Thursday, January 26, 2006

"The lavendar farm"     [ghazal]

If Urdu had usurped all the charm   a ghazal can possess
might English shadow-box with the arm   a ghazal can possess?

Granted Urdu snaffled from Farsi   attar as well as dard
in which of these should I seek the Marm   a ghazal can possess?

Is paradise so distant?   are myths mere myths?   what is language?
I crave the medicine & the harm   a ghazal can possess

I stumbled field to field   flummoxed by the sinewy labor
an aerial vantage of the farm   a ghazal can possess

Ardeo vaguely guessed his heart   must have a reason to beat
could it be it sought the plangent dharm   a ghazal can possess?

In wintertime   no flowery talk   all of the voices hushed
fresh hubbub!   this might be the alarm   a ghazal can possess

I gazed up at the balcony   only drapes amid the breeze!
& yet one felt   that flap hid the charm   a ghazal can possess

The gul of Saadi's long gone!   where's the rukh of the moon tonight?
if Hafez spoke English   say what yarn   a ghazal might possess?

He alone holds the secret!   we fools rush about   and angels?
it's the pin where they dance in a swarm   a ghazal can possess

When old Anglos were a'breeding their sheep   & a'brewing their beer
none visited the lavendar farm   a ghazal can possess?

My commerce proved absurd!   at least I survived   only poems
received every grain from my barn   that a ghazal can possess

Ardeo felt pensive   no Urdu belov├Ęd consoled him
he hugged such wan English   (his karm)   as a ghazal can possess


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acknowledgement

The first line of the first couplet quotes (not quite verbatim) a remark made by noted Delhi poet and actor Danish Husain -- for which, thanks.

This poem (in one respect) amounts to an attempted reply to Dan's provocative utterance. Whether Dan's observation serves to paraphrase a well-known Urdu truism, I can't say; but no doubt, the underlying thought here is a familiar one: that (a few centuries into the past, in the Indian subcontinent -- & indeed in broad realms of Islamicized culture), Urdu arguably "usurped" the ghazal preeminence erstwhile enjoyed by Farsi. As for Urdu's noted, stealthy excellences -- the above ghazal tacitly presumes to attempt a counter-appropriation -- at least to the extent of some smidge purloined from those olden glories.

Whether (meanwhile) Urdu might eventually suffer from its karma of usurption, is a question beyond the scope of this footnote.



notes

Dan's original sentence reads: "Urdu has usurped all that charm that a ghazal can possess." The poem's first sher [couplet] replies to this.

attar (Farsi/Urdu) : perfume
dard (Farsi/Urdu) : pain, suffering, grief

dharm (Hindi/Urdu) : from Sanskrit dharma, the necessary duty, sphere of appropriate work, and raison d'etre peculiar to each jivatman (embodied soul).

gul (Farsi/Urdu) : the rose
rukh (Farsi/Urdu) : the face

Hafez and Saadi are the most noted poets from the old Persian city of Shiraz. Hafez is generally esteemed as the most sublime of classical Persian ghazal poets. Saadi was also a writer of ghazals, but he is perhaps best known for his prose + poetry writings, such as the Gulistan (Rose Garden).

karm (Hindi/Urdu) : equivalenet to the Sanskrit karma = action, or (philosophically conceived), the cycle of action and its consequence; or (metaphysically construed), by extension, the results, in a given lifetime, of actions committed in prior lifetimes (or, the seeds, in a current lifetime, for conditions to be experienced in future lifetimes). Karma is in some respects similar to the universal idea of "fate"; but if so, it involves a very sophisticated view of that idea. The doctrine of karma is shared by Hinduism and Buddhism, and is undoubtedly central to the legacy of ideas that India has, since antiquity, contributed to the world.


p.s.: following from Dan Husain's advice (here), I've been, with this, perhaps more attentive than usual to the specific metrics of the lines (though the poem remains inconsistent on a micro-level). I'm not sure whether a perfectly identical metrical rhythm in every line, is a desideratum for an English ghazal; but it does present a tantalizing possibility -- one I'll likely play with more in future.

2 Comments:

Blogger Twisted Humor Inc. said...

you are a romantic David... and someday, if you learn Urdu, you'll cry...

i'm stumped.. this is beautiful..!!
i love the way your writing makes people think colors...

:)

Mon Jan 30, 03:11:00 AM PST  
Anonymous guile said...

it's beautiful.. i like it :)..

Thu Feb 16, 06:09:00 PM PST  

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