TRANSLATING AMIR KHUSRAW 2

translating amir khusraw 2Points Illustrated

1. The Persian lyric: difficulties in rendering its gnomic lyricism.

2. Retaining word repetition.

The Cloud Rains: Previous Versions

The only Internet version I can find is this snippet of translation by the late doyenne of Sufi studies, Annemarie Schimmel: {3}

The cloud weeps, and I become separated from my friend -
                  How can I separate my heart from my heart’s friend on such a day.
The cloud weeping – and I and the friend standing, bidding farewell -
                  I weeping separately, the clouds separately, the friend separately. . .

Word-For-Word Rendering

We start with the Persian text provided by Wheeler Thackston, {4} for whom the piece 'exhibits his lyric side at its loveliest':

And then undertake a word-for-word translation:

1a. abr
mîbârad
va
man
mîshavam
az
yâr
judâ
 
 
cloud
raining
u
I
become
from
friend
separated
 
1b. chun
konam
dil
bachanin
rôz
z
dildar
judâ
?
how
I make
heart
such a
day
from
in heart
separated
?
2a. abr
u
bârân
u
man
va
yâr
sitâdah
ba
vidâ'a
cloud
and
rain
and
I
and
friend
stood
for
farewell
2b. man
judâ
girya
konân
abr
judâ
judâ
I
separated
tear-
is making (weeping)
cloud
separated
you
separated
3a. sabzah
naw
khêz
u
havâ
khurram
u
bustân
sar
sabz
verdure
new
risen
and
love passion romance
fresh joyful
and
garden
head
verdant
3b. bulbul
rôy
siyâh
mândah
z
gûzar
judâ
 
nightingale
(face)
(overcast) disgraced
remained
from
place path
separated
4a. az
murâdar
tah
har
mûy
z
zulfat
bandî
from
in desire longing
root
every
hair
from
tresses
of servant slave fastening
 
4b. chah
konî
band
z
bandam
hamah
yakbâr
judâ
?
 
what how
do you
- from
limb
to limb
the whole
all at once
separated
?
 
5a. dîdh
az
bahar
khûnâbar
shod
ay
mardam chashm
 
 
(seen-)
from/ than
for/ to every
you
(raining blood) tears
(-becomes/ became)
O
pupil of the eye
 
 
5b. mardumî
kon
mushav
az
dîdah
khûnâbar
judâ
manliness generosity courtesy
do
be not
from
sight eye vision
(raining blood) tears
separated
 
6a. ni'mat
dîdah
nakhûham
ki
bamând
pas
azîn
ease luxury
sight eye vision
very pride
that
stayed (they)
after then
such as this, from this
6b. mandah
chun
dîdah
izan
ni'mat
dîdâr
judâ
remained
when if how since
sight eye vision
from him thence
ease luxury favour
vision rendezvous
separated
 
7a. dîdah
sad
rakhna
shod
az bahr
khâkî
 
 
sight eye vision
hundred
chink window crack breach
became
for sake of
you
made of dust earthling
 
z
rahat
zûd
bargîr
u
bekon
rakhna
dîdâr
judâ
 
from
escaped liberated *
haste-
accept take
and
-make
chink breach window
vision rendezvous
separated
8a. maid
ham
jân
ma rav
az
man
vagarat
bâvar
nîst
 
remain
also so
life soul
go not
from
I me
and if although
belief, to believe
is not
bêsh
azan
khwâhahiî
bustân
u
nigahdâr
judâ
?
more
from that
willy nilly
garden
and
guardian
separated
?
9a. husn
dêr
napîd
chû
z
khusraw
rufti
beauty
you
late long
not stand firm
when if
from
Khusraw
you go
gul
basî
dêr
namand
chû
shod
az
khâr
judâ
flower
many a
long
not remain
when if
became
from
thorn thistle
separated

To chase up any missing izâfa, etc. we have to construct a metric table as before. The first line of the poem runs:

'abradumanshausumazju
-x-- /xx-- /xx-- /xx -

and the metre (for those who wish to know such things) is ramal sâlim makhbûn mahzûf. The exercise allows us to set out the word-for-word rendering as:

1. Cloud raining and I from friend become separated
          how I make heart such a day from in heart separated?

2. Cloud and rain and I and friend stood for farewell
          I separated weeping cloud separated you separated

3. Verdure new risen and passion fresh and garden head green
          nightingale disgraced remained from place separated.

4. From longing of root every hair from tresses of servant/fastening
          how do you from limb to limb the whole all at once separated?

5. Seen that from every you tearfulness becomes O pupil of the eye
          manliness do be not from vision/sight tearfulness separated.

6. Luxury of sight very pride that stayed after such as this
          remained if sight from him ease of vision separated.

7. Eye of hundred chinks for sake of you became as dust
          from liberated accept and make haste chinks vision separated.

8. Remain so soul not go from me although belief is not
          more from that willy nilly garden and guardian separated.

9. Beauty of you long not stand firm if from Khusraw you go
          flower many a long not remain if from thorn separated.

There are still a few conundrums (and no doubt some errors) but the sense can now be set out roughly as:

1. Cloud raining and I from friend become separated,
          how on such a day can heart from heart be separated?

2. Cloud and rain and I and friend are farewell-taking
          I separated, weeping, cloud separated,you separated.

3. The leaves are new risen, passion is fresh, and the garden green:
          (but) nightingale is disgraced and stays from the place separated.

4. In longing from root to tresses is the hair so fastened:
          how can the whole of it at once then be separated?

5. You are held in my tearfulness as the pupil of vision,
          would it manly to be from that tearfulness separated.

6. My pride in so looking that stays on from this
          remains if from luxury of looking I am separated.

7. From you in its hundred conceptions the eye is of dust
          make haste if not from its acceptance to be separated.

8. Whatever you think my soul will not leave
          for all that garden and guardian be separated.

9. Will your beauty last if from Khusraw you go
          more than the flower live long if from its thorn separated.

Fair Copy

Now we turn to the form and ask if we should repeat separated. Annemarie Schimmel avoids doing so with a free verse rendering, beautiful in its way, and many translators would follow. The rules in fact require an aa ba ca etc. rhyme scheme but not the word repetition. Rhyme even has advantages:

The nightingale is gone, disgraced, and in the garden
          now love and freshness are both heavily weighted.

But the effect is not the same. I'd suggest we keep the separated, varying the phrasing so that we have something that is not a typically European, but more shifting and syllable-dependent:

Cloud raining, and I from my friend am separated:
          how can, on such a day, the hearts be so separated?

You and rain and cloud are standing to make farewells
         and I weeping, and you and the rain separated.

Though leaves are new risen, passion is fresh, and the garden green,
          the nightingale is silent, from its sanctuary separated.

As the hair grows, from root to head-top, I am bound in service:
          how can all that longing suddenly be separated?

Let not, when tearfulness holds you in the pupil of vision,
          my eye from that tearfulness be separated.

My pride in observance that stays on from this
          retains its luxury of looking though so separated.

In its hundred conceptions the eye is of dust
          make haste if you'd not from acceptance be separated.

What would you think, that my soul would leave
          with the guardian and garden then so separated?

Nor will your beauty continue if from Khusraw kept
          as a flower from its thorn when so separated.

Difficulties

A few lines are perplexing, notably 5, 6 and 7.

Word-for-word, line 5 runs:

Seen that from every you tearfulness becomes O pupil of the eye
          manliness do be not from vision/sight tearfulness separated.

mardumî, not given in Thackston's useful vocabulary, means a host of things: manliness, generosity, courtesy, etc. But the text may simply read mard (man) plus the participle (continuing). Only then the hemistich is even more perplexing, with not referring to anything. I have avoided the problem with a 'general' interpretation.

Let not, when tearfulness holds you in the pupil of vision,
          my eye from that tearfulness be separated.

Literally, line 6 runs:

Luxury of sight very pride that stayed after such as this
          remained if sight from him ease of vision separated.

In fact the original for 'luxury' and 'ease' is the same — ni'mat — so that the fair copy above:

My pride in so looking that stays on from this
          retains its luxury of looking though so separated.

could also be rendered as:

Whatever of pride or happiness stays on from this
          is retained though the seeing of him is so separated.

But then we have to specify him or her. Ghazals are addressed to a male lover, generally, and that causes problems with a western audience.

Now that puzzling word rakhna in line 7. It means a breach in the wall, a fracture, a notch on a sword or knife, a hole, chink, or window. And paper, according to Steingass. The similar word rakh also means cleft or chink, but adds sigh, grief and disease. More importantly, rukh kardan (and kardan we have in the line, though apparently applying to zud: make haste) means to turn the face towards, to travel to, to come. What then? Experiments with 'windows', 'chinks' and 'crevices' seem not to give acceptable lines, and I have therefore fallen back on 'conceptions', a nondescript expedient. An alternative would be:

For all its hundred notches the eye is of dust
          make haste if you'd not from acceptance be separated.

But 'notch' does not sit happily with 'eye'. We could substitute 'successes', but we are then making a more positive interpretation than seems warranted.

And 'acceptances', where is that in the original?

Eye of hundred chinks for sake of you became as dust
          from liberated accept and make haste chinks vision separated.

I have extended 'accepted' through the hemistich. As before, a general meaning has been hazarded for difficult passages, and that meaning expressed with as many of the original words as possible. A dangerous strategy, of course, but either my basic Persian has missed the meaning, or that meaning is not extractable in any prose sense, when it's the usual word-play of Islamic poetry at work. Feedback would be helpful.

A. Z. Foreman has helped out, {16} and the line is then (rather loosely) translated as:

For you the eye has become as a hundred chinked,
          make haste if you'd not from acceptance be separated.

Notes and References

1. Amir Khusrau Website. Yousuf Saeed. Oct. 2005. http://www.angelfire.com/sd/urdumedia/index.html. Very useful site with biography, translations and resources.
2. The Great Turk Genius Amir Khusraw and his Accomplishments in Music. N.A. Baloch. Jul. 2005. http://muslimheritage.com/topics/default.cfm?TaxonomyTypeID=13&TaxonomySubTypeID=-1&TaxonomyThirdLevelID=-1&ArticleID=526. Extended article.
3. Amir Khusro. http://oldpoetry.com/authors/Amir%20Khusro NNA. Biography and short translations by several hands.
4. Wheeler M. Thackston, A Millenium of Classical Persian Poetry: A Guide to the Reading and Understanding of Persian Poetry from the Tenth to the Twentieth Century (Iranbooks, 1994).
4. Amir Khusraw and the Genre of Historical Narratives in Verse. Sunil Sharma. 2002. http://www.cssaame.ilstu.edu/issues/22/sharma.pdf NNA. Scholarly article with much background information.
5. Persian and Indo-Persian background material for Urdu literature. Frances Pritchett. Oct. 2005. http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00urduhindilinks/hu_persian_lit.html Short but useful listing of resources.
6. Persian/English/Persian dictionaries. http://persian.dictionary.kamous.com/translator/reference.asp/. Several online dictionaries listed.
7. Online English - Persian Dictionary. http://www.math.columbia.edu/~safari/masood/cgi-bin/. Input as transcribed English letters: larger database.
8. Digital Dictionaries of South Asia. http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/steingass/. Steingass online: includes literary Persian and common Arabic words: fascinating but more cumbersome to use.
9. F. Steingass, A Comprehensive Persian-English Dictionary: Being Johnson and Richardson's Persian, Arabic and English dictionary. Revised, enlarged and entirely reconstructed by F. Steingass (Asian Educational Services, 2003 )
10. E.H. Palmer, Simplified Grammar of Arabic, Persian and Hindustani (Dover, 1890/2002)
11. A.K.S. Lambton, Persian Grammar Including Key (CUP, 1953, 1979)
12. Easy Persian. http://www.easypersian.com/persian/New/Farsi_Lessons.htm. 75 free lessons: basic but a good place to start.
13. Persian grammar sketch. John Roberts. Aug. 2005. http://lingweb.eva.mpg.de/fieldtools/pdf/PersianGrammarSketch.pdf NNA. 85 page introduction: free and helpful, but linguistic/formal approach.
14. Amir Khusro. http://oldpoetry.com/authors/Amir%20Khusro NNA. Biography and short translations by several hands.
15. Amir Khusrau: Bibliography. http://www.angelfire.com/sd/urdumedia/biblio.html. Good listing but to offline material.
16. Email to me from Alex Foreman: 2 March 2012. Part of the problem is that the text you're using has a typo. The hemistich should end with "divar" not "didar." It probably isn't the latter since the line immediately previous already ends in "didar juda". Repeating one line's end-rhyme in the very next line-end is rather unusual. Presumably if it is indeed didar, then the reference is to the blotches in one's vision caused by tears. This is stretching it, but totally possible as an image back there and back then. Otherwise, the "rakhna-yi didar" are "chinks/cracks in the wall." For some reason you have "rahat" glossed as "liberated/escape." I do not know why. It is actually short for "rah-at" i.e. "thy road." Now as for the other instance of "rakhna" the idea is that the eye has developed a hundred chinks through which to weep tears (whether they consist of blood or regular lachrymal fluid or both.) These are, it would seem, being elliptically linked to the cracks in a wall. The line actually reads Dida sad-rakhna shud az bahr-i to, khaki zi rah-at Zud bar-gir u bikun rakhna-yi divar juda "The eye has become hundred-chinked on your account, take thou with haste the dusty(lowly) one from thy road and set the crack(s) in the wall at a distance. "


The final version is included in Diversions, a free pdf collection of translations published by Ocaso Press.

 

Material can be freely used for non-commercial purposes if cited in the usual way.