Urdu Poetry in Translation

Faiz

Let us today enter the bazaar in shackles

Faiz Ahmed Faiz

(1911-1984)

The brimming eye, the torn spirit
a hint of undisclosed love–
they are not enough.
Let us today enter the bazaar in shackles.
Arms wild
intoxicated, dancing
with dust-smeared faces and bloodied shirts
Come, the city of the beloved awaits:
Its ruler, its commoners
The accusatory arrow, the stone of abuse.
And, too: the unhappy morning,
the day come to nothing.
Whom else can they call their own?
In the city of the beloved, who has remained pure?
Who now remains worthy of the executioner’s hand?
Friends! Gather your broken hearts and set out!
Let it be us, once again.

 

Don’t ask me, my love, for that love again

Faiz Ahmed Faiz

 

I had thought you were,
and all of life was light.
If there was grief, it was yours–
what was time’s petty unrest?
Your sight was springtime, the world
held nothing but your eyes.
If somehow you were to fall for me
fate itself would submit.

 

This is what I’d believed, but it wasn’t so.
The age owns sorrows other than the sorrow of love,
pleasures other than the pleasure of union:
Countless centuries of the darkest enchantments
brocaded like golden threads into silk,
lanes and bazaars of bodies and bodies
plastered in dust washed in blood sold.
There, too, my gaze returns– what is to be done?
You are still so lovely but tell me– what is to be done?

 

The age owns sorrows other than the sorrow of love,
pleasures other than the pleasure of union.
Don’t ask me, my love, for that love again.

 

 

Faraz

My beloved people

Ahmad Faraz

 (1931-2008)

That sword that hangs now from my waist
has already slashed away my other half.
The rifle-barrel now at my side
has once before licked my veins’ blood

 

Now, once again, that fire has entered my streets
Once again, the smell of gunpowder is in the courtyard air
Once again we ask each other: Who are you? And who am I?
Once again this thought separates the space between us

 

I have enemies outside these borders
but when has an army of Others ever descended here?
I knew those hands that struck me;
it was my own dagger that pierced and pierced my chest

 

Once again, that barricade of fear, its air of tumult
their shouted slogans tall-crafted and rampant
the country’s cries sold like a merchant’s wares
God’s creed separated to so many species

 

This hour has struck before
like a torturous morning, like a foreign night.
Once before, these vows of faith have broken
like the glass of the heart, like the mirror of life.

 

Where now are the soft prayers of red lips,
love’s mantle on faces of dew?
Sunlight forsook her sandalwood feet
henna’s flame flickered and died on her marbled hand.

 

Fraught with separation, kohl wept from the loveliest eyes
clouds of her tresses wept for the broken limb.
Like the cloaks of roses, bodies again were torn.
Once before, love’s moon was halved
and with a dagger’s point, a line drawn in my soil.

 

Do not let this happen, do not let this happen again.
My beloved, my heart-stricken people,
if the earth splits now, it will surely be the end.
You who grieve, you who have been slain by sorrow
for a thief, a murderer, a tyrant’s sake
do not divide yourselves
my beloved people.

 

 

Jalib

Rule of the land

Habib Jalib

    (1928-1993)

That lamp that burns only within palace walls
that feeds the pleasure of just a few
and festers in the shadow of every wile;
this rule of the land, this lightless dawn
I do not accept, I do not acknowledge.

 

I am not afraid of the scaffold’s plank
Let it be known: I, too, am Mansur–
You cannot frighten me with prison walls.
These threats of cruelty, this night of ignorance
I do not accept, I do not acknowledge.

 

The branches have begun to flower, you say.
All the wretched men at the tavern now have wine, you say.
Their torn collars are being mended, you say.
This outright fiction, this robbing of the senses
I do not accept, I do not acknowledge.

 

For centuries, you’ve plundered our calm
but now, the enchantment’s broken.
We will not fall for your ruses. You, the cure?
Perhaps you’ll fool another.  This, your panacea
I do not accept, I do not acknowledge.

 

 

Rashid

The Blind Peddler of Broken Things

N.M. Rashed

(1910-1975)

 

Strewn in the city’s empty lanes
broken-legged and severed-headed
are dreams;
no one even knows that they’re there.
I wander the city’s empty lanes
to collect their remains
and warm them in my heart’s furnace.
The old filth melts off
and their arms and legs resurface
their lips and cheeks and necks glow
like a newly wed bride
and her heart’s young fancies
these dreams, too, find new paths.

 

Dreams, dreams for sale!
I call out into the market at dawn
“Are the dreams real or are they fake?”
They examine them with narrow eyes
as though they were their greatest connoisseurs.
I’m no dream-smith either–
I just sell them second-hand
but this much is true:
I do live off them.

 

Evening falls
and once again, I call out:
Take them for free, these dreams of gold!
Free? They’re more frightened now,
They shrink, retreat
And quietly, they slip away.

 

“Look, he says they’re free!
What if they aren’t the real thing?
What if we get home and they fall apart
or melt, or fly away
or cast some dark spell?
No, siree! What use are these?
Second-hand dreams
of a broken furniture peddler —
and that, too, blind?”

 

It is night
I place the bundles of dreams on my head
and, heartbroken,
return.
All night, I mumble in my sleep:
Get your dreams here
and take their cost, too…
dreams, dreams for sale…
my dreams
dreams…my dreams,
dreams
and what they cost…

This Age Is God

N.M. Rashed

  
“Don’t protest this age; It is God.”
But don’t you see?
Age is just a thread of whim;
it stretches thin
long
delicate
over the path
between lovers.
Eternities ago
the dawns that were
and eternities later
the dusks that will be
You do not see them–
you do not, you cannot
though they are here,
they are here even now.
But that cord tight-bound
around your eyes
that you can see
and you do;
it is that absence
that takes a lifetime to be;
seconds of stars,
light-years of night.
A young violet grows in my yard
and when a bird flutters close
it will sway, blush and simper
as though the bird, stolen-hearted
and wild with passion
had professed love right then.
Happily, he’ll say:
“See how this single cord
binds you and I at opposite ends.
If it weren’t here,
where would we find
a way to unite?”
But it doesn’t see
those threads of separation
that stretch from pre-eternity to time’s end
on whom this age
— as long as it lasts–
is merely a knot.

 

All translations are by Adeeba Talukder. Adeeba lives in Brooklyn, New York. She has translated and performed modern Pakistani and Afghan poets. Adeeba writes her own poetry in her spare time.

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