One day, shortly after noon, I was at the Zoroastrian temple (what Hafiz called the "Abode of the Magi") in Los Angeles, facing the fire altar (also see Hafiz's references to the "fire that never dies"...), asking my God, what it was that I was to do next.

At that point, my eyes were involuntarily drawn to the windows on either side of the altar, and for the first time I noticed the tall spruce trees (the trees that adorn Hafezieh, his tomb in Shiraz)... I had seen them before, but this was the first time that they had a significance. Immediately something inside me said, " Hafiz..."

I was somewhat surprised and a little reluctant. The message was loud and clear though. I was supposed to translate Hafiz's poetry into English.

I had tried this before, but found his poems painting a simplistic complexity that was impossible to grasp, let alone translate. And naturally I was reluctant. So at the altar, facing the fire, I made a deal with my God and with Hafiz. I said, "very well, I will do it, but only if two conditions are fulfilled. First that I will need a dictionary, which I do not have here, and second, that I should be inspired. If this work turns out to be a chore, I will abandon it."

Upon leaving the fire temple, I headed for the library, and spoke to the Zoroastrian priest (what Hafiz referred to as the Magi). I said, "I know dictionaries are reference material, but I need a Persian to English dictionary over the next few days."

At first he was reluctantly telling me about how important it is to keep the reference material within the library, but very quickly he softened, and loaned me the dictionary for two weeks. So the first condition was fulfilled within minutes of me demanding it.

I spent the next three days, flipping through Divan-e Hafiz, and every now and again, my eyes would be stopped over one ghazal, and a few English verses would start flowing.

Over the next two and half weeks, in spite of my other commitments, I managed to translate over fifty of his ghazals... I guess the second condition too was fulfilled.

These pages are the sharing of that experience, and perhaps bringing into English a few pearls of Hafiz's wisdom, while trying to keep intact the imagery, music and rhythmic lyricism of his genius, and the spirit in which his poetry were written.

I hope you enjoy it...

June 28, 1999

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