Getting the Author right for a Wedding Reading

 
by Jennifer Cram (10/05/2019)  |  Categories: | Wedding Ceremony |
Even after all this time, poem by Ladinsky
                    falsely attributed to HafizRecently, I came across this lovely reading which was credited to the Sufi poet, Hafiz.  My father was a fan of Persian literature and I've inherited some of his books of translations made early last century, but I'd not seen this particular one.

Now, I do a lot of weddings for couples whose first language is Farsi (Persian), and generally speaking, these involve an interpreter.  But translating Hafiz, as with most Persian poets, is a very complex process, with the result that there is no accepted, definitive version of his poems in English. So I thought it would be nice to find a copy of the original, so that the interpreter could read it as it was meant to be. That turned out to be quite an undertaking.

The English "version" of this poem is everywhere. Pinterest is full of versions with sunrise or sunset scenes behind the words, various fonts, various backgrounds. All very beautiful.  It has been used in weddings, on wall murals, on greeting cards, and even in the title of a memoir - Even after all this time: A story of love, revolution, and leaving Iran.

But it turns out that the reason no-one can find the Persian original is because there isn't one. It doesn't exist. Hafiz didn't write it. It was written by an American Sufi poet, Daniel Ladinsky, who claims that he heard this and other poems in his book  The Gift: Poems by Hafez the Great Sufi Master, from Hafiz himself, who came to him in a dream and sang it to him in English. So it is an original poem masquerading as a translation!

While that is an issue - when including works written by others both copyright and what are called moral rights come into play. Moral rights mean that we have to attribute a work to the person who actually created it (and where it is a translation, credit the translator as well as the creator of the original). The fact that this poem has been incorrectly attributed for 20 years  doesn't take away from the fact that the poem itself is lovely. So I may use it in a ceremony at some time. Just not in a ceremony where the couple's first language is Farsi speakers.

[Text of poem reproduced under licence from The Copyright Agency, Ltd]