This book is intended to introduce the reader to the best specimens of the Urdu Nazm, as distinguished from the ghazal. It contains English translations of 42 nazms, chosen from the works of 19 famous poets, such as Mir Taqi Mir, Nazir Akbarabadi, Shauq Lucknavi, Iqbal, Josh, Hafeez, Akhtar Sheerani, Majaaz, Faiz, and Sahir. The poets are presented in chronological order, and each is introduced with an authentic portrait, and a brief biographical-cum-critical note. The "Introduction" attempts in lucid prose a definition of the nazm, and describes its characteristic features as an art form.
The layout of the book is methodical. Each poem is first given in Urdu calligraphics, followed on the opposite page by its translation in lucid, rhythmical language which, in turn, is succeeded by the romanized version of the Urdu text. The transliteration should enable even the non- Urdu-knowing reader to have a feel of the Urdu language. All the poems selected for translation are among the classics of Urdu poetry. They deal with all sorts of themes, and represent a variety of styles and stanzaic forms. It is thus a fairly representative collection which, taken together with the author's three earlier volumes on the ghazal and the rubai, should offer to the reader the best of Urdu poetry in English translation.
K.C. Kanda has taught English literature for over 30 yeiJrs at Delhi University. He holds a doctorate in English from the University of Delhi, and Master's degrees from Punjab and Nottingham Universities. He is also a first class M.A. in Urdu from Delhi University. While English poetry has been his specialty professionally, Urdu poetry has been his great love since his schooldays. His publications include: An Anthology of English Poetry (Arnold Heinemann, 1976); The Two Worlds of Tennyson (Doaba House, 1985); Masterpieces of Urdu Ghazal (1991); Masterpieces of Urdu Rubaiyat (1994); Urdu Ghazals: An Anthology (1994) - all three published, like the present volume, by Sterling Publishers, New Delhi. Dr. Kanda is currently working on a translation of Mir Taqi Mir, one of the grest classics of Urdu poetry. Two of his critical studies: Dramatic Monologues of Robert Browning, and Tennyson's In Memoriam have recently been released by Sterling.
This book may be treated as a complement to my earlier books: Masterpieces of Urdu Chazal (1990), Masterpieces of Urdu Rubaiyat (1994) and Urdu Ghazals: An Anthology (1994), all of which are intended to introduce the readers, more particularly, of the non Urdu-knowing class, to the best specimens of Urdu poetry in various genres. The present anthology contains English translations of 42 “nazms”, chosen from the works of 19 famous poets, including such master-poets as Mir Taqi Mir, Nazir Akbarabadi, Shauq Lucknavi, Iqbal, Josh, Hafeez, Akhtar Sheerani, Majaz, Faiz and Sahir. The poets are presented in a chronological order, and each poet is introduced with an authentic portrait, and a biographical-cum-critical note. In the opening chapter of the book, I have attempted a definition of the “nazm”, as distinguished from “ghazal”, and briefly described the origin, development, and special features of this poetic form.
All the poems presented in this selection are now counted among the classics of Urdu poetry. They deal with all sorts of themes, and represent a variety of styles and stanzaic forms, including also a few specimens of the Urdu “nazm” in blank verse and free-verse. This volume may thus be called a fairly representative collection of Urdu “nazm” in English translation. The present-day living poets of the “nazm” are, however, outside the scope of this book. The constraint of space has obliged me to curtail the length of some longer poems, such as the “masnavis” of Mir and Shauq, Iqbal’s “Shikwa” and ‘Jawab-e-Shikwa”, and some of the poems of Josh Malihabadi. I have taken care not to leave out, in the process of abridgement, any lines or passages which have a direct bearing on the essentials of the narrative, or are poetically outstanding.
While translating these poems my aim has been to preserve the sense and spirit of the original, though it may involve an occasional departure from the literal accuracy of the text. Knowing that an important source of the pleasure of Urdu poetry lies in the music of its lines and rhymes, I have attempted rhymed verse in my translations, though I do not hesitate to substitute assonance for rhyme when a suitable rhyme-word is not easily traceable.
The layout of the book is similar to the pattern of my earlier volumes. Each poem is first given in Urdu calligraphic, followed, on the opposite page, by its English translation which, in turn, is succeeded by the Romanised version of the text (in italics). The Romanised transliteration should give a feel of the Urdu language even to those readers who are not conversant with Urdu in the Persian script. It may even prove to be of practical help to the learners of Urdu.
I am beholden to all my friends and counsellors who have helped me in the preparation of this book. On the top of this list is my never-failing friend, Dr. J. S. Neki, a man of sound judgement and wide erudition, who has always been generous in sparing his time and attention for my needs. I am bounden to him for his valuable aid and encouragement. I owe hearty thanks to Professor Gopi Chand Narang, the noted Urdu scholar and National Professor of Urdu, who has helped me in this project in more ways than one by lending me books from his personal library, by guiding me in the selection of poets and poems, and by providing me with some of the rare photographs of the poets. For my source material I have drawn largely on the library of Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, and I express my gratitude to its librarian and the library staff who allowed me free access to their bookshelves. I must also thank my son, Dr. Arun Kanda who, as always, diligently scrutinised the manuscript and corrected the proofs of this book. I would be failing in my duty if I do not express my special thanks to Mr S. K. Ghai, Managing Director, Sterling Publishers, who has shown special care and zeal in the publication of this book, thereby demonstrating his genuine interest in the promotion and popularisation of Urdu literature.
Poetry may be roughly divided into two broad categories: the subjective and the objective. In the subjective kind of poetry the poet looks within himself and finds his inspiration in his own thoughts, emotions and experiences. In the objective kind, on the contrary, the poet goes out of himself, observes the world of men and manners, and records its actions and events, its sights and sounds, without reference to his own personality or predilections. These two categories, however, are not water-tight, for no poet can be purely subjective, or simply objective. In every lyric (which is another name for subjective poetry) there is an occasional intrusion of the objective spirit in the form of description, reflection, or philosophic comment; and in every objective poem, be it narrative or descriptive, there is an element of subjectivity, for the poet’s very choice of a particular subject, be it ‘Taj Mahal”, or ‘The Tomb of Nurjahan”, is dictated by his inner impulse or interests. But if a poem is to be judged by the totality of its mood or mode, it can generally be classified as objective or subjective.
The ghazal in Urdu represents the most popular form of subjective poetry, while the nazm exemplifies the objective kind, often reserved for narrative, descriptive, didactic or satirical purposes. Under the broad head of the nazm we may also include the classical forms of poems known by specific names such as masnavz (a long narrative poem in rhyming couplets on any theme: romantic, religious, or didactic), marsia (an elegy traditionally meant to commemorate the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain and his comrades of the Karbala fame), or qasida (a panegyric written in praise of a king or a nobleman), for all these poems have a single presiding subject, logically developed and concluded.
However, these poetic species have an old world aura about their subject and style, and are different from the modern nazm, supposed to have come into vogue in the later part of the nineteenth century.
In order to understand the distinguishing features of the nazm it will be helpful to place it by the side of the ghzal and mark the points of contrast and resemblance between the two. The ghazal, as is well-known, is a short poem, generally of seven, nine, or at most, of a dozen couplets in the same metre. It always opens with a rhyming couplet called “matla”, and ends with the “maqta”, which often includes the pen-name of the poet. It follows a set rhyming pattern: aa, ba, ca, da, and so on. The nazm is not bound by any such considerations of length or rhyme scheme. There could be a long nazm like Iqbal’s “Shikwa”, which contains as many as 186 lines, or a short one like Iqbal’s “Ram”, with only twelve lines. Further, the poet of the mum is free to adopt any metrical arrangement that suits his subject or mood. A large number of nazms, such as Mir’s “Khwab-O-Khaya1” or Josh Malihabadi’s “Kissan”, are written in separately rhyming couplets which, however, observe the discipline of a uniform metre throughout the poem. Some nazms like Chakbast’s “Ramayan ka ek scene”, or Mehroom’s “Noor Jahan ka Mazaar”, use another popular poetic measure called “musaddas”, a unit of six lines, consisting of a rhyming quatrain and a couplet on a different rhyme. Iqbal’s poem, “Ram”, follows the rhyming pattern of the ghazal in all the couplets but the last, which, to give the effect of finality, makes use of a new and different rhyme. And all the poems of Quli Qutab Shah included in this volume adhere to the pattern of the ghazal, complete with “matla’ and “maqta”. The poet of the nazm thus enjoys a greater measure of freedom in the choice of rhyme scheme and length of the poem, as against the practitioner of the ghazal, and this enables him to match his style with the subject, and adjust the tone and pace of his verse to reflect the undulations of mood and situation.
A group of progressive writers of the early decades of the 20th century have successfully exploited the freedom and flexibility of the nazm. Taking a cue from English poets like T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound, they reject the rigidity of the regular rhyme, dispense with “radif” and “qafia”, and opt for the medium of blank verse or free verse. A poem written in blank verse is called “nazm-e-muarra” in Urdu. Such a poem breaks with the tradition of “radif” and “qafia”, but observes the sanctity of metre, and sticks to lines of equal length. The free-verse poem called “Azad Nazm” goes a step further, for it not only discards the rhyme, but also feels free to use lines of unequal length in the same poem, or even in the same stanza. With the skilful manipulation of the internal pause, and by avoiding the frequent use of end-stopped lines, the practitioner of this form can give a greater degree of flexibility and naturalness to his lines, so as to bring them as close as possible to the intonation and rhythms of natural speech. However, even the poet of the “Azad Nazm” is careful to preserve the inner rhythm and cadence of his verse and obeys the laws of metre, without which his poem may forfeit its claim to be classed as poetry. It may not be out of place to mention that despite the outstanding achievement of “free verse” poems in the hands of poets like N. M. Rahid and Meeraji, the traditional kind of mum continues to delight the readers with the incantation of its musical measures.
The nazm differs from the ghazal in another important way. The ghazal prides itself, among other things, on the detachability and completeness of its individual verses, which retain their sense and effectiveness even when divorced from their context in the poem. The verses are not bound by the law of unity and consistency. The poet of the ghazal is at liberty to talk about love in the first verse, death in the second, envy in the third, mysticism in the fourth, and so on. Such is not the case with the nazm which owes its strength and identity to the logical evolution of thought and theme. A nazm must have a controlling thought or idea, discussed, developed and concluded, with due regard to the laws of poetic composition. That’s why a nazm, as against the ghazal, always carries a title summing up its central theme The various units of the nazm, besides subserving the need of the central thought, must be mutually interlinked so as to contribute to the forward movement of narration which should culminate in an aesthetically satisfying close. And this reminds us of the etymological meaning of nazm an Arabic tern implying a stringing together of pearls or an artistic ordering of word and lines.
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