{139,1} Commentary page


[Writing to Muzaffar Husain Khan, in an undated Persian letter:]

Oh you who would say about elegant speech
that the result of the movement of the tongue would be talking,
Surely you know that to divulge the secret of the heart to the Friend
is impossible except by talking.
The pen also, to explain love
has a similar hand in telling things.
If the pen and tongue are not the same for you,
call this one writing and that one speech.
With the pen we make conversation
when it could not be held in talking.
From this, I know that in lamentation, my lips
Would become wounded from saying 'Al-Aman' [e.g.a name of God: Safety];
It's difficult to talk about
the pain of separation with Muhammad Husain Khan. 
Although I know that those of fine taste would be much displeased by mingling beyond the boundaries of acquaintance, and the connoisseurs of grace in either acquaintance or strangeness would not be pleased with full-throated expressions of kindness-- but what am I to do, when it is my custom neither to place faith in new ways nor, like those of slight worth, to wager the heart on the business of the crafty? Hai hai! As it came to my tongue unthinkingly, no one can take umbrage with me or my affairs regarding this elegant speech-making-- I had that grief-stricken heart which 'Itiqad ad-Daulah Nur Ali Khan took and, unbeknownst to me, entrusted to one of his oldest friends. I marvel at the wonder-work of love, in that before the candle of our company was kindled, I was burned by separation. I would die for the power of the enchantment of 'Itiqad ad-Daulah-- that not yet having arrived at the banquet of proximity, we should be same-tongued in mourning with you! I wish that I had not heard the word of that enchanter, and that I had not read the letter of grief that was in his name. Now that the lancet of grief is in the jugular vein at the peak of its piercing, and spring upon spring of heart-blood is pouring from the eye, how would I protect myself from lament, and with which ruse would I save the heart from the whirlpool of blood?

In my youth, I had a face that was blacker than a hair [with sin], and the tumult of passion for the Pari-faced ones on my mind, when He [God] poured into my cup the poison of disaster. In the path of the funeral procession of the beloved, dust having been beaten out of my patient heart, I spent many a bright day wearing black and sitting on the straw mat of a recluse in mourning for my sweetheart; and for many black nights I was like the extinguished candle in seclusion, lamenting the loss of the Moth. That bed-mate [ham-;xvaabah] whom at the time of parting, one could not even entrust to her Lord [compare {205,8}]-- how unfair it is to entrust her delicate body to dust! That very beloved whom out of fear of harm by the evil eye of the narcissus, one could not bring along the walking path of the garden-- what an oppression to bear her bier to the graveyard!

May dust become blood! when, in the happenstance of the effects of existence,
it takes in the ringlets of the cheek and puts out hyacinth and roses.

Thus the hunter, when his net has broken and his prey has lept from bondage-- how would he be tranquil? How to add happiness to the composition of the body for the rose-picker whose rose has fallen from his hand, and whose plant has withered? Perhaps it is with the sympathy of the lover. After a life of self-sacrificing, those who have given their hearts would know the worth of kindness and friendship. May that faithful beloved be happy who would have given more love in return than absolutely necessary; and who, whenever having conquered the heart with a sidelong glance, would also give the soul in kindness!

Although the grief of the death of the beloved is soul-paining, and the anxiety over eternal separation is liver-crushing, because the truthful are not harmed by the truth, I wish that for this pain, you would not weigh upon yourself to find a remedy. Who has the strength to avert the hand of death? For the Lord's sake, may you not wander long in this valley of scorching wind!  And may you be taught patience in this liver-melting sadness!

Truly, oh perceptive one, the wealth of the love-players and the office of the inciters of passion is this very heart for which they sometimes would give the suppleness of the waist, and which at other times they would bind to their foot with the twist of a curl.  How could the supple waist of a dead body arouse a heart from its place?  Where is the curl of hair which would hang a heart [i.e. one which a heart could love]? I would fear that this unsuitable grief would cast dust into the eye of the soul and slowly bring about the death of the heart.

The Nightingale, notorious for his love-play, serenades every blooming flower, and the Moth, infamous for his hot commotion-making, opens his wings to each candle that lights his face. Indeed, there are many lit candles at the gathering, and there is an abundance of blooming flowers in the garden. For the Moth, what sorrow is there for the death [extinguishing] of one candle? And for the Nightingale, what sadness is there for the withering of one rose? May they be lovers of the spectacular multiplicity of color and scent, rather than tied down by the bond of one desire! Happy is he who, in the banquet of desire, starts anew a lively tune and would embrace that enchantress who could both bring about the past state of happiness and be brought to marriage, so that, with the blindness of the evil eye, he would become inclined towards happiness and sing these two [Persian] lines by this very letter-writer:

In us the grief of the wailing heart came to a head.
For our craziness, the idol brought a chain of hair.

My friend, I swear between myself and God, because that which I have said is out of compassion and not bad-teaching, may Itiqad ad-Daulah be forgiven for insisting that I write this letter. He pushed me to write a letter to you so that I might make manifest the measure of my knowledge in its measure of unknowing. The simple heart, always pointing in the direction of love, bloodied by the grief of strangers and acquaintances alike, came to a boil with grief, and brought the impetuously willy-nilly wandering pen in its burning, aimless wanderings to a reasonable gait. If the harms of the pen in advice-giving are not useful, put aside the letter and forgive the writer. May the pain of the heart and the afflictions of your tender memories be considered from the effects of the kindness of him who commands, and may you see my work under the heading of accepting an order. May the heart in every thought be strong and may the thought be knowledgeable about what was and was not! May the letter-writer be sustained!,

-- the black-lettered [sinful] Asad Allah

==this unpublished trans. by Owen Cornwall, January 2010 (with long paragraphs broken into shorter ones)
==Persian text: panj aahang me;N makaatiib-e ;Gaalib , ed. Kalidas Gupta Raza (Bombay: Vimal Publications, 1989), pp. 197-99; this text is available here.
==an Urdu trans.: Partav Ruhelah, aahang-e pancham: panch aahang me;N shaamil ;Gaalib ke faarsii ;xu:tuu:t kaa urduu tarjumah (Karachi: Idarah-e Yadgar-e Ghalib, 2004), pp. 195-97
==another English trans.: Russell and Islam, p. 43