Hafez, though dead six hundred years now, is so alive to every Persian as perhaps no other classical poet of any other nation. On the spring solstice his volume is placed on the New Year’s table instead of the Quran, his poems are recited by heart and live on as folk songs, and as the great Hungarian Islam scholar Ármin Vámbéry noticed it in the late 19th century, even the muleteers sang them crossing the passes of the Taurus.

Hafez’s poems are often sung even by today’s Persian bands, on a wide range from classical Persian music to heavy metal. I have often thought about how good it would be to translate Hafez in parallel with its modern musical performances, thus illustrating how much he is considered a living poet rather than an obscure medieval literary fossil, and how his poems still inspire sometimes completely unexpected musical forms.

And here’s the chance to begin. For the New Year – for our New Year – appeared a new album entitled الکی Alaki “Spurious” by Mohsen Namjoo, referred to as “the Persian Bob Dylan” by the press of Tehrangeles, the nearly million strong Persian quarter of Los Angeles. Later I would like to write on Namjoo and on the Persian “sung poetry” in general, which offers various, more or less successful experiments to combine classical Persian music with modern pop music on the one hand, and, peculiarly, with the music of the European Mediterranean on the other hand, from Renaissance lute to Flamenco (an example has been already quoted here). Now I only publish the third song of the new album which, entitled نامه Nâme, “Letter”, performs Hafez’s poem beginning with از خون دل Az khun-e del, “From the blood of my heart”.

A peculiarity of this poem is that it follows the medieval Persian poetic structure known as mulammaʿ, “mixed”, its odd lines being in Persian, and its even lines in Arabic. Beyond the philological curiosity, this duality offers the possibility of a play to the poet – also exploited by the singer – in which, in contrast to the relative self-restraint and sobriety of the Persian verses, paved with consonants and alliterations, in the Arabic verses he gives free way to his emotions and despair. It is also interesting to observe that the Arabic verses are usually a proverb-like wisdom, which might have been known also to the non-Arabic speaking Persian audience from the Quran and the religious tradition. In the Romanized transcription of the Persian text I sometimes mark the intentionally archaic pronunciation, not indicated by the script (e.g. nâma instead of nâme), and in that of the Arabic text (with cursive) the characteristic “Iranian Arabic” pronunciation, as the Persians pronounce the Arabic text, for example, when praying in Arabic. The term talib in the last verse means both “student” and “seeker”: him who seeks the truth as well as him who seeks love.

Hafez – Mohsen Namjoo: Nâme – Letter

انی رایت دهرا من هجرک القیامه
لیست دموع عینی هذا لنا العلامه
من جرب المجرب حلت به الندامه
و الله ما راینا حبا بلا ملامه
فی بعدها عذاب فی قربها السلامه
حتی یذوق منه کاسا من الکرامه
از خون دل نوشتم نزدیک دوست نامه
دارم من از فراقش در دیده صد علامت
هر چند کازمودم از وی نبود سودم
گفتم ملامت آید گر گرد دوست گردم
پرسیدم از طبیبی احوال دوست گفتا
حافظ چو طالب آمد جامی به جان شیرین

Az khun-e del neveshtam nazdik-e dust nâma
enni raayt o dahra men hejrek al-qiyâma
dâram man az farâghasht dar dide sad alâmat
laysat dumuʿ o ʿayni hâzâ lanal al-ʿalâma

har chand-o kazmudam az vey nabud sudam
man jarrab al-mujarrab hallat beh en-nadâma
goftam malâmat âyad gar gerde dust gardam
vallâh-o mâ raynâ hobba belâ malâma

porsidam az tabibi ahvâl-e dust goftâ
porsidam az tabibi ahvâl-e dust goftâ

fi boʿdehâ azâb-o fi qorbeha as-salâma
fi boʿdehâ azâb-o fi qorbeha as-salâma

khâfez sho talleb âmad jâmi be jân-e shirin
hattâ yezuq-o menho kasa men al-kerâma

with the blood of my heart I wrote a letter to my sweetheart:
when you are away, I experience the Day of the Judgement
a hundred signs of your absence are in my eyes:
how is it that my tears can never blur them?

whatever I tried, I had no reward from you
whoever tries a trial repents of having tried
I said: I’ll be rebuked if I go after you
but for Allah! who has ever seen love without rebuking?

I asked the doctor’s advice because of my love, and he said:
“to be around her, disease, being away from her, health”

once Hafez became your talib, at least
give him a cup in change for his sweet life
for his life give him the cup of your love

5 comentarios:

Diane dijo...

For your post about Hafez and once more, Poemas de rio Wang is the moment in my day.

Studiolum dijo...

Thank you very much!

Alan Shaw dijo...

Interesting about the lines in Persian being sung in a restrained and formal way while in the Arabic lines the singer “gives free way to his emotions and despair,” the opposite of what you might expect. Maybe there's some parallel in the setting of Latin texts in Western music, which could also be more “emotional” at times, though usually for religious, rather than earthy emotion.

The other striking thing is how basically the same melody, with minor variations, is used for every line. It could be a very effective way of conveying the poetry. How traditional is it?

Studiolum dijo...

The first thing that comes to mind is, obviously, the Carmina Burana, although I do not know how much of its original melody was incorporated by Orff in his modern composition. But there were also Renaissance and later “maccarone songs”, with alternating Latin and Italian (or other modern language) verses, where the Latin text was often more proverbial/commonplace, and it was used more for its sounding than the other language.

As to the repetitive melody, it is absolutely traditional in Persian and Arabic music and in the musical cultures influenced by them.

francesca dijo...

((("as perhaps no other classical poet of any other nation": perhaps Qu Yuan (for patriotism) and Li Bai (for the poetry itself) in China?)))

Never mind: thank you, Studiolum, as usual!