DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Salma Yehia

Final Essay


The West Versus the East : Love as an Entity that Transcends All Boundaries

A tattered creature emerges from the depths of the clouds. This seemingly ghostly figure rises from the debris of a recently fallen tree in search for help of aid, a friendly hand. This man searches for peace.  It has been nine years since he has seen the once fertile land he had called home. The war has taken everything that once had sentimental value to him. This man is searching for the one entity that both the enemy and his allies can find peace in- love.  The term “love” is commonly misinterpreted as a deep romantic affection for a person. However, love is simply the feeling of deep affection, whether it is for a person, a country, or even a religious figure. Through love, barriers can be overcome because every sort of person can understand the feeling of love towards an object or being. An Iranian poet named Hafez who wrote ghazals (short lyric poems) and Petrarch, the Italian scholar and poet both wrote love poetry which is extremely well known in Iranian and Italian culture, respectfully.  However, each poet had different figures of love ranging from the essential beauty of a woman, to the beauty of God Himself. Both poets are looked upon very high in their own societies. For example, Hafez has proverbs and sayings taken from his works that are now used in Iranian households daily, and Petrarch created the foundation for Petrarchan conceits, and sonnets. Both are successful within their own context, however, to truly grasp the beauty of  poetry and its astounding presence throughout the world, we must compare these two unique poets within their cultural context and face them against each other to discover different styles, as well as similar themes. It is the intersection between the West and East which exposes the importance of literature as something that can cut through the clashes and historic hatred amid the West and the East.

            As with most forms of literature, poetry is best understood in the original language it was written in. Of course, to break cultural boundaries one must translate the words into other languages to find a medium in which everyone can share the essence of the poems.  However, since all translation is a form of interpretation, we may have to sacrifice and add words, meanings, and style in order to be able for any interactions between different cultures to occur. William Jones, was one of the first to break boundaries and explore Hafez’s Persian poetry as an English philologist. Jones recognized “a tradition of mystical Sufi interpretations of the poems of Hafiz, which point beyond the poem's literal meaning and consider the poems as a form of "meditation on the divine perfections" [1].” Numerous scholars and poets have attempted to translate ghazals from their original language to English. The task is daunting, as keeping the literal meaning of each poem while respecting the rhyme, refrain, and length of lines is difficult, if not impossible[2]. When analyzing Petrarch’s poetry, one must consider how the translation from Italian to English affects the reading of the sonnets. Italian is a language extremely rich in rhyming possibilities and there is repetition of common end sounds. English, on the other hand, is  does not have a great variety of rhyme schemes, so translating the sonnet into English is a constant challenge for the poets to translate. Of course, the difficulties and differences of translation don’t measure the great gains achieved from breaking the boundaries of culture and learning from each other, gaining new perspectives, and indulging in the thoughts of others.

To deeply understand and analyze the works of such poised writers, one must first explore the poets themselves. Petrarch and Hafiz have an immense history that extends beyond the simple writing of love poetry. Hafez’s ghazals hold themes of “melancholy, love, longing, and metaphysical questions.”[3] The poet had accomplished the task of learning the Qur’an by heart at an early age (which is the meaning of the name Hafez) which influenced even his love poetry. However, “He was not merely the Hafiz of the Qur’an, but well acquainted with the whole field of philosophy, history, poetry and literature, with the highest thought.”[4]  In comparison, Petrarch, under the beginning era of the renaissance, was the founder of humanism, an Italian scholar, a poet, and studied law. Many of the Petrarchan sonnets depict Laura who Petrarch supposedly saw and instantly fell in love with. She is portrayed as a model of perfection and inspiration. Petrarch employs contradictory and oxymoronic phrases and images as well as dwelling on the misery of being in love as the main focus of his love poetry[5]. The character Laura is unlikely to be a person who Petrarch had known, although it is possible that she existed. However, she is a symbol for describing the general woman. Although they come from completely different parts of the globe, with different cultural beliefs, both poets have a theme of love, a religious aspect (whether it be Islam or Christianity) and someone to love- no matter what form of love it be in. Each poet’s unique background helps us understand their poetry on a deeper level of analysis.

No matter where you are in the world, you can understand the universal concept of love. Through such common themes, Petrarch and Hafez are able to connect with others outside of Italy and Iran and truly tell a story that everyone can relate to. Their love poetry is very deep and holds great meaning; however the love that is being expressed is quite different from each other. One speaks of loving Laura, and the other speaks of loving God. On one hand, Petrarch talks about loving a woman with great beauty. However, Hafez’s love poetry speaks of love in the context of religion. He speaks of the personal relationship between himself and God which sometimes resembles one that is humanly. On a structural analysis, the structural requirements of the ghazal are similar in strictness to those of the Petrarchan sonnet. In its style and content it is a genre which has proved capable of an extraordinary variety of expression around its central themes of love and separation. When comparing specifically Hafez’s poem, I Know The Way You Can Get, and Petrarch’s poem, Canzone 126, one can clearly come to a conclusion that these two men share many similarities in style. However, it may come as a shock to some individuals that these poets have emerged from such different backgrounds.  In Hafez’s poem and in Petrarch’s poem, there is a big theme of nature in describing the essence of love in its most natural state.

In the poem, I Know The Way You Can Get[6], the Hafez uses the conceits to emphasize his loving relationship God. He uses intoxication and drinking (“ the drink of love”)  as a symbol to emphasize that one needs to taste the sweetness of love because without it one’s “ face hardens” and “children become concerned”. He cleverly surprises his audience by revealing that he is describing the love of God, not the worldly love many think of.  The irony of this is that in Islam, the main religion of Iran, alcohol is forbidden.  So, the fact that Hafez is explaining how “intoxication” leads to a more personal relationship with God is something not many of his time could grasp. However, when analyzing carefully, he is simply speaking of “quenching  [the] thirst for freedom” through religion. The “drink of love” is the sip of God’s love for the speaker.         

In the fourth stanza of Petrarch’s poem, Canzone 126[7], religion is embedded in the text. The speaker concludes that Laura is so beautiful that she must be from heaven and that if it is his destiny, “and heaven works towards this” love will find him, and he will be sad no longer. This hints at some sort of God controlling and holding love to a grander level. Petrarch is trying to show the high platform which his love stands on for Laura. He creates heavenly visions, to which he associates the divine essence of Nature, the basis for which is his beloved Laura is compared to.

 On a different note, each poet establishes his own dialogue with Nature, which is supposedly capable of understanding the speaker’s feelings. In Hafez’s poem, the “squirrels and birds sense [his] sadness” and hold an “important conference in a tall tree” which really shows how nature is nurturing and understanding of the problems of love. In contrast, in Petrarch’s poem, nature is personified and then described religiously as being the location of “serene, and sacred air where Love pierced [his] heart with eyes of beauty”. Overall, both talented poets describe love in a way in which breaks boundaries of cultures because it is something which everyone can contemplate over. Love goes hand in hand with peace, so if people can forget their differences, and connect with other cultures on a higher level, boundaries can be broken and literature can be understood better.

Both the poems encompass a grand theme describing the pain of love in great detail. However, while Hafez describes the pain of a place without love, Petrarch explains the pain of the existence of love; this brings us to the conflicting idea that love is something that you can’t live with, but you can’t live without it either because it’s a natural process (which they portray through images of nature). In the poem, I Know The Way You Can Get, Hafez pronounces the painful process of those who choose to ignore love quite thoroughly and consistently. He describes how if someone has not been “drinking love” then they “might rip apart” and resemble a “dead fish”. The reason for this detail is that by having the drink of love- remembering God- a person will enjoy life much more as God  (resembling a lover)  is “wanting” ( wanting to help you reach the path to heaven). On the other hand, Petrarch’s approach to love is one that is bitter-sweet. He agrees that love (described through his lover Laura) is beautiful although he hints that it is a very painful entity as love “pierced [his] heart”. He compares love, which brings images of life, to Death which “would be less cruel” because love has many uncertainties.


By analyzing the poetry of great writers like Petrarch and Hafez, we can truly understand the connection between different cultures. The best way to step over boundaries is through literature, which provides a median for people to not focus on the differences in religious tradition or in culture, but to accept these differences and appreciate them.  Then, one can take a step farther and make comparisons which can eventually lead to discoveries of countless similarities. Too many times people look at differences and say “we are nothing like you.” For example, instead of thinking of Iran as an evil country, the enemy of the west, we can think of the beauty it encompasses and how similar Iranian and Italian cultures are. More specifically, the theme of love being the one entity that brings peace and harmony. Love through literature is the ultimate translation (love being the point of connection) where cultures can meet and interact.





[1] Hudson, Dale, and Maeve Adams. "The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The 18th Century: Topic 4: Texts and Contexts." Home | W. W. Norton & Company. Norton and Company. Web. 20 Nov. 2011. <http://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/nael/18century/topic_4/jones.htm>.

[2] "Poetic Form: Ghazal." Poets.org - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More. Ed. Hanna Andrews. Academy of American Poets. Web. 23 Nov. 2011. <http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5781>.

[3] "Poetic Form: Ghazal." Poets.org - Poetry, Poems, Bios & More. Ed. Hanna Andrews. Academy of American Poets. Web. 23 Nov. 2011. <http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/5781>.


[4] Khan III, Sultan Mahomad. "Hafiz and the Place of Iranian Culture in the World." Speech. Inaugural Lecture Before the Iran Society. United Kingdom, London. 9 Nov. 1936. Ismaili Web by Nina Jaffer. Web. 23 Nov. 2011. <http://www.amaana.org/sultweb/msmhafiz.htm>.

[5] Delahoyde, Michael. "Petrarch." Washington State University - Pullman, Washington. Web. 24 Nov. 2011. <http://public.wsu.edu/~delahoyd/renaissance/petrarch.html>.

[6] Ladinsky, Daniel. I Heard God Laughing: Renderings of Hafiz. 1st ed. Sufism Reoriented, 1996. Print.

[7] "Petrarch:The Canzoniere." Francesco Petrarch - Father of Humanism. Trans. A. S. Kline. Peter Sadlon. Web. 20 Nov. 2011. <http://petrarch.petersadlon.com/canzoniere.html?poem=126>.

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Salma Yehia

Humanities 101

Close –Reading Paper


A Deep Analysis of the poem “the Author of Her Book”

A woman of prestige and dignity now, Anne Bradstreet, was one of the first women to enter the men dominated realm of poetry. Anne Bradstreet, the writer of the poem, “The Author of Her Book”, takes the reader to ride an extended metaphor which eloquently sits waiting to be read. In order to understand this poem, the audience must first understand Bradstreet’s background as a writer and person.

 She first introduces an “ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain” whom had left her side after birth. By not having an understanding of the title or background of the author, one might have instantly assumed that the narrator is speaking of a literal offspring, a child who leaves his mother’s side. However, this metaphoric child essentially represents her poetry which has been taken away from her. By portraying her poems as a child, she expresses the care and love it must take to nurture the poem, feed the poem with edits, and let it grow out of the palms of her hands. This theme of mother and child is persistent throughout the poem.

 Her “offspring” was by her side until taken by friends “less wise than true, who thee abroad exposed to public view”.  This illuminates to how her poems were taken without her knowledge; she did not intend for poems to be published, but her friends wanted them published nonetheless, and as a result, when she got her poems, her children, back, her “blushing was not small”.

Bradstreet had felt as though her poems were not perfect; that each one had blemishes, and she had “cast thee [them] by as one unfit for light”. Subsequently, she declares, “Yet being mine own, at length affection would, thy blemishes amend”- she is willing to fix the imperfections. However, she struggles in “perfecting” her book of poems because she “washed thy face, but more defects I saw, and rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw”. She went to great lengths in trying to make her poems impressive enough to be shown to the public’s eye.  Bradstreet is emphasizing that poetry is imperfect, no matter whom it is written by or how many drafts are written.

Although the poem seems to show the concerns of perfecting her poetry, in reality she is exaggerating the point that poet's should be proud of their work regardless of criticism. As, one of the first women to write poetry, she knows that she has to stand up for her own her writing in order to come close in ranks to her men counterparts. In the most elegantly striking line, she refer to how she “stretcht thy joints to make thee even feet”, sadly enough, “still thou run'st more hobbling than is meet”. The line simply speaks of the joints being the metrical feet in iambic pentameter, and how she needs to perfect them. Yet, the way in which she describes this simple task shows her abilities as a poet who understands that imperfections truly make for a more perfect poem.

 In still keeping with the child metaphor, she explains that poems are like children, pertinent to both poems and children, neither is perfect. She is strong enough to realize that people are going to criticize her writing, and that she has to accept this fact. Bradstreet is writing poetry that belongs to ‘men’, and is she is interfering in a “mans” world but, she is not afraid to let her children, her poems, come into the hands of these critics. She simply warns her poems, to whom she has many concerns about, that, “In critic's hands” this child should be careful in venturing “where yet thou art not known”. In expressing this concern, she knows that her poems may come into the hands of critics who don’t understand the tenderness and sweetness of her book of poetry.

She concludes the poem in the same way she began, with an extended metaphor. At this stage, her attitudes of being a strong and independent woman are noticeably present. She tells the child to tell these critics “if for thy father askt, say, thou hadst none” referring to how no man has interfered with her poems, only she, this motherly figure, has written and edited these pieces. She concludes with, “thy mother, she alas is poor, which caused her thus to send thee out of door”, which encourages the reader to also, as Bradstreet did, send their own thoughts and ideas out into the open, and not be afraid of criticism.

















The Author To Her Book


Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth did'st by my side remain,
Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true,
Who thee abroad exposed to public view,
Made thee in rags, halting to th' press to trudge,
Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
At thy return my blushing was not small,
My rambling brat (in print) should mother call.
I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
The visage was so irksome in my sight,
Yet being mine own, at length affection would
Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
I stretcht thy joints to make thee even feet,
Yet still thou run'st more hobbling than is meet.
In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
But nought save home-spun cloth, i' th' house I find.
In this array, 'mongst vulgars may'st thou roam.
In critic's hands, beware thou dost not come,
And take thy way where yet thou art not known.
If for thy father askt, say, thou hadst none;
And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.



DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.