c. 1360 | Shiraz

The Caged Bird Sings

Hafez seeks a heavenly home.

My body’s dust is a veil
Spread out to hide
My soul—happy that moment when
It’s drawn aside!

To cage a songbird with so sweet
A voice is wrong—
I’ll fly to paradise’s garden
Where I belong.

But why I’ve come and whence I came
Is all unclear—
Alas, to know so little of
My being here!

How can I make my journey to
My heavenly home
When I’m confined and cramped within
This flesh and bone?

If my blood smells of longing, show no
Mine is the musk deer’s pain as he
Secretes his scent.

Don’t think my golden shirt is like
A candle’s light—
The true flame burns beneath my shirt,
Hidden from sight.

Come, and ensure Hafez’s being
Will disappear—
Since You exist, no one will hear
Me say, “I’m here.”

© 2012 Mage Publishers. Used with permission of Mage Publishers.

Black and white image of Persian lyric poet Hafez.


A poem. Although this is not an example of one, Hafez often composed ghazals, traditional lyric poems of five or more couplets with the same word ending each couplet, and he is considered the form’s most adept practitioner. It is thought that the Sufi composed some five thousand poems, only a tenth of which are extant. Among the earliest Western writers influenced by his works were Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Ralph Waldo Emerson; the latter wrote that “Hafez is a poet for poets,” the former that “Hafez has no peer.”