Hafez in most of his poems displays his unwillingness to flinch from ambiguous human condition enables the reader to have a real freedom of choice when it comes to understanding his poems. Hafez who was a Persian poet in the 14th Century builds upon the tradition of Sufi mysticism which utilizes Islamic gnostic knowledge and teachings. In the poem, Thorns, and Roses, Hafez uses a series of imagery, comparisons, rhetorical questions, allegories, and metaphors. One of the stereotype metaphors present in the poem is the beloved and the lover, for instance, the nightingale and the rose. In this document, I will be focusing on the poem Thorns and Roses by Hafez and provide an expressive interpretation of the poem by highlighting the various stylistic devices used in the poem.
The poem 'Thorns and Roses' presents two sides of life as we know it the good times and the tough times that we as humans face. The poet urges the reader to celebrate and embrace the good times that life offers because there comes a time when all that is good fades and we are left struggling. Beygijanian(2009), claims that the poem acts as a consolation for the people who are trying to cope with life challenges (pg.45 ) It acts a glimpse of hope and encouragement to hold on and not to complain about our troubles. In this poem, Hafez combats religious dogmatism, sterile pietism, and authoritarianism with the impious satisfaction of various human desires and pleasures.
The poem also focuses on various religious cultural activities based on the Islamic faith. This asserts that the poet had a vast understanding of the religious struggles and rituals that the people had to endure for instance the fasting during the Holy month of Ramadan. In the sixth stanza, the poet begins by stating that ' in the month before the fast' showing that he is aware of the struggles that Muslims go truth in developing their faith with Allah. In the next line, the poet advises the Muslims to drink and ensure they are satisfied for they are about to face a tough time as believers.
The poem acts as a warning to the reader who in the case of the poet is any Muslim believer who might be seeking hope and motivation to continue to believe in Allah. In addition to this, the poem was written as a farewell to other Muslim believers. Hafez is coming to terms with his death and urges those remaining behind to be strong and not to worry about the past nor the future. It is a poem to comfort those who still have a full life ahead of them even as they lose one of their own( the beloved). This love poem appeals to the reader's emotions and sympathy towards the writer whose life is slowly fading. Never the less, the poet promises the reader of better days to come. The poet creates a solemn mood in the poem through using a tone that appeals to the emotions of the reader. The tone of the poem enables the reader to understand that the poem was set during the tough times in the Middle East and at a time that the poet was nearing his death.
The poem 'Thorns and Roses' is set during the month before Ramadan starts in the 14th Century in a religious Islamic community during a time when the sun shines bright and the flowers blossom. From the poet's description, it is set during spring since the poem begins by stating that there is a 'gentle breeze' and the flowers such as the 'white lily' will blossom while they spread their fragrance across the lands. In addition to this, the poet asserts that 'the rose garden burst in songs' to indicate a time when the flowers open up ushering in a new season. The sun is also mentioned in the sixth stanza of the poem where the poet reminds the reader to enjoy the sun as it still shines (Skalmowski, pg. 102 2004). This shows that the poem was set during a time when the community was experiencing the end of summer and the start of spring as the poet urges the reader to enjoy this good weather for tougher times are coming ahead.
Themes of love
Love is one of the central driving sources that move the world and connect each one of us since it demonstrates the individual's complete feelings and emotions. The theme of love is evident in the entire poem as the poet uses a tone that appeals to the reader's emotions and affections towards the natural environment. The poet sings and elaborates with a paramount passion of love, the pain of separation, together with the incomparable beauty of the beloved. However, the beloved and the lover that is celebrated by Hafez is solely conventionalized based on natural love and not an individual figure. The poet describes beauty in terms of the natural occurrence and stock images; thus the rose in the poem symbolizes his face and the moon his cheeks, the hyacinth his curling locks and the narcissus his eyes. An example of the natural imagery in the poem to highlight on this theme is 'the nightingale speeding into the rose garden' represents the lover and the beloved. In addition to this, the poem begins by stating that a 'gentle breeze will blow a new vitality to the barren earth' to act as a messenger of love showing love and affection to the people.
Another theme in the poem which presents a bizarre representation of the Islamic culture is the drinking of wine. As a mysticism aspect of Hafez's poem, the use of wine is an expression of the ineffable. In the sixth stanza, the second line the poet urges the reader to 'drink their fill of wine' as they embrace themselves for a tough time of fasting. In this case, the wine is used as a metaphorical representation of the wine that creates the union between mankind and God. This according to the mystical teaching of the Persian tradition is that drinking wine enables to become a bearer and witness to the beauty of being honest and truthful.
One of the themes present in this lyrical poem is religious rituals such as fasting during the Holy month of Ramadan. In the Islamic culture , Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is regarded as one of the five pillars of Islamic faith. Meisami, states that during this period Muslims go through dry fasting from morning till sunset where food is served (pg. 230). It comprises of increased prayers, reciting of the Quran and doing good deeds. In the poem, Hafez informs the believers to remember that they have Ramadan coming and that they should stock up. This is found in the sixth stanza where he begins by stating to the reader 'the month before the fast' referring to the Holy month of Ramadan.
The use of imagery is evident in the poem as the poet is able to draw his readers into a sensory experience. The images in the poem present the readers with mental snapshots which appeal to our senses and understanding of the picture the poet is trying to portray. The poem begins by indicating that there is a 'gentle breeze' blowing over the barren land, which directs the reader to picture the setting of the poem. Another use of imagery is in the seventh stanza where the poet describes the roses' beauty. The poet uses imagery to enable the reader to better understand the setting of the poem and set the right tone in the poem.
Hafez uses a lot of symbolism some with direct meaning and others with hidden meanings due to the interpretation of certain concepts in the 14th century Persian poems (Fatemeh,pg.123 2010). One of the examples of the use of symbolism in the poem is in the third stanza where the poet states that the 'nightingale shall speed into the rose garden' symbolizing the connection between the lover and the beloved. In addition to this, the poem begins by symbolism whereby the poet states that the 'gentle breeze will blow new vitality' to symbolize hope for a better future.
Use of Rhetorical Questions
The use of rhetorical questions aims at drawing at a particular point of view in the poem. In the last line of the fifth stanza of the poem, the poet questions the heart and the audience in general. He states that 'for who will guarantee it?' in this context the poet is referring to a situation that is not certain if one chooses not to have joy today and deposit it for tomorrow. This helps the reader to questions the concept of enjoying the moment and living to the fullest and not worry about the future or the past.
In conclusion, the poem by Hafez 'Thorns and Roses' is an expression of love from the poet to his fellow believers and urges them to enjoy life and not to worry about the past nor the future. Hafez presents the poem as a consolation and love for his people as he comes to terms with his death.
Beygijanian, Nancy. "The Poems of Hafez." (2009): 44-46.
Meisami, Julie Scott. "Allegorical gardens in the Persian poetic tradition: Nezami, Rumi, Hafez." International Journal of Middle East Studies 17.2 (1985): 229-260.
Mosazadeh-Sayadmahaleh, Fatemeh, Yusef Esmaeilzadeh-Estakhrbijar, and Ghassem Habibi Bibalani. "SIMILE AND METAPHOR APPLICATION OF ROSA CANINA (DOG ROSE) IN POEMS BY HAFEZ." International Journal of Academic Research 2.6 (2010).
Skalmowski, Wojciech. Studies in Iranian Linguistics and Philology. Jagiellonian University Press, 2004.
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