Monday, August 3, 2009

Iqbal's views about Shakespeare

In 1916 was the 300th death anniversary of William Shakespeare. Book of Homage to Shakespeare was being compiled on this occasion with tributes from all over the world. Iqbal’s tribute was also included: a poem which he apparently started some six years ago but didn’t finish until then. It had fourteen lines, just like Shakespeare’s sonnets.

It is usually considered to be one of the best tributes to the Bard. Following is a translation by Mustansir Mir (slightly modified by me).

The flowing river mirrors the red glow of dawn,
The quiet of the evening mirrors the evening song,
The rose‑leaf mirrors spring’s beautiful cheek;
The chamber of the cup mirrors the beauty of the wine;
Beauty mirrors Truth, the heart mirrors Beauty;
The beauty of your speech mirrors the heart of human being.
Life finds perfection in your sky‑soaring thought;
Was your luminous nature the goal of existence?

When the eye wished to see you, and looked,
It saw the sun hidden in its own brilliance.
You were hidden from the eyes of the world,
But with your own eyes you saw the world exposed and bare.
Nature guards its mysteries so jealously,
It will never again create one who knows so many secrets.


  1. This is amazing. Is this in the Kulliyat?

  2. Rehan, thanks. Yes, it is included in BAANG-I-DARA (1924), Part 3.

  3. beautiful, absolutely beautiful,
    yet again thanks for sharing.

  4. Its simply beautiful,indeed beautifully translated.

    Thanks for sharing such treasures with us all!

  5. Iqbal has paid glowing tributes to few men of letters in his first Urdu Book of Poetry Bang e Dera. They include, GHALIB, DAAG, SHIBLI, HALI and URFI, but the tribute that he paid to SHAKESPEARE is the finest.

    It is generally believed that poetry is some form of revelation and therefore poets are considered as PAGHAMBARANAY SUKHAN (The Prophets of Words). Iqbal no doubt was one with that expression and he was very expressive in conveying the fact that he is guarding secrets.

    His First Book of Poetry is Asrare Khudi (Secrets of Self) and the secret that he possessed he very craftily, explicitly and implicitly expresses through out his poetic journey. In the tribute to Shakespeare, the last lines states why he held him in such high esteem:
    Nature guards its mysteries so jealously,
    It will never again create one who knows so many secrets.

    Being the guardian of the great secrets, he knew, what secrets Shakespeare enfolded and unfolded.

  6. On the subject of Shakespeare's enfolding/unfolding of secrets there may be numerous books but by far the finest of these studies is the monumental Shakespeare & the Goddess of Complete Being by Ted Hughes. It is his Magnum Opus in prose and he physically suffered as a result of writing it. His hands would burst with blood as many of his friends witnessed.

  7. At the sea recently, I noticed at dawn (for the first time ever by the sea) an impressionistic painting mirrored in the thinnest sheet of water - spreading in giant-sized petal shapes over the sand. I look beyond the sea lapping over the sand and over my head and see the same painting yet in clear focus -the whole morning world of sky.

    So, sometimes nature mirrors our inner and outer worlds so seamlessly - a splashy cinerama in which all secrets are suddenly laid bare.

    Perhaps the only veils are quietude and repetition? Both so often lend much depth to the thinnest mirror. Yet what other twin disguises are more clever and go so oft unnoticed?

    Perhaps the genius of Iqbal and Shakespeare lies partly in the possibility that they were no strangers to these mirrored "secrets" of nature and of humankind.

    They lived in quietude and saw thrill - drama - mystery and resolution in both molecular and majestic patterns over long bouts of time.

    That which has been here all along thus comes into better focus through their lens and pens.

    To quietude and repetition add patience. Both these bards have demonstrated the "wait" as if for the right photographic moment and thus helped each of us to recognize what has been here all along for the seer side of us each and all.