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Mirza Ghalib: Modern English Translations by Michael R. Burch

Mirza Ghalib (1797-1869) is considered to be one of the best Urdu poets of all time. The last great poet of the Mughal Empire, Ghalib was a master of the sher (couplet) and the ghazal (a lyric poem formed from couplets). Urdu/Hindi shayari (poetry) is notable for its highly romantic images, evocative metaphors, emotional content, depth of feeling, transcendence, and sheer passion! Ghalib remains popular in India, Pakistan, and among the Hindustani diaspora. He also wrote poetry in Persian.

with 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.



It's Only My Heart!
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation 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?

 


Inquiry
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

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



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

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



Ghazal
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation 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:
that this weakness has not 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 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!



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

Ten thousand desires: each worth dying for ...
So many fulfilled, 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.




Bleedings
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Love requires patience but lust is relentless;
what colors must my heart leak, before it bleeds to death?



Ghazal
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation 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 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 everything 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 by Michael R. Burch

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



Shared Blessings
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

Drunk on love, I made her my God.
She soon informed me that God does not belong to any one man!



Exiles
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

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



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

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



Ghazal
by Mirza Ghalib
loose translation 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.



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

The Seafarer
Wulf and Eadwacer
The Love Song of Shu-Sin: The Earth's Oldest Love Poem?
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.
Whoso List to Hunt
Ancient Greek Epigrams and Epitaphs
Meleager
Sappho
Basho
Oriental Masters/Haiku
Miklós Radnóti
Rainer Maria Rilke
Marina Tsvetaeva
Renée Vivien
Ono no Komachi
Allama Iqbal
Bertolt Brecht
Ber Horvitz
Paul Celan
Primo Levi
Ahmad Faraz
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: Ahmad Faraz, Allama Iqbāl, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, 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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