HI New Faculty Seminar Series
A Sultan in the Realm of Passion: Coffee, Punning, and Lust in Eighteenth-Century Delhi
It is naught save the beloved of the noble It is always irked by the companionship of the low In whatever place has ‘Hatim’ two breaths of life, Here will be a sip of coffee, there a puff at the huqqah Thus concludes a poetic encomium to coffee composed by the eighteenth-century Urdu poet, Shah ‘Hatim’ (1699-1783), who enjoyed a long career, interacting with multiple generations of Urdu poets in Delhi and observing firsthand the massive economic and cultural upheavals that accompanied the rapid political decline of the Mughal empire. He is remembered today primarily for his claim, made some twenty years after he composed this poem, to have purged his earlier collections of poetry of verses that contained “unliterary” vocabulary and outdated puns. This poem’s survival in his revised divan helps to answer questions about broader efforts by professional poets of Urdu to document emerging modalities of urban connoisseurship for new audiences and patrons in regional centers.