Saturday, January 14, 2006

from Mirza Ghalib: "Why ask?"       [ghazal translation]

This world is but a park where children play   before my sight!
this spectacle unfolding night & day             before my sight!

The throne of mighty Solomon
      is an amusement   in my eyes
the Messiah's miracle's often
      on display   before my sight!

Vastitudes of desert seem
        but scraps of dirt to me
while in this dust   what rivers
      namastè   before my sight!

Why ask about the state that
        after seeing you   befalls me?
the thing to ask is   will your
      visage stay   before my sight?

If true religion holds me
        yet idolotry attracts me
the Kaaba is behind!   as
      idols play   before my sight

note: the first couplet (as I render it, above) was in fact a version I did of this verse long ago (based on the literal translation by Prof. Aijaz Ahmad in his Ghazals of Ghalib) -- indeed, I drudge up that verse from recollection of my rendering of more than 25 years ago. The other four couplets I've newly rendered today, based on what seem to be nice (fairly literal) translations by a certain scholar named Gulzar, as quoted in a Ghalib thread on a poetry forum.

I recently happened to muse on this long interest in Ghalib in a prose poem: Who are we?

Apparently these five couplets are not Ghalib's complete ghazal (for one thing, the final couplet is obviously missing). (I look forward to locating the full poem and then, perhaps, adding more to this.) As these are mostly new renderings, I might yet tweak the language a bit. But overall I feel happy with this today.

Bazichay-e atfal hai dunia mere aage
Hota hai shab-o-roz tamasha mere aage

Ik khel hai Aurang-e Suleman mere nazdik
Ik baat hai aijaez-e masiha mere aaage

Hota hai nihan gard me sehra mere aage
Ghista hai jabeen kahak pe darya mere aage

Mat pooch ke kya haal hai mera tere peeche
Tu dekh ke kya rang hai tera mere aage

Imaan mujhe roke hai, to khainche hai mujhe kufr
Kaaba mere peeche hai, Kalisa mere aage


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