Ghazals by Hafez

No. 407

The green sky, a sudden moon

*******brought back bad harvests.

Through the heat, fortune wheezed

*******“settle” and rolled over.

But to die in grace, beaming.

*******Never trust anything in orbit.

Down by the river, the seven sisters

*******implore the sky not to sell its share.

I walk away while the pious burn

*******the fruits of faith.

No. 66

Found myself downwind

*******from her house

talking to the birds

*******and thinking twice about my choice of robe.

A green ringlet chained behind the ears

*******of the good thief.

Word got out about the ruby lips,

*******that beauty goes

only so far towards possession.

*******That’s why the academy only buys handmade

and kings struggle with ascension

*******why salvation must be permeable

and you stay as you are.

No. 393

I lost my name

*******but kept my sight.

Happy faith, deaf to blame,

*******that lets the heathen suffer

Nobody knows about my cut-glass savour

*******who looks for Narcissus in the park.

No. 37

The wind is stronger

*******than the colours of any flag

around which you rally.

*******Gabriel sank to the seventh circle

where the doomsday trumpet couldn’t reach.

*******Told us to keep the gifthorse sweet,

and get back to work

*******for now the door to power is closed

and the rose unjust.

No. 2

The smell of blood

*******black curls through broken ice.

If the ascetic calls, I’m washing

*******the wine from my rug.

How could they know

*******my fear of the wave,

that summons secrets to the assembly

*******and pools at his feet.

No. 107

Surfeit of grace

*******bellcup thoughts

and a lasting dream

*******of cypruses that know their place,

offset your way of bringing in the dawn.

*******A curse on the untrained eye,

the base lip broken

*******into your circuit soul.

No. 319

The final verdict was victory

*******through opposition, calm

through chaos, like your shadow

*******cast cool and whole

on the house we built.

*******My pennance caught on wet lips

taking God at his word,

*******a just tyrant with a couple of restaurants.

No. 200

Don’t let them find you

*******with the harp and oud

lest they seize love’s emollient dreams

*******and settle its questions.

A state formed through force,

*******another through fate;

neither ready, when

*******a poet, a sheikh, and an accountant walk into a bar.

No. 39

Will she keep her promise

*******when she comes to

Shiraz and the banks of the Rokni

*******where we keep modest means.

Write the king with your saffron pen

*******that his daily bread is safe

from the creed that blesses blood

*******above mother’s milk.



Hafez (1315-1390) is one of the most highly regarded classical Persian poets, best known for his collection (divan) of over 400 ghazals. Almost any Farsi speaker from any walk of life will have a copy of his divan at home, and dozens of his lines—if not whole poems—committed to memory.

Patrick Sykes

Patrick Sykes is a British/Irish writer and translator based in Tehran. A selection from his first chapbook, Even in the Still (Wide Range, 2012), won the Brewer Hall Prize. His poems and prose, including translations from Farsi and Turkish, have appeared or are forthcoming in Test Centre, Circumference, The Bosphorus Review, and The White Review, among others. He can be reached at [email protected].

English translation copyright (c) Patrick Sykes, 2017.