by Mahsa Kalatehseifary
Understanding the demanding imagination of his fastidious readers, Hafez knew well what a delicate task he confronted. Armed with the lavish literary devices of Persian poetry, he made good use of his literary heritage. Thus, one needs to familiarize oneself with the literary devices of Persian literature, and in particular with those cherished by Hafez, in order to discover the full meaning of his verses. A study of Hafez’s body of work shows the poet’s fondness for Ihaam (amphibology) in his style, although he also used other rhetorical devices such as Mura’at-I nazir (parallelism), Tajnis (play on words) and Tashbib (simile). The English translation of Ihaam is indicative of the function of such a device: a distich containing Ihaam engages the reader through multiple meanings of single words, which enrich and complicate the meaning of the total distich. Under these circumstances, the meanings are said to be both deep and superficial, which makes the reader uncertain about what is right. In most cases, the uninitiated reader applies the superficial meaning to the distich, which is contrary to the poet’s intention. It is obvious that Hafez’s verses require the reader to be aware of their artifices, so that they perceive the deep and hidden meaning. Ihaam provides safe textual hiding places for a liberal-hearted poet like Hafez to conceal his real thoughts from the critics. Christoph J. Bürgel, for instance, explains the sense of “ambiguity in the poetical universe of Hafiz” as follows:
”[In Hafiz’s poems], one verse contradicts the other, one interpretation is belied by another
and this by a third one, all of which can point to a number of verses in their support. The
longer we read Hafiz [sic] and the better we know him and the literary tradition on which he plays, the more we feel this ambiguity. We even arrive at the conclusion that perhaps this very ambiguity is his message.
A cursory read through scholarly texts on the classical Persian poets shows that being a poet of classical times in Persia “was at the same time to be a scholar, in fact even more. The biographies of the poets state in each case that he was versed in ‘all branches of learning’, viz. theology, philosophy, jurisprudence, natural sciences–including astronomy and mathematics– medicine, in addition of course to the literary disciplines, viz. grammar, poetics, and rhetoric” Ingeborg Solbrig seems to have the same opinion as Rypka; to her “a Persian poet” in the era of Hafez was “a scholar” at the same time. (96) Having an understanding of scientific fields of his time, Hafez was able to refine his verses with his knowledge and at times give them a deeper dimension of ambivalence. With respect to Ihaam, there are instances in which he used his scientific knowledge to convey a deeper meaning to supplement and make complex the preliminary, superficial one.
One further step to overcome the difficulties of Hafez’s poems is to familiarize oneself with “[the] dramatis personae of the fictive world of the ghazals”. In this regard, the Divan resembles a drama revealing its one-dimensional and multi-dimensional protagonists and antagonists to his reader through the poems. To comprehend the one-dimensional characters, the reader must think beyond the usual connotative values of each of them. For instance, on the one hand, the term “rival” is the literal translation of Raghib, which is defined in Hafez’s poems as protector. The multi-dimensional personages, on the other hand, require a well-versed reader for recognition, who eventually becomes aware of the engaged connotations surrounding each character. Khorramshahi calls this attribute Hafez’s first privilege and artistic value and relates it to the poet’s mastery of mythologizing; his adeptness in creating motifs that are neither real, nor unreal, but surreal. Khorramshahi believes that myths possess reality’s validity, and a great artist’s distinction is to seize and coin this reality. Hafez surely succeeded in incorporating the existing societal values of his time and place into the spirit of the mythical characters of his Divan. Hafezian mythical motifs serve a dual purpose as “representation[s] of characters who function also as personifications of abstract concepts or values” existing in his society. Some of the multi-dimensional characters include: Pire Moghan (a combination of the old wine seller and Pire Tarighat), Deyre Moghan (a combination of tavern and Kharabat ), Wine (with the combined faces of literal, mystical), rend (a combination of the Complete Man and a beggar ) and the characters Shahed, cup-bearer, Zahed , Sufi, monastery, mosque and Kharabat, who function mostly as one-dimensional figures. To Khorramshahi, even the cup of wine and the goblet have mythological dimensions. Thus, Hafez allows his audience to see the characters reveal their true selves through the drama of the Divan. Hafez writes himself as a member of his imagined society, and takes the role of rend , the liberal-minded freethinker. Caton mentions Robin Hood as the Western counterpart for the Hafezian Rend and describes him as a “freethinking responsible free-spirit, who had no respect for established rituals. Hafez shows his hatred of Zahed and portrays his affection for his physical and spiritual beloved. Zahed embodies the sanctimonious hypocrite, who upbraids Hafez, a rend, for his pagan belief. Hafez’s role as rend is indicative of two things: through the role of a freethinker, Hafez highlights his unaligned function in portraying the real situation of society and leaves it up to his audience to distinguish between good and evil.
To be continued…