*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.
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
Heinrich Ferdinand. The Prosody of the Persians
according to Saifi, Jami, and other writers.
Calcutta: Baptist Mission Press, 1872: [site]
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.
Victor, trans. and ed. Poems by Faiz.
London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1971. 288 p.: [ON
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.
M. B. Prosody and Rhyme in Classical Arabic and
Persian. Unpublished manuscript, 1973: [site]
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.
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.
D. J., and C. Shackle. An Anthology of
Classical Urdu Love Lyrics; Text and
Translations. London: Oxford University
Press, 1972. 283 p.
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,
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.
Regula. "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
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.
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 may well be
considered, however, a dubious one on which to
base wider generalizations about Urdu meter. An
interesting presentation of a controversial
Ralph, and Khurshidul Islam. Three Mughal
Poets: Mir, Sauda, Mir Hasan.
Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1968. xxii,
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.
Ralph. A Primer of Urdu Verse Metre.
London: by the author, mimeographed and ringbound,
1974. Pages not numbered.
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
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
aahang-e shi((r by abuu :zafar ((abd
ul-vaa;hid [aahang-e shi((r] by [abuu
:zafar ((abd ul-vaa;hid]. Hyderabad: Andhra
Pradesh Urdu Academy, 1978.
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,
ba;hr ul-fa.saa;hat by najm ul-;Ganii
[ba;hr ul-fa.haa.hat] by [najm ul-;Ganii].
Lucknow: Naval Kishor Press, 1885 (1st ed.);
1926 (2nd ed.); 1927 (3rd ed.).
1232, 2 p.
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 [chiraa;G-e su;xan] by
[mirzaa yaas yagaanah changezii]. Lucknow: Siddiq
Book Depot, 1927(?) . 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
;hadaa))iq ul-balaa;Gat by shams ud-diin
faqiir [;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.
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 [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.
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 [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
.si;h;hat-e alfaa:z by sayyid badr
ul-;hasan [.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
[((aruu.z aahang aur bayaan] by [shams
ur-ra;hm;aan faaruuqii]. Lucknow: Kitab Nagar,
1977. 258 p., index.
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 [((ilm-e ((aruu.z o qaafiyah
o taarii;x go))ii] by[;hasan kaa:zim ((aruu.z
ilaahaabaadii]. Allahabad: by the author, 1974. 96
This small volume
is not notable for orderly arrangement or clear
presentation. However, it is generally accurate,
and very handy for quick reference.
qavaa((id ul-((aruu.z by .safiir bilgraamii
[qavaa((id ul-((aruu.z] by [.safiir
Safir Bilgrami was
a shaagird of Ghalib's;
this book is considered quite authoritative.
kiliid-e ((aruu.z by zaar ((allaamii
[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 [miqyaas ul-ash((aar] by
[mirzaa mu;hammad ja((far auj]. Lucknow: Matba`-e
Ja`fari, 1886. 336, 4 p.
exhaustive, authoritative, and painstaking of the
classical works on Urdu meter.
9.3 == Web resources
At present, the only site I know of is one maintained
by Mr. Mohammed Khashan: [site]