Prison Lyrics

Posted by sepoy on January 12, 2008 · 5 mins read

In 1953, when Dast-i Saba (Wind's Palm) was published, Faiz Ahmed Faiz had been in jail for almost two years. He would remain in jail for another two. He was charged with conspiracy to overthrow the nascent state of Liaqat Ali Khan and arrested in early March, 1951.

You can read about Faiz's prison days and the composition of Dast-i Saba in Ted Genoways' extremely readable, "Let Them Snuff Out the Moon": Faiz Ahmed Faiz's Prison Lyrics in Dast-e Saba, [pdf] Journal of Urdu Studies, vol. 19, 2004. Genoways also offers a translation of the poem Nisar Mein Teri Galiyon Pay Aye Watan .... Mine, below, is rather quirky. You can also hear Faiz's recitation of the poem.

نثار ميں تيري گليوں پے، اے وطن، کہ جهاں
چلي هے رسم کہ کوئي نہ سر اٹھا کے چلے
جو کوئي چاهنے والا طواف کو نکلے
نظر چُرا کے چلے، جسم و جاں بچا کے چلے

ہے اهل ِ دل کے ليے اب يہ نظم ِ بست و کشاد
کہ سنگ و خشت مقيد هيں اور سگ آزاد

بهت هيں ظلم کے دست ِ بهانه جو کے ليے
جو چند اهل ِ جنوں تيرے نام ليوا هيں
بنےهيں اهل ِ هوس مدعي بھي، منصف بھي
کسے وکيل کريں، کس سے منصفي چاهيں

مگر گزارنے والوں کے دن گزرتے هيں
تيرے فراق ميں يوں صبح و شام کرتے هيں

بُجها جو روزن ِ زنداں تو دل يہ سمجھا هے
کہ تيري مانگ ستاروں سے بھر گئي هو گي
چمک اٹھے ہيں ِسلاسل تو هم نے جانا هے
کہ اب سحر تيرے رخ پر بکھر گئي هو گي

غرض تصور ِ شام و سحر ميں جيتے ہيں
گرفت ِ سايہ ِ ديوار و در ميں جيتے ہيں

يونهي هميشه الجھتي رهي هے ظلم سے خلق
نہ ان کي رسم نئي هے، نہ اپني ريت نئي
يونهي هميشه کھلائے هيں هم نے آگ ميں پھول
نہ ان کي هار نئي هے، نہ اپني جيت نئي

اسي سبب سے فلک کا گلہ نهيں کرتے
تيرے فراق ميں هم دل برا نهيں کرتے

گر آج تجھ سے جدا هيں تو کل بهم هوں گے
يہ رات بھر کي جدائي تو کوئي بات نهيں
گر آج اوج پہ هيں طالع ِ رقيب تو کيا؟
يہ چار دن کي خدائي تو کوئي بات نهيں

جو تجھ سے عهد ِ وفا استوار رکھتے هيں
علاج ِ گردش ِ ليل و نهار رکھتے هيں

فيض احمد فيض، ۱۹۵۳، دستِ صبا

I give my life to your alleys, o nation, where
custom now dictates that one walk with head bowed,
when a lover leaves on a pilgrimage to love,
he must guard his eye, his body, his life.

Here, then, is the new order of freedom, O heart
Stones and bricks are in captivity and dogs run free.

Many are the pretenses for the oppressor's hand
for the few who, in madness, take your name
the ones crazed by lust are both the accusers and the judges
who can we get to make our case? from whom can we seek justice?

Yet the days go by for those who can,
in your separation, turn dusk to dawn.

Now that the prison's window has turned off
we know that stars must have decorated your hair.
Now that these chains are sparkling
we know that the day must has illuminated your face.

And so we live, imagining dawns and dusks
And so we live, gripped by the shadow of these prison walls

Such has always been, this struggle between oppressor and oppressed
Neither are their customs new, nor our paths new
Such has always been, that we grew flowers amid fire
Neither is their defeat new, nor is our triumph new.

Which is why, we don't offer complains to the sky
Which is why, we don't mourn being away from you

If today we are apart, tomorrow we will be together
this separation for a night is nothing,
If today the rival's sun is high, so what?
this god for four days is nothing.

Those who maintain their oath of fidelity to you
they possess the cure for the circulation of night and day.

Faiz Ahmed Faiz, 1953, Wind's Palm.

related: My other Faiz translations: Ahl-e Wafa, Hope, The Silent Ones, In Solidarity.


rd | January 12, 2008

Mataa-e lauh-o qalam chhin gayi to kya gham hai Ke khoon-e dil meiñ duboli hai ungliyaañ maiñ ne Zabaañ pe mohr lagi hai to kya, ke rakh di hai Har ek halqa-e zanjeer meiñ zabaañ maiñ ne Why grieve if paper and pen have been snatched away For I have dipped my fingers in the blood of my heart So what if my own speech has been fettered; I have placed A tongue in the mouth of every link of the chain that binds me — Faiz Ahmad Faiz Hai dasht ab bhi dasht, magar khoon-e pa se Faiz Seraab chand khaar-e mugheelaañ hue to haiñ The desolate desert we walked through still remains desolate, Faiz But at least the thirst of some of its thorns has been quenched by the blood of our feet — Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Szerelem | January 15, 2008

Sepoy, I always enjoy your Faiz translations - thank you for this one.

sepoy | January 16, 2008

szerelem: thanks!

elizabeth | January 19, 2008

only belatedly am I thanking you for the Genoways link, and for sending me back to 'The Silent Ones'--to be reread today, especially.

Jennifer Salima | January 21, 2009

Thank you for these lovely poems, both the one you translated and the one added under the first comment ("Why grieve if paper and pen have been snatched away..."). I am writing a book about my volunteer work leading grief and loss groups for women prisoners, and would like to include these quotes in the book, but can't find information on the publisher of the book. Also, is the one above from the same book? If not, do you have the info for this book? Thanks for any help. Peace, Jen Salima

Nostalgic | January 22, 2009

I can't speak for Sepoy or rd, Jennifer, but a good book for translations of Faiz's poetry (plus an introduction to Faiz and his poetry) is by Victor Kiernan, although I can't recall the name...

alok k pandey | January 07, 2014