by Faiz, translated from Urdu by Rehan Qayoom
Walk Through the Town Today with Fettered Feet
Eyes filled with raging tears are not enough
It is not enough to hide the taunts of love’s secret
Walk through the town today with fettered feet
Arms flung out, dancing in ecstasy
Dusty hair awry, and with shirt all bloody
Through gawping crowds in bazaars of love
Its guardians, its common folk
Past its slingshots its arrows, its stones of slanders
Shackled through the happy dawn, the oppressed day of failures
Who would get it but us? We alone know
Who is the sincerest lover
Who deserving of the murderer’s blow
Come friends prepare your aching hearts
Let us return to pay death its debts
Rehan Qayoom is a poet, editor and translator educated at Birkbeck College, University of London. His work has been featured in numerous literary publications and performed his work at international venues. His books include Seeking Betjeman Country (2006), Prose 1997 – 2008 (2009), After Parveen Shakir (2011), The Borders (2012). About Time (2011) is a collection of his English poetry. He is the editor of the prose and poetry of Morney Wilson, published as Martyr Doll, Remains and The Recordings (2011).
Faiz Ahmad Faiz (Urdu: فیض احمد فیض), ( 1911 – 1984) is widely acknowledged as the greatest Urdu poet after Iqbal. Even those who were critical of his progressive social and political beliefs could not deny him that position, although they always qualified their praise of him by regretting that such a good man should have fallen among the Communists.
He was a keen student of various traditions of classical poetry in Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, Arabic, Persian, and English among others and had realized at an early age that it was the content and not the form which was basic in the art of poetry, that originality had little to do with formal experimentation and was primarily a matter of a profound understanding of human existence in its totality and wholeness.His critical essays, written mostly during his formative years, are a testimony to the fact that he had arrived at, and formulated clearly the essential elements of the poetics necessary for our age, the age of the masses.Iqbal had sung poems of glory to the fact of revolution and given out a clarion call to the people to rise up against the master-classes and tyrants. Faiz, having joined the people in their rebellion, and having adopted the collective cause as a poet of the revolution, made the transformation of the individual human being and his passage through the infinite variety of situations and moods in this process, the subject of his poetry. He is concerned, above all, with the experience of the individual human soul in the long and arduous journey of revolutionary struggle.And yet love is the leit motif of his poetry. Faiz is one of the great lyricists who seems, from one point of view, to have sung of nothing with greater passion than love.Faiz takes Ghalib’s plea for a deeply philosophical coordination of the poetic profession as his premise to refute the arguments of the aesthetes of his time for whom poetry was merely peripheral activity. But he goes further and comments that Ghalib’s definition of creative vision is incomplete, because the poet is not only required to see the ocean in the drop, but also has to show it to others.
That is why, apart from being a great revolutionary poet, he was a great love poet, and there was no distinction between the two, love and revolution had become identical in him.