed Ahmad Hatef Esfahani (also spelled as Hatif Isfahani) is the famous Iranian poet of the 18th century AD. His birth-date is unknown. He was born in Esfahan (Isfahan), a central province of Iran, and most likely he died in Ghom in 1783 AD. (Some documents also indicate that he died in Kashan in 1777 AD and was buried in Ghom). Hatef was contemporary to at least seven rulers of Iran namely Shahrukh of Afsharids (ruled 1748-1796), Karim Khan-e-Zand (ruled 1760-1779), Abolfatth Khan, Mohammad Ali Khan, Mohammad Sadegh Khan, and Ali Morad Khan (all from Zand dynasty who ruled 1779-1785), and Agha Mohammad Khan, the founder of Qajar dynasty (ruled 1781-1797). Hatef was also contemporary to poets Azar Bigdeli and Sabaahi Beedgoli. Some sources believe that those three poets were all the students of Mir Seyyed Ali Moshtaagh Esfahani, the founder of the Literary Society of Moshtaagh (in Persian: Anjoman-e Adabi Moshtaagh).
Hatef studied mathematics, medicine, philosophy, literature, and foreign languages (Turkish and Arabic). He had a daughter and a son. His daughter, Beygom (aka Begum), was a poetess married to poet Mirza Ali Akbar Naziri. His son, Mohammad, was also a poet (See below).
Hatef was an expert in the composition of ode (in Persian: Ghazal). Ode is the poem of complex structure and exalted by lyrical or rhapsodic mood on some stated theme. Another line of his profession was in the writing of Tarji-e-Band. When the linking verse is recurrent, the poem is called a Tarji-e-band (literally: Return-Tie). But when the linking verse is varied, the poem is called a Tarkib-band (literally: Composite-Tie). He was also skillful in the composition of purposeful poem (Ghassideh), elegy (Soognameh), quatrains (Rubaiyat) and fragments (Ghattehaat). But his reputation lied in his excellent poems of mystical nature.
Hatef has been considered as one of the great Iranian mystic poets who taught many peoples about the higher aspects of the human existence and the journey of the soul. Hatef's poems are smooth, clear and flowing and free of ambiguities. He followed Saadi and Hafez especially in the composition of his odes. Due to his excellent odes, Hatef is also very well known in many parts of Europe and particularly in Italy.
He has a Tarji-Band, which has made him famous. It is perhaps one of the best single poems in Persian Mystic poetry. Hatef went to a fire temple, to a church, and to a pub, and everywhere he found that people worshiped the same One God. In this poem, the part that deals with Christianity is an attempt to explain the mystery of the Trinity. The description of a discourse with a beautiful girl in church perhaps reveals the Armenian influence in Iran from the time of Shah Abbas of Safavid dynasty onwards. (Shah Abbas ruled Iran from 1588 to 1629 AD). The Persian version of the poem may be viewed online here.
And here is its English version as translated by scholar Manavaz Alexandrian:
I won't break my tie with you, O my fair,
Even if all my joints with sharp swords they tear;
A hundred lives is worthless for you, O you lovely,
If you will open your mouth with a smile to cheer me.
O father, cease to advise me about my love, cease!
For your son will not be tamed with this disease.
Those who give counsel, alas, it is better,
To teach me about your love by word or letter.
I know the road to the place of happiness, I know!,
But, alas, I have fallen in fetters of sorrow.
In the church, to the Christian charmer, I muttered:
"O fairy to whom my poor heart is fettered,
Till when you must fail to achieve divine unity?
Till when be damned to impose on One the Trinity?
How can you call the Single One (with reason lost)
A father, a Son and the Holy Ghost?"
The Christian opened her sweet lips and thus she said,
While from her smiling mouth candy melted:
"If you know the secret to unity,
Why do you blame us with blasphemy?
In three looking glasses the everlasting maid of grace
Sends rays of radiant light from her shinning face;
Silk shall not be three things if you call (she vented)
Shot silk, pure silk or a silk painted."
While thus we were discoursing near the door
I heard this song being chanted by the choir:
That there is God only and none but God,
God is the sole Being and none but God.
Hatef is also one of those poets who wrote three odes in Arabic language. In two of his odes, he was inspired by the poems attributed to Urvahebn Hazam Ozri, Jamilebn Ozri and Umarebn Abirabia. In third ode, which is in the eulogy of the prophet, he was inspired by the poems composed by Fallera and Bursiri. It should be also noted that Hatef's Anthology (in Persian: Divan-e-Hatef-e-Esfahani) was firstly edited and published by late poet and scholar Hassan Vahid Dastjerdi (Dastgerdi), the founder of Literary Journal of Gift (in Persian: Armaghan), in Tehran in 1953.
1. One of the famous verses composed by Poet Mirza Ali Akbar Naziri, the son-in-law of Hatef Esfahani, may read as follows
I do not care what is about me
I only care about people I see
(in Persian: joz noskheh-ye ahvaal-e kessaan pish nadaaram/ har gez nazari bar varagh-e kheesh nadaram).
2. The pseudonym of the daughter of Hatef Esfahani, Begum, was Rash-heh. Here are are some of her poems online.
3. The son of Hatef Esfahani, Seyyed Mohammad Sahab Esfahani, was also a poet. Some of his poems may be viewed online here.
Manouchehr Saadat Noury, PhD
Alexandrian, M. (2004): Online Poetry Translation, Poems of Iranian Poet Hatef
Ganjoor Website (2011): Online Poetry Anthology of Hatef (in Persian)
Saadat Noury, M. (2005): Online Article on “A Research Note on Poet Hatef Isfahani”
Saadat Noury, M. (2006): Various Articles on the History of the Persian Poetry
Various Sources (2011): Articles and Notes on Poet Hatef Esfahani
Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2011): Online Article on Rash-heh Esfahani (in Persian)
Wikipedia Encyclopedia (2011): Online Notes on Hatef (in English and Persian) and on Sahab Esfahani (in Persian)
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