The Fifth Era of Āb-e ḥayāt:
MIR MUSTAḤSAN ḲHALĪQ
#364# The son of Mīr Ḥasan, in the beauty [ḥusn] of his conduct and the largeness of his qualities he was a true son of his ancestors. Gravity, moderation, and humility bear public witness to his being a Sayyid. He was educated in Faizabad and Lucknow. From the age of sixteen years, he began the practice of poetry, and in keeping with his good manners [ḳhulq] he adopted the pen-name Ḳhalīq [=Well-mannered]. In the beginning he used to compose a great many ghazals, and he received correction from his venerable father. When Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī arrived in Lucknow, in those days Mīr Ḥasan was writing Badr-e Munīr, and Mīr Ḳhalīq was in such a creative state that what with composing ghazals all the time, he gave his father no peace. He left his kind father no leisure in which to compose poems. The father took his son with him, and spoke of his own lack of leisure, and confided his son to Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī for correction. The promising boy's youthful temperament found its own style, so that Appreciation seized his hand, and he was appointed to a position in the family of Nīshāpūrī nobles for fifteen rupees a month. In those days Mirzā Taqī 'Taraqqī'a wanted to increase the popularity of poetry in Faizabad. He established a mushairah. And he invited Ḳhvājah Ḥaidar ʿAlī Ātash from Lucknow. His plan was to keep him there. In the very first gathering, Mīr Ḳhalīq recited a ghazal of which the opening verse was,
/The envy of the mirror is the side of that one who is the envy of the moon
The aspect of this side can be clearly seen from that side/.1
Ātash tore up his own ghazal and said, 'When such a person is present here, what need is there for me?'
Mīr Ḳhalīq was exercising his mind with 'delicate thoughts', when his father's death crashed down on him like a stone on glass. The burden of the family fell on his head like a mountain, and choked up the fountain of inspiration with dust. But not a wrinkle appeared on the forehead of his courage. He usually lived in Faizabad; when he came to Lucknow, he used to stay in #365# Pīr Buḳhārā. He was so productive that, for example, a boy would come and say, 'Mīr Sahib! The Eighth-day [of Holi] Festival is coming, I want to go; please compose a ghazal', then he would say, 'All right, I'll compose one'. Or then the boy would say, 'Mīr Sahib! The festival is tomorrow, I'll go tomorrow--please compose it right now', then he at once composed it. Then the boy would say, 'Please teach it to me by heart, Mīr Sahib', then he taught it to him. In those days ghazals could be bought and sold. Even poets like Miyāñ Muṣḥafī sold their poetry. Mīr Ḳhalīq too used to compose ghazals and sell them.
One day a buyer came to Mīr Ḳhalīq and arranged to have his pen-name inserted, and then asked Nāsiḳh to please do some correction on it. The Shaiḳh Sahib read the ghazal, looked in his direction, and angrily said, 'Well--do you think you could compose this ghazal? I recognize the language. It's that same young man from Pīr Buḳhārā!'
Mīr Ḳhalīq had composed a volume, but he did not let it circulate widely. The coins of words and the capital of themes that he had inherited as a trust from his elders, he expended as provisions in the final journey, and always kept composing elegies. In this alone he made a name, and also earned his livelihood. He composed them, and he himself recited them in the gatherings. Appreciators touched them respectfully to their eyes in admiration, and took them away.
Sayyid Inshā, in Daryā-e lat̤āfat, where he describes the customs of the elite of Delhi, says that people looked down on the profession of elegy-recitation; and if you consider carefully, even now it's the same. Elegy-recitation used to be such that in the time of Saudā and Mīr, Miyāñ Sikandar, Miyāñ Gadā, Miyāñ Miskīn, Afsurdah, and so on, composed only elegies. If you look at the aforementioned compositions, then they are only like holy relics, because those elders in their elegies aimed only at weeping and lamentation, and the acquiring of religious merit. And there's no doubt that those well-intentioned people were successful in achieving their purpose through the excellence of their emotional effect. With poetry and the devices of literature they had nothing to do. It was Mīr Ḳhalīq and some other people of his time who washed away these imperfections and polished up elegies so brightly that people began to look on them the way the poetry of the venerable masters is looked upon. And formerly elegies used to be sung in the soz style; #366# then they began to recite them taḥt ul-lafz̤ [=without singing] as well.
The way the wind changed in the field of elegy-composition and elegy-recitation--that change took place from the time of Mīr Ḳhalīq. Formerly, many elegies were 'four-liners': each of the four lines was rhymed [AAAA]. That style vanished. A salām in the style of the ghazal, and for the elegy the the form of a sestain, became the norm. The salām used to be recited in both styles, soz and taḥt ul-lafz̤; and whatever they composed in the form of an augmented-line ghazal was called a nauḥah, and they sang it only in soz. And this tradition continues today. The salāms and elegies and so on composed by Mīr Ḳhalīq and his contemporaries depicted the sufferings and incidents leading to martyrdom, and along with them praises and miracle-stories about the Prophet's family, with such flow and simplicity and colloquialness that the aspect of the events became a picture before the eyes, and the heart's pain turned into tears and dripped from the eyes.
In this time there was an elegy-composer and elegy-reciter named Mīr Ẓamīr. Along with a poetic temperament, he had a full ability in the traditional learning of Arabic, Persian, and so on. And he was an extremely pious and abstemious person. The surprising thing is that along with this, in his temperament there was so much liveliness and wit as well that it was as if he was permeated by the spirit of Saudā. He too had sold this world to purchase merit in the next, and had given up the ghazal and similar poetry. People turned these two elders into points of comparison, and began to praise them competitively. As they tested themselves through attacks on each other, their temperaments began to produce new inventions.
Up till that time, the elegy used to be thirty to forty-five stanzas long, or fifty at most. The late Mīr Ẓamīr composed an elegy /In what radiant gathering do I appear?/ in which the martyrdom of Prince ʿAlī Akbar is described. First, with a few introductory stanzas, he composed the chihrah of the elegy. Then he composed a sarāpā. Then he showed the aspect of the battlefield. And he concluded with an account of the martyrdom. Because it was a new invention, the clamor of praise could be heard for long distances. It became famous in the whole city, and requests for it #367# came from all directions. This invention in elegy-composition was a revolution, such that the former path was abandoned. Despite the fact that he had said in his concluding verse,
/I would claim among ten people, I would claim among one hundred people, this is my credo--
Whoever might compose in this manner, he is my pupil/
still everyone began to follow him. To the extent that first Amānat, then other poets, began to introduce sarāpās into the vāsoḳht.
In that period there were four famous elegy-composers: Mīr Ẓamīr, Mīr Ḳhalīq, Miyāñ Dilgīr,b Miyāñ Faṣīḥ. Miyāñ Dilgīr had a stammer, so he didn't recite his elegies. Even in his compositions, he didn't set foot outside the circle of 'elegiac-ness'. Mirzā Faṣīḥ went to perform the Haj and pilgrimage, and settled down there. The field remained clear for Mīr Ẓamīr and Mīr Ḳhalīq, for them to show their paces. The world's spectacle-watchers, who get pleasure out of setting sharp temperaments to fight with each other, praised both ustads and goaded them on to battle, and amused themselves. And this gave their minds exercise in perfection, and their hearts the relish of the pleasure of poetry.
In the expression of their perfection, both ustads' pace was different. Because Mīr Ẓamīr made high flights on the wings of intellectual ability and power of temperament, and came back having proven his mettle. Mīr Ḳhalīq stepped outside the bounds of 'elegiac-ness' only occasionally, by chance. He had little desire to create themes, and always achieved his purpose by composing idiomatic and delightful language, together with pain-evoking ideas. And the temper of this steel was a natural and hereditary quality. For his poetry he demanded not 'Praise be to God!' and 'Bravo!' but mostly laments and sighs. Supporters of both sides were constantly absorbed in their fighting, but both gentlemen knew well the law of politeness and serenity. The two never appeared together in the same gathering.
Finally, a well-intentioned enthusiast, through the power of money and with the help of practical wisdom, broke #368# the law--and that too, on only one occasion. It happened like this: the late Navāb Sharaf ud-Daulah had arranged a majlis at his house and invited everybody, great and small. And one day before the gathering he went to the late Mīr Ẓamīr's house. After the usual conversation, he placed before him a bag containing five hundred rupees and said, 'Tomorrow there is a majlis--you will please recite the elegy'. After this, he went to Mīr Ḳhalīq and conveyed the same theme to him, and he didn't tell either one about the other. It was after all the city of Lucknow--on the appointed day, thousands upon thousands of men gathered. After one o'clock, Mīr Ẓamīr ascended the pulpit and began to recite an elegy. His style of reading--praise be to God! His verse elegy--and on top of it, his prose comments! Sometimes he made people weep, and sometimes he caused them to raise a clamor of praise and admiration--when Mīr Ḳhalīq too arrived and, seeing the situation, was left stupefied. And he said in his heart, 'Today too my honor is in the Lord's hands'. When Ẓamīr noticed him, he became even more expansive, and prolonged the elegy so that he didn't leave a tear unshed in any eye or a word of praise unspoken on any lip--and in fact he didn't even leave enough time. The setting sun was only just glimmering.
The moment he descended from the pulpit, the herald came to Mīr Ḳhalīq and said, 'The Navab Sahib commands that you too be kind enough to cause the gathering to earn merit in the eyes of God'. At that point his supporters were absolutely against it, but he, trusting in the Lord, rose and went to the pulpit and seated himself. For some moments he said nothing. He sat silently with his eyes closed. With his fair complexion, his frail and weak form, it was not clear whether there was a drop of blood in his body or not. When he recited a quatrain, his voice didn't even reach the people of the gathering very clearly. Some stanzas of the elegy too went by in this way. Suddenly this accomplished master changed his style. And along with that, the mood of the whole gathering changed. The vapor of sighs spread like a cloud, and grief and lamentation began to cause the tears to fall. When he had recited fifteen or twenty stanzas, no one was aware of anyone else. When, after reciting twenty-five or thirty stanzas, he came down from the pulpit, most people in the gathering were in such a state that when they finally lifted their eyes and looked at the pulpit, only then did they notice that it was empty. They didn't know at what time Mīr Ḳhalīq Sahib had come down from the pulpit. The perfection of both reciters was fully approved, and the supporters #369# of both sides went home with their faces flushed with pride.
The account recorded above I have heard from the lips of Mīr Mahdī Ḥasan Farāġh. But Mīr ʿAlī Ḥasan with the pen-name of Ashk, who is descended from Mīr ʿImād the master calligrapher, and is himself the pupil of Nāsiḳh and the possessor of a volume--his father used the pen-name of Jannatī, and composed only elegies, and was a pupil of Miyāñ Dilgīr. Mīr Ashk is even now living in Hyderabad, and is employed as a high-ranking officer. Through his lips Maulvī Sharīf Ḥusain Ḳhān Sahib has recounted that in Lucknow a poor but virtuous person arranged majlises with great enthusiasm. And for this reason every well-known elegy-reciter and all the great and small of Lucknow used to present themselves at his house. This [above] encounter took place at his house, and at the instigation of Mīr Ẓamīr. Mīr Ashk said that Mīr Ḳhalīq, after his father's death, lived for some time in great hardship. His family were in Faizabad; Āṣif ud-Daulah had begun to live in Lucknow, and for this reason all the nobles began to live there. Mīr Ḳhalīq used to come to to Lucknow. In a whole year he used to earn three or four hundred rupees, and take them back and spend them on the care of his family. His habit was to take his elegy-bundle under his arm, and come away to Lucknow. Here there was a broken-down building lying empty; he used to come and stay there. One time he came, spread out his bedding, and lit a fire. He was kneading flour when that person came and stood before him with folded hands and said, 'Your Excellency! The gathering is ready; by my good fortune you have bestowed your presence. Please come along and recite an elegy'. He at once rose, just as he was. Washing his hands and taking along his portfolio, he went with him. When he reached there, he saw that Mīr Ẓamīr was seated on the pulpit. There this encounter took place, and from that day Mīr Ḳhalīq became famous for his elegy-recitation.
To envision the style of Mīr Ḳhalīq's poetry and his excellence of idiom and the pleasure of his language, imagine what today you see in Mīr Anīs's #370# elegies. The difference is only that in Mīr Ḳhalīq's case the 'elegiac-ness' and the narration of events evoke grief. In Mīr Anīs's elegies the introductions and the elaborations and the refinements of language are much increased.
His style of enunciation and the beauty of his recitation were worth seeing and hearing. He made absolutely no use of bodily gestures. There was only his style of sitting, and the movement of his eyes. With this much, he achieved everything. The late Mīr Anīs, too, I have seen recite. Only rarely, by chance, did his hand rise, or his neck move, or his eye shift, to achieve his purpose. Otherwise, his words alone fully achieved all the claims of his meaning.
Mīr Ḳhalīq, because of his old age, gave up elegy recitation toward the end of his life. Poets are pupils of God. In their temperament pride and enthusiasm are greater by many degrees than in others. The sun of Mīr Anīs's elegy recitation had begun to rise from the pulpit of the east. When someone came and praised him, 'Today in such-and-such a gathering how well he recited!' or 'At Navab So-and-so's he reduced the whole gathering to helpless grief!'--then Mīr Ḳhalīq did not like it. A number of times it happened that, as weak as he was, he ascended the pulpit and seated himself and recited an elegy. By which he meant that even in his weakened condition, we should not consider that he was worn out.
Mīr Ḳhalīq Sahib, having endured the troubles of old age, passed on from this world. In those days I was very young, but I remember quite well when his poetry arrived in Delhi. It was a composition from his last years; the opening verse was,
/Mujraʾī2, my temperament is dulled, the pleasure of speech has gone
The teeth have gone, as if the temper of the sword of the tongue has gone/.
He composed one or two more verses complaining about the weakness of old age, and the concluding verse was,
/The springtime of life has passed, Ḳhalīq, now everyone will say
From the garden of the world, the nightingale of India has gone/.
In his old age, because of his weakness he didn't recite elegies, but how can the tongue of a natural poet remain #371# inactive? The death of his wife closed the door of his house. He had three sons, Anīs, Mūnis, and Uns. Mīr Ḳhalīq always made his rounds; for ten or fifteen days at a stretch, he would stay at everyone's house in turn. He didn't even come and go; he stayed settled on a cot, and kept writing. When some fresh ground came into his head, he began to compose a salām in it. If his heart entered into it, then he completed it; if not, then he composed some verses and left it. If some introduction occurred to him, he composed the chihrah of an elegy; however much he composed, that's how much was composed, and whatever was left undone was left undone. If he began to versify some incident, and a theme about a horse came into his head, then that's what he went on with; sometimes his mind caught fire, and he began to praise a sword, and so on. He also had the rule that whatever he composed in anybody's house, he left it in that person's house when he came away. This wealth [of manuscripts] remained in the possession of Mīr Anīs more than anyone else, because Mīr Ḳhalīq used to stay mostly in his house. Because his wife, with foods and comforts, took very good care of her venerable elderly relative.
According to everyone his, and even his household's, language was, from the point of view of idiom, authoritative. Award the garlands of praise and admiration to the justice and fair-mindedness of Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh, who always used to tell his pupils, 'My friends, if you want to learn the language, then always go to Mīr Ḳhalīq's house'. And even in addition to this, Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh always used to promote his poetry: he would say, 'All three sons are promising--you'll see, they'll do very well'. Mīr Ḳhalīq adhered to the spoken idiom so strongly that some people, instead of putting the seal of approval on his declaration of perfect achievement, placed on it the stain of lack of learning. Writing about Prince ʿAlī Asġhar, in one place he said that in the absence of water, he fainted from the intensity of thirst. When he opened his eyes, his holy mother, /Recited the Lailāf and gave him milk to drink/. His rivals were on the watch twenty-four hours a day. Someone went and recited this line before Nāsiḳh. He said, 'No--he must have said this: /While reciting the Lāylāf, she gave him milk to drink/'.3
The late Mīr Anīs used to say, 'My father was in my house. On one occasion #372# I was versifying an incident when Janāb Imām Ḥusain, peace be upon him, in his childhood, was stubbornly demanding to play horse. His Excellency, may God's peace and blessing be upon him, came in, and with great love himself bent down and said, 'Come, get on', so that his dear grandson would not be unhappy. On that occasion, I had composed for the second line of the ṭīp, /All right, climb up, I'll be your camel/. I was wracking my brain for the first line. It would not fit in as spontaneously as I wanted it to. Seeing me plunged in thought, my father asked, "What are you thinking about?" I told him the theme, and recited to him the lines that had come to my mind. He said, "Put in this line"'. (Just look at the subtle delightfulness of the language.)
/When you become cross, you are hard to placate--
All right, climb up, I'll be your camel/.
Alas, that I haven't been able to find any whole ghazal of his! I remember two verses, and I'll record them:
/Whatever tear fell from the blood-shedding eye
It was a star that fell from the sky
The beloved burst out laughing last night, Ḳhalīq
When I stumbled and fell down against her doorway/.
ḲHVĀJAH ḤAIDAR ʿALĪ ĀTASH
His pen-name was Ātash, and his name was Ḳhvājah Ḥaidar ʿAlī. His father was a native of Delhi; then he went to Lucknow and made his home there. It was a family of descendants of Sufis, in which there was also the seat of a hereditary Sufi pir, and the lineage of pir and discipleship. But he took up poetry, and bid farewell to the family ways and manners; from them he took only freedom from the world's conventions, and detachment, to bear him company. He was a pupil of Muṣḥafī's. And the truth is that the fire [ātash] of his poetry illumined his ustad's name. In fact, the heat and glow of his poetry created the same contrast between ustad and pupil's work, as between darkness and light.
His attainments in learning: The Ḳhvājah Sahib was very young, and had not yet finished his education, when in mushairahs his temperament #373# began to show its accomplishment. At this time, at the urging of friends, he read the prescribed books; nevertheless, considering the [grammar book] Kāfiyah in Arabic to be sufficient [kāfī], he thought further study useless. He kept giving power to his poetry through practice. So much so that he became the fully authoritative [musallam ul-ṡubūt] ustad of his age. And hundreds of pupils, brought up in the skirts of his training, were known as ustads in their turn.
His style of living: With a thin body, tall in height, he was a simple, innocent, straightforward man. His style was soldierly, unconventional, and free of ostentation; and in order to retain his family cachet, he had somewhat the air of a faqir. Along with this, up until his old age he wore a sword and maintained a soldierly swagger. On his head a single braid, and sometimes a thick curly braid in the Ḥaidarī style, for this too was the hallmark of the dandies of the Muḥammad Shāhī time. And with it he wore a green turban-ornament, and a casual manner. And tilting a cap rakishly over his eyebrow, he went wherever he fancied. In the sarai of Bāle Ḳhān there was an oldish house, and he settled there. To one side of that neighborhood was the forest, where he could amuse himself. In fact he often wandered in wild places, and in forests outside the city. He used to receive eighty rupees a month from the king of Lucknow. He gave fifteen rupees to his wife; the rest of it he used up even before the end of the month in giving food and sustenance to the poor and needy. Then he lived trusting in God. But if some one of his pupils or of the nobles of the city gave him some present, he didn't refuse. Despite all this, he always used to keep a horse at his service. In this state, sometimes he was prosperous, sometimes he had to starve for one or more days. When his pupils found out, every one of them presented himself, bringing something or other, and said, 'You don't consider us yours, since you don't let us know your situation'. In reply, he said, 'You people have fed me and fed me until my greedy soul has gotten fat'. This honor often fell to Mīr Dost ʿAlī 'Ḳhalīl'. Faqīr Muḥammad Ḳhān 'Goyā' was the pupil of Ḳhvājah Vazīr--who was the pupil of Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī--but he gave twenty-five rupees a month. From Sayyid Muḥammad Ḳhān Rind, too, regular offerings used to arrive.
His faqir-like situation: #374# The age not only showed respect for the pictures he made with his themes, but in fact offered even worship. But he did not want the outward adornment of its glory and show. He neither went to nobles' courts to recite ghazals, nor composed odes in their praise. He spread out his cheap jute mat in a broken-down house, sheltered by a roof of straw and thatch. He dressed in a simple lungi, and sat in patience and contentment. And he spent this transitory life like some indifferent and careless faqir sitting in a takiyah. If someone of good family but modest means came, or some poor man, he paid attention to him and conversed with him. When a rich man came, he scolded him; the rich person would offer a respectful salute and remain standing until he might invite him to be seated. Then he would say, 'Yes--well, sir! You see the straw mat--your clothes will be ruined. This is a faqir's takiyah--there's no bolster or pillow [takiyah] here! And this style of living is absolutely opposed to the pomp and splendor of Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh.' The result of this was that he became universally popular and beloved, and kept close company with scholarly poets. From rich to poor, everyone came to pay their respects at his faqir-like takiyah. [Ātash:]
/Oh Humā, what is the kingship compared to faqiri?
Kings come in order to kiss the feet of beggars/.
In the year A.H. 1263 [1846-47], one day he was sitting there well and healthy, when suddenly death came like a gust of wind and blew him out like a flame. In the house of Ātash [=Fire], what should be left except a heap of ashes? Mīr Dost ʿAlī Ḳhalīl arranged the preparations and the burial, and performed the mourning ceremonies too in a most proper manner. He had a wife and a young boy and girl, and Ḳhalīl took care of them too. Mīr ʿAlī Ausat̤ Rashk composed a [Persian] chronogram: [chronogram].
The style of his poetry: The earnings of his whole life, which should be called the capital of immortal life, is one volume of ghazals, which had gone into circulation during his lifetime. There is a second, the remainder, which was compiled after his death. Whatever there is of his poetry is in truth the founding charter of colloquial Urdu idiom, and a lofty example of Indian literature. The style of colloquial speech of the elite of Lucknow can be known from it. The way people speak is just the way he composes verses. His poetry obtained the authority of #375# pleasing the elite and being accepted by the common people. It became popular and was considered worthy of praise not only among his pupils but also among disinterested and fair-minded persons. There can be no greater proof of this than the way it is printed again and again, and keeps on selling. It is recited in the gatherings of lovers of poetry. And his romantic ghazals, enhancing the emotional effect of music, warm up many gatherings.
His confrontations with the Shaiḳh Sahib: He was a contemporary of Shaiḳh Imām Baḳhsh Nāsiḳh. In mushairahs, and even while sitting at home, there used to be frequent confrontations. Both had crowds and crowds of admirers, who turned gatherings into encounters, and encounters into battles. But a hundred blessings on both venerable elders, that they did not become locked in combat like Mirzā Rafīʿ and Sayyid Inshā. Sometimes there would be an exchange of sharp words, but this does not deserve much attention. Thus when Ḳhvājah Ātash wrote a series of ghazals on Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh's ghazals, then Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh said,
/An ignorant person is claiming to have an answer to my volume
The way Bū Musailam wrote an answer to the Quran/.
/Why should every believer not give an answer to the volume of that infidel
Who has declared his volume to be an answer to the Quran/.
In Ḳhvājah Ātash's poetry there is much pleasure to be derived from the colloquial, everyday language and idiom, which is not present to the same degree in Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh's poetry.
Opponents' objections: Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh's followers put this matter in a different form by saying that in Ḳhvājah Ātash's poetry, indeed, there's nothing but casual chit-chat--no maturity of Rekhtah, no decorum of construction, no sophisticated themes in his verses. And from this they conclude that he is not a person of learning. But this is the same kind of injustice that is practiced by Ḳhvājah Ātash's own followers, when they hold Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh's verses to be often meaningless and trivial. I myself have studied Ātash's volume. His poetry is not devoid of sophisticated themes. Undoubtedly his expression is limpid. He doesn't give twists to straightforward matters. Among his constructions there are also Persianized similes and metaphors, but they are readily understandable. And along with this he's very faithful to his own [Urdu] idiom. In truth, it's an inborn gift that rivalry has brought forward in the guise of a defect. It is easy to exalt poetry with colorful expressions, similes, metaphors. But to present a simple, clear meaning in everyday idiomatic language, #376# so that it will move the listener's heart--this is very difficult.
Shaiḳh Saʿdī's Gulistān is not exactly unknown. It contains neither 'delicate thoughts', nor lofty themes, not complex similes, nor sentences of metaphor upon metaphor. It contains little stories, and very simple words. And even up to the present it has remained peerless. There are hundreds of books in the style of Mīnā bāzār and Panj ruqaʿh. After reflecting on this matter I've realized that those gentlemen who enjoy the breezes of the garden of 'imaginativeness' and 'delicate thought' first of all seek to create some new theme that no one would ever have used before. But when they don't find anything that isn't already out there in the verses of the ancients, they have no choice but to draw out subtleties in those same themes and engage in hairsplitting. And they develop many subtleties and delicacies such that if you study them carefully you get extreme pleasure. They throw away the flowers and make use merely of color without roses. They draw out the brightness from the mirror, and draw out amazement from the reflection in the mirror, and throw the mirror away. They converse wordlessly through collyrium-shadowed eyes. In fact these themes, through an imaginary subtlety and delicacy, create freshness in the poem. And people too are ready with praise and applause.
But the problem is that, to express [these themes], suitable words are not available that the speaker can say and the listener can clearly understand. Thus such poetry can't be as full of impact as a fingernail jabbing into the liver. It's a great pity that widely accessible meanings can't be expressed in this way. Undoubtedly theirs is a very difficult task, but it can be compared to an artist painting a hunting scene on a lentil, or a calligrapher writing [the Quranic chapter] Qul ho allāh on a grain of rice. If you look for some point, there's none at all. That's why people who are wise try to create simplicity in their meanings and style. If something new emerges in the process, then it emerges. They don't ascend so high that they vanish entirely from view and the listeners are left staring. Although it sometimes happens #377# that complexity of constructions and subtlety of wording create the illusion of jewels of meaning--and when you look from inside, it appears as quite a simple utterance. Which opponents of this style call 'the mountain splitting and producing a mouse'. But to be fair, neither style is devoid of charm.
/Flowers of many colors are the glory of the garden
Oh Żauq, diversity is the ornament of the world/.
Ḳhvājah Ātash's opponents have objections as well: Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh's admirers also find fault with certain words of Ḳhvājah Ātash. Thus they say that when he recited the following verse,
/The daughter of the grape is a woman, she is my companion
I am Jahāngīr, she is Nūr Jahāñ Begam/.
people said, 'Your Excellency! Begam is a Turkish word; native speakers pronounce it as begum, and the rules of Persian usage also requires this'. He was at that time intoxicated with bhang. He said, 'Hunh! I don't speak Turkish. If I speak Turkish, I'll say begum'.
[Discussion of other similarly disputed usages, #378# #379# #380# with many illustrative Urdu verses by Ātash, a couple by Jurʾat and Mīr, and a Persian example from Ḥāfiz̤.]
His encounter with T̤ālib ʿAlī Ḳhān ʿAishī: One time in a mushairah at Mīr Taqī Taraqqī's place Ḳhvājah Ātash recited a ghazal in which he had used a theme on the beauty of the stomach by calling it 'a wave in the ocean of camphor'. T̤ālib ʿAlī Ḳhān ʿAishī interrupted him right at that point and objected. The Ḳhvājah Sahib replied, 'Young man, you have a ways to go yet. Look what Jāmī says [in Persian]:
/Her breasts rising up like small domes of light--
Bubbles arising in an ocean of camphor/.
At the same time, he said to the presiding person, 'Your Excellency, this time let this be the pattern:
/This is the gathering in which there is no place for inauspiciousness
In our game of cards, there is no play for the 'slave'/.
That poor man [ʿAishī] too was somebody's adopted son. People hung this same opening verse around Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh's neck.4
He quarreled with his ustad: It can be seen from history books that poets, who are pupils of God, have always quarreled with their merely human ustads. Thus Ḳhvājah Ātash too quarreled with his ustad. God knows what particular matters were at the bottom of it, and who had right on his side. Today it is difficult for the real situation to be revealed to those who sit so far away. But about the beginning of their open quarrel, I have heard this tale. Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī was still alive, and Ḳhvājah Ātash's temperament too had begun to show its fire. There was a mushairah for which the pattern was 'dahan bigṛā, yāsman bigṛā'. Everyone composed ghazals in it. Ḳhvājah Ātash, having written his ghazal, recited it to Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī, his ustad. #381# And when he recited these verses,
/Like a trust, the earth kept it until Doomsday
Not a single hair of mine was lost, nor a thread of my shroud damaged
Sahib, you have begun to make faces too while giving abuse--
If your language is damaged, it's damaged--look and see if your face is damaged!/
then in the flush of intoxication he said, 'Ustad! If in this refrain and rhyme anyone should come up with such verses, his liver would pop right out of his mouth [with the effort]'. Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī laughed and said, 'Yes, my boy, you say truly--now no one can compose such verses'. After this, he attentively did the ghazal of a newly-started boy from among his pupils.c And in it he used the two rhymes in this way:
/I've written on my shroud with the dust of the beloved's street--
I will create a Doomsday if a border of my shroud is damaged
That which can't be experienced can't be properly mapped--
I made an image of the beloved--the waist was damaged, the mouth was damaged/.
Whatever comparability there is between these [latter] verses and those [former and much superior] verses--only those who know how to assay such jewels will understand it. But in the mushairah they were much praised. Nevertheless, since the verses were clearly beyond a boy, perceptive people perceived that it was the ustad-ship of an ustad. At that time Ḳhvājah Ātash rose and went to sit near Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī. And throwing down the ghazal from his hand, he said, 'You have plunged this dagger into my liver. Otherwise how did this wretched boy have the power to pull out verses with those rhymes?' Well, this kind of talk with an ustad is the impudence of children and the coquetry of boyhood--which appeals to those who hear, and which gives rise to a zeal for progress in their temperaments. But it is necessary for a dutiful pupil to keep a proper awareness of the rank of ustad-ship and his own limits, so that, as in the case of Ḳhāqānī and Abuʾl ʿAlāʾī Ganjavī, the situation may not come to dirty and foul satires from both sides. If they do not take care, both [pupil and ustad] will be disgraced in the world until Doomsday. Accordingly, Ḳhvājah Ātash's good sense and good breeding, which kept him an adherent to this law, #382# are worthy of praise in this matter.
Some excellent verses are not in the Complete Works: From Mīr Mahdī Ḥasan 'Farāġh' I have heard some extremely powerful and delightful verses of Ḳhvājah Ātash's that are not in the extant Complete Works. The reason as reported is that in that day there was a gentleman of great taste and intelligence; he himself was a poet, and there used to be a very splendid mushairah at his house. Ḳhvājah Ātash too used to go and recite his ghazal, and leave it there when he came away. After his death, when his pupils began to edit his volume, many ghazals were obtained from that chief of the mushairah. God knows whether by design or carelessly, but a number of verses did not get into the volume. But because that gentleman was a pupil of Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh, suspicion gives people sinful minds.
When Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh died, then Ḳhvājah Ātash composed a chronogram. And from that day he ceased to compose verses, because the pleasure of composing was in hearing and reciting. When the person to whom one enjoys reciting is no longer there, then it is no longer composing poetry, it is babble.
From his circumstances it appears that the unconventionality of his temperament and the perfection of his poetry made him disdainful of outward show and display. But there was so much wit in his disposition that he expressed every type of idea through jokes alone.
An anecdote: One of his pupils, complaining of unemployment, often used to express an intention of traveling. Ḳhvājah Ātash, with his freedom of disposition, would always say, 'My friend, where will you go? Consider it a great piece of good fortune just to sit here in good company for a few hours! And accept with patience what God gives.' One day the pupil came and said, 'Your Excellency! I've come to take my leave.' He replied, 'Is everything all right? Where?' The pupil said, 'Tomorrow I'll set out for Banaras. If I can do anything for you there, please command me.' He laughed and said, 'Just do this much: pay my respects as well to the God of that place'. The pupil was astonished, and said, 'Your Excellency! Is the God of this place at all different from the God of that place?' He replied, 'Apparently the God of this place is stingy--the God of that place might be somewhat generous'. The pupil #383# said, 'I take refuge in God! What is this that you've said?' The Ḳhvājah Sahib said, 'For heavens sake, listen to me! When God is one both there and here, then why are you leaving us? The way you would have petitioned Him there--petition Him here. If He'll give it to you there, He'll give it to you here also!' These words made such an impression on the pupil's heart that he gave up his intention of traveling and sat at home in contentment.
When describing Ḳhvājah Ātash's straightforward temperament and innocent, childlike behavior, the late Mīr Anīs said, 'One day it occurred to him that he ought to offer the prayer. He said to one of his pupils, "My friend, teach me the prayer". It happened that the pupil was of the Sunni persuasion. He taught him the [Sunni] prayer, and said, "Ustad! The more secretly the prayer is done, the better it is." When it was time for prayer, he would go off alone, or close the door of the house before praying. Mīr Dost ʿAlī Ḳhalīl, his special pupil, was allowed to be in attendance in private as well as public. One day Ḳhalīl too saw this [style of prayer], and was very much astonished. When he had offered the prayer, Ḳhalīl said, "Ustad! What is your religious persuasion?" He replied, "I'm a Shia. Why do you ask?" Ḳhalīl said, "And you do the Sunni prayer?" He replied, "My friend, what do I know about it? I asked So-and-so; as he taught me, I do. What do I know if one God can have two prayers?" From that day, he began to offer prayer in the Shia style.' The number of pupils he had was greater than the number that any other ustad had. Among them Sayyid Muḥammad Ḳhān 'Rind', Mīr Vazīr ʿAlī 'Ṣabā', Mīr Dost ʿAlī 'Ḳhalīl', Hidāyat ʿAlī 'Jalīl', Sahib Mirzā 'Shināvar', Mirzā ʿInāyat ʿAlī 'Bismil', Nādir Mirzā Faiẓābādī were his renowned pupils who attained to the rank of ustad-ship themselves.
[Four long #384# #385#: #386# #387# ghazals by Ḳhvājah Ātash.]
a Mirzā Taqī Taraqqī was a lofty-minded lord in the aforementioned family. And he held an estate from the court of Avadh.
1 The beloved is so delicate and radiant as to be almost transparent.
b Miyāñ Dilgīr was a pupil of Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh. Mirzā Faṣīḥ obtained correction from Miyāñ Dilgīr and Shaiḳh Nāsiḳh.
2 This term means 'one who is doing a salām'; by convention it must appear in the opening verse of a salām.
3 The Lāylāf is a short chapter of the Quran. Mir Ḳhalīq used the colloquially shortened Urdu form of the name, not the correct Arabic.
c Some people have said that Shaiḳh Muṣḥafī composed and gave these verses to Pañḍit Dayā Shañkar [Nasīm], the author of Gulzār-e nasīm, who was originally his pupil. But this rumor is not trustworthy.