An Anthology of Translations of {20}

from 1971 through 1990


*Aijaz Ahmad, 1971*
*William Stafford, 1971*
*Ralph Russell, 1972*
*Yusuf Husain, 1977*
*S. Rahmatullah, 1980*
*K. C. Kanda, 1990*


It was not our good fortune to meet our love.
However long we lived, we would still be waiting for such an encounter.

If we lived on your promise, then, you must understand, we did not believe it;
For, we would have died of happiness if we had believed your word.

From the vein in the stone would have flown such profusion of blood that it would be unstoppable,
If what you think is grief were a spark of fire.

Who can/could see him/her, for he/she is unique, incomparable;
If there were even the faintest chance of duality/being a possibility comparable to someone else, we would have surely met him somewhere.

These matters of mysticism, Ghalib! And this exposition of them that you give!
We would have thought you a mystic if you were not given to drinking so much.

--Aijaz Ahmad, ed., Ghazals of Ghalib (New York: Columbia University Press, 1971), p. 33; explication, pp. 34-35
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It wasn't my luck to achieve heavenly bliss.
No matter how long I lived, I'd never have made it.

Live on the great promise? Well, you can believe it;
I'd have died of joy had The Great One proved The Word!

This stone would have pulsed blood all over
if man's common suffering had really struck fire.

But who could ever find the True Mate, the Right One?
Could we sniff out soul-food, surely we'd do it.

These high, religious longings, Ghalib! These vaporings!
You'd seem religious if you didn't drink so much.

--William Stafford, in Aijaz Ahmad, ed., Ghazals of Ghalib (New York: Columbia University Press, 1971), p. 36
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Ghalib, you write so well upon these mystic themes of love divine
We would have counted you a saint, but that we knew your love of wine.

--Ralph Russell, in "Ghalib: A Self-Portrait," from Ghalib: the Poet and his Age, ed. by Ralph Russell (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1972), p. 19.

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It was not our fortune to enjoy / Love's union with the friend;
Had we lived longer, then how / Anxiously must we have tarried.

On your promise have we lived, / Yet we did not believe it true;
We would have died of happiness / If on its truth we had relied.

From thy delicacy we could tell / That thy vow was weak;
Indeed if it were firm, then / Even by thee it could not be broken.

Someone should ask about the pleasure / From thy half-penetrated arrow;
If it had passed right through the liver, / It would not prick like this.

What sort of friendship is this / When the counsellor turns well-wisher?
A sincere sympathiser is required -- / And one that's a healer, to boot.

If thou deemest sorrow / To be the spark, then unabated
From the vein of the stone / Would the blood have dripped.

Although grief melts the soul / The lover's heart can never escape;
If not the torments of love, then / The woes of the world would hold him.

Whom should I tell -- that the night / Of sorrow is a terrible affliction?
For me it were no tragedy to die -- / So long as it were only once.

If after death we are disgraced, / Would that we had been drowned at sea;
No funeral bier there'd be / Nor the reminder of a tomb.

Who can behold Him? Unique / And incomparable is He;
If a semblance of duality exists, --then / In this world could one encounter Him.

O Ghalib these are spiritual matters / To which your description leads;
We would have taken thee for a saint / If thou wert not a known wine-drinker.

--Yusuf Husain, trans., Urdu Ghazals of Ghalib (New Delhi: Ghalib Institute, 1977), pp. 68-70
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'Twas not my destiny, I say / That I should win my lady dear;
I would have whiled my life away / In waiting lived I longer here.

Thy promises were false, I say -- / But these kept me alive; I might
Were these thought true, have passed away / In ecstasy and sheer delight.

I have wise counsel from my friends / In pain and in adversity:
What use are these when none extends / To me his help and sympathy?

The pain of love is hard to bear / For hearts grown sick and hearts grown sad!
Time's pain I would have had to share / In life, if no love's pain I had.

I wish in waves I had been drowned / And had not known a lover's doom!
My bier had never then been found, / Nor seen the marble of my tomb!

For mystic thoughts and sayings wise / The poet thus I would define:
He is an angel in disguise -- / A pity Ghalib's deep in wine!

--S. Rahmatullah, Hundred Gems from Ghalib (Karachi: National Book Foundation, 1980), pp. 46-53
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To have met my friend was not my fate,
A longer life'd have entailed a longer wait.

Did I trust your word, indeed? What a wrong belief!
I sure had died of joy, had I believed it true.

My heart alone could tell about your half-drawn arrow,
Could it leave a sting behind, had it pierced the marrow?

What use this friendship which cannot but advise,
O for a friend! to physic my sorrow, to heal my heart.

Mortifying is sorrow, no doubt, but how can one escape?
If not to pangs of love, we are to pangs of living a prey.

Calamitous is the night of severance, terrible beyond words,
I'd die with pleasure, had I to die but once.

Why didn't I drown in a river ere this disgrace?
There couldn't have been a funeral, there wouldn't be a grave.

(#120#)Who can behold him? He is singularly unique,
Had there been a shade of duality, Him you might have seen.

Your concerns so mystic, inimitable your style,
You would be a prophet, Ghalib, but for your wine.

--K. C. Kanda, Masterpieces of Urdu Ghazal From the 17th to the 20th Century
(New Delhi: Sterling Publishers Private Limited, 1990), pp. 118, 120
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