Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Prison Evening

Stars spiral into the evening -
a staircase the night descends -
and the wind comes near, then passes,
as though someone spoke of love.
In the courtyard, the trees are exiles
who keep themselves busy
embroidering the sky.

The roof shines; the moon
scatters light with generous hands;
the glory of the stars mingles with dust
and light polishes the blue sky silver.
In every corner shadows ebb and advance,
as though the heart were lifted
by a wave of separation.

This is the thought the heart returns to:
that life, in this moment, is sweet.
Let tyrants prepare their poisons,
they will never succeed.
They may snuff out the lamps
in the rooms of lovers,
but can they extinguish the moon?

- Faiz Ahmed Faiz

The original:

Zinda ki ek shaam

Shaam ke pecho-kham sitaron se
Zeena-zeena utar rahi hai raat
Yoon saba paas se guzarti hai
Jaise keh di kisi ne pyaar ki baat.
Sahne-zinda ke be-vatan ashjar
Sarnigun mahav hain banane mein
Damne-aasman pe nakshe-nigaar.

Shaane-baam par damakta hai
Meherban chandi ka dast-e-jameel
Khaak mein dhul gayi hai aabe-najoom
Noor mein dhul gaya hai ashr ka neel.
Sabz goshon mein neelgoon saaye
Lahlahate hain jis tarah dil mein
Mauj-e-dard-e-phirak-e-yaar aaye.

Dil se paiham khayal kahta hai
Itni shireen hai zindagi is pal
Zulm ka zahar gholnewale
Kamran ho sakenge aaj na kal
Jalvagahe-visaal ki shamayein
Vo bujha bhi chuke agar to kya
Chand ko gul karen, to hum jane.

For alternate translations and general context on where this post comes from, see here.


Space Bar said...

Put the devanagiri also here, no? I see your point about diluting the end (in Ali's version).

In fact, there's a whole post in there about Ali's translations of Faiz making him sound more languorous - what sacrilege that would be for Faiz!

Btw, though I like 'shadows ebb and advance' very much, I'm not sure 'extinguish' doesn't fall into the same diluting trap you spoke of. Polysyllabic, elongated and ending on a soft note - how can it compete with 'snuff'?

Falstaff said...

SB: Done.

I thought about extinguish vs 'snuff out' - but it was really a choice between putting extinguish in the 5th line of the last stanza or right at the end - I don't like either smash or douse for lamps. So I tried

"They may extinguish the lamps
in the rooms of lovers,
but can they snuff out the moon?"

which works fine too, except that somehow I like snuff out followed by extinguish better - it makes the latter act sound like a taller order, which is the point, isn't it?

Szerelem said...

Falstaff: I really liked this bit: In every corner shadows ebb and advance,
as though the heart were lifted
by a wave of separation.

I didn't particularly like the way this part was conveyed in the other versions. Though I agree with spacebar about "snuff" :)

Also, as I replied on my post I agree with you about the placement of snuffing out the moon in Ali's version. That is actually the reason I wrote that the Genoway translation is probably more accurate and captures the ending of the original better than Ali's translation.

Also with you on Ali making Faiz seem languorous... I think one of the reasons I fell in love with Faiz was just the sheer power of some of his imagery - in some cases it hits you so hard it's almost as if you've had the wind knocked out of you. I don't think that always comes across in Ali's translation but then again to capture that is most likely impossible. I love the ending of this particular poem and as you mentioned the abruptness of it as well as the rebellion it conveys.

(The other Faiz poem that I adore and which has a most superb final line is Aaj Bazaar Mein Paabajolan Chalo).

Also as an aside: do you own a collection of Faiz in devanagiri? I have The Rebel's Silhouette which has a very curvy nastaliq which I find quite difficult to read (and had I tried tranliterating into English there would have been many, many spelling mistakes.) The other one is O, City of Lights also in nastaliq but much more manageable. I haven't really c0ome across anything decent in devanagiri.

Falstaff said...

Szerelem: Thanks.

I do. It's this thing called Saare Sukhan Hamare from Rajkamal Publications, which is basically the Complete Poems of Faiz (they call it the "Compute Poems of Faiz") - I have the 2004 edition. No translations, I'm afraid, but the man's complete works in devanagiri script. Rajkamal also has a Selected Poems in Devanagiri called Pratinidhi Kavitayen.

Space Bar said...

i see your point about raising the stakes for the word you use in the last line. but there must be others that fit the bill?

for lamps you could use 'quench'?

km said...

Freaking A, man.

"saba" evokes the wind so much better than "wind" does, but I am not complaining.