Forever Under Construction

Not All That Great

Posted in Poetry by homeyra on March 30, 2008

The goods produced in the factories of space and time
are not all that great. Bring some wine,
because the desirables of this world are not all that great.

Heart and soul are born for ecstatic conversation
with the soul of souls. That’s it. If that fails,
heart and soul are not in the end that great.

Don’t become indebted to the Tuba and Sidra trees
just to have some shade in heaven. When you look closely,
my flowering cypress friend, you’ll see that these trees are not all
that great.

The true kingdom comes to you without any breaking
of bones. If that weren’t so, achieving the Garden
through your own labors wouldn’t be all that great.

In the five days remaining to you in this rest stop
before you go to the grave, take it easy, give
yourself time, because time is not all that great.

You who offer wine, we are waiting on the lip
of the ocean of ruin. Take this moment as a gift; for the distance
between the lip and the mouth is not all that great.

The state of my being – miserable and burnt
to a crisp – is proof enough that my need
to put it into words is not all that great.

You ascetic on the cold stone, you are not safe
from the tricks of God’s zeal: the distance between the cloister
and the Zorastrian tavern is not after all that great.

bly_1_s2.jpgThe name Hafez has been well inscribed in the books,
but in our clan of disreputables, the difference
between profit and loss is not all that great.

Hafez, 14th century
Translation by Robert Bly
From The Power of Poetry, Bill Moyers
See Previous post: Robert Bly (in Iran)


8 Responses

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  1. […] ← A Program Not All That Great […]

  2. Linda said, on April 3, 2008 at 3:19 am

    What a wonderful poem, and a great site! I’ll mark this and come back later when I have more time.


  3. homeyra said, on April 3, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Thank you Linda and welcome to the blog.

  4. Pedestrian said, on April 3, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Homeyra, have you heard of Dick Davis ?
    I’ve read his translation of “My Uncle Napoleon”, and I think he had done a superb job. How are you going to translate: “sedayeh maskoof”? … “ta ghabr, aaa, … aaa, … aaa, … aaa,”? … “shazdeh ghorazeh”?

    He figured it out very well. He’s also translated Ferdowsi, Vis & Ramin, Attar’s Conference of the Birds, and some other texts.

    Of course, he’s a “translator” so he knows the original language, and quite well … He lived in Iran for many years. I don’t like all his work, but I do love some of it. He is one of the few people in North America with a direct focus on getting the word out there about Persian poetry and I love it!

    He’s also very nice … I once emailed him for a school project (finding his email on his website) and he translated a good piece of a poem for me in less than a few hours ……….

  5. homeyra said, on April 4, 2008 at 7:02 am

    No P, I don’t know him. I have only heard of a “Dayi-jan” translation and I was very curious to know how that would look like – btw how did he translate “shazdeh ghorazeh”? 🙂
    Do you think Dayi-jan is funny for a non-Iranian? It has makes us all laugh but I wonder if it would sound that great to others.
    Thanks for introducing Dick Davis and his impressive work. I also love to read Iranian literature in a foreign language, as you mentioned previously: it is a sort of “rebirth” of the text.

  6. Pedestrian said, on April 4, 2008 at 4:53 pm

    Unfortunately, I don’t remember! I’ve been badgering my brain trying to, but to no avail! I read it a long time ago, around 7 or 8 years ago, and it’s flown away.

    The translation was good – as good as it could be in my opinion. But Dayi Jan is such an “Iranian” book, the culture, the narrative and the dialog. I’ve spoken to a few non-Iranians who’ve read the book, and they’ve pretty much said that they thought it was “amusing”: it didn’t make them get stomach cramps as the Persian did for me, but they did find it quite whimsical.

    The thing I love about the book though, is that despite being funny, it’s so much more than that: it’s a tragedy. The underlying culture resonates with so many of us, and is, in many ways, very sad. I’ve seen that because the book is so hilarious, many Iranians never go beyond that: it’s just a “really funny book” to them. Whereas, in the translation, because it is not as whimsical, the non-Iranian who reads it goes through it in all its different layers.

    … Then again, there are different readers in all languages, so that statement is very far fetched.

    You can read the first chapter here .

  7. homeyra said, on April 5, 2008 at 11:34 am

    Thanks for the link! Great to be able to read some of it online.
    I totally agree with you. It is a tragedy.
    Robo wrote once that he is tired of this “Dayi-jan Napoleon’s generation”.
    And I say 70 millions of Shazdeh, no Indians!

  8. […] Not all that great […]

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