Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984) occupies a central place in the canon of modern Urdu poetry. He is undoubtedly the best poet in terms of craft and creativity that Urdu has produced after Allama Iqbal. He was a leftist intellectual, an academic, and a revolutionary poet who was gaoled by the state of Pakistan for his political activism.
Here is one of his poems in English translation which Southbank Centre selected as one of the 50 best modern love poems from all over the world.
Translated from Urdu in collaboration with the poet by Naomi Lazard.
Before You Came
Before you came things were just what they were:
the road precisely a road, the horizon fixed,
the limit of what could be seen,
a glass of wine was no more than a glass of wine.
With you the world took on the spectrum
radiating from my heart: your eyes gold
as they open to me, slate the color
that falls each time I lost all hope.
With your advent roses burst into flame:
you were the artist of dried-up leaves, sorceress
who flicked her wrist to change dust into soot.
You lacquered the night black.
As for the sky, the road, the cup of wine:
one was my tear-drenched shirt,
the other an aching nerve,
the third a mirror that never reflected the same thing.
Now you are here again—stay with me.
This time things will fall into place;
the road can be the road,
the sky nothing but sky;
the glass of wine, as it should be, the glass of wine.