2014 – for SATB Chorus (8:00)

PERUSAL SCORE

Four Miniatures of Hafiz


NOTES

In recent months, I have become 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.


TEXT

I. A Hard Decree

Last

Night

God
Posted
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

Sweet
Ass.


II. Spiced Manna

Someone
Will steal you if you don’t
Stay near,

And sell you as a slave in the
Market.

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

So that no one will ever imprison
Your brilliant angel
Feathers.

Have I put enough spiced manna
On your plate
Tonight

In this Tavern
Where Hafiz
Serves?

If not please wait
For more light is now
Fermenting.

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

And sell you as a slave in
The market.

So your Beloved and I
Sing.


III. A Potent Lover

The sun and the moon shiver

When I drop my pants.

Beware

Of this potent

Lover.


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
Gathered

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
Reason,

“What should we do about that moon?”

Seems to Hafiz
Most everyone has laid aside the music

Tackling such profoundly useless
Questions.

hafiz



Copyright 2013-17 by Michael Schachter. michael.schachter [at] gmail.com