Meher Baba's favorite poetic form was the ghazal. His favorite poet was the master of this form, Shams-ud-din Mohammed Hafiz. Now, with the republication of yet another classic translation of Hafiz' works, an appraisal of the poet and his work in the light of Beloved Baba's teaching is in order.
The book is the massive, sometimes painfully literal rendering of the complete Divan of Hafiz by Lieut.-Col. Wilberforce Clarke. First published in India in 1891, the long out-of-print two-volume work has been reissued in New York by Weiser's Books,* which has been republishing many of the classics of Sufi and mystic literature. It is certainly among the most thorough books on the subject, and perhaps the most complete English translation. A slim volume of the Rubaiyat and Odes (ghazals) rendered by John Watkins, which was republished by Stuart and Watkins, London, in 1970 from the 1920 original, is an interesting comparison. Though far less complete, the latter volume appears more satisfying to an observer trained in Sufism – it contains a valuable glossary of the meanings of many poetical images in Sufi mysticism, and seems in general to breathe the fragrance of Hafiz. Col. Clarke's labor appears more a monument to the pains of scholarship, though the sheer vastness of the project he has completed staggers the reader. But a comparison of the two, or of the multitude of recent works on Sufism or Persian poetry, reveals several fundamental problems of scholarship whose answers, when studied in the context of Meher Baba's explanation of God, the Path, and the meaning of life, offer a valuable commentary on modern life.
Hafiz the man, lived in Persia in the 14th century. It was 700 years after Muhammed; a time of turbulence and political intrigues, culminating in the sacking of Persia by Tamerlane c. 1390. Mystically, Hafiz continued the line of Perfection which had made Sufism the delight of the seekers of God for centuries – the line of Sanai, Junaid, Hallaj, Saadi, Attar, and Rumi, perhaps the greatest of all. Meher Baba once told his story at Guruprasad in 1963.**
Baba drifted to the subject of Hafiz, his favorite poet. He said, "There is no one equal to Hafiz in poetry. He was a Perfect Master. He was very ugly and was born of poor parents. His father was a coal merchant. From his childhood he had
*Diwan-I-Hafiz, translated by Lt. Col. H. Wilberforce Clarke. Samuel Weiser Press. $40. 2 vols. boxed.
**Dr. Bharucha, AWAKENER IX, 3