Thursday, February 09, 2006

Mariam Gazala: "It's delicatesse"     [translation]

It's delicatesse
            falling apart   an easy thing   is not!
to a lock of hair
            such thunderstorms   a ruffling   bring not!

various mirrors
            each one displays   munerous visages
but even one face
            familiar   these glimmerings   show not!

a pebble of stone!
            this were the form   you would assume   for years
from out of your heart
            a restless storm's   deep rumbling   came not

the distinction is
            it's so subdued   if you observe the stone
you'll come to discern
            while low & hushed   a lifeless thing   it's not!

This rendering of mine is based on Max Babi's literal translation of Mohtarima Mariam Gazala Sahiba's ghazal. She is a contemporary writing in Hindi/Urdu. It's unusual to have a ghazal of but four couplets (normally, five is a minimum); and it's somewhat unusual to have one in which the poet's name isn't mentioned in the final verse. But poetry has room for variation. By confining herself to this smaller canvas, the artist's minimal brushstrokes expand in resonance. Thanks to H.K.L. Sachdeva for clarifying aspects of the poem's language -- and for helping find the sense of the word salikaa, which I've here seen fit to render as delicatesse -- a Farsi/Urdu word for which Sachdeva suggests the English word "niceties." I had also tried the word "equipoise" for salikaa here. Between delicatesse and equipoise, it seems that something is shared, and someting is not. I also concluded that a rarer word [hence delicatesse] has advantages, when seeking to translate a word with subtle & complex qualities & meanings. Salikaa can also (in a different grammatical context) signify "decorum" -- which I understand to mean: the proper, well-meausured mode of manners, behavior, sensibility, courtesy & response.

Amid the literature of Sufism, I recall having seen a classic utterance (translated from the Arabic, perhaps dating back perhaps 1200 years -- [I don't recall if it was from Bayazid Bistami, Junayd, or some other, memory is unsure here]), rendered in English this way: "Sufism is nothing but manners." I have a hunch the word "manners" here might likely have been in fact salikaa. Is it so, I wonder? I should like to know.


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