Poetry in Translation: Agha Shahid Ali and I do two couplets by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

by S. Abbas Raza

Once again, I present my own translation of two lovely couplets by Faiz Ahmed Faiz side by side with a translation of the same by the late Agha Shahid Ali. I do this not to criticize Shahid's translation in any way but actually to pay tribute to him as well as to Faiz and to show how very different translations can both, I hope, work. I have indulged in this sort of exercise before. You may see that previous effort here. This time, my translation is deliberately not as literal as it could be (although more so than Shahid's) and I have tried to retain the rhyme scheme and even, to some extent, the meter of the original Urdu. The original has no title, by the way (it just says “Couplets”), and Shahid and I have both made up our own. (My translation on the left; Shahid's on the right.)

006AS IF

Last night my heart recovered a lost memory of you,
As if a desolate place had impetuously bloomed,

As if a moist breeze had washed over a parched desert,
As if a man, suffering, had a sudden peace assumed.

And here is an informal Urdu transliteration as well as the original:


Raat yoon dil mein teree khoee hoee yaad aaee
Jaisay veeranay mein chupkay say bahaar aajaaey

Jaisay sehraaon mein hollay say chalay baad-e-naseem
Jaisay beemar ko bay-wajah qaraar aajaaey

I await suggestions for improvement from my Urdu-speaking (and other) readers!