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Poems from the Divan of Hafiz, by Getrude Lowthian Bell, [1897], at


Stanza 1.—King Solomon sent the lapwing or hoopoe as his messenger to Bilkis, Queen of Sheba. The story is told thus by Al Ta'labi, in his Stories of the Prophets. (The lapwing had already made a journey on his own account, and had brought Solomon news of the great Queen, and told him that she was not a worshipper of the true God.) "Then Solomon wrote a letter saying: From the servant of God, Solomon, son of David, to Bilkis, Queen of Saba, in the name of God the Merciful, the Compassionate, peace be upon him who follows the right road. After which he said :Behave not insolently towards me, but come unto me humbled. And he strewed musk upon it and sealed it with his seal. Then he said to the lapwing: Fly with this letter and deliver it unto them, then turn away, but remain near them and hear what answer they make. And the lapwing took the letter and flew with it to Bilkis. And she was in the land which is called Marib, at a distance of three days' journey, and she had entered into her castle, and the gates of it were shut. For when she slept she was wont to shut the gates and to take the key and lay it beneath her head. So the lapwing came unto her, and she was asleep, lying upon her back; and he laid the letter upon her breast. Wahb ibn Manabbih says that there was a window opposite to the sun so that the sunbeams fell through it at dawn, and when she saw the sun she was wont to bow down and worship it. And the lapwing went to this window and blocked it up with his wings. And the sun rose, but she knew it not. And she thought that the sun was late, and stood up to look for it. Then the lapwing threw a leaf upon her face. And they say that Bilkis took the letter and she was able to read the writing. But when she saw the seal she trembled and bowed down, because of the power of Solomon that was in his seal. For she knew that the power of him who had sent the letter was greater than hers, and she said: Lo, here is a king whose messengers are the birds verily he is a mighty king."

Stanzas 5 and 6.—The accepted explanation of these lines is that by the glass Hafiz means his own heart, which he sends to his mistress that she may see that her own image is reflected in it; but I prefer here (and indeed for the whole poem) a mystical interpretation. The heavenly voice tells him to seek for comfort in Sufiism, and bids him look upon the mirror, for he shall see God himself reflected in it—which is only another way of putting the doctrine that man and God are one. The poet's reputation has gained him admittance into the company of the Sufis, let him hasten to them, for they shall give him that for which he seeks.

A horse and robe is the Eastern gift of honour. Lane in one of his notes to the "Arabian Nights" quotes a significant story concerning these gifts: "A person chancing to look at a register kept by one of the officers of Harun al Rashid, saw in it the following entry: '400,000 pieces of gold, the price of a dress of honour for Jafar ibn Yahya, the Vizir.' A few days after he saw beneath this written: 'Ten kerits, the price of naphtha and reeds for burning the body of Jafar ibn Yahya.' (The kerit of Baghdad was worth a twentieth part of a gold piece.)

Put not your trust in Eastern princes!

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