Column: Mir’s Persian poetry By Intizar Husain
That Oxford University Press, Karachi, has brought out Mir’s Persian diwan should be news in Urdu circles. It should leave them wondering why this diwan remained in abeyance for so long. Mir’s collected Urdu works, neatly divided in six diwans, have remained in currency with editions being continuously published. And the critics have been discussing him heatedly caring little to refer to his Persian poetry. Were they unaware that Mir had also to his credit a seventh diwan devoted to his Persian poetry. Should it be treated as a lost treasure unearthed by a scholar?
This situation needs some explanation
Of the three commonly acknowledged great poets of Urdu — Mir, Ghalib, Iqbal — the later two did not confine themselves to Urdu alone. They soon made their mark in Persian too and were able to convince their readers that their Persian poetry deserves the same serious attention which has been paid to their Urdu poetry. But Mir emerged as a purely Urdu poet betraying no temptation for Persian expression. However, as he himself has said, he had temporarily stopped writing in Urdu for reasons best known to him. During two years he wrote in Persian. According to his own version, Mir wrote near about two thousand couplets in Persian, which went to make a full diwan.
But even after having a full diwan to his credit, why did not Mir claim any credit for his Persian poetry? Was he not satisfied with what he had written in Persian? In this respect, critics differ in opinion. Those such as Muzaffar Ali Syed, as quoted by Afzal Syed, regard this poetry as the best of the lot produced during the period ranging from Baidil to Ghalib. But Jamil Jalibi thinks otherwise. According to him, these verses lack in qualities Mir’s Urdu poetry possesses. So Mir felt dissatisfied with what he had produced and stopped writing in Persian. Was it for this reason that he grew indifferent to his Persian diwan and in consequence it fell into oblivion?
But Mir had no hold on the researchers of later times. Thanks to their labour, at least four hand-written manuscripts of this diwan have already been traced. One manuscript safely kept in the library of the late Syed Masood Hasan of Lucknow was reproduced in the ‘Mir Number’ of Naqoosh magazine. But they had not been published in the form of a book. The present Diwan-i-Mir (Farsi) is the first such attempt. Afzal Ahmad Syed has compiled it and also translated it into Urdu. He tells us that “this diwan is basically a compilation by Masood Hasan Rizvi. At places I have sought help from the copy of the manuscript in the custody of Adara-i-Adabiyat-i-Hyderabad.”
Syed is primarily a poet belonging to the modern tradition of Urdu poetry. But luckily he is also well-versed in the Persian language and well-acquainted with its literary tradition. Conscious of the fact that Urdu readers now stand estranged from Persian he has translated these Persian verses in Urdu prose. Precisely speaking, a translation, whether in verse or prose, should primarily serve the purpose of helping us understand the textual meaning of the couplet in a suitable way. This translation serves this purpose fairly well. That the translation will also carry with it the poetic expression along with its nuances is asking for something impossible.
As for the significance of this manuscript, it lies in the fact that here is Mir’s Persian poetry, which for so long remained in abeyance and has now been retrieved. It needs no justification on the basis of its poetic worth. The very fact that it is Mir’s diwan guarantees its value. And this is the first time it has been made available to Urdu readers in a book form. Oxford University Press can well take credit for bringing it to light and making it available.