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  • Nicolas Roth

Bagh-e Hind: Urdu Verses from the 18th century




Curator's note: The following verses selected and translated by Nicolas Roth, are embedded in the galleries across our five chapters. Hidden like easter eggs, the viewer must locate them all!



Chapter 1: Rose




Badan gul cehrā gul rukhsār gul lab gul dahan hai gul

Sarāpā ab to voh rashk-i caman hai ḍher phūlon kā


His body a rose, his face a rose, his cheek a rose, a rose his lip,

and the mouth, too, is a rose,

From head to toe he is now the envy of the parterre, a heap of flowers


Naz̤īr Akbarābādī (1735-1830)


 

Kisī gul men nahīn pāne kī tū bū-i vafā hargiz

‘Abas apnā dil a’e bulbul caman men mat lagā hargiz


You will never find the scent of faithfulness in any rose;

Oh nightingale, never set your heart on the flowerbed in vain.


Mīr ‘Abdulḥai ‘Tābān’ (1715-1749)


 

Caman men gul ne jo kal da‘vā’-i jamāl kiyā

Jamāl-i yār ne munh us kā khūb lāl kiyā


The rose that yesterday proclaimed her beauty in the flower bed -

The beauty of my beloved has made her blush deeply


Mīr Taqī ‘Mīr’ (1723-1810)


 

Sivā’e gul ke voh shokh ankhiyān kisī t̤araf ko nahīn hain rāghib

To barg-i nargis ūpar bajā hai likhūn jo apne sajan kūn patiyān


Those mischievous eyes have no interest in anything but the rose

So it is only right that I should write letters to my lover on narcissus petals


Shākir Nājī (1690-1744)


 


Chapter 2: Narcissus




Kāsah-’i cashm le ke jūn nargis

Ham ne dīdār kī gadā’ī kī


Taking up the mendicant’s bowl of the eye, like the narcissus,

We took to begging with our glances

Mīr Taqī ‘Mīr’ (1723-1810)


 

Sar ūpar lāl chīrā aur dahan jūn ghuncah-’i rangīn

Bahār-i mudda‘ā la‘l-i badakhshānī hai yeh laṛkā


A red turban on his head, his mouth like a colorful bud,

This boy is the spring time of desire, a ruby from Badakhshan


Shākir Nājī (1690-1744)


 

Tujh khat̤t̤-i pusht-i lab men tis kā sukhan hu’ā sabz

Is kā zabān dahan men mānand-i barg-i pān hai


From the beard sprouting around your lips,

speech has turned verdant,

His tongue is like a betel leaf in the mouth.


Najmuddīn Mubārak Shāh ‘Ābrū’ (1685-1733)


 

Vaṣf ānkhiyon kā likhā ham ne gul-i bādām par

Kar ke nargis ko qalam aur cashm-i āhū kī davāt


We wrote a description of his eyes on an almond blossom,

Making the narcissus our pen and the eye of a gazelle

our inkwell.

Shaikh Z̤uhūruddīn Shāh ‘Ḥātim’ (1699-1783)


 

Kyonkih nargis tirī ānkhon se kare ham-cashmī

Jab tak is kā nah ‘ilāj-i yarqān kījiyegā


Why would the narcissus compete with your eyes,

As long as it had not been cured of jaundice?


Shāh Naṣīr (1756-1838)


 

Yār kī ankhon men hai jaisī ḥayā

Cashm-i nargis men kahān yeh lāj hai


The bashfulness in the eyes of the beloved -

Where is such modesty in the eye of the narcissus?


Sirāj Aurangābādī (1712-1764)


 

Dhūm āne kī yeh kis kī gulzār men paṛī hai

Hāth argajī kā pyālā nargis liye khaṛī hai


Whose arrival is celebrated in these flowerbeds?

The narcissus stands holding a cup of argajā perfume


Ānand Rām ‘Mukhliṣ’ (1699-1750)


 


Chapter 3: Smoke




Phuljhaṛī se kam nahīn mizhgān-i ashk-afshān tirī

Motiyā ke dekhnā jhaṛte hain munh se is ke phūl


Your eyelashes scattering tears are nothing less than sparklers,

Which pour their “flowers” from your face like pearly

jasmine buds


Shāh Naṣīr (1756-1838)


 

Voh cirāghān o cāndnī kī rāt

Sair-i hat-i phūl o phuljhaṛī hai yād


I remember hose lamps and moonlit night,

Watching the flower-like fireworks and sparklers.


‘Fā’iz’ Dihlavī (1690-1737)


 


Chapter 4: Iris




Khīnc kar ānkhon men apnī surmah-’i dunbālahdār

Karte paidā siḥr se nargis men sosan āp hain


Drawing wing tip eyeliner around your eyes

You are magically producing irises out of narcissi


Bahādur Shāh ‘Ẓafar’ (1775-1862)


 

Agar us khush-dahan ke lab peh dekho rang missī kā

To phir zinhār barg-i ghuncah-i sosan nah dekhoge


If you see the color of missi on the lips of that pretty mouth,

Beware, you will never notice the petal of the iris bud again.


Sirāj Aurangābādī (1712-1764)


 

Kahā bulbul ne jab toṛā gul-i sosan ko gulcīn ne

Ilāhī khair kījo nīl-i rukhsār-i caman bigṛā


Said the nightingale when the flower picker plucked

the iris flower,

“Oh Lord! All right, go ahead and ruin the blue

countenance of the parterre.”


Haider ‘Alī ‘Ātish’ (1778-1847)


 

‘Arq-i bahār-i sharāb hai voh hī āj chiṛkenge āp par

Nah to bed-i mushk hai is ghaṛī nah to ke’oṛā nah gulāb hai

There is orange blossom water, that alone will they sprinkle on you today,

There is no musk willow at this time, no kewra, no rosewater is available.


Inshā’Allāh Khān ‘Inshā’ (1753-1817)


 


Chapter 5: Kewra




Ābrū jab vaṣf tere khulq-i khūbī ke likhe

Tab ṣafā barg-i sukhan ho jā qalam ho ke’oṛā


When Ābrū writes a description of your nature full of beauty

Then a polished petal of a sheet shall be the place and kewra the pen.

Najmuddīn Mubārak Shāh ‘Ābrū’ (1685-1733)


 

Bistar-i gul par jo tū ne karvaṭen līn rāt ko

‘It̤r-āgīn ho ga’e a’e gul-badan pis ke phūl


Tossing and turning on a bed of flowers, crushing them through the night,

Oh rose-bodied one, you have become drenched in perfume.

Shāh Naṣīr (1756-1838)


 

Curation and translation of verses: Nicolas Roth

August 2021


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