The Fifth Era of Āb-e ḥayāt:
[SHAIḲH IBRĀHĪM ẒAUQ, Continued:]
PARTICULAR DETAILS AND NATURAL HABITS
The late Shaiḳh was of middling height and stature. Thus he himself says,
#443# /The rank of man increases through his humanity
One should not be small of mind--even if he is small of stature/.
His complexion was darkish, and he had many smallpox scars. He used to say that he had had smallpox nine times. But his coloring, and those scars, happened to be arranged in such a suitable and harmonious way that they shone, and looked attractive. His eyes were bright and his glances sharp. The lines of his face were well sculpted. And there was quickness in his body. He walked very fast. He usually wore white clothes, and they looked extremely elegant on him. His voice was high and pleasant. When he recited in a mushairah, the gathering would echo. His style of reciting gave the emotional effect of his poetry even more force. He himself recited his own ghazals. He absolutely never gave them to anyone else to recite.
His power of memory: The Creator of nature usually gives to the people he makes masters of accomplishment, qualities by which they can clearly be seen to be apart from the normal run of the species. Thus the state of his sharp mind and lightning-like temperament are clearly evident in his poetry even now. But with regard to the power of his memory, he mentioned a matter dating from the days of his infancy that will surprise everyone who hears it. He used to say, 'Even now I remember that at that time one day I had fever. My mother laid me down on the cot and covered me with a quilt. And she herself went off to do some task or other. A cat crawled under the quilt. I began to be extremely disturbed by her, and by the sound of her purring. But I could neither push her away with my hand, nor call out aloud. I lay there in distress. In a little while my mother came. When she chased the cat away, it was a sudden unexpected boon to me, and I still remember those two situations. Thus when I grew older, I asked my mother; she searched her brain, and confirmed this event, and said, "In truth, at that time you were a little less than a year old".'
His goodness of temperament: He always used to thank God for his goodness of temperament. And he used to say, 'One day my kite got entangled in a tamarind tree. I climbed up to bring it down. I thought one branch was strong enough to support me, and put my foot on it. It broke; I fell. I was badly hurt, but God showed me such grace #444# that I never again played with a kite or climbed a tree.'
His fear of the Lord: In his whole life, he never slaughtered an animal with his own hand. He used to say about his youth, 'Among my friends, with great effort we obtained a proven prescription for sexual prowess. We resolved to help one another and to prepare the prescription cooperatively. To procure each ingredient for it became the responsibility of a different individual. Thus it fell to my lot to get the brains of forty male sparrows. I went home, and spread out the equipment for catching them. And having caught two or three birds, I put them in a cage. When I saw their agitation, the thought came to me, "Ibrāhīm, what kind of humanity is it to kill forty innocent ones for a brief moment of pleasure? After all, they too are alive, and have all kinds of pleasures in their own dear life." At once I rose. I released them. And breaking up all the equipment for catching them, I went and said, "My friends, I won't share in this prescription".'
His fear of the Lord: His habit was to stroll around a great deal. In front of his house was a long lane; he usually used to walk in it. Once at night, strolling along, he came back and said, 'Miyāñ, just now a snake was crawling along in the lane'. Ḥāfiz̤ Ġhulām Rasūl Vīrān, his devoted and well-instructed pupil, was seated there. He said, 'Hazrat, then you didn't kill it? You could have called out for somebody.' He said, 'The thought occurred to me too. But then I said, "Ibrāhīm, after all it too has a life. How much religious merit will accrue to you?"'1 Then he recited these [Persian] verses:
/Pure-born Firdausī said so well--
Let God's mercy be on his sacred grave--/
/'Don't hurt the ant who is carrying away the grain,
She also has a life, and that life is sweet'/.
An anecdote about his fear of the Lord: One time it was the rainy season. The king was in the Qut̤b. The Ustad used to be always with him. At that time he was composing the ode, /Last night lying in my bed of rest/. In the eaves, the birds were placing bits of straw and making nests. And in order to pick up their bits of straw that fell, they came again and again and perched near him. He sat in a state of complete absorption. A small bird came and perched on his head. He chased it away with his hand. In a little while, it came again and sat down. He again #445# chased it away. When that had happened a number of times, he laughed and said, 'This wretched little one has turned my head into a pigeon-loft!' I was seated on one side of him, Ḥāfiz̤ Vīrān was seated on the other side; he is blind. He asked, 'Hazrat, what is it?' I told him the situation. He said, 'They don't sit on my head!' The Ustad said, 'How could they sit? They know that you are a Mullā, you are an ʿĀlim, you are a Ḥāfiz̤, any moment you will call out [the Quranic verse] "Whatever you hunt is permissible for you to eat". And then you will cut their throat, reciting, "In the name of God, God is great!" Any bird who would sit on your head would be crazy!'
Where are such discerning people now to be found? He used to say, 'I studied three hundred fifty volumes of the old masters, and made abridgements of them'. The writings of Ḳhān-e Ārzū, the researches of Ṭek Chand 'Bahār', and other books of this kind were as if on his lips. But I am not surprised at this. If he knew by heart thousands of verses of the Persian poets, I feel no astonishment. In conversation, the smashing effect with which he brought in verses as authorities is not what I remember about him. Because for the arts he possessed, these things are among the essentials. Indeed, what surprises me is that when history was discussed, he was an insightful historian. When Quranic commentaries were discussed, it seemed as though he'd just gotten up after reading Tafsīr-e kabīr [by T̤abarī].
Sufism: Especially in Sufism, his was an unusual state. When he spoke, it seemed that it was Shaiḳh Shiblī, or that Bāyazīd Bust̤āmī was speaking. For on the oneness of reality and the oneness of appearance, he gave a glancing reflection of the Illuminationists, and sometimes he was Abū Saʿīd Abuʾl Ḳhair, sometimes Muḥy ud-Dīn [ibn] ʿArabī. Moreover, what he said was so precisely measured that it became engraved upon the heart. And whatever I have heard from him, to this day it is engraved on my heart. When geomancy and astrology were discussed, then he was an astrologer. In the interpretation of dreams, God had given him a firm ability. And the wondrous part was that his interpretations were very often proved to be absolutely accurate. Although it's surprising that he had acquired breadth of vision to such an extent, it's even more surprising that so many topics could stay lodged in his memory.
For a brief time he was interested in music as well: He used to say, 'Although I have loved poetry since my childhood, in the beginning worldly fame #446# and renown, and diversion, showed me the path of various accomplishments. For a brief time I was interested in music, and I attained some proficiency in it as well. But a singer of great accomplishment came from Ḳhāndes. I met him. In the course of conversation the singer said, "Anyone who is seriously interested in singing needs three hundred years of life: for one hundred years he should learn, for one hundred years he should go around listening and practicing what he has learned, then for one hundred years he should sit and sing to others and have the pleasure of it". When I heard this, I felt dejected. And I also reflected, "Ibrāhīm, if you do become very accomplished, then you've become a Ḍom. Even so, the master-singer goes around with his nose in the air, and says he never takes money for performing. To go from being a soldier's son to being a Ḍom--what's the point of that?"'
Astrology and geomancy: He also took an interest in astrology and geomancy. He attained a mastery of it. An astrologer of great accomplishment lived in Muġhalpūrah. From him the Ustad used to obtain problems of astrology. One day for some question the astrologer gave an extremely suitable answer, and in the course of conversation he also said, 'To learn the situation of every star, and its effects, requires seventy-seven years'. When the Ustad heard this, he lost interest in this as well.
Medicine: He practiced medicine for a brief time. In this, he began to see [a risk of] culpable bloodshed. Finally, the aptitude God had given him became the means for the excellence of his fortune.
An extraordinary prediction: In Makkhan Laʿl Ganj, there was a blind astrologer named Pañḍit Tulsī Rām. A venerable person of mature years, Munshī Durgā Parshād, who was an old friend of the Shaiḳh Sahib, and who also used often to visit the astrologer, praised the astrologer very highly. And one day they arranged it and the Ustad too went to see him. A number of interesting topics of conversation developed. After this, the Ustad, without his name being mentioned, told the astrologer the state of his horoscope. The astrologer said, 'This would be a person of accomplishment, and probably his accomplishment would be in some art that would produce pleasure. His accomplishment would be widely recognized. He would have many opponents as well, but none would be able to stand before him.' He went on saying things of this type. The late Shaiḳh asked, 'How long would this person live?' He said, 'Sixty-seven or sixty-eight years; the limit is sixty-nine'. When he heard this, #447# signs of regret appeared on the late Shaiḳh's face. And look at the power of God--at the age of sixty-eight years, he passed on. Although by reason and faith one ought not to believe in astrological predictions, the event happened before my eyes. Thus I have fulfilled my duty of writing down the truth. I myself used to see that toward the end of his life the thought of dying was usually with him. One time the king, having been sick, recovered. When it was almost time to celebrate his recovery, the Ustad composed an ode of congratulation. As usual, I presented myself to attend upon him, and at that time he was writing that very ode. Thus he began to recite some verses. The opening verse was,
/How great is the joy--that if you write it down
Instead of the scratch of the pen one would hear delicate music/.
He went on reciting the verses that came next. I went on praising them. He smiled, and kept on reading. When he read this verse,
/The black cloud runs on the wind in such a way--
The way some unchained rutting elephant would move/.
there burst forth uncontrollably from my lips, 'Praise be to God! Colorfulness, and such power! It has turned into Z̤ahūrī's Sāqī nāmah.' He fell silent, and said, 'Power keeps on coming into it. I am melting away. It's the poem's youth, and my old age.' Ḥāfiz̤ Vīrān, may God bless him, mentioned, 'When he had written verses celebrating the spring, he said two or three times, "At the right point, I'll use this [Persian] verse of Ḳhvājah Ḥāfiz̤'s for an incorporation:
/Two-year-old wine and a fourteen-year-old beloved
This is my companionship, the Great and the Small/"'2
One day when I went, he had arranged in order the verses that had been jumbled up on pieces of paper. As he was reciting them, he again recited the above verse. After that he read this verse-set of his own:
/The school too has become a place to learn love and joy
For the sun has read, instead of its rays, the light of the moon
If the cup is small, then the flask is still great3
The result of which is that both Small and Great are intoxicated/.
Looking toward me, he said, 'Even now [you believe Ḥāfiz̤ superior]?' I petitioned 'Praise be to God! Now what's the need for this?' Closing his eyes, he said, 'It's a blessing from that realm beyond'.
In Delhi, Navab Zīnat Maḥal's house near Lāl Kūʾāñ exists even now. The king #448# held court there, and heard the ode. This year, in preparation for a marriage I had to go to Delhi. The bridegroom's party were staying in that very house. After the conquest of Delhi, the government had given that house away to the Raja of Patiala. It stays shut up. Now all it's used for is that if in the area there's a celebration for some big marriage or bridegroom's party, they get permission from the supervisor and hold it there. Bravo!
/The tomb of those slain by your intoxicated eye
Even in ruins [ḳharāb] will be a winehouse [ḳharābāt]/.
Seeing that time, and conditions today, I can only invoke the name of God.
His style of living: God the Most High had given his temperament such an affinity for poetry that, night and day, he thought of nothing else. And he was happy with it alone. His was a narrow and dark house, and its courtyard was of such a size that if a small charpoy was arranged to one side, then on both sides just enough room remained for a man to get through. He used to have the huqqah always at his lips. He always sat on a charpoy without bedding; he was always engaged in writing, or in reading a book. Heat, cold, rains--through the full force of all three seasons he spent his time seated right there. He was unaware of it all. Fairs, ʿĪds, seasons, in fact any of the world's joys or sorrows--he had nothing to do with them. Where he had sat down on the first day, there he stayed seated. And he only rose to leave, when he left the world.
His purity of thought: At the time of the afternoon prayer, I always presented myself in his service. He used to bathe, and then perform his ablutions. And he always had a water vessel, and kept gargling. One day I asked the reason. Sorrowfully he said, 'God knows what foolish things emerge from the tongue! Well, at least this is something.' Then he thought for a little, and sighed deeply, and at once composed and recited this opening verse:
/Keep your mouth pure with the mention of the pure God
The tongue in your mouth is not less than a tooth-stick/.
Regular repetition of prayers: His habit was that at night, having finished eating, he composed the king's ghazals. He used to be finished with that by around midnight. Then he performed his ablutions, and gargled with the water vessel, and offered his prayers. Then he began to repeat his daily prayers. Sometimes he strolled under the sky, sometimes he stayed facing the Qiblah. #449# Although he recited in a low voice, on most occasions he recited with such heartfelt fervor that it seemed as if his chest would burst.
After he repeated his prayers, he began to ask blessings on people. It is as if this was an example of the virtue and universal goodwill of his temperament. First of all he prayed, 'May God grant me an intact faith, bodily health, worldly honor and respect. Then, oh my God, keep my King prosperous and triumphant, healthy and well. May his enemies be thrown back'--and so on. Then for Miyāñ Ismāʿīl, his son. Then for his family and his very special friends. Or for any friend confronted by some special difficulty, and so on. One evening at this time my late father was with him. He heard all the prayers. Before the Ustad's door the neighborhood scavenger lived. In those days his bullock was sick. As he prayed, he remembered him too, and said, 'God, Jummā the Scavenger's bullock is sick. Please give him health too! The unfortunate man is very poor--if the bullock dies, he'll die too.' When my father heard this, he burst out laughing. When it came to faqirs and religious elders, the Ustad had such a heartfelt faith that its full state can't be put into words. He always remembered the learned men and the elders of the past respectfully, and never taunted them or disparaged them. This [impartiality] is why no one could discover the state of his sectarian [religious] views.
The editing of his volume: No one doubts that in concentrating on poetry and in his extensive practice he reached the stage of 'annihilation in poetry'. And he made the spirit of Indian literature burst into bloom. But the heart of Eloquence must wither when she casts her eye over his brief volume. To describe the reason for this makes a painful narrative. But it's my duty to recite an elegy about it and lament it. Some days after his death, I and his late son Ḳhalīfah Ismāʿīl, who was an only son as his father had been, wanted to edit his poetry. There were parcels of individual ghazals, and big big bundles. There were many bags and earthenware pitchers. Whatever he used to compose, it was as if he thought this the safest thing. Organizing them #450# caused not sweat, but blood, to flow. Because all his poetry, from childhood to the time of his last breath, was in them. Many various ghazals of Bahādur Shāh's, and numerous ghazals by his pupils too, were in them.
Accordingly, first we sorted out his own ghazals and odes. This work took a number of months to complete. In short, first we began to make clean copies of the ghazals. I confess my error in that although I began the work, I did it at a leisurely pace. How could I know that all at once the page of the times would be turned in such a way, and the world would become topsy-turvy, and the blood of vain longings would flow? The heart's yearnings will stay in the heart itself. Suddenly the Rebellion of 1857 came. No one had any awareness of anyone else. Thus it's a pity that along with his bodily son Ḳhalīfah Muḥammad Ismāʿīl, his spiritual offspring [of poetry] too departed this world. My situation was that the soldiers of the victorious army suddenly entered the house. They flourished their rifles: 'Leave here at once!' The world turned black before my eyes. A whole houseful of goods was before me, and I stood petrified: 'What shall I take with me?' My eye fell on the big bundle of the Ustad's ghazals. I thought, 'Muḥammad Ḥusain, if God is gracious, and you live, then everything can be restored. But where will this very Ustad come from, who can compose these ghazals again? Now only his name lives. If his name has life, then it is only because of these. While these exist, he lives even after his death; if these are lost, his name cannot survive either.' I picked up the bundle and tucked it under my arm.
Abandoning a well-furnished home, with twenty-two half-dead souls I left the house--or rather, the city. And the words fell from my lips, 'Hazrat Adam left Paradise; Delhi is a paradise too. I'm his descendant--why shouldn't I leave Delhi?' In short, I became a wanderer, and God knows how and where I found myself. But Ḥāfiz̤ Ġhulām Rasūl Vīrān, who from the point of view of love is my kind friend, and from the ties of pupilship to the late Ustad is my spiritual brother, mentioned to some other sympathetic friends, 'The wealth of his manuscripts has all been destroyed along with Delhi. Right now this wound is fresh. If the volume is not put together now, it will never be done.' The Ḥāfiz̤ himself knows by heart a good deal of the late Ustad's poetry. And God has so brightened the eyes of his #451# insight that he does not need the eyes of physical vision. Thus he had great difficulty in writing. In short, in one difficulty there were such a number of difficulties! He brought this momentous task to fruition. And in addition to his own memory, he gathered a great deal, from near and in fact even from far off. Bringing it all together, in A.H. 1279 [1862-63] he published a collection of a number of complete ghazals, a number of incomplete ghazals, many individual verses, and some odes.
But the heart of Sadness melted with grief, and tears of blood dripped from the eyes of Reflection. Because the person who abandoned the pleasures of the world, the various stages of life, the springtimes of the seasons, the festivities of the days and the celebrations of the nights, the comfort of the body, the delights of the heart, the longings of the heart--who abandoned all these and chose just poetry instead, and the limit of whose aspiration was that his poetry would leave him a good name after death--at the hands of destroying Time, today his lifetime of hard work has left only this much substance! And the one who turned the poorest pupils into possessors of volumes--he was destined to have only this much of a volume. Well, /When God wishes this, what can a servant do?/ I have some odes, there are a number of ghazals--they will be included, or incomplete ghazals will be completed. But from the river of his poetry, there's not even enough water to fully satisfy one's thirst. Thus when I publish this anthology [Āb-e ḥayāt], I will turn my attention to the volume. 'May the Causer of Causes bestow on me the Causes for completing this work.'
A judgment about the ghazals: If the ghazals he composed with his own pen-name were collected, they would be equal to the king's four volumes. Looking at the volume of ghazals, it appears that the general quality of his poetry is freshness of theme, limpidity of diction, trimness of construction, excellence of idiom, and ease of understanding. But in truth, his style at different times was different. In the beginning he had the style of Mirzā Rafīʿ. In those days, encounters between him and Shāh Naṣīr were taking place. That was Shāh Naṣīr's manner, and for this reason he too adopted it. In addition, in warming up a gathering and causing 'Bravo!' to emerge from people's throats, Mirzā Rafīʿ's style has an extraordinary effect of magic. Thus the same difficult patterns, trim structures, spontaneous constructions, loftiness of meaning, glory of words are found in his poetry too.
After #452# some time, he entered the service of Ilāhī Baḳhsh Ḳhān Maʿrūf, and then the court of the Crown Prince. Maʿrūf was an elderly and long-practiced poet, and had the temperament of a faqir. According to the taste of Maʿrūf's temperament, the Ustad too had to incline his thoughts toward Sufism and mystical knowledge and the passions of the heart. The youthful Crown Prince was a king of poetry by temperament. And moreover he too was youthful, and the Ustad too was youthful. He liked the style of Jurʾat. And opening verses and verses by Jurʾat, Sayyid Inshā, and Muṣḥafī kept coming from Lucknow. The result of which was that by the end the Crown Prince's ghazals were a bouquet of variously colored flowers. Two or three verses of lofty thought, one or two of Sufism, two or three about lovers' affairs, and the subtlety was that each rhyme had, along with a special style, the quality that if it was used in exactly that verse it would give pleasure, and otherwise it would remain insipid.
Thus that accomplished, long-practiced poet had very fully understood this matter. Whatever rhyme he was saw suitable for whatever situation, he used it--and used it in such a way that no other situation could be seen for it. Along with this, he never by any means let limpidity and idiom slip from his hands. And with respect to these principles, he used to mention Mīr, Mirzā [Saudā], Dard, Muṣḥafī, Sayyid Inshā, Jurʾat, in fact all the ancient poets, as respectfully as if he had been their pupil. He recited the finest verses by every one of them as lovingly as if he had been educated in their conventions of poetic activity. And in truth, he used the styles of each of them with complete effectiveness on appropriate occasions.
A judgment about his odes: Still, the knowers know that the real inclination of his temperament was more in the direction of Saudā's style. In the coloring of Urdu poetry, Mirzā [Saudā] has done full justice to the art and craft of the ode. After him, no one except the late Shaiḳh lifted his pen to it. And he arrayed his album in such a high niche that no one's hand has reached it. Anvarī, Z̤ahīr, Z̤ahūrī, Naz̤īrī, ʿUrfī, flash like lightning in the sky of Persian. But his odes, with their crash and brilliance, turned the ground of India into a sky and showed it forth as such. For every celebration he used to compose an ode. And the special occasions that occurred--they #453# were in addition. Thus if they were collected together, the odes of the 'Ḳhāqānī of India' would be twice those of the Ḳhāqānī of Shervān. As long as Akbar Shāh was alive, the Ustad's custom was to compose an ode and first recite it to his master, that is, the Crown Prince. The next day the Crown Prince himself had his name replaced with that of the king [Akbar Shāh], and had the ode recited in the royal court. The pity is that all this display of his poetic temperament, from the time of his youth, has been destroyed. What survive are some odes, which are thanks to the courage of his old age.
Masnavis: The late Navab Ḥāmid ʿAlī Ḳhān requested, with great eagerness, that he write a romantic letter. How could he have found the leisure for such tasks, with the king's constant demands? But it happened that in those days Ramazan came. And to pile coincidence on coincidence, the king began to keep the fasts; for this reason he ceased to compose ghazals. Well. How could the Ustad's tongue ever remain unoccupied? In addition, his spirit too wanted to take the air in this new garden. He began to write that letter. It took on such length that it came to have about 300 verses. In the process, three newspaper-sized pages were filled with it. But by then Ramẓān was over. The king's ghazals began again. The masnavi stayed as it was. In the meantime, sometimes a longing again arose in his temperament--but sometimes for one day, sometimes for two days. Twenty or twenty-five verses were added, then it paused again. When I began to grow up, and to remain with him all the time, he used to mention it a number of times on various occasions. And he used to recite verses from here and there in it. One day he had those large sheets and manuscript pages taken out. Very little of it was legible.
Ultimately, finding free time with difficulty, I made him read it out to me, and I kept writing it down. The whole turned out to be more than 500 verses, although the letter was unfinished. Every single line was worthy to be written in gold. Those pages of the masnavi too, along with the ghazals of which I used to make clean copies, were at the house of Ḳhalīfah Ismāʿīl; thus those pages too died with him. Its title was Nāmah-e jāñsoz. First there were a ḥamd and a naʿt. Then a sāqī nāmah. Then epithets for the beloved; then within it the beloved's sarāpā. After that, the memory of past days; in it, the scenes and pleasures of all four seasons. #454# But the subtlety of the meaning, the refinement of the words, the beauties of the constructions, the liveliness of the manner--how can I describe them! The magic of Sāmirī, and his magical enchantments, turn to smoke before them and vanish in the breeze.
Chronograms: There were a number of quintains, a number of quatrains, hundreds of chronograms. But the fruit of the chronograms fell to the lot of the king [Z̤afar]. Because most--in fact all--of the chronograms were made at his request, and in his name.
Elegies and salams: He didn't have a chance to compose elegies and salāms. The king's custom was that, like Shāh ʿĀlam and Akbar Shāh, he used to compose at least one salām in every Muḥarram. The late Shaiḳh too considered this composition to be his good fortune and worship. He composed thousands of songs, ṭappā, ṭhumrī, holī. They are famous in the world under the king's name. And he didn't even want to be famous for these things.
Satires: In my view, for him and for his audience the main source of pride was that God had given him a complete command, and such a high order of power, over poetry. And he must have felt anger or grief at thousands of men. But in his whole life he never composed even one verse of satire. God gives every individual the fruit of his own behavior. Just look at His performance: the Ustad attained the age of sixty-eight years. But neither did God cause a satire against him to emerge from anyone's lips.
A number of new inventions and creations were among his plans. And a number of his plans were started, but remained incomplete. Because the king's demands didn't give him the leisure to take a breath. And the funny part is that that the king too was the king of invention. But there was this: he could think of something, but he couldn't bring it to completion. What the king started, the Ustad was obliged to finish.
He didn't recite his own ghazals to the king. If somehow a ghazal reached the king, the king composed a ghazal on that ghazal. Now if the Ustad should compose a new ghazal and give it to the king, and it was lower than his own original ghazal--well, the king was not a child, he had seventy years' worth of understanding of poetry. If the Ustad should compose a trimmer one--then to wipe out his own work was not an easy task either. Helpless, he put the king's pen-name on his own ghazal and gave it to him. The king took great care that he should not expend his full poetic power on anything of his own. When he saw that his creativity #455# inclined in some direction, he kept setting up a string of ghazals for him to work on, so that whatever force was in his temperament would come in his direction alone.
HIS TYPICAL STYLE OF POETRY
Looking at his poetry, it's clear that he has brought the stars of themes down from the sky. But with the constructions of his words he has seated them on such glorious and radiant thrones that they look even higher than before. From the court of command of language, he has been accorded dominion over the land of speech: that he can express every type of idea in whatever style he wishes. Sometimes he adorns it with the color of a simile and saturates it with the fragrance of a metaphor; sometimes he shows its glory in absolutely simple clothing. But he says it in such a way that it pricks the heart like a lancet. And from the mouth sometimes 'Bravo!' [vāh] emerges, and sometimes a sigh [āh] emerges. It seems that in his lips is a treasury full of pure and appropriate words. And he has thousands of kinds of verbal constructions. But whichever one you see adorning whatever place, it's as though it was made just for that place. Like an accomplished physician, he recognized the humor of every theme: which one would show its color through simplicity, and which one through vividness. The liveliness of his colors brightens up the skilful effect of an accomplished painter's brush. In the same ways the delicacy of his words illumines the subtlety of his themes.
He was accomplished in expressing the subtlest meanings and the most complicated themes with such clarity, as though they were a sip of sherbet that he offered by way of the ears. This quality caused ignorant people to fall into error, and to say that in his poetry there are no lofty themes, but simple things and very plain ideas instead. They do not know that God had given to those lips an extraordinary emotional effect: whatever words are formed by them roll along freely, like a pearl on silk. God knows whether his tongue made off with the clarity of some mirror, or how he polished the gemstones of words, such that in his poetry he created this effect. In truth, the reason for it is that his power over language enables him to construct every subtle and refined idea #456# in the form of an idiom or proverb, the way the mirror-maker plates the glass with metallic polish to make a mirror. For this reason, it is clearly understood by every person and also creates an effect on the heart.
His poetry also has the special feature that if you forget any word of the verse, then until you put that very word in its place, the verse gives much less pleasure. Accordingly, in Lucknow one day in the course of conversation I recited this opening verse of his before the late Mīr Anīs:
/No wanderer under you, oh Sky, will pause to rest
But you too, if you wish to pause, will not pause to rest/.
He asked, 'Whose verse is this?' I said, 'It's the late Shaiḳh's'. After a bit of further conversation, he again commanded, 'Please recite the verse again'. I recited it again. He himself again recited it with his own tongue; then conversation again took place. As I was leaving, he again said, 'Please recite that verse as you go'. And along with that, he said, 'The sign of the perfect poet is that whatever word he has fitted in whatever place, if it is read just that way it seems right; otherwise, the verse falls from its level'.
Just as his theme seems good to the heart, in the same way in recitation pleasure comes to the tongue. In the construction of his words is an inborn trimness, which creates power in the poetry. That power does not express only the fervor of his heart. Rather, it creates a tumult in the hearer's heart. And this is the naturalness of style that casts on his poetry the glow of the imitation of Saudā.
When his volume is looked at attentively, then variegated melodies and varied voices come from it. Every kind of style is present. This is the reason that the heart does not get tired of reading it. He recognized the pulse of every word. And he was the physician of themes. The way he saw that they looked appropriate, that was the way he used them. Whether it be imaginativeness or a romantic style or Sufism, it was as though the heart in his breast was not the heart of one man, but the hearts of thousands of men. For this reason his poetry attracts universal approval like a magnet. He #457# expressed the thoughts of every heart. And expressed them in such a way, as though they had passed through his own heart.
1 There is a superstition that killing a snake confers merit.
2 The Kabīr [=Great] and the Saġhīr [=Small] are too books of logic in Arabic.
3 The Arabic word suġhrā [=small] refers to a minor proposition in logic, kubrā [=great] to an important one.