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Allama Iqbal English Translations of Persian Poetry and Urdu Poetry

These are my modern English translations of poems by Sir Muhammad Iqbal (علامہمحمداقبال), also known as Allāma Iqbāl (علامہاقبال, Allāma meaning "The Learned One"). He was a Lahori Muslim poet, philosopher and politician who is considered by many to be the founder of the modern state of Pakistan.



O, Colorful Rose!
by Allama Iqbāl
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

You are not troubled with solving enigmas
O, beautiful Rose! nor do you have sublime feelings in your heart

Though you ornament the assembly, still you flower apart
(In life's assembly I am not permitted such comforts)

In my garden I am the complete orchestra of longing
While your life is devoid of love's passionate warmth

To pluck you from the branch is not my custom
(I am not blinded by mere appearances)

O, colorful rose this hand is not your tormentor
(I am no callous flower picker!)

I am no intern to analyze you with scientific eyes
Like a lover, I see you with nightingales' eyes

Despite your innumerable tongues, you have chosen silence
What secrets, O Rose, lie concealed in your bosom?

Like me you're a leaf from the garden of Ñër
Far from the garden I am, far from the garden we both are

You are content, but I am a scattered fragrance
Pierced by the sword of love in my quest

This turmoil within me might be a means of fulfillment
This torment, a source of illumination

My frailty might be the beginning of strength
My envy might mirror the cup of divination

My constant vigil is a world-illuminating candle
And teaches this steed, the human intellect, to gallop



Bright Rose
by Allama Iqbāl
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

You cannot loosen the heart's knot;
perhaps you have no heart,
no share in the chaos

of this garden, where I yearn (for what?)
but harvest no roses.
Of what use to me is wisdom?

Having abandoned the garden,
you are at peace, while I remain anxious,
disconsolate in my terror.

Perhaps Jamshid's empty cup
foretold the future, but may wine
never satisfy my mouth,

till I find you in the mirror.

Jamshid's empty cup: Jamshid saw the reflection of future events in a wine cup.



Withered Roses
by Allama Iqbāl
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

What words of mine can describe you,
desire of the nightingale's heart?
The morning breeze was your nativity,
the afternoon garden, a tray of perfumes.

My tears welled like dew,
till in my abandoned heart your rune grew,
this dream-emblem of love:
a spray of withered roses.



Firefly
by Allama Iqbāl
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

A candle among roses
In the evening garden
A shooting star
A flash of the moon's gown
A spark of the sun's hem
In syncopated eclipse

Emissary of day
In night's dark kingdom
Unseen at home
Lucid in exile
Opposite of the moth
The firefly is light



The Age of Infancy
by Allama Iqbāl
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

The earth and sky remained unknown to me
The expanse of my mother's bosom was my only world

Her every movement communicated life's pleasures to me
Yet my own voice conveyed only meaningless words

During infancy's pain, if someone made me cry
The clank of the door chain would comfort me

Oh! How I stared at the moon those long, lonely hours,
Regarding its silent journey through broken clouds

I would ask repeatedly about its mountains and its plains
Only to be surprised by some prudent lie

My eye was devoted to seeing, my lips to speech
My heart was inquisitiveness personified



Fiction
by Allama Iqbāl
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

"Why didn't you make me immortal?"
Beauty asked God, perplexed.

God, vexed, said "The world is a fiction
fashioned from emptiness.

You were born bright, ever-changing:
true beauty is transient, estranging."

The moon overheard their discord,
beamed it on to the morning star

who whispered dawn's clouds their dark secret
till the dew heard it all, formed a tear,

and drenched all the shivering rose petals
(now survived by the hardier nettles).



Coal to Diamond
Allama Iqbāl after Nietzsche
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

My flesh is so vile, I am less than dust
while your brilliance out-blazes the mirror's heart.
My darkness defiles the chafing-dish
before my cremation; a miner's boot
tramples my cranium; I'm covered with ashes.

Do you know my life's bleak essence?
Condensations of smoke, black clouds stillborn
from a single spark; while in feature and nature
starlike, your every facet's a splendor,
gleam of the King's crown, the scepter's jewel.

"Please, friend, be wise," the diamond replied,
"assume a gemlike dignity! Carbon must harden,
to fill one's bosom with radiance. Burn
because you are soft. Banish fear and grief.
Be hard as stone, be diamond."



Excerpts from "The Tulip of Sinai"
by Allama Iqbāl
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

1

My heart is bright, from burning inwardly.
My eyes weep blood, for all the world to see.
Am I the fool, or is it only he
Who calls all Love mere wild insanity!

3

Love grants the garden soft breezes of May.
Love teaches the meadow sunflowers to be gay.
Love rockets bright rays even into the deep
So that fishes' schools can find their way.

4

Love reckons the price of eagles cheap.
Love surrenders pheasants to the falcons’ steep
Murderous dives. Our offended hearts weep
till suddenly, out of ambush, Love leaps!

5

Love paints the tulip petals’ hue.
Love stirs the spirit’s bitter rue.
And, should you could cleave this carrion of clay,
You would behold Love’s bloodshed too.

7

A spent scent in a garden: hopes expire.
I know not what I seek, no, nor require.
But whether I am satisfied, or starved,
Still here I burn: a martyr to desire.

13

How long, my heart, will you be like the moth,
Infatuated with a bit of cloth
Or winking flame? Just once, my foolish heart,
Be fully consumed in yourself, or depart.



Excerpts from "Cordoba"
by Allama Iqbāl
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

I

Chain of day and night
Creator of events
Foundation of life and death
Two-toned silken thread
Weave of attributes
Pitch of future prospects
Chain of day and night
Sitting in judgment
Setting a value upon us
Whenever we're lacking
Death, your destiny
Death, my destiny
What else is reality?
The pulse of an age
Neither day nor night
All crafts vanish
Black and white blur
Annihilation, the end

II

And yet in this form
Hues of eternal life
Splendor of man's love
Love, life's foundation
Death has no claim on love
Love, the tide
Stemming the torrent
Love, the nameless eras
Love, Gabriel's breath
Love, the Prophet of God
Love, the Word of God
Love, the radiant rose
Love, the transcendent wine
Love, the goblet of kings
Love, life's music
Love, the passion for life
Love, the fire of life

III

O, Mosque of Cordoba
Born of love with no past
Color or mortar or stone
Lyre or song or speech
Man's passionate creation
A drop of blood turns
Stone to beating hearts
The heart's cry is joy
Illumination and melody
You brighten my heart
My song wells up in my breast
You draw man's heart
Into the presence of God
But the passion of love
For God is man's alone
I ignite man's passion
Though his sight is finite
His heart's more expansive than the sky
So what if God desires, rules?
He doesn't earn the pain!
I am an Indian infidel
Witness my fervor
In my heart, prayers
On my lips, blessings
Love is my flute
Love, my song
In my every bone
"God is God"

IV

Witness of man's worth
Your glory mirrors his soul
Stone columns soar
Palms freshen Syrian sands
Sinai's roofs gleam
Gabriel crowns the minaret
A Muslim can never despair
Standing where Prophets once stood
His horizon infinite
Tigris, Danube, Nile flood his veins
Cup-bearer, stallion-rider
In love, a warrior
A sword's shadow his armor
"There is no god but God"

V

You reveal man's destiny
The ardor of his days
The dissolution of his nights
His submission
Is to God's hand
As is the believer's
Man prospers according to his deeds
He is clay and fire
Divine within
Free of both worlds
His ambition, small
His purpose, immense
Pure-hearted in peace and war
God's compass revolves
Around man's faith
Yet the world is illusion
The man of God is reason's horizon
The harvest of love
The fire of the ingathering
Heaven's passion



The following are links to other translations by Michael R. Burch:

Wulf and Eadwacer
Sweet Rose of Virtue
How Long the Night
Caedmon's Hymn
The Wife's Lament
Deor's Lament
Lament for the Makaris
Ancient Greek Epigrams and Epitaphs
Basho
Oriental Masters/Haiku
Sappho
Miklós Radnóti
Rainer Maria Rilke
Bertolt Brecht
Ber Horvitz
Paul Celan
Primo Levi
Tegner's Drapa

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