The following is my translation of a famous ghazal by Hafiz, one which, despite being well-beloved by readers of his original Persian, is not rendered into English nearly so often as his poems that concern love or allow mystical interpretation. Yet is it is a poem that is quintessentially Hafiz: melancholic, enigmatic, replete with allusions both literary and cultural, and poignant in the power of its expression.
My aim in this translation has been to both preserve the tone and sentiments of Hafiz, as well as the form of the ghazal (for a discussion on the ghazal, see my introduction to ghazal 470). As such, I employed a monorhyme which is seen in both of the hemistiches of the first verse, and then in the second hemistiches of the subsequent verses. I used a trochaic meter of seven feet, with a half foot in many of the lines. My hope is that by preserving the form of verse that Hafiz used, I can most nearly reproduce for an English reader the experience of the original Persian. For a recitation of this poem in the original click here.
I thank Naeem Nabiliakbar for his invaluable advice in proofreading the following translation, which improved its accuracy and resolved some dubious readings.
Succor now in none I see, Hafiz Ghazal 169
Translation by Joshua Hall
Succor now in none I see; what clime are friends gone to?
When did friendship die, and lovers true become so few?
Blackened is the fount of life; where is the Khizr of fortune?
Roses’ stems weep blood; where are the breezes that renew?
No man saith there be a friend with care for friendship’s right.
In what pit have fallen those respecting friendship’s due?
Years no gem hath come forth from the mine of chivalry.
Sunshine and the works of wind and rain, are they gone too?
Denizens of kindly climes are now but dust that’s scattered;
When had kindliness died out, its cities bid adieu?
In the field the ball’s been cast of magnanimity;
None rides forth. Where are the riders wonted to pursue?
Roses by the thousand bloomed but are bereft of birdsong;
Where are now the nightingales whose absence we thus rue?
Venus play’th not pleasing tunes; indeed, her lute hath burned.
None is there with taste for wine; do all their drink eschew?
Hafiz, godly secrets such as these none knoweth; be silent.
Whom about the turning spheres art thou to ask; yes, who?