Mirza Asadullah Khan “Ghalib”: Translated by Tabish Khair


Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib (1797-1869), known by his pen name, Ghalib, is a famous romantic and mystical poet from the Mughal Empire era in India.  His poems are characterized by great wit, puns, and a mystical, erotic imagery so passionate as to veer at times into the surreal. Diwan-e-Ghalib is a famous poetry book written by him.



Winner of the All India Poetry Prize and various prestigious fellowships, Tabish Khair’s recent novels have also been short-listed for the Encore Award (UK), the Man Asian Prize (Hong Kong) the Hindu Best Fiction Prize (India), etc. His latest novel is titled How To Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position; three of his novels, including this one, have been translated into French (and other languages). Khair was born (1966) and educated in the small town of Gaya in India; he now teaches in the small town of Aarhus in Denmark.


(Translated from the original Urdu into English by Tabish Khair)


O you who join the show of yearning’s arts,
Beware! if wine and music move your hearts.

The saki’s beauty will bewilder you,
The singer’s song will shred your sense to shards.

The night will clasp you close in fragrant arms,
Bearing the garden’s loveliest rewards.

But look, what dawn will bring to light: no sign
Of wine or music, and the sun grown hard;

Only alight a single candle, left
To mark the loss of friends, silent, scarred.

اے تازہ واردانِ بساطِ ہواۓ دل
زنہار اگر تمہیں ہوسِ ناؤ نوش ہے

ساقی بہ جلوہ دشمنِ ایمان و آگہی
مطرب بہ نغمہ رہزنِ تمکین و ہوش ہے

یا شب کو دیکھتے تھے کہ ہر گوشۂ بساط
دامانِ باغبان و کفِ گل فروش ہے

یا صبح دم جو دیکھیے آ کر تو بزم میں
نے وہ سرور و سوز، نہ جوش و خروش ہے

داغِ فراقِ صحبتِ شب کی جلی ہوئی
اک شمع رہ گئی ہے، سو وہ بھی خموش ہے

E taza-varidan i bisat i hava i dil
Zinhaar agar tumhen havas e na o nosh hai

Saqi ba jalva dushman e iman o agahi
Mutrib ba naghma rahzan e tamkin o hosh hai

Ya shab ko dekhte the ki har gosha i bisat
Daaman e baghban o kaf i gulfrosh hai

Ya subh dam jo dekhiye aakar to bazm mein
Na woh saroor o sur na josh o kharosh hai

Dagh e firaq e sohbat e shab ki jail hui
Ik shama rah gai hai so voh bhi khamosh hai


Why should my plaint immured in hall and hearth
Distract the garden’s birds from songs of mirth?

The point of faith is constancy: bury
The priest of idols in Kaaba’s earth.

Not robbed in daytime, would I have slept at night?
I bless the thief for leaving nothing of worth.

I can compose, why should I dive for pearls?
I have a heart, why root about in earth?

 قفس میں ہوں ،گر اچّھا بھی نہ جانیں میرے شیون کو
مرا ہونا برا کیا ہے، نوا سنجانِ گلشن کو؟

وفاداری بہ شرطِ استواری اصلِ ایماں ہے
مَرے بت خانے میں، تو کعبے میں گاڑو برہمن کو

نہ لٹتا دن کو تو کب رات کو یوں بے خبر سوتا ؟
رہا کھٹکا نہ چوری کا ،دعا دیتا ہوں رہزن کو

سخن کیا کہہ نہیں سکتے ،کہ جویا ہوں جواہر کے؟
جگر کیا ہم نہیں رکھتے، کہ کھودیں جا کے معدن کو

Qfas men hun gar achcha bhi na jaanen mere shavan ko
Mera hona bura kya hai navasanjan e gulshan ko

Vafadari bashart e ustuvari asl e iman hai
Mare butkhane mein to kaabe mein garo brahman ko

Na luta din ko to kab raat ko yun bekhabar sota
Raha khatka na chori ka dua deta hoon rahzan ko

Sukhan kya kah nahin sakte ki joya hoon javahar ke
Jigar kya ham nahin rakhte ki khoden jaake madan ko


Editor’s note: These Ghazals have been previously published in Life and Legends.


One Comment:

  1. He says: “Diwan-e-Ghalib is a famous poetry book written by him.”……..a rather unususl way of putting it.
    Hope it creates more foreign awareness about the poet.

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