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30 March 2008 @ 02:49 am
Faiz Ahmed Faiz  

Just who is Faiz Ahmed Faiz?

From the Wikipedia article:

Faiz Ahmed Faiz (فيض احمد فيض), (1984 - 1911) was a Pakistani poet considered to be one of the most famous modern Urdu poets. He was born in Sialkot, in the Punjab of pre-independence India (now Pakistan).

After the partition of 1947, he decided to live in Pakistan, and died in Lahore. Faiz was a member of the Anjuman Tarraqi Pasand Mussanafin-e-Hind (Progressive Writers' Movement), and an avowed Marxist. In 1962 he was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize by the Soviet Union. In the 1930s Faiz Ahmed Faiz married Alys Faiz, a British woman. They had two daughters. Alys Faiz's influence on Faiz's life and poetry is reputed to have been great. He is also known for his use of the ghazal poetic form.

From the Academy of American Poets:

Faiz's early poems had been conventional, light-hearted treatises on love and beauty, but while in Lahore he began to expand into politics, community, and the thematic interconnectedness he felt was fundamental in both life and poetry. It was also during this period that he married Alys George, a British expatriate and convert to Islam, with whom he had two daughters. In 1942, he left teaching to join the British Indian Army, for which he received a British Empire Medal for his service during World War II. After the partition of India in 1947, Faiz resigned from the army and became the editor of The Pakistan Times, a socialist English-language newspaper.

On March 9, 1951, Faiz was arrested with a group of army officers under the Safety Act, and charged with the failed coup attempt that became known as the Rawalpindi Conspiracy Case. He was sentenced to death and spent four years in prison before being released. Two of his poetry collections, Dast-e Saba and Zindan Namah, focus on life in prison, which he considered an opportunity to see the world in a new way. While living in Pakistan after his release, Faiz was appointed to the National Council of the Arts by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's government, and his poems, which had previously been translated into Russian, earned him the Lenin Peace Prize in 1963.

In 1964, Faiz settled in Karachi and was appointed principal of Abdullah Haroon College, while also working as an editor and writer for several distinguished magazines and newspapers. He worked in an honorary capacity for the Department of Information during the 1965 war between India and Pakistan, and wrote stark poems of outrage over the bloodshed between Pakistan, India, and what later became Bangladesh. However, when Bhutto was overthrown by Zia Ul-Haq, Faiz was forced into exile in Beirut, Lebanon. There he edited the magazine Lotus, and continued to write poems in Urdu. He remained in exile until 1982. He died in Lahore in 1984, shortly after receiving a nomination for the Nobel Prize.

Throughout his tumultuous life, Faiz continually wrote and published, becoming the best-selling modern Urdu poet in both India and Pakistan. While his work is written in fairly strict diction, his poems maintain a casual, conversational tone, creating tension between the elite and the common, somewhat in the tradition of Ghalib, the reknowned 19th century Urdu poet. Faiz is especially celebrated for his poems in traditional Urdu forms, such as the ghazal, and his remarkable ability to expand the conventional thematic expectations to include political and social issues.

Poetry in Translation:

Poems (1962) trans. by V.G. Kiernan
Poems by Faiz (1971) trans. V.G. Kiernan
The True Subject: Selected Poems of Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1988) trans. Naomi Lazard
The Unicorn and the Dancing Girl (1988) trans by Daud Kamal, ed. by Khalid Hasan
The Rebel's Silhouette (1991) trans. Agha Shahid Ali
The Rebel's Silhouette: Selected Poems (1995) rev. ed. trans. Agha Shahid Ali

See his official website for more information.

A selection of writing (click the title to read the poem):

You Tell Us What to Do
from The Rebel's Silhouette, translated by Agha Shahid Ali:

When we launched life
on the river of grief,
how vital were our arms, how ruby our blood.
With a few strokes, it seemed,
we would cross all pain,
we would soon disembark.
That didn't happen.
In the stillness of each wave we found invisible currents.
The boatmen, too, were unskilled,
their oars untested.
Investigate the matter as you will,
blame whomever, as much as you want,
but the river hasn't changed,
the raft is still the same.
Now you suggest what's to be done,
you tell us how to come ashore.

When we saw the wounds of our country
appear on our skins,
we believed each word of the healers.
Besides, we remembered so many cures,
it seemed at any moment
all troubles would end, each wound heal completely.
That didn't happen: our ailments
were so many, so deep within us
that all diagnoses proved false, each remedy useless.
Now do whatever, follow each clue,
accuse whomever, as much as you will,
our bodies are still the same,
our wounds still open.
Now tell us what we should do,
you tell us how to heal these wounds.

When Autumn Came
from The True Subject, translated by Naomi Lazar

This is the way that autumn came to the trees:
it stripped them down to the skin,
left their ebony bodies naked.
It shook out their hearts, the yellow leaves,
scattered them over the ground.
Anyone could trample them out of shape
undisturbed by a single moan of protest.

The birds that herald dreams
were exiled from their song,
each voice torn out of its throat.
They dropped into the dust
even before the hunter strung his bow.

Oh, God of May have mercy.
Bless these withered bodies
with the passion of your resurrection;
make their dead veins flow with blood again.

Give some tree the gift of green again.
Let one bird sing.

translated by Azfar Hussain

Speak, your lips are free.
Speak, it is your own tongue.
Speak, it is your own body.
Speak, your life is still yours.

See how in the blacksmith's shop
The flame burns wild, the iron glows red;
The locks open their jaws,
And every chain begins to break.

Speak, this brief hour is long enough
Before the death of body and tongue:
Speak, 'cause the truth is not dead yet,
Speak, speak, whatever you must speak.

from The True Subject, translated by Naomi Lazard

India-Pakistan War: 1965

Since our lights were extinguished
I have been searching for a way to see;
my eyes are lost, God knows where.

You who know me, tell me who I am,
who is a friend, and who an enemy.
A murderous river has been unleashed
into my veins; hatred beats in it.

Be patient; a flash of lightning will come
from another horizon like the white hand
of Moses with my eyes, my lost diamonds.

translated by Azfar Hussain

If they snatch my ink and pen,
I should not complain,
For I have dipped my fingers
In the blood of my heart.
I should not complain
Even if they seal my tongue,
For every ring of my chain
Is a tongue ready to speak.

Lament for a Soldier
translated by Andrew McCord

Rise now from the dust
My darling young one. Wake.
Wake now. Wake now.
We've your life's bed to make.

Look how the dark night
Comes wrapped in a long blue shawl
Where these crying eyes
Have heaped up pearls—
So many pearls whose light
Casts on your wedding rite
A shimmering tonight
To brighten your name.

Rise now from the ground
My darling young one. Wake.
Wake now. Wake now
While in every house is gold new dawn
But at ours a pitch-dark yard.

Wanton, heroic, how long
Has your young bride to wait
Knowing your time is come?
Look, there is work to be done.
The enemy lords over the throne
And you lie in the dust, young one.
Rise from the ground. Wake.
Don't leave. Rise from the dust.
Wake, my darling young one.

Bangladesh II
from the The Rebel's Silhouette, translated by Agha Shahid Ali

This is how my sorrow became visible:
its dust, piling up for years in my heart,
finally reached my eyes,

the bitterness now so clear that
I had to listen when my friends
told me to wash my eyes with blood.

Everything at once was tangled in blood—
each face, each idol, red everywhere.
Blood swept over the sun, washing away its gold.

The moon erupted with blood, its silver extinguished.
The sky promised a morning of blood,
and the night wept only blood.

The trees hardened into crimson pillars.
All flowers filled their eyes with blood.
And every glance was an arrow,

each pierced image blood. This blood
—a river crying out for martyrs—
flows on in longing. And in sorrow, in rage, in love.

Let it flow. Should it be dammed up,
there will only be hatred cloaked in colors of death.
Don't let this happen, my friends,

bring all my tears back instead,
a flood to purify my dust-filled eyes,
to was this blood forever from my eyes.

translated by Azfar Hussain

Do not strike the chord of sorrow tonight!
Days burning with pain turn to ashes.
Who knows what happens tomorrow?
Last night is lost; tomorrow's frontier wiped out:
Who knows if there will be another dawn?
Life is nothing, it's only tonight!
Tonight we can be what the gods are!

Do not strike the chord of sorrow, tonight!
Do not repeat stories of sufferings now,
Do not complain, let your fate play its role,
Do not think of tomorrows, give a damn--
Shed no tears for seasons gone by,
All sighs and cries wind up their tales,
Oh, do not strike the same chord again!

Before You Came
from the The Rebel's Silhouette, translated by Agha Shahid Ali

Before you came,
things were as they should be:
the sky was the dead-end of sight,
the road was just a road, wine merely wine.

Now everything is like my heart,
a color at the edge of blood:
the grey of your absence, the color of poison, of thorns,
the gold when we meet, the season ablaze,
the yellow of autumn, the red of flowers, of flames,
and the black when you cover the earth
with the coal of dead fires.

And the sky, the road, the glass of wine?
The sky is a shirt wet with tears,
the road a vein about to break,
and the glass of wine a mirror in which
the sky, the road, the world keep changing.

Don't leave now that you're here—
Stay. So the world may become like itself again:
so the sky may be the sky,
the road a road,
and the glass of wine not a mirror, just a glass of wine.

Bahar Aayee

Bahar aayee
to jaisey yak baar laut aaye hain phir adum se
woh khaab sarey, shabaab sarey
jo terey honton pe mar mittey they
jo mit ke har baar phir jiye they

nikher gaye hain gulaaab sarey
jo teri yadon se mushkboo hain
jo terey ushaak ka lahoo hain
bahaar aayee

ubal parey hain azaab sarey
malaal-e-ihbay-e-doastaan bhi
tumharey aaghosh-e-mehvashaan bhi

ghubar-e-khatir ke baab sarey
tirey humarey sawaal sarey, jawaab sarey

bahaar aayee
to khul gaye hain
neye sirrey se hisaab sarey
neye sirrey se hisaab sarey

bahaar aayee
bahaar aayee

Spring Has Come
translated by Ayesha Kaljuvee

Spring has come
So have returned suddenly from the past
All those dreams, all that beauty
That on your lips had died
That had died and lived again each time

All the roses are blooming
That still smell of your memories
That are the blood of my love for you
Spring has come

All the torments are raging again
That unheeded advice of friends
That intoxication of your embrace

The dust of old chapters have opened
With all our questions, all our answers

Spring has come
So have opened
all the journals of my love anew
all the journals of my love anew

Spring has come
Spring has come

ranslated by Agha Shahid Ali

Desolation’s desert. I’m here with shadows
of your voice, your lips as mirage, now trembling. Grass and dust of distance
have let this desert bloom with your roses.

Near me breathes the air that’s your kiss. It smoulders,
slowly-slowly, musk of itself. And farther,
drop by drop, beyond the horizon, shines the
dew of your lit face.

Memory’s placed its hand so on Time’s face, touched it
so caressingly that although it’s still our
parting’s morning, it’s as if night’s come, bringing
you to my bare arms.

I. For a Political Leader (Mahatma Gandhi)
translated by Andrew McCord

Years these chained hands scraped,
Like straw waging war on the sea,
At the hard black breast of the night,
Like moths assailing the rock:
Until in the stony dark breast of the night
So many wounds opened the light,
Wherever you looked, wove a pattern,
And pulse of morning, far off, started to beat.
Your stock, your hopes, are these hands.
What else have you got but these hands?
You cannot accept victory of the dark,
But countenance the sword on these hands
And let the day laying wait in the east
Fall under the night's iron corpse.

Shackles on your feet
translated by Poorvi Vora; see later in the post for a video of this poem

Wet eyes and a crazed will are not enough;
Nor are accusations of a furtive love;
Stride in the bazaar today, shackles on your feet.
Stride with arms spread open and in wild abandon;
Stride with dust-covered hair and blood-stained shirt;
Stride, all the beloved city watches the road.
The official and the commoner;
Sad mornings and barren days;
Arrows of slander and stones of insult.
Who but we can be their companion?
Who in the beloved town remains free of guilt?
Who remains worthy of the killer’s hand?
Broken-hearted ones, prepare to leave;
Let us stride to meet our death today.

Be Near Me
from The True Subject, translated by Naomi Lazard

Be near me now,
My tormenter, my love, be near me—
At this hour when night comes down,
When, having drunk from the gash of sunset, darkness comes
With the balm of musk in its hands, its diamond lancets,
When it comes with cries of lamentation,
with laughter with songs;
Its blue-gray anklets of pain clinking with every step.
At this hour when hearts, deep in their hiding places,
Have begun to hope once more, when they start their vigil
For hands still enfolded in sleeves;
When wine being poured makes the sound
of inconsolable children
who, though you try with all your heart,
cannot be soothed.
When whatever you want to do cannot be done,
When nothing is of any use;
—At this hour when night comes down,
When night comes, dragging its long face,
dressed in mourning,
Be with me,
My tormenter, my love, be near me.

Want more Faiz Ahmed Faiz media?

Select MP3 recordings of Faiz Ahmed Faiz reading in Urdu, provided by the Library of Congress New Delhi Office's South Asian Literary Recordings Project

"Faiz, who was hounoured by Lenin Peace Prize in 1963, was seldom subjected to arrests by the right-wing pro-imperialist military regimes of Pakistan. Once, during the dictatorship of General Zia-ul-Haq, he was arrested and taken to the police station in front of the public. In this context, he wrote 'Aaj Bazar mein' (Shackles on your feet)."

This video is interesting not only because it shows Faiz reciting, but also because it demonstrates the different ways a translator can influence/interpret a poem. Here, the poem "Shackles on your feet," which appeared earlier in this post, is read:
Saima Sadiq MirSaima Sadiq Mir on March 4th, 2014 02:20 pm (UTC)
hye is qom ki shoomi e qismat

kahan se dhoond ke layen aisey log