Sing a few ribald songs

Hafiz, I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Joy and Hope. Renderings of Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky (New York: Penguin, 2006).

‘I Heard God Laughing’ is an apt title for this wonderful collection of poems by the fourteenth-century mystic and poet Hafiz or Hafez of Shiraz. These indeed are poems of hope and joy – and love and wonder, one might add, rendered into contemporary English with great poetic skill by Daniel Ladinsky.

Here’s an example to whet your appetite:

If It Is Not Too Dark

Go for a walk, if it is not too dark.
Get some fresh air, try to smile.
Say something kind
To a safe-looking stranger, if one happens by.

Always exercise your heart’s knowing.

You might as well attempt something real
Along this path:

Take your spouse or lover into your arms
The way you did when you first met.
Let tenderness pour from your eyes
The way the Sun gazes warmly on the earth.

Play a game with some children.
Extend yourself to a friend.
Sing a few ribald songs to your pets and plants –
Why not let them get drunk and wild!

Let’s toast
Every rung we’ve climbed on Evolution’s ladder.
Whisper, ‘I love you! I love you!’
To the whole mad world.

Let’s stop reading about God –
We will never understand Him.

Jump to your feet, wave your fists,
Threaten and warn the whole Universe.

That your heart can no longer live
Without real love!

A concluding essay on ‘The Life and Work of Hafiz’ by Henry S. Mindlin and a short annotated bibliography conclude one of the most delightful books I have read in a while.

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