2014 – for SATB Chorus (8:00)


Four Miniatures of Hafiz


In the months leading up to the composition of this piece, I became enraptured by the poetry of the great Sufi mystic Shams-ud-din Muhammad (c. 1320-1389), more commonly known as Hafiz. The word “hafiz” refers to one who has memorized and mastered the Quran, and fittingly enough, the poetry of the enormously influential poet Hafiz has been traditionally used as a sort of holy text or guide. Whatever the malady or dilemma, flip open to a poem and receive wisdom. Stunned by the seeming modernity and irreverence of the poems, I looked more into a wider variety of translations, and discovered that my particular volume (the recent collection translated by Daniel Ladinsky) takes significantly more liberties with the text than some scholars are comfortable with, especially in his willingness to “update” topical allusions and freely break the traditional couplet scheme of the ghazals. I realized that, short of mastering medieval Persian, I would be forever distanced from the “real” Hafiz, left only to “triangulate” on the author through competing translations, biographical sketches, and my own imaginative fancy. But hermeneutical issues be damned, I could not resist the cheeky allure of Ladinsky’s translation. Fully Hafiz or not, these English poems are real, and the joy and inspiration they bring about in me cannot be denied. In a sense, then, my decision to set the poems into music has two aims: to create anew from innocent inspiration, and to further complicate the already-murky waters of authorship. Who are we to own, to label, to prescribe? Quoting Hafiz—er, Ladinsky’s Hafiz: “I could not say anything / You could not / Tell me. / Then, / What was the use of this story? / O, / I just felt like / Talking.”

These four miniatures can be performed in any combination or subset.


I. A Hard Decree



On the Tavern wall

A hard decree for all of love’s inmates

Which read:

If your heart cannot find a joyful work

The jaws of this world
Will probably

Grab hold of your


II. Spiced Manna

Will steal you if you don’t
Stay near,

And sell you as a slave in the

I sing
To the nightingales’ hearts
Hoping they will learn
My verse

So that no one will ever imprison
Your brilliant angel

Have I put enough spiced manna
On your plate

In this Tavern
Where Hafiz

If not please wait
For more light is now

Someone will steal you if you
Don’t stay near,

And sell you as a slave in
The market.

So your Beloved and I

III. A Potent Lover

The sun and the moon shiver

When I drop my pants.


Of this potent


IV. What Should We Do About That Moon?

A wine bottle fell from a wagon
And broke open in a field.

That night one hundred beetles and all their cousins

And did some serious binge drinking.

They even found some seed husks nearby
And began to play them like drums and whirl.
This made God very happy.

Then the “night candle” rose into the sky
And one drunk creature, laying down his instrument,
Said to his friend—for no apparent

“What should we do about that moon?”

Seems to Hafiz
Most everyone has laid aside the music

Tackling such profoundly useless


Copyright 2013-22 by Michael Schachter. michael.schachter [at] gmail.com