(11) Mukhammas on the Desolation of Shahjahanabad
translation and notes by FWP
== This translation and these annotations are greatly indebted to a set of internal SOAS teaching materials, author(s) unidentified, produced in the 1970's; these were never formally published, but were made available in small booklets for SOAS students.
NOTE: There's a "script bar" at the bottom of the page. meter:  - = - = / - - = = / - = - = / = = , with the permissible variant of two short syllables replacing the penultimate long syllable
*modern Urdu page 1*

1) Today I said this to Sauda, 'Why do you wander
Around restlessly? Go buy a horse and enter [military] service somewhere.'
He began to say, 'In answer to this, two words--
If I would say them, then you'll think it's a joke.

Tell me, is service sold in heaps, or by weight?'

== A naukar here would be a military officer in the service of a noble or mansabdar, for which owning a horse was a necessary qualification. Nobles were obliged to keep troops for the service of the state.
== The implication of the question seems to be that a good naukarii is so rare that Sauda has never seen it and has no notion of how to get it.
  *modern Urdu page 2*

2) Rich nobles used to keep soldiers in their service
But the income from their jagirs has become stopped.
For some time now rebels [sarkash] have taken a fancy to the country.
The one individual* who is the lord of twenty-two districts--

He no longer has under his control the jurisdiction of Kol [=Aligarh].

== *The Emperor Shah 'Alam, whose kingdom comprised little more than Delhi and the surrounding areas. During the reign of Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire was divided into 22 subahs, or major districts.
== Kol is the old name for Aligarh.
== A faujdaarii is a 'magistracy' -- the area governed by a faujdaar , one of whose functions was to maintain law and order in the rural districts.

3) The rebels [mufsid] are powerful in the land; thus the nobles are weak.
Where are the coins to give us, in order to stand up them?
They get nothing in the spring harvest, nor in the autumn harvest.
The agents who are now on their estates are so petty/lightweight

The way peasants would become bondsmen in some lord's house.

== A ;Takaa is worth two pice.
== In order to raise money or pay off his debts, a peasant could pledge his services for a period to an overlord.

4) Thus since the administration in the country became destroyed to such an extent
That if a mountain of gold would be available, then they wouldn't give a straw.
Where is the scope/resources, with which they would keep a soldier as a [military] servant?
From where would the foot-soldiers come, who would be visible before them?

From which direction the horsemen, who would form a troop and go behind them?


5) Their glory now remained [based] only on 'Arab drums' [=large bass drums].
If you would want that they would not have these beaten, then how is that possible?
But they have anxiety about the reduction of expenditure, at every moment.
If this will remain the state of the country, then foolishly--

Kettle-drums around the necks of the palanquin-bears, in the palanquin a bass drum.

== nadaan could also be a vocative: oh fool(s)!

6) Now what they want from their nobility is this:
That there would be two peacock-feather fans and one sable cloak.
They would understand neither the procedures of peace, nor the customs of war.
Those among them who knew the rules/conventions, went far away from them.

Having thoroughly examined the fiber of their temperament.


7) Now the nobles who are wise, this is their practice:
They have shut themselves up in their houses, having seen the state of the age,
A white floor-sheer has been spread; a Khvajah [=eunuch] stands swinging the cloth fan,
In their presence are seated one or two intimates-- people of accomplishment,

Before them have been set a spitoon and a paan.

== Reading ba:tnol as tanbol .

8) If someone would come to their house in order to meet them,
They meet with them if they find themselves in the mood.
If in the course of this anyone would mention the kingship,
They would turn away their faces and say,

"For the Lord's sake, friend, talk of something else."

  *modern Urdu page 3*

9) If they would be gathered for consultation, small and great,
Then the advisors consider the country and the wealth in this way:
The Bakhshi [=treasurer] thinks of schemes for arriving at his homeland,
Having arrived in his Divan-e Khas [=private audience hall], the Vazir stands:

"On the bamboo tent-poles of the canopy, are the knobs of silver?"

== The Vazir is wondering whether the knobs are worth stealing.

10) The ground gaped wide open; it felt ashamed to swallow them up.
They took counsel together the way [children] play suvapati [=a game like hopscotch].
They have spent a whole lifetime in making plans for the country,
Finally they have joined together and made a brick house into dust.

Then in their conceit, every single one in his own eyes is a visionary.

== The word order is: nidaan milkar ii;N;T kaa ghar maa;Tii kar u;The .
== A bahlol is a madman who talks nonsense, but in his fits of insanity considers himself wise.

11) If a [military] task would fall to them, then having emerged from the trench,
They would keep an army who would run off from battle, wetting themselves!
The foot-soldier fears to have his shaved by a barber,
The cavalry-man, while sleeping, would fall out of his bed

If a horse frisks under him, in a dream.


12) Neither does the 'private purse' function, nor does the public exchequer,
From the soldier to the clerk, all are out of work.
Now beyond that, in the office of salaries, how can I express the wretchedness?
Having torn up documents with the [royal] signature, the druggist

Wraps up and gives myrobalan to somebody, and opening-medicine to somebody else.

== The .sarf-e ;xaa.s is the Emperor's private purse; the ;xaali.sah is the public exchequer.
== The daftar-e tan or 'supplies department' would issue uniforms.
== Documents with the royal signature are now s
o worthless that the druggist uses them to wrap up medicine in.
== Both aa;Nvalah , 'myrobalan', an Indian tree bearing plum-like fruit; and ka;Tol , a plant known as trichosanthes dioeca or dolichus puriens; were considered good for treating constipation.

13) However many were cash-renderss and holders [man.sabdaar] of estates [jaagiir]
Having become helpless, they searched for a DAMALNA??
Ignorantly, in debt to Baniyans, they helplessly surrendered their sword.
Now when the leave their house, taking their weapons,

Under their arm there's a staff; in their hand, a begging bowl.

CHECK the word ;damalnaa (?); SOAS says it's a village constable's job

14) How can I express to you Hazrat's [=the Emperor's] livelihood?
For his wardrobe chamber [toshah-;xaanah] is a rag-dealer's shop.
Having emerged from the mouth of the oven, the 'cow-tongue' bread says,
"I was cooked when the ancestral sable

Was sold on the third day of fasting, for a price of cowries [=pennies]."

== gaa))o-zabaa;N was a kind of bread like nan, but shaped like a cow's tongue.
== ;xuld-makaa;N , literally, 'dwelling in heaven', an honorific way to refer to a deceased elder; the sable was a family heirloom.

15) If one would go and ask the Steward the situation of the cattle,
He answers, "The camel is an angelic species,
The species of oxen lives on air, and the flocks/herds on straw.
As for the mules, they have drunk the Water of Life.

If grain is something you want to eat, then say so, and it will be weighed out.

== modii is a general terms for a steward, also a grocer, sweet-maker, corn­chandler, etc. Here it presumably refers to the grain merchant in charge of the cattle [davaab] fodder. The point of the joke is that camels can exist for long periods without food, and angels eat nothing.
== The idea is that the mules seem to survive on nothing, as though they were immortal.

  *modern Urdu page 4*

16) "If in the stable there are some horses, then what's the possibility
That there would be any trace of a bale of hay before them?
One's leg is broken, one's ear has fallen off,
Shall I call it a stable, or the 'Place of the Five Pirs'?

It's this very thought that stupefies my mind.

== panj piir kaa thaan was,in several cities, the name for an area where low-class people lived and met. Such areas were frequented by tonga drivers, whose horses were usually in poor condition

17) "And now for the Master's pride, the elephant-stable,
In it if the female elephant is blind, then the male elephant is one-eyed.
There is neither any assurance of fodder, nor any regular ration.
Every one of them, from hunger, has set out toward oblivion,

Whether you would consider him 'sure-footed' or 'easy-paced'.

== The phrase ;Thor ;Thikaanaa means 'opportunity', 'reliance on', etc.
== paa))il and nijhol are common epithets for kinds of elephants. Sauda's point is that it doesn't matter how you describe them, the elephants are still in a miserable condition.

18) "From hunger, the servants now adopt this means of livelihood:
If you say 'pulao', then the cook there will prepare gruel.
The doorkeepers, seated in the tents, reveal [overheard] secrets [for money],
The carpet-spreader will come and snatch away the seat from underneath you,

If you would say, 'Get up and smooth out the creases in the ground-sheet'.

== That is, if you ask the cook for a pulao (a rice dish with expensive ingredients), he will keep the money or ingredients for himself and send you up inferior food; in this case, a poor kind of gruel cooked with lentils or barley.
== pardah faash karnaa , literally 'to split the curtain open', id often used in the sense of 'to let out a secret'. The double meaning is obvious here.
== The farraash would wreak vengeance on anyone who expected him to do his proper duty.

19) "These days, this is the aspect/appearance of the servants in the palace:
The maid doesn't have enough strength left to wash a platter,

The runners are not at all strong enough to get up and move themselves.

From hunger, the aspect of the doorkeepers' faces is

Like that of an old she-elephant, whose cheeks are sunken.

== a kashmiirnii is a female servant, not necessarily from Kashmir.

CHECK THE THIRD LINE, RUNNERS not mentioned in my text


20) The Princes have created such a turmoil of lamentation,
One of them emerges from his house with his collar torn [in distraction].
Another, having reached his own door, slams it shut,
Another says, 'If we are all such a burden [lit., mountain on the chest],

Then poison ought to be given to all of us.'"

== .salaa:tiino;N is an unusual oblique plural of salaa:tiin , itself the plural of sul:taan . The salaa:tiin were the relatives of the royal family.
== taubah dhaa;R is refers to 'the sound of cries under punishment' (Platts).

21) The point of this speech of mine is this:
That when poverty has come and surrounded such a house [as the Emperor's],
Will anyone make much effort to take service [there]?
There will be nothing of this benefit until he, having left his house,

Would set his face toward Isfahan or Istanbul.

== This contrasts with former times when people flocked from Persia and Turkey to seek their fortune at the Mughal court.

22) If there is [military] service under the blue-colored wheel [of the sky],
Then the district [parganah] of its property is 'Headache'.
Ever since the season/gathering of the plague in the capital city,
The custom of seizure of houses has become widespread to such an extent,

The moment anyone gets a headache, the bailiffs come running.

== sar-saam is literally 'a swelling in the head' (Platts).
== Houses of plague victims were apparently seized by the ruling authority.
  *modern Urdu page 5*

23) So is this the 'service' in which life passes?
If anyone would get bread for his stomach, it would be only after weeping half the night for it.
If anyone would want to cover his body, then-- a leaf in front and one behind.
And on top of this, only he would be considered to pass muster,

Who has bound on all the 'five weapons'-- and the sixth, a pistol.

== roz-e maujuudaat : the day of muster for an army, when the troops and their equipment are reviewed.
==The nobles expect their soldiers to come for muster not only with the five traditional weapons, but also with the newly imported, hard to obtain 'pistol'.

24) Now, that servant whom the master would always recognize [and value],
If you ask him, "Have you begun to receive any rupees?"
He says, heaving a sigh, "Beyond eight annas,
I haven't seen the shape of a rupee; the Lord knows

Whether nowadays it's made square, or round.

== Sixteen annas make up a rupee.

25) In short, when someone would receive even half a pound of coarse flour,
If he would take service, then dementia and madness would be upon him.
Consider that it's not because the arts of soldiery
They haven't learned, that they've begun to versify this theme,

"Seeing the times, we've laid down our arms."

== chuu;N is coarsely ground pulse or flour -- a poor food, but preferable to working for nothing.
== There seem to be some textual problems in the third and fourth lines, and the grammar is not entirely clear.
== Both baa;Ndhnaa , to 'tie' [into a verse], and ma.zmuun , 'theme' [of a verse], are common literary terms.

26) If I would begin to do speech/poetry [su;xan] about the desolation of the city,
Then having heard it, the wits of the owl would take flight.
There is no house in which the jackal's cry would not be heard.
If anyone goes in the evening to the mosque for prayers,

There's no lamp there, except the 'lamp of the ghoul'.

== An owl naturally inhabits desolate places, but even that bird would be driven out of its senses if it heard of the desolation of Delhi.
== When disaster threatened a house, a woman would sit in front of the 'lamp of the ghoul' and go into a trance in order to commune with or to drive away the evil spirit [;Guul].

27) In no one's house does a grinding-wheel or even so much as a stove remain,
Among a thousand houses, perhaps in one house there burns a lamp.
It's hardly a lamp! [Rather,} that house has a wound of grief for all the [other] houses.
And among those houses, in every direction asses bray.

Where in the spring we used to sit and here the hindol [raga].

== The idea is that the one lighted house has a 'wound' of grief that is burning like fire; this burning quality of wounds is well established in Urdu poetic convention.
== Reading re;Nkte instead of re;Ngte . Asses are creatures of ill omen.

28) They are ruined, those buildings-- what can I say to you?--
The sight of which used to remove hunger and thirst.
Now if we look, the heart would become disaffected with life.
Instead of roses, in the flower-beds there's waist-high grass.

Here a pillar lies fallen, there an archway lies.

== This use of paas instead of se is obsolete.
== In the second line the present text has udaas , but pyaas is surely the correct reading.

29) Whose [evil-eye] gaze has 'eaten' this garden? There's no knowing.
No telling what people set foot here, who was the inauspicious one.
Where there were cypress and pine, the hell-tree grows,
Now in this garden crows and kites make a commotion,

Where nightingales used to frolic with the roses.

== zuquum is the name of a tree said to grow in hell.
  *modern Urdu page 6*

30) They used to place on their heads [in reverent admiration] the surrounding countryside,
Where the lips of water-drawing women were the Water of Life,
And those trees would give shade with their thick leaves--
Neither those trees are, nor any human being,

In the wells are corpses; there's neither rope, nor bucket.

== The corpses would be of those who threw themselves into the well as a form of suicide, probably to avoid some kind of disgrace.

31) When did Jahanabad deserve this oppression?
Perhaps this city was once the heart of some lover,
That it has been removed like this, as though it were a wrong letter.
In the ocean of the world, this was an extraordinary shore,

From the dust of which all the people used to sift out pearls.

== If the city was once the heart of some lover, that would explain, in terms of poetic convention, its ruined condition.
== motii rolnaa : to separate pearls from sand and grime.

32) Not even a lamp is lit there, in a place where there was a chandelier,
The pride of mirror-chambers now lies fallen in ruins,
Tens of millions of hearts full of hope, became despairing.
From the houses ladies of the nobility have emerged,

They didn't get an ordinary palanquin-- they who used to be possessors of fancy litters.

== A mirror-chamber is a room set with hundreds of small fragments of mirror on the walls and ceiling, so that they catch the glimmer of a lamp most effectively; they were common in palaces. == The correct reading at the end of the second line is surely naamuus , not maayuus . The 'pride/honor of mirror-chambers' might refer to the chandeliers that illumined them, or to the beauty of the chambers themselves.

33) Daughters of noble families have this practice, nowadays,
The burqah that they wear on their heads goes full-length, down to their feet.
One has a little boy in her lap, a flower like a rose,
And their manner of begging from everybody is like this:

"It's prayer-beads made from the pure soil [of Karbala]-- take it, give whatever price you will."

== ;husn-:talab , 'the fine art of beggary', is a refined, euphemistic way of describing it.

34) If a devoted friend would hear, then having heard this name,
He would give according to his ability, as an offering to the Imam,
If they are checkmated by [evil] fortune and address themselves to an outsider [=non-Shia]
He would introduce speech about false and true.

They would go on, having said under their breath, "God forbid!"

== The first line would scan if there were a kar after sun .

35) In short, what can I say, friends, having seen this disaster?
Tens of millions of times through my temperament has passed this wave:
If the revolving of the age would give me even a bit of peace of heart,
Then I would sit down somewhere and weep so much that the people of the city,

Would keep on baling the water out of their houses.

== mardum is a wonderful word to use here, since it can mean either 'sophisticated, humane' or 'cruel, rapacious'.

36) Enough-- now be silent, Sauda; there's no strength for going further,
That heart is not a heart, that hasn't now become a kabob [through burning] from sorrow.
No one will have eyes that are not full of wetness.
Beyond this, there's no answer to your question:

That each age is of its own kind. Speak no more.



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