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Iqbal - A Selection of his Urdu and Persian Verse

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Item Code: NAQ380
Author: David J. Matthews
Publisher: Oxford University Press, New Delhi
Language: English
Edition: 2017
ISBN: 9780199404032
Pages: 202
Other Details 9.00 X 5.00 inch
Weight 400 gm
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About the Author

Dr. David J. Matthews is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain, a Trustee of the Iqbal Academy, UK and a Member of the promotions committee of Oslo Unversity. His Translations from Urdu into English include works by Rusva, Anis, Hali, Iqbal, Ibn-e Insha,Shaukat Siddiqi, and the contemporary Indian poet, Javed Akhtar, He was awarded the Sitara-i-Imtiaz in 2009 by the Government of Pakistan.


Dr David Matthews has spent a lifetime in the service of Urdu language and literature. In 1993, for example, he published Iqbal: A Selection of the Urdu. Verde, Text and Translation very useful, rather quaint volume that I cherished greatly, particularly because it provided me with a teaching tool for my students at Brown University in the USA. Now that the Urdu language competence of my young audience in Pakistan is hardly any better than that of my American students-given the steady cultural losses of the past two decades-I once again benefit from the effort of this veteran scholar of Urdu studies. Indeed, this is precisely one of the distinguishing features of Dr Matthews' work generally: he makes his subject matter accessible to the ordinary reader, and he does so by means of his flowing translations that are generously supported by annotations, glossaries, and lucid explanatory notes.

Not only does the present work have many of the same features, it is, in fact, richer in many ways, and then at the same time it offers a significant literary variation. To begin with, this new volume translates several Urdu poems that were not included in the earlier work; and more, it also selects for translation and other treatments many Persian poems of Iqbal that remained beyond the scope of the 1993 work. Then while most Urdu poems that we find here constitute a fresh selection, even a few of those that were present in the older volume are now translated de novo.

But perhaps the most important distinguishing attribute of this new work is that it has a creative, poetic character. Unlike his practice erstwhile, Dr Matthews has not rendered the verses literally. Rather, this time, he has introduced a creative potentiality to his English renderings. Thus he gives us not a bland text but a translation that has rhyming schemes, a translation that charms us and delights us. He has accomplished this task in many ways. The ghazaL and gasida, for example, are monorhyme poems, which almost always observe the scheme aa/-a/-al. .. That is, both of the two half-verses (called misra) of the opening verse (each two-line verse called shi’s) rhyme, while in all the subsequent verses the first misra' remains blank and the second one ends with the same rhyme, and this continues throughout the poem.

What Dr Matthews has done in several cases is to introduce a new rhyme for each shi’s, so he has aa/bb/cc ... , giving the poem a mathnavi rhyming scheme (like that of Rumi's mathnavi) whereas the original follows a ghazal/gasida scheme. But in many other cases, he has split the two misra' of shi'r into four lines. Here he observes a rhyming scheme in which the first lines of his quarter-verse remain blank and the second lines rhyme, and-unlike the original-every four-line unit that renders a single shi’r has a different rhyme. Thus Dr Matthews' scheme in a ghazal for example is -a + -al-6 + -b-c + -c+ .. His ghazal then is not a monorhyme poem. But in one case, he has done something quite novel: in his rendering of a ghazal (p. 154), he has fully replicated throughout the poem the original same-word rhyme (radif), here a phrase, in fact. The phrase is 'You or I' that occurs at the end of every .:shi’r whose two misra' have been split into four lines. And yet he does not replicate the multi-word rhyme (qafiya)-in the original, 'qafiya, jahan, azan…

All of this is fascinatingly adventurous, but also daring and perilous. Straying away from the original is a step that must be taken if one aims at a creative and poetic rendering, a price that has to be paid for aiming to transmit in a different natural tongue, the rhythms and lyricism and balance of the original- in one word, in aiming to transmit its poetry that is. The fact that Dr Matthews' rhyming scheme and verse-structure generally do not remain true to the original is a perfectly legitimate departure he makes as a translator. Yes, this certainly has its perils in that those of us who are too pedantic might feel that we have a case here of a literary transgression, especially since the work could not avoid being invasive. But in this noise, I shall speak from the side of Dr Matthews; he has his own methodology. The ultimate test, I feel, is not merely that of fidelity; it must also be poetic in nature: did his translation work as an aesthetic transfer of the verse of our grand poet Iqbal? The answer would certainly come in the affirmative. Andyet, perhaps a bit troublesome are substantive questions.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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