AN ANTHOLOGY OF TRANSLATIONS of {111}

from 2011 through 2030

 


*M. Shahid Alam, 2011*
*Dia Tsung, 2011*
*Vijay Seshadri, 2013*
*Arshad M. Hashmi and Farhat Mansoob, 2013*
*Randeep Purewall, 2013*
*Surinder Deol, 2014*
*F. Pritchett and O. Cornwall, 2017*
*M. Shahid Alam, 2018*

M. SHAHID ALAM

Only a few come back to us in roses and tulips.
Many more lie buried, dust on their sleeping eyelids.

By day, the daughters of Pleiades play out of sight.
At night, they lift their veils in ravishing display.

My eyes pour blood on this night of savage partings:
two lamps I have lighted to sanctify love’s sorrow.

I will make them pay for the years of torment, if
by chance, these darlings play houris in paradise.

He shall have sleep, perfumed air, silken nights,
if you untie your jasmine-scented hair in his arms.

I have no use for your coy approaches to the divine.
Past your schools and creeds, we worship God alone.

If Ghalib were to keep this up (he cries inconsolably),
every man, woman, child will soon be leaving town.

M. Shahid Alam, from Prairie Schooner (2011)
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DIA TSUNG

From whence did these few favoured ones  re emerge re-formed as the tulip and the rose?
And how many more, might each in a simulacrum lie in the same dust concealed?

However distinctly we may recall the embellishments of those  convivial gatherings,
Now they are faded neglections in the niche where they were formerly displayed. 

The bearers of the bier, those celestial beauties concealed and veiled by day
Emerge in night's darkness undissembling  - what prompts these naked revelations?

Jacob, when deprived of any word from his imprisoned and beloved Joseph,
Nonetheless, with his blinding tears, wore fissures on the blank walls of that cell.

Even though all other lovers are found to be chagrined by their rivals, 
Zulaikha delights in hers - since they share her own wounding obsession. 

Let a stream of bloody tears flow from the eyes, during the night of separation
I will suppose that by this act, two candles will materialise and be illuminated. 

In paradise we'll surely be avenged on these elusive flame-born Effulgents,
If by God's justice, when we attain to heaven, they are bequeathed to us as lovers.

Repose belongs to him, and sweet abandon, and all the night,
On whose shoulder now your tangled curls are wildly spread.

Scarcely had I set foot in the garden when they broke out in a student chorus,
The nightingales who eavesdropped  on my sighs, reciting poetic couplets.

God! why do those remembered glances still pierce me through the heart?
Those fleeting piercing glances belie the deceptive delicacy of her lashes. 

Though parried, more and thickly, sighs came ripping and piercing from within my breast
But then my sighs themselves repaired the rending, as does the needle with the thread. 

Would I repair to her, what new recompense could now be found for her contempt?
Since all my blessings have been exhausted on the one employed to always bar access.

Life- intensifying wine delights the drinker, no matter by which hand it's proffered
As it bestows the reddened  flush of an  arterial pulse to the palm's quiescent  creases.

Our faith resides within a singular divinity, we abjure laws, proscriptions, customs - 
When such divisions are effaced, all will revert to an unique and faithful function.

By the embracing of accustomed grief, grief itself becomes  obliterated:
Beset by showers of difficulty, accustomed difficulties are borne with ease.

O denizens of the world, If Ghalib capriciously is compelled to persist in useless weeping,
You will then behold the desolation of these cities and their final obliteration. 

Dia Tsung, unpublished (2011)
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VIJAY SESHADRI

How few, how paltry few, of all the beautiful apparitions pulverized to earth
were resurrected as a tulip or a rose.

How many of my glittering memories of the feast of love
were warehoused in oblivion.

The stars, bashful behind the veil of day,
what possesses them to become scandalous by night?

The father pining for the child sold to Pharaoh,
his eyes have become the windows of the walls that immure him.

I'm sorry, but I'm not like that woman who loved those who loved
whom she loved. The opposite, in fact.

The night is his who spends it coiled with you.

Oh citizens, if Ghalib keeps weeping like this,
his tears will sweep your cities away.

-- Vijay Seshadri, 3 Sections (Minneapolis: Graywolf Press, 2013), p. 18.
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ARSHAD M. HASHMI and FARHAT MANSOOB

Not all withered- some became visible as tulip and rose!
What a myriad of faces would be there, that became concealed in the dust!

I could also thence recall those colorful festive assemblies,
But they are now mere decorative carvings in the niche of oblivion.

Even the Heaven’s Daughters of the Bier were hidden behind a veil, throughout the day!
What thought provoked them that they got naked as the night approached!

Let all lovers be unhappy with their rivals, however, with the women of Egypt
Potiphar's wife is well-pleased for they got enchanted by the Moon of Canaan!

Let the stream of blood flow from the eyes, for it's the night of separation.
I will simply consider that two tapers have illuminated.

Once in Paradise, I'll take revenge on these Fairy-born ones;
If, by the Almightiness of the Eternal Truth, I get them as Houries there!

His are the states of sleep, his are the thoughts, his are the nights,
On whose shoulders your locks of hair disheveled!

While I entered into the garden, as if a school had opened
Hearing my laments, the nightingales turned into poetry reciters.

Oh Lord, why do those glances keep penetrating the heart,
Which, due to my deficient fortune, became eyelashes!

As much I held them back, they surged up one after another in the breast.
My sighs became the stitches on the ripped off collar.

In whomever's hand the glass is held, wine becomes life-enhancing.
All the lines on the palm, as if, become the jugular veins!

A monotheist I am, renunciation of customs being my creed!
Once beliefs erased, they became parts of faith.

Once a person becomes accustomed to grief, then grief is effaced.
Difficulties consumed me to such an extent that they became easy!

If Ghalib kept on weeping like this, then O’ people of the world!
Just watch these habitations- that they would become desolate!

--Arshad M. Hashmi and Farhat Mansoob, unpublished translation, 2013
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RANDEEP PUREWALL

What faces must lie concealed in the dust
Where are they all? Only some returned
as rose and tulips

I remember colourful party decorations
Now pictures on a forgotten shelf

Veiled by day the starry sisters of the dead
What was it at night that drove them naked?

The spots of light on the cell walls fell on Jacob's eyes
Though he received no word about Joseph in prison

All lovers resent their rivals and yet Zulaikha's glad
The ladies of Egypt have become immersed in Joseph

Let a stream of blood pour from mine eyes -- 'tis the night of separation
I'll consider it as if two candles have been lit

Once in Paradise I'll avenge these fair maidens
If through God's power they become houris there

To him belong sleep, peace, nights
On whose shoulder
Your tresses scatter

As I entered the garden, 'twas as if a concert assembled
Hearing my laments the nightingales became singers of ghazal

My Lord, Why do those glances pierce me so
'Twas my misfortune they became eyelashes

Though I stopped, they filled my breast one by one
My sighs became the stitching on my torn collar

How would I honour her curses were I to go there?
All of my praises were spent on the doorkeeper

Life-giving is wine to whose hand the cup comes
The lines of one's hand pulsate as if they were veins

We believe in One God, our faith to abjure doctrine
When religions are erased they form faith

No more grief for he who grows used to it
Many difficulties befell me only to become easy

If Ghalib kept weeping so, o' people of the world!
Look around at these towns now deserted

--Randeep Purewall, unpublished translation, 2013
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SURINDER DEOL

What Did We Miss?

Roses and tulips rose / from under the ground.
But I was surprised / about the things that didn't sprout.
What images did we miss? / What did we not see?

I remember / the colorful beautifications / of her gatherings.
But now they are no more / than the carvings / in the domes of memory.

The constellations of seven stars-- / the daughters of the dead in the sky--
are hiding behind the veil of the daylight.
God knows what came to them / that they bared themselves / in the dead of night.

Jacob didn't inquire about Joseph / when the latter was in the prison,
but his eyes stayed fixed at Joseph / as if they were the prison's / window treatments.

Unhappy with Egyptian women / who had doubts about Joseph's beauty,
Zulekha was pleased in the end / hearing how they were stunned / by his good looks when they saw him.

In this night of separation, / let the blood flow from my eyes.
I will know that / two candles have been lit.

We shall exact retribution / from the fairies when we meet them / in the paradise
if by the grace of God / they are present there.

He is the lucky one / who sleeps calmly, / has the peace of mind, / and to whom all the nights belong.
He is the one on whose shoulders / you spread your tresses / promiscuously.

The garden became / a house of poetry / as soon as I entered.
Listening to my laments, / even the nightingales / started to sing the odes.

Her glances / go on piercing my heart O God,
though due to my bad luck / they were partially blocked / by her eyelashes.

Though I tried my best / to contain my sighs / inside my chest,
they continue to pour out / and even stitched the collar
that I had once torn / in a state of insanity.

Even if I showed up, / how would I deal / with her recriminations?
All the blessings that I knew / I showered on the doorkeeper.

Wine is life giving indeed. / Lines on the palm of the hand
become clear for the one who / holds the goblet.

I believe in one God / and my way of life / is to discard traditions and rituals.
Religious differences are harmful / when people do not believe / in the oneness of God.

Getting used to sorrow / alleviates the pain of sorrow.
Hardships don't bother me now.
They are so many / that they have become / easy to live by.

If Ghalib continued to shed tears / with the same intensity,
be aware people of the world, / all these places would be ruins.

--Surinder Deol, The Treasure: A Modern Rendition of Ghalib's Lyrical Love Poetry
(New Delhi: Partridge India, 2014), pp. 200-203
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F. W. PRITCHETT and O. CORNWALL

Hardly all!--some emerged in tulip and rose.
In the dust, what hidden faces will there be?

We too remembered colorful party arrangements,
But now they adorn the niche of forgetfulness.

By day, the Daughters of the Bier hid in the heavens behind their veils.
At night, what came into their heads, that they became naked?

Although Jacob had no news about Joseph in prison,
Still his eyes became the crevice-work in the wall of the cell.

People may be unhappy with their rivals--but with the women of Egypt
Zulaikha is happy, for they're entranced by the Moon of Canaan.

Let my eyes stream with blood, in this night of separation--
I'll tell myself that two candles have been lit.

We'll take revenge on these Pari-born ones in Paradise--
If, through the power of God, they become houris there.

Sleep is his, composure is his, the nights are his,
On whose shoulder your curls lie disheveled.

I had just come into the garden--a school opened, so to speak,
The nightingales heard my laments and began singing ghazals.

Why do those glances, oh Lord, pierce through my heart--
Even though, from lowered eyes, they don't meet my gaze?

Although I suppressed them, more welled up, one after another--
My steady sighs came like stitches for the rip in my collar.

Even if I go there, how would I answer her abuse?
All the blessings I knew, I used up on the doorkeeper.

Wine is life-enhancing--when one has a glass in hand
All the lines of the palm become, so to speak, the jugular vein.

We are monotheists; our sect is the renunciation of customs.
When the communities were erased, they became parts of the faith.

When a person gets used to grief, then grief is erased.
So many difficulties fell upon me that they became easy.

If Ghalib keeps on weeping like this, then, oh people of the world,
Look at these towns--all a desolation.

--Frances W. Pritchett and Owen T. A. Cornwall, Ghalib: Selected Poems and Letters
(New York: Columbia University Press, 2017), pp.27-28
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M. SHAHID ALAM

2.1 Houris

In roses and tulips they return, but only a few.
How many sages has time stolen from us?

By day, the Seven Sisters hide in veils of light.
At night, in caprice, they unveil before us.

I will have sweet revenge, if our icy charmers
Show up as houris, oh so eager to please us.

She of the moon-bright face and silken hair
Could dazzle our dim nights--if she favored us.

Eyes fixed on the Way, we do not follow rites.
Creeds without dogma bring him closer to us.

With practice, we take our troubles in stride.
Our heaviest sorrows sit lightly upon us.

If Ghalib keeps up this grieving, his sighs
Will gather in clouds, his tears will drown us.

2.2 Charmers

Not all, only a few come back to us in tulips.
Many more lie buried, dust on their sleeping eyelids.

All day, the Seven Sisters stay veiled, out of sight.
What is it that makes them bare it all by night?

My eyes pour blood on this night of savage partings.
These lamps shed light to sanctify my sorrow.

We will make them pay for the years of torment,
If, by luck, these sirens are houris in paradise.

Sweet relish of silken nights are his, when she
Unties her jasmine-scented hair in his arms.

I have no use for coy approaches to the divine.
Beyond creeds and rites we worship God alone.

If Ghalib keeps crying inconsolably, your gardens
Will go to seed and weeds will choke your lawns.

--M. Shahid Alam, Intimations of Ghalib
(Asheville, NC: Orison Books, 2018), pp. 14-15
[back to index]

 

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