Weekly Poem: Dick Davis reads his translation of a 14th century Persian poem

BY Arts Desk  December 23, 2013 at 3:40 PM EST


As a young man, Dick Davis fell in love with Iran and ever since he has dedicated his life to bringing its culture to the west. “Its been a wonderful odyssey.” Here he reads his translations of a poem by Hafez, a renowned 14th century Persian poet.

I see no love in anyone,
Where, then, have all the lovers gone?
And when did all our friendship end,
And what’s become of every friend?

Life’s water’s muddied now, and where
Is Khezr to guide us from despair?
The rose has lost its coloring,
What’s happened to the breeze of spring?

A hundred thousand flowers appear
But no birds sing for them to hear —
Thousands of nightingales are dumb:
Where are they now? Why don’t they come?

For years no rubies have been found
In stony mines deep underground;
When will the sun shine forth again?
Where are the clouds brimful of rain?

Who thinks of drinking now? No one.
Where have the roistering drinkers gone?
This was a town of lovers once,
Of kindness and benevolence,

And when did kindness end? What brought
The sweetness of our town to naught?
The ball of generosity
Lies on the field for all to see –

No rider comes to strike it; where
Is everyone who should be there?
Silence, Hafez, since no one knows
The secret ways that heaven goes;

Who is it that you’re asking how
The heavens are revolving now?

Dick Davis is a preeminent scholar of medieval Persian poetry. He is also an accomplished poet himself. He lived in Iran for eight years, where he met his wife, before moving back to England and completing a Ph.D in medieval Persian literature at the University of Manchester. “Faces of Love: Hafez and the Poets of Shiraz” is his newest book in a long list of translations that includes “The Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings” and “Vis & Ramin,” the first Persian romance.

Check back Tuesday on Art Beat for chief arts correspondent Jeffrey Brown’s conversation with Dick Davis on the importance of Hafez’s poetry in Iranian culture.