The Pump Don’t Work, ’Cause the Vandals Took the Handles

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1269)  Urged by the inspiration of A.J. Arberry, Classical Persian Literature ch. 13 (1958; I recommend it), I must note Shams al-Dîn Muhammad of Shîrâz (1315-1390), known by his literary name Hâfez (Arabic, “preserver”, inter alia a title of one who has committed the Koran to memory).  He left five hundred poems in the ghazal form (“spun yarn”; sounds like guzzle):

usually of between seven and twenty lines…. divided into two half-lines….  the first two half-lines rhyme, and after this the same rhyme comes at the end of each complete line, but not within the line

explains Dick Davis in his tr. Faces of Love p. lxviii (2012), who groans (p. 273; he sets pairs of half-lines in couplets; in a ghazal the poet’s name customarily appears at the end),

Translating Hafez, or Trying To

How long you’ve teased me with your tropes, Hafez,
And led me on and dashed my hopes, Hafez,

And left me like a foolish fog-bound man
Who pats and peers, and grasps and gropes, Hafez,

And thinks he’s getting somewhere till he takes
A tumble down delusion’s slopes, Hafez,

And nursing angry broken bones declares
“God damn the guide, God damn the ropes, Hafez.”

Your imperturbability is like
A really irritating pope’s, Hafez —

But there, no matter how much Dick complains
Or goes off in a sulk, or mopes, Hafez,

Tomorrow finds him shaking (just once more)
Your glittering kaleidoscopes, Hafez.


Pump, vandals, handles: Bob Dylan, “Subterranean Homesick Blues” (1965)

4 thoughts on “The Pump Don’t Work, ’Cause the Vandals Took the Handles

  1. John Hertz replies by carrier pigeon:

    You know nothing, John Snow.
    Taking handles is your way to go.
    For yourself you boil water.
    The pump’s just contagion’s daughter.
    You’re a great half-right hero, ho ho.

    You know nothing, Jon Snow.
    George made you, not long ago.
    You’re a puppet on strings
    In his theater of kings.
    Songs and Ygritte are part of a show.

    Go ahead, write a ghazal on Snow.
    Say Dick Davis knew less than you know.
    Hâfez’ ghost has the laugh,
    ’Cause when you’ve blown the gaff
    He still shines both high and low.

    P.S.  Andrew, you gave one of the better comments I’ve had.

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