13 examples of my favourite poetry II

I had begun telling you about some of my favourite poetry – 13 examples to be exact. This – as can be imagined – is quite difficult, selecting a finite number from a lifetime of reading across various languages and epochs. But I tried.

As I told you in the first post, a textbook – the book of poems called Panorama – was my first introduction to poetry. One which I found in it was this and has become one of my favourites. Coincidentally, it was  even in our syllabus for our board examinations. Even down the course of years, I remember it fully and there are some passages in it which I can closely identify with. It is a fairly long poem but I will just share some sections and perhaps you can gauge the identity of the poem and its admirable and skilled poet.

~~ I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees: all times I have enjoyed
Greatly, have suffered greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore…..
And then…

I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honoured of them all;

And then those immortal lines…. an evocative passage with exquisite imagery that is indeed a philosophy of life for those who envisage lifting their life out the hopeless track of a routine existence and imbue it with a deeper meaning… a deeper purpose.

I am part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough
Gleams that untravelled world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breath were life. Life piled on life
Were all to little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.


Old age had yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.


Come, my friends.
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.

And it ends with a realistic assessment of the ravages of age and nature on man but still revels in the aspirations and the resilience of the human spirit.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in the old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are,
One equal-temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

And now to take a diversion into another literary tradition – I will keep to the same epoch just going back a decade or two but traversing across the world to the court of the the man who would become the last of the Mughals, though for long history conspired to keep him a mere travesty of their glory and power. However, I shall not go into all that. I am just concerned with Bahadur Shah Zafar‘s – no mean poet himself – poetic preceptor, Sheikh Mohammad Ibrahim Zauq.

In his heyday, Zauq was considered the paramount poet despite the presence of other stalwarts but I will deal with this elsewhere. Here I will only deal with his best known ghazal – due to the efforts of K.L. Saigal and Begum Akhtar who have rendered it sublimely. I have brought to you earlier, so I will restrict myself to a few shers here. 

Layi hayat aaye, qaza le chali chale
Apni khushi na aaye, na apni khushi chale

Ham sa bhi ab bisaat pe kam hoga bad-qamaar
Jo chaal hum chale voh bahut hi buri chale

Behtar to hai yehi ki na duniya se dil lage
Par kya karen jo kaam na be-dillagi chale

Duniya ne kis ka raah-e-fana mein diya hai saath
Tum bhi chale chalo yun hi jab tak chali chale

I promised to provide translations of non-English examples but I guess you can understand this well enough. If not. do let me know.

To be continued….


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