Hafiz: Ghazal 367 "Wine, Humans and Song" (From Persian)

This poem, like the Entreaty to Fakhr-al-Din Abd-ul-Samad seems to be composed very much with a singing voice in mind, and thus to have a more strophic dimension to its verses than many other ghazals. Thus, the romanization I have provided this time is formatted, like my translation, with each verse broken down into four metrically identical units, so as to suggest the way the poem moves and highlight the frequent verse-internal rhymes. I have so chosen the metrical pattern that the English translation should, at least theoretically, also be singable to many of the same melodies to which the Persian original has been set.

Ghazal 367:  Wine, Humans and Song
By Hafiz
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Come so that we can scatter flowers  
and fill the glass to brim with wine,  
  We'll split the ceiling of the skies
  and try a wholly new design.
When armies march to spill the blood  
of lovers' hearts with Sorrow's pike  
  The serving boy and I destroy
  their camp in one drunk counterstrike.
Here, put rosewater in the wine  
and sugar in the censer there  
  To sweeten up the scent we sense
  upon the incense-bearing air.
A fine-tuned lute is in your hand  
so play a fine and tuneful song.  
  We'll stamp our feet, carouse in dance,
  clap to the beat and sing along.
O dawn wind, bear my being's dust  
unto that threshold great and high.  
  Perhaps I'll glimpse His majesty
  and see His beauty, eye to eye.
One boasts of his great intellect  
Another of the spells he binds.  
  Put it before the Judge. Let Him
  settle the question and our minds.
If you want Eden's Garden, come  
and join me in the drunkards' bar.  
  I'll tip you from a cask of wine
  into the waters of Kawsar.
Hafiz, the arts of verse and song  
are out of fashion in Shiraz.  
  Go, seek a more receptive realm,
  a court more loving in its laws.


Verse 7: Kawsar - a stream found in Paradise.

Verse 8: As in some of Hafiz' other poems, the ending seems to be a not-so-veiled threat to take his verse's business elsewhere if he is not treated better by the local potentate.

The Original:

بیا تا گل برافشانیم و می در ساغر اندازیم
فلک را سقف بشکافیم و طرحی نو دراندازیم
اگر غم لشکر انگیزد که خون عاشقان ریزد
من و ساقی به هم تازیم و بنیادش براندازیم
شراب ارغوانی را گلاب اندر قدح ریزیم
نسیم عطرگردان را شِکَر در مجمر اندازیم
چو در دست است رودی خوش بزن مطرب سرودی خوش
که دست افشان غزل خوانیم و پاکوبان سر اندازیم
صبا خاک وجود ما بدان عالی جناب انداز
بود کان شاه خوبان را نظر بر منظر اندازیم
یکی از عقل می‌لافد یکی طامات می‌بافد
بیا کاین داوری‌ها را به پیش داور اندازیم
بهشت عدن اگر خواهی بیا با ما به میخانه
که از پای خمت روزی به حوض کوثر اندازیم
سخندانیّ و خوشخوانی نمی‌ورزند در شیراز
بیا حافظ که تا خود را به ملکی دیگر اندازیم


Биё, то гул барафшонему май дар соғар андозем, 
Фалакро сақф бишкофему тарҳе нав дарандозем. 
Агар ғам лашкар ангезад, ки хуни ошиқон резад, 
Ману соқӣ ба ҳам созему бунёдаш барандозем. 
Шароби арғавониро гулоб андар қадаҳ резем, 
Насими атргардонро шакар дар миҷмар андозем. 
Чу дар даст аст рӯде хӯш, бизан, мутриб, сурӯде хӯш, 
Ки дастафшон ғазал хонему покӯбон сар андозем. 
Сабо, хоки вуҷуди мо бад-он олиҷаноб андоз, 
Бувад, к-он шоҳи хубонро назар бар манзар андозем. 
Яке аз ақл мелофад, дигар томот мебофад, 
Биё, к-ин довариҳоро ба пеши довар андозем. 
Биҳишти адн агар хоҳӣ, биё бо мо ба майхона, 
Ки аз пои хумат рӯзе ба ҳавзи Кавсар андозем. 
Сухандониву хушхонӣ намеварзанд дар Шероз, 
Биё, Ҳофиз, ки то худро ба мулке дигар андозем.


Biyā tā gul barafšānēm  
o may dar sāɣar andāzēm  
  Falakrā saqf biškāfēm
  o tarhē naw darandāzēm
Agar ɣam laškar angēzad  
ki xūn-i 'āšiqān rēzad  
  Man o sāqī ba ham tāzēm
  o bunyādaš barandāzēm
Šurāb-i arɣawānīrā  
gulāb andar qadah rēzēm  
  Nasīm-i 'atrgardānrā
  šikar dar mijmar andāzēm
Ču dar dastast rōdē xwaš  
bizan mutrib surōdē xwaš  
  Ki dastafšān ɣazal xwānēm
  o pākōbān sar andāzēm
Sabā xāk-i wujūd-i mā  
badān 'ālī janāb andāz  
  Buwad k-ān šāh-i xūbānrā
  nazar bar manzar andāzēm.
Yakē az 'aql mēlāfad  
yakē tāmāt mēbāfad  
  Biyā k-īn dāwarīhārā
  ba pēš-i dāwar andāzēm
Bihišt-i 'adn agar xwāhī  
biyā bā mā ba mayxāna  
  Ki az pāy-i xumat rōzē
  ba hawz-i kawsar andāzēm
Suxandānī o xwašxwānī  
namēwarzand dar šērāz  
  Biyā hāfiz ki tā xwadrā
  ba mulkē dīgar andāzēm.

Hafiz: Ghazal 220 "Aspirations" (From Persian)

I have included a prose paraphrase this time with my verse translation. Because I felt like it.

Ghazal 220 "Aspirations" 
By Hafiz
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Although our preacher will not like 
to hear such honesty, 
  He'll never be a Muslim while 
  he's such a pharisee. 
Learn to get drunk, be a gentleman 
not some dumb animal 
  That cannot drink a drop of wine  
  or be a man at all.  
The essence must be unalloyed 
to make His grace our own, 
  Or from our clay no pearls will come
  nor coral come from stone.  
The Almighty shall fulfill His will. 
rejoice, my heart! No con 
  Or devilry can turn a demon 
  into a Solomon.  
Mine is the noble art of love.  
I hope against belief  
  This craft won't bring, as others brought,  
  despondency and grief.  
Last night he said "Tomorrow I  
will grant your heart's desire"  
  God let him have no change of heart
  nor let him be a liar.
May God add a good heart to all  
your physical attraction  
  So you'll no longer torment me 
  with harrowing distraction.
Hafiz! Unless a mote of dust  
aspires to lofty height,  
  It is not drawn to the true fount
  from which the sun draws light.

Prose paraphrase:

(1) Though the city preacher won't find it easy to hear these words, as long as he practices sophistry and hypocrisy, he'll never be a real Muslim. (2) Train yourself in dissolute drunkenness, and be a gentleman to others. For not so artful is the beast that does not drink wine, or become human. (3) There must be a pure-gemmed essence in order to be a vessel for holy grace, for without it stone and clay will not become pearl and coral. (4) He of the Greatest Name does his work - be glad O heart, for by no trick or fraud can a devil ever become Solomon. (5) I practice love, and hope that this noble art will not, as other arts have done, cause me chagrin. (6)  Last night he was saying "Tomorrow I will give you your heart's desire." Oh God, contrive to keep him from having compunction about doing so! (7) For my own sake I pray God include in your beauty a good disposition, so that my mind is no longer distraught and discombobulated. (8) So long as the dustmote lacks lofty aspiration and drive, Hafiz, it is not in quest for the source that is the resplendent sun's own dayspring.   


Verse 1: The word for hypocrisy, sālūs is identical to one of the words for the Christian trinity (though they are spelled differently in Perso-Arabic script.) Hypocrisy, for Hafiz, is a cardinal sin against the divine, and this may be a punny way of equating it with the dilution of monotheism, as the triune God of Christianity was, and indeed still is, generally seen by Muslims as a sketchy traducement of God's essential oneness. I myself get the sense that such punctilios as the dubious nature of the trinity (as well as all the things that you have to do or think to be a "true" Muslim) might have been precisely the sort of thing a pietistic preacher would rant about from the pulpit. The real sin isn't the Christian's sālūs (trinity) that would offend the preacher, but rather the preacher's own sālūs (hypocrisy) that offends Hafiz. Thus the preacher who might rant about what makes a proper Muslim is himself failing to measure up.          

Verse 3: See Qur'an [55:19-22]

Verse 7:  Many recensions of this poem have husn-i xulqē zi Xudā mētalabam xōy-i turā "I seek of God a fine disposition for your character", which does not make overmuch sense as xulq and xōy are more or less synonyms. Khanlārī prefers the variant ending in husn-i turā "to your beauty" which seems much more compelling to me. This version makes it clear that the speaker is asking for the beloved to be as good in heart as he is good to look at, for if so he will satisfy the lover's desire rather than making him yearn tormentedly. It also adds a nice bit of wordplay. For ḥusn-i xulq is also a technical term for "virtue of character" in a religious and ethical sense. Hafiz, though, is enjoining the beloved to keep his word and do something which, however pleasurable, is rather at odds with what the jurist would deem virtuous.       

The Original:

گر چه بر واعظ شهر این سخن آسان نشود تا ریا ورزد و سالوس مسلمان نشود
رندی آموز و کرم کن که نه چندان هنر است حیوانی که ننوشد می و انسان نشود
گوهر پاک بباید که شود قابل فیض ور نه هر سنگ و گلی لوءلوء و مرجان نشود
اسم اعظم بکند کار خود ای دل خوش باش که به تلبیس و حیل دیو سليمان نشود
عشق می‌ورزم و امید که این فن شریف چون هنرهای دگر موجب حرمان نشود
دوش می‌گفت که فردا بدهم کام دلت سببی ساز خدایا که پشیمان نشود
حسن خلقی ز خدا می‌طلبم حسن ترا تا دگر خاطر ما از تو پریشان نشود
ذره را تا نبود همت عالی حافظ
طالب چشمه خورشید درخشان نشود


Gar či bar wā'iz-i šahr īn suxan āsān našawad
Tā riyā warzad o sālūs musalmān našawad
Rindī āmōz o karam kun ki na čandān hunarast
Hayawānē ki nanōšad may o insān našawad
Gawhar-i pāk bibāyad, ki šawad qābil-i fayz,
War na har sang o gilē lu'lu' o marjān našawad.
Ism-i a'zam bukunad kār-i xwad ay dil, xwaš bāš
Ki ba talbīs o hayal dēw Sulaymān našawad
Išq mēwarzam o ummēd ki īn fan-i šarīf
Čūn hunarhā-i digar mawjib-i hirmān našawad
Dōš mēguft ki fardā bidiham kām-i dilat
Sababē sāz Xudāyā ki pišīmān našawad
Husn-i xulqē zi Xudā mētalabam husn-i turā
Tā digar xātar-i mā az to parēšān našawad
Zurrarā tā nabuwad himmat-i 'ālī hāfiz
Tālib-i čašma-i xwaršēd-i duruxšān našawad


Гарчи бар воизи шаҳр ин сухан осон нашавад, 
То риё варзаду солус, мусулмон нашавад. 
Риндӣ омӯзу карам кун, ки на чандон ҳунар аст, 
Ҳаявоне, ки нанӯшад маю инсон нашавад. 
Гавҳари пок бибояд, ки шавад қобили файз, 
Варна ҳар сангу гиле лӯълӯву марҷон нашавад. 
Исми аъзам бикунад кори худ, эй дил, хуш бош 
Ки ба талбису ҳиял дев Сулаймон нашавад. 
Ишқ меварзаму уммед, ки ин фанни шариф, 
Чун ҳунарҳои дигар мӯҷиби хирмон нашавад. 
Дӯш мегуфт, ки фардо бидиҳам коми дилат, 
Сабабе соз, Худоё, ки пишимон нашавад. 
Ҳусни хулқе зи Худо металабам ҳусни туро, 
То дигар хотири мо аз ту парешон нашавад. 
Зарраро то набувад ҳиммати олӣ, Ҳофиз, 
Толиби чашмаи хуршеди дурахшон нашавад. 

Muhammad Iqbal: Song of the Hireling Worker (From Persian)

This singular poem by Muhammad Iqbal, the last of the Indo-Persian poets, written presumably in the early 1920s, is from the Payām-i Mašriq, a collection of Persian poems in which the poet addressed himself to the West, in response to Goethe's West-Östlicher Divan. Though Iqbal loathed Hāfiz (as Plato loathed all poets) for being too distractingly beautiful, much off the final half of this poem is a skillful and interesting muˁāraḍa or contrafactum riffing off of (and responding to) one of Hāfiz' most famous ghazals.

Song of the Hireling Worker
By Muhammad Iqbāl
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

The worker, clad in cotton, toils to make  
the silken robe the idle rich man wears. 
Gems in my master's ring are my brow's sweat.  
The rubies of his reins are my child's tears. 
The Church is fat from leeching on my blood. 
My arm is the muscle of a kingdom's heirs. 
 My tears bid deserts bloom as dawn wind blows
 and my heart's blood is glistening in the rose. 

Come, for the harp of time is tense with song! 
Pour a wine strong enough to melt the glass. 
Let's give new order to the tavern-masters 
and burn the olden tavern down at last. 
Avenge the flower on all who razed the garden, 
and seek for rose and bud a better cast. 
 How long shall we be moths that fall for flame?  
 How long shall we forget ourselves in shame?

The Original:

نوای مزدور
محمد اقبال

ز مزد بندۂ کرپاس پوش محنت کش  نصیب خواجۂ ناکردہ کار رخت حریر
ز خوی فشانی من لعل خاتم والی  ز اشک کودک من گوہر ستام امیر
ز خون من چو زلو فربہی کلیسا را  بزور بازوی من دست سلطنت ہمہ گیر
      خرابہ رشک گلستان ز گریۂ سحرم
      شباب لالہ و گل از طراوت جگرم
بیا کہ تازہ نوا می تراود از رگ ساز  مئی کہ شیشہ گدازد بہ ساغر اندازیم
مغان و دیر مغان را نظام تازہ دہیم  بنای میکدہ ہای کہن بر اندازیم
ز رہزنان چمن انتقام لالہ کشیم  بہ بزم غنچہ و گل طرح دیگر اندازیم
      بہ طوف شمع چو پروانہ زیستن تا کی؟
      ز خویش اینہمہ بیگانہ زیستن تا کی؟


Zi muzd-i banda-i kirpāspōš-i mihnatkaš
Nasīb-i xwāja-i nākardakār raxt-i harīr
Zi xōy-i fašānī-i man la'l-i xātim-i wālī
Zi ašk-i kōdak-i man gawhar-i sitām-i amīr
Zi xūn-i man ču zalū farbihī Kalīsārā
Bizōr-i bāzō-i man dast-i saltanat hamagīr
Xarāba rašk-i gulistāṅ zi girya-i saharam
Šabāb-i lāla o gul az tarāwat-i jigaram
Biyā ki tāza nawā mētarāwad az rag-i sāz
Maī ki šīša gudāzad ba sāɣar andāzēm
Muɣān o dēr-i muɣāṅrā nizām-i tāza dahēm
Banāy-i maykadahā-i kuhan bar andāzēm
Zi rahzanān-i čaman intiqām-i lāla kašēm
Ba bazm-i ɣunča o gul tarh-i dīgar andāzēm
Ba tawf-i šam' ču parwāna zīstan tā kay?
Zi xwēš īṅhama bēgāna zīstan tā kay?


Зи музди бандаи кирпоспӯши меҳнаткаш
Насиби хоҷаи нокардакор рахти ҳарир
Зи хӯи фашонии ман лаъли хотими воли
Зи ашки кӯдаки ман гавҳари ситоми амир
Зи хуни ман чу залу фарбеҳӣ калисоро
Бизӯри бозӯи ман дасти салтанат ҳамагир
Хароба рашки гулистон зи гиряи саҳарам
Шабони лолаву гул аз таровати ҷигарам
Биё ки тоза наво метаровад аз раги соз
Маъӣ ки шиша гудозад ба соғар андозем
Муғону дери муғонро низоми тоза деҳем
Бинойи майкадаҳои куҳан бар андозем
Зи раҳзанони ҷаман интиқоми лола кашем
Ба базми ғунчаву гул тарҳи дигар андозем
Ба тавфи шамъ чу парвона зистон то кай?
Зи хеш инҳама бегона зистон то кай?

Mirza Ghalib: I Daresay I Dare Not Say (From Persian)

The poet Mīrzā Asadullāh Khān Ghālib was born in Agra in 1796, and spent his life in Delhi, attached to Bahādur Shāh II, the last of the Mughal emperors. He is today more famous for his Urdu poetry, though he himself was much prouder of his Persian compositions. Much ink has been spilled regarding the relative merit of his Urdu and his Persian work. I am not qualified to pass judgement on the matter, and can only say that those Urdu poems of his which I have managed to make my way through seem considerably different in temperament from his Persian work.
This particular poem has languished, beloved and half-understood, in my queue for years. Today I finally, and quite suddenly, feel I have a handle on it enough to translate it with at least some semblance of artistic fidelity.

I Daresay I Dare Not Say
By Mirza Ghalib
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

I dare not say my heart is hers though she stole it from me.   
  I cannot call her tyrant though I see her cruelty.
Hers is the battleground where men bear neither blade nor bow  
  Hers is the banquet-hall with neither wine nor revelry.
Your courage will not help you here, the lightning flame bolts fast.  
  Die as the moth afire. No living being can you be. 
We journey in love's heat and seek not water nor the shade  
  So do not speak of Kausar's running stream nor Tuba's tree.
Life's tribulation ends, so why complain of tyranny?   
  You suffer, and it is God's will. Let pain that will be, be. 
The word held secret in my breast cannot be preached. I'll speak it   
  Not from the pulpit but from high upon the gallows-tree. 
 O strange it feels to deal with one so singularly mad.  
 For Ghalib's love is not Islam, nor infidelity. 

The Original:

دل برد و حق آنست كه دلبر نتوان گفت  بيداد توان ديد و ستمگر نتوان گفت
در رزمگهش ناچخ و خنجر نتوان برد  در بزمگهش باده و ساغر نتوان گفت
از حوصله يارى مطلب صاعقه تيز است  پروانه شو اين جا ز سمندر نتوان گفت
هنگامه سرآمد، چه زنى لاف تظلم؟  گر خود ستمى رفت، بمحشر نتوان گفت
در گرم روى سايه و سرچشمه نجوييم  با ما سخن از طوبى و كوثر نتوان گفت
آن راز كه در سينه نهانست و نه وعظست  بر دار توان گفت و بمنبر نتوان گفت.
        كارى عجب افتاد بدين شيفته مارا
        مؤمن نبود غالب و كافر نتوان گفت.


Dil burd o haq ānast ki dilbar natawān guft
Bēdād tawān dīd o sitamgar natawān guft
Dar razmgahaš nāčax o xanjar natawān burd
Dar bazmgahaš bāda o sāɣar natawān guft
Az hawsala yārī matalab sā'iqa tēzast
Parwāna šaw īnjā zi samandar natawān guft
Hangāma sarāmad či zanī lāf-i tazallum
Gar xwad sitamī raft ba mahšar natawān guft
Dar garm-i rūy-i sāyah o sarčašma najōyēm
Bā mā suxan az tūbā o kawsar natawān guft
Ān rāz ki dar sīna nahānast o na wa'zast
Bar dār tawān guft o ba minbar natawān guft
Kārē ajab uftād badīn šēfta mārā
Mu'min nabuwad ɣālib o kāfar natawān guft


Дил бурду ҳақ онаст ки дилбар натавон гуфт
Бедод тавон диду ситамгар натавон гуфт
Дар размгаҳаш ночаху ханҷар натавон бурд
Дар базмгаҳаш бодаву соғар натвон гуфт
Аз ҳавсала ёрӣ маталаб соъиқа тезаст
Парвона шав инҷо зи самандар натавон гуфт
Ҳангома саромад ҷи занӣ лофи тазаллум
Гар худ ситамӣ рафт ба маҳшар натавон гуфт
Дар гарми рӯи сояҳу сарчашма наҷӯем
Бо мо сухан аз тубову кавсар натавон гуфт
Он роз ки дар сина наҳонасту на ваъзаст
Бар дор тавон гуфту ба минбар натавон гуфт
Коре аҷаб афтод бадин шефта моро
Мӯъмин набувад Ғолибу кофар натавон гуфт

Amir Khusraw: Apart (From Persian)

Born to a Turkic nobleman and an Indian mother, Amīr Khusraw of Delhi, the Tūtī-i Hind or "Parrot of India," spent his life attached to the courts of the various rulers of the Delhi Sultanate. Khusraw was a superb musician, the inventor of a number of musical instruments and credited with having laid the general foundations for Indo-Muslim music, and the musicality of his lyric poems has ensured their inclusion in musical programs in India and Pakistan to this day. Click here for a modern instance of this poem being sung in the Indian fashion.

The Western reader should bear in mind that, in the Persianate poetic tradition, it is rain that is normally pleasant and sunshine that is unpleasant. The rainfall in this poem, therefore, is not a dismal parallel to the sadness of goodbye, but rather a beautiful contrast to it. It is the beauty of a sad moment, and a beautiful moment of sadness.

By Amīr Khusraw
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Rain from the clouds, as I and my beloved go apart...  
  This lovely day how can I part my heart from my love's heart? 
The cloud and rain, my love and I the moment of goodbye,  
  I weep apart, the cloud apart, my love and I apart.
The fresh young grass, the garden green in bloom, the joyful sky...  
  The dark-faced nightingale and his beloved rose apart.
You have poor me in thrall. Your hair's locks shackle me. O Why  
  Must you now pull me limb from limb until I come apart?
My eyes bleed rainy tears for you the iris of my eye  
  O stand your ground, let no rainbow-shot tears see us apart.
No longer will I want the gift of sight, if my own eye  
  Be parted from the gift of you and I've seen you depart.
My eyes crack open weeping for you. Quickly come relieve me!  
  Fill the wall's cracks with your road's dirt or it will fall apart.
Don't leave. I will give up life's ghost. If you do not believe me,  
  If you want more than that, take all my body with my heart. 
 Khusraw's last words: Your beauty will not last long if you leave me
 The rose cannot last long torn from the thorn and plucked apart.

The Original:

ابر می بارد و من می شوم از یار جدا  چون کنم دل به چنین روز ز دلدار جدا
ابر و باران و من و یار ستاده به وداع  من جدا گریه کنان، ابر جدا، یار جدا
سبزه نوخیز و هوا خرم و بستان سرسبز  بلبل روی سیه مانده ز گلزار جدا
ای مرا در ته هر موی به زلفت بندی  چه کنی بند ز بندم همه یکبار جدا
دیده از بهر تو خونبار شد، ای مردم چشم  مردمی کن، مشو از دیده خونبار جدا
نعمت دیده نخواهم که بماند پس از این  مانده چون دیده ازان نعمت دیدار جدا
دیده صد رخنه شد از بهر تو، خاکی ز رهت  زود برگیر و بکن رخنه دیوار جدا
می دهم جان مرو از من، وگرت باور نیست  پیش ازان خواهی، بستان و نگهدار جدا
        حسن تو دیر نپاید چو ز خسرو رفتی
        گل بسی دیر نماند چو شد از خار جدا


Абр мебораду ман мешавам аз ёр ҷудо
Чун кунам дил ба чунин рӯз зи дилдор ҷудо
Абру борону ману ёр сатода ба видоъ
Ман ҷудо гиря кунон, абр ҷудо, ёр ҷудо.
Сабза навхезу ҳаво хурраму бӯстон сарсабз
Булбули рӯи сияҳ монда зи гулзор ҷудо
Эй маро дар таҳи ҳар мӯи зи зулфат бандӣ
Чи кунӣ банд зи бандам ҳама якбор ҷудо?
Дида аз беҳри то хунбор шуд, эй мардуми чашм.
Мардумӣ кун, машав аз дидаи хунбор ҷудо.
Неъмати дида нахоҳам ки бимонад пас аз ин
Монда чун дида аз он неъмати дидор ҷудо.
Дида садрахна шуд аз беҳри тӯ хокӣ зи раҳат
Зуд баргиру букун рахнаи девор ҷудо
Медаҳам ҷон, марав аз ман, в-агарат бовар нест
Пеш аз он хоҳӣ, бӯстону нигаҳдор ҷудо
Ҳусни тӯ дер набошад чу зи Хусрав рафтӣ
Гул басе дер намонад чу шуд аз хор ҷудо


Abr mēbārad o man mēšawam az yār judā
Čūn kunam dil ba čunīn rōz zi dildār judā
Abr o bārān o man o yār satāda ba widā'
Man judā girya kunān abr judā yār judā
Sabza nawxēz o hawā xurram o bustān sarsabz
Bulbul-i rōy-i siyah mānda zi gulzār judā
Ay marā dar tah-i har mōy zi zulfat bandī
Či kunī band zi bandam hama yakbār judā
Dīda az bihr-i to xūnbār šud ay mardum-i čašm
Mardumī kun mašaw az dīda-i xūnbār judā
Ni'mat-i dīda naxwāham ki bimānad pas az īn
Mānda čūn dīda az ān ni'mat-i dīdār judā
Dīda sadraxna šud az bihr-i to xākī zi rahat
Zūd bargīr o bukun raxna-i dēwār judā
Mēdaham jān, maraw az man, w-agarat bāwar nēst
Pēš az ān xwāhī, bustān o nigahdār judā
Husn-i to dēr nabāšad ču zi Xusraw raftī
Gul basē dēr namānad ču šud az xār judā

Muhammad Iqbal: At Napoleon's Tomb (From Urdu)

I haven't been studying Urdu for very long, but I thought I'd try my hand at a poem. I chose this one because (a) it's an immensely interesting and entertaining piece, and (b) it's the first Urdu ghazal I managed to understand all the way through, without recourse to a dictionary or puzzling over grammar. Then again, I'm not sure that's actually much of an accomplishment, given how heavily Persianized it is. The final verse is actually in Persian, and is a direct quote from Hāfiz.
In fact, the difficulties I encountered in translating this poem have little to do with how new I am to Urdu. Most troublesome was the quite Persian expression jōš-i kirdār, a phrase central to the poem's thrust, occurring no less than four times, whose vast, evocative semantic range encompasses everything from "the seething/boiling force of action" to "the energy of behavior, of character" (and for which I have found the rather unsatisfying equivalent "seething mettle.")

There is much I could say about Iqbāl, and I'll probably say a great deal as I translate more of his work. Most of which will royally piss off his fans, but I don't care. I'll say up front that though I respect Iqbāl greatly as a poet, I cannot but find his worldview obscene, and I'm sure he would think even worse of mine (or, in his words, the "atheistic materialism which I look upon as the greatest danger to modern humanity.") He had even more in common with Nietzsche than he ever realized, and was even more "western" in his outlook than he would ever have admitted. (Indeed, one of the most western things about him is the terms in which he denounces the west.) Like Nietzsche, too, he was far worthier as a poet than as a philosopher, as witnessed by the vitalism on display in this poem. An alienated modern man yearning for the palingenetic revitalization of Islam as a polity, it is no surprise that his conservative modernism found great appeal in the same irrationalist strains of western thought that also gave rise to mysticizing fascism (as it is no mystery why Iran's current Supreme Leader loves him so much.) In this and other respects Iqbal had less in common with his masters Rūmī, Ḥallāj and Goethe, than he did with his European contemporaries like Yeats, Rilke, Eliot and Stefan George.    

At Napoleon's Tomb
By Muhammad Iqbal
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original Urdu

Mysterious and strange, the fate   
of this world of stress and storm,  
  In none but men of seething mettle 
  does fate reveal its form.
From seething mettle Alexander's   
sword dawned on the land  
  To blaze on high, and melted down 
  the mountain of Alvand. 
From seething mettle came torrential    
Timur's conquering flood.  
  Such mighty waves make nothing of 
  the land's vicissitude. 
The cry of prayer, the cry of war  
from men of God who trod  
  The battlefield, in seething mettle
  became the Voice of God.
Yet little more than meager moments  
are granted to the brave,  
  A breath or two in time against
  the long night of the grave.
"The Valley of the Silenced ends  
the road of every man.  
  Seethe and resound beneath the vault
  of stars, while yet you can." 

The Original:

نپولین کے مزار پر
محمد اقبال

راز ہے راز ہے تقدیرِ جہان تگ و تاز 
جوش کردار سے کھُل جاتے ہیں تقدیر کے راز 
جوش کردار سے شمشیر سکندر کا طلوع! 
کوہ الوند ہوا جس کی حرارت سے گداز 
جوش کردار سے تیمور کا سیل ھمہ گیر 
 سیل کے سامنے کیا شَے ہے نشیب اور فراز 
صف جنگاہ میں مردانِ خدا کی تکبیر! 
جوش کردار سے بنتی ہے خدا کی آواز 
ہے مگر فرصت کردار نفس یا دو نفس! 
عوض یک دو نفس قبر کی شب ہاے دراز 
"عاقبت، منزل ماوادیٔ خاموشان است 
حالیا غلغلہ در گنبد افلاک انداز!" 


Nepōlyan kē mazār par

Rāz hai, rāz hai taqdīr-i jahān-i tag-o tāz
Jōš-i kirdār sē khul jātē haiṅ taqdīr kē rāz
Jōš-i kirdār sē šamšīr-i sikandar kā tulū'
Kōh-i alwand huwā jis kī harārat sē gudāz
Jōš-i kirdār sē taimūr kā sail-i hamagīr
Sail kē sāmne kiyā šai hai našēb aur farāz
Saff-i jangāh mēṅ mardān-i xudā kī takbīr
Jōš-i kirdār sē bantī hai xudā kī āwāz
Hai magar fursat-i kirdār nafas yā dō nafas
Ewz-i yek dō nafas qabr kī šab hāē darāz
Āqibat, manzil-i mā wādī-i xāmōšān ast
hāliyā ɣulɣula dar gumbad-i aflāk andāz

Hafiz: Ghazal 36 "A Rest From Both Worlds" (From Persian)

Ghazal 36: A Rest From Both Worlds 
By Hafiz
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Go and mind your own business, preacher!  
What's all this ado?  
  My heart has left your pious path, 
  but what is it to you? 
Until his lips have played me like   
the flute I love to hear,   
  The world's advice will just be wind 
  blustering in my ear. 
Within his bodied being, which God   
created out of naught   
  Is a crux that nobody in all 
  creation can unknot.      
A beggar in your street disdains     
eight heavens, undistressed.1   
  The captive in your locks is free 
  of this world and the next, 
And even though I've fallen wasted,   
drunk on my love for you,   
  My being, built upon that waste, 
  will stand forever true.  
Oh heart, do not bewail the Friend's   
injustice and cruel whim,   
  The fate the Friend has given you 
  is just for you from him.   
Go! No more cant or incantation.     
Enough of the tales you tell.   
  I've heard those tales and spells before. 
  I know them all too well.2   


1 - Eight heavens:  in medieval cosmology the earth was conceived as the center of the universe surrounded by eight concentric heavens or "eternal spheres" (khuld)

2 - I translated this last verse very freely. So much so, in fact, that I feel the need to make full disclosure in a footnote. The original literally reads:

  Go, and don't recite parables/fables or breathe (fraudulent) incantations, Hafiz:
  For of these tales and incantations I have many in memory.

A few points of note:

In Hafiz' lyrics, the word hāfiz suggests any one (or any combination) of a number of things, including a Qur'an-reciter who knows the holy book from memory, a singer of secular verses and the poet himself.

The direct address to hāfiz here in the final verse of the poem also parallels, and contrasts with, the address to a wā'iz or "preacher" in the first, both of which also begin with the imperative biraw "go, begone!" Hafiz in a handful of other poems contrasts hāfiz with wā'iz within a single verse, often as internal rhymes, and his poetic persona generally sees himself as the genuine antithesis of the disingenuous preacher. It stands to reason, therefore, that if Hafiz is addressing himself in the second person, his prohibitions are against doing as the preacher does.

"Breathing incantations" calls to mind "the women who breathe on knots" (al-naffāθātu fī l-ˁuqad) from the Qur'an, traditionally understood to be witches who blew on knots in order to induce magical spells, a pre-Islamic Arabian "pagan" practice condemned by Muhammad, implying that the voluble behavior being enjoined against (in my view implicitly attributed to the preacher one way or another) is itself beyond the bounds of proper conduct, and in a far more serious way than Hafiz' libertinism.          
I could go on for several paragraphs, but suffice it to say that the overall sentiment motivating these polysemous lines seems to me to be more or less something like this: "I should just be on my way, not sink to the level of the empty, ritualized, superstitious mumbo-jumbo of this well-regarded hypocrite of a preacher. I know this charlatan's material well enough to see through him. I know my scripture and my faith, and I don't need him to tell me what I ought to be doing. Sure, I may be flawed, and maybe I do love wine, boys and song a bit too much. But at least I'm not pretending to be perfect like this pietistic prick. God didn't make me what I am just so I could pretend to be what I'm not."

The Original:

برو به کار خود ای واعظ! این چه فریادست؟
مرا فتاد دل از ره، تو را چه افتادست؟
به کام تا نرساند مرا لبش چون نای
نصیحت همه عالم به گوشِ من باد است
میان او که خدا آفریده‌است از هیچ
دقیقه‌ایست که هیچ آفریده نگشادست
گدای کوی تو از هشت خُلدْ مستغنیست
اسیر عشق تو از هر دو عالم آزادست
اگر چه مستیِ عشقم خراب کرد ولی
اساس هستی من زآن خرابْ آبادست
دلا منال ز بیداد و جور یار، که یار
تو را نصیب همین کرد و این از آن دادست
برو فَسانه مخوان و فُسون مدم حافظ!
کز این فسانه و افسون مرا بَسی یادست

Tajik Cyrillic

Бирав ба кори худ, эй воиз, ин чӣ фарёд аст? 
Маро фитод дил аз раҳ, туро чӣ афтодаст? 
Ба ком то нарасонад маро лабаш, чун ной,
Насиҳати ҳама олам ба гӯши ман бод аст.
Миёни ӯ, ки Худо офарида аст аз ҳеҷ, 
Дақиқаест, ки ҳеҷ офарида накшодаст. 
Гадои кӯи ту аз ҳашт хулд мустағнист, 
Асири ишқи ту аз ҳар ду олам озод аст. 
Агарчи мастии ишқам хароб кард, вале 
Асоси ҳастии ман з-он хароб обод аст. 
Дило, манол зи бедоду ҷаври ёр, ки ёр 
Туро насиб ҳамин карду ин аз он дод аст. 
Бирав, фасона махону фусун мадам, Ҳофиз, 
К-аз ин фасонаву афсун маро басе ёд аст. 


Biraw ba kār-i xwad, ay wā'iz, īn či faryād ast?
Marā fitād dil az rah, turā či uftād ast?
Ba kām tā narasānad marā labaš čūn nāy,
Nasīhat-i hama ālam ba gōš-i man bād ast. 
Miyān-i ō, ki xudā āfarīda ast az hēč,
Daqīqaēst, ki hēč āfarīda nagšād ast.
Gadā-i kō-i to az hašt xuld mustaɣnīst,
Asīr-i išq-i to az har do ālam āzād ast.
Agar či masti-i išqam xarāb kard, walē
Asās-i hasti-i man z-ān xarāb ābād ast.
Dilā manāl zi bēdād o jawr-i yār, ki yār
Turā nasīb hamīn kard o īn az ān dād ast.
Biraw fasāna maxwān o fusūn madam, hāfiz,
K-az īn fasāna o afsūn marā basē yād ast.

Muhammad Iqbal: Slavery (From Persian)

By Muhammad Iqbal
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

A purblind fool, man sells himself to man in slavery 
Yielding his inner wealth as tribute to His Majesty,
Thus man in bestial servitude is baser than a dog.  
I've yet to see the dog that serves a dog like royalty. 

The Original:

محمد اقبال

آدم از بی بصری بندگی آدم کرد
گوهرى داشت ولی نذر قباد و جم کرد
یعنی از خوی غلامی ز سگان خوارتر است
من ندیدم كه سگی پیش سگی سر خم کرد


Одам аз бебасарӣ бандагии одам кард
Гавҳаре дошт вале назри қубоду ҷам кард
Яънӣ аз хӯи ғуломӣ зи сагон хортараст
Ман надидам ки саге пеши саге сар хам кард


Ādam az bēbasarī bandagī-i ādam kard
Gawharē dāšt walē nazr-i qubād o jam kard
Ya'nī az xōy-i ɣulāmī zi sagān xwārtar ast
Man nadīdam ki sagē pēš-i sagē sar xam kard 

Hafiz: Ghazal 194 "Against Sufistry" (From Persian)

Ghazal 194: Against Sufistry
By Hafiz
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original Persian

These pulpiteers who like to preach  
with public piety  
  Indulge in very different things
  at home in privacy.
My problem is a question. Ask 
the wisest: how do these  
  Enforcers of repentance live
  so unrepentantly?
Who can believe in their belief   
in God, or Judgment day  
  When all their judgments in His name   
  are fraud and jugglery?   
I serve the master of the ruins  
whose poor have all they need  
  To teach the needy rich a lesson
  in humility.
These nouveaux-riches all flaunt their mules  
and Turkish slaves! O Lord  
  Get these jackasses saddled up
  and get them gone from me!
O Angels, say your prayers before  
love's wineshop door, for there  
  Was Adam's clay shaped for the ferment  
  of humanity.
No sooner does a lover fall  
slain by his boundless beauty,    
  Than slews of others born by love
  rise from eternity.
Rise, Sufis, for the Magian    
wine-temple and receive  
  The quenching spirit that revives
  the heart to revelry.
Empty your house, my heart, and make  
space for your Sultan's court  
  Since ravening fools make heart and soul
  an army post in me.  
At dawn a cry came from the throne  
of heaven, and Reason said  
  "The angels must be chanting Hafiz'
  Verse from memory."

The Original:

واعظان کین جلوه در محراب و منبر می کنند
چون به خلوت می روند آن کار دیگرمی کنند
مشکلی  دارم  ز دانشمند  مجلس  باز  پرس
توبه فرمایان  چرا خود توبه کمتر  می کنند
گوئیا   باور نمی دارند  روز داوری
کاین همه قلب ودغل در کار داور می کنند
بنده  پیر خراباتم که  درویشان  او
گنج را  از  بی نیازی خاک بر سر  می کنند
یارب  این  نو دولتان را با خر خودشان نشان
کاین  همه  ناز  از غلام ترک استر می کنند
بر  در  میخانه  عشق  ای  ملک   تسبیح  گو
کاندر   آنجا طینت  آدم  مخمر می کنند
حسن  بی  پایان او  چندانکه  عاشق می کشد
زمره  دیگر بعشق  از غیب سر بر می کنند
ای   گدای  خانقه  برجه  که  در دیر  مغان
میدهند  آبی  که  دلها  را  توانگر  می کنند
خانه  خالی  کن  دلا  تا منزل  سلطان شود
کین هوسناکان دل وجان جای لشگر  می کنند
صبحدم  از  عرش  می آمد  خروشی  عقل  گفت
قدسیان گوئی که شعر حافظ از بر می کنند


Wā'izān k-īn jalwa dar mihrāb o minbar mēkunand
Čūn ba xalwat mērawand ān kār-i dīgar mēkunand
Muškilē dāram zi dānišmand-i majlis bāzpurs:
Tawbafarmāyān čarā xwad tawba kamtar mēkunand?
Gōiyā bāwar namēdārand rōz-i dāwarī,
K-īn hama qalb o daɣal dar kār-i dāwar mēkunand.
Banda-i pīr-i xarābātam ki darwēšān-i ō
Ganjrā az bēniyāzī xāk bar sar mēkunand.
Yā rab īn nawdawlatānrā bar xar-i xwadšān nišān,
K-īn hama nāz az ɣulām-i turk o astar mēkunand
Bar dar-i mayxāna-i išq ay malak tasbīh gō
K-andar ānjā tīnat-i ādam muxammar mēkunand
Husn-i bēpāyān-i ō čandān, ki āšiq mēkušad
Zumra-i dīgar ba išq az ɣayb sar bar mēkunand
Ay gadā-i xānaqah barjah ki dar dayr-i muɣān
Mēdahand ābē o dilhārā tawāngar mēkunand
Xāna xālī kun dilā tā manzil-i sultān šawad
K-īn hawasnākān dil o jān jā-i lašgar mēkunand
Subhdam az arš mēāmad xurōšē aql guft
Qudsiyān gōī ki ši'r-i hāfiz az bar mēkunand

Iskandar Chahari: Infidel's Confession (From Persian)

Infidel's Confession
By Iskandar Chahari
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Hey, Sheikhs and Preachers. I'm a man from Unbelieverdom.
I will not fake repentance for my drunkenness and fun.
There's joy both in debauchery and Surat al-Rahman.
My one true God of love and lovemaking, where have you gone?

The Original:

كافرم از كفر اباد اى واعظ و مفتى
توبۀ خالى نخواهم كرد از اين مستى
لذت است از رندگى و سورت الرحمان
اى خداى دوست داران تو كجا رفتى؟


Kāfiram az kufrabād ay wā'iz o muftī
Tawba-i xālī naxwāham kard az īn mastī
Lizzat ast as rindagī o sūrat al-rahmān
Ay xudā-i dōstdārān to kujā raftī?

ˁAbīd bin Al-Abraṣ: Lament for his People in Rawḥān (From Arabic)

The poetry attributed to the pre-Islamic poet ˁAbīd bin Al-Abraṣ, like that attributed to Al-Muhalhil, is traditionally reckoned by medieval commentators to be among the very earliest to survive. Judging by the fact that his most famous of poems  (which I am also in the process of translating) has an anomalous meter that falls outside the meters allowable in classical khalīlian prosody, as well as the fairly high frequency of anomalous syntactic constructions and unusual vocabulary of most of his work (anomalous and unusual, that is, from the point of view of the later and better-understood stages of Arabic) there is no reason to disagree with them on this point, at least with regard to the bulk of the material. 
Fortunately for the modern reader of Early Arabic (or, at least, fortunately for me) ˁAbīd's language is often as moving as it is difficult, the more so thanks to his most frequent subject: the disaster that befell his tribe, the Banū Asad. The nature of the disaster remains unspecified in the poems and therefore unknown to us, but judging by the evidence from the poems it would have involved some sort of attack by superior forces (presumably one of the sedentary Arab kingdoms) which left many of the Banū Asad dead, and forced most of the rest to flee much of their former territory.  
The historical reality underlying the poetry is murky and probably will never be cleared up, barring an extraordinary fortuitous discovery by Arabian archaeologists (we have inscriptional evidence attesting to Lakhmid action against the Banū Asad, but none that I know of dated to even remotely the right period.) The information on ˁAbīd's life accompanying the poetry in Islamic literary compendia does not help much, as it has every sign of being based more on the poems than anything else, though it may contain some refraction of general truth about conflict with Kindite royalty. 
Moreover, as is the case with most pre-Islamic poets, some (though by no means most) of the content which bears the poet's name seems (on linguistic grounds) to come from a much later period. Indeed, I have my own unshakable, yet unprovable, suspicions (as does Alan Jones, whose stimulating commentary I consulted) that the last verse of the poem translated here was either added or (more likely) somewhat altered in Islamic times. But it is a fine verse which adds to the poem, and I saw no reason not to include it in the translation, not least because it seemed completely unjustifiable to make excisions based on chronological doubt in translating pre-Islamic Arabic poetry, when I don't do so, and never have, in dealing with Biblical Hebrew poetry (where dating is much messier.)  
In any case, even admitting the qualifications which must attend any corpus which has gone through centuries of oral transmission, I see no substantive reason not to read the body of material attributed to ˁAbīd as basically genuine pre-Islamic poetry, as much of it can at the very least be securely dated quite early on lexical, syntactic or metrical grounds. That does not definitively prove, of course, that all such early work attributed to ˁAbīd is necessarily by him. In pre-Islamic poetry, proving a positive is often much harder than proving a negative. It may well be that only a few poems are genuinely his, and that ˁAbīd as we know him is a half-archetypal figure around whose name various early poems of disparate authorship, containing a particular species of tribal lamentation, coagulated. If true, this would account for some the toponymic discrepancies that perplexed the commentators. But there are other ways to solve those problems, and this is all idle, proofless speculation.
But I now digress unjustifiably, as questions of authenticity, attribution and dating, though of interest to historians, are rather beside the point for the lover of poetry. For the pain of displacement and deracination, and the anguish of surviving a tragedy that has gutted one's people, are universal topics that have animated poets throughout recorded history to produce some of the most enduringly memorable verse in such disparate languages as Arabic, Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian, Sumerian, Greek, Cherokee, Nahuatl and many others.    

Lament for His People in Rawḥān
ˁAbīd ibn Al-Abraṣ
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original Arabic

Were those my people's dwellings 
  that in the stoneland lie?
 They are now a dwindled vestige
   changed by the hands of Time. 

There did I halt my camel 
  to question those dead traces,
 But had to turn away, 
   tears gushing from my eyes 

In a stream as though the lids 
  had suddenly burst forth
  The downpour of a cloud  
   from winter-laden skies.

Oh mine was once the kindest 
  of ordinary peoples 
 To all who had fallen captive
   or fallen on hard times,

Good when they drew lots  
  for camel-meat when winds
 Blew winter-hard, and neighbors
   united as a tribe. 

And when the moment called for spear-thrusts 
  they always did
 Dye their spear-tips deep
   in blood as battle cried.

And when the moment called for sword-strikes  
  they always did 
 Beat back the foe as lions
   protective of their pride.

And when they heard the call "Dismount!" 
  they always rushed
 In coats of mail on foot
    headlong into the fight.

They are gone. I am still here

  but I am not forever.
 Change is the fate of things,
   the many shades of life. 

God knows what I know not
  about the end they met.
 What I have is remembrance
   of things lost in their time.  

The Original:

قال عبيد ابن الابرص في رثاء قومه

لِمَنِ الدِيارُ بِبُرقَةِ الرَوحانِ  دَرَسَت وَغَيَّرَها صُروفُ زَمانِ
فَوَقَفتُ فيها ناقَتي لِسُؤالِها  فَصَرَفتُ وَالعَينانِ تَبتَدِرانِ
سَجماً كَأَنَّ شُنانَةً رَجَبِيَّةً  سَبَقَت إِلَيَّ بِمائِها العَينانِ
أَيّامَ قَومي خَيرُ قَومٍ سوقَةٍ  لِمُعَصِّبٍ وَلِبائِسٍ وَلِعاني
وَلَنِعمَ أَيسارُ الجَزورِ إِذا زَهَت ريحُ الشِتاءِ وَمَألَفُ الجِيرانِ
أَمّا إِذا كانَ الطِعانُ فَإِنَّهُم  قَد يَخضِبونَ عَوالِيَ المُرّانِ
أَمّا إِذا كانَ الضِرابُ فَإِنَّهُم  أُسدٌ لَدى أَشبالِهِنَّ حَواني
أَمّا إِذا دُعِيَت نَزالِ فَإِنَّهُم  يَحبونَ لِلرُكَباتِ في الأَبدانِ
فَخَلَدتُ بَعدَهُمُ وَلَستُ بِخالِدٍ  فَالدَهرُ ذو غِيَرٍ وَذو أَلوانِ
اللَهُ يَعلَمُ ما جَهِلتُ بِعَقبِهِم  وَتَذَكُّري ما فاتَ أَيَّ أَوانِ 


Li-mani l-diyāru bi-burqati l-rawħāni
Darasat wa-ɣayyarahā ṣurūfu zamāni
Fa-waqaftu fīhā nāqatī li-su'ālihā
Fa-ṣaraftu wa-l-ˁaynāni tabtadirāni
Sajman ka'anna šunānatan rajabiyyatan
Sabaqat ilayya bi-mā'ihā l-ˁaynāni
Ayyāma qawmī xayru qawmin sūqatin
Li-muˁaṣṣibin wa-li-bā'isin wa-li-ˁānī
Wa-li-niˁma aysāru l-jazūri iðā zahat
Rīħu l-šitā'i wa-ma'lafu l-jīrāni
Ammā iðā kāna l-ṭiˁānu fa-'innahum
Qad yaxḍiˁūna ˁawāliya l-murrāni
Ammā iðā kāna l-ḍirābu fa-'innahum
Usdun ladā ašbālihinna ħawānī
Ammā iðā duˁiyat nizāli fa-'innahum
Yamšūna li-l-rakabāti fī l-'abdāni
Fa-xaladtu baˁdahum wa-lastu bi-xālidin
Fa-l-dahru ðū ɣiyarin wa-ðū alwāni
Allāhu yaˁlamu mā jahiltu bi-ˁaqbihim
Wa-taðakkurī mā fāta ayya awāni

Abū Nuwās: Wine, Boys and Song (From Arabic)

Wine, Boys and Song
By Abū Nuwās
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Sing me a song, sweet Sulayman, 
and quench me with sweet wine.
When the bottle comes around, pass it 
with your hands into mine. 
Look! Morning's in the sky, already
its flaxen loincloth shines. 
With cups of comfort wash the call 
to prayer from my mind. 
Give me some wine to drink public, 
then fuck me from behind.

The Original:
قال ابو نواس

ياسُلَيْمانُ غَنّني ، ومِنَ الرّاحِ فاسْـقِـني 
فإذا دَارَتِ الزّجـا جَـة ُ خُـذْها ، وعاطِني 
ما تَرَى الصّبْحَ قَدْ بَدا في إزارٍ متَبَّنِ
عاطِـني كأسَ سَـلْوَة ٍ عَنْ أذانِ المؤذِّنِ 
اسْقِـني الخمْرَ جهْرَةً وألْـِطني ، وأزْنني 

Yā sulaymānu ɣanninī, wa mina l-rāħi fa-sqinī
Fa-iðā dārati l-zujājatu xuðhā, wa-ˁāṭinī
Mā tarā l-ṣubħa qad badā fī izārin mutabbani
Aˁṭinī ka'sa salwatin ˁan aðāni l-mu'aððini
Isqinī l-xamra jahratan wa-aliṭnī wa-'azninī

Al-Muhalhil: Vengeance at Dawn (From Arabic)

Today's poet is ˁAdī bin Rabīˁa of Taghlib, commonly known as Al-Muhalhil "The Verse-Weaver." Born presumably at the very end of the 5th century, he is among the earliest poets to whom any surviving verse of substantive length is attributed. He is chiefly known for poems dealing with the Basūs War, in which a 40-year feud between the tribes of Taghlib and Bakr was ignited when his brother Kulayb was killed for slaughtering another tribe's stray camel. See my deflationary note after the poem for more. 

Following my now-standard practice in translating classical poetry from Arabic and related literatures, I have substituted assonance for monorhyme.  I render each line of the Arabic with a five-beat roughly iambic distich in English. I did not repeat the irregular quatraining I used in my translation of Labīd's lament. Julie Scott Meisami, in discussing Suzanne Stetkevych's translations, pointed out that such verse-chopping "destroys the sonority of the poetic line and obscures its internal, and external, connections." To me, at least, such internal connections and line cohesion seem far more important in this intense, impassioned and vengeful dirge than they were in Labīd's more contemplative poem.

Vengeance at Dawn
By Al-Muhalhil of Taghlib
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the original Arabic

Long was my night of wake at Anˁamayn 
 while sleepless at the ceaseless stars I gazed.
How can I age in life while a slain man 
 of Taghlib still calls for a man to be slain?
O chide the eye weeping rueful over ruins!
 In the breast a wound is open for Kulayb.
In the breast is a bloody need unsatisfied 
 as long as doves among the branches wail.
How can he ever weep over ruined things 
 who pledged to battle men across the ages?
How can I forget you, Kulayb, when I've yet to quell
 the sorrow whelming me, the blood-parched rage?
Today O heart, make good your bloody vow.
 When they ride forth at morn, retaliate!
They grip their bows and we flash lightning bolts 
  as stallions threatening their stallion prey.
We steel ourselves beneath their flashing steel 
 till they fall pounded by our long hard blades
And can keep up no more. We keep attacking  
 for he who keeps the field is war's true mate. 

Deflationary note:

While pre-Islamic tribal poetry has a number of facets to it and might be summarized very crudely as a literature of love, loss, pride and war, the social order it appears to suggest is dominated by feuding, ancient grudges and warfare in defense of honor, a world in which existence itself was a dangerous game, where stoicism and hardiness were the only bulwarks against callous fate and inevitable heartbreak. I might leave it at that, as many do, if I wanted to avoid angry emails. But since I have yet to set forth my most recent views on this matter, and since the social world of pre-Islamic corpus is often wrongly taken at face value by scholars who rightly take the poetry as basically genuine material, my concern for reality compels me to say a bit more.

Even apart from the fact that there are some poets who at least some of the time hint at a more sedate reality, there is another seldom examined resource which can provide a contextual background for the social order suggested by the pre-Islamic poems. There are other tribal nomad-pastoralist desert societies whose climactic, structural and economic conditions have much in common with pre-Islamic bedu, and who maintained their way of being well into the 20th century, long enough that anthropologists and ethnographers were able to give accounts of them, or interview individuals old enough to remember pre-sedentary life. Examples include the Rwala of the northern Najd, the Tuareg of the central western Sahara, and the Ogadēn nomads of the southern Somali highlands. Jonathan A.C. Brown's comparative work on the Muˁallaqāt, informed by accounts of some of these more recent societies (though he does not consider the Tuareg) offers a welcome splash of reality, one which becomes all the more instructive in light of what is known of relations between settled Arab kingdoms (largely client-states of Persia and Byzantium) and nomadic Arabs in the 6th century.

It would appear that, though such societies often perceive and portray themselves as a "people of war and honor" characterized by perpetual conflict, this is often more self-image than reality. Accounts of legendary bloodbaths in the past serve to rationalize current disputes and divisions among related lineage groups, but pragmatic reality often means that cooperation - even at the expense of honor - is far more essential and therefore the norm, and feuding is avoided when possible. Combat when it occurs can be far more ritualized, and less lethal, than that of empires that maintain a standing army. Excessive and protracted large-scale bloodshed which endangers delicate social institutions and threatens access to shared resources is rare. If anything, the worst and bloodiest episodes appear to be conflicts with encroaching sedentary peoples, and centralized polities (such as the Ghassanid and Lakhmid dynasties of old or, more recently, the Saudi State) attempting to subdue them.

In the case of pre-Islamic Arabia, the exaggerated self-perception evident in the poems drawn from oral lore, likely for the edification of the Umayyad ruling class at first, ended up being coopted (and almost certainly at least somewhat sanitized) in the Islamic period by Muslim scholars all too willing to see pre-Islamic nomadic Arabians as a society of brave and and honorable, but impetuous and ignorant, pagans, as Noble Savages (to twist a phrase) who needed the true faith to civilize and unite them, a people you'd be proud not to be, yet also proud to be descended from.

The Original:

باتَ لَيلي بالأَنْعَمَين طَويلا  أَرْقُبُ النَجْمَ ساهِراً لَنْ يَزولا
كَيف أٌمدي ولَا يزالُ قتيلٌ مِن بَني وائلٍ يُنادي قتيلا
أُزْجُرِ الْعَينَ أَنْ تُبَكِّي الطُلولا إِنَّ في الصَدْرِ مِنْ كُلَيبٍ فَليلا
إِنَّ في الصَدْرِ حاجةً لَنْ تُقَضَّى ما دَعا في الغُصونِ داعٍ هَديلا
كَيفَ يَبْكي الطُلولَ مَن هو رَهْنٌ بِطِعانِ الأنامِ جيلا فَجِيلا
كَيف أَنساكَ يا كلَيبُ  ولمّا أقضِ حُزناً ينوبُني وغَليلا
أيُّها القَلبُ أَنْجِزِ اليومَ نَحْباً مِن بني الحِصْنِ إذ غَدوا وذُحولا
انتَضَوا مَعْجِسَ القِسي وأَبْرَقْـنا كَما تُوعِد الفُحولُ الفُحولا
وصَبَرْنا تَحتَ البوارِقِ حتَّى دَكْدَكَتْ فيهِمِ السُيوفُ طَويلا
لم يُطيقوا أنْ يَنْزِلوا ونَزَلْنا وَأَخو الحَربِ مَن أَطاقَ النُزولا 


Bāta laylī bi-l-'Anˁamayni ṭawīlā arqubu l-najma sāhiran lan yazūlā
Kayfa umdī wa-lā yazālu qatīlun min Banī Wā'ilin yunādī qatīlā
Uzjuri l-ˁayna an tubakkī l-ṭulūlā inna fī l-ṣadri min Kulaybin falīlā
Inna fī l-ṣadri ħājatan lan tuqaḍḍā mā daˁā fī l-ɣuṣūni dāˁin hadīlā
Kayfa yabkī l-ṭulūla man huwa rahnun bi-ṭiˁāni l-'anāmi jīlan fa-jīlā
Kayfa ansāka yā Kulaybu wa-lammā aqḍi ħuznan yanūbunī wa-ɣalīlā
Ayyuhā l-qalbu anjizi l-yawma naħban min Banī l-Ħiṣni ið ɣadaw wa-ðuħūlā
Intaḍaw maˁjisa l-qisiyyi wa-'abraqnā kamā tūˁidu l-fuħūlu l-fuħūlā
Wa-ṣabarnā taħta l-bawāriqi ħattā dakdakat fīhimi l-suyūfu ṭawīlā
Lam yuṭīqū an yanzilū wa-nazalnā wa-'axū l-ħarbi man aṭāqa l-nuzūlā

Immanuel of Rome: The Virgin's Lament (From Hebrew)

The sonnet has almost as long a history in Hebrew as it does in Italian. The sardonic, satirical and socially critical Immanuel of Rome (1261-1328) was the pioneer of the form in Hebrew. 

The Virgin's Lament
By Immanuel of Rome
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

My breasts are firm, my hair is grown, yet here
I sit alone in nakedness and shame
My poverty makes suitors hide in fear.
Head of the Feast of Mourning is my name.

How can my heart be joyful when I've not
One bit of silver, gold or bronze? What art
Could win a man for me, when all I've got
Is three older sisters and a wailing heart?

Suitors! I can't say if the fire will fill me,
Or Time the traitor treat me well enough. 
My years on locust-wings fly ever faster.

What's more, the elders' words do worse than kill me
For "she who dies a virgin is cut off,
And has no portion in the world hereafter."

The Original:

שדי נכונים
עמנואל הרומי

שָׁדַי נְכוֹנִים, שַׂעֲריִ צִמֵּחַ,
וָאֵשְׁבָה עֵירֹם וְעֶרְיָה בֹשֶׁת.
דּוֹדִים לְעָנְיִי יָראוּ מִגֶּשֶׁת, 
וָאֵשְׁבָה בָרֹאשׁ בְּבֵית מַרְזֵח.

אֵיךְ יִהְיֶ עוֹד הַלְּבָב שָׂמֵחַ?
אָפְסוּ כְסָפַי, אֵין זְהַב וּנְחֹשֶׁת.
אֵיךְ אֶמְצְאָה בַעַל אֲנִי –אֲנִי וּשְׁלֹשֶת
אַחְיוֹת גְּפוֹלוֹת לִי, וְלֵב גּוֹנֵחַ.

מָה אֹמְרָה, דּוֹדַי: עֲצָמַי חָרוּ,
אוֹ עִם זְמַן בּוֹגֵד בְּרִית אֶכְרֹתָה?
עָפוּ שְׁנוֹתַי, פָּשְׁטוּ כַיֶּלֶק.

גַּם יָשְׁבוּ שָׂרִים וּבִי נִדְבָּרוּ:
אִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר תַּמוּת בְּתוּלָה –נִכְרְתָה,
אֵין לָהּ בְּעוֹלַם הַגְּשָׁמוֹת חֵלֶק!

Anon: On Injustice (From Hebrew)

On Injustice
Fragment from the Dead Sea Scrolls. IQ27, Fragment 1, Col. 1.
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

Do not all peoples loathe injustice?
Yet all of them commit it.
Do not the mouths of all nations exalt truth?
Yet is there a lip or tongue that holds to it?
What nation would wish to be oppressed by a mightier one?
And who would wish to be wickedly plundered?
Yet where is the nation that has not oppressed its neighbor? 
Where the people that has not plundered another? 

The Original:

הלא כל העמים שנאו עול?
וביד כלמה יתהלך.
הלא מפי כל לאמים שמע האמת?
היש שפה ולשון מחזקת בה?
מי גוי חפץ אשר יעשקנו חזק ממנו?
מי יחפץ כי יגזל ברשע הונו?
מי גוי אשר לא עשק רעהו?
איפה עם אשר לא גזל הון לאחד?

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