A Poem For Your Thoughts

Hafez: Ode 44

Davis Creach, Arts Editor

Welcome back to the only poetry column around that satisfies your literary needs every single week! We travel to the other half of the world this week, back in time to a new world of poetry and prose. So no need to sit around reading the intro, let’s get started! Each edition will include two poems, the first being a featured piece written by a famous poet that will be analyzed and interpreted according to my point of view. Of course, everyone’s interpretation is different and valid, and the comment section will be open for any further discussion. The second piece is written by yours truly and will be open to complete interpretation and analysis. Go forth, enjoy, and as you read, remember: “It is not what you look at that matters, it is what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

Poem One: Ode 44 by Hafez
Last night, as half asleep I dreaming lay,
Half naked came she in her little shift,
With tilted glass, and verses on her lips;
Narcissus-eyes all shining for the fray,
Filled full of frolic to her wine-red lips,
Warm as a dewy rose, sudden she slips
Into my bed – just in her little shift.

Said she, half naked, half asleep, half heard,
With a soft sigh betwixt each lazy word,
‘Oh my old lover, do you sleep or wake!’
And instant I sat upright for her sake,
And drank whatever wine she poured for me –
Wine of the tavern, or vintage it might be
Of Heaven’s own vine: he surely were a churl
Who refused wine poured out by such a girl,
A double traitor he to wine and love.
Go to, thou puritan! the gods above
Ordained this wine for us, but not for thee;
Drunkards we are by a divine decree,
Yea, by the special privilege of heaven
Foredoomed to drink and foreordained forgiven.

Ah! HAFIZ, you are not the only man

Who promised penitence and broke down after;
For who can keep so hard a promise, man,
With wine and woman brimming o’er with laughter!
O knotted locks, filled like a flower with scent,
How have you ravished this poor penitent!

Thoughts: I won’t lie to you, dear readers, this one was a real doozy for me. Hafez tackles one of the great questions of religious life: are all worldly pleasures evil or go against God? It’s hard to say what exactly this poem is saying, and this entire week I have been pouring over it trying to figure out the meaning. After days of pondering, analyzing, and discussing it with numerous other members are our staff, I have come to two possible conclusions:

Option 1: Libertine Ironic Monologue

For those of you who have read the novel Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, this one will certainly be easy to understand. In the novel, Siddhartha is on a spiritual journey to find himself and discover enlightenment in the world. At first, Siddartha leads a life of asceticism, which forces him to avoid all pleasures and comforts of life to find his sense of self. Later on in the novel, Siddhartha abandons this practice and live the life of a Libertine, seeking pleasure at every turn and disregarding all moral and judicial codes to achieve true happiness and pleasure. This is the basis of my first analyzation; Hafez was a devout Muslim that lives in the 14th century, and it is very clear that his faith was a central part of his life and his philosophy. Keeping that in mind, one of the most important aspects of poetry is that you can never assume the speaker and the author or synonymous. So, it is not too far of a stretch to say that Hafez is mocking Libertines in this poem by writing and ironic monologue that points out their follies. At the beginning of the poem, the speaker describes a woman walking in with “Narcissus-eyes” and “verses on her lips” as she loosely holds a wine glass and a bottle of the spirit; shes clearly trying to seduce him. The main point of the poem takes place right in the middle when the speaker eventually gives in to the woman and the wine and does’nt hesitate from that point forward to indulge in these pleasures. So what point is Hafez trying to make here? In this theory, Hafez is conveying his disapproval and condemnation of the Libertines by writing this ironic monologue. He’s poking holes in the philosophy of libertinism because they believe they can indulge in all of life’s pleasures and suffer no consequences. This is directly referenced when the speaker exclaims, “Drunkards we are by a divine decree, / Yea, by the special privilege of heaven / Foredoomed to drink and foreordained forgiven.” The speaker argues that God intended us to revel in the pleasures of the world, and no matter what we shall ultimately be forgiven. It’s an excuse for their wild and rash behavior in life, and Hafez reduces their point to nonsense.

Option 2: Sufi Islam Concession

There are two famous Iranian Sufi mystic poets in history, one of which being Hafez and the other being Rumi. These two poets prescribe to the ideologies of Sufism, which is a branch of Islam that is not entirely orthodox. Just to be clear, I am not a Muslim and my research is somewhat limited so I am certainly not an expert. Anyway, let’s talk Sufism briefly. Sufis believe that there is one God and that there is a true connection between man and the Divine. This is much more powerful than worldly knowledge or experience because it is more impactful and important for one to experience God and bridge the gap between the world and the Divine. One of the central methods of Sufism is the development of presence and love. What that means is presence is the only thing that will free us from our worldly enslavement, and Divine love in God will bring us closer to enlightenment and truly holy wisdom. Sufis believe there is no separation between man and the Divine, so it is our duty to neglect the worldly pleasures that force us further from the one God. However, Hafez recognizes the impurity and imperfections of humanity and concedes that we cannot be perfect and will always be tempted by the world. Sufis believe that there is always one man, known as the Qutb, who is the perfect channel of grace from God to man, much like Muhammed or Jesus Christ. that being said, if there is only one “perfect man”, then the rest of us are sure to fall short of the righteous vision of God. So, when we are confronted “With wine and women brimming o’er with laughter!”, we should not strain so much to deny ourselves these pleasures. The speaker does not endorse a life of wildness and lack of self-control, but instead a life of balance and experience that we cannot avoid. God wishes us to be Divine, but the world wishes us to be one with the world and these two parts of Sufism, and of mankind in general, will forever be entangled in an endless struggle. Our holy selves must repent and ask for guidance from our one God, and our worldly selves will be part of this world and the sin that with be everpresent.


Like I said, a real doozy. This was by far one of the hardest, if not the single hardest poems I have ever analyzed in my life, but either way, I would like to hear your thoughts! Please comment below what you think Hafez is trying to say, and give your own opinions!


Poem Two: Union of Two Souls by D.C.

Love shines brighter than the morning sunbeams of spring.

It gazes upon two lovers, whose matrimony has been written in the stars.

Although trouble and difference race like horses to break their endearing bond, Love will cast them out.

Love is a warrior, a sacred defender of peace and joy in marriage.

Its protection never wanes.


Aster flowers bloom in jubilation for the union of two souls.

Maple leaves line the approaching path of love-bound travelers.

With each step they take, their bond grows with the hardiness of honeysuckle.

Love lights their way, a guiding brilliance that will never be snuffed.




Thank you for reading the column this week! If there are any poets or specific poems you would like to read and analyze, please let me know in the comment section below! And tune in next week for more poetry coming your way on The Uproar!