Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Ghalib # 36

I have been working on a book of translations with my dear friend Tony Barnstone. I am translating the works of the Urdu world's most famous poet, Mirza Assadullah Khan Ghalib. Ghalib lived in Delhi around the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century. He wrote poems which are known as ghazals, somewhat like the English love sonnets. The ghazal is written in couplets where the first and the last word of the first couplet rhyme and thereafter the rhyming trend follows every second verse of every couplet. We have had to play this very delicate game of maintaining the meaning of the poem and the rhyming sequence. The ghazal also involves a meter, but we found it quite challenging to satisfy all three constraints in our translations. There is an excellent project on Ghalib's works being done at Columbia University.
With a few more translations, we will be able to get our work out in book form. In the mean time enjoy the following ghazal. Ah one last point. As far as meaning is concerned, each couplet stands on its own and does not rely on a thought from a previous couplet of from a succeeding one. I always found this quite unsettling about ghazals.

پھر مجھے دیدۂ تر یاد آیا
دل جگر تشنۂ فریاد آیا
Once again I recall her tearful eyes;
heart and liver call intensely for my lover,

دم لیا تھا نہ قیامت نے ہنوز
پھر ترا وقتِ سفر یاد آیا
Doomsday has barely paused
when I recall your passing.

سادگیہاۓ تمنّا یعنی
پھر وہ نیرنگِ نظر یاد آیا
Oh, Desire, your simplicity makes
me recall my lover’s witching glance.

عذرِ واماندگی اے حسرتِ دل
نالہ کرتا تھا جگر یاد آیا
Excuse my longings O thirsty heart.
When I call out, I recall my lover.

زندگی یوں ہی گزر ہی جاتی
کیوں ترا راہگزر یاد آیا
Life might have passed as is,
so why did I recall the path you walked?

آہ وہ جرأاتِ فریاد کہاں
دل سے تنگ آ کے جگر یاد آیا
What a spectacle, to fight Heaven’s gatekeeper
when I’m called from Heaven in recalling your home.

پھر ترے کوچے کو جاتا ہے خیال
دلِ گم گشتہ مگر یاد آیا
How can I get the courage to beg?
I’m tired of my heart. I recall my lover.

کوئی ویرانی سی ویرانی ہے
دشت کو دیکھ کے گھر یاد آیا
Once again, my thoughts wander your alleys.
Maybe I can call back my lost heart.

کیا ہی رضواں سے لڑائی ہوگی
گھر ترا خلد میں گر یاد آیا
My wasteland is such a wasteland
that seeing the desert, I recall home.

میں نے مجنوں پہ لڑکپن میں اسد
سنگ اٹھایا تھا کہ سر یاد آیا
In my childishness I, Asad, pick up a rock
and almost stone Majnun, then recall my head.

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