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Poems from the Divan of Hafiz, by Getrude Lowthian Bell, [1897], at


Stanza 1.—Sir Henry Layard gives the following account of a party of dervishes with whom he travelled, from which it would appear that the contempt of Hafiz for the dervish habit was not wholly uncalled for: "They were a picturesque and motley crew. One or two of them were what the Persians call luti, young men with well-dyed curls, long garments, and conical caps embroidered in many colours—debauched and dissolute fellows, who, under the guise of poverty, and affecting abstinence and piety, were given to every manner of vice. Others were half-naked savages, with hair hanging down their backs, and the skins of gazelles on their shoulders—barefooted, dirty, and covered with vermin. They carried heavy iron maces, and seemed more disposed to exact than to ask for charity. As they went along they shouted 'Yah Allah! yah Muhammad! yah Ali!' They all had slung from their shoulders the carved cocoa-nut shell, which is indispensable to the dervish, and serves for carrying food and for drinking purposes. Round their necks they wore charms and amulets, with beads and coloured strings and tassels."He goes on to say: "Most Persian dervishes, although they have great pretensions to sanctity, by which they impose upon the people, high and low, are without any religion. They are, however, credited with working miracles, and with being able to give efficacious charms. . . . Although these dervishes are rank impostors, and generally arrant scoundrels, they maintain their influence over the ignorant and superstitious Persians of all classes, who greatly fear, and do not dare to offend them. Consequently no one ventures to refuse them admission into their houses, and even into the women's apartments, where those who go stark-naked, and are looked upon as specialty holy and protected by Allah and Ali, can enter with impunity. Sometimes they will demand a specific sum of money from a rich man, and if he refuses to pay it, will establish themselves in the gateway or porch of his dwelling, or outside close to it, and enclosing a small plot of ground, sow wheat or plant flowers, and remain until what they ask for is paid them, hooting hideously day and night, calling upon Mohammad, Ali, and the Imams, or blowing on a buffalo's horn so as to disturb the whole neighbourhood. The owner and inmates of the house are helpless. They do not dare to remove by force the holy men."—Early Adventures.

Stanza 2.—That is to say, the prayer-carpet of the orthodox Mussulman had not enough value to procure for him so much as one glass of Sufi wine. Nor was he worthy to lay his head even upon the dusty steps of the tavern—the place of instruction in Sufi doctrine.

Stanza 3.—To be clothed in one colour is the Persian idiom for sincerity. He means that the single purple robe of the grape is worth more than the hypocritical garment of the dervish, all torn and patched with long journeying-in the wrong road.

Stanza 5.—So far I have endeavoured to give the mystical interpretation of the poem. There is, however, a story attached to it which turns it into a historical rather than a theological document. It is related that the King of the Deccan, Mahmud Shah Bahmani, had heard of the fame of Hafiz, and having a pretty taste in literature, was desirous of attracting him to his court. Accordingly he ordered his Vizir, Mir Feiz Allah Inju, to send the poet a sufficient sum to pay for his journey from Shiraz. Hafiz resolved to accept the invitation. He wound up his affairs in his native town, using some of the money the Sultan had sent him in paying his debts and in making gifts to his sister's children, and set forth upon his journey. But when he reached the town of Lar he found there an acquaintance in very bad case, having been plundered by robbers and reduced to a state of beggary. Hafiz was moved to compassion and gave him the remainder of the money which Mahmud Shah had sent to him. He was now himself unable to continue his journey for want of means, and perhaps it was bitter experience that taught him that in very fact his prayer-carpet would not fetch him a glass of wine, and that without the necessary silver pieces he would be thrust from out the tavern doors. From these straits he was rescued by two friendly merchants, who were also on their way to India, and who offered to pay his expenses to Hormuz, and there place him on a vessel of Mahmud Shah's which was coming to fetch them. Hafiz accepted the offer, went to Hormuz, and embarked on the ship. But before they had left the port a violent storm arose, and persuaded the poet that no advantages he might reap from the journey would be worth the sorrow of the sea. Under pretext of bidding farewell to some friends, he disembarked, and in all haste made the best of his way back to Shiraz, sending to Feiz Allah this poem as an excuse for failing to keep his engagement. The Vizir read it to Mahmud Shah, who was transported by the beauty of the verses and the philosophic dignity in which Hafiz had cloaked his fears of the dangers of the road and the discomforts of seasickness. With singular generosity he sent the defaulting poet a further present, consisting of some at least of the riches of his lands and seas.