The HyperTexts

The Best Urdu Love Poetry with English Translations: the Perfect Gifts for Valentine's Day, or Any Day!
Urdu Love Poetry for Her and for Him

Which poets wrote the best Urdu and Hindi love poems of all time? This page contains outstanding works of poetic art by the shayars (poets) Shaad Azimabadi, Iqbal Bano, Amrita Bharati, Jaun Elia, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Ahmad Faraz, Arif Farhad, Nida Fazli, Mirza Ghalib, Amrut Ghayal, Noshi Gillani, Firaq Gorakhpuri, Gulzar, Rahat Indori, Allama Iqbal, Nasir Kazmi, Abdellatif Laâbi, Muztar Khairabadi, Amir Khusrow, Miraji, Mir Taqi Mir, Momin Khan Momin, Munir Niazi, Abdulla Pashew, Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi, Parveen Shakir, Rabindranath Tagore, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Qateel Shifai, Majrooh Sultanpuri and Mohammad Ibrahim Zauq. These are my modern English translations of their poems, just in time for Valentine's Day, proving that love truly is a universal language! Urdu poetry is notable for its highly romantic images, evocative metaphors, emotional content, depth of feeling, transcendence, and sheer passion!

modern English translations by Michael R. Burch

If you like my translations you are welcome to share them for noncommercial purposes, but please be sure to credit the original poet and the translator.

Please note that I call my translations "loose translations" and "interpretations" because they are not literal word-for-word translations. I begin with my personal interpretation of a poem and translate accordingly. To critics who object to variations from the original texts, my response is that there are often substantial disagreements among even the most accomplished translators. Variations begin with the readings because different people get different things from different poems. And a strict word-for-word translation will seldom, if ever, result in poetry. In my opinion translation is much closer to an art than a perfect science and I side with Rabindranath Tagore, who said he needed some leeway in order to produce poetry in another language when he translated his own poems into English.—MRB



You will never comprehend me:
I pour out my feelings; you only read the words!
―original poet unknown, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Tears are colorless―thank God!―
otherwise my pillow might betray my heart.
―original poet unknown, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Near Sainthood
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation/interpretation by Kanu V. Prajapati and Michael R. Burch

On the subject of mystic philosophy, Ghalib,
your words might have struck us as deeply profound ...
Hell, we might have pronounced you a saint,
if only we hadn't found
you drunk
as a skunk!

There are more English translations of poems by Mirza Ghalib later on this page.



Withered Roses
by Allama Iqbāl
loose translation/interpretation 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 up like dew,
till in my abandoned heart your rune grew,
this dream-emblem of love:
this spray of withered roses.

There are more English translations of poems by Allama Iqbāl later on this page.



Last Night
by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Last night, your memory stole into my heart―
as spring sweeps uninvited into barren gardens,
as morning breezes reinvigorate dormant deserts,
as a patient suddenly feels better, for no apparent reason ...

There are more English translations of poems by Faiz Ahmed Faiz later on this page.



Intimacy
by Rahat Indori
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I held the Sun, Stars and Moon at a distance
till the time your hands touched mine.
Now I am not a feather to be easily detached:
instruct the hurricanes and tornados to observe their limits!

There are more English translations of poems by Rahat Indori later on this page.



Strange Currents
by Amir Khusrow
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

O Khusrow, the river of love
creates strange currents—
the one who would surface invariably drowns,
while the one who submerges, survives.

There are more English translations of poems by Amir Khusrow later on this page.



The Eager Traveler
by Ahmad Faraz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Even in the torture chamber, I was the lucky one;
when each lottery was over, unaccountably I had won.

And even the mightiest rivers found accessible refuge in me;
though I was called an arid desert, I turned out to be the sea.

And how sweetly I remember you—oh, my wild, delectable love!—
as the purest white blossoms bloom, on talented branches above.

And while I’m half-convinced that folks adore me in this town,
still, all the hands I kissed held knives and tried to shake me down.

You lost the battle, my coward friend, my craven enemy,
when, to victimize my lonely soul, you sent a despoiling army.

Lost in the wastelands of vast love, I was an eager traveler,
like a breeze in search of your fragrance, a vagabond explorer.

There are more English translations of poems by Ahmad Faraz later on this page.



The Condition of My Heart
by Munir Niazi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

It is not necessary for anyone else to get excited:
The condition of my heart is not the condition of hers.
But were we to receive any sort of good news, Munir,
How spectacular compared to earth's mundane sunsets!

There are more English translations of poems by Munir Niazi later on this page.



Failures
by Nida Fazli
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I was unable to relate
the state
of my heart to her,
while she failed to infer
the nuances
of my silences.

There are more English translations of poems by Nida Fazli later on this page.



My Apologies, Sona
by Gulzar
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My apologies, Sona,
if traversing my verse's terrain
in these torrential rains
inconvenienced you.

The monsoons are unseasonal here.

My poems' pitfalls are sometimes sodden.
Water often overflows these ditches.
If you stumble and fall here, you run the risk
of spraining an ankle.

My apologies, however,
if you were inconvenienced
because my dismal verse lacks light,
or because my threshold's stones
interfered as you passed.

I have often cracked toenails against them!

As for the streetlamp at the intersection,
it remains unlit ... endlessly indecisive.

If you were inconvenienced,
you have my heartfelt apologies!

There are more English translations of poems by Gulzar later on this page.



Come As You Are
by Rabindranath Tagore
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Come as you are, forget appearances!
Is your hair untamable, your part uneven, your bodice unfastened? Never mind.
Come as you are, forget appearances!

Skip with quicksilver steps across the grass.
If your feet glisten with dew, if your anklets slip, if your beaded necklace slides off? Never mind.
Skip with quicksilver steps across the grass.

Do you see the clouds enveloping the sky?
Flocks of cranes erupt from the riverbank, fitful gusts ruffle the fields, anxious cattle tremble in their stalls.
Do you see the clouds enveloping the sky?

You loiter in vain over your toilet lamp; it flickers and dies in the wind.
Who will care that your eyelids have not been painted with lamp-black, when your pupils are darker than thunderstorms?
You loiter in vain over your toilet lamp; it flickers and dies in the wind.

Come as you are, forget appearances!
If the wreath lies unwoven, who cares? If the bracelet is unfastened, let it fall. The sky grows dark; it is late.
Come as you are, forget appearances!

Unfit Gifts
by Rabindranath Tagore
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

At sunrise, I cast my nets into the sea,
dredging up the strangest and most beautiful objects from the depths ...
some radiant like smiles, some glittering like tears, others flushed like brides’ cheeks.
When I returned, staggering under their weight, my love was relaxing in her garden, idly tearing leaves from flowers.
Hesitant, I placed all I had produced at her feet, silently awaiting her verdict.
She glanced down disdainfully, then pouted: "What are these bizarre things? I have no use for them!"
I bowed my head, humiliated, and thought:
"Truly, I did not contend for them; I did not purchase them in the marketplace; they are unfit gifts for her!"
That night I flung them, one by one, into the street, like refuse.
The next morning travelers came, picked them up and carted them off to exotic countries.

The Seashore Gathering

by Rabindranath Tagore
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch
 
On the seashores of endless worlds, earth's children converge.
The infinite sky is motionless, the restless waters boisterous.
On the seashores of endless worlds earth's children gather to dance with joyous cries and pirouettes.
They build sand castles and play with hollow shells.
They weave boats out of withered leaves and laughingly float them out over the vast deep.
Earth's children play gaily on the seashores of endless worlds.
They do not know, yet, how to cast nets or swim.
Divers fish for pearls and merchants sail their ships, while earth's children skip, gather pebbles and scatter them again.
They are unaware of hidden treasures, nor do they know how to cast nets, yet.
The sea surges with laughter, smiling palely on the seashore.
Death-dealing waves sing the children meaningless songs, like a mother lullabying her baby's cradle.
The sea plays with the children, smiling palely on the seashore.
On the seashores of endless worlds earth's children meet.
Tempests roam pathless skies, ships lie wrecked in uncharted waters, death wanders abroad, and still the children play.
On the seashores of endless worlds there is a great gathering of earth's children.

This Dog
by Rabindranath Tagore
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Each morning this dog,
who has become quite attached to me,
sits silently at my feet
until, gently caressing his head,
I acknowledge his company.

This simple recognition gives my companion such joy
he shudders with sheer delight.

Among all languageless creatures
he alone has seen through man entire—
has seen beyond what is good or bad in him
to such a depth he can lay down his life
for the sake of love alone.

Now it is he who shows me the way
through this unfathomable world throbbing with life.

When I see his deep devotion,
his offer of his whole being,
I fail to comprehend ...

How, through sheer instinct,
has he discovered whatever it is that he knows?

With his anxious piteous looks
he cannot communicate his understanding
and yet somehow has succeeded in conveying to me
out of the entire creation
the true loveworthiness of man.



Being
by Momin Khan Momin
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You are so close to me
that no one else ever can be.

NOTE: There is a legend that the great Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib offered all his diwan (poetry collections) in exchange for this one sher (couplet) by Momin Khan Momin. Does the couplet mean "be as close" or "be, at all"? Does it mean "You are with me in a way that no one else can ever be?" Or does it mean that no one else can ever exist as truly as one's true love? Or does this sher contain an infinite number of elusive meanings, like love itself?

Being (II)
by Momin Khan Momin
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You alone are with me when I am alone.
You are beside me when I am beside myself.
You are as close to me as everyone else is afar.
You are so close to me that no one else ever can be.

Perhaps
by Momin Khan Momin
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The cohesiveness between us, you may remember or perhaps not.
Our solemn oaths of faithfulness, you may remember, or perhaps forgot.
If something happened that was not to your liking,
the shrinking away that produces silence, you may remember, or perhaps not.
Listen, the sagas of so many years, the promises you made amid time's onslaught,
which you now fail to mention, you may remember or perhaps not.
These new resentments, those often rehashed complaints,
these lighthearted and displeasing stories, you may remember, or perhaps forgot.
Some seasons ago we shared love and desire, we shared joy ...
That we once were dear friends, you may have perhaps forgot.
Now if we come together, by fate or by chance, to express old loyalties ...
Our every shared breath, all our sighs and regrets, you may remember, or perhaps not.



What Happened to Them?
by Nasir Kazmi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Those who came ashore, what happened to them?
Those who sailed away, what happened to them?

Those who were coming at dawn, when dawn never arrived ...
Those caravans en route, what happened to them?

Those I awaited each night on moonless paths,
Who were meant to light beacons, what happened to them?

Who are these strangers surrounding me now?
All my lost friends and allies, what happened to them?

Those who built these blazing buildings, what happened to them?
Those who were meant to uplift us, what happened to them?

NOTE: This poignant poem was written about the 1947 partition of India into two nations: India and Pakistan. I take the following poem to be about the aftermath of the division.

Climate Change
by Nasir Kazmi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The songs of our silenced lips are different.
The expressions of our regretful hearts are different.

In milder climes our grief was more tolerable,
But the burdens we bear now are different.

O, walkers of awareness's road, keep your watch!
The obstacles strewn on this stony path are different.

We neither fear separation, nor desire union;
The anxieties of my rebellious heart are different.

In the first leaf-fall only flowers fluttered from twigs;
This year the omens of autumn are different.

This world lacks the depth to understand my heartache;
Please endow me with melodies, for my cry is different!

One disconcerting glance bared my being;
Now in barren fields my visions are different.

No more troops, nor flags. Neither money, nor fame.
The marks of the monarchs on this land are different.

Men are not martyred for their beloveds these days.
The youths of my youth were so very different!

Nasir Kazmi Couplets

When I was a child learning to write
my first scribblings were your name.
―Nasir Kazmi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When my feet lost the path
where was your hand?
―Nasir Kazmi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Everything I found is yours;
everything I lost is also yours.
―Nasir Kazmi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Memory
by Faiz Ahmed Faiz, as performed by Iqbal Bano 
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In the wastelands of solitude, my love,
the echoes of your voice quiver,
the mirages of your lips waver.

In the deserts of alienation,
out of the expanses of distance and isolation's debris
the fragrant jasmines and roses of your presence delicately blossom.

Now from somewhere nearby,
the warmth of your breath rises,
smoldering forth an exotic perfume―gently, languorously.

Now far-off, across the distant horizon,
drop by shimmering drop,
fall the glistening dews of your beguiling glances.

With such tenderness and affection—oh my love!—
your memory has touched my heart's cheek so that it now seems
the sun of separation has set; the night of blessed union has arrived.

Speak!
by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Speak, if your lips are free.
Speak, if your tongue is still your own.
While your body is still upright,
Speak if your life is still your own.

Tonight
by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Do not strike the melancholy chord tonight! Days smoldering
with pain in the end produce only listless ashes ...
and who the hell knows what the future may bring?
Last night’s long lost, tomorrow's horizon’s a wavering mirage.
And how can we know if we’ll see another dawn?
Life is nothing, unless together we make it ring!
Tonight we are love gods! Sing!

Do not strike the melancholy chord tonight!
Don’t harp constantly on human suffering!
Stop complaining; let Fate conduct her song!
Give no thought to the future, seize now, this precious thing!
Shed no more tears for temperate seasons departed!
All sighs of the brokenhearted soon weakly dissipate ... stop dithering!
Oh, do not strike the same flat chord again! Sing!

When Autumn Came
by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

So it was that autumn came to flay the trees,
to strip them nude,
to rudely abase their slender dark bodies.

Fall fell in vengeance on the dying leaves,
flung them down to the floor of the forest
where anyone could trample them to mush
undeterred by their sighs of protest.

The birds that herald spring
were exiled from their songs—
the notes ripped from their sweet throats,
they plummeted to the earth below, undone
even before the hunter strung his bow.

Please, gods of May, have mercy!
Bless these disintegrating corpses
with the passion of your resurrection;
allow their veins to pulse with blood again.

Let at least one tree remain green.
Let one bird sing.

Last Night (II)
by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Last night, your lost memory returned ...
as spring steals silently into barren gardens,
as cool breezes stir desert sands,
as an ailing man suddenly feels better, for no apparent reason ...

There are more English translations of poems by Faiz Ahmed Faiz later on this page.



Ghazal
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Not the blossomings of songs nor the adornments of music:
I am the voice of my own heart breaking.

You toy with your long, dark curls
while I remain captive to my dark, pensive thoughts.

We congratulate ourselves that we two are different
but this weakness has burdened us both with inchoate grief.

Now you are here, and I find myself bowing—
as if sadness is a blessing, and longing a sacrament.

I am a fragment of sound rebounding;
you are the walls impounding my echoes.

The Mistake
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

All your life, O Ghalib,
You kept repeating the same mistake:
Your face was dirty
But you were obsessed with cleaning the mirror!

Inquiry
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The miracle of your absence
is that I found myself endlessly searching for you.

It's Only My Heart!
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

It’s only my heart, not unfeeling stone,
so why be dismayed when it throbs with pain?
It was made to suffer ten thousand darts;
why let one more torment impede us?

There are more English translations of poems by Mirza Ghalib later on this page.



Couplets
by Jaun Elia
loose translations by Michael R. Burch

I am strange—so strange
that I self-destructed and don't regret it.
―Jaun Elia, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The wound is deep—companions, friends—embrace me!
What, did you not even bother to stay?
―Jaun Elia, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My nature is so strange
that today I felt relieved when you didn't arrive.
―Jaun Elia, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Night and day I awaited myself;
now you return me to myself.
―Jaun Elia, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Greeting me this cordially,
have you so easily erased my memory?
―Jaun Elia, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Your lips have provided thousands of answers;
so what is the point of complaining now?
―Jaun Elia, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Perhaps I haven't fallen in love with anyone,
but at least I convinced them!
―Jaun Elia, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The city of mystics has become bizarre:
everyone is wary of majesty, have you heard?
―Jaun Elia, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Intimacy
by Rahat Indori
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I held the Sun, Stars and Moon at a distance
till the time your hands touched mine.
Now I am not a feather to be easily detached:
instruct the hurricanes and tornados to observe their limits!

The Mad Moon
by Rahat Indori
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Stars have a habit of showing off,
but the mad moon sojourns in darkness.

Body Language
by Rahat Indori
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Your body’s figures are written in cursive!
How will I read you? Hand me the book!

Insatiable
by Rahat Indori
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This mighty ocean, so deep and vast!
If it sates my thirst, how long can it last?

Honor
by Rahat Indori
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Achievements may fade but the name remains strong;
walls may buckle but the roof stays on.
On a pile of corpses a child stands alone
and declares that his family still lives on!

Dust in the Wind
by Rahat Indori
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This is how I introduce myself to questioners:
Pick up a handful of dust, then blow ...

Dissembler
by Rahat Indori
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

In your eyes this, in your heart that, on your lips something else?
If this is how you are, impress someone else!
 
Rumor (M)ill
by Rahat Indori
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I heard rumors my health was bad; still
it was prying people who made me ill.

The Vortex
by Rahat Indori
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I am the river whose rapids form a vortex;
You were wise to avoid my banks.

Homebound
by Rahat Indori
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

If people fear what they meet at every turn,
why do they ever leave the house?



Becoming One
by Amir Khusrow
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I have become you, as you have become me;
I am your body, you my Essence.
Now no one can ever say
that you are someone else,
or that I am anything less than your Presence!

I Am a Pagan
by Amir Khusrow
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I am a pagan disciple of love: I need no creeds.
My every vein has become taut, like a tuned wire.
I do not need the Brahman's girdle.
Leave my bedside, ignorant physician!
The only cure for love is the sight of the patient's beloved:
there is no other medicine he needs!
If our boat lacks a pilot, let there be none:
we have god in our midst: we do not fear the sea!
The people say Khusrow worships idols:
True! True! But he does not need other people's approval;
he does not need the world's.

(My translation above was informed by a translation of Dr. Hadi Hasan.)

Amir Khusrow’s elegy for his mother
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Wherever you shook the dust from your feet
is my relic of paradise!

Paradise
by Amir Khusrow
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

If there is an earthly paradise,
It's here! It's here! It's here!



Mystery
by Munir Niazi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

She was a mystery:
Her lips were parched ...
but her eyes were two unfathomable oceans.

I continued delaying ...
by Munir Niazi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I continued delaying ...
the words I should speak
the promises I should keep
the one I should dial
despite her cruel denial

I continued delaying ...
the shoulder I must offer
the hand I must proffer
the untraveled lanes
we may not see again

I continued delaying ...
long strolls through the seasons
for my own selfish reasons
the remembrances of lovers
to erase thoughts of others

I continued delaying ...
to save someone dear
from eternities unclear
to make her aware
of our reality here

I continued delaying ...



Couplets
by Mir Taqi Mir
loose translations by Michael R. Burch

Sharpen the barbs of every thorn, O lunatic desert!
Perhaps another hobbler, limping by on blistered feet, follows me!
―Mir Taqi Mir, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My life is a bubble,
this world an illusion.
―Mir Taqi Mir, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Selflessness has gotten me nowhere:
I neglected myself far too long.
―Mir Taqi Mir, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I know now that I know nothing,
and it only took me a lifetime to learn!
―Mir Taqi Mir, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Love's just beginning, so why do you whine?
Why not wait and watch how things unwind!
―Mir Taqi Mir, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Come!
by Gulzar
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Come, let us construct night
over the monumental edifice of silence.
Come, let us clothe ourselves in the winding sheets of darkness,
where we'll ignite our bodies' incandescent wax.
As the midnight dew dances its delicate ballet,
let us not disclose the slightest whispers of our breath!
Lost in night's mists,
let us lie immersed in love's fragrance,
absorbing the musky aromas of our bodies!
Let us rise like rustling spirits ...

Old Habits Die Hard
by Gulzar
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The habit of breathing
is an odd tradition.
Why struggle so to keep on living?
The body shudders,
the eyes veil,
yet the feet somehow keep moving.
Why this journey, this restless, relentless flowing?
For how many weeks, months, years, centuries
shall we struggle to keep on living, keep on living?
Habits are such strange things, such hard things to break!

Inconclusive
by Gulzar
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

A body lies on a white bed
dead, abandoned,
a forsaken corpse they forgot to bury.
They concluded its death was not their concern.
I hope they return and recognize me,
then bury me so I can breathe.



Wasted
by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You have noticed her forehead, her cheeks, her lips ...
In whose imagination I have lost everything.

Countless
by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I recounted the world's countless griefs
by recounting your image countless times.

Do Not Ask
by Faiz Ahmed Faiz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Do not ask, my love, for the love that we shared before:
You existed, I told myself, so existence shone.
For a moment the only light that I knew, alone,
was yours; worldly griefs remained dark, distant, afar.

Spring shone, as revealed in your face, but what did I know?
Beyond your bright eyes, what delights could the sad world hold?
Had I won you, cruel Fate would have ceded, no longer bold.
Yet all this was not to be, though I wished it so.

The world knows sorrows beyond love’s brief dreams betrayed,
and pleasures beyond all sweet, idle ideals of romance:
the dread dark spell of countless centuries and chance
is woven with silk and satin and gold brocade.

Bodies are sold everywhere for a pittance—it’s true!
Besmeared with dirt and bathed in bright oceans of blood,
Crawling from infested ovens, a gory cud.
My gaze returns to you: what else can I do?

Your beauty haunts me still, and will to the last.
But the world is burdened by sorrows beyond those of love,
By pleasures beyond romance.
So please do not demand a love that is over, and past.



O God!
by Qateel Shifai
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Torture my heart, O God!
If you so desire, leave me a madman, O God!

Have I asked for the moon and stars?
Enlighten my heart and give my eyes sight, O God!

We have all seen this disk called the sun,
Now give us a real dawn, O God!

Either relieve our pains here on this earth
Or make my heart granite, O God!

Hereafter
by Qateel Shifai
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Since we met and parted, how can we sleep hereafter?
Lost in each others' remembrance, must we not weep hereafter?

Deluges of our tears will keep us awake all night:
Our eyelashes strung with strands of pearls, hereafter!

Thoughts of our separation will sear our grieving hearts
Unless we immerse them in the cooling moonlight, hereafter!

If the storm also deceives us, crying Qateel!,
We will scuttle our boats near forsaken shores, hereafter.



Picnic
by Parveen Shakir
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

My friends laugh elsewhere on the beach
while I sit here, alone, counting the waves,
writing and rewriting your name in the sand ...

Confession
by Parveen Shakir
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Your image overwhelmed my vision.
As the long nights passed, I became obsessed with your visage.
Then came the moment when I quietly placed my lips to your picture ...

Rain
by Parveen Shakir
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Why shiver alone in the rain, maiden?
Embrace the one in whose warming love your body and mind would be drenched!
There are no rains higher than the rains of Love,
after which the bright rainbows of separation will glow with the mysteries of hues.

My Body's Moods
by Parveen Shakir
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I long for the day when you'll be obsessed with me,
when, forgetting the world, you'll miss me with a passion
and stop complaining about my reticence!
Then I may forget all other transactions and liabilities
to realize my world in your arms,
letting my body's moods guide me.
In that moment beyond boundaries and limitations
as we defy the conventions of veil and turban,
let's try our luck and steal a taste of the forbidden fruit!

Moon
by Parveen Shakir
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

All of us passengers,
we share the same fate.
And yet I'm alone here on earth,
and she alone there in the sky!

Vanity
by Parveen Shakir
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

His world is so simple, so very different from mine.
So distinct—his dreams and desires.
He speaks rarely.
This morning he wrote: "I saw some lovely flowers and thought of you."
Ha! I know my aging face is no orchid ...
but how I wish I could believe whatever he says, however momentarily!



Come
by Ahmad Faraz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Come, even with anguish, even to torture my heart;
Come, even if only to abandon me to torment again.

Come, if not for our past commerce,
Then to faithfully fulfill the ancient barbaric rituals.

Who else can recite the reasons for our separation?
Come, despite your reluctance, to continue the litanies, the ceremony.

Respect, even if only a little, the depth of my love for you;
Come, someday, to offer me consolation as well.

Too long you have deprived me of the pathos of longing;
Come again, my love, if only to make me weep.

Till now, my heart still suffers some slight expectation;
So come, snuff out even the last flickering torch of hope!

I Cannot Remember
by Ahmad Faraz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I once was a poet too (you gave life to my words), but now I cannot remember
Since I have forgotten you (my love!), my art too I cannot remember

Yesterday consulting my heart, I learned
that your hair, lips, mouth, I cannot remember

In the city of the intellect insanity is silence
But now your sweet, spontaneous voice, its fluidity, I cannot remember

Once I was unfamiliar with wrecking balls and ruins
But now the cultivation of gardens, I cannot remember

Now everyone shops at the store selling arrows and quivers
But neglects his own body, the client he cannot remember

Since time has brought me to a desert of such arid forgetfulness
Even your name may perish; I cannot remember

In this narrow state of being, lacking a country,
even the abandonment of my fellow countrymen, I cannot remember



The Infidel
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Ten thousand desires: each one worth dying for ...
So many fulfilled, and yet still I yearn for more!

Being in love, for me there was no difference between living and dying ...
and so I lived each dying breath watching you, my lovely Infidel, sighing                       afar.

Ghazal
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Life becomes even more complicated
when a man can’t think like a man ...

What irrationality makes me so dependent on her
that I rush off an hour early, then get annoyed when she's "late"?

My lover is so striking! She demands to be seen.
The mirror reflects only her image, yet still dazzles and confounds my eyes.

Love’s stings have left me the deep scar of happiness
while she hovers above me, illuminated.

She promised not to torment me, but only after I was mortally wounded.
How easily she “repents,” my lovely slayer!

Ghazal
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

It’s time for the world to hear Ghalib again!
May these words and their shadows like doors remain open.

Tonight the watery mirror of stars appears
while night-blooming flowers gather where beauty rests.

She who knows my desire is speaking,
or at least her lips have recently moved me.

Why is grief the fundamental element of night
when blindness falls as the distant stars rise?

Tell me, how can I be happy, vast oceans from home
when mail from my beloved lies here, so recently opened?

Abstinence?
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Let me get drunk in the mosque,
Or show me the place where God abstains!

Step Carefully!
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Step carefully Ghalib―this world is merciless!
Here people will "adore" you to win your respect ... or your downfall.

Bleedings
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Love requires patience but lust is relentless;
what colors must my heart bleed before it expires?

There are more English translations of poems by Mirza Ghalib later on this page.



No Explanation! (I)
by Ahmad Faraz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Please don't ask me how deeply it hurt!
Her sun shone so bright, even the shadows were burning!

No Explanation! (II)
by Ahmad Faraz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Please don't ask me how it happened!
She didn't bind me, nor did I free myself.

Alone
by Ahmad Faraz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Why are you sad that she goes on alone, Faraz?
After all, you said yourself that she was unique!

Separation
by Ahmad Faraz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Faraz, if it were easy to be apart,
would Angels have to separate body from soul?

Time
by Ahmad Faraz
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

What if my face has more wrinkles than yours?
I am merely well-worn by Time!



Miraji Epigrams

I'm obsessed with this thought:
does God possess mercy?
―Miraji, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Come, see this dance, the immaculate dance of the devadasi!
―Miraji, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Echoes of an ancient prophecy:
when my life has come and gone,
when I am dead and done,
perhaps someone
                            hearing again in a distant spring
will echo my songs
the world over.
―Miraji, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

If I understand things correctly, Miraji wrote the lines above after translating a verse by Sappho in which she said that her poems would be remembered in the future. I suspect both poets and both prophecies were correct!



Every Day and in Every Direction
by Nida Fazli
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Everywhere and in every direction we see innumerable people:
each man a victim of his own loneliness, reticence and silences.
From dawn to dusk men carry enormous burdens:
all preparing graves for their soon-to-be corpses.
Each day a man lives, the same day he dies.
Each new day requires the same old patience.
In every direction there are roads for him to roam,
but in every direction, men victimize men.
Every day a man dies many deaths only to resurrect from his ashes.
Each new day presents new challenges.
Life's destiny is not fixed, but a series of journeys:
thus, till his last breath, a man remains restless.

Couplets
by Nida Fazli
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

It was my fate to entangle and sink myself
because I am a boat and my ocean lies within.
―Nida Fazli, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You were impossible to forget once you were gone:
hell, I remembered you most when I tried to forget you!
―Nida Fazli, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Don't squander these pearls:
such baubles may ornament sleepless nights!
―Nida Fazli, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The world is like a deck of cards on a gambling table:
some of us are bound to loose while others cash in.
―Nida Fazli, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

There is a proper protocol for everything in this world:
when visiting gardens never force butterflies to vacate their flowers!
―Nida Fazli, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Since I lack the courage to commit suicide,
I have elected to bother people with my life a bit longer.
―Nida Fazli, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

/bookmark/

Changing Seasons
by Noshi Gillani
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Each changing season
reveals something
concealed by her fears:
an escape route from this island
illuminated by her tears.



Dust
by Bahadur Shah Zafar or Muztar Khairabadi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Unable to light anyone's eye
or to comfort anyone's heart ...
I am nothing but a handful of dust.



Piercings
by Firaq Gorakhpuri
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

No one ever belonged to anyone else for a lifetime.
We cannot own another's soul.
The beauty we see and the love we feel are only illusions.
All my life I tried to save myself from the piercings of your eyes ...
But I failed and the daggers ripped right through me.



Salvation
Mohammad Ibrahim Zauq
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Anxious and fatigued, I consider the salvation of death ...
But if there is no peace in the grave,
where can I go to be saved?



Child of the Century
by Abdellatif Laâbi (a Moroccan poet)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I’m a child of this dreary century, a child who never grew up.
Doubts that ignited my tongue singed my wings.
I learned to walk, then I unlearned progress.
I grew weary of oases and camels infatuated with ruins.
My head inclined East only to occupy the middle of the road
as I awaited the insane caravans.



Nostalgia
by Abdulla Pashew (a Kurdish poet)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

How I desire the heavens!
Each solitary star lights the way to a tryst.

How I desire the sky!
Standing alone, remote, the sky is as vast as any ocean.

How I desire love's heavenly scent!
When each enticing blossom releases its essence.



Oblivion
by Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi (an African poet who writes in Arabic)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Discard your pen
before you start reading;
consider the ink,
how it encompasses bleeding.

Learn from the horizon
through eyes' narrowed slits
the limitations of vision
and hands' treacherous writs.

Do not blame me,
nor indeed anyone,
if you expire before
your reading is done.



In Medias Res
by Shaad Azimabadi
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

When I heard the story of my life recounted,
I caught only the middle of the tale.
I remain unaware of the beginning or end.



Debt Relief
by Piyush Mishra
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

We save Sundays for our loved ones ...
all other days we slave to repay debts.



Reoccurrence
by Amrita Bharati (a Hindi poet)
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

It was a woman's heart speaking,
that had been speaking for eons ...

It was a woman's heart silenced,
that had been silenced for centuries ...

And between them loomed a mountain
that a man or a rat gnawed at, even in times of amity ...
gnawing at the screaming voice,
at the silent tongue,
from the primeval day.



Don't Approach Me
by Arif Farhad
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Don't approach me here by the river of time
where I flop like a fish in a net!



Intoxicants
by Amrut Ghayal (a Gujarati poet)
translation by Kanu V. Prajapati and Michael R. Burch

O, my contrary mind!
You're such a fool, afraid to drink the fruit of the vine!
But show me anything universe-designed
that doesn't intoxicate, like wine.



I’m like a commodity being priced in the market-place:
every eye ogles me like a buyer’s.
—Majrooh Sultanpuri, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

If you insist, I’ll continue playing my songs,
forever piping the flute of my heart.
—Majrooh Sultanpuri, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

The moon has risen once again, yet you are not here.
My heart is a blazing pyre; what do I do?
—Majrooh Sultanpuri, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch



Drunk on Love
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Drunk on love, I made her my God.
She quickly informed me that God belongs to no man!

Exiles
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Often we have heard of Adam's banishment from Eden,
but with far greater humiliation, I abandon your garden.

To Whom Shall I Complain?
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

To whom shall I complain when I am denied Good Fortune in acceptable measure?
Dementedly, I demanded Death, but was denied even that dubious pleasure!

Ghazal
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You should have stayed a little longer;
you left all alone, so why not linger?

We’ll meet again, you said, some day similar to this one,
as if such days can ever recur, not vanish!

You left our house as the moon abandons night's skies,
as the evening light abandons its earlier surmise.

You hated me: a wife abnormally distant, unknown;
you left me before your children were grown.

Only fools ask why old Ghalib still clings to breath
when his fate is to live desiring death.



How strange has life become:
Our evenings drag out, yet our years keep flashing by!
―original poet unknown, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch




Life Advice
by Allama Iqbāl
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This passive nature will not allow you to survive;
If you want to live, raise a storm!

O, Colorful Rose!
by Allama Iqbal
loose translation/interpretation 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/interpretation 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.

Coal to Diamond
Allama Iqbāl, after Nietzsche
loose translation/interpretation 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."

Firefly
by Allama Iqbāl
loose translation/interpretation 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/interpretation 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 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/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

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

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

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

The moon picked up their discord
and beamed it on to the morning star

who informed dawn's clouds of her dark secret.
The dew overheard it all, formed a tear

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

Destiny
by Allama Iqbāl
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Isn't it futile to complain about God's will,
When you are your own destiny?

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

... 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

... 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"

... 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



Dilemma
by Michael R. Burch

I reject your absence,
because I find your presence intolerable.



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

Mirza Ghalib
Ahmad Faraz
Faiz Ahmed Faiz
Allama Iqbal
Rabindranath Tagore
The Love Song of Shu-Sin: The Earth's Oldest Love Poem?
Ancient Greek Epigrams and Epitaphs
Meleager
Sappho
Basho
Oriental Masters/Haiku
Ono no Komachi
The Seafarer
Wulf and Eadwacer
Adam Lay Ybounden
Sweet Rose of Virtue
How Long the Night
Caedmon's Hymn
Anglo-Saxon Riddles and Kennings
Bede's Death Song
The Wife's Lament
Deor's Lament
Lament for the Makaris
Tegner's Drapa
Alexander Pushkin's tender, touching poem "I Love You" has been translated into English by Michael R. Burch.
Charles Baudelaire
Whoso List to Hunt
Miklós Radnóti
Rainer Maria Rilke
Marina Tsvetaeva
Renée Vivien
Bertolt Brecht
Ber Horvitz
Paul Celan
Primo Levi
Sandor Marai
Wladyslaw Szlengel
Saul Tchernichovsky
Robert Burns: Original Poems and Translations
The Seventh Romantic: Robert Burns
Free Love Poems by Michael R. Burch

Related pages: Mirza Ghalib, Ahmad Faraz, Allama Iqbāl, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Rabindranath Tagore, Whoso List to Hunt, The Most Beautiful Sonnets in the English Language, The Most Beautiful Lines in the English Language, The Best Anglo-Saxon Riddles and Kennings, Ancient Greek Epigrams and Epitaphs, The Best Poems Ever Written, The Best Love Poems, The Best Erotic Poems, The Best Love Songs Ever, The Best Urdu Love Poetry, The Best Poetry Translations, The Best Poems for Kids, The Best Nonsense Verse, The Best Rondels and Roundels, The Best American Poetry, Caedmon's Hymn Modern English Translation, The Seafarer, Free Love Poems by Michael R. Burch

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