The Fifth Era of Āb-e ḥayāt:
[SHAIḲH IMĀM BAḲHSH NĀSIḲH, Concluded]
The state of his volume: He has three volumes, but two of them are famous. He put one together in Allahabad; he was away from home, with his heart troubled [pareshāñ]. He couldn't lay hands on the ghazals as he wished; thus he named it Daftar-e parīshāñ [=Disordered Pages]. In it there are no other types of poetry except ghazals, quatrains, and chronograms. He had no interest in odes. Thus if he sometimes composed some chronogram or congratulatory piece for the Navab of Lucknow, it was in the form of a verse-set. His garden is free of the thorns of satire.
One masnavi is the translation of a special hadith about the Prophet's family. Mīr ʿAlī Ausat̤ 'Rashk' edited it, and gave it the chronogrammatic name of Naz̤m-e sirāj. The Shaiḳh Sahib also composed an account of the Prophet's birth and childhood.
His work is very free of defects and flaws: Most of his work is entirely free of outward defects and verbal flaws. #340# And he took such pains to achieve this that even if it made some difference in the trimness of his constructions and the intensity of his poetry, he didn't let this principle slip out of his hands. Prudent management is the best policy, because new usages and inventions often make men the target of objections that become difficult to avoid.
The style of his ghazals: In his ghazals there is much magnificence of words, high flight, and 'delicate thought'--and rather less emotional effect. Using similes and poetic illustrations in the manner of Ṣāʾib, and organizing them with his own verbal devices, he displayed such craftsmanship and enamel-work that on some occasions he entered the domain of Bedil and Nāṣir ʿAlī; and for this reason he came to be recognized as a master of [his own] style in Urdu. It's appropriate to call him Nāsiḳh [=Cancellor], because he has cancelled the ancient style--a feat of which he himself was proud.
Chronograms and odes: At the end of his volume there are many chronograms, and in a number of them he has managed to produce extremely fine and suitable texts. His magnificence of language tells us that if he had composed odes, then he would have composed very fine ones; it's a pity that he didn't turn his attention that way.a
The Naz̤m-e sirāj is, in people's opinion, unworthy of his high rank as a poet. However, since he has in translation preserved the sense of the hadiths, it is inappropriate to criticize it. Here are some verses by way of example: [eight verses #341# of the masnavi].
When some stranger came who claimed to be interested in his poetry, he had composed some meaningless ghazals for such occasions. He recited some verses from them, or on the spur of the moment strung together some disconnected words into meter and recited them. If the stranger fell into thought and remained silent, then he judged that the stranger had some understanding of poetry, and recited some more. And if the stranger began to offer reckless praise, then he recited to him one or two verses more of the same type, and fell silent. For example,
/Men were seen in velvet, and rust in almonds
The river's wrist broke, its hair was tangled in a net/
/Nāsiḳh, today you have written a ghazal such that
It became difficult for everyone to understand poetry in the White Hand [of Moses]/.
In fact, sometimes he himself didn't even recite. When someone came and requested him to recite, he picked up his volume and placed it before the person, and invited him to look into it. He kept two or three scribes with good calligraphy in his service, and copies of his volume were always being made. He bestowed them on whichever friends and pupils he found worthy and interested.
A comparison between Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh and Ḳhvājah Ḥaidar ʿAlī Ātash: He and his contemporary Ḳhvājah Ḥaidar ʿAlī 'Ātash' lived, by the excellence of their ascendant fortune, in an age that gave to their pictures and paintings the rank due to [the Mughal miniaturists] Mānī and Bihzād. Thousands of men of judgment became partisans of each of them and, by provoking the rivalry, began to enjoy the spectacle. But the truth is that both poets ought to be grateful to these mischief-makers, for they caused the brightness of their temperaments to burst into hotter flame.
There is absolute opposition in these two gentlemen's methods. Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh's followers search out subtle themes. Ḳhvājah Ātash's adherents seek chastity of idiom and simplicity of language. They sacrifice themselves on the alter of emotional intensity and emotional effect in the verse. These #342# people make several types of objection to Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh's poetry. Although some are high-handed and immoderate, since it is the historian's duty to express every aspect of the matter, I cannot omit them.
FIRST, they say that Ṣhaiḳh Nāsiḳh is so fond of 'delicate thoughts', it's as though 'the mountain had labored and brought forth a mouse'. Thus the verses recorded below are examples of 'delicate thoughts':
/My eyes, seeing you, saw so much
That the tongue of the eyelashes has a complaint against the power of sight/
/When the elements of my composition lost their balance
Then it became clear to me that there can be no necessary connection between friends and enemies/
/Oh idol, God has made Paradise forbidden territory to infidels
Otherwise, if you were there, who would even glance at a Houri?/
/I am in the beloved's street, but I'm deprived of sight
My sleeping feet smile at my wakeful eyes/
/Why shouldn't that sun be without a shadow?
The shelter of his companions was never away from his head/.1
Ḳhvājah Ātash's adherents say that people who understand the true principles of the ghazal--that is, who take their authority from Ḳhvājah Ḥāfiz̤ and Shaiḳh Saʿdī in Persian, and Soz, Mīr, and Jurʾat in Urdu--will not accept this as ghazal. But the matter is not so objectionable as all that. Because in Persian too there have been ustads like Jalāl Asīr, Qāsim Mashhadī, Bedil, and Nāṣir ʿAlī, and so on, who have become known as 'imaginative' and as 'meaning-creators' by virtue of their 'delicate thoughts'. If Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh adopted their style, what was wrong with that? It should also be made clear that when the style of such 'imaginative' poets takes shape in people's temperaments, there are a number of reasons for it. The first is that some temperaments are powerful from the beginning. Their thoughts are swift and their imaginings lofty. But if there is no ustad to pull in the promising colt, and guide him with the reins of principle, then their own affluence and intellectual extravagance make them even more headstrong, so that they pay no heed to any expert evaluator or knowledgeable judge of poetry. They paint pictures for themselves, and fall madly in love with them. In fact, the poetry-lovers and discriminating appreciators who are in truth the guarantors of popular esteem--these #343# 'delicate thought' poets have no need even for them. Because their affluence holds court privately, in their own homes. And some people share their taste for complexity and farfetchedness, while others are only interested in pleasing them with flattering words. Some know nothing about anything--they just start running in whatever direction other people run in. In short, various such causes tie blindfolds over the eyes of able men and thrust them into the uneven fields of self-love.
SECOND, Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh's opponents object to his difficult and rough words, the heavy weight of which the ghazal's delicacy and lightness absolutely cannot bear. And the poetry becomes clumsy. Thus some examples of this species are also recorded: [nineteen illustrative verses #344# by Nāsiḳh]. Although people who are imaginative, highly creative, and lovers of difficult poetry are intoxicated by their own thoughts, still, since poetic endowments are not for nothing and practice is powerful indeed, even difficult poetry produces pleasure of a kind, which fortifies his claims and those of his supporters.
THIRD, his rivals say that Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh too had understood the undesirability of imaginativeness and of the love of difficulty. And finally he resolved to come into this [simple] path. There is an opening verse of Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh's from those days [of simplicity]. Someone recited it before Ḳhvājah Ātash, and he praised the delightfulness of its language.
/I like the breeze blowing through the acacia trees
Its deep yellow flowers have a strange, elegant beauty/.
When he enters the path of simplicity, he becomes insipid: But first of all there was the inclination of his temperament; second, a lifetime of just such practice. For this reason, when he entered the path of idiom and wanted to write simple and plain language, he began to use flabby structures and insipid words. Thus, as a proof of this, people present a number of verses. Here are some: [three verses]. A usage showing poetic mastery:
/How jealous the sky was--when it found occasion
It tore up the drum [of celebration] in a moment like a bubble/.
#345# His rivals object even to this word, because naqqārah [=drum] has a tashdīd on it, it cannot be used without it. And when it was said to them that naz̤z̤ārah too has a tashdīd on it, but is used in Persian and Rekhtah with out the tashdīd, then they said that in the case of a word from another language, analogy is not valid--one ought to give an authority from native speakers. In the view of fair-minded judges, this is high-handedness. [A Persian example by] Niz̤āmī [and an Urdu one by Nāsiḳh]:
/On account of the pleasure of the New Year's Day celebrations
The drum [naqārah] tore open his throat/
/That gazelle of the city keeps running away from me
Clearly it has learned its ways from the gazelle of the desert/.
There ought to be a Persian authority for 'gazelle of the city', because for contrast to 'wild' [vaḥshī] people say 'domesticated' [ahlī], not 'of the city' [shahrī]. But we ought not to consider this by way of Persian; rather, we ought to consider it a usage of a master of poetry in Urdu. [Nāsiḳh:]
/He is slaughtering you but, oh bird of the heart, you ought
to writhe so that the hunter, seeing your exertions, will be extremely moved/.
This inversion [of normal word order in the second line] has been made in an extremely improper way. His rivals cite many more verses of this type. But it is fruitless to devote attention to these minor matters of detail; thus those verses have not been recorded here.
His style of Sufism: In his poetry there is Sufism as well. But its path is something different--with which he was not acquainted. [Seven illustrative verses.]
Plagiarism, or coincidence? His rivals make this objection as well, that Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh transcreates [tanāsuḳh] Persian works and gives them #346# life in Urdu:
/On a cosmetic-darkened lip is the color of pān
What a show--under the fire, there's smoke/.
Bedil [in Persian]:
/On a cosmetic-darkened lip is the color of pān
What a show--under the fire, there's smoke/.
The Shaiḳh Sahib:
/Through weakness, collyrium is heavy to the beloved's eye
The way night would be heavy to a sick person/.
Nāṣir ʿAlī [in Persian]:
/It is said that night lies heavy on a sick person's soul
So is the collyrium is heavy on your eyes, this is why/.
/In the blackness of fortune, when does anyone accompany anyone else?
For in darkness, even the shadow is separated from a man/.
Some ustad has composed the Persian verse,
/On the day of friendlessness I have no friend except my shadow
But even that shadow doesn't have the strength to sustain with me my dark nights/.
/The difference between a king and a beggar is, as the poet says, only this--
The tiger in the carpet is one thing, the tiger in the reed thicket is another/.
Shaiḳh ʿAlī Ḥazīn [in Persian]:
/My place is a jute mat and the rich man's place is a carpet--
The tiger in the carpet is one thing, the tiger in the reed thicket is another/.
The two anecdotes of the witty exchanges made on the theme of do ābe by the late Mīr Taqī and by Baqā have been written about in the account of Mīr Sahib. I had thought that Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh, sitting in Allahabad, must have carved out this theme from those verses. See page #212#.
/There are my two eyes, and there is the Tribeni [=threefold braid of rivers]
Now Allahabad too is a Panjab [=five rivers]/.
But when the son of Ġhiyāṡ ud-Dīn Balban, the king of Delhi--that is to say, Muḥammad Sult̤ān--was killed in the battle against the Turks outside Lahore on the banks of the Ravi, then Amīr Ḳhusrau composed an elegy for him in the form of a tarkīb band. In it he says,
/Since the water that is the tears of the people's eyes flowed in all four directions
Another Panjab came into existence in Multan/.
They say that the Ḳhvājah [Ātash] Sahib attacked him on these very grounds when he said,
/The thief of a theme is disgraced in the world,
Forbidden property destroys the taste/.
Although several more verses of this type can also be heard, to accuse of plagiarism such an accomplished poet, whose works form a thick tome full of consummate 'delicate thought' and lofty themes, #347# is to throw dust in the eyes of Justice. In the case of Saudā and Mīr, the ustads' verses that their verses have come to resemble have been recorded. Whatever reply has been given on their behalf, should be considered to be on his behalf also. In my opinion, these two rivals and their supporters are not deserving of blame. Because on both sides, no one was devoid of accomplishment. Undoubtedly temperaments are different, and for this reason tastes differ. Let those who want to talk, go on talking.
Among these 'delicate thoughts', the simple verse that emerged from his tongue is an arrow that has shot through the mark and kept on going; it did not hang there for even a moment en route:
/I would sigh hundreds of times, but what entry can voice find
It is a fault in the archer if his arrow makes a sound/
/Don't look askance at your heart-stricken lover
What kind of an archer are you--straighten your arrow!/
Verses of this type too, if they are searched out in his volumes, will be numerous.
Satire or humor: In the Shaiḳh Sahib's poetry, the spiciness of the salt of wit is little apparent. Accordingly the [hypocritical] Preacher and the [smugly sententious] Advisor who everywhere are the life of the gathering for Urdu and Persian poets--even these figures he does not use for laughter and diversion. And if by chance he does, then as though the laughter were poison on his lips.
/From greed, the Preacher says, If the teeth fall out
How wide my mouth will become for the food!/
Look, Nāsiḳh, toward the turbanned Shaiḳh--
What a spire the tooth-twig is on the dome of his turban!/
Saudā has a ghazal in which he expresses the same idea--just look how wittily:
/Oh Preacher, the spire on the dome of your turban is not suitable
If there is to be anything there, let it be a tooth-twig/.
[Four other illustrative verses by Nāsiḳh.]
He often expressed religious views: #348# Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh's religious persuasion originally was Sunni, then he adopted the Shia belief. In a number of ghazals he used to make religious attacks. And this is not becoming for a poet or any writer in general. But indeed, if someone writes a book in support of his religious belief, then it is the place for arguments and proofs; let him say what he may wish, there's no harm.
He had very good manners, but remained so absorbed in his own thoughts that people who didn't know him considered him aloof or ill-tempered. the late Sayyid Mahdī Ḥasanb 'Farāġh', who was a pupil of Miyāñ Betāb and was a poet of Rekhtah with many years of practice, used to tell an anecdote: 'One day I presented myself in the Shaiḳh Sahib's service. I saw that he was sitting on a wooden platform, bathing. Near him some companions were sitting on low stools. I went and stood before him, and respectfully saluted him. He commanded in a voice that was even more stout than his body, "Well sir, how have you happened to drop by?" I said, "There is a Persian verse by some ustad, and I don't understand its meaning". He commanded, "I'm not a Persian poet". He said only that much, and began to converse with someone else. I regretted very much having gone there; scolding myself, I came away.'
An anecdote: One day someone came to visit him. At that time he was sitting with some friends on chairs in the courtyard. The visitor had a walking stick in his hand. And as it happened, right near his feet there was a lump of clay. By way of idle activity, as many people have the habit of doing, he began to use the tip of his stick to break up the lump of clay. The Shaiḳh Sahib called out to a servant. The servant appeared. He commanded, 'Bring a basket of lumps of clay and put it before him, so that he can satisfy his passion to his heart's content'.
An anecdote: Shāh Ġhulām Aʿz̤amc 'Afẓal' was his pupil, and often used to attend upon him. One day he was seated on a wooden platform. On it was spread a fine straw mat. Afẓal came, and he too #349# sat down on it, and broke off a piece of straw and began to twist and bend it in his fingers. Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh sent for a servant and said, 'That new broom you bought from the bazaar today--please bring it'. The servant presented it. He himself took it and placed it in front of the Shāh Sahib and said, 'Young sir! Please pursue your activity on this! Your humble servant's fine Assamese straw mat will be destroyed by just a bit more of your kind attention. And where will I find more such fine straw in this city?' The poor man was left embarrassed.
An anecdote: Āġhā Kalb-e ʿĀbid Ḳhān Sahib used to say, 'One day someone had sent the Shaiḳh Sahib two or three glass spoons by way of a present. In those days they were considered a new invention, and in truth they were very attractive. He had placed them in the niche next to him. A young nobleman came. He looked that way and asked, "Your Excellency, where did you buy them, and how much did you pay?" The Shaiḳh Sahib told him the situation. He lifted his hand and picked up one spoon. Looking at it, he praised it. Then he became absorbed in conversation, and kept tapping the spoon on the ground, in his idleness, as he spoke. How could the glass stand it? One blow too many--and instantly it was in two pieces. The Shaiḳh Sahib picked up a second spoon and placed it before him and said, "Now practice your pursuit on this one".'
An anecdote: One day he was sitting in the pavilion in his own garden, absorbed in thinking about themes. Some guest came and sat down. He felt disturbed. Rising, he began to stroll around, thinking that the guest would rise and leave. Helpless, he then sat down again. But the guest still didn't leave. On some excuse he went out again, so that his guest would now understand--but he still didn't understand. He took up a burning coal from the huqqah and placed it in the thatch of the pavilion, and began writing something. The straw started to burn. The guest, feeling anxious, rose and said, 'Shaiḳh Sahib, do you see what is happening?' Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh seized his hand: 'Where are you going? Now you and I have to burn into a heap of ashes together. You've turned my themes into dust, you've burnt my heart into ashes--now how will I let you go!'
An anecdote: #350# In the same way, a visitor stayed on and annoyed him. Calling a servant, he sent for his box. Taking out from it the deeds to his house, he placed them before the visitor and said to the servant, 'Call some laborers and take up the household effects and move them out'. On one side, the visitor stared at his face in stupefaction. On the other side, the servant too was astonished. He said, 'What are you staring at? This person has already seized control of the house! Let's not permit the household effects to slip away as well!'
These qualities were in the Shaiḳh Sahib's temperament. But their basis was only in his being over-sensitive, not in pride or evil-mindedness that would result in wicked behavior. On occasions that demanded delicacy he restrained himself, and thus got through them in a way that others would have been unable to achieve.
An anecdote: There was a mushairah at the home of a Navab Sahib. The Navab was an admirer of his; he planned to present the Shaiḳh Sahib with a robe of honor before the whole mushairah, and then to have him recite his ghazal. Somehow they had not sent the pattern line to Ḳhvājah Ātash. When the line reached him, there was only one day left till the mushairah. The Ḳhvājah Sahib was very angry, and said, 'Now Lucknow is not a place in which I can live. I won't remain here.' His pupils gathered and said, 'Please don't pay it any mind. Your humble servants are present. If we each compose a couple of verses, there will be hundreds of verses.' He was very quick-tempered; he kept saying that kind of thing to them too. He went out of the city. As he wandered around, he went and sat down in a mosque. There he composed a ghazal, and brought it with him. And when he went to the mushairah, he took a loaded rifle along as well. He chose to sit directly in front of Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh. In the first place, his manner itself was the swaggering one of a soldier. And on top of that, the loaded rifle was lying before him--and it seemed that he himself was sitting there fully charged. Repeatedly he picked up the rifle, and put it back down again. When the candle came before him, he squared his shoulders. And gesturing toward the Shaiḳh Sahib, he recited,
/Just listen--what is your story in the world?
What do people say about you in your absence?/
In this whole ghazal there is reference somewhere to Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh's being an adopted son, somewhere to his affluence, somewhere #351# to his goods and riches--in short, there is certainly one or another attack. Poor Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh sat there confounded. The Navab Sahib was afraid: 'God knows, he might empty the rifle into the Shaiḳh Sahib, or blow a hole in my own stomach!' At once he gestured to his steward to prepare a second robe of honor for the Ḳhvājah Sahib. In short, he gave both gentlemen equal robes of honor, and gave them leave to depart.
Raġhmī, may God preserve him, says: 'I lived in Lucknow for many years. I never saw the rising [t̤alūʿ] of the moon and sun over the same horizon [mat̤laʿ]--they always avoided being in the same mushairahs. Ḳhvājah Ātash always went to the mushairahs of Navab Sayyid Muḥammad Ḳhān 'Rind' and Sahib Mirzā 'Shināvar'. On the other hand, a mushairah used to be held at the house of Mirzā Muḥammad Raẓā 'Barq'; Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh used to send his ghazal. When the gathering had assembled, then first of all Barq's pupil Miyāñ T̤ūr would take the ghazal and say, 'Gentlemen! Now be all ears: the ghazal is by the ustad of ustads, Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh.' All the people of the mushairah would fall silent and pay attention; after his ghazal, the other poets recited.
Contrary to the habits of poets, his temperament had the virtue of tact. Thus one time Sayyid Muḥammad Ḳhān Rind had a quarrel with his ustad, Ḳhvājah Ḥaidar ʿAlī Ātash. He wished to break off his relationship with his former ustad, and become a pupil of Nāsiḳh's. He came to Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh with Mirzā Muḥammad Raẓā Barq. Mirzā Barq conveyed the purpose of the visit. The Shaiḳh Sahib, after reflecting, said, 'The Navab Sahib has been receiving correction from Ḳhvājah Ātash for ten years. If today he is in this situation with him, then tomorrow what can I hope for from him? Moreover, he too gives the Ḳhvājah Sahib some gifts. That connection will be cut off. On whose head will that sin fall? And I do not need these gifts from him. My view of the matter is that it's better that you yourself reconcile the two gentlemen.' And in this matter he insisted so strongly that again their affection became unclouded.
Although from his conversations and the stories about him it appears that his temperament had no wit or humor or colorfulness in it, poetry is an intoxicant that brings round its practitioner to its own ways. Thus when a person named Mīr Ghasīṭā died, the Shaiḳh Sahib composed this chronogram:
#352# /When Mīr Ghasīṭā died, alas
Everyone beat his breast/
/Hearing of it, Nāsiḳh composed this chronogram
'Alas, that Death dragged [ghasīṭā] him off!'/
Bravo to his fair-minded temperament!--an anecdote: In his temperament the elements of fairness and right judgment were definitely present. Thus in Allahabad one day there was a mushairah. All those of poetic temperament had composed and brought patterned ghazals. The ghazal Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh read had the following opening verse:
/The heart is now about to be absorbed in a Christian
This Kaʿbah is about to become a church/.
A boy stuck his head out from behind the row. His guileless face showed that he was afraid to read his ghazal in the arena of encounter. People's affectionate treatment increased his courage; his very first opening verse was,
/The heart is about to go mad over that idol
God knows what is about to happen now/.
A clamor arose in the gathering. Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh too praised the boy and encouraged him. And he said, 'My friend, this is a gift of God, this is something over which ustad-ship has no power. Your opening verse is the horizon where the sun rises [mat̤laʿ]. I will remove the first line from my own ghazal and discard it.'
He always recited an opening verse by Shāh Naṣīr, and used to say, 'If his pen-name hadn't been Naṣīr, then this opening verse wouldn't have been vouchsafed to him'.
/Naṣīr, keep lamenting loudly in the thought of the beloved's two braids
The snake has gone now, you may go on worrying at its tracks/.
One day he went to some merchant's shop. The merchant's son, who possessed the wealth of beauty as well, lay before them, but he was half asleep, half awake. When he saw this, he composed a line: /The eye is half open--it's the strange sleep of a coquette!/. That line had been completed, but the second line was not coming out the way he wanted it. When he came home, he was immersed in thought when Ḳhvājah Vazīr 'Vazīr' came. He asked the reason for his silence. Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh described it. It happened that Vazīr's temperament flashed into action:
/The eye is half open--it's the strange sleep of a coquette!
Mischief is asleep--the door of mischief is open/.
The Shaiḳh Sahib was very pleased.
#353# One day Vazīr presented himself in the service of his king of poetry. After asking how he was, the Shaiḳh Sahib began to say kind and affectionate things, and said, 'Have you composed anything lately?' He petitioned, 'I've had no leisure from the usual prayers and pious activities'. He asked again. Vazīr then recited this opening verse,
/Those tresses take my endurance and heart and strength
In the dark night my caravan is looted/.
The Shaiḳh Sahib was much pleased. At that time a very fine set of prayer beads made of mocha stone was in his hand; he bestowed it on him. He treated Ḳhvājah Vazīr with great kindness, and valued and esteemed him. Among all the pupils, he was the chief. Then Barq, Rashk, and others.
Chronograms: From his Complete Works it appears that he was always cudgelling his brains, absorbed in contriving them, twenty-four hours a day. [A number of his Persian chronograms, #354# composed for a variety of occasions.]
In one mushairah, Ḳhvājah Ātash recited this opening verse:
/The eye of the beloved likes to apply collyrium
The sick one has been given an indigo thread to wear/.
Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh said, 'Praise be to God, Ḳhvājah Sahib, how well you've composed it!'
/Since the eye of the beloved likes to apply collyrium
The sick one has been given an indigo-colored thread to wear/.2
The Ḳhvājah Sahib rose, made a respectful salutation, and said [in Persian], 'The ustad's place is vacant'. Āzād cannot understand why they make a sick person wear a thread 'in' him. People always make a sick person wear a thread 'on' him. And it is even more surprising that in the Shaiḳh Sahib's opening verse he says,
/Because of delicacy the collyrium is heavy on the beloved's eyes
The way night would be heavy in a sick man's eyes/.
Here too, 'in' is meaningless; if 'on' had been there, it would have been fine.
An anecdote: In a mushairah, the time came when the gathering had already broken up. But Ḳhvājah Ḥaidar ʿAlī Ātash #355# and some other poets were still present. Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh went and took a seat, and after routine compliments and inquiries said, 'Janāb Ḳhvājah Sahib, is the mushairah over?' Ḳhvājah Ātash said, 'Everyone was eager to hear from you'. Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh recited this opening verse,
/Those who are elite are not members of the common group
The 'Imām' bead is not counted among the prayer beads/.
Since his name too was Imām Baḳhsh, all those in the gathering praised it extremely. Ḳhvājah Ātash recited this opening verse:
/This is a gathering that has no place for the worthless
In our game of cards, there is no play for the 'slave'/.3
In some people's account, this opening verse is by a pupil of Ātash's. On the part of Nāsiḳh's pupils, this is the reply [javāb], and in fact it is peerless [lājavāb]:
/Special people cannot be slaves to common people--
Yūsuf might be sold a thousand times, but he is no slave/.
This account is widely known among the common people. But from elderly people who were witnesses to the events and gatherings of that time I have ascertained that the first opening verse Ātash in fact composed about T̤ālib ʿAlī Ḳhān 'ʿAishī'.d People had alleged resemblances [between ʿAishī and Nāsiḳh], and made the Shaiḳh Sahib responsible for it.
Looking at the published first edition of this book, my wholehearted well-wisher Sayyid Aḥmad Sahib Ḍakshanezī reports, from someone's oral testimony: One day Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh was in attendance #356# upon Navab Naṣīr ud-Dīn Ḥaidar. The huqqah was before them. The Navab commanded, 'Shaiḳh Sahib! Compose something about this.' He at once recited,
/The huqqah that is in the hands of Your Exalted Excellency
Is like the Milky Way in the hands of the Pleiades/
/Nāsiḳh, all this is proper, but petition also
That the lifeless one speaks in the Messiah's hands/.
Some friends say that in the apparent meaning of the words the huqqah is the Milky Way and the praised person is the Pleiades. But people have called the praised person the moon and the sun, in fact even, by way of dignity and rank, the sky itself. To this day, no one has used the simile of the Pleiades. Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh gave up his forceful discourse and his liveliness and his tightness of construction, but he did not let go of the principles of art; to ascribe this verse-set to him is to make a scar on the moon. But since he composed it extemporaneously, so much strictness is also not permissible.
Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh has one ghazal of which the opening verse is,
/Those black curls take my heart
Today my candle is extinguished early in the evening/.
The same Mirzāʾī Sahib with whom Shaiḳh Nasiḳh's money had remained as a trust, was a noble from among the aristocracy of Lucknow and a good friend of the Shaiḳh Sahib's. He had the Shaiḳh Sahib's illustrious name carved on a fine turquoise and made it into a ring and gave it to him. Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh usually wore it. Sometimes he used to take it off and put it aside. Someone stole it, or it was lost. At that he said,
/No one in this age can be as unknown as I
Even the gemstone on which my name was inscribed has been lost/.
In those days, Lucknow too was not the Lucknow of today. When this opening verse of Shaiḳh Ibrāhīm Żauq was recited there,
/Please tell the people of the wilderness about the battle of Nofal, Majnūñ
So that the breeze may bend the willow, to practice drawing a soft bow [to fight for Majnūn]/
everyone declared it meaningless. The Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh told them the story of the battle of Nofal, and told them about the the term 'to draw a soft bow [for practice]' [kabādah khaiñchnā]. Then everyone accepted it. But this fact is neither a cause of pride for the Delhi people, nor a cause of offense for the Lucknow people. After all, Delhi didn't become the city of Shahjahanabad in a day! When Mīr Taqī and Mirzā Rafīʿ were born, they didn't instantly become Mīr and Saudā!
The language of Lucknow is now free of the bondage of imitating Delhi: Now that my discourse about poetry has reached a certain point, it is necessary to say this much: #357# that up till that period the poets of Lucknow were the pupils of those ustads, the river of whose accomplishment had flowed from the fountainhead of Delhi. And the literary people of Lucknow too, when it came to every idiom, considered Delhi alone to be a source of pride. Because they were mostly the descendants of those elders whom the revolving of time had picked up [from Delhi] and flung down there [in Lucknow]. Thus the accomplishment of Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh and Ḳhvājah Ḥaidar ʿAlī Ātash freed Lucknow from the bondage of Delhi rules, and gave it an authority for power. And that became authoritatively established. Now they say whatever they want; we cannot stop them. Thus the Shaiḳh Sahib says, [four verses illustrating Lucknow usages]. Although in Delhi everyone, from a child to an old man, says [not andhyārī but] andherī rāt [=dark night], the Lucknow people are not ones to be called into question. Because the dust from which such people of accomplishment have arisen--its language is an authority in its own right. In Bakāvalī Nasīm says, '/He wandered from house to house like a die; it was not possible to wander away from the Delhi people's language/'. The people of Lucknow call malāʾī [=cream] 'bālāʾī'. For smoking tobacco they have tamākū, for putting tobacco in pān they have tambākū. The Delhi people have tambākū for smoking, and for putting in pān they say zardah.
Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh was revered by his whole age, and everyone thought it an honor to be his pupil. But some pupils composed substantial volumes.
(1) Ḳhvājah Vazīr, who was the pupil of Ātash, then became the pupil of Nāsiḳh, and was proud of it until the day he died. He was as powerful over language as he was inclined to 'delicate thought'. Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh too took great care of him, and showed him the highest degree of kindness.
(2) Mirzā Muḥammad Raẓā Ḳhān 'Barq' became famous for a number of ghazals, and for being a companion of Vājid ʿAlī Shāh Bādshāh. His volume has been printed, and can be bought.
#358# (3) Vālā Jāh Mīr ʿAlī Ausat̤ 'Rashk,' whose temperament was not to be contained within thick and heavy volumes, and who in the realm of poetry received a monopoly over composing chronograms.
(4) Shaiḳh Imdād ʿAlī 'Baḥr'. Although the time did not permit him to raise his head from the dust of poverty, even in old age his temperament showed the vigor and vitality of youth. Finally, ascendant fortune came and befriended him. He settled in the domain of the Navab Sahib of Rampur, and lived there in comfort for some years. In truth, he was the pupil who in this age became a source of pride. May God have mercy on him.
(5) Sayyid Ismāʿīl Ḥusain 'Munīr' Shikohābādī was a poet with years of practice. At first he was in the service of the Navab of Bāndah. After the troubles of 1857, for some time he endured much hardship. Then the Navab Sahib of Rampur showed esteem for him. He had some years of life left; he settled there comfortably, and then made the final journey.
(6) Āġhā Kalb-e Ḥusain Ḳhān 'Nādir' comes last of all. But in his passionate interest, and his flow of themes, and the number of his works, and his adherence to the principles of poetry, he was first among them all. His whole life he worked as a Deputy Collector, and was caught up in governmental concerns, but he never ceased to pay attention to poetry. Wherever he was transferred, he took his mushairah with him. Both in his official capacity and as a private person, he always treated poets with respect. And in this situation he said,
/People say that the art of poetry is ill-omened--
Composing verse after verse, I've become a Deputy Collector!/
He has a number of thick volumes of ghazals, and odes, and salāms, and elegies. There are a number of books and pamphlets, from which the student of the language can obtain much benefit. He wrote one book about the art of agriculture; in it is a detailed investigation of India's fruits and vegetables. In his old age, he retired on a government pension, but he did full justice to the claims of poetry. His piety was enviable. In his will he directed that after his death in his one hand they should put his volume of sālams and elegies, and in his other hand they should put his volume of odes that he composed in praise of the venerable elders of the faith.
#359# These people [of Lucknow], and some of their contemporaries, adopted a number of restrictions on certain usages in the language--such that the people of Delhi, the authority-providers, themselves adopted some of them, and a number of others they rejected. And the common people never even thought about the whole matter. But the real maker of these rules was Mīr ʿAlī Ausat̤ Rashk. Thus it is certainly necessary to write down some words by way of example. [Examples of his word choices.]
[Six ghazals #360# #361# #362# #363# by Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh.]
a In Urdu-e muʿallah, there is a letter by the late Ġhālib to Mirzā Ḥātim ʿAlī 'Mihr'. In it he has written, 'The late Nāsiḳh, who was your ustad, was my truly loving friend also, but he had only one art. He composed only ghazals; he had no connection with odes and masnavis.' In the same book, in a letter to Chaudharī ʿAbd ul-Ġhafūr, he has recorded a few selected verses of the older elders, and then has said that such sharp scalpels are fewer in Nāsiḳh, and more in Ātash.
1 According to tradition, the Prophet never cast a shadow.
c Shāh Muḥammad Ajmal's grandson was Shāh Abuʾl Maʿālī. His son was Shāh Ġhulām Aʿz̤am, with the pen-name of Afẓal.
2 The double meaning of mardum [man; pupil of the eye] suggests other imagery. The beloved's eye is conventionally 'sick' [chashm-e bīmār] because it cannot rise (since the beloved has modest, downcast eyes). The 'indigo thread' is prayed over, knotted, and put around the sick person's neck. In Nāsiḳh's revision, the word 'since' and the reference to color make these connections clearer.
3 The word 'slave' [ġhulām] referred to a low card; it is a dig at Nāsiḳh's status as an adopted son.
d T̤ālib ʿAlī Ḳhān ʿAishī, the son of ʿAlī Baḳhsh Ḳhān Lakhnavī, was a learned and knowledgeable person; along with accomplishments in learning, he used to compose fine poetry as well. But he was not a professional poet. He has left as a memorial a volume of poetry in Persian, including odes, and a volume in Rekhtah, a collection of his prose, the masnavi Sarv-e chirāġhāñ, and other poetry in other genres. In the service of an appreciator like Saʿādat ʿAlī Ḳhān, he fulfilled his poetic requests, and earned praise and admiration.
T̤ālib ʿAlī Ḳhān did not think much of the Ḳhvājah Sahib's poetry. Becoming displeased at this, Ḳhvājah Ātash exposed ʿAishī's personal stain [as an adopted son] and composed the opening verse in question.