Urdu English Poetry Biography
Urdu poetry is based on a system of measure—it is a quantitative expression and its form is very rigid. The usual measures are nine, or more commonly eighteen, but by various permutation and combinations, they number over 800. The several forms of Urdu poetry include:
• qasida or ode of praise
• masnavi or long reflective poem and tale in verse
• marsia or elegy
• qit’a or fragment, a four line quatrain
• ruba’i or a quatrain with specific rhyme and topic
• ghazal , a lyrical poem of six to 26 lines, often longer; the word gghazalg is derived from, Arabic word, “taghazzul,” or gconversation with ladiesg or expression of love for women. The word ghazal also means the agonized cry of the gazelle. The literal meaning of ghazalg is to talk to women or to talk about them or to express love to them through the description of the condition of heart.
Whereas many poets have specialized in the specific art of writing one of the above types, most have attempted ghazal, the most popular form and those whose fame reached the greatest heights have been poets of ghazal. Since each verse of a ghazal is an independent segment and a complete description of the topic (though there may be a chain of verses with the same theme), it requires a great deal of ability to express in the fewest words the most complex emotions. Also, since the topic of ghazal is not new and just about everyone in his or her lifetime experiences affection towards the opposite sex, the style of expression for the ghazal has to be unique to make any impact. As a result, it is easy to write a common verse but almost a monumental task to create a unique one. ªhazal became the most popular form of Persian and Urdu poetry while qasida was popular in Arabic poetry. ²asida finds its roots in tribal sentiments. The rise of Islam saw a decline in the tribal structure of the communities and more sophisticated, livelier expressions of society, the lover and the beloved became the accepted themes of poetry. That remains true today, though in its transition many thoughts of mysticism have also surfaced. The ghazal also maintains a rather platonic sense as well; juxtaposed to corporeal love, the spiritual love expressed in Urdu ghazal coexists with the mundane. Understanding an Urdu ghazal can be a daunting task for many, particularly those who are removed from the Indo-Persian and Arabic scene. The forces of images, the dreams and the strength of analogies combined with subtleties of the words as used colloquially, create the mood of the ghazal, making it almost impossible to translate the thoughts into another language, particularly the English language, which though extremely rich in vocabulary and thought, remains inadequate in expressing the nuances of a distant culture and language. [Converse will be true if one were to translate Shakespeare in Urdu.] All of this combined with extreme brevity, as a two line verse, makes it that much more difficult to understand and interpret. The poetry of Ghalib, the topic of this book, is a classical example. gUnderstanding Ghalibg can well be an oxymoron.