Who was Hafez, one of the greatest Persian poets?
If you were to ask a random stranger to name a Persian poet, there is a high likelihood that the name ‘Rumi’ would escape their lips (if anything, depending on whom you asked and where you asked) the second name likely to come to mind would be Hafez, a hugely influential Sufi poet of gorgeous, engaging prose full of provocative metaphors and imagery, a poet whose work is described as reaching the pinnacle of Persian poetry.
Hafez has had a momentous impact on a diverse collection of writers in the West. When speaking of the Persian poet, beloved transcendentalist writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that ‘Hafez is a poet for poets’ Similarly well-known literary and philosophy giants Henry David Thoreau and Friedrich Engels highlighted the influence Hafez had on their work, Engels compared Hafez to the Roman poet Horace and Johann Wolfgang Goethe wrote that Hafez ‘has no peer’ - Emerson and Goethe both translated Hafezs' work, Emerson said Hafez ‘sees too far, he sees throughout; such is the only man I wish to see or be’ Even Friedrich Nietzche was an admirer.
So why did the work of this Persian poet inspire and sculpt the work of future giants and have such an impact on the West? What was it about Hafez’s style and prose that echoed across generations and continues to cause ripples both within and outside of the literary world?
Hafez was born in Shiraz, Iran sometime around 1315, his year of birth is unknown, as is much of his early life. He was born Muhammad, and called Shams al-Din (The Sun of Religion) Records suggest he may have known Rumi’s work by heart and memorised the Quran at an early age (which is how he obtained his namesake, Hafez which means memoriser/guardian of information) His fierce intellect and desire to learn and understand, even in early years definitely drove early explorations, but it was the influence of his Sufi Master, Haji Zayn Attar, a Persian physician, that would shape his development
into a man and writer.