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This passage was deemed a divine decision; the religious withdrew their objections, and he was buried in Mosella, a place rendered famous by his own verses. This anecdote, I think, is related by Kaleb Celebi. As to myself, although I am disposed to believe, that when Hafez speaks of love and wine, he has no recondite meaning, I am equally willing to declare, that his writings are not disgraced by those obscenities, nor those gross and filthy expressions, which so frequently occur in Sadi.
Nor can I avoid considering him a free thinker; and a hundred passages might be quoted, in which the poet ridicules the Prophet and his Coran; as for instance, when he says,
Wine, that our sober Seer proclaims
As to the Turkish poets, I confess I do not read them with the same pleasure, although I am willing to allow that some of them have merit. In my opinion, Ruhi, of Bagdat, is the most agreeable of them all ; he has written some admirable satires. Perhaps you are not acquainted with him. The Turkish poets in general, are no better than slavish imitators of the Persians, and often deficient in taste and harmony. -
I cannot comprehend how you have discovered an indelicate meaning in these beautiful lines of Mesihi :
Send me not, O God, to the tomb, before I
unless you annex an idea of obscenity to the expression of embracing a youth; a subject which perpetually occurs not only in Oriental poetry, but in Greek and Latin. I send you a recent
H. translation, translation, with a request that you will return it when you are tired with it, as I have no copy. I am, with the greatest esteem and veneration,
* REWICZKI to Mr. JONES.
London, March 7, 1768. I am at a loss to determine whether your letter has afforded me most pleasure or instruction ; it is indeed so admirable, that I must point out the only fault which I find in it, that of brevity, although you seem apprehensive of being thought tedious. I suspect that I am indebted to your partiality and politeness only, for the excessive encomiums which you have bestowed upon my translation of the two odes which I sent to you, as well as for the favourable opinion which you entertain of my trifles. I am, however, seriously obliged to you for your animadversions upon my inaccuracies, though when I consider their number, I must impute it to your indulgence that you have been so sparing in your corrections. Without wishing to lessen my obligations to your kindness, I cannot avoid mentioning by way of apology, that it is only three months since I resumed the task of writing verses, which I renounced when I left school; and not from any motive of vanity, or desire of reputation, but merely as an amusement of my leisure hours. My relapse has produced the translation of
about fifty odes of our learned Hafez,
For whom, each hour a growing fondness brings,t As by degrees the vernal alder springs. But observing, in the progress of the work, the immense inferiority of my version to the original, I began to be disgusted with it. * Appendix, No. 4. t These lines are taken from a juvenile translation of Sir William Jones.
I recollect to have read somewhere with great pleasure, the Prelections of the Bishop of Oxford, of which you speak so highly, and which you propose to imitate, but I remember nothing more of this work, than that I thought both the style and arrangement of it, equally admirable. The Grecian and Oriental flowers scattered throughout your letter, delighted me exceedingly, and your selection of them shews your judgment. I also approve your idea of visiting the East; but previously to your undertaking it, I would recommend to you, to make yourself master of the common language of the Turks, or of the vulgar Arabic, not only as indispensably necessary to your communications with the Mohammedans, but as a means of deriving pleasure and profit from the journey.
I do not mean to apply my censures on the servile imitations of Turkish authors to every species of imitation; for in some instances the imitation, as in the case of Virgil with respect to Hesiod, has surpassed the original. Nor can Hafez himself deny the imputation of plagiarism, having actually transcribed whole lines from: other poets; his collection of poems begins with an instance of this kind, for the very first hemistich is transcribed from one of Yezid*, the son of Mowavea, with an alteration only in the collocation of the words, not to mention nearly a complete ode in another place; but I am disgusted with the flat and perpetual imitation of the many Turkish poets, to whom we may aptly apply the words of Horace :
O servile herd of imitators!—
* Yezid was the son of Mowavea, the first Caliph of the race of Ommiah, and being reproached by his father for excessive drinking, replied as follows: - Does this thy wrath inspire, because I quaff'd The grape's rich juice?—then doubly sweet the draught. Rage—I will drink unmoved, for to my soul, Sweet is thy wrath, and sweet the flowing bowl.
- Do you wish to know my opinion respecting the other Persian poets, and whether I think Hafez alone elegant? far from it; for who can read without ecstasy the first page of Sadi Indeed, my passion for Oriental literature was first excited by hearing the following lines of Sadi accidentally repeated by my teacher at Constantinople, who explained them to me:
All-bounteous Lord! whose providential care
JHow canst thou bid thy votaries despair,
But who can suppress his indignation, when he reads the wretched translation of this elegant writer, by Gentius? I acknowledge however, that I am more delighted with Hafez, who unites fine morality with cheerfulness. With respect to Jami, whose works I do not at present possess, I remember enough of what I read at Constantinople to venture to assert, that he is the most successful of the Persian poets. In the judgment of Sadi, Hafez is unequal; some of his odes are excellent, others very inferior, and some very tame, whilst Jami preserves an equality throughout. I have not translated the ode of Hafez, “If that fair maid,” &c.” into Latin verse, as the sense is so unconnected : but a prose translation of it with notes, if you wish to have it, is at your service. In the mean time, I send you my latest production, not complete indeed, but a mere embryo. Farewel.
P. S. It is little to say, I approve your Arabic verses; I really admire them, but dare not in this instance attempt to imitate you.
* See a poetical translation of this ode, in Sir William Jones's Works, vol. ii. p. 244.
* REVICZKI to Mr. JONES.
I was highly delighted with your letter, particularly with your various translations, imitations, and compositions; they
not only prove you have
divine an original.
Is it not melancholy to reflect, that not only so much of the compositions of this elegant writer should be lost, but that the little which remains is so mutilated and corrupted P
That the text of the ode selected by you, and even that preserved by Dionysius, and published by Upton, is preferable to that of Stephens, or whoever made the emendations (such as they are), I freely admit; for the rules of dialect are not only better observed, but it contains stronger marks of being genuine: yet, after all, it is impossible to deny, that there are many chasms in it, as well as errors, which cannot be satisfactorily amended by any explanation or twisting of the sense.
That Sappho wrote in the dialect of her own country, which
cannot at this time be perfectly understood, is sufficiently probable;
but it would be absurd to suppose the AEolic dialect irreconcileable
* Appendix, No. 5, to