The Fourth Era of Āb-e ḥayāt:

Part Four


#295# His pen-name was Muṣḥafī, his name Ġhulām Hamadānī. His father's name was Valī Muḥammad. Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī was a resident of Amroha; in early youth he came to Delhi as a student. In his temperament was an inborn feeling for metrical composition, and he constantly strengthened it. From the first, his temperament inclined him to austerity and humility and courtesy. Along with this there was a sociability and cheerfulness that gave him entry into the company of the elders of Delhi. He used to hold mushairahs as well. Because of these qualities, all the poets and respected people used to attend his mushairahs.

He goes to Lucknow: Delhi at this time was in such a state that even Delhi families were leaving their homes and departing from the city. Thus he too had to leave the city. It was not his native place, but God knows what sweetness is in Delhi, such that Muṣḥafī himself says,

/The place that the world calls 'Delhi', Muṣḥafī

I am a resident of that ruined place/.

In this way in his poetry at a number of places he prides himself on his living in Delhi. In short, it was the time of Āṣif ud-Daulah when he arrived in Lucknow. The usual refuge for Delhi people was at the court of Mirzā Sulaimān Shikoh, and he entered his service. Thus a number of ghazals contain references to this. One such verse is,

#296# /When Sulaimān showed his glory on the Peacock Throne,

I would take in my hand a fly-whisk made of the feathers of the Humā/.

Shaikh Muṣḥafī's learning and ability: In short, when he arrived there, thanks to his extensive practice, he made his ustad-ship fully authoritative among great and small. The extent of his formal education is not known, but from the anthologies, and from his own volumes, it is clear that he knew the Persian language, and knew the requirements of poetry, and had carefully studied books of poetry and prose until he had obtained a wide knowledge and a good discrimination.

His passion for accomplishment: He was so eager to learn! There was a person in Lucknow who owned the Complete Works of Naz̤īrī. In those days books were valued. The owner of this book would not, because of its rarity, even lend it to anyone. He only agreed to this much: that Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī would come himself and carry away a single signature [juzv] of the book at a time; then he would bring it back, and take another. Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī's house was on one side of the city, and the owner's house on the other side. Thus his habit was that every other day he would go there and exchange the signature for another. As he was bringing it away, he read it, and when he reached home he copied it or made extracts from it, and as he was bringing it back he read it again.

Alas for our own situation! Today, thanks to the printing press, all those rare books are lying in the bookstores--books that in another time people were not lucky enough even to see. But our indifference prevents us from even lifting our eyes to notice them. I'm surprised at those who complain that nowadays people are not masters of accomplishment like the former elders. In former times, people who read a book took its contents into their hearts and minds in such a way that its imprint was graven on their hearts. The people of today, even if they read, run through the pages as if they're goats who have invaded a garden. Wherever their mouth happens to land, they bite off a chunk; the rest they know nothing about. The goatherd of Greed is sitting on their necks; he keeps them bent to their tasks. That is, 'Pass the exam, and get a certificate, and get a job, and that's the goal'. And the pity is that jobs aren't even available.

His style of poetry: In terms of his archaic idioms, we ought to consider him one last speaker of the language of Mīr Soz, Saudā, and Mīr. He was older than Sayyid Inshā and Jurʾat. Either his advanced age had made the wings of flight #297# weak, or his love for the past wouldn't let him see the beauty of new things as beautiful. The worthless Āzād too wants a thousand times over to do this--but the new culture doesn't move his heart at all. In Lucknow the Shaiḳh acquired hundreds of poets as his pupils, but it has so far not been shown by any anthology whose pupil he was.a

Marriage in old age: He lived a long life, and made references to it in his poetry. In his old age, he married again. His colorful temperament, with the aid of cosmetic dye, made his teeth colorful. Accordingly, Sayyid Inshā referred to all this in satires about him. In short, as long as he lived, he stayed in Lucknow. And he died there in A.H. 1240 [1824-5]. He was a contemporary of poets like Sayyid Inshā, Jurʾat, Mīr Ḥasan, and so on.

His writings: Most anthologies bear witness that he has six volumes in Urdu, complete in all respects, that contain thousands of ghazals, and many odes, and other verses, and quatrains, and the usual incorporations, and so on. Thus in the prayer of one ode he says,

/Muṣḥafī makes prayers to you today, oh Lord,

Oh You whose being is forgiving and merciful to everyone

These six volumes of his, that are like Canopus

In the gathering of kings may their dress remain fragrant Yamani leather/.

The 'Seventh Volume' and the 'Eighth Volume': He composed two anthologies of the poets of Urdu, and one anthology of Persian poets; and a volume of poetry in Persian. But of his volumes that are in the present writer's possession, one of them is labeled 'Seventh Volume'. And there is one other volume, containing the quarrels with Sayyid Inshā as well; this must be the eighth,b which is the last of all.

A judgment about his ghazals: His volumes prove his ustad-ship to be fully authoritative. There are hundreds of ghazals of different types and kinds. The ghazals that he composed in extremely stony grounds show that much practice had given him a perfect command over his poetry. Moving words forwards and backwards, enhancing or minimizing themes, #298# he assimilates them into the verse so completely that full justice has been done to the claims of ustad-ship. Moreover, he didn't let the true idiom slip out of his hands. At such times the shadow of Saudā can somewhat be felt. Where there is simplicity, it seems as though he's using the style of Mīr Soz. Along these lines some verses show a glimmer of Mīr Sahib, but Mīr's essence remains with himself alone. When he composes in Mīr's style, he becomes insipid. The thing is that he had a flowing temperament: because of his prolixity, his poetry doesn't give as much pleasure. In his ghazals are all kinds of verses; he does not specialize in any particular style. Some verses are so limpid and so apropos that they are peerless. In some are those ordinary things that he kept on saying and saying--with loose structures, and a monotonous voice. The reason is either his prolixity, which will be described later, or the difference between Delhi and Amroha.

A judgment about his odes: His odes are fine, and many of them are in extremely difficult grounds. Some are ḥamd and naʿt, and some are in praise of Mirzā Sulaimān Shikoh and the nobles of Lucknow. Big words, lofty themes, excellent Persian constructions, appropriate placements--whatever the ode requires, it's all present. Although trimness of structure, and the emotional effect of passion and enthusiasm, are somewhat lacking. Perhaps his writing so much diluted the emotional effect. Because when a river flows through a narrow gorge between two mountains, it flows with a great tumult and commotion. Where it flows spread out, no force at all remains. Or perhaps the urgent requests for poems did not give him the opportunity to restrain his temperament to consider and carry out his task after full deliberation.

His Persian volume is nothing more than was being done by the conventional Indian poets of his generation.

His anthologies: He was a good anthology writer; because he was near the time of the ustads and had chances to be in the company of elderly people, he has garnered fine details of their circumstances. And in his anthologies he has given a list of all his pupils also.

His chronograms: He has composed chronograms for a number of occasions, and has composed them well.

In short, he has taken every branch of poetry and whatever rules and restraints its ancient ustads have laid down, #299# he has followed to the letter--or rather, in every possible detail.

There was no boldness in his poetry, and his structures were loose: Indeed, in his temperament there is not that liveliness, and in his words there is not that boldness, to be found in his contemporaries. This is not something in one's own control--it is an inborn gift. Sayyid Inshā goes crookedly, turning aside from the road of grammatical rules, but even his crookedness shows a remarkable charm. Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī too expresses his meaning with great excellence and refinement--but what can he do? That Amroha-ness just won't leave him! If he struts a bit, his mischief is like the insipid coquetry of old age. When Sayyid Inshā says even plain and simple things, he puts them in such a way that the reciter or the hearer dances about and smacks his lips for quite some time. Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī's situation is such that he says things after surveying them against principles and weighing them against grammar. Even then, if you look, he's sometimes bland and sometimes sweet. It has been truly said that for eloquence and rhetoric there are no grammatical rules. When God has instilled flavor into someone's tongue, a thousand books of principles and grammar sacrifice themselves before him. [Maulānā Rūm:]

/I write poetry better than the Water of Life--

I know nothing about [the metrical feet] fāʿilātun fāʿilāt/.

The style of his witticisms: Seeing a female water-carrier, the Shaiḳh Sahib's boldness of temper felt its mouth water. Just look at a few verses of that ghazal, which are in a witty style:

/Here even a scarlet double-shawl turns to water, friends

Showing off her flashy skirt, the water-carrier woman has killed me

When, taking the water-skin on her shoulder, she bends over

The idol's intoxication of beauty redoubles

Why should I not be submerged up to my waist in an ocean of blood

When there, the color of her skirt creates a poppy-redness up to her waist/.c

This is all very well, but when a person's pen has dashed off eight volumes, to cast any aspersions on his ustad-ship is a tyrannous act against the soul of Justice herself.

His long practice and copiousness: His long practice, and his copiousness, are accepted in all the anthologies. I have heard from the lips of elderly people #300# that two or three pads of thick writing paper would lie beside him. When a mushairah drew near, then he began to write verses in the pattern of the mushairah on these pads, and on various pieces of paper. And he kept on writing constantly.

He used to sell his ghazals: It was the city of Lucknow, after all. People used to come right on the day of the mushairah. From half a rupee to a rupee, or whatever else an eager purchaser offered, would be paid over. He would take out a ghazal of nine, or eleven, or twenty-one verses, compose the concluding verse with that person's pen-name in it, and give it to him.

The reason for his slackness: The true reason for this weakness was that he had married in old age, so he had a brother-in-law who used to go through his verses before everyone else and choose some and take them away. Then, after he had given them to everyone else, whatever remained he himself took, and put some salt and spices on them and recited them in the mushairah. These very ghazals have been preserved in his volumes.

May the face of poverty be blackened! In fact in one mushairah, when he had received absolutely no praise for his verses, he grew frustrated and angry and flung the ghazal to the ground and said, 'May the face of poverty be blackened--it has brought things to such a pass that now nobody even listens!' When word of this got around, then the secret was out: that he was selling his ghazals. People bought the good verses and carried them away, and those that remained became his portion.

His fluency of temperament: At that time a person from Panipat was living in Lucknow, because he was employed in the governor's office. Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī used to go often to his house. One day he went with a sheaf of paper in his hand, and sat down off by himself and began to write. He kept a single sheet before him, and looked at it frequently, and went on writing the way one does when copying. Someone asked him, 'Sir, what is this that you're copying? Give it to me, I'll do it for you.' He said, 'Someone has requested me to use certain themes in a masnavi. It was due to be ready a long time ago. I partly forgot about it, and partly didn't have any leisure. Today he complained very much, and wrote down in prose what he wanted versified, and gave it to me. I'm now putting it into verse.' From this one can judge the fluency of his temperament and his practice in poetry.

The testimony of the late Mīr Taqī: In one mushairah the late Mīr Taqī too was present. Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī read this ghazal:

/It was not the henna on the hands alone that took away the heart,

The way she hid her face with her hand took away the heart/.

#301# When he recited this verse

/Here a spell-casting ruby lip engrossed in conversation,

There a tug at the curls cut loose the heart/1

then the venerable Mīr Sahib commanded, 'My friend, just recite that verse again'. For him to say that much was equal to a thousand praises. The Shaiḳh considered these few words as a royal charter confirming his own accomplishment; he rose repeatedly and respectfully saluted him. And he said, 'In my volume I will certainly write beside this verse that Your Honor made me recite it a second time'.

He used themes characteristic of the country: In his ghazals he also used themes characteristic of the country--not as excessively as his contemporary Sayyid Inshā, but not as sparingly as Jurʾat. Thus he says,

/When I did not see in India Peshawar-style boiled rice

Oh Muṣḥafī, my soul went to Peshawar to get the rice/.

[Three other verses are also recorded]. Sometimes he falls into the idiom of his native place, and he says, [three verses].

Poetic boastfulness: He had the habit of sometimes sniping at his contemporaries as well. Thus he says,

/I am not [a mere] Jurʾat, oh Muṣḥafī of magic speech,

I will go and launch this ghazal against Mīr and Mirzā/

/He has no other peer at all,

However, Qatīl is a match for Muṣḥafī/.

In the concluding verses of a number of ghazals are expressions of his pride, and claims that he held the kingship of the land of poetry, and that he was the life and soul of a mushairah, and that all the poets ate from his plate. And to some extent this claim was not improper. But when Sayyid Inshā and Jurʾat arrived there, the result turned out to be very bad.

Advantage can be derived even from the satires of Urdu poets: Thus, as suited to the situation, I record some of the circumstances of those encounters. Although even among these, some matters are #302# contrary to good manners. But those who seek to understand the art of language have a somewhat different opinion in these matters. They understand very well that in Urdu poetry there are some commonplace thoughts, and that's all. In presenting everyday topics, the impact of the expressive power is extremely weak. There is only the path of the satire, in which the urge evoked in the poet's heart mingles with the emotional effect of the poetry to create a little tickle in the armpits even of sleepers. If you want to create limpidity of expression, and heat and quickness of language, then studying such poetry is an excellent tool for sharpening your tongue. Mirzā Rafīʿ's satires are present in his Complete Works. But Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī and Sayyid Inshā's satires have remained only on the tongues of some old people, the arrangement/poem [naz̤m] of whose lives is soon going to turn into scattering/prose [naṡr]. In addition, it is necessary to show what state of affairs forced them to commit such improper acts. These stories too are various, and are disordered on various tongues. But the pity is that the poets filled up these satires with obscenity and insults and the most extreme kind of filthy things. Well, for a little while we ought to become honeybees--where we see a juicy flower, we ought to go and alight. We ought to avoid the spiderwebs and the many dirty leaves. And when we have taken the nectar, we ought at once to fly away.

His and Sayyid Inshā's encounters: Now look at the show of his and Sayyid Inshā's encounters. It is necessary to understand that originally Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī always used to do Mirzā Sulaimān Shikoh's ghazals. When Sayyid Inshā arrived, then compared to his work, how could Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī's verses give pleasure? The ghazals began come to Sayyid Inshā. After a time, there was a reduction in the Shaiḳh Sahib's salary. At that time he said, [four verses of lament about this]. Still, he came and went freely at court. In a number of ghazals both accomplished masters tested their powers, and some #303# mutual bantering was always going on--but in such a way that some would understand, while others would not. One day Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī read this ghazal in Mirzā Sulaimān Shikoh's gathering: [seven verses with the following opening and concluding verses:]

/When Hārūt held Zuhrah by her finger

In the eye of Mārūt, Envy stuck its finger/2

/Muṣḥafī was so much inclined to weep that after death

in the coffin, there was stuck in his eye--a finger/.

In the same pattern, Sayyid Inshā's ghazal had this opening verse:

/When he saw on Mārūt's finger a ruby ring,

Hārūt stuck in the eye of Mārūt--a finger/.

And there were ghazals by some other people too. When Muṣḥafī left, some of his verses were extensively discussed among his friends. And they parodied the ghazal, and ruined the labor of that poor old man. I remember some verses from this parody, that in their obscenity and filth are not even worthy to be remembered. Indeed, the concluding verse is clean; therefore I record it:

/Muṣḥafī was one-eyed; to hide this, after death

In the coffin, he put on his eye--a finger/.

From here the foundation of mischief was laid. And the satires emerging from both sides ridiculed each other so cruelly that Culture sometimes shut her eyes, and sometimes put her fingers in her ears.

In short, word of this parody ghazal reached Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī. And the long-practiced ustad of all Lucknow was no minor figure. Despite his advanced age, he took an angry stand, and composed this boastful ghazal. Now, whether it be attributed to the weakness of old age, or the 'Amroha-ness' of his temperament, or his observance of rules of self-restraint, he did not let his #304# dignity slip out of his hands, and in his own manner he composed very well. A 'boastful ghazal':

/For a long time I've been intoxicated with the wine of poetry

He's a fool who claims to rival me in poetry/

[followed by eight similar verses]. In addition to this, he composed more ghazals as well, with this sort of hints and implications. Because Sayyid Inshā was prominently seated at all the Prince's gatherings, it occurred to him, 'Muṣḥafī is my friend too--God forbid that he should be offended at me!' He entered a palanquin and went to him, and said, 'This kind of conversation took place in the gathering. My dear friend, don't hold it against me!' Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī said with the greatest indifference, 'No, my dear friend, I don't even think about such things. And even if you composed such things, so what?' The final phrase did not please Sayyid Inshā. The moment he came back, he incited his friends even further. On the one side, Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī composed something more. On the other side, Sayyid Inshā composed these [Persian] verses in 'long meter': ['A Satire in #305# Long Meter']

At just that time, a ghazal pattern was fixed for a mushairah. All these gentlemen composed ghazals in it. Muṣḥafī too composed a ghazal of eight verses. Muṣḥafī's ghazal:

/If your hair is of musk, then of camphor is your neck

No Pari has such hair, nor any Houri such a neck [1]

There is no machhlī [=muscle, fish] in your forearm; rather, there is hidden

In that hand, a [rare] skink-fish's neck

The bird of the heart has been caught in the tangles of that hair

Just as in the hunter's snare, a sparrow's neck

Why shouldn't even a Pari's or an Houri's heart slip on it?

The Maker has made for you a crystal neck [4]

Let there be in one hand the neck of the wine-bottle--that's pleasure

And in the other hand, the intoxicated Cupbearer's neck

Although I bowed and saluted hundreds of times

It didn't bend even a little, that proud one's neck

There's no telling what state he was in in the morning!

At night it was drooping low, your sick one's neck [7]

Alas, Muṣḥafī was so ensnared in the curls

The way an iron collar encircles some victim's neck/.

Sayyid Inshā found some faults in this ghazal, and composed a verse-set as well. His ghazal and verse-set are here recorded; Sayyid Inshā's ghazal in reply:

/I'll break off the cask of grape-wine's neck

And cut off and put there an Houri's neck [1]

#306# Assuming the form of an erect, proud [initial letter] alif in the words 'I am God'--

Always desire a new Manṣūr's neck3

Well, sun-browed Cupbearer, how intoxicated I would be

If I were to quaff the radiant wine-vessel's neck! [3]

The machhlī [=muscle, fish] on your forearm sprang up through exercise

It is, may God protect it, like the skink's neck [4]

There was a person fit for beheading; to him this one said,

'Now give if you want to, I have sanctioned your neck'

If the Shaiḳh would look into the mirror, he'd see

A bear's head, a swine's mouth, a baboon's neck [6]

My heart has fallen into the claws of the eyelashes the way

Into the talons of a hawk falls a sparrow's neck

Then there's the real enjoyment of intoxication, when

On my neck has fallen that intoxicated idol's neck

The place where Āṣif is seated near Solomon4--

Why shouldn't Caesar, or the Emperor of China, bow his neck?

If you have grasped it so forcefully under your arm, oh Love,

You are bent on tearing off some helpless victim's neck

Oh intoxicated one, what is this aggravation with the stopper of the wine-flask--

What the hell--why have you broken the wine-vessel's neck?

In your gathering, the wax of the candle became salve--

It has melted, the candle's camphor-like neck5

Oh White Demon of the morning, if only you would tear up

And pulverize with a fist-blow of the sun, the Longest Night's neck! [13]

When they lifted up the love-stricken one, then from grief

It swayed, that proud murderer's neck [14]

Involuntarily he cried out, 'Oh, somebody just lend a hand!

Let it not roll away, my late lover's neck!'6

What is the envious one worth? Nothing! If Inshā wishes

He can quickly break Balaam son of Beor's neck/.7

A verse-set of satire, including objections:

/Please listen with the ear of your heart to this petition, my kind friend

Don't tremble like a willow with anger

Although 'crystal' [billūr] is a fine thing

What's the point of bringing it somehow or other into a ghazal?8 [2b]

There are plenty of rhymes like dastūr and nūr and t̤ūr

If you want to use them, recite an ode!

It's extraordinary that you've composed a ghazal of eight verses

And in it you've shown [so many] such unheard-of displays!

What's the point of mentioning a 'neck of camphor'?9

You've brought the scent of the dead and caused the living to sniff it! [5b]/

[and fifteen #307# more verses]. Muṣḥafī replied to it in the same pattern as the ghazal. Here is the verse-set by way of reply on the part of Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī:

/Oh, you who have confronted the sword of my tongue

Behind the shield of excuse you have hidden your neck

Adam, who came from dust, has a body made of dust

If he were to have a head of made of light, then he'd have a 'radiant neck'10

I have never seen the word 'skink' all alone,

It's your invention, this 'skink's neck'11

If a poet would not use a baboon in a ghazal

How would anyone use a 'baboon's neck'?12

One talks about the neck of a wine-flask, fool

But it's out of place to speak of the 'cask of grape-wine's neck'13

I overlook even this--please listen to this further mistake

Has anyone ever used even 'grape-wine's neck'?

#308# By 'camphor' I mean its whiteness

I didn't describe as 'cold' the camphor-like neck14

This word is correct with a tashdīd too--

Can you ever cause it to bend, my 'crystal neck'?15

You should have at least some discrimination--is there any connection at all?

In every rhyme you have decided to use 'neck'16

Even if you've rhymed hundreds of necks, so what?

Alas, you never thought of a 'laborer's neck'

The necks that I've used--come on, I'll show them to you,

You show me the 'Longest Night's neck'!17

A neck in itself needs an erect shape

Think a bit before you bend a proud head's neck18

The theme is mine alone, even though in a different way

You used, by your own reckoning, a 'sick one's neck'19

If your only goal was measuring out rhymes

Why didn't you use a 'capability' neck?

You have murdered hundreds of thousands of meanings, but alas

It didn't occur to you to use a 'dagger and cleaver's neck'

If you are just, then never think of contending with me again,

This burden can't be lifted by a peacock's neck!

If you want to measure out rhymes, then swear to me--

that now you'll use a 'wasp-nest's neck'!

Like a broken huqqah-pipe, by my pen

It's been crushed, the proud poet's neck!

Judge fairly in your heart--how with one sword-blow

I cut your claim of power through its neck

You sang a dissonance--you couldn't lay your hands, alas

In this tune, on the tanbur's neck!

It didn't occur to you, otherwise you would at once have made

An ulcer-bandage too into an 'ulcer's neck'

I now entrust the justice of this to the king

Where all bow down, from the snakes to the ant's neck

That King Solomon, if he should just slightly draw the sword of justice

It would be cut in two, the Emperor of China's neck

That head on which he would place his hand of graciousness

That head would then find for a pillow a Houri's neck

If they hadn't agreed to prostrate themselves at his door,

The angels would not have received a radiant neck

Oh Muṣḥafī, be silent, don't prolong your speech

It's better here for a wild head to have a short neck/.

From reading these two verse-sets it will be clear what command over expression both these accomplished poets #309# had. Undoubtedly the general pleasure of expression and the special razor of sarcasm we will recommend that Sayyid Inshā be given preference. But the way this time-worn elderly poet expressed his intended meaning within the ground of this ghazal--this power over speech would perhaps not let him be given second place.

Among the pupils of Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī, Muntaz̤ir and Garm were very quick on the trigger. They held positions in the Navab Sahib's armory, and so on. With tongue, with schemes, with encounters, they prepared to maintain the ustad-ship of their ustad. Garm wrote a masnavi and called it Garm t̤amāñchah [=A Hot Slap]. Mīr Inshāʾallāh Ḳhān had read the 'gardan' ghazal in the mushairah, and read this verse in it,

/If the Shaiḳh would look into the mirror, he'd see

A bear's head, a swine's mouth, a baboon's neck/.

In the concluding verse the 'Balaam son of Beor' too is an indirect hit at Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī's old age. Because in the time of Hazrat Moses there was a pious man who through old age and austerities had so wasted away that his pupils put him in a basket and went around with him sometimes under their arm, and sometimes on their shoulder, and they took him wherever they wished. Muntaz̤ir too, in his ghazal, attacked the Sayyid. I remember one line of it: /The baboon's neck has been tied up in the baboon's tail/. Because Sayyid Inshā normally used to wear a scarf around his neck, in such a way that one end hung down in front and the other end in back. Thus at that time Sayyid Inshā recited one more verse:

/On the table of wit, just behold the Shaiḳh--

His head of salt, his mouth of onion, a mango-pickle neck/.

The poor old man's head was white. His fair complexion had, in his old age, accumulated blood and turned reddish. In addition, many exchanges of repartee took place orally, but it is now impossible to find out about them. My late Ustad used to say, 'In addition to the other objections, in Muṣḥafī's ghazal the ye with a tashdīd on it that appears in māhīy-e saqanqūr [=skink-fish]--Sayyid Inshā poked fun at it too, and Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī gave this verse as an authority: [one Persian verse]. But Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī's objection against Sayyid Inshā, that he said only saqanqūr [=skink]--this objection is improper, because #310# skink is the name of a creature, and in reality the word is Greek. A fish has no special relationship to it.'

Sayyid Inshā's boldness of temperament and shamelessness of language need hardly be pointed out. Thus he composed many frivolous and obscene satires of which every line was a thousand blows with a whip or scourge. The poor old man Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī too, supported by the rod of his boasts and the staff of his pride, stood erect and fought back to the full extent of his strength. When things passed beyond all bounds--well, Lucknow was full of his pupils, and Muntaz̤ir and Garm took them all and prepared for combat; and to the extent of their powers, they fulfilled the claims of pupil-ship. One day they all gathered together. They put on the guise of Shuhdahs; composing a satire and reciting its verses aloud, they set off to Sayyid Inshā's house. And they were quite prepared even for an encounter involving violence and murder.

Sayyid Inshā had heard about it the day before. Now look at the mischief of his colorful temperament: he decorated his house with carpets and fine fabrics, candelabra and chandeliers, and invited the nobles of the city and his own friends. Ordering many sweets, he put them on big plates. Betel-leaf in trays, flower-garlands in shallow baskets--he got everything ready. When he heard that the group of his rivals were approaching, he took everyone with him and went to welcome them. And at the same time he himself praised them: with exclamations of 'Praise be to God!' and 'Bravo, bravo!' he brought them into his house. He seated them all. And he himself caused them to recite the verses a second time. He jumped and leaped around, he fed them sweet dishes, he gave them sherbet to drink, he gave them pan to chew, he put garlands around their necks; he laughed and talked with them; then with honor and respect, he sent them on their way.

But then when Sayyid Inshā prepared his reply to this, it was like Doomsday. That is to say, he organized a great crowd, equipped like a wedding procession. And preparing extraordinary and remarkable satires, he gave them to people to read. Some people went along reading them to the rhythm of beaten sticks. Some were mounted on elephants. Everybody had a male puppet in one hand, a female puppet in the other. They made the two fight. And they kept reciting satires aloud, of which one verse was,

/Look--the ancient sky has put on a new play!

They've come fighting, [the] Muṣḥafī and [his wife the] Muṣḥafan!/

#311# In these combats Mirzā Sulaimān Shikoh, and in fact most of the nobles, took the side of Sayyid Inshā. And once they said a word to the police chief and caused him to stop a similar procession mounted by their rivals. This made Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī very dejected. In a number of ghazals his feelings flash through. From them, I record the opening verse and the concluding verse of one ghazal:

/I depart from your door, for there's no honor here,

There's no recourse except this left for me here

Oh Muṣḥafī, there's no pleasure in remaining in this city,

It's true that there's no honor for humanity here/.

Some of the verses in thesef quarrels caused Mirzā Sulaimān Shikoh to suspect that Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī had aimed them at him too. To apologize for this suspicion, Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī wrote, 'Ode to apologize and to explain Inshā's false accusation in the honored presence of my lord's son Prince Mirzā Sulaimān Shikoh Bahādur': [Forty-one verses #312# #313# of an ode in ghazal form].

Sayyid Inshā used to make casual visits to Delhi, and stayed there only for short periods. And the people who were his partisans in these encounters, most of them had never even seen the face of Delhi. Thus on one occasion Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī composed this verse-set, of which some verses are in the seventh volume:

/Some people think themselves expert native speakers

They have not seen Delhi--how then can they be 'language-knowers'?/

[and ten #314# more verses]. Just consider the opening verse of this verse-set, and only then you'll see what a place Delhi was at that time! To stay there for some days was like a 'certificate' of language-knowing. Well, now we ought to take some pleasure in the Shaiḳh Sahib's different types of poetry. Although Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī was very elderly, it fell to him to regret the death of Sayyid Inshā. Thus in the concluding verse of one ghazal he says this:

/Muṣḥafī, how can I enjoy any kind of life,

I can't forget the death of Qatīl and the dying of Inshā/

What fights there were, what turmoil and disturbance! What jests and mockeries [ḳhāke] took place! And the end--dust [ḳhāk].

Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī's ode in the form of a 'naʿt': [fourteen verses in #315# ghazal form. Then seventeen #316# #317# #318# #319# #320# #321# #322# #323# ghazals, one an extended-line ghazal.


Oh Sky, this gathering did not deserve to be broken up--nor did this night's session deserve to turn into morning. Now where are such people to be found--and where such times! Where will we find lively-hearted, brilliantly creative poets of accomplishment, like Sayyid Inshā and Jurʾat? How can long-practiced poets like Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī live again? And even if they should come back, where are such appreciators? They were good people--they found themselves in a good time, and passed their lives in a good way. That zeal and enthusiasm, that mischief, those frolics--where are they now? [Mīr:]

/The beauty of the lovely heart-enticing ones is gone,

The name of God remains forever/.

God knows what kind of clay my heart is made of. When separation from someone is even mentioned, it melts. When some loved one #324# is mentioned, blood drips from my eyes. And yet look how shamelessly tough my heart is, that it neither turns to water and flows away, nor turns to dust and stays that way. The amazing thing is how many shocks it has already sustained--and yet every wound still gives a fresh shock. But to be fair, look at those dear ones too--what they were like, and who they were! They were loved by the world, and loved by every heart; they were loved for their own words. Āzād, enough! Stop weeping and lamenting. Now dry your tears. Open the eyes of respect, and turn your gaze to look ahead.

aIn Sarāpā suḳhan it is written that he was the pupil of Amānī.

bHis old age also made him deaf. Thus in the 'Seventh Volume' there is: /Muṣḥafī, I have deliberately made myself deaf /So that I wouldn't be grieved by the talk of evil-speakers/; and again, /When my life has set foot in its eighth decade, /Muṣḥafī, what can be done by a weak and feeble person like me?/. If he composed the 'Eighth Volume' after this, then he must have died at nearly eighty.

cA lesson: although this ghazal is one of vulgar humor, it is instructive in this respect--it shows that along with a renowned [nāmī] person's name [nām], the anonymous [gumnāmī] too finds a name. Thus as long as the banner of Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī's name is held on high, so long will it cause the banner of the water-carrier woman's coarse cotton skirt to billow upwards as well.

1Boys cover their kite-strings with powdered glass, and seek to sever each other's strings in order to cut the kites loose and capture them.

2According to story tradition, the angels Hārūt and Mārūt boasted about their own chastity, and were punished by being sent down to earth. There they became rivals for the love of a dancing girl called Zuhrah. They were eventually punished by being hung upside down in a well, while Zuhrah became the planet Venus.

3The mystic Manṣūr was executed for repeatedly making this declaration.

4Āṣif bin Barḳhiyah was the name of Solomon's vazir; the verse thus compliments the Prince Sulaimān Shikoh at the expense of the Navab Āṣif ud-Daulah, whose official title was Navab Vazir.

5The candle's neck melted in shame, because the beloved was more beautiful; camphor is used in salves. White candles were known as 'camphor candles'.

6This verse is to be read with the one before, as a verse-set.

7This reference is discussed below, on page #308#.

8See Muṣḥafī's verse [4].

9See Muṣḥafī's verse [1].

10See Inshā's verse [3]; or the response may apply to some other verse.

11See Inshā's verse [4].

12See Inshā's verse [6].

13See Inshā's verse [1].

14See Inshā's verse [5b].

15See Inshā's verse [2b]. Muṣḥafī claims that his spelling of the word 'crystal' as billūr is correct, and that Inshā cannot disprove it.

16The charge, here and in various later verses, is that Inshā's rhymes have no connection [rabt̤], no integral relationship, with the refrain.

17See Inshā's verse [13].

18See Inshā's verse [14].

19See Muṣḥafī's verse [7]. Inshā's use must be in some other ghazal.