Having forfeit both this world
And the next for love’s sake
There goes a sad soul
With a sad night in his wake
The tavern is barren and bare
The chalice and wine is bereft
When you turned away from me
Is when cheer from my life left
Such a short stint have we been doled
To indulge of life’s sweet fruit
The lord, unnerved by our joy,
No more would dare impute
Now your memory is far
Estranged by the world’s affairs
My heart is deceived to forget
By rampant mundane cares
Faiz, don’t ask me about my heart
How it fluttered with life today
When, by grace or chance or accident
She sent a smile my way
Dono jahaan teri muhabbat main haar ke
Voh jaa rahaa hai koi shab-e-gam guzaar ke
Veeran hai maykada, khum-o-saagar udaas hai
Tum kyaa gaye ke rooth gaye din bahaar ke
Ek phursat-e-gunah milee, voh bhi chaar din
Dekhe hain humne housle parvardigaar ke
Duniya ne teri yaad se begaana kar diyaa
Tujshe bhi dil-fareb hai, gam rozgaar ke
Bhoole se muskara to diye the voh aaj “faiz”
Mat poocho valvale dil-e-nakardaa kaar ke
A note on my translations:
To illustrate the difficulty of translating from urdu, I will pick apart the third couplet from above and try to explain the cultural and historical affixations that it conveys in the original.
ek phursat-e-gunah milee (one leisure-to-enjoy-vice I got)- the word gunah means sin, and has negative connotations, but Faiz (linking it in an almost facetious manner with fursat or leisure) manages to make it read as something not bad, but not quite virtuous either, like a guilty pleasure. this gives the verse a slightly frivolous air, and keeps the mood buoyant.
voh bi chaar din (that too only four days)- this is an Urdu phrase referencing the brevity of life, like ‘life is but a brief candle..etc’ is in English.
Dekhe hain humne housle parvardigaar ke (seen have I courage/daring of God)- this verse is laden with irony and superciliousness. This, on its own, would also carry a enormous sense of seriousness. To challenge the authority of the Almighty is a grave matter- and blasphemous – but taken with the sweetening draught of the earlier verse, it remains perfectly poised on the thin line of propriety and outright irreverence.
Now, to translate these verses perfectly into any other language, as is the case with all translations, one would have to carry over the entire linguistic cosmos of culture, tradition, history, etc. of the language being translated to the translated tongue, which is obviously impossible.
So, in my humble efforts, when I am trying to translate the poem into its nearest ‘meaning’ and I come across a phrase, a word, or an idiom that doesn’t have a counterpoint in English, I use one that grazes in its semantic vicinity, instead of sacrificing the rhythm and flow of the poem by proceeding to elaborate within-translation on the esoteric sense (something that Urdu poetry abounds in) the verses might also be conveying. That means, unfortunately, that sometimes I have to omit or sacrifice a part of the verse’s essence, only because I cannot find (with my clumsy expertise) a doppelganger in the English language.
Having said all that, this poem by Faiz is another jewel of lyrical beauty. Over time I have found that, like all things of true beauty, his poetry reinforces its power and majesty over its audience with each encounter.