For a Political Leader (Mahatma Gandhi)
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.
keh thehare ajnabi itni mudaraton ke bad
Phir banenge ashna kitni mulaqaton ke bad
Will we who remain strangers after all kindnesses are over
Become familiar after all these meetings are over?
How many seasons of rain will have to fall over
Scarred leaves before their greenness comes unbloodied to mind?
The instant when pain of love ceased brought only numbness.
Mornings are merciless after the merciful nights are over.
How I wanted, but how my fractured heart did not allow,
Flirtatious complaints after the supplications were over.
And what you came so willing to give up all for, Faiz,
Was utterly unvoiced when all the talking was over.
for a Soldier
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.
Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984)
was the best loved Urdu poet of the period
after World War II. Employing the diction,
and often the meters, of an elaborate
classical poetic tradition to address
contemporary concerns that include his
political condition, Faiz's work was widely
read in Pakistan and in India from the
time of its first publication. During
his lifetime his reputation spread abroad
and in recent years translations by the
late Agha Shahid Ali and others have generated
a following for the poet in the English-speaking
world. More information, including sound
files of Faiz reciting his own poems,
can be found at www.faiz.com.
McCord's work has
apeared in the Yale
and Paris reviews, Grand Street,
Modern Poetry in Translation and
other magazines. Some of his translations
from the 19th century Urdu poet Ghalib,
who was himself an important influence
on Faiz, can be found at: www.conjunctions.com/webcon/ghalib.htm.