Faiz Ahmad Faiz

Translated from Urdu by Waqas Khwaja


From the winding maze of evening stars,
step by step descends the night.
The breeze passes close by, thus,
as if someone murmurs a word of love.
The exiled trees of the prison yard,
heads bent, are engrossed in drawing
patterns and sketches on the sky’s skirt.
On the roof ’s shoulder gleams
the fair hand of moonlight’s affection.
The glitter of stars has dissolved in dust,
the sky’s blue melted in a splendor of light.
In green corners, shadows of blue
bloom, as in the heart
the pain of separation surges.
Constantly, thought reassures the heart:
so sweet is life at this moment.
Those who stir tyranny’s poison
will succeed neither today nor tomorrow.
So what if they have already extinguished
the candles in the bridal chamber of love?
Show us if they can put out the moon!


Don’t ask me, dear, for that first love again—
I once believed life drew its light from you.
In the torment of your love, what cared I for time and fortune?
Your face affirmed the advent of spring,
the world had nothing to match your eyes:
if you were mine, destiny itself would bend before me.

It wasn’t thus, I had only wished it so.
There are other cares in the world than love,
comforts other than the meeting of lovers.

The dark sorcery of unfolding centuries,
woven in satin, in brocades and silk,
bodies on sale everywhere in lanes and streets,
besmeared in dust and bathed in blood.
The eye is drawn to them too, ah, well!
You no doubt are lovely still, ah, well!

There are other cares in the world than love,
comforts other than the meeting of lovers.
Don’t ask me, dear, for that first love again.



These poems have been excerpted from Modern Poetry of Pakistan, forthcoming from
Dalkey Archive Press.


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Faiz, Faiz Ahmad (1911–1984): Faiz was born in Sialkot, which now lies near the Pakistani border with Kashmir, and educated in Lahore. A committed socialist, Faiz was one of the leading lights of the Progressive Writers’ Movement. His leftist beliefs and his commitment to the cause of the poor earned him two prison sentences. The best-loved poet of his day, Faiz is generally regarded as one of the greatest lyricists of Urdu poetry. He began his career as a lecturer in English literature and later edited a major English-language daily, The Pakistan Times. Although his first volume of poetry, Naqsh-i-Faryadi, was published in 1941, he became widely known after the publication of Dast-i-Saba, poems written during his second term in prison, ten years later. After General Zia-ul- Haq’s coup, Faiz went into exile in Beirut, where he edited Lotus, the journal of the Afro-Asian Writers’ Association, until his return to Pakistan in 1982. Faiz was the first Asian poet to win the Lenin Peace Prize (1963). He died in Lahore. Faiz was posthumously awarded the Nishan-i-Imtiaz (Sign of Excellence) in 1990 by the government of Pakistan.

Waqas Khwaja, professor of English at Agnes Scott College in Atlanta, has a PhD from Emory University in Victorian fiction and teaches courses in nineteenth-century British literature, Romantic prose and poetry, postcolonial literature, and poetry writing. He has published three collections of poetry, No One Waits for the Train (2007), Mariam’s Lament (1992), Six Geese From a Tomb at Medum (1987); a literary travelogue, Writers and Landscapes (1991), about his experiences with the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa; and has edited three anthologies of Pakistani literature, Cactus (1986), Mornings in the Wilderness (1988), and Pakistani Short Stories (1992), which also contain his translations of works from Urdu and Punjabi. He was a practicing lawyer, newspaper columnist, and regular contributor to The Frontier Post, The Pakistan Economic Review, The Pakistan Times, News International, The Nation, and The Friday Times between 1985 and 1992 in Pakistan before relocating to the United States in 1994. He has also contributed scholarly articles to academic journals and publications.




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