Selected Couplets: Abdul Qadir Bedil Dehlavi

A short introduction of the poet:

Mirza Abdul Qadir Bedil (1642-1720) popularly known as Bedil Dehlavi was a poet of the Indian school of Persian poetry. Ethnically an Uzbek (some say Hazara), his ancestors lived in what is now Afghanistan. Bedil was either born in India or migrated soon with his family and lived all his life under the tutelage of the Mughal dynasty.

A portrait of Bedil

Bedil wrote in typical Indian style of the day, a style that was characterized by complex thoughts expressed in the most innovative metaphor and intricate imagery, many a time employing double entendres, as opposed to the simplicity and crispness of Irani school of Persian poetry.

He is the most important Persian language poet of the Indian school till Sir Muhammad Iqbal who himself has lauded Bedil as “perhaps the best poet-philosopher India has produced since the times of Shanker Acharya”.

Bedil is known to have been the greatest inspiration behind Mirza Ghalib so much so that Ghalib’s own poetry from the early stage was heavily influenced by Bedil’s style.

Here is the English translation of a selection of Bedil’s couplets chosen from his ghazals.

Selected Couplets

1) World’s beauty and coarseness was never sketched
But the dark always subdued the bright hues

2) A heart’s disquiet stirred the desert’s sands into wine’s swelling wave
Thus did your alluring eye seductively sacrifice love’s blood

3) From my ashes the world’s goblet is astir
What ardent eye with such rupture burned me?

4) If Bedil’s heart is not frenzy’s pupil
What dressed him in the habit of tatters?

5) The silence of those lips bore with virtue a demand
I relinquished my heart and never said, I acquiesce

6) For too long the heart’s inclination tied me
With a drop of blood I was painted whole

7) I read in the wave’s fickle, delicate form
The preface of the sea, the wind’s footprint

8) A delicate act is learning the secrets of love
The pen slips in scribing the word of error

9) Do not regard with disdain the afflicted Bedil
Whose wet eyes guard love’s virtue

10) Bide the judge’s stone of tyranny O cup
Of this enemy of pleasure God will break the neck

11) But for her coquettish gaze wrapped in its veiling
Of all needs of concealment my Laila was free

12) From the happy designation draw solicitude yet
Not every mirror held up deserved the vision

13) In the world cast into stormy intoxication by your eyes
My self abandonment but a ripple in the wine

14) Alas for the heart which in the moment of submission
The indifference of the one it sought redress from, crushed

15) In parting I draw breath still, don’t place the mirror before me
A violation this self presence is in separation from the beloved

16) The tumultuous spring of oblivion that is the world
Two flowers full unvaried has seldom created

17) It is the time to mourn the vulnerability of love
The flame that in my soul no kindling found and was extinguished

18) Who will beseech those beautiful and delicate hands to shed my blood
I knocked on the door of patience till a spring of henna’s color arrived

19) The flickering outline of my being behind the veil
The mirror of your thought made manifest

20) Upon need at a stranger’s door prostrate
But raise not your solicitous gaze to a familiar face

21) Such a wretchedness is this land, where the one forlorn
Even when a martyr, cannot be so termed

22) Bedil in disclosing the lowly and the fair
The forehead’s tablet no mirror can best

23) Hand-wringing may only cleanse the pollution of two worlds
Freedom is to rid one of even a purity akin to the pearl’s

24) If the enchantment of your promise such flavor has
We shall find a leisure unbounded by a tomorrow

25) In my oblivion I traversed many a house of beauty
Even a false step in your desire became the masterstroke of Behzad

26) Alas that in the assembly of marvelous examples
Before none her vision was disrobed

27) Lust may together crush a thousand rose and tulip
Your palms yet show the taint of henna never applied

28) I said, of my connection with existence what to make
The free of spirit answered, break!

29) A thousand blessings that from the grace of fidelity’s work
My bloodstained tears painted your feet like henna

30) In this desolation of frenzy, the caravan, the camel, the Beloved’s litter
All of it the dust of a peal of departure bells I well know

31) For ages my beloved came into my embrace veiled
Yet another one of her coquetries that I, Bedil, well know

32) Your footprint gives out the redolence of spring
Return that i may gather flowers with my forehead prostrated

33) The beautiful dream of existence upon me, oblivious I lie, but know
Anyone speaking your name my quiescence breaks

34) Whither false step, to save fidelity unimpeached
I lift the burden of both worlds and on my shoulders place

35) Bedil do not ask of me the enchantment of hope’s plenitude
I stretched the promise of today onto tomorrow’s shore

36) That my blood for a hundred doomsdays does not call out
In the shade of your eyelashes was I martyred

37) Me and my lover together painting an embrace
I desire from the great artist one such work

38) In the desert of fancy there are no fixed points
To find our bearings no need have we

39) I give myself to her memory until she may disremember
In a tribute to indifference I have composed a line

40) From indifference to my fancy, at myself I marvel
Did the page refuse the script, or I not write

41) Refrain from all greed Bedil, if it is dignity you seek
These two images no mirror together reflects

42) Only the word heard through the veil, no audience with the heart had I
How to disclose what I did not see, the mirror-maker you should ask

43) The taint of henna is vulnerable to your hand-wringing
Spilling a lover’s blood is no crime, innocence you bear no guilt

Translated by Musharraf Ali Farooqi from the Urdu prose rendition of Afzal Ahmed Syed.

Credits: Selected She’rs: Mirza Abdul Qadir Bedil, The Annual of Urdu Studies , No.27

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