A friend of mine asked me about Pakistani poetry, or specifically whether I’d read anything by Faiz Ahmed Faiz. Well I have, and to be honest I’d always struggled with some of his writings – which were often political and deliberately antagonistic towards the ruling elite – he did this by challenging colonial as well as feudal values and as a result he was sent to prison repeatedly by both colonial and post colonial authorities. As a marxist his works reflect a strong sense of both commitment to and empathy for the lower classes. But I don’t want to dwell on the political aspects of his works largely because I don’t actually agree with some of them – I’ll save that for another day :).
What I do want to talk about are the various poems he wrote that dealt with love, loneliness and death. The more passionate followers of his work will often say that Faiz is considered primarily responsible for shaping poetic diction in contemporary Urdu poetry. I suspect they are probably right, whilst I can speak Urdu fluently, I can’t actually read it, so my exposure to Faiz’s works has always been through english translations. I do often wonder whether I do him a dis-service by judging, sometimes quite harshly, what I have read based on a translation, which may or may not genuinely convey what he intended.
Nevertheless, he was a very talented poet, here’s a few of my favourites:
Some Lover To Some Beloved! Down the memory lanes, on which you've strolled since ages past They will end if you walk farther a step or two Where exits the turn towards the wilderness of forgetfulness beyond which, there isn't any Me, nor any You My eyes hold their breath, for any moment you may turn back, move ahead, or at least turn to look back Although my sight knows that the wish is just a farce For if ever it were to run across your eyes again right there will spring forth another pathway Like always, where ever we run into, there will begin another journey of your lock's shadow, your embrace's tremor The other wish is also in error, for my heart knows There is no turn here, no wilderness, no mountain-range beyond whose horizon, my perpetual sun-of-your-Love can set May you continue walking these pathways, its better this way If you don't even turn to look back, it is okay
Do not ask, my love..... Do not ask, my love, for the love we had before: You existed, I told myself, so all existence shone, Grief for me was you; the worldâ€™s grief was far. Spring was ever renewed in your face: Beyond your eyes, what could the world hold? Had I won you, Fateâ€™s head would hang, defeated. Yet all this was not so, I merely wished it so. The world knows sorrows other than those of love, Pleasures beyond those of romance: The dread dark spell of countless centuries Woven with silk and satin and gold braocade, Bodies sold everywhere, in streets and markets, Besmeared with dirt, bathed in blood, Crawling from infested ovens, My gaze returns to these: what can I do? Your beauty still haunts me: what can I do? The world is burdened by sorrows beyond love, By pleasures beyond romance, Do not demand that love which can be no more.
… and finally …
Ghazal I am being accused of loving you, that is all It is not an insult, but a praise, that is all My heart is pleased at the words of the accusers O my dearest dear, they say your name, that is all For what I am ridiculed, it is not a crime My heart's useless playtime, a failed love, that is all I haven't lost hope, but just a fight, that is all The night of suffering lengthens, but just a night, that is all In the hand of time is not the rolling of my fate In the hand of time roll just the days, that is all A day will come for sure when I will see the truth My beautiful beloved is behind a veil, that is all The night is young, Faiz start saying a Ghazal A storm of emotions is raging inside, that is all.