Annual of Urdu Studies, v. 5, 1985 p. 39.


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Alamgir Hashmi

RASHED, VILLON, AND A POINT OF TEXTUAL RELATION

In an earlier article I suggested that it was worth the critical effort to register echoes of English poetry in some poems by N M Rashed In certain poems the resemblance of theme but particularly the similarity of attitude and approach to the development and poetic arrangement of elements is too impressive to avoid a closer look The purpose of such an exercise can only be to determine to a degree of certainty the imitatio conditions which may exist in Rashed s poetry so that they may tell us about his art In this article I intend to discuss some ways in which the text of Rashed s poem "Ta'aruf (' Introductions') appears to have been achieved I would also like to argue that the comparison of Rashed s work to English poems alone is not sufficient and that the sources of his inspiration and art lie not only in the Urdu (Arabic-Persian) and English traditons but also further afield 2

Representative of Rashed s recurrent ideas of protest against torpor man s indifference and inaction when better resolve or alternatively Death, could remedy the malaise the poem has been quite popular It has been widely translated and anthologized enough to warrant particular attention3 Not an example of ' negative escapism "4 the poem expresses existentialist pain condemnation of what social ills obstruct man s spiritual freedom and positive growth and it invokes Death as that element which will clear away the pollutions that contaminate present existence The mystical hope in this world of which classical Urdu poetry has been a distinctive vehicle is reversed and for good reasons As we read Rashed s poem today we realize that although the poem is spoken to Death or the Void it is not spoken in the void that it exists within a muttivalent tradition whose values are not only determined by the speaker addressing an audience but also externally by the writer writing to/for the reader If he does not miss seeing them the

1 Alamqir Hashm Some Directions of Contemporary Urdu Poetry in Pakistan From 1965 to the Present in South Asia (Austral a) New Series vo 1 no 2 pp 67 79

2 Understandably since Syed Abdu Latfs The Influence of English Literature on Urdu Literature (London F Groom 1924) most—or shall I say a I7—comparative studies have been devoted to the Urdu English literary study More recent such studies to note are The English Tradition in Modern Urdu Poetry by Rafiq Mahmood in Explorations (Lahore) vol 2 no 1 (March 1972) pp 64 74 English Literary Tradition and Urdu Poetry by A R Anjum in the authors Conspectus (Lahore Arsalan Publications 1979) pp 41 59 Comparatve Textual Study of Addison and Azad by Irshad Al in The Ravi vol 72 no 1 (October 1983) pp 49 80 Sukhandan e Pars and Its Sources by Muhammad Sadiq The Rav vol 72 no 1 (October 1983) pp 1 9 Iqbal s Borrow ngs from English Poems by Muhammad Sadiq in the Journal of the Researcn Society of Pakistan vol 14 no 4 (October 1977) pp 23 34 Iqbal and Western Poets by S A Vahid in Hafeez Malik eo Iqbal Poet Philosopher of Pakistan (New York Columbia University Press 1971) pp 347 379 The last includes a comparison to works by Dante and Goethe However the productive contact with Western (not only English) literature and other world literatures to which the Urdu writer has been inclined for at least half a century now say roughly from the generation of M D Taseer ano A S Bukhan has been taken little note of no more than the effects of increasing literacy (as against those of orality) crying out for d scussion from about th s time

3 Ta aruf ( tntroouctons ) whch dates from early 1960s or late 1950s from La^lnsan by N M Rashed (Lahore Al M sal 1969) pp 76 77 English translation of the poem by M 1-1 K Quresh and Carlo Coppola is to be found in such volumes as The Beloit Poetry Journal Contemporary Asian Poetry A Chapbook (Beloit Wisconsin) vol 13 no 2 (Winter 1962 63) and Howard Sergeant ed Commonwealth Poems of Today (London John Murray 1967)

4 The phrase is Knshan Chandars in his Introduction to Rashed s Mawara (Lahore 1941) and it expresses a farly common charge against Rashed Rashed later nterpreted the phrase as strategic retreat See Mahfil Interviews N M Rashed in Mahfl vol 7 nos 1 2 (Spring Summer 1971) p 4

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