0327 GMT October 24, 2017
The works of the 14th century Persian poet Hafez are not just very beautiful — it is useful too. Hafez can teach us how to get the most out of our lives, wrote Ladinsky for the BBC.
Shams-ud-din Muhammad Hafez (c. 1320-1389) is one of the most beloved poets of the Persians, and is considered by many — from different cultures — to be one of the seven literary wonders of the world. Ralph Waldo Emerson [mid-19th century] and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe [1749-1832] both agreed.
As Emerson said of Hafez: "He fears nothing. He sees too far, he sees throughout; such is the only man I wish to see or be." And Emerson gave Hafez that grand and famous compliment, "Hafez is a poet for poets."
Both Goethe and Emerson translated Hafez. And after Geothe's deep study of him, simply — though remarkably — stated, "Hafiz has no peer."
Hafez poems were also admired by such diverse notables as Nietzsche and Arthur Conan Doyle, whose wonderful character Sherlock Holmes quotes Hafez. Garcia Lorca praised the Sufi poet. Johannes Brahms was so touched by his verse he used several in his compositions. And even Queen Victoria was said to have consulted Hafez in times of need — which has been a custom in the Middle East for centuries. The 'Fal-e Hafez', is an ancient tradition in which a reader asks Hafez for advice when facing a difficulty or at an important juncture in their life — treating his books as an oracle and opening them with a deep wish from their soul for guidance.
Ladinsky added, "To be engaged by a true teacher like Hafez is to have lasting ingredients put into your mind, that when cooked through contemplation help us lead a better life. Inherent in engaging someone's interest is to make them present. And with so many suffering the tyranny of some past event or anxieties about the future, what a gift being in the moment can be, especially then if a jewel can be slipped into your pocket by some magi's brush stroke, writings, sculpture, instrument, or ballet step.
"Hafez helps us inherit a treasure that is already ours, decreed at birth; and he speaks directly about that in some of his poems — how to file your claim!"
Ladinsky is a poet and interpreter of mystical poetry who has written several books about Hafez.