The Ghazals of Hasan Sijzi of Dehli

The universe has no one to be one with;
Out of hundreds of watchers,
not one can see.
Fate’s tree is crowned with thorns;
you can search forever but
no blossom will break its opacity.
Promises make the rounds of this world,
giving hopes not theirs to give.
Since the world has no sweetness,
restrain your bitterness when you see
the man selling vinegar. He will pass
to the seven roofs of heaven and see
that even the eight gardens offer no safety.
Hasan, why do your thoughts linger here?
After tomorrow, the days disappear.


Cupbearer, my night is long.
Bring me wine while hope persists.
We bow when we see your countenance.
In our religion we drink prayers like this.
Mahmud the Conqueror hated
Ferdowsi’s Book of Kings.
His only reading pleasure came
from the story of Ayaz, his lover.
I am not up to union. Let’s leave
that business to the Creator.
Don’t gaze at me so reverently.
Your face is an abode for my humility.
Your hair belongs to my assembly.
A luminous candle accompanies
the night’s longevity. For as long
as you insist on philandering,
Hasan insists on awaiting your return.


The heart that does not yearn
to burn does not yearn
to know the secrets within.
Do not ask me for wisdom.
What I had yesterday is gone today.
Beauty’s frivolity is a soul-breaker.
Prudence in this battle
brings defeat. The Turk’s quivers
pierce all the livers.
Raw heart! Burn, lovingly.
Even those who do not yearn to burn,
burn, rawly, to need. Love’s lesson
is not a children Qur’an.
You are ignorant of its grammar
and orthography. Hasan!
Cease conjuring the morning of union.
Your night bears no trace
of daylight’s simplicity.


Given my grief for you, what use is luxury?
Given my pain from you, what use is a remedy?
Behold this sacrifice of selfhood:
a lover lives through his beloved’s whim.
What other life is there for him?
Your lovers have nowhere to go.
What use is a garden to the bird of paradise?
Every time your eye strikes your lip,
the dead live twice.
Who needs these stories about living?
Everything that reaches you reaches its desire.
What is the use of rain to a ripe crop?
Rivals, why do you loiter near Hasan’s refuge?
You’d better abandon the door
where he hopes someday
to reach what he longs for.


Your face is the moon of the assembly.
My heart plays audience
to your passionate intensity.
I purchased your love
by selling my soul–
such is life’s expediency.
Since your corner became my residency
I have no need for paradise and its luxuries.
The moon blanches at your visage.
We are enmeshed in a nightlong rivalry.
Poor Hasan whispered to you secretly.
Now we know your assassin’s identity.


You are my only lover in the world wide.
No grief-companion resides more inside.
Your love ascends higher than spring,
making edges roses, tulip tears,
and eyelashes clouds. No night passes
when my thorny heart does not dream
to wipe the dust beneath your feet.
The branch of union will bear fruit, I reasoned,
when a voice behind the door preached to me:
“Our fruit is barren.” Your voice instructed me:
“Take up residence in another’s street.”
The pact between you and me
makes no provision for my defeat.
I want to bring Iran to the sky
but life does not allow it. Does your whispering
exceed my laments or do my laments
exceed your sweet nothings? It seems to me
both measurements lie.


Hasan Sijzi

Hasan Sijzi of Dehli (d. 1337) was one of the most important Persian poets of fourteenth-century South Asia. His fame rests on his innovations in the ghazal and on Fawa'id al-Fuwad (Morals of the Heart), his influential compilation of the sayings of the famous Sufi Shaikh Nizam al-Din Awliya, under whom he, together with his fellow poet, friend, and rival, Amir Khusrow, studied. Hasan participated in Sultan Muhammad b. Tughluq's notorious relocation of the capital of his empire from Delhi to Dawlatabad in South India in 1327, and died a decade later in forced exile far from Delhi, the city he had made his home. More than any of his contemporaries, Hasan played a major role in transmitting the Persian ghazal to South Asia.

Rebecca Gould

Rebecca Gould is a scholar, translator, and writer, concerned primarily with modern and medieval Islamic culture and Persianate literatures, especially from the region formerly known as the Soviet Union. Her translations have appeared in Jacket Magazine, Washington Square Review, Contemporary Russian Poetry (Dalkey Archive Press), and The Russia Reader (Duke University Press). Memoirs of a Shepherd: Stories by Alexander Qazbegi, her first volume of translations from Georgian, is forthcoming in 2011 from Syracuse University Press, Middle Eastern Literatures in Translation series. Her literary essays have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, and Transitions Online. Her scholarly articles have appeared in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East and Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History. Currently, she is an instructor in Columbia University's Literature Humanities Program and a PhD candidate in the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society, also at Columbia.

English translation copyright (c) Rebecca Gould, 2010.