Cupbearer, it is morning, fill my cup with wine

by Hafiz

English version by Bernard Lewis
Original Language Persian/Farsi

Cupbearer, it is morning, fill my cup with wine.
Make haste, the heavenly sphere knows no delay.
Before this transient world is ruined and destroyed,
ruin me with a beaker of rose-tinted wine.
The sun of the wine dawns in the east of the goblet.
Pursue life's pleasure, abandon dreams,
and the day when the wheel makes pitchers of my clay,
take care to fill my skull with wine!
We are not men for piety, penance and preaching
but rather give us a sermon in praise of a cup of clear wine.
Wine-worship is a noble task, O Hafiz;
rise and advance firmly to your noble task.

-- from Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems, Translated by Bernard Lewis

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

The ecstatic words of Hafiz still glow like wine in sunlight!

Wine, as I have often pointed out, is a metaphor for the bliss experienced in the presence of the Beloved, in the presence of God. So, when Hafiz opens this verse with the line, "Cupbearer, it is morning, fill my cup with wine," he is proclaiming that enlightenment, the dawn, is upon him -- quick, bring the divine bliss also and make me worthy to meet the Beloved!

And that stunning line, "Before this transient world is ruined and destroyed, / ruin me with a beaker of rose-tinted wine..." Hafiz is inviting total self-annihilation in the bliss of divine communion, saying he must experience it while alive. He wants to be so completely "drunk" on the presence of God within, that all of his personal sense of self dissolves.

When he tells us to, "Pursue life's pleasure, abandon dreams," Hafiz is using the common Sufi device of equating self-abandonment and sacred practices with earthly indulgence. He is hardly advocating hedonism. But this parallel exists between the hedonist and the saint that the Sufis capitalize on -- you must step outside of society's norms. You must be willing to abandon everything, every aspiration and thought, every fixed perception of reality, every "dream," to the "pleasure" of the divine embrace.

The next section, "and the day when the wheel makes pitchers of my clay, / take care to fill my skull with wine!" has a very precise mystical meaning. The "clay" he speaks of is the earthen nature of his physical body. To make "pitchers" of that clay is to purify it and form it -- in order to receive the heavenly wine. Hafiz specifically wants his skull to be filled with wine. The skull is often described as the true cup that holds the divine nectar. On an energetic level, this is where the sacred drink -- the wine, or amrita (or the "tea" that gave the Poetry Chaikhana it's name) -- is first received. When it is imbibed, it can then be felt in the throat, before it descends and warms the heart and belly, finally spreading throughout the entire body and awareness.

Hafiz then declares he would rather listen to a "sermon in praise of a cup of clear wine" than follow "piety, penance and preaching" for "Wine-worship is a noble task..." Here, he is poking fun at blind religious formalism. He is reminding us that true holiness comes from the direct experience of ecstatic communion -- the drinking of wine -- not from merely following prescribed actions that make us seem to others to be devout.

Understanding this, Hafiz exhorts himself -- and us -- to "rise and advance firmly" in that "noble task" of "wine-worship." The rising he speaks of also has a specific meaning, for there is often a sensation of rising or bubbling up which accompanies the blissful drinking of wine. It begins in the seat and rises up to the bowl of the skull. Sometimes this rising is compared with a fountain or a spring. At other times it is called a fire since the body may feel as if it is delightfully burning up. In the terminology of Yoga, this is the Kundalini Shakti, but it is a universal experience, and Hafiz knows it must fully rise and advance for the Cupbearer to fill the cup with wine.



Recommended Books: Hafiz

The Gift: Poems by Hafiz the Great Sufi Master Music of a Distant Drum: Classical Arabic, Persian, Turkish & Hebrew Poems Islamic Mystical Poetry: Sufi Verse from the Early Mystics to Rumi Love's Alchemy: Poems from the Sufi Tradition The Hand of Poetry: Five Mystic Poets of Persia, with Lectures by Inayat Khan
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Cupbearer, it is