Haft Seen and Hafez

Happy Nowruz! نوروز مبارک ! Nowruz is also called the Persian New Year, and it’s celebrated on the spring equinox, usually on March 20 or 21 in the Western calendar. This year, it took place on Wednesday March 20, 2019 in New York and Brussels, and on Thursday March 21 in Tehran. It’s a holiday that cuts across religious and geographical divides, and it’s celebrated in many countries around the world, especially the ones that had a link with ancient Persia. Along with Easter, it’s my favorite holiday, because it’s about rejuvenation, light and spring.

I’ve already written about the tradition of haft seen, a special spread of symbolic items that have deep significance on Nowruz. As I’ve mentioned, a book of Hafez’s poetry is an important part of haft seen. In the same spirit, I’ve selected a poem to share with you. I hope that the new year will be filled with beauty, happiness and inspiration for all.

A flower, without a friend’s face there, I think,

that isn’t good

And springtime, if there isn’t wine to drink,

that isn’t good

A stroll through gardens, or a wooded place,

Without a pretty tulip-flushing face

that isn’t good

A cypress swaying, and a rose unfolding,

Without a nightingales’s melodious scolding

that isn’t good

A sweet-lipped, sexy lover near, if this is

To be with no embraces and no kisses

that isn’t good

Wine in a garden can be sweet, but when

We have no friend to talk and listen, then

that isn’t good

And anything the mind dreams, in the end,

Unless it is the features of our friend,

that isn’t good

The soul’s a useless coin, Hafez — not worth

Your casting, as an offering, on the earth

that isn’t good

Translation by Dick Davis from a collection, Hafez: Faces of Love and the Poets of Shiraz. Among all of the Hafez translations, Davis’s are the most musical ones.

What do you look forward to this spring?

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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16 Comments

  • Muriel: Hello Victoria,
    Happy Nowruz! Oh wonderful Spring, I have been looking forward to these days !! When the earth warms up and smells come back. I was bicycling through the cherry blossoms yesterday (in Boistfort) and thought that was heavenly. Warmer temperatures, longer days, singing birds, that’s what I’m looking forward right now! Have a beautiful day!! March 22, 2019 at 9:01am Reply

  • Matty: The yellow Forsythia and the creamy Magnolias. Clumps of snowdeops and daffodils. Spring is here March 22, 2019 at 9:43am Reply

  • Sandra: Happy Spring, Happy Nowruz!
    I made kookoosabzi for Nowruz
    It’s like a herb frittata. Fresh herbs is one anticipation I have for the changing of the season. Tulips coming up..
    Maybe some beautiful spring perfumes, though I generally wear everything all year round. Any spring scents you love?

    Another anticipation I have for spring is changing clothing .. wearing silk, floral patterns, dresses…shoes with no socks

    Please share more Hafez poetry ! I love it March 22, 2019 at 9:55am Reply

  • Mridula Koshy: Thank you for sharing this poem. Happy Nowruz. March 22, 2019 at 10:21am Reply

  • Filomena: Happy Nowruz Victoria and thanks for the poem! Spring is my favorite season as it is a season of hope and new beginnings. I love the longer hours of daylight and the warmer weather (although the warmer weather has not yet arrived). I look forward to putting my winter jacket away for many months. I like to hear the birds chirping and feel warm sunlight when I am outdoors. March 22, 2019 at 10:55am Reply

  • Dorothy Van Daele: In your recent giveaway, the donor asked for readers to respond with names of perfumes with a scent of camphor. I couldn’t remember what I had tried that fit, but came across the reference yesterday: it’s Puredistance 1. I bought a sample in August. It’s a beautifully green floral scent with a faint camphor opening note, also lemon, I thought. Turin and Sanchez describe it as ”a beautiful, seamless, smooth, fresh-powdery abstract floral unsullied by bean counters” composed by Annie Buzantian. Hope this is still useful. March 22, 2019 at 2:00pm Reply

    • Tara C: Zoologist Moth also has a prominent camphor note, as does the opening of Serge Lutens Tubereuse Criminelle. March 22, 2019 at 5:14pm Reply

  • Maggie Mahboubian: So Beautiful to be able to celebrate this tradition through your post! March 22, 2019 at 4:11pm Reply

  • Silvermoon: Happy Navroz! Of course, it’s also the Zoroastrian new year. I agree with many of you that spring is the most welcome of seasons. It brings light, beauty, rejuvenation and joy. And many gorgeous flowers 🌷

    Victoria, thanks for posting the poem. I enjoyed reading it (both silently and aloud). March 22, 2019 at 4:41pm Reply

  • Jennifer Marie Shaw: Victoria, thank you for sharing the luscious poem. Spring is so lovely. Here in Portland, the weather has been slowly improving. Trees have blooms and the narcissus are all blooming with the hyacinths! March 22, 2019 at 7:25pm Reply

  • Aurora: It makes so much sense to me to celebrate the new year in spring. Plenty of jonquils, bluebells and still snowdrops in front of my local libary, and I am so looking forward to lilac blooming across the street from apartment block, but one deep purple lilac tree further along the street has been cut, I was furious and sad 🙁

    I find Hafez referring to himself at the end of the poem so original and poignant. March 23, 2019 at 6:49am Reply

  • maja: نوروز مبارک, dear Victoria!
    I love, love Davis’ translation as well.
    There is always that instant even before spring is official when you are coming home late in the afternoon and suddenly realize there’s still light outside and that days are getting longer. It’s such a poetic, eye opening moment full of hope.
    I am looking forward to new beginnings, to some sort of personal expansion, to studying and smelling nice. 😊
    Wishing you a wonderful springtime. March 23, 2019 at 7:05am Reply

  • OtherWise: Lovely, lovely poem. Thank you.
    I’ve got an old dog and an old cat, both well past their freshness dates. In fact, both have managed, just barely, to escape the jaws of death in recent years. One of my great Spring joys, then, will be to watch them, all squinty-eyed and drowsy, soaking up sun in the back yard. They have earned this Spring. March 23, 2019 at 3:05pm Reply

    • PrincessTonk: Beautiful and evocative! March 25, 2019 at 10:07am Reply

  • Alarmed: Hello. I apologize if this is not the appropriate place to send this in, but I as someone who admires your witing and the work you put in the blog, I wanted to bring this to your attention. A brazilian beauty blog out there (the link is: https://www.belezon.com/review-de-produtos/feminino-chanel-no19-da-chanel/#comment-172 ) is using fragments of your review of Chanel No. 19 and passing off as their own, copying it and translating it and not crediting you for authorship. The review is a mélange of bits and pieces of other translated reviews, but the opening paragraph is very much yours, as I believe are some other fragments down the line. March 23, 2019 at 8:51pm Reply

  • Lydia: Happy Nowruz! A few days late.

    Thank you for sharing such a beautiful poem. I don’t think spring ever feels complete without poetry. March 27, 2019 at 11:05pm Reply

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