The Angels Knocking on the Tavern Door: Thirty Poems of Hafez

Overview

The great Persian poet Hafez is so beloved in Iran that almost every family there keeps his Divan close at hand. For some fifteen years, esteemed American poet and author Robert Bly has worked with the great Islamic scholar Leonard Lewisohn to produce this translation, which for the first time captures Hafez's nimbleness, his fierce humor, his astonishing range of thought, and his delight in love—enabling English speakers to fully appreciate the true genius of this master of the ghazal form, one of the greatest ...

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The Angels Knocking on the Tavern Door: Thirty Poems of Hafez

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Overview

The great Persian poet Hafez is so beloved in Iran that almost every family there keeps his Divan close at hand. For some fifteen years, esteemed American poet and author Robert Bly has worked with the great Islamic scholar Leonard Lewisohn to produce this translation, which for the first time captures Hafez's nimbleness, his fierce humor, his astonishing range of thought, and his delight in love—enabling English speakers to fully appreciate the true genius of this master of the ghazal form, one of the greatest inventions in the history of poetry.

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Editorial Reviews

Coleman Barks
“Robert understands the wild assertions of Hafez and his transparency. Robert’s translations have the nimbleness and daring of the lover. This is the book we have been waiting for.”
Baha al-Din Khurramshahi
This is an amazingly meaningful translation of Hafiz’s poetry that I deeply appreciate. . . . Having understood the original text in both its technical and non-technical senses, they have presented us with a translation shorn of jargon.
—Baha al-Din Khurramshahi
This is an amazingly meaningful translation of Hafiz’s poetry that I deeply appreciate. . . . Having understood the original text in both its technical and non-technical senses, they have presented us with a translation shorn of jargon.
Publishers Weekly

The medieval Persian mystical poet Hafez used sinuous lines and ringing metaphors to write about wisdom, the dangers of repression and the paradoxes of his faith. His blend of simplicity and challenge makes him the most popular poet in Iran today. Bly and Lewisohn (a world-class Sufism expert) present clear and memorable versions of Hafez's renowned lyric meditations, though they forgo the original ghazal form (with its intricate repetitions) in favor of unrhymed pentameters. Sometimes their Hafez offers good advice: "Let's be faithful to what we love./ And keep our spirits high." Sometimes he describes his warmth and contentment: "The delight of a few words/ With a soul friend for us is enough." Just as often, though, he shows how the ways of his seeking, and the distance between divine immanence and earthly travail, can disturb even the most sincere follower: "Don't imagine us to be like the tulip," he concludes; "rather look at the dark/ Spot of grief we have set on our scorched hearts." Though Hafez does not (yet) have the immense Western popularity of that other Sufi mystic, Rumi, his verse has all the ingredients to make a similar splash. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061138843
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/24/2009
  • Pages: 128
  • Sales rank: 1,170,512
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Bly's books of poetry include The Night Abraham Called to the Stars and My Sentence Was a Thousand Years of Joy. His awards include the National Book Award for poetry and two Guggenheims. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Dr. Leonard Lewisohn is Lecturer in Persian and the Iran Heritage Foundation Fellow in Classical Persian and Sufi Literature at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter in England.

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Read an Excerpt

The Angels Knocking on the Tavern Door
Thirty Poems of Hafez

How Blame Has Been Helpful

We are drunken ecstatics who have let our hearts
Go to the wild. We are musty scholars
Of love, and old friends of the wine cup.

People have aimed the arrow of guilt a hundred times
In our direction. With the help of our Darling's eyebrow,
Blame has been a blessing, and has opened all our work.

Oh, dark-spotted flower, you endured pain all night,
Waiting for the wine of dawn; I am that poppy
That was born with the burning spot of suffering.

If our Zoroastrian master has become disgusted
With our way of repentance, tell him, Go ahead,
Strain the wine. We are standing here with our heads down.

It is through you that our work goes on at all;
Oh, teacher of the way, please throw us a glance.
Let's be clear about it; we have fallen off the path.

Don't imagine us to be like the tulip, who is preoccupied
With its goblet shape; rather look at the dark
Spot of grief we have set on our scorched hearts.

"Hafez," you say, "what about all your intriguing colors
And ingenious fantasies?" Don't take our language seriously.
We are a clean slate on which nothing has been written.

The Angels Knocking on the Tavern Door
Thirty Poems of Hafez
. Copyright © by Robert Bly. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents

Some Thoughts on Hafez Robert Bly Bly, Robert

Part I

How Blame Has Been Helpful 3

My Cloak Stained with Wine 5

The Night Visit 7

The World Is Not All That Great 9

A Thousand Doorkeepers 11

Do Not Sink into Sadness 13

The Pearl on the Ocean Floor 15

The Lost Daughter 17

Say Good-bye. It Will Soon Be Over. 19

The Man Who Accepts Blame 21

Part II

The Wine Made Before Adam 25

Conversation with the Teacher 27

Gabriel's News 29

One Rose Is Enough 31

Reaping Wheat 33

The Green Heaven 35

What Do We Really Need? 37

The Angels at the Tavern Door 39

Deciding Not to Go to India 41

The Wind in Solomon's Hands 43

Part III

Reciting the Opening Chapter 47

Become a Lover 49

The Dust of the Doorway 51

Gobbling the Sugar of Dawn Sleep 53

About Destitute Lovers 55

The One Who Remains Disgraced 57

The Guesthouse with Two Doors 59

Some Advice 61

A Glass of Wine 63

On the Way to the Garden 65

Hafez and His Genius Leonard Lewisohn Lewisohn, Leonard 67

Notes on "Hafez and His Genius" 87

Abbreviations to Reference Works on Hafez's Poetry 93

Notes to the Ghazals 95

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