Faiz Ahmed Faiz


When I was a teenager my cousin used to recite her favorite Urdu poems to me and I would struggle to understand them. Although I speak Urdu fluently, a lot of the vocabulary in Urdu poetry is beyond me. As I get older, I am trying harder to read Urdu poetry and understand it in the native language. In the meantime, I still love reading good translations.  One of my favorite Urdu poets is Faiz Ahmed Faiz. I found this great translation of one of my favorite poems of his (listen to it here):
Craving your love, he gambled away
both this world and the next.
Look – he is leaving now –
having spent the night in grief.
And the taverns are deserted,
and the wine glasses are upset;
hurt by your departure
even the Spring has turned away.
Forgetting you was a reprieve,
but it did not last.
Now we have seen how far
even God can be trusted.
The world seduced us,
made us exiles from your memory;
day by day, the business of living
proved more deceptive than your love.
And then, today, she smiled,
forgetting herself,
and the heart, so long unused,
began to beat with a new urgency.
Another great one:
Your sorrow came, searching for life,
But those who would have died for you are gone,
Those who would have bowed their heads when you passed
Have all gone their own ways.
And the night is gone too,
Annoyed with you for keeping it waiting;
And those who came to console me have left,
Angry with me because I would not cry.
There is no question of love now,
I cannot complain, cannot say what grieves me,
I have no suggestions to make
In the tyranny of your love
My heart has lost all its rights.
I was the one
Whose shirt turned red with the blood from the streets;
These are the stains that I wore proudly
All the way to my beloved’s house.
But passion is out of style now,
And this rope, these gallows, are no longer needed;
Those who were proud to be accused of love
Have all vanished like criminals.
And one last one!
That which then was ours, my love,
don’t ask me for that love again.
The world then was gold, burnished with light –
and only because of you. That’s what I had believed.
How could one weep for sorrows other than yours?
How could one have any sorrow but the one you gave?
So what were these protests, these rumors of injustice?
A glimpse of your face was evidence of springtime.
The sky, wherever I looked, was nothing but your eyes.
If You’d fall into my arms, Fate would be helpless.
All this I’d thought, all this I’d believed.
But there were other sorrows, comforts other than love.
The rich had cast their spell on history:
dark centuries had been embroidered on brocades and silks.
Bitter threads began to unravel before me
as I went into alleys and in open markets
saw bodies plastered with ash, bathed in blood.
I saw them sold and bought, again and again.
This too deserves attention. I can’t help but look back
when I return from those alleys –what should one do?
And you still are so ravishing –what should I do?
There are other sorrows in this world,
comforts other than love.
Don’t ask me, my love, for that love again.

sumeera

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