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I know the voice of depression
Still calls to you.

I know those habits that can ruin your life
Still send their invitations.

But you are with the Friend now
And look so much stronger.

You can stay that way
And even bloom!

Keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From your prayers and works and music
And from your companions' beautiful laughter

Keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From the sacred hands and glance of your Beloved
And, my dear,
From the most insignificant movements
Of your own holy body.

Learn to recognize the counterfeit coins
That may buy you just a moment of pleasure
But then drag you for days
Like a broken man
Behind a farting camel.

You are with the Friend now.
Learn what actions of yours delight Him,
What actions of yours bring freedom
And Love.

Whenever you say God's name, dear pilgrim,
My ears wish my head was missing
So they could finally kiss each other
And applaud all your nourishing wisdom!

O keep squeezing drops of the Sun
From your prayers and work and music
And from your companions' beautiful laughter

And from the most insignificant movements
Of your own holy body.

Now, sweet one,
Be wise.
Cast all your votes for Dancing!

Shams-ud-din Muhammad Hafiz

The Persian poet Hafiz (c. 1310—1389) is as highly esteemed in the Middle Eastern world as William Shakespeare is in the West.

His best-known poems, of which this is an example, are written in the ghazal (pronounced approximately ghuzzle) form, a deceptively simple schema which originated in Iran in the 10th century, having come from Arabia originally as the qasida, a verse of praise to the emperor or his noblemen.

The numerous devices of the ghazal include brevity, an opening rhyming couplet called matla, which is repeated at the end of the second line in each succeeding verse, various internal rhymes, a mood-setting line which prepares us to receive the poem in its proper light, and often a personalizing quality in the last couplet. Humor is often found in the ghazal, and this light-heartedness may be the one quality most responsible for the duration of the form.

Hafiz was born Khwage Shams ud-Din Mohammed, the son of a coal merchant, and is said to have memorized the Koran after listening to his father's recitations. Hafiz or Hafez is an honorific given to one who has memorized the Koran.

Hafiz's father died, leaving his family in great debt, and the teen-aged Hafiz left school to work in a bakery. He fell in love with Shakh-e Nabat, a wealthy young woman of great beauty, and addressed many of his early poems to this unattainable creature. As a means of breaching the social distance between them, Hafiz kept a vigil at the tomb of Baba Kuhi, the Master Poet. Legend had it that he who could stay awake at the tomb for forty days and nights would be granted the gift of poetry, immortality, and his heart's desire. It is said the angel Gabriel appeared to Hafiz and inquired of him his heart's desire. Hafiz answered "Beauty" (also translated, of course, as God or Love) and was directed to Mohammed Attar, the Perfect Master who became his teacher.

Hafiz achieved enormous fame in his lifetime, but also alienated both the government and Orthodox religious leaders with his admixture of the sacred and profane, the serious and the comedic. He was approximately 69 years old when he died, and he was denied a Muslim burial by the orthodox clergy. History and his followers however have never forgotten him, and his body rests in a beautiful tomb in Musalla Gardens, on the banks of the Ruknabad river in Shiraz, which is now referred to as Hafezieh.

His poetry is memorized, recited, and set to popular music to this day throughout the Muslim world.

This English interpretation of Cast All Your Votes for Dancing by Daniel Ladinsky is itself based on the work of H. Wilberforce Clarke, which was originally published in 1891.

I am told it can only approximate the beauty of the original, which obeys the demanding metrics and rhyme scheme of the traditional ghazal.

I recently attended a reading of ghazals by the American poet Robert Bly, whose new volume The Night Abraham Called to the Stars beautifully conveys the form. He and his son-in-law read contrasting native and English versions of the same poems, and the effect, truly, was rapturous. The English was great, but the poems in their original language were Godhead.

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