The Fourth Era of Āb-e ḥayāt:
SAYYID INSHĀʾALLĀH ḲHĀN
#247# With the pen-name of Inshā, and the name of Sayyid Inshāʾallāh Ḳhān, he was the son of Ḥakīm Mīr Māshāʾallāh Ḳhān.a Although his family background made him a well-known and respected figure, his own fame illumined his father's name--or rather, that of his whole family--with a new renown. His ancestors came to India from noble Najaf, and some say that they are descended from the Sayyids of authentic lineage of Kashmir--that they came there at some point from Samarqand. Then they came and settled in Delhi. Gradually they gained entry into court circles, and some of them had their honor proclaimed by salutes on large and small drums. By family profession Mīr Māshāʾallāh Ḳhān was a physician at the royal court, and was enrolled among the nobility. Their family virtues and the good character of their house were respected by all the good families of Delhi and Lucknow. As a trivial example, they had the clothing of the women of the family washed at home, or else burned it; they didn't give it to a washerman, so that the women's clothes would never be in the hands of an unrelated man.
In the time of the decline of the Chaghatai [=Mughal] empire, Mīr Māshāʾallāh Ḳhān had to go to Murshidabad; there too he was treated with honor and respect. And in the style in which sons of elite families were educated in the old days, he made Sayyid Inshā too a master of all the necessary arts and sciences. We can give other examples of a father's educating his dear son so beautifully in this way--but what other examples can we find of the power of the son's nature, which he had brought with him into the world? When this promising new sapling emerged from the garden of education, in every fiber different types of twigs, leaves, flowers, #248# and fruit were latent--in such a way that wherever he settled, he flourished and bore fruit according to the local climate. Few such creative and brilliant men can have been born in India. If he had turned his attention toward any particular art or science, for centuries he would have been regarded as unique in his time. His nature was a primary substance that could assume every sort of form. Despite all this, he had so much livelinessb that, like quicksilver, he never stayed for long in one place. Thus his Complete Works bears witness to all these matters. His temperament did not incline toward his ancestral profession: like a lion, he never ate prey that others had killed. But since such varied, colorful ideas cannot subsist in any other art except poetry, he leaned toward poetry, for which he had an innate affinity. When he entered this path too he found his own way--one different from anyone else's.
He didn't receive correction from anyone. In the beginning, he showed his poetry to his father. The truth is that the path of poetry is unique in the world. For people whose minds are sluggish, an ustad's labor is wasted. But remember that to the extent that the beginner is sharp and creative, to that extent he is in need of an ustad--just like a promising colt, whose real qualities only show when he has been trained under the whip of an expert rider. Otherwise, he flails around in a disorderly way--and in fact is spoiled. In the same way, if a sharp and youthful nature does not come beneath a powerful ustad's pen, it loses its way. Thus judges of poetry have found this exact fault in ʿUrfī's poetry.
To make a long story short, when general devastation took place in India, Sayyid Inshā came from Murshidabad to Delhi. At that time the court of Delhi was a crumbling tomb, and its hereditary occupant was the emperor Shāh ʿĀlam. The emperor was himself a poet. Whether because of his poetic appreciation or because of the kindness that emperors ought to show to their hereditary servants--a kindness that was a special trait of the house of Timur--the emperor flung over this young man not merely a robe of honor, but the mantle of his own favor. Sayyid Inshā was enrolled among the courtiers. Thus along with his verses, he repeatedly overwhelmed the gatherings by scattering the flowers of anecdotes and jokes #249# from his saffron-garden. Things [ʿālam] came to the point that Shāh ʿĀlam didn't wish to be separated from him for a moment.
Sayyid Inshā and his encounters with the people of Delhi: In Delhi at that time there were no people like Saudā and Mīr. But there were elderly, venerable lovers of poetry who remembered these elders. For example, there were people like Ḥakīm Ṡanāʾullāh Ḳhān Firāq, a pupil of Mīr Dard; Ḥakīm Qudratullāh Ḳhān Qāsim, a pupil of Ḳhvājah Mīr Dard and Shāh Hidāyat; Miyāñ Shikebā, a pupil of Mīr; and Mirzā ʿAz̤īm Beg 'ʿAz̤īm', a pupil of Saudā; Mīr Qamar ud-Dīn 'Minnat', the father of Mīr Mamnūn and a resident of Sonipat; Shaiḳh Valīullāh 'Muḥib'c; and so on--gentlemen who had a hereditary position of esteem at the royal court. And everyone, great and small, regarded them respectfully. Although these people may have been well-educated, and a number of them may have been accomplished in their respective arts, where was that breadth of achievement? And even if they had that breadth, the poor ancient things were like slaves of the old ways. How could they summon up that liveliness of temperament, that quickness of language, that charm of new creation, that cleverness of invention? In short, envy too is a quality of the pupils of God [i.e., poets]. Seeing a youth far from home, alone and friendless, these venerable long-practiced elders might perhaps have made some critical remarks against him. Or perhaps his poetry was not esteemed in the mushairah as highly as his ambition desired. In any case, Sayyid Inshā suspected that all the Delhi people were united in opposition to him.
The encounter with Mirzā ʿAz̤īm Beg: Although these venerable elders were highly practiced, Sayyid Inshā was a young eagle--whose breast was filled with the power of the arts and sciences, and whose wings of swiftness and brilliance carried him away. How would he have had any regard for anyone? God knows what the two sides must have said to each other orally. But in the concluding verses of their ghazals, a boastful banter began to take place. And along with this, the eyeglasses of nit-picking were put on. Among them, Mirzā ʿAz̤īm Beg's head had been raised to a very lofty level by his claim to be Saudā's pupil, and by his pride in his long practice. He had only a modicum of knowledge, but he called himself #250# the Ṣāʾib of India, and in encounters especially he advanced boldly before everyone else. Thus he came one day to Mīr Māshāʾallāh Ḳhān and recited a ghazal that was in the meter rajaz. But through his ignorance, some verses had fallen into the meter ramal. Sayyid Inshā too was present. He realized what had happened. He praised the ghazal beyond all measure, and insisted, 'Mirzā Sahib, you should definitely recite it in the mushairah'. This person with great claims of accomplishment, who was unaware of the pith of the matter, recited the ghazal before the whole mushairah.d Then and there Sayyid Inshā demanded that he scan it--and then the poor thing experienced what he was destined to experience, and Inshā made mincemeat out of him, and the rest as well. No one even dared to breathe. Inshā also read a quintain of which the opening stanza was,
/If nowadays, oh Breeze, you should blow in the mushairah
Please tell ʿAz̤īm to walk carefully
Let him not cross his boundary lines so much
For last night my friend went to read ghazal after ghazal--
He started in the meter of rajaz, and went along in the meter of ramal/.
Although Mirzā ʿAz̤īm Beg too went home and, to the extent that he was able, expressed the fever of his heart in exactly the pattern of this quintain, it was a case of 'making a fist after the fight'. By way of a selection, I record some stanzas of it. Because other stanzas are so devoid of pleasure and so faulty that they are not even fit to be written down. Mirzā ʿAz̤īm Beg says, [seven stanzas #251# of a quintain, of which the fifth and sixth are translated]:
/You couldn't distinguish between metricalness and meaning
From the change in meter [baḥr] you plunged into the ocean [baḥr] of happiness
It is bright like the sun, this fact, from west to east
The most powerful, showing his power, sometimes falls like lightning--
How can a child fall, when it crawls on its knees?/
/Because of your petty-mindedness, your only desire
Is to become known among the people by fighting battles of poetry
I feel ashamed, my friend, of engaging in disputation
Don't be so narrow in enthusiasm like a fountain--
Which, with a handful of water, springs up a yard high/.
Nowe the bird of Sayyid Inshā's pride began to soar even higher. Every ghazal began to boil with themes of boastfulness. It went so far that he said, 'My poetry and these people's are as different as the Word of God and the [false] revelation concocted by Musailamah'.
Even the king heard about it: The king too used to send his ghazals to the mushairah, and what the poetry of kings #252# is like--well, that's clear. Sayyid Inshā petitioned before the king that such-and-such individuals laughed at the royal ghazals and made fun of them. The king, although he had every kind of power over these old household servants, did no more than cease to send his ghazals to the mushairah. The others found out about it also. They were very unhappy. For after this, when the next mushairahf took place, people girded up their loins and came ready for battle. And Valīullāh 'Muḥib' read this verse-set:
/The poets' quarrel ought to be settled in the poets' gathering
And before such a gentleman of dignity [as the chief of the mushairah]
Is it wise that such a dispute should reach
The presence of Akbar himself, or the emperor Jahāngīr?/
Mirzā ʿAz̤īm Beg said, 'My friend, in making my presentation, I content myself with a verse by my ustad [Saudā], which I have just now used for an incorporation:
/ʿAz̤īm, although composing verses has always been my pursuit
To dispute with everyone is not a cause for pride for me
I may or may not have a standing among some low-class dialect poets [khaṇḍ go]
I've given my dignity to those in whose eyes I'm a lightweight--
Since I've loaded my burden on donkeys, I feel very free!/'
Against a river in flood, what power did straws and grasses have? Sayyid Inshā produced a boastful ghazal; he recited it--and its every verse struck the listeners' hearts like a cannonball:
/Plato is a schoolboy, before me
How could Aristotle have the face to make a sound, before me?
What the hell is the fort of Farīdūn worth, before me?
The revolving dome of the sky trembles before me
The high-flying birds, like the pigeon,
Merely cry weakly, 'Coo-coo!' before me
Look at his face--even the drummer of the thunder-cloud
Plays his drum slow and low before me
I am so awesomely powerful that the whole group of philosophers
Twitter 'Cheep-cheep!' like birds before me
#253# My pen asks what it should express--
Themes come down like rolling clouds before me
Ḳhusrau Parvez would present himself humbly to salute me
Shīrīn would come adoringly before me
How could the tresses of the [longest] night Yaldā come and frighten me
The White Dev of the morning is like a nit before me!
That serpent of the sky called Kahkashān
How could it dare try any twists and turns, and hiss before me?/
After him, the candle came before Ḥakīm Mīr Qudratullāh Ḳhān Qāsim. He said merely, 'Sayyid Sahib, please just take a look at this "revelation" also'. The chief of the mushairahg imagined that he had probably composed a satire against Sayyid Inshā; he feared that the mutual hostility among people of good family might get out of hand. Therefore he at once rose, intending to reconcile the two of them. Sayyid Inshā too showed his traditional family courtesy and his own lofty spirit: rising, he embraced the Ḥakīm Sahib and said, 'Hazrat, Ḥakīm Sahib, you are like a cousin to me; and even on top of this, you are a man of learning and greatness. May dust be in my mouth--why, how could I even conceive of speaking sarcastically about you! Although indeed I complain about Mirzā ʿAz̤īm Beg, that he always, for no reason, behaves arrogantly: not to speak of praising anyone at all, he doesn't even nod his head at verses! And after all, on what grounds?' In short, the matter ended with a reconciliation among them all.
The affectionate talk between Sayyid Inshā and the king: In Delhi, although at that time the king was only a chess-piece king--so much so that the villainous Ġhulām Qādir stole not only his wealth and valuables, but even the coin of his vision--Sayyid Inshā achieved his own purposes in a thousand ways. For example, on Thursdays, in the midst of conversation he would suddenly stop, and then say, 'My Lord and Guide, may this slave have permission to depart?' The king would reply, 'Well, is everything all right? Where to?' He replied, 'Your Excellency, today is Thursday. This slave would go to Nabī Karīm. It is the court of the Ruler of the True Faith and the World--this slave would make a petition.' Shāh ʿĀlam would say with respect, 'Yes, yes, my friend, you certainly ought to do so. Sayyid Inshāʾallāh Ḳhān, #254# make a prayer for us as well.' He petitioned, 'Your Excellency, what else does this slave long for? I want only to attain the true faith--and some worldly benefit as well.' Having said this, he again fell silent. The king began to talk of something else. After a moment, he again said, 'My Lord and Guide, once again please permit this slave to depart'. The king said, 'Why my friend, Mīr Inshāʾallāh Ḳhān, have you not gone yet?' He would say, 'Your Excellency, how can this slave go empty-handed into the court of the exalted king? Please kindly give me something with which to make an offering, or at least light a lamp.' The king would say, 'Yes, my friend, very proper, very proper! I had entirely forgotten.' He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out some rupees and handed them over. Mīr Inshāʾallāh Ḳhān took them and, with a few sentences of gratitude, again said, 'Your Excellency, if the auspicious hand were to enter the other pocket, your humble servant's purpose would be served--for I have to come back from there also'. The king said, 'Yes, yes, my friend, you're right, you're right, bring back at least a few dates and give them to somebody. How else will your children understand where you've been today?' With these clever phrases his purpose was served--but for how long? Finally his heart was alienated from Delhi.
Sayyid Inshā reached Lucknow: In Lucknow, the generous deeds of Āṣif ud-Daulah had put the name of Ḥātim to rest. And there the people too so ardently sought out accomplishment that anyone who left Delhi never came back. Thus he set out in that direction. The moment he reached there, through the force of his learning and greatness, and through the tumult of his accomplishment, he arranged such a cannon-battery that all the mushairahs reverberated. And due to his family's long service, he reached the court of Mirzā Sulaimān Shikoh. Mirzā Sulaimān Shikoh was the son of Shāh ʿĀlam; it was incumbent upon him to show kindness to the longtime servants of his elders. Moreover, he was a poet too; accordingly, in addition to the other Delhi people, the poets too used to gather morning and night at his place. Time had already turned the page of Saudā, Mīr Ẓāḥik, Mīr Soz, and so on. There were gatherings of poets and judges of poetry like Muṣḥafī, Jurʾat, Mirzā Qatīl, and so on. The gathering adorned by such bouquets from the garden of eloquence--how colorful it must all have been! My heart wanted me to lay out a garden of their words. But a number of the flowers are so entangled with the thorns of obscenity, that they keep ripping the paper into shreds. Thus I fear to spread them out on the page.
Formerly Mirzā Sulaimān Shikoh used to take correction from Muṣḥafī. When Sayyid Inshā arrived, Muṣḥafī's #255# muṣḥaf [=book] was placed on the shelf. I've heard from the elders, and the style of his poetry also reveals, that the prince's first ghazal from his volume, and a number of other ghazals too, were corrected--or composed--by the esteemed Sayyid. Thus the very first opening verse sheds light on the point:
/I have now put my heart into the ocean of love
'And I put my trust in God the Most High'/
Because Sayyid Inshā was a true master of such incorporations [as the famous Arabic phrase in the second line].
Ḳhān-e ʿAllāmah: Although Sayyid Inshā was honored and esteemed in the courts of the prince and all the nobles and aristocrats, the eagle of high ambition never ceases to try its wings. There was a person there called Tafażżul Ḥusain Ḳhān,h and the title of 'ʿAllāmah' [=Great Knower]--if it has been universally accorded to anyone after Abuʾl Faẓl and Saʿdullāh Ḳhān Shāhjahānīi, it has been accorded only to him. Because of his wisdom and brilliance of strategy, he was on the one hand trusted by the English government, and on the other hand a pillar of the dominion of Lucknow, and an intimate advisor of Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān. His companionship was a compendium of learning and accomplishment.
Sayyid Inshā reaches the court of Lucknow: Sayyid Inshā used to go to see him; Ḳhān-e ʿAllāmah too, out of regard for his worth and family, gave Sayyid Inshā a place in his esteem, and reflected on how to find him some suitable opportunity. One day in the enthusiasm of speaking, Sayyid Inshā used a word that had two meanings, but in Urdu its meaning was one that was not fit to be mentioned in such gatherings. Since Inshā himself was an Aristotle at judging temperaments, he did use that word--but understanding the Ḳhān's look, he said: 'In the Marwari language, that means "fool"'. Ḳhān-e ʿAllāmah thought for a bit, then said, 'Well, Ḳhān Sahib! Now I've realized your style; something will be done quickly, if God Most High wills.' The very next day he mentioned to Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān the high lineage and personal accomplishments of Sayyid Inshā, and said, 'To have him #256# in your company would be better than having disquisitions on logic'. When the Navab heard this, he grew eager. The next day the Ḳhān Sahib took Sayyid Inshā along. And as soon as he presented himself in the Navab's service, they became so much like 'milk and sugar' that from then on, the Navab took no pleasure in anyone's conversation but his.
No doubt the fire of his natural temperament and his passion for administration had dried out the Navab's mind. But every living creature surely needs a time for entertainment, and Sayyid Inshā was the kind of person who was a bouquet in every gathering and a flower in every garden. Accordingly, he was not given any special responsibility. But he was constantly in attendance at the court. In this situation, he used to get everyone's problems solved--especially persons of accomplishment and members of his own family. Through this service he earned the wealth of virtue and good reputation, than which no treasure can be greater. He caused thousands to attain high rank. But he himself remained only a poet; some hints about this will soon be given when I describe his circumstances.
It is the habit of Time to bring forth sickness from health, and death from life. Through this very companionship, in the midst of laughter, the Navab's opposition was brought forth--as a result of which that warbling nightingale was confined within the cage of his house.j And from there, he mingled with the earth in such obscurity that no one knew of it. From a chronogram by Basant Singh 'Nishāt̤' it seems that he died in A.H. 1233 [1817-18]. The chronogram: 257# [two Persian verses].
An account of his works: It appears from his circumstances that his works would form a large store, but from what has passed before my eyes, first, there is a Complete Works containing: (1) a complete volume of Urdu ghazals; (2) a volume of reḳhtī, and riddles in reḳhtī, and extended-line poems, magic spells, a Pushto grammar; (3) Urdu odes, ḥamd and naʿt, praises of venerable religious figures, praises of the king of Delhi and the nobles; (4) odes in the Persian language; (5) a volume of Persian ghazals that is complete but short; (6) the masnavi Shīr biranj, in Persian; (7) a dotless masnavi in Persian, with even the lines used as headings undotted; (8) a *hunting poem about Navab Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān, in Persian; (9) satires complaining about heat, wasps, bedbugs, flies, fleas, and so on, and satires on various individuals; (10) a romantic masnavi; (11) a poem [Maṡnavī-e fīl] on the wedding of a male elephant with a female elephant named Chañchal Pyārī; (12) various verses, puzzles, quatrains, Persian and Urdu verse-sets and so on, chronograms in which a number of the date-phrases are worth remembering, riddles, *enigmas; (13) a volume of dotless poetry; (14) Miʾatah-e ʿāmil in Persian, from the Arabic language; (15) Murġh nāmah [about cock-fighting] in Urdu; he has written the rules of cock-fighting in the form of a masnavi, but even in it he has not forgotten the rules of his own buffoonery.
Second, there is Daryā-e lat̤āfat, about Urdu grammar, speech, rhetoric, and so on.
Third, he has written a prose romance [Dāstān rānī ketakī aur kuñvar ūday bhān kī] in Urdu, such that he has not allowed even one word of Arabic or Persian to appear in it; despite this, the work does not fall below the level of Urdu. Nevertheless, his usual frolics and jokes appear in it as well. In length it must be about fifty pages. I quote a small passage as a sample. [Prose #258# excerpt.]
His Urdu volume: His volume of ghazals is an extraordinary world of magic. His total command over language, the pleasure of his style, the saltiness of his idioms, the attractive shaping of his constructions, are worth seeing. But his manner is such that it's now one thing, now another. Those ghazals, or verses within the ghazals, that are composed according to [right] principle, are peerless. And where his temperament veered off in another direction, nothing restrained him. In ghazals, he was not one to uphold the principle of 'ghazalness'. For that creative master had in his own possession an abundant store of themes and words; from them he brought forth whatever type of creation he wished. In one mushairah he recited this ghazal in the pattern:
/Sāqī, set the wine flagon in ice and bring it--
Bring something that can quickly put out the fire in the liver/.
It was a ghazal of just five verses. Even Jurʾat and Muṣḥafī were present. But all of them put their ghazals #259# down: 'Now there's no point in reading them'.
A peerless extended-line poem: When he read three ghazals in a row in the pattern of an extended-line poem, a tumult arose in the mushairah. Jurʾat and Muṣḥafī were present then, and their ghazals are still on record. It is as though a game of straws were to be placed next to jewelry studded with gemstones. In one place Jurʾat says,
/Sāqī, intoxication still overspreads my eyes--
Her golden coloring--and those ripened breasts!/
And Sayyid Inshā says,
/Lightning is flashing, Sāqī, a cloud has come--
Give me a glass of wine--where are you going, so wantonly?/k
The invention of 'reḳhtī': The bold colors of reḳhtī are the invention of Saʿādat Yār Ḳhān Rangīn, but the colorful [rangīn] temperament of Sayyid Inshā showed no less feminine skill than that of the inventor. It's clear that luxury and enjoyment and the company of musicians and dancing girls produce the same emotional effect in such unclean matters as manure does in the growth of plants. Accordingly, reḳhtī made less progress among the cheerful starvelings of Delhi, and substantially more among those settled in Lucknow--except with regard to style and dress. The volume of Jān Sahib is present as an example of it. In this connection, the invention of reḳhtī should be understood as one cause of the effeminacy and lack of ambition and cowardice that grew up among the common people. The riddles and magic spells that Sayyid Inshā composed in reḳhtī are not devoid of amusement.
India's languages were like his maidservants: The various Indian languages are like his maidservants. Now he stands in the Punjab, now he sits holding a conversation in the East. Now he is a resident of the Braj country, now a Maratha, now a Kashmiri, now an Afghan. He has composed something or other in all the languages. Here are two verses in Purabi; I record them because they are easy to understand. An opening verse and a concluding verse in the Purabi language: [two verses].
#260# His words, which slide like pearls on silk--we can say that the reason is an inborn eloquence and limpidity of language. And the organization of his poetry, which is as taut as piano-wires, derives from the trimness of his structures and his excellence in ordering his words. But the extraordinary thing is that his language, which is a mold of eloquence, is such that even if meaningless words take shape on his tongue, the result turns out to give pleasure. This is extensively proved by those satires that he wrote during his encounters with Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī; and because of their extreme obscenity, I have refrained from recording them.
A judgment on his odes: His odes are very full of pomp and circumstance. There's no limit to the magnificence of the words, to the high flights of his temperament. But even as he goes straightforwardly along, he suddenly kicks up his heels in a way that leaves the bystander astonished. What happens is that once he's carried away by the force of his power of language and the pleasure of his creative energy, sometimes some bold theme, some fresh, attractive construction, or some new shape occurs to him such that he can't resist putting it in the poem. And then the principles of sobriety and decorum for the ode slip out of his hands. In this way sometimes a kind of rakishness enters his poetry, and sometimes his poetry becomes vulgar. But still, the beauty of it is that the natural pleasure that lies in his language does not permit his poetry to become distasteful. And for this reason, in whichever court or gathering he recited an ode, the hearers had no power to offer any other reaction than 'Praise be to God!' and 'Bravo! Bravo!'. The cause of this immoderation was that his temperament was full of power, but there was no control over it.
In these odes, the pleasure comes especially where, while praising the subject of the ode, sometimes he says 'The Iranian king, sitting in Iran, says about you...'--and at once he produces some verses in Persian, as if some newly arrived Iranian gentleman had, in his idiomatic way, given everyone a few sips of a sweet wine from Shiraz. Next, it's as if an Arab of Arabs, dressed in a robe, coat, and turban, stands before us. Then the King of Bukhara addresses us from Turkestan, in Turkish. And the next moment His Highness of Kabul speaks to us in his Afghani. And the cowherd-women from the Braj region say... And in Panjab, the Jaṭ women of Jhang Siyāl say... And so on, and so on. In short, the details of all this #261# can be gauged from looking at his volume.
The Persian language: In Persian, he had a perfect command. When he composed poetry or prose in it, you felt that a nightingale of Shiraz was singing before you. But the aforementioned fault [of immoderation] is here plainly revealed. Because the whole army of verbiage stands before him at his service, with all its weapons. If he wants a theme, he'll bring down the stars from the sky. But in his Persian odes too, he doesn't restrain his temperament. Giving up the principle of the ode, he uses the saltiness of idioms and the spiciness of colloquial speech to make his poetry pleasurable. And undoubtedly he succeeds in this purpose. Because when it came to expression of thought and eloquence of composition, he possessed a perfect command of that language too. He showed the power of his temperament through a dotless ode, which he adorned with many verbal devices. In fact, with great pride he named it T̤ūr ul-kalām, and he always plumed himself on it.
His Persian volume: The situation is the same in his Persian volume. The pleasure consists of nothing but words and more words. Whatever ghazal you look at, it's as if two Iranians were casually chatting with each other--and if you look at the theme, it's nothing but buffoonery. All this is true, but still the pleasure of the language and the excellence of the style are beyond praise. And there's no doubt that if for some time his boon companion--his frivolity--had been removed, and he had kept his tongue a bit under control, then God knows, he would have been the Ḳhāqānī or Anvarī of his age. Or the Saʿdī or Ḳhusrau. Thus on some occasion he wrote a letter in verse to a newly-arrived Iranian. From this his command over the language can be seen, and the pleasure of his style--and also that at that time he was forbidden to leave his house. A verse letter: [a thirteen-verse #262# Persian ghazal]. Nor was he voiceless in Arabic. Thus these verse-sets are an example: [four Arabic verses].
Verses from the Quran and the incorporations of Arabic phrases: He does incorporations of Arabic phrases as excellently as a jewel is set in a ring. Thus, at the beginning of his volume of ghazals are these opening verses: [three verses and three quatrains with Arabic incorporations].
A judgment about the masnavi 'Shīr biranj': #263# He composed the masnavi Shīr biranj in Persian, in the manner of Maulānā Rūm. But there's no telling whether he is joking or imitating. Because the language is sometimes simply colloquial, and sometimes there's nothing but verbiage full of farfetched words. And in many places Arabic--sometimes a verse, sometimes a line--appears. The themes are only those of humorous tidbits and tales. He versifies them and gives them the color of mystical wisdom and the mystical path. In short, he has put salt in sweet rice pudding and turned Sufism into frivolity. But that seems to be a work of his youth.
A judgment about the hunting poem: The hunting poem about Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān is in Persian. The sweetness of his language, the trimness of his constructions, and the liveliness of his temperament have created such pleasure that it has to be seen to be believed. At this point I cannot resist recording some verses. [Thirty-eight #264# #265# Persian verses.]
His satires are in Urdu. Just imagine, when rakishness doesn't permit him to move in a straight line even in ghazals and odes--how wildly he would have let himself go in the satires!
The romantic masnavi is short, and there's nothing in it worthy of mention.
Somehow a tale, from English, about a male elephant and a female elephant named Chañchal Pyārī, came into his hands. His hawklike eye was always on the lookout for such themes. This was ready-made for his purposes. In short, his elaborate description of their wedding is a spectacle worth seeing.
His volume is richly endowed with individual verses, verse-sets, versified letters, and quatrains, and riddles, enigmas, and anecdotes. But all of them are founded on buffoonery. The seeker of accomplishment should understand that much of this is worth taking, and much is nonsense.
His dotless volume is a commonplace test of his powers. There's nothing in it worthing writing about.
Maṡnavī-e miʿatah ʿāmil is an Arabic text put into Persian verse. Although even when he was old he ran ahead of the children, this seems no doubt to be a work of his early youth.l
Daryā-e lat̤āfat is a grammar of Urdu. Although there's the same frivolity and liveliness of manner in this book too, it's the first book that our native speakers have written about Urdu grammar. First of all, examples have been given in it #266# of the language of various groups of Urdu speakers. And in them he has full proof of his knowledge of the language and understanding of poetry. Then he has set down the rules of the language, and starting from humor and going on even to obscenity, he has not omitted anything. But the student of the art can derive, here too, a number of subtle points that he would look for later and not encounter.
After this, there are a number of chapters. Prosody, rhyme, speech, devices and figures of speech, and so on--he has set out in Urdu all the branches of rhetoric. These sections are the work of Mirzā Qatīl. But 'in that bath-house, everyone was naked'--and with him too, there's nothing else except shamelessness. Still, the truth is that whatever is there, is not devoid of pleasure. About prosody, he wrote down its principles and rules. But for scansion, instead of [the usual terms for metrical feet] mufāʿīlun mufāʿīlun mufāʿīlun he says, parī ḳhānam parī ḳhānam parī ḳhānam [=Pari lady]; and [several similar examples]. He proposes many new terms as well. Thus among the kinds of poetry, he changes the [Arabic] name muṡallaṡ [=three-liner] to [the Indic] tikṛā and the [Arabic] name murabbaʿ [=four-liner] to [the Indic] chaukṛā, and so on. In logic as well, he has produced his own terms. Thus: [nineteen pairs of examples: the traditional Persian-based term juxtaposed with Inshā's Indic-derived replacement.] #267# In the same way he treats devices and figures of speech, and so on.
The special characteristics of Hindi and of the country: Saudā has made very good use of themes based on the special characteristics of Hindi and of the country; but Sayyid Inshā too, leaping and jumping along, puts his best foot forward. And this strategy is not devoid of pleasure. Because while we have our own country, what need is there to bring into India Najd from Arabia, the Besutūn Mountain and the Palace of Shīrīn from Iran, the Bactrus and Jaxartes Rivers from Turan? Such references make speech too difficult and abstruse for eloquence. Thus the Sayyid says, [ten verses #268# with Indic vocabulary]. In short, if we look at the whole of his work taken as a body, we realize that from the point of view of new usages and inventions, in the realm of literary style [inshā] Sayyid Inshā was an absolute monarch. And from this point of view, to call him the Amīr Ḳhusrau of Urdu will not be out of place.
One line can be read in three languages: In fact in the ode T̤ūr ul-kalām, while showing examples of 'different verbal devices', he composed a line that can be read in three languages. Then he gave a good pull on the moustache of pride and wrote, 'Amīr Ḳhusrau composed such a sentence three words long, and was proud of it--but I have been able to compose a whole line of this kind! This is just the good effect of praising [Hazrat ʿAlī] the one whom I praise.' Although today these verbal devices are useless, still with what tongue can we thank him for this kindness, that they opened up for our tongue the road to new similes, to fresh flowering metaphors. Even beyond this, he most beautifully avoided using the Persian iẓāfat; signs of this can be perceived in his ghazals.
His new usages show high-handedness: Nor is there any doubt that in whatever usages or inventions he created, high-handedness can be seen in certain places--but there's no doubt of their gracious style and suitable appearance, either.
In reality, the quickness of his temperament showed its own quickness in entering the world. If only he had been born a hundred years later, he would have most beautifully changed the fashion [faishan] of our language. Just look at the ode he composed to congratulate George the Third on his birthday: [sixteen verses #269# of an ode]. In one place, he says in praise of his horse,
/It is so awesomely swift that its rider
Would eat breakfast in Calcutta and lunch in London/.
His recitation: His recitation too had a style of its own that used to double the power of the verse and the pleasure of the poetry--so much so that in the mushairah, a number of people used to have their own ghazals recited by him. For his tongue was a flint that gave out sparks of the fire of emotional effect: poetry emerged from it with its heat doubled--or rather, multiplied tenfold. No doubt he had inherited the roads that had been cleared by Mīr and Mirzā [Saudā], but he went along those roads leaping and gamboling, without fear or favor, as though some skilful swordsman should go along flinging his sword in the air with an experienced hand.
a He used to use the pen-name of Maṣdar; Maṣdar (verb root) and Inshā (composition) had a natural congruity. Maṣdar was famous for his extemporaneous composition. One verse of his as well is worth remembering: /God grant that my own kind one should not turn away from me / If the world turns away it turns away, but let not the life of my life turn away/. He showed courtesy, compassion, and generosity toward friends and strangers alike. He came to Delhi in the time of Amīr ul-Umarā Navab Żuʾlfiqār Ḳhān. At that time, in addition to the usual appurtenances of wealth he had two elephants as well. When he had been a companion of Navab Sirāj ud-Daulah in Murshidabad, eighteen elephants had swayed from side to side by his doorway. Sayyid Inshā was born there.
b In his boyhood he was a student, but at the same time he was fond of singing. He memorized the [Arabic grammar book] Kāfiyah, and played its words on the sitar.
c He was a pupil of Saudā's. He had arranged his volume well, with various sorts of poetry. He used to do Mirzā Sulaimān Shikoh's ghazals. When Mirzā Sulaimān Shikoh went to Lucknow, then some time afterwards he too went, and there he departed this world.
d Navāb Amīn ud-Daulah Muʿīn ul-Mulk Nāṣir Jang, known as Mirzā Meḍhū, with the pen-name of Amīr, the son of Vazīr ul-Mumālik Navab Shujāʿ ud-Daulah, had come to live for some time in Delhi. In courtesy, compassion, and generosity he was such as sons of vazirs ought to be. As part of the mushairah, he used to give a dinner for the poets and many of the nobles. This encounter took place at his house.
e Later Mirzā came to be in such a state that he didn't recite a line without first trying it out on the Ḥakīm Sahib. And even when he recited, he would use a very low voice and say, 'Sir, the walls have ears!'. And then he would recite very slowly and softly.
f This mushairah was a dangerous encounter. The rivals had come with their swords and muskets and battle-weapons. They brought their comrades and friends with them. They stationed a number of them nearby, and promised offerings to the saints before coming to the mushairah.
g The Navab's courtesy was of an extraordinary sort. At first, in the gathering, he used to sit reclining against a set of large cushions. But Mirzā ʿAz̤īm Beg said to his friends, 'Why should we go into the gatherings of cushion-sitters, and ourselves become mere 'border-sitters' [i.e., hangers-on]?' The Navab sent a very apologetic message: 'Please be so kind as to come; there's no problem, I too will sit on the white sheet with my companions'. From that day he had the cushions taken away. Although a number of the nobles and his close friends protested, he never paid any attention; he always sat side by side with the others.
h Or rather, he was instrumental in getting Vazīr ʿAlī Ḳhān installed [as Navab after Āṣif ud-Daulah], and then Vazīr ʿAlī Ḳhān's end and Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān's installation too came about through the finesse of his strategy. He had learned the English and Latin languages too; he had translated the Differential, and so on, of Newton Sahib into Persian. And he had been to Calcutta a number of times.
i He came from Chinyoṭ, and ʿAbd ul-Ḥakīm came from Sialkot. Both were the sons of obscure families, and they studied together. Although ʿAbd ul-Ḥakīm was quick-moving in his early studies, Saʿdullāh's fortune turned out to be a step ahead. So much so that he rose to become Shāh Jahān's vazir, and the title of 'ʿAllāmah' became the crest-ornament of the fame of his learning and greatness. Saʿdullāh Ḳhān has left--apart from his name--no trace of any written work. In the Shāh jahān nāmah there is indeed a letter written by him--but it is nowhere near the quality of ʿAllāmah Abuʾl Faẓl's writing. There is a mosque in Chinyoṭ, and its minarets sway when they are pushed on; they are said to be made of sandstone.
j From Qatīl's letters it appears that he was dismissed and confined to his house in A.H. 1225 [1810-11]. But it is not clear whether this was the last confinement, or whether after this he was reinstated.
k The closing verse topped them all:
/Inshā has perhaps given his heart somewhere, friends--
These days he looks terribly agitated/.
l In a brief masnavi, he has versified the grammar of the Pushto language.