Wine & Prayer is a new edition of Elizabeth Gray’s 1995 work The Green Sea of Heaven. In this new volume, Gray has joined with Iraj Anvar, a scholar of Sufism and Persian poetry, expanding the book from fifty to eighty translations of Hafiz’s brilliant ghazals.
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Native Persian speakers hold a special bond with Hafiz. Poems from his Divan (collected works) are memorized by men, women, and children from all strands of society, from scholars to school children, entrepreneurs to nomads. Hafiz was the unrivaled master of the ghazal, a lyric form roughly equivalent to the English sonnet in length, intensity, and complexity.
Wine & Prayer is a new edition of Elizabeth Gray’s 1995 work The Green Sea of Heaven. In this new volume, Gray has joined with Iraj Anvar, a scholar of Sufism and Persian poetry, expanding the book from fifty to eighty translations of Hafiz’s brilliant ghazals. This work brings to each reader Hafiz’s poetic genius, expressing his passion for the Divine Beloved and his scandalous (to the Muslim clergy of his day) exaltation of music and wine as vehicles of transcendence and ecstasy.
Wine & Prayer presents the ghazals of Hafiz in English translations that capture the subtleties, paradoxes, and spiritual depths of the poet hailed by Persians as “the Tongue of the Invisible” and the “Interpreter of Mysteries.”
“This is a groundbreaking work, one that places the ghazal of Háfiz into a contemporary English poetic idiom … After too long a wait, we encounter Háfiz, come alive in an English style that is at once natural and intricate. This is a remarkable achievement.”
~ Michael Sells, author of Mystical Languages of Unsaying and Approaching the Qur’án
“These are truly remarkable and moving translations: the first English versions of Háfiz to read as poetry while still capturing the unique qualities of concision, multivalent meaning and spiritual depth which have for centuries made his Persian ghazals the acknowledged masterpiece and exemplar of poetic art throughout the Eastern Islamic world.”
~ Professor James Morris, Islamic Thought and Literature, Oberlin College
“Western scholars of classical Persian poetry have frequently felt humbled before the grand ocean of allusions and historical references, stock phrases and metaphors, ever-recurring images and figures, tantalizing integration of rhythm and rhyme and world-play and meaning, from all of which leaps forth the ghazal: ghazal, the hard-as rock genre of Persian poetry, of which Háfiz of Shiraz is the unparalleled master. To be sure, the very form of this genre is unique to its own milieu: ghazal is a single poem containing within itself a whole multiplicity of vibrating small poems: for each verse of the ghazal, the bayt, is an integral whole, related to other bayts only ” at least apparently” by a meter that is fixed and by a rhyme that reappears. Given all this, translating a Persian ghazal is no easy matter. Steeped in tradition, it requires long curtains of explanatory footnotes hanging from the rod of each translated verse; but how clumsy such an exercise will look! And then, the translator must at once be highly learned in the Persian literary tradition and profoundly skilled in poetic craft. These are the twin requirements for those daring ones who undertake the daunting task. Here is an English translation of fifty ghazals of the great Háfiz: a translation with a rich flow that is surprising, with a vigilant faithfulness to the original that is commendable, and with a tender and learned poetic care that is both a scholarly and an artistic joy. Elizabeth Gray presents us with a bouquet of Shirazi flowers, blazing in their colors and so fresh. She is to be admired both for her erudition and her verbal skills. And more, we must admire her also for her cultural courage. The plan of this work is very sensible. First, Gray provides a very useful introduction; here she presents the historical setting in which the fourteenth century poet Háfiz was composing his ghazals; she explicates the nature of this genre itself, including its formal and technical requirements; she speaks of the challenges faced by a translator; and she utters an authoritative word of caution to the reader: “brandish lightly . . . the templates of Western literary criticism”… Yes, we must heed her advice. Then, she juxtaposes the original Persian text and her translation; and there exists no footnotes, no heavy curtains, no clumsiness. To be sure, notes do exist – but far removed from the translations, at the end of the book. This was an intelligent structural decision. These notes are minimal, not too extensive, not too pedantic. And they are highly beneficial. In some cases, they constitute packed short essays on some of the most abstruse stylistic, conceptual, and historical elements of the Persian poetic tradition. It seems, then, that the work has wide scope: its magnetism would pull scholars, students, and the enthusiasts alike.”
~ The Harvard Review, Vol. 8, (Spring 1995) pp. 81-85