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


Stanza 1.—Khizr. See Note to Stanza 3 of Poem XVIII.

Stanza 3.—Zohra is the planet Venus, the musician of the heavens, and the protector of all musicians and singers upon the earth. Zohra played a part in very ancient mythology. The Mahommadans borrowed and adapted the Magian legends concerning her, and their account runs as follows: Once upon a time the angels fell to marvelling over the wickedness of man and the case with which he was led astray, notwithstanding the warnings sent down to him through the prophets. But God, hearing their words, determined to expose them also to temptation, that they might learn how easy it was to fall. Therefore he appointed two of them, whose names were Harut and Marut, to go down to the earth as judges over man, and he taught them a secret word by the power of which every evening, when their work of judgment was done, they could return to heaven. For some time the two angels accomplished their duties faithfully. But at length a woman called Zohra, more beautiful than any other woman upon earth, came before their judgment-seat demanding redress against her husband, and the two angels conceived a violent passion for her. On the following day, when she returned with the same petition, they drew her aside and declared their love to her. She replied that she would satisfy their desires if they would do three things: destroy her husband, worship the gods she worshipped, and drink wine. Murderers and idolaters the angels could not agree to become, but they consented to drink wine, "not knowing," says the Persian commentator of the Mesnavi of Jelaleddin Rumi, "that wine was the source of sin and the mother of shame." Then said Zohra: "Every night, by the power of a divine word, ye return to heaven. Teach me also that word." The angels confided to her the secret of God, and as soon as she had heard the word she pronounced it in her turn and rose up into heaven, where God changed her form and turned her into a star. The angels attempted to follow her to heaven, but they were refused admittance. On the intercession of a very pious man, however, they were allowed to choose whether they would be punished in this world or the next; they chose the former, and now suffer punishment in the land of Babel—whither, if any man have a mind to learn magic, he may go and learn it of them, for they are masters of all magic arts. Tradition says that Mahommad, whenever he looked upon the planet Venus, was wont to exclaim: "God curse Zohra! for it was she who led the two angels Harut and Marut into sin."

The same story, says Rosenzweig, is to be found in the Talmud, where the two angels are called Asa and Asail. The Talmud relates that the angels, after their sin, were carried into a great mountain and suspended by chains over an abyss. It was they who taught Solomon wisdom.

Stanza 4.—For the superstition concerning the origin of precious stones, see Note to Stanza 3 of poem XXXIII.