Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Truth about Beauty

Khuda se husn ne ik roz yeh sawaal kiya,
Jahaan mein kyon na mujhe tu ne lazawaal kiya.

Mila jawab ka tasweer khaana hai duniya,
Shab-e-daraaz-e-adm ka fasaana hai duniya.

Hui hai rang-e-taghayyur se jab namood iski,
Wohi haseen hai haqeeqat zawaal hai jiski.

Kahin qareeb tha, yeh guftgoo qamar ne suni,
Falak pe aam hui, akhtar-e-sahar ne suni.

Sahar ne taare se sunkar sunaai shabnam ko,
Falak ki baat bata di zameen ke mahram ko.

Bhar aaey phool ke aansoo, payaam-e-shabnam se,
Kali ka nanha sa dil khoon ho gaya ghum se.

Chaman se rota hua mausim-e-bahaar gaya,
Shabaab sair ko aaya tha sogawaar gaya.
- Iqbal.

My pathetic attempt at a translation:

One day, Beauty asked God:
"Why did you not make me immortal in your world?"

God replied: "The world is a gallery of pictures,
A fabulous dream for man's endless night,

Its very surface is made from a thousand changing colours,
How then can be its beauty be anything but mutable?"

The moon, who was nearby, overheard this.
Soon it spread through the sky, reached the ears of the morning star.

The dawn heard it from him, and passed it on to the dew,
And the dew spread the word to all the earth.

When the flower heard it, she began to cry,
And the bud burst its tiny heart for sorrow.

Soon Spring itself began to weep, and left,
And Youth, who had come to admire the garden, grew mournful.

A delightful poem. The first few couplets are fairly average, but I love the way the news of God's word spreads - from the moon to the sky, from the sky to the morning star, from the star to the dawn, from the dawn to the dew, from the dew to the flower, from the flower to Spring and from Spring to youth - describing, in its perfect arc the very mutability, the very transience that God's initial message implied. Those last four couplets are both deeply dramatic (you can almost hear the secret being whispered from one ear to the next) and, when you stop to picture them, stunningly visual.


n said...

"When the flower heard it, she began to cry,
And the bud burst its tiny heart for sorrow. "

So simple, yet so visual. The lines immeidiately summon up a picture in my mind.

Anonymous said...

Wow! That's so beautiful! Thanks for the translation. Knowing what the words meant, enabled me to understand and enjoy the original piece properly.

It's awesome how wonderfully Urdu lends itself to poetry.


Cheshire Cat said...

Reminded me of MacLeish's "You, Andrew Marvell".

jedi said...

Not so bad translation Falstaff :)

I too love how the message is "carried around" beautifully. The last two couplets are my favorite!


Szerelem said...

that is beautiful....
Just curious though, (since you read urdu poetry) if you've tried reading (a translation of) Firdausi?

drifting leaf said...

thanks fal...urdu in itself is so the words and what they do to your mouth when you say them out loud...

Swathi said...

lovely verses and your translation was not bad at all...

Kaushik Gopalan said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Alex said...

Loved it! wish i could understand urdu..
Stumbled upon your blog very recently and i'll be regular hereafter.

Falstaff said...

n: Yes - lovely isn't it.

N: I agree. You hardly need to know the meaning to admire the poem.

cat: I guess. Though I'd pick this poem over the MacLeish - "You, Andrew Marvell" is just too belaboured with all that geography.

jedi: Thanks.

szerelem: No, I haven't. But will add it to my list. To be honest, my urdu is incredibly spotty and I can't read the script. I just about manage Iqbal and Faiz, with a little help from the dictionary, but Ghalib, for instance, goes way over my head a lot of the time.

leaf: you're welcome.

swathi: thanks.

alex: Thanks. And welcome.

Szerelem said...

your struggle with urdu sounds very much like my struggle with sanskrit....but at least the script is the same as hindi..hehe

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