*9.1 == Works in English*
9.2 == Works in Urdu*
*9.3 == Web resources*


9.1 == Works in English

BAILEY, T. Grahame. "A Guide to the Metres of Urdu Verse." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 2 9,4 (1937-39):969-985.

Contains an exhaustive and well-organized list of meters, which the student may find helpful. Long and short syllables are given, together with the corresponding [afaa((iil] in transliteration, and the basic one-word name of the meter. Bailey also gives a separate, short list of the most common meters that is convenient for quick reference. In his brief introduction (pp. 969-972) he makes some confusing and very doubtful statements about Urdu meter. But most of the article consists of the meter list. This is not perfect: for example, 20.2 is wrongly scanned; 13.1 and 15.14 are extremely unlikely in Urdu; 24.1 is entirely nonexistent. Moreover, he constantly interprets a meter with the permitted "cheat syllable" used at the end as a whole separate meter. Still, the list is thorough and basically useful.

BARKER, M. A. R., and S. A. Salam. Classical Urdu Poetry. Ithaca, N.Y.: Spoken Languages Services, Inc., 1977. 3 vols.

Volume I contains: Appendix I: Urdu Poetics-- A.130 Scansion (pp. xxxv-xl); A.140 Measure and Metre (pp. xl-xlvi); A.150 Catalexis (pp. xlvi-lxiv). An account which touches on all the major points of metrical theory and presents them with accuracy and technical sophistication. Syllables are defined as "heavy (CVC or CV) and light (CV)," where C = consonant, V = long vowel, and V = [zer], [zabar], or [pesh]. Thus agar [a-gar] is scanned CV-CVC, kaam [kaa-m] as CV-CV. To some students this notation is confusing. The list of meters is given in a form that makes it hard to consult quickly: meters are described only in terms of [afaa((iil], which are in turn given only in the authors' transliteration. But references are provided, so that the student can look up examples of the meter as they occur in the anthology. This book is an excellent reference work for students with enough background to make use of it. Any student who can use our book can move on to Barker's work for further study.

BLOCHMANN, Heinrich Ferdinand. The Prosody of the Persians according to Saifi, Jami, and other writers. Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press, 1872: [site]

CARPER, Thomas, and Derek Attridge. Meter and Meaning: an introduction to rhythm in poetry. London: Routledge, 2003. 156 p.

I cannot resist including this valuable little work. It does for English meter something like what the present handbook tries to do for Urdu meter.

ELWELL-SUTTON, L.P. The Persian Metres. London: Cambridge University Press, 1976. xiv, 285 p.

The author's main thesis is that Persian meters are not derived from the Arabic. It's a very controversial idea, but presented with an admirable amount of analytic detail. The transliteration system is not too easy to decipher. This work will be of interest only to the advanced student, and preferably one with a working knowledge of Persian.

FAIRBANKS, Constance. "Hindi Stress from the Poet's Perspective." ‚ÄčDimensions of Sociolinguistics in South Asia: Papers in Memory of Gerald B. Kelley. Edited by:  E.C. Dimock, Jr., B. B. Kachru, and Bh. Krishnamurti. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1992:297-313: [ON THIS SITE]

This article offers an intelligent overview of the metrical structure of modern Hindi poetry. Very interesting for comparison to the Urdu-- lots of differences, lots of similarities.

KIERNAN, Victor, trans. and ed. Poems by Faiz. London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1971. 288 p.:  [ON THIS SITE]

This is a beautiful book for the student who is just learning to read Urdu and wants to practice reading as well as scanning poetry. It contains a good selection of Faiz's best poetry in gorgeous calligraphy, careful and reliable transliterations of each poem on facing pages, and both literal and "poetic" translations. Learners always find this book most attractive and helpful. The student should, however, beware of pp. 13-14 of the Preface, in which Kiernan illustrates his view that stress is "clearly important" in Urdu poetry by giving some common meters used by Faiz in terms of shorts and longs, "with accents added to mark stress." The placement of these accent marks is apparently determined only by his own intuition. The value of that intuition can easily be judged: in every one of his six examples, the poem that he cites to illustrate a certain meter is not in that meter at all.

LORAINE, M. B. Prosody and Rhyme in Classical Arabic and Persian. Unpublished manuscript, 1973: [site]

MANUEL, Peter L. "The Relationship between Prosodic and Musical Rhythms in Urdu Ghazal-Singing." In: Studies in the Urdu Gazal and Prose Fiction, ed. by Muhammad Umar Memon. Madison: Center for South Asian Studies, University of Wisconsin, 1979. Pp. 101-119.

An interesting and informative article. It contains some minor inaccuracies in the description of meters; the student who has used this handbook will easily spot them. But they do not affect the points being made about performance theory and practice.

MATTHEWS, D. J., and C. Shackle. An Anthology of Classical Urdu Love Lyrics; Text and Translations. London: Oxford University Press, 1972. 283 p.

Contains: Appendix I: Notes on Prosody and Meter (pp. 210-213). An extremely condensed account of Urdu meter, basically accurate though inevitably oversimplified. Scansion rules are briefly given. The meter list contains all the meters appearing in the book, described in terms of longs and shorts, with full references so that the poems in which a particular meter is used can easily be located. A note of caution: the patterns given are sometimes misleadingly simple. The optional initial short syllable in certain meters is not shown, even though it occurs in poems in the book (e.g. 15.5, pp. 128-9). But considering the brief scope of this account, it is a very good one.

PLATTS, John T. A Dictionary of Urdu, Classical Hindi, and English. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1884 (1st ed.) and many later reprints in England and New Delhi. viii, 1259 p.

While this classic dictionary has nothing directly to do with meter, it's the English-speaking student's best friend, and anyone who doesn't already own it should get it. Fortunately various Indian and sometimes Pakistani editions are constantly kept in print, and are not even very expensive as modern books go. No one who does anything with classical Urdu literature should be without it. The fact that it's now available online doesn't at all exempt the serious student from needing to own it. Even better is to own two copies. (Or more, of course.)

PYBUS, Captain G.D. A Textbook of Urdu Prosody and Rhetoric. Lahore: Ramakrishna and Sons, 1924. viii, 151 p.: [ON THIS SITE]

Contains: Part I: Prosody-- Chapter 2, Scansion (pp. 6-16); Chapter 3, Metre (pp. 17-21); Chapter 4, Catalexis (pp. 22-46) (on the derivation of meters); Appendix I-- Specimens of the common metres for practice in scansion (pp. 126-133). This is a treasure of a book and we recommend it above every other for the serious student. It explains traditional Urdu prosody accurately and in considerable detail, starting with saakin [saakin], "quiescent," and muta;harrik [muta;harrik], "movent," letters and proceeding to the [afaa((iil], then to the meters and their derivations. It is as lucidly written as possible, given the very complex material it is dealing with. Any student interested in reading Urdu works on meter should certainly master the material in this book first. Other chapters in Part I besides those mentioned above are also useful, and Part II, "Rhetoric," is worth reading as well. This is the only book in English that teaches the student to understand Urdu poetry the way the literarily educated native speaker has traditionally done.

QURESHI, Regula Burckhardt. "Tarannum: the Chanting of Urdu Poetry." Ethnomusicology 13,3 (Sept. 1969):425-468.

-------. "Islamic Music in an Indian Environment: the Shi`a Majlis." Ethnomusicology 25,1 (Jan. 1981):41-71

-------. "The Urdu Ghazal in Performance." Urdu and Muslim South Asia: Studies in honour of Ralph Russell, ed. by Christopher Shackle. London: School of Oriental and African Studies, 1989:175-189. [ON THIS SITE].

-------. Sufi Music of India and Pakistan: Sound and Meaning in the Qawwali. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. With cassettes.

The author of these and many other books and articles is a musician herself who sings and plays ghazal beautifully. Much of her work will be of interest to students for its account of the ways in which Urdu poetry is sung and recited nowadays, especially in Islamic religious contexts.

RUSSELL, Ralph. "Some Problems of the Treatment of Urdu Metre." Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (Apr. 1960), pp. 48-58.

Begins with a discussion of the difficulties of traditional scansion, and proceeds to a critique of Grahame Bailey's approach. Russell then develops the thesis that stress, or ictus, "is almost as important an element in Urdu metre as quantity is" (p. 57). His argument rests heavily on the example of Mir's "Hindi" meter. This example would seem to be, however, a dubious one on which to base wider generalizations about Urdu meter. An interesting presentation of a controversial thesis.

RUSSELL, Ralph, and Khurshidul Islam. Three Mughal Poets: Mir, Sauda, Mir Hasan. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968. xxii, 290 p.

Contains: Appendix: A Complete Ghazal of Mir (pp. 271-277). Russell and Islam here give an account of Mir's "Hindi" meter in qualitative Western metrical terms, as a sequence of "spondees" and "dactyls" with a "beat" on the odd-numbered syllables. An intriguing approach, once again emphasizing stress, or ictus. If this approach can be applied at all to Urdu meter, it is certainly to "Hindi" meter rather than to the more conventional meters.

RUSSELL, Ralph. A Primer of Urdu Verse Metre. London: by the author, mimeographed and ringbound, 1974. Pages not numbered.

Contains Russell's views on the nature of Urdu meter, in a simplified form appropriate to students just beginning to study the subject (Lessons 1-4). Offers examples consisting of ghazals by Momin, Zafar, and Ghalib (Lessons 5-8) and a passage from Hali's [musaddas] (Lesson 9), all transliterated, scanned, translated, and discussed. The book also reproduces Bailey's meter list (minus Bailey's introduction) in Appendix 2. A helpful treatment of the subject, in a disarmingly colloquial style. Russell suggests, for example, a resemblance between the common meter (= - = = / = - = = / = - = = / = - =) and the rhythmic structure of "Oh My Darlin' Clementine." A beginning student could certainly use this book with enjoyment and profit, though it's impossible to agree with its insistence on stress as an analytical approach to Urdu meter.

SMITH, Barbara Herrnstein. Poetic Closure: A Study of How Poems End. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968.

In terms of ghazal poetics, including meter, this is one of the most revelatory and suggestive works that I've ever found.

THIESEN, Finn. A Manual of Classical Persian Prosody; With Chapters on Urdu, Karakhandic and Ottoman Prosody. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1982. 274 p.

A detailed and sophisticated account; the author is not only learned in the classical theory, but also at home with modern linguistic methods of notation and analysis. Thiesen's specific account of Urdu prosody (pp. 181-209) is devoted mostly to the ways in which it deviates from the Persian norms he has already discussed. Examples are given throughout, in both original script and transliteration, with translations. For the advanced student who wants to put Urdu meter in as thoroughly Persian a perspective as possible, this book will be of great value. It also contains an account of the circles or "wheels" used by Arabic and Persian prosodists to generate all the classical meters (pp. 102-165), and a meter list (pp. 227-255) of the meters as used in Persian.

9.2 == Works in Urdu
[in Urdu alphabetical order by title]

aahang-e shi((r by abuu :zafar ((abd ul-vaa;hid . Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh Urdu Academy, 1978.

This work discusses meter and rhyme in great detail, making reference to the Hindi system as well. It is hard to use, since it is unsystematic and somewhat rambling. It contains a helpful glossary of terms, pp. 327-386.

ba;hr ul-fa.saa;hat by najm ul-;Ganii . Lucknow: Naval Kishor Press, 1885 (1st ed.); 1926 (2nd ed.); 1927 (3rd ed.). 1232, 2 p.

This voluminous work on Urdu poetics contains one sizable chapter, perhaps a couple of hundred pages, on meter. It is more commonly used as a reference today than the other works named in this section. It is simpler, more detailed, and better organized than the works by Auj or Faqir.

chiraa;G-e su;xan by mirzaa yaas yagaanah changezii . Lucknow: Siddiq Book Depot, 1927(?) [1914]. c.144 p.

This work, first published in 1914, is unsystematic and disorganized. It is notable, however, for listing ALL variants, even the rarest and oddest, of the Urdu meters.

;hadaa))iq ul-balaa;Gat by shams ud-diin faqiir . Trans. by imaam ba;xsh .sahbaa))ii [imaam ba;xsh .sahbaa))ii]. Kanpur: Naval Kishor Press, 1915. 192 p.

The famous Indian rhetorician and poet Shamsuddin Faqir composed the original work in Persian in 1768. It was translated into Urdu in 1842; the translator replaced the Arabic and Persian examples with ones drawn from Urdu. The work deals with all branches of literature, and includes an extensive chapter on meter (pp. 123-174). It is comparatively well-organized and non-theoretical; it includes chapter headings, which make it easier to consult than some similar works.

dars-e balaa;Gat , ed. by shams ur-ra;hm;aan faaruuqii . New Delhi: Bureau for the Promotion of Urdu, Government of India, 1981. 192 p., index: [ON THIS SITE]

A primer on meter designed for undergraduates; very simply written, it is accurate and avoids controversial issues. It seeks to explain scansion and other metrical issues in language understandable to modern native speakers with no special background. The book also contains an unusual glossary of Urdu poetic terms and their nearest English counterparts. The chapters on meter, scansion, and rhyme were written by Faruqi, and most of the rest carefully edited by him. This book is in print, and would be an excellent starting point for the student who is ready to read metrical material in Urdu.

zar-e kaamil ((ayaar by mu:zaffar ((alii asiir . Lucknow: Naval Kishor Press, 1903. 2nd ed.; 308 p.

A translation of the famous Persian treatise mi((yaar ul-ash((aar , attributed to na.siir ud-diin :tuusii (d. 1079). The original work, without its numerous examples, is only about sixty pages long, and Asir's is a parallel-text version with commentary. A condensed but thorough and systematic account of Arabic and Persian meter. Extremely abstruse, and considered to be the most authoritative work on the subject.

.si;h;hat-e alfaa:z by sayyid badr ul-;hasan . Delhi: Kutbkhanah Anjuman Taraqqi-e Urdu, 1977. 119 p.

The whole book consists of a series of lists of Urdu words that are difficult or problematical for various reasons. The book is clearly laid out and contains an index; the student should have no trouble using it. Perhaps the most helpful list is that of frequently mispronounced words (pp. 9-42). Each word in the list is followed by its metrically correct division into syllables.

((aruu.z aahang aur bayaan by shams ur-ra;hm;aan faaruuqii . Lucknow: Kitab Nagar, 1977. 258 p., index.

Thoughtful and original discussions of some problematical aspects of Urdu meter, by a critic versed in both Urdu and English poetic theory. The essays are difficult, but well worth the effort for the serious student. Among the topics discussed: flexible syllables, the caesura (not recognized at all in traditional theory), the creation of seemingly different rhythms within the same meter. The book also includes a glossary of traditional metrical terms (pp. 250-258), with clear and concise definitions.

((ilm-e ((aruu.z o qaafiyah o taarii;x go))ii by ;hasan kaa:zim ((aruu.z ilaahaabaadii . Allahabad: by the author, 1974. 96 p.

This small volume is not notable for orderly arrangement or clear presentation. However, it is generally accurate, and very handy for quick reference.

;Gazaliyaat-e ;Gaalib kaa ((aruu.zii tajziyah by .sa;Giir ul-nisaa begam . New Delhi: Maktabah Jami'ah, 1984. 450 p.: [ON THIS SITE]

A handbook that explains the traditional metrical system, and then analytically shows the scansion and foot-by-foot breakdown of Ghalib's ghazals. Very convenient for that purpose.

qavaa((id ul-((aruu.z by .safiir bilgraamii .1844(?).

Safir Bilgrami was a shaagird of Ghalib's; this book is considered quite authoritative.

kiliid-e ((aruu.z by zaar ((allaamii . Patiala, 1981. 208 p.

Said to have been available from the Editor of sham((a-e ;xayaal , Gangoh, Saharanpur. The author is a well-known prosodist of the old school; his ustaad in prosody and poetry was si;hr ((ishqaabaadii (d. 1978), a famous and expert student of meter. Allami claims that a student can learn prosody directly from this book without additional instruction. Yet in fact, his style is jerky, his presentation unsystematic, and his definitions often cryptic. At times he implies that the rules of classical prosody are sacrosanct, but at other times he deviates from the rules without giving any reason for it. He spends much of his time providing examples of rare variant meters of types so unusual that they hardly ever actually occur. However, he provides detailed and useful charts of the meters and variations, or zi;haafaat [zi;haafaat], which are for the most part extremely accurate. He provides a small chapter on rhyme as well.

miqyaas ul-ash((aar by mirzaa mu;hammad ja((far auj . Lucknow: Matba'-e Ja'fari, 1886. 336, 4 p.

The most exhaustive, authoritative, and painstaking of the classical works on Urdu meter.

9.3 == Web resources

A sophisticated site for scansion and metrical analysis and discussion, maintained by Sayed Zeeshan.

A historical and etymological dictionary project that seeks to be the Oxford English Dictionary of Urdu; formerly in many big volumes, now very conveniently online.


 -- meter book index -- Ghalib sitemap -- Mir sitemap -- FWP's main page --