Alchemy and mockery: intertextual relationships between Sa‘di, H?fez and Sh?h Ne‘matollah Vali

By Domenico Ingenito
Submitted to Session P2922 (Politics in Iranian and Persian Literature, 2011 Annual Meeting
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Little attention has been paid to the intertextual relationships between H?fez’s ghazals and the divans of his contemporaries. Most of the studies are devoted to the individuation of parallel imagery and thoughts, without considering direct contacts set by literary strategies such as imitation and response (esteqb?l and jav?b) taking place on the ground of textual formal aspects.

This is the case for the literary relationship between H?fez and the Sufi poet Sh?h Ne‘matollah Vali (1330-1431), which has been uncritically accepted as the archetype of H?fez’s struggle against religious hypocrisy.

One of the most famous ghazals by H?fez (?n?n ke kh?k r? be nazar kimiy? konand, “Those who transmute dust in alchemy with a glance /could they ever glimpse at us with their eyes?”) is commonly considered to be an ironical and derisive response to Sh?h Vali’s spiritual leadership.

The aim of this paper is to argue that: 1) H?fez’s source is not the ghazal by Sh?h Vali, but two poems by Sa‘di; 2) Hafez has never mentioned Shah Vali either directly or indirectly; 3) rather, it is his ghazal that may be the source for Sh?h Vali’s response. 4) Finally, H?fez’s ghazal can be read as a praise poem addressed to a member of the Mozaffarid court, probably Turansh?h, Sh?h Shoj?‘’s most famous minister.

Apart from the close reading of the internal textual evidence (and the divergences reported by the first 34 manuscripts recording H?fez’s ghazal), the demonstration of the above proposal is based on arguments conducted around the analysis of the following documents:

a. An ambiguous passage in the biography of Sh?h Vali by ‘Abd al-Razz?q Kerm?ni’s, which is the first historical source (1501) suggesting a relationship between the two ghazals by H?fez and Sh?h Vali.

b. The explication of “?n?n ke kh?k r?” delivered by the two most important commentators of H?fez’s div?n: Sudi Bosnavi (Istanbul, 1595) and Khatmi L?huri (Lahore, early XVII century).

c. All ghazals composed by H?fez’s contemporaries which imitate both “?n?n ke kh?k r?” (see: the poet-princess Jah?n Malek Kh?tun, Kam?l Khojandi and Bosh?q At‘eme Shir?zi) and Sa‘di hypotext (‘Obeyd Z?k?ni).

d. A ghazal by Sh?h Vali explicitly conceived as an imitation of Rumi and displaying the same rhetorical pattern of the re-elaboration of H?fez’s poem.