Poetry in Translation II: Iqbal

by Rafiq Kathwari


After Iqbal

O Himalaya, tell of that time when man first lay
in your lap. O let me imagine that dawn
unstained by red. Run backward, circle of
day and night, ancient eras a moment in your lifetime.
You are a poem whose first verse is the sky.
Your bright turbans dazzle the Pleiades.
Lightning across your peaks sends black tents wandering
above the valley. The wind polishes the trembling mirrors
at your hem. Streams cascade down your forehead,
your cheeks quiver. As morning air cradles intoxicated
roses and the leaves are silenced by the rose-gatherer's wrists,
so speech is silenced in the roar of falling water.

Mohammed Iqbal (1877 -1938) one of the two great South Asian poets of the 20th Century (the other was Faiz Ahmed Faiz) advocated ceaseless endeavor, writing with equal ease in Persian, Urdu, and English. He was knighted by the British but is rarely called Sir Mohammed.

Translated from the Urdu by Rafiq Kathwari, guest poet at 3Quarks Daily.