Poem: I Can Still See You – Paul Celan

Paul Celan


Paul Celan (1920-1970) is a major German-language poet of the post World War II era. Here is a short poem from his collection Lichtzwang (1970)

I Can Still See You

I can still see you: an echo
that can be groped towards with antenna
words, on the ridge of

Your face quietly shies
when suddenly
there is lamplike brightness
inside me, just at the point
where most painfully one says, never.



Poem: In You The Earth – Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) was a titan of Latin American poetry.  He commands great influence not only among the Spanish speaking countries but throughout the world of poetry. This poem is an example of the latter from his second collection titled “The Captain’s Verses”.

Translated from the Spanish by Donald D. Walsh.


at times,
tiny and naked,
it seems
as though you would fit
in one of my hands,
as though I’ll clasp you like this
and carry you to my mouth,
my feet touch your feet and my mouth your lips:
you have grown,
your shoulders rise like two hills,
your breasts wander over my breast,
my arm scarcely manages to encircle the thin
new-moon line of your waist:
in love you have loosened yourself like sea water:
I can scarcely measure the sky’s most spacious eyes
and I lean down to your mouth to kiss the earth.

Poem: Body of a Woman – Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) was a titan of Latin American poetry.  He commands great influence not only among the Spanish speaking countries but throughout the world of poetry. He is known for writing surrealist poems, poems about history and blissful love poems. This poem is an example of the latter from his second collection titled “Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair”

Translated from the Spanish by W.S. Merwin

Body of a Woman

Body of a woman, white hills, white thighs,
you look like a world, lying in surrender.
My rough peasant’s body digs in you
and makes the son leap from the depth of the earth.

I was alone like a tunnel. The birds fled from me,
and night swamped me with its crushing invasion.
To survive myself I forged you like a weapon,
like an arrow in my bow, a stone in my sling.

But the hour of vengeance falls, and I love you.
Body of skin, of moss, of eager and firm milk.
Oh the goblets of the breast! Oh the eyes of absence!
Oh the roses of the pubis! Oh your voice, slow and sad!

Body of my woman, I will persist in your grace.
My thirst, my boundless desire, my shifting road!
Dark river-beds where the eternal thirst flows
and weariness follows, and the infinite ache.

Poem: Before You Came – Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Faiz Ahmed Faiz

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.


Poem: My Countrymen – Khalil Gibran

Khalil Gibran

Here is a famous philippic of a poem by Lebanese-American poet, painter, novelist and philosopher Khalil Gibran (1883-1931) who is usually known among the Western readers for his philosophical work of fiction “The Prophet”.

Khalil Gibran wrote the scathing damnation to shake his people out of the conformist slumber and to exhort them to rise to the occasion and play their part in changing the fate of their nation. This is a complain of a bitter heart who is extremely sad at having to see his people in the clutches of tyranny and oppression.

Translated from the Arabic by Anthony Riscallah Ferris.

My Countrymen

What do you seek, my countrymen?
Do you desire that I build for you gorgeous palaces,
Decorated with words of empty meaning or temples roofed with dreams? Or
Do you command me to destroy what the liars and tyrants have built?

Speak your insane wish!
What is it you would have me do my countrymen?
I have sung for you, but you did not dance;
I have wept before you, but you did not cry.
Shall I sing and weep at the same time?

I have called you in the silence of the night to
Point out the glory of the moon and the dignity of the stars,
But you startled from your slumber and
Clutched your swords in fear,
Crying “Where is the enemy? We must kill Him first!”
At morning-tide when the enemy came, I called to you again,
But now you did not wake from your slumber,
For you were locked in fear, wrestling with
The processions of spectres in your dreams.

I have loved you, my countrymen, but
My love for you is painful to me and useless to you;
And today I hate you.
I have cried over your humiliation and submission, and
My tears streamed like crystalline,
But could not sear away your stagnant weakness;
Yet they removed the veil from my eyes.

My tears have never reached your petrified hearts, but they
Cleansed the darkness from my inner self.
Today I am mocking at your suffering…

What do you desire, my countrymen?
Do you wish for me to show you the ghost of your
Countenance on the face of still water?
Come, now, and see how ugly you are!

What is it that you seek, my countrymen?
What ask you from life, who does not any longer count you
Among her children?

Knowledge is a light, enriching the warmth of life,
And all may partake who seek it out;
But you, my countrymen, seek out darkness and flee the light

These are the sections of the poem I like the most.  To read the full poem in original format click HERE.

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

ترے غم کو جاں کی تلاش تھی ترے جاں نثار چلے گۓ
تری رہ میں کرتے تھے سر طلب، سرِ رہگزار چلے گۓ

تری کج ادائ سے ہار کے شبِ انتظار چلی گئ
مرے ضبطِ حال سے رُوٹھ کر مرے غم گسار چلے گۓ

نہ سوالِ وصل، نہ عرضِ غم، نہ حکایتیں نہ شکایتیں
ترے عہد میں دلِ زار کے سب اختیار چلے گۓ

یہ ہمیں تھے جن کے لباس پر سرِ رہ سیاہی لکھی گئ
یہی داغ تھے جو سجا کے ہم سرِ بزمِ یار چلے گۓ

نہ رہا جنونِ رخِ وفا، یہ رسن یہ دار کرو گے کیا
جنہیں جرمِ عشق پہ ناز تھا وہ گنہگار چلے گۓ

فیض احمد فیض

آج بازار میں پا بجولاں چلو

چشمِ نم، جانِ شوریدہ کافی نہیں
تہمتِ عشقِ پوشیدہ کافی نہیں
آج بازار میں پا بجولاں چلو

دست افشاں چلو، مست و رقصاں چلو
خاک بر سر چلو، خوں بداماں چلو
راہ تکتا ہے سب شہرِ جاناں چلو

حاکمِ شہر بھی، مجمعِ عام بھی
تیرِ الزام بھی، سنگِ دشنام بھی
صبحِ ناشاد بھی، روزِ ناکام بھی

ان کا دم ساز اپنے سوا کون ہے
شہرِ جاناں میں اب با صفا کون ہے
دستِ قاتل کے شایاں رہا کون ہے

رختِ دل باندھ لو دل فگارو چلو
پھر ہمیں قتل ہو آئیں یارو چلو

فیض احمد فیض

ہم جو تاریک راہوں میں مارے گۓ

(ایتھل اور جولیس روزنبرگ کے خطوط سے متاثر ہو کر لکھی گئ)

تیرے ہونٹوں کے پھولوں کی چاہت میں ہم
دار کی خشک ٹہنی پہ وارے گۓ
تیرے ہاتھوں کی شمعوں کی حسرت میں ہم
نیم تاریک راہوں میں مارے گۓ

سُولیوں پر ہمارے لبوں سے پرے
تیرے ہونٹوں کی لالی لپکتی رہی
تیری زلفوں کی مستی برستی رہی
تیرے ہاتھوں کی چاندی دمکتی رہی

جب گُھلی تیری راہوں میں شامِ ستم
ہم چلے آۓ، لاۓ جہاں تک قدم
لب پہ حرفِ غزل، دل میں قندیلِ غم
اپنا غم تھا گواہی ترے حسن کی
دیکھ قایٔم رے اس گواہی پہ ہم
ہم جو تاریک راہوں میں مارے گۓ

نارسائ اگر اپنی تقدیر تھی
تیری الفت تو اپنی ہی تدبیر تھی
کس کو شکوہ ہے گر شوق کے سلسلے
ہجر کی قتل گاہوں سے جا ملے

قتل گاہوں سے چن کر ہمارے عَلم
اور نکلیں گے عُشّاق کے قافلے
جن کی راہِ طلب سے ہمارے قدم
مختصر کر چلے درد کے فاصلے

کر چلے جن کی خاطر جہاں گیر ہم
جاں گنوا کے تری دلبری کا بھرم
ہم جو تاریک راہوں میں مارے گۓ

فیض احمد فیض


بہار آئ تو جیسے یکبار
لوٹ آۓ ہیں پھر عدم سے
وہ خواب سارے، شباب سارے
جو تیرے ہنٹوں پہ مر مٹے تھے
جو مٹ کے ہر بار پھر جۓ تھے
نکھر گۓ ہیں گلاب سارے
جو تیری یادوں سے مشکبو ہیں
جو تیرے عشاق کا لہو ہیں
ابل پڑے ہیں عذاب سارے
ملالِ احوالِ دوستاں بھی
خمارِ آغوشِ مہ وشاں بھی
غبارِخاطر کے باب سارے
ترے ہمارے
سوال سارے، جواب سارے
بہار آئ تو کھل گۓ ہیں
نۓ سرے سے حساب سارے

فیض احمد فیض