The Fifth Era of Āb-e ḥayāt:
NAJM UD-DAULAH DABĪR UL-MULK
MIRZĀ ASADULLĀH ḲHĀN ĠHĀLIB
#481# The Mirzā Sahib's real enthusiasm was Persian poetry and prose. And he considered this accomplishment his pride. But since his works have been published in Urdu as well, and just as he is renowned among the nobles of India and the elite of Akbarābād [=Agra] for the exaltedness of his family and his attainments in Persian, in the same way he is a master of Urdū-e Muʿallā. Therefore it became necessary that he should definitely be included in this anthology. His name was Asadullāh. At first he used to use the pen-name Asad. In Jhajjar some insignificant person used to use the pen-name Asad. One day someone recited this concluding verse by that person,
/Asad, you've made this ghazal very well
Oh Lion [=ʿAlī], it is through the benevolence of God/.
The moment he heard it, his heart was full of disgust for this pen-name. Because it was also his rulea to consider mixing with common people to be extremely undesirable. Accordingly, in A.H. 1245, 1828 A.D., from [Hazrat ʿAlī's] title Asadullāh Ḳhān ul-Ġhālib he adopted the pen-name Ġhālib. But the ghazals in which the pen-name Asad occurred, he left as they were.
The lineage of his family goes back to King Afrāsiyāb of Turan. When the lamp of the Turani was blown out by the wind of the victorious fortune of the Kayānī, the unfortunate exiles who had lost their homes made their way to forests and mountains. But the natural pull of true quality did not let their swords drop from their hands. Thanks to their courage, their soldiership began to earn them bread. After hundreds of years, victorious fortune again bent toward them, and through the sword they acquired a crown. Thus the foundation of the Seljuk dynasty was laid through them alone. But the inclination of victorious fortune is a gust of wind. After many generations, it again turned its face away. And in Samarqand, just as it did for other nobles, it sat the Seljuk princes too down in their own houses.
Mirzā Sahib's grandfather left his house and went off. It was the time of Shāh ʿĀlam. When he came to Delhi, #482# even here nothing remained in the kingship. He only obtained [command over] fifty horsemen and permission for a drumroll and standard, by way of honor from the royal court. And through his worthiness and family name, as an annual personal salary for himself and his troops he obtained the territory of Pahāsū as an estate. After Shāh ʿĀlam, the factional fighting among the local groups heated up, and not even that estate remained. His father, ʿAbdullāh Beg Ḳhān, went to Lucknow and joined the court of the late Navab Āṣif ud-Daulah. Some time later, he went to Hyderabad and entered the service of the government of Niz̤ām ʿAlī Ḳhān Bahādur at a rank of three hundred horsemen. After a number of years, in the turmoil of a local conflict, this situation too was lost.
From there he went to his home, and in Alwar he entered the service of Raja Baḳhtāvar Singh. Here, in some battle, he was killed. At that time Mirzā was five years old. Naṣrullāh Beg Ḳhān, who was his paternal uncle by blood, was the subedar of Akbarabad [=Agra] on behalf of the Marathas. He took the yatīm [=orphaned; unique] pearl into his lap. In 1806 when the regime of General Lake Sahib was established, the subedarship became a commissionerate. His uncle was given the task of recruiting horsemen, and became an officer with a rank of four hundred horsemen, with a personal pension of 1700 rupees a month, and an estate that yielded a hundred or a hundred fifty thousand rupees a year in the territory of Song Son was allotted to him for life.
Mirzā was brought up in the sheltering care of his uncle. But it chanced that this uncle died unexpectedly young. His company was disbanded, the estate was seized. His ancestors had left behind hundreds of thousands of rupees. Who has power over destiny? That son of a noble family, who had come into the world bearing a royal heart and mind, was forced to live a poverty-stricken life, contenting himself with the kingship of the realm of poetry and the wealth of themes. Many schemes and approaches were attempted. But they all turned out to be merely abortive, and came to nothing.b Thus toward the end of his life some friend wrote to him that he should compose an ode to the Niz̤ām in the Deccan and send it by means of somebody.
In answer to this, Mirzā says in Urdū-e muʿallā,
I was five years old when my father died. I was nine years #483# old when my uncle died. In return for his estate, for me and my blood relations a share in the estate of Navab Aḥmad Baḳhsh Ḳhān, worth ten thousand rupees a year, was allotted. The Navab did not give it, but gave only three thousand rupees a year, of which my personal share came to only seven hundred fifty rupees. I exposed this fraud to the English government. Both Colebrooke Sahib Bahādur, the Resident of Delhi, and Sterling Sahib Bahādur, Secretary of the Government in Calcutta, agreed to have my right restored to me. The Resident was removed from office; the Secretary of Government died unexpectedly. After a long time, the King of Delhi allotted me fifty rupees a month. Two years after this decision, his Crown Prince died. The government of Vājid ʿAlī Shāh, the King of Avadh, in recompense for my spreading the chapter of praise, allotted me five hundred rupees a year. He too lived not more than two years--that is to say, although he is alive to this day, his kingship is dead. And the ruin of the kingship happened in only two years. The kingship of Delhi was somewhat hard to kill. It gave me bread for seven years before it fell. Where else are such patron-killing and benefactor-destroying fortunes to be found? Now if I turn my attention toward the Prince of the Deccan, remember that in the meantime the middleman will be either dismissed or deposed. And if neither of these things happens, then his attempts to aid me will be in vain. The prince of the kingdom will give me nothing. And if by chance he does give me something, then his dominion will be levelled into the dust. In the land, [things will come to such a pass that] donkeys will be doing the plowing.
Mirza goes to Calcutta: In short, unhappy with the division made by Navab Aḥmad Baḳhsh Ḳhān Bahādur, in A.D. 1830 the late Mirzā went to Calcutta. And he wanted to meet with the Governor General. There his case was examined. From the papers it appeared that along with his family honor he could obtain a position; and a robe of honor of seven pieces, and a jeweled turban-ornament with three gemstones, and a pearl necklace, were allotted to him, since he was a noble by birth.
In short, Mirzā came back unsuccessful from Calcutta. And the days of his youth were not even over, when #484# he had spent all the wealth of his ancestors and come to Delhi. Here, although he lived with a noble's style, and consorted with nobles like a noble, his lavish generosity and lofty vision kept him feeling confined. Still, he had been endowed with such a cheerful temperament that he didn't mind even these difficulties. He always laughed and amused himself, and forgot his sadness. How well he has put it,
/What wretch seeks joy from wine?
Night and day I need to be a little outside myself/.
His connection with Rampur: When Delhi was destroyed, he encountered greater difficulties. On the one hand his salary from the Fort had ended. On the other hand, his pension had stopped. And he had to go to Rampur. He had an acquaintance with the Navab that went back twenty-five or thirty years. Thus, in the year A.D. 1855 the Navab [Yūsuf ʿAlī Ḳhān] became his pupil, and adopted the pen-name of Nāz̤im. The Navab sent ghazals from time to time, and he gave them correction and sent them back. Sometimes money would come as well. At that time the salary from the Fort was coming in, and the government pension was being received. The Navab's favor was counted as a blessing from the Unseen. When things fell to ruin in Delhi, this became the means of his life. From A.D. 1859, the Navab made it one hundred rupees a month. And he invited him very insistently. When he went, the Navab welcomed him with the honor due to his family, and embraced him as a friend and pupil would. And as long as he kept him there, he kept him with complete honor. He even added a hundred rupees a month for his boarding. How could Mirzā know peace without Delhi? After some days he took his leave and again came back there. Because his government pension had been resumed, he passed some years in this way.
At the end of his life, old age afflicted him sorely. His ears were not able to hear. He lay still, like an image in a picture. Anyone who wanted to say anything wrote it down and placed it by him. When he looked at it, he gave a reply. Two or three years previously his diet had been reduced to the oil of six or seven almonds in the morning, meat #485# broth at twelve o'clock, four fried kabobs in the evening. Finally at the age of seventy-three years, in A.D. 1869, A.H. 1285, he set out from this mortal world. And this sinful slave composed a [Persian] chronogram: /Alas, Ġhālib is dead/. Some days before dying, he composed this verse. And he often kept saying it:
/The last breath is on its way now
My dear ones, it's now God, only God/.
MIRZĀ SAHIB'S CHARACTER AND
HABITS OF TEMPERAMENT
There is no doubt that among the people of India, Mirzā was an accomplished Persian poet. But he did not acquire the learned sciences in a student-like fashion. And if you want to know the truth, it's a great cause for pride that from childhood onwards, the hand of the elders' training was lifted from the head of this nobleman's son, and solely by his inborn taste he raised himself to this level of accomplishment. What an inborn temperament he brought with him! One that created such high flight in his ideas, such 'meaning-creation' in his mind, such a style in his thoughts, new structures in his words, and a novel path in his constructions. Again and again he himself says--and in truth it's not devoid of pleasure--that he has had from all eternity an affinity for the Persian language. In one other place he says, 'In my temperament is a natural proclivity for this language'. Sending Qāt̤iʿ-e burhān to Muftī Mīr ʿAbbās Sahib, he wrote a letter. In it he says,
In the introduction and the conclusion whatever I've written, it's all true. I want your appreciation separately for the substantive truth of my statements. The writing will not be devoid of refinement. My submissions will not be devoid of refinement. I am without learning and art, but for the last fifty-five years I have been absorbed in composing poetry. The Source of all Bounty has shown me great favor. My source is correct and my temperament is balanced. From all eternity I have brought a bent for Persian. Until all eternity I will also have a taste for speech in accordance with that of the people of Persia.
His natural means for the acquisition of Persian: There was an Iranian called Hurmuzd who was learned in Zoroastrianism. He converted to Islam, and changed his name to ʿAbd uṣ-Ṣamad. In the course of his travels, he passed through India. And he also happened to meet Mirzā. Although #486# Mirzā's age was only fourteen years at that time, that primal affinity was in his temperament--which drew ʿAbd uṣ-Ṣamad to him. For two years Mirzā kept him in the house as a guest, and through him acquired full accomplishment in the language. He was proud of the benefit that he derived from the society of that wise person. And in truth, this deed [of learning Persian so well] is worthy of pride.
Imagine his appearance: I wanted to draw a picture of Mirzā Sahib with words and meanings. But then I remembered that he has in one place himself drawn his picture with exactly the same color and paint. What can I do more than that? To copy it is sufficient. But first listen just to this much: there is a person called Mirzā Ḥātim ʿAlī, with the pen-name of Mihr, who was in Agra. In Mirzā's old age, he corresponded with this brother from his own place. And Mihr was a handsome and stylish youth. Mirzā had never met him in person. But their formerly coming from the same place, and his being a poet, and of the same religious persuasion, and with a unity of thought--perhaps in some gathering Mirzā said, 'I've heard of Mirzā Ḥātim ʿAlī Mihr, that he's a stylish man. I wish I could see him'. When Mihr heard of this, he wrote Mirzā a letter, and also included a description of himself. Now, in answer to this, Mirzā draws his own picture; it's worth looking at.
My friend, I had heard of your stylishness from [the courtesan] Muġhal Jān, in the time when she was in the service of Ḥāmid ʿAlī Ḳhān. And she and I were on friendly and informal terms, so that I often used to pass the time with Muġhal for hours. She also showed me your verses in her praise. In any case, I was not jealous of your being tall. Because my stature too is conspicuously tall. I was not jealous of your fair complexion, because when I was alive, my complexion too was very fair, and perceptive people used to praise it. Now if I sometimes remember that complexion of mine, it's as though a snake writhes on my chest. Indeed, if I felt envy, and if I drank the blood of my liver, it was because your beard is very closely shaven. I remembered those pleasures. What can I say about the pain I endured then? As Shaiḳh ʿAlī Ḥazīn puts it,
/As long as I had the capability I tore my collar
I am not ashamed of my woolly patchwork coat/.
When the hair of my head and moustache turned white, on the third day white stubble "ants' eggs" began #487# to be visible on my cheeks. Even beyond this, what happened was that two of my front teeth broke. Having no choice, I gave up using missī [to darken the gums] as well. And I grew a beard too. But please remember that in this uncultivated city (that is, in Delhi) there is one common uniform. Mullā, Ḥāfiz̤, peddler, huqqah-tube maker, washerman, water-carrier, innkeeper, weaver, greengrocer--beards on their chins, hair on their heads. From the day when I began to keep a beard, I shaved my head.
From this sentence it is clear that he wanted to keep his own style different from everyone else's.
His dress: His dress often used to be that of the Iranians [vilāyatī]. Although there was not a tall Iranian cap on his head, still he used to have a tall hat of black fur. And this was quite proper, because he maintained his Persian-writing not merely through personal taste, but with heartfelt passion. It was not confined only to his dress or conversation. He loved his tradition in everything. Especially he protected the honors due to his family, exhausting himself with hard toil.
His love of family: This honor that had remained to him received two heaven-sent shocks. The first time, when his uncle died. The second time, in 1857 when in punishment for the crime of rebellion that he did not commit, his pension, his seat at court, and his robe of honor were all abrogated. In Urdū-e muʿallā are letters to dozens of friends; none is free of grief over this. At this grief, blood drips from his words. And what must have been happening to his heart--God alone knows. Finally he again took his place and his right, and reestablished the name of his ancestors.
What a sense of pride he maintained: In 1842 the English government decided to reorganize the affairs of Delhi College. Thomason Sahib, who for a number of years had been Lieutenant Governor of the Northwestern Province, was Secretary at that time. He came to Delhi to interview the teachers. And just as there was an teacher of Arabic at one hundred rupees a month, he wished for there to be such a teacher of Persian also. People told him the names of some accomplished ones. Mirzā's name too was among these. Mirzā Sahib came, as he had been invited to do. Announcement was made to the Sahib. Mirzā Sahib came out of his palanquin, and stayed there waiting for the Secretary Sahib to come, according to long custom, and receive him. When neither the one went in, nor the other came out, and quite some time passed, then the Secretary Sahib asked his doorkeeper about it. That man came out again and asked, 'Why don't you come in?' Mirzā Sahib said, 'The Sahib #488# has not come out to receive me. How can I go in?' The doorkeeper again went and reported.
The Sahib came outside and said, 'When you come to the governor's court in your capacity as a nobleman, then you will receive the customary honor. But at the present time you have come for employment. You are not entitled to this honor.' Mirzā Sahib said, 'I consider government service a reason for additional honor, not something in which I would lose my ancestral honor also!' The Sahib said, 'I am bound by regulations'. Mirzā Sahib took his leave and came away. The Sahib called Momin Ḳhān Sahib. He asked him to read from a book, and listened to him. And having conversed with him orally, he settled for him a salary of eighty rupees a month. Momin Ḳhān Sahib did not agree to less than a hundred rupees. The Sahib said, 'If you want a hundred rupees, then come with me'. Momin Ḳhān Sahib's heart did not agree that he should sell Delhi so cheaply.
Mirzā's wide open heart and wide open hand always kept him in narrow straits. But in this hard-up state, he maintained the signs of affluence. Thus in a number of letters of Urdū-e muʿallā, this situation is clearly reflected. He writes in a letter to Mirzā Taftah,c his devoted pupil,
I received the bill of hand for a hundred rupees. Twenty-four rupees had been spent by the steward; I gave them back to him. I sent off fifty rupees to [my wife in] the ladies' apartments. Twenty-six rupees remained; I put them in my box. Kalyān has gone to buy groceries in the bazaar. If he comes quickly, I'll have this letter posted today; if not, tomorrow. May God keep you safe, and give you recompense. My brother, things have come to a very bad pass. The end doesn't look promising. To make a long story short, this story is over.
Kidār Nāth was his steward. Even in those [hard post-1857] times, from month to month he came and distributed the wages. If Mirzā has gone somewhere on a journey, then again and again in his letters he sends orders for him. Thus in one letter he writes,
The bill of hand was to fall due on the twelfth day; six days had passed, six days remained. How could I endure it? I paid extra commission and collected the money. My miscellaneous debts have all been paid. A burden has been lifted from my shoulders. Today there are forty-seven rupees in cash in my box. And four bottles of wine. And three flasks #489# of rose-water are there in the pantry. 'Praise be to God for His graciousness to me.'
In one other place he writes to someone about his illness.
Although the ladies' apartments are very near my sitting room, how could it be possible for me to go there? At nine o'clock my food is brought to me right here. I somehow drag myself to the foot of the bed; I wash my hands and face, and eat. Then I wash my hands and gargle. I lie down on the bed. Near the bed a chamberpot is kept ready. I get up, and urinate in the chamberpot, and lie down again.
He felt extremely irked by domestic affairs: Mirzā had been married to the daughter of the late Navab Ilāhī Baḳhsh Ḳhān. And at that time he was thirteen years old. Although his ways and manners were free and unconventional, after all he was a person of noble family. Keeping in view the honor of the family, he had great regard for his wife's status and feelings. Nevertheless, when he was much troubled by that bondage, which was contrary to his temperament, he laughed it away. Thus from the lips of his friends I've heard various anecdotes. And it can be found in many places in his letters as well. With one of his old pupils he was on informal terms about such matters. This pupil wrote to Mirzā Sahib about the death of the wife of Umrāʾo Singh, another pupil; he also wrote, 'There are small children. If he doesn't marry again, what will he do? Who will take care of the children?' That person had already lost one wife. Now the second wife had died. Now Hazrat writes in reply,
For Umrāʾo Singh's situation I feel pity for his sake, and envy for my own. My God, my God! There actually are people whose fetters have been cut twice! Here I am--and for fifty-one years I've had the hangman's noose around my neck, but neither does the noose break, nor does the breath quite leave my body. Reason with him: 'My friend, I'll take care of your children--why are you ensnaring yourself in a disaster?'
When his pension was reinstated, then he wrote to someone else, 'You must swear by my life and confirm this: if I were alone, then how carefree and comfortable I would be on this small income!' Mirzā left behind him as a monument a countless race of his spiritual offspring, that is to say, pure thoughts and lofty themes. But the pity is that to the extent that he was fortunate in that respect, with respect to outward offspring he was unfortunate. Thus in one place he says, 'Seven children were born. But within a year or so they all #490# went off to the world of nonexistence.' His wife's nephew, the grandson of the late Ilāhī Baḳhsh Ḳhān, was Zain ul-ʿĀbidīn Ḳhān and used the pen-name of ʿĀrif. ʿĀrif died young. And he left two small children as his memorial. Mirzā's wife loved the children very much. Therefore Mirzā brought them up like his own children. In his old age, he went around carrying them as a garland around his neck. Wherever he went, they were with him in the palanquin. For their comfort, he deprived himself of comfort, and fulfilled their every wish. Alas, that after Mirzā's death, both died young!
The late Navab Aḥmad Baḳhsh Ḳhān's virtuous sons could not bear to see Mirzā's distress. They obtained from him the poetic wealth of accomplishment of poetic excellence, and they gave him comforts and conveniences to fulfill his worldly needs. Thus Navab Ẓiyā ud-Dīn Ḳhān Sahib was his pupil. The late Navab Amīn ud-Dīn Ḳhān the prince of Loharu too used to serve him with the respect and honor due from a junior. Navab ʿAlā ud-Dīn Ḳhān, the present prince, was crown prince at that time. He was a pupil from his childhood. Thus Mirzā writes to Navab ʿAlā ud-Dīn Ḳhān,
My dear boy! I'm in great trouble. The walls of the ladies' apartments have fallen. The toilet has collapsed. The roofs are dripping. Your auntied says, 'Alas, I'm going to be buried under it! Alas, I'm dead!' The sitting room is in worse shape than the ladies' apartments. I'm not afraid of dying. I'm anxious about lack of comfort. The roof is a sieve. If the clouds rain for two hours, then the roof rains for four hours. If the owner wants to repair it, how can he do so? If the rain stops, then everything can be arranged. And then, during the repairs, how can I stay there? If you can, then while the rains last ask your brother to provide the house in which Mīr Ḥasan used to stay for your auntie to live in, and the upper room with the courtyard beneath in the house where the late Ilāhī Baḳhsh Ḳhān used to stay, for me. The rains will be over, the repairs will be made, then the 'sahib' and the 'mem' and the 'bābā log'e will come back to their former dwelling. Just as your father has been my benefactor through his sacrifices and generosity--let this one more kindness be added to it in my old age. --Ġhālib.
#491# Mirzā had a large number of friends. He was such a true friend to his friends that he cherished them more than most people do their relatives. His love of his friends, accompanied by his sunny temper, constantly kept him surrounded by a circle of nobles and the elite. Through them he diverted his grief--and in this was his life. The most interesting part is that he spoke to his friends' sons too in just the same way as to his friends. For their part, promising young men would sit with respect. For his part, he would shower them with the flowers of mature witticisms. For their part, the well-behaved boys would smile and say nothing, and if they spoke, they never took a step beyond the bounds of courtesy. For his part, he still didn't leave off his liveliness of temperament. All this created an extraordinary atmosphere. In any case, through his jests and witticisms he took his mind off the difficulties of the time. And turning the unpleasant into the pleasant, he went on his way laughing and amusing himself. Accordingly, there are letters in Urdū-e muʿallā to Mīr Mahdī, Mīr Sarfarāz Ḥusain, Navab Yūsuf Mirzā, and so on--a number of persons of good family--that show a photograph [foṭogrāf] of his gatherings.
The faithlessness of time did not give to Mirzā the freedom from care that would have been suitable for his family and accomplishments. And Mirzā was very much aware of both these matters. But he didn't eat his heart out and make himself miserable over them. Rather, he dispelled them in laughter. As an authority for these two matters, I copy out two letters.f One letter is to Mīr Mahdī Sahib, a person of very good family, and his devoted pupil. The second letter is to Munshī Hargopāl Sahib, with the pen-name of Taftah, who has been mentioned briefly.
Mir Mahdī, you've forgotten my habits. In the auspicious month of Ramazan, have I ever missed the late night prayer at the Jāmaʿ Masjid? How could I have stayed in Rampur during this month? The Navab Sahib [of Rampur] didn't want me to leave, and kept dissuading me at great length. He kept tempting me with the mangoes of the rainy season. But my friend, I came away in such a manner that I reached here on the night of the new moon. Sunday was the first day of the holy month. Since that day, every morning I go to the mosque of Ḥāmid ʿAlī Ḳhān and hear Maulvī Jaʿfar ʿAlī Sahib reciting the Quran. #492# At night, I go to the Jāmaʿ Masjid and offer the late-night prayer. Sometimes when I feel like it, at the time of the breaking of the fast I go to Mahtāb Garden--I break my fast, and drink the cool air. Bravo, bravo! --in what a good way my lifeg passes! Now listen to the true state of affairs. I had taken the boys with me. There they gave me no peace. I was afraid that if I sent them alone, and, God forbid, some accident happened on the road, the reproach would remain for my whole life. For this reason, I came away quickly. Otherwise I would have spent the hot season and the rainy season there. Now, if my life endures, I will go alone after the rains. And I won't come back here for a long time. It has been decided that from July 1859, which was ten months ago, the Navab Sahib [of Rampur] sends me one hundred rupees every month. Now when I went there, he gave me one hundred rupees more by way of hospitality.
The Navab Sahib of Rampur treated him as a friend:
That is to say, if I am in Rampur, I would receive two hundred rupees a month. And if I stay in Delhi, then one hundred rupees. My friend! It's not worth discussing the difference between one hundred and two hundred. The important thing is that the Navab Sahib gives them in the spirit of a friend and a pupil; he doesn't consider me a servant. He met me as one meets a friend. The kind of rising and embracing customary between friends has been the pattern of our meetings. I caused the boys to present a formal offering. Thus it's not so bad at all. One ought to give thanks for a good way of obtaining a livelihood. Why should one complain of any lack? From the English government ten thousand rupees a year had been fixed. From this I received only seven hundred fifty rupees a year. A certain person did not give more than three thousand rupees a year.
The way he was addressed, and a robe of honor:
As regards honor, I received nd retained all that noblemen get: [the title of] 'Ḳhān Sahib, Extremely Kind Friend', a robe of honor of seven items, a turban, a turban-ornament, and a garland of pearls. The king loved me as much as his sons. The prime minister, the chief steward, the physician--I was not of less rank than any of them. But the salary was that same small one. So, my dear one! Here too is the same situation. I'm seated in a small room. The screen has been put up. The breeze is coming through. The water jar is full. I am smoking my huqqah. I am writing this letter, in order to talk to you. My heart wanted to talk to you.
A letter to Munshī Hargopāl Taftah: #493#
Enough--now you've settled in Iskandarābād, why should you go anywhere else? You've already used up the money in the bank. Now how will you feed yourself, young man? There's no way for me persuade you, and no scope for you to be persuaded. There's one wheel, and it keeps on revolving away. What is to happen keeps happening. If one could have any power, then something could be done. If it's something that could be discussed, then something could be said. Mirzā ʿAbd ul-Qādir Bedil has said it very well:
/What's the point of loving worldly honors and hating worldly means?
You may pass from these desires or not--life will pass/.
Look at me--I'm neither free, nor imprisoned. I'm neither sick, nor healthy. I'm neither happy, nor unhappy. I'm neither dead, nor alive. I keep on living. I keep on talking. I eat bread every day. I drink wine from time to time. When death comes, I'll die too and be dead. I don't thank God, and I don't complain. What I write is by way of a tale.
What Mirza Sahib's religious persuasion was: The religious persuasion of Mirzā's whole family and his ancestors was Sunni. But it is shown by his confidants and by his writings that his religious persuasion was Shia. And the important thing was that the expression of his beliefs was in the excess of love, not in abuse and argument. Thus many people called him a Nuṣairī [=ʿAlī-worshiper]. And when he heard this, he was happy. In one place he says,
/I am the Manṣūr of the community of those who regard ʿAlī as god
I raise my voice and say I am the Lion of God/.
All his near and real friends were Sunni. But in his affectionateness there was no kind of discrimination. He was a disciple of the family of Maulānā Faḳhr ud-Dīn. At court, and among the court people, he didn't discuss this matter. And this was the path of most of the families of Delhi.
An opinion about his Urdu volume: Among his Urdu writings is a selected volume of almost 1,800 verses, which was compiled and printed in 1849. In it are some complete and some incomplete ghazals. And there are some individual verses. There are about 1,500 verses of ghazal, 162 verses of odes, 33 verses of masnavis, 111 verses of separate verse-sets, 16 quatrains, two chronograms with four verses in them. To the extent that Mirzā's name #494# stands high in the world, his work is even thousands of levels higher in the world of meaning. Or rather, many of his verses are situated at such a level of height that our dull minds cannot reach that far. When these complaints became widely discussed, the king of that land of aloofness, who was also the king of the continents of poetry, replied to everyone in a verse of one of his ghazals:
/I neither long for praise, nor care about reward
So be it--if there's no meaning in my verses, then so be it/.
And he also composed a quatrain:
/Since my poetry is so difficult, oh heart
When they hear it, masters of poetry
Request me to compose easy verse
If I say something, it's difficult--if I don't say something, it's difficult/.
[INSERT: AN EXTENDED FOOTNOTE--
THE STORY OF AUJ]1
#494fn# With the pen-name of Auj, and the name ʿAbdullāh Ḳhān, he was a poet of forty or fifty years of practice. He created such lofty themes and 'delicate thoughts' that he could not bring them under control. And he created them in excellent words, with such trimness and propriety that the theme could not even be contained. Therefore sometimes the meaning changed from one thing into something else, and sometimes nothing of it remained at all. He composed ghazals in stony and difficult grounds. When he concentrated on thinking of themes and searching for words, he lost all awareness of his normal life. He wracked his brains with full attention. And he himself took pleasure in it. He chewed his lip until it lost all color on one side. When he recited some verses he would say, 'Blood dripped from my eyes when I composed this verse'. About others he would say, 'I enjoyed it so much that I kept reciting it for six months'.
He recited with such passion and force that it was worth seeing. When he recited ghazals in mushairahs he used to stride forward a yard or more from his seat in the gathering. A number of persons from the city, and various princes and nobles in the Fort, were his pupils. But everyone called him 'Ustad'. He used to go and recite his poetry to accomplished poets, and would extort cries of 'Bravo!' and sighs of praise and longing before he left. For he considered it his right. The late Ẓauq, despite his taciturnity and his habit of silence, used to say, 'Fine, fine, very fine!' and have him read the verse again; he used to smile and show his joy on his face, as though he was immersed in the mood of the verse. And Mirzā Ġhālib was constantly on the lookout for material for such witticisms. For him, this was a gift from God. He used to listen to his verses and say, 'All these people who call you "Ustad" are infidels. You are the God of poetry, the God!' He would make the gesture of prostrating himself and say, 'Praise be to God, praise be to God!'
In those days I was an enthusiastic beginner. Considering me his admirer, Auj Sahib used to like me very much and say, 'You are the only one who understands my poetry'. If we met on the street, then he saw me from ten paces away and stood still, and if he had composed a new verse, he drew himself up and stood erect right there, and recited it loudly. Then, reciting and listening to verses, he went on his way. He would stroll for hours in the meadow below the Fort, composing verses. He also came to my humble home, and never stayed for less than three hours. One day we met in the street. The moment he saw me he said, 'Today I went there. I recited it to him [Ġhālib] too'. I said, 'What?' Like a crack of thunder he recited,
/Even in one and a half signatures [of a book], opening verse and concluding verse have vanished
Ġhālib, it is not easy to be the possessor of a volume/.
Then he said, 'In one gathering Momin Ḳhān was also present. Everyone requested me to recite verses. I had composed a ghazal on a ghazal of Nāsiḳh's. I recited it. They were very much astonished at the concluding verse: /What they call the seventh heaven is a page of my seventh volume/. They began to ask, "Are you writing the seventh volume?" I said, "Yes, now actually it's the eighth". They fell silent.'
He often used to compose verses on public events. Kunvar Ajīt Singh gave Momin Ḳhān a female elephant. See page #409#. He said,
/In the hells that true believer [momin] takes a house
Who becomes an astrologer and takes the gift of a female elephant/.
In Delhi there was a very famous prostitute named Shīrīñ. She went to do the Haj. He said,
/It is proper if Shīrīñ leaves Delhi and goes on the Haj
The proverb is, 'Having eaten nine hundred mice, the cat went on the Haj'/.
It has been thirty or so years since those talks took place. I used to remember a number of his verses. My memory has betrayed me. Perhaps letters and papers might prove faithful. Whatever I remember, I record. And I lament his hard labor and its ruin. [Several verses and ghazals #494fn through to 497fn# by Auj.] [END OF INSERT]
One day the late Ustad and I were discussing Mirzā Sahib's style of 'delicate thought', and Persian constructions, #495# and people's various temperaments. I said, 'If some verse manages to come out without convolutions, it's as devastating as Doomsday!' He said, 'Very good!' Then he said, 'Even his better verses, people fail to appreciate. I will recite some of his verses to you'. He recited a number of individual verses. One is still in my memory:
/The river of sinfulness dried up for lack of water
Even the hem of my garment hadn't yet been wetted/.
There is no doubt that through the power of his name he was a lion of the thickets of themes and meanings. Two things have a special connection with his style. The first is that 'meaning-creation' and 'delicate thought' were his special pursuit. The second is that because he had more practice in Persian, and a long connection with it, he used to put a number of words into constructions in ways in which they are not spoken. #496# But those verses that turned out clear and lucid are beyond compare.
People of wit did not cease from their satirical barbs. Thus one time Mirzā had gone to a mushairah. Ḥakīm Āġhā Jān 'ʿAish' was a lively-natured and vivacious person. See page #463#. He recited this verse-set in the ghazal pattern:
/If only you understand your own composition, then what have you understood?
The pleasure of composition is when one speaks and the second understands
We understood the speech of Mīr, we understood the language of Mirzā [Saudā]
But his speech--he himself might understand, or God might understand/.
For this reason, toward the end of his life he absolutely renounced the path of 'delicate thought'. Thus if you look, the ghazals of the last period are quite clear and lucid. The state of both [earlier and later poetry], whatever it may be, will become apparent.
From elderly and reliable #497# people I have learned that in reality his volume was very large. This is only a selection. Maulvī Faẓl-e Ḥaq, who was unequalled in his learning, at one time was the Chief Reader of the court of Delhi district. At that time Mirzā Ḳhān, known as Mirzā Ḳhānī, was the chief of police of the city. He was a pupil of Mirzā Qatīl. He wrote good poetry and prose in Persian. In short, these two accomplished ones were the intimate friends of Mirzā Sahib. They constantly met together in a friendly way and discussed poetry. They heard a number of ghazals [of Ġhālib's]. And when they saw the volume, they persuaded Mirzā Sahib that these verses could not be understood by ordinary people. Mirzā said, 'I've already composed all this much. Now what can be done?' They said, 'Well, what has been done has been done. Make a selection, and take out the difficult verses.' Mirzā Sahib gave the volume into their care. Both gentlemen looked it over and made a selection. That is the very volume which we today go around carrying pressed to our eyes like spectacles!
ʿŪd-e hindī: There are some prefaces, some other pieces of prose, and letters. In most of the letters are answers to those people who had asked the meaning of some difficult verse or inquired about some matter of scholarly research in Persian or Urdu.
Urdū-e muʿallā: In A.H. 1285, A.D. 1869, some pupils and friends collected together and arranged, to the extent possible, the Urdu letters that they could lay their hands on. And the name of this collection Mirzā himself #498# fixed as Urdū-e muʿallā. The speech of these letters is as though he were sitting before you scattering flowers. But what can be done? His conversation too is adorned with special elegant Persian inventions and excellent constructions. If ill-educated Indians find some phrases unusual, then it's their problem. This is because of the poor diffusion of knowledge. Thus he says, [example of highly Persianized prose]. In some places he has translated particular Persian idioms, such as have been written in the poetry of ustads like Mīr and Saudā, and so on. [Several examples of such Persianisms are introduced and discussed.]
The style of composition of these passages too is of a special kind: in it the sudden snaps of wit and the livelinesses of delicacy can be expressed very well. It was his invention alone: that he himself took pleasure, and he gave pleasure to others too. It was not a task that could have been done by any other. If anyone should seek to write historical accounts or moral views or learned thoughts or letters about the affairs of the world, it is not possible to do it in this style. In this book because he has written real letters, there is a #499# mirror of his outer and inner situation. From this it can be learned that the grief and sorrow of the world always tormented him. And with his high courage, he kept it at bay merely with laughter. Only the person who is well acquainted with Mirzā's own circumstances and those of the adressees, and with the personal affairs of both parties, can derive full pleasure from those letters. Therefore if unacquainted and uninformed people find no pleasure in them, it's not surprising. In this book he has used qalam [=pen] and iltimās [=prayer] as feminine, and panshan [pension], bedād [=cruelty], and bārak [=blessing] as masculine. In one place he says, 'My Urdu is more pure than that of others'.
Lat̤āʾif-e ġhaibī: In this pamphlet he addresses himself to Munshī Saʿādat ʿAlī. Although its introduction names Saif ul-Ḥaq as the author, the style of writing and the pungency of the writing say clearly that it is Mirzā. And in real truth it is the same Miyāñ Dād Ḳhān [Saif] in whose name there are some letters from Mirzā Sahib in Urdū-e muʿallā. Thus in one letter he says to him, 'Sahib, I've given you the title of Saif ul-Ḥaq. You're the general of my army.'
Teġh-e tez: Maulvī Aḥmad ʿAlī, teacher at the Huglī school, had written, in reply to Qāt̤iʿ-e burhān, Mūʾiyyid-e burhān. Mirzā Sahib wrote answers to some of its points, and named it Teġh-e tez.
Sāt̤iʿ-e burhān: At the end of it are some pages in the name of Sayyid ʿAbdullāh. These too are by Mirzā Sahib.
a In his Persian volume he has written a verse-set of twenty or twenty-five verses. Some persons maintain that in it there is a swipe at Ẓauq. In short, here is one verse from it:
/I say the truth and never deviate from the path of truth--
Whatever speech is a source of pride for you is a disgrace for me/.
b The substance of the matter is that when Mirzā presented his claim in Calcutta, the government entrusted the decision to Sir John Malcolm Sahib, Governor of Bombay. Because when the authorities for all the estates had been written, he was the Secretary to Lord Lake Sahib, Commander in Chief of India, and all the charters of estates were issued over his signature. When this matter and its papers reached him, then he wrote, 'The claimant speaks falsely. Navab Aḥmad Baḳhsh Ḳhān was our old friend, and a very upright noble. The charge against him has been made out of perverseness. We had written five thousand rupees annually, of which three thousand were for the plaintiff and his relatives, and two thousand in the name of Ḳhvājah Ḥājī and his heirs'. Then the Mirzā Sahib made an appeal in England. There too nothing happened. I have written this according to the facts as confirmed by Navāb Ẓiyā ud-Dīn Ḳhān Bahādur (may his exalted shadow remain forever).
c It seems that he was also older than the Mirzā Sahib. He was a lover of Persian. Thus despite being a Hindu, he was very happy with the name of Mirzā Taftah. He published a volume of odes and a volume of ghazals. He composed poetry only in Persian.
d The late Navab Ilāhī Baḳhsh Ḳhān's daughter was the full niece of Navab Aḥmad Baḳhsh Ḳhān, and was Mirzā's wife.
e Since he has asked for equipment for living in the room, he has made himself the 'sahib', his wife the mem [=memsahib], and the children the bābā log [=honorific term for children].
f See the letters of Urdū-e muʿallā.
g From the first of Ramazan to this point, it is all tongue in cheek. Because all the things in these phrases are ones from which Mirzā would run a mile. And this letter was written after the Rebellion [of 1857]. At that time, in Delhi these things had become mere dreams and fantasies.
1 This account appears as a long footnote, but is not linked to any reference or footnote number in the text proper.