Seattle Wine Blog

This blog is dedicated to commentary on all aspects of wine, especially short entries to help you find the best wines without the usual hype and spin. These are my frank, independent opinions, usually based on tasting wine at a public event, off the shelf or at the winery. "All creative acts must arise out of a specific soil and flicker with a spirit of place" -D.H. Lawrence

Friday, March 27, 2009

Answer IV: Who Was Hafiz And Why Did He Write About Wine?

Hafiz might not have been able to cross the road because he may have been drunk much of the time. Writing about a hundred years after the better known Persian poet, Rumi, Hafiz ( 1320-1389), also known as Shams, born in the Persian city of Shiraz, is said to have produced over 5000 poems in his lifetime of which only about 500 survive. Many of his poems, appear to be about wine, though historically, these references are taken to be metaphors for God and god's love. In the introduction to his book, "Drunk On The Wine of The Beloved," Thomas Rain Crowe describes allusions to the Winebringer, Winemaker, and Wineseller as metaphors for God. So did all you distributors, grapegrowers, winemakers, and retailers know that you have been compared to God by a great poet? In this metaphorical view, wine is love, the wineglass, the heart, and the Beloved, God. The Beloved can be represented by the rose, the sun, the falcon, the friend, the painter, the architect, the gardener. Much of the action in these poems takes place in the Winehouse or Wine Seller's Street. Raines says this is not a simple tavern or bar, a wine bar perhaps, or more likely something like a cafe in Latin America where poetry is recited along with music and other performance art to the accompaniment of good conversation, coffee, wine and who knows what other substances. According to my friend Walter Andrews, in his book, "The Beloved," around the reign of the great Ottoman Sultan Suleiman, poets reached the pinnacle of influence at the Ottoman court. Even though the Sultan had absolute power of life and death, it appears there was a culture of cafe life in which poets were for the most part allowed the latitude of a King's fool. Andrews also says that more often than not, The Beloved was not only metaphorically God, but also another man with "rosebud" lips.

Sufis, especially poets, seem to have been striving to achieve the highest high, spiritually and otherwise. To this order, they apparently whirled and spun like dervishes, smoked hash, had sex, and drank lots of wine. So is wine a metaphor? Of course, it is. After all, isn't metaphor the essence of poetry? Doesn't poetry pack so many meanings into a few words? So is wine only a metaphor? I don't think so. These poets were wild men and mystics. Ralph Waldo Emerson said of Hafiz, "He fears nothing. He sees too far..." Goethe said, " In his poetry Hafiz has inscribed undeniable truth indelibly...." As with everything, nothing is what it appears to be, so it is my guess that Hafiz drank like a fish, made love to both sexes, did drugs and thought and lived outside the box. A veritable genius who could see and speak the truth. So wine is love and truth.
In vino veritas!


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