Poetry in Translation


By Mohammad Iqbal

Ah! Cradle of a civilization

tomb of Muslim culture —

mole on the cheek of the sea

guide in a desert of water,

tell me your story, your sorrow —

show me the glory of ancient days.

I weep tears of blood at the distant din

of Bedouins for whom the sea was a playground,

in whose fervent swords lightning flashed—

they freed mankind from fantasy

shook the earth

beneath the throne of pashas,

chanting, “God is Great.”

Is that chanting forever silent

though its echo still delights?

Just as Saadi,

the nightingale of Shiraz,

wailed when Baghdad was sacked

and just as Ibn-e-Badrun’s heart was broken

when the heavens scattered the wealth

of Granada to the winds

and just as Daag sobbed tears of blood

when Delhi, his beloved

Shahjahanabad, was razed —‑

now destiny has directed Iqbal,

a speck of dust in the wake of lost caravans,

to repaint your canvas with sighs,

carry your gift to India and make her sigh too

at waves sobbing forever on your rocky shores

relating the story of ruins.

Translated, from the original Urdu, by Rafiq Kathwari / @brownpundit