Ghalib, (1797-1869) is generally considered to be the greatest poet of the Urdu language, along with Mir, who preceded him. Widely known and oft quoted, his ghazals sometimes appear difficult and inaccessible to those whose mother tongue is not Urdu.
Attempts have been made to translate his ghazals into English but no complete translation of his Diwan exists. The present work presents for the first time a complete translation of the Diwan, in rhyme. It includes all the works of the published Diwan (Ma'ruf) as well as a selection of the unpublished (complete) Diwan known as the Nuskha-e-Hamidia.
About the Author:
Daughter of a distinguished medical practitioner, the author was inculcated a love of Urdu and Persian poetry at an early age by both parents, especially her erudite mother. After graduation from Lady Hardinge Medical College New Delhi, she served for several years in the hospital of the Alma Mater and in Uttar Pradesh, before going to France for further medical studies. This led to a career there, in the State Medical Research Organization (INSERM). After retirement, she has returned to the old family home in Dehradun. She attempts to further the knowledge of Urdu, and its poetic sensibility, by translation of its classical poets into English as also French.
Mirza Asad-Ullah-Khan GHALIB (1797-1869) is by common consent acknowledged, along with MIR, as the greatest of Urdu poets. Both belonged to Delhi, and loved their then resplendent capital. Ghalib was born in Agra, of Turkish stock, his pedigree going back to the legendary kings of ancient Persia. At the early age of 13 he was married, and came soon after, around 1812, to live with his wife's family in Delhi. He never left the city thereafter, even in its most sombre days, except for a journey to Calcutta on official business which lasted 3 years.
Like Mozart, he was a precocious genius, and began to write ghazals when he was but 9 years old. When he was 12, his poems were considered good enough to be presented to the aged Mir, then living in exile in Lucknow. The famous predecessor prophesized a great future for the child, if well directed.
Ghalib soon earned renown in the literary circles of Delhi, the Mughal capital. After its take-over by the British in 1803, the last Mughal Emperor had been pauperized, but still allowed to live in the Red Fort. A poet himself, Bahadur Shah ZAFAR maintained literary and social standards as well as he could, but was no longer able to act as a patron of the arts, or help needy poets like Ghalib. The British in their colonial enterprise, did not care to see this aspect of being in power. Publishing had hardly become commercial, there were no publishing house or even printing presses yet in Delhi. Poets, traditionally, were protected and nurtured by patronage, royal or of those emulating royalty. In spite of great poverty, Ghalib reigned over literary Delhi. His Urdu Diwan was almost complete by 1821, when he was only 24, though it had to await publication, for 20 years in 1841. Five editions were sold out in his lifetime. During the so-called Mutiny in 1857, Ghalib's Urdu Diwan, as well as that of Zawq, were destroyed when the British vandalized the Red Fort, transforming it into a military barracks. Fortunately, a copy of Ghalib's Diwan had been sent to the Court of Rampur, and thus survived. Ghalib's fame as a poet rests on his Urdu Diwan, but is enhanced by his prose works, notably his numerous letters. The latter have become a classic for students of Urdu. He also wrote a voluminous Diwan in Persian.
Many erudite studies of Ghalib and of various aspects of his work have been published in Urdu as well as more recently, in English, in the subcontinent and abroad. The earliest was in Urdu by Altaf Husain HALI, who met Ghalib, then in his old age. Ghalib's ghazals have been translated, in part, into various languages, sometimes as whole ghazals, but more often as one or a few verses taken from different ghazals. These translations were rarely in rhyme, it being considered impractical, and even impossible, to make a rhymed translation of all or even a small number of the ghazals.
The present work is a complete translation in rhymed verse, of the whole of the published Diwan including the ghazals, qasidas (panegyrics), masnavis, qitas and quatrains. Most of the material, not included in the published Diwan as such, but usually published with it, is also presented as Addendum I. This also includes the Sehra or marriage chaplet, subject of a famous controversy with the Poet Laureate, Zawq. (The Sehra by Zawq is also presented for comparison). A brief selection from the verses and ghazals excluded, as too difficult, from the published Diwan, is included as Addendum II. This was made possible by courtesy of the Ghalib Academy, New Delhi, who very kindly gave the author a photocopy of the original complete Diwan, known as the Nuskha-e-Hamidia (N.H.)
The aim of this translation is to make available the whole of the published Diwan of Ghalib to a public unable to read it in the original Urdu. For easy reference, the ghazals and other poems have been numbered serially as also the verses of each piece. The order of poems follows that of the definitive (de luxe) edition of the Diwan-e-Ghalib, published by the Ghalib Academy in 1993, to which one should henceforth conform. For those readers who understand Urdu but cannot read it, a phonetic transcription of the Urdu text into Roman script is provided, together with a key. Readers are strongly advised to consult this key in order to read the transcription without difficulty.
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