Emerson and Hafiz

But one day

all men will be lovers;

and every calamity

will be dissolved in

the universal sunshine.”

In Iran Review, Ismail Salami says that after discovering Hafiz in the first Western translation into the German, Goethe created his own collection of poetry called West-eastern Divan. He drew heavily on the imagery and ideas of the great Persian poet and believed “that it was now high time to envisage a humane global philosophy with no regard for nationality and creed and that the East and the West were not separate from each other. In reference to Hafiz, Goethe used such terms as 'Saint Hafiz' and 'Celestial Friend'.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson first read the German translation of Hafiz in 1838, and for him, “Hafiz became an ideal poet whom he called a 'poet for poets'.”

He included two translations from Hafiz in his first book of poems, published in 1847, and reported in his journal about Hafiz, “He is characterized by a perfect intellectual emancipation, which also he provokes in the reader. Nothing stops him; he makes the dare-God and dare-devil experiment; he is not to be scared by a name or a religion; he fears nothing, he sees too far, and sees throughout.”

Elsewhere he wrote:

“Such is the only man I wish to see and to be. The scholar's courage is as distinct as the soldier's and the statesman's, and a man who has it not cannot write for me.”

"He who sees the horizon may securely say what he pleases of any tree or twig between him and it.”

"He takes his life in his hand, and is ready for a new world. He is restless, inquisitive, thousand-eyed, insatiable and as like a nightingale intoxicated with his own music; never was the privilege of poetry more haughtily used.….

“Hafiz defies you to show him or put him in a condition inopportune or ignoble. Take all you will, and leave him but a corner of Nature, a lane, a den, a cowshed ... he promises to win to that scorned spot the light of the moon and stars, the love of man, the smile of beauty, and the homage of art.' 'Sunshine from cucumbers. Here was a man who has occupied himself in a nobler chemistry of extracting honor from scamps, temperance from sots, energy from beggars, justice from thieves, benevolence from misers. He knew there was sunshine under those moping churlish brows, and he persevered until he drew it out.”


(From Man the Reformer)

This is the one remedy for all ills, the panacea of nature. We must be lovers, and at once the impossible becomes possible. Our age and history, for these thousand years, has not been the history of kindness, but of selfishness. Our distrust is very expensive. The money we spend for courts and prisons is very ill laid out. We make, by distrust, the thief, and burglar, and incendiary, and by our court and jail we keep him so.

Let our affection flow out to our fellows; it would operate in a day the greatest of all revolutions. It is better to work on institutions by the sun than by the wind. The State must consider the poor man, and all voices must speak for him. Every child that is born must have a just chance for his bread. Let the amelioration in our laws of property proceed from the concession of the rich, not from the grasping of the poor. Let us begin by habitual imparting. Let us understand that the equitable rule is, that no one should take more than his share, let him be ever so rich.

Let me feel that I am to be a lover. I am to see to it that the world is the better for me, and to find my reward in the act. Love would put a new face on this weary old world in which we dwell as pagans and enemies too long, and it would warm the heart to see how fast the vain diplomacy of statesmen, the impotence of armies, and navies, and lines of defence, would be superseded by this unarmed child. Love will creep where it cannot go, will accomplish that by imperceptible methods,—being its own lever, fulcrum, and power,—which force could never achieve.

Have you not seen in the woods, in a late autumn morning, a poor fungus or mushroom,—a plant without any solidity, nay, that seemed nothing but a soft mush or jelly,—by its constant, total, and inconceivably gentle pushing, manage to break its way up through the frosty ground, and actually to lift a hard crust on its head? It is the symbol of the power of kindness. The virtue of this principle in human society in application to great interests is obsolete and forgotten.

Once or twice in history it has been tried in illustrious instances, with signal success. This great, overgrown, dead Christendom of ours still keeps alive at least the name of a lover of mankind. But one day all men will be lovers; and every calamity will be dissolved in the universal sunshine.

Will you suffer me to add one trait more to this portrait of man the reformer? The mediator between the spiritual and the actual world should have a great prospective prudence. An Arabian poet describes his hero by saying,

Sunshine was he

In the winter day;

And in the midsummer

Coolness and shade.