Friday, 8 June 2018

Contextual Notes to 'Smoke & Mirrors'

'Smoke & Mirrors', (A New Ulster).

Some notes were omitted from the book About Time: Poems & Adaptations 1993 - 2012 due to the length of the ones that were included.  They are published here now in full.

'Learning me how Mir was moonstruck for Mah': Mīr Taqī Mīr, (1723 – 1810) was the leading Urdu court poet of eighteenth century India under the Mughals; mah is moon.  Perhaps also the name of his beloved. 

'You dancing widdershins naked in the snow, prancing': Widdershins is to take a course opposite the apparent motion of the sun, left-hand-wise, unlucky.  The circumambulations in many a sacred ritual are performed counter-clockwise such as those around the Kaaba seven times during the annual Hajj pilgrimage. 

'They laugh at me that sometime did me seek,': Sir Thomas Wyatt. ‘They flee from me that sometime did me seek’.  The Complete Poems. Edited by R. A.Rebholz. (Penguin Classics). 116.

'But once at a party I overheard two fictionary beaux mondes': Fictionary is a word game in which players try to guess the meaning of obscure words.  Beaux mondes pertain to high fashion.

'I laughed like there's no tomorrow':
Asham'd to own they gave delight before,
Reduc'd to feign it, when they give no more:
As Hags hold Sabbaths, less for joy than spight,
So these their merry, miserable Night;
Still round and round the Ghosts of Beauty glide,
And haunt the places where their Honour dy'd.
        See how the World its Veterans rewards!
A Youth of frolicks, an old Age of Cards,
Fair to no purpose, artful to no end,
Young without Lovers, old without a Friend,
A Fop their Passion, but their Prize a Sot,
Alive, ridiculous, and dead, forgot!

And in short, I was afraid.   T. S. Eliot. ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’.  Collected Poems 1909 –1962. (Faber & Faber, 1963).

'The drowned belle de la Seine humming': La belle de la Seine was an unidentified young woman whose body was pulled out of the Seine river in the 1880s; her supposed death mask became a popular fixture on the walls of artists' homes in the early twentieth century and her visage was the fashion paradigm for German and Russian girls; it inspired many writers, including Vladimir Nabokov’s 1934 poem ‘L'Inconnue de la Seine’. In 1958, Norwegian toymaker Asmund Laerdal and Austro-Czech physician Peter Safar used it as the basis for ‘Rescue Anne’, the first CPR training model. In 2015 Anne-Gaelle Saliot published The Drowned Muse, a full length book on her social and cultural influence, (Oxford).

'To have but not to keep':
It seems to me that the chief thing about a woman - who is much of a woman - is that in the long run she is not to be had. A man may bring her his laurel wreaths and songs and what not, but if that man doesn't satisfy her, in some undeniable physical fashion - then in one way or other she takes him in her mouth and shakes him like a cat a mouse, and throws him away. She is not to be caught by any of the catch-words, love, beauty, honour, duty, worth, work, salvation - none of them - not in the long run. In the long run she only says 'Am I satisfied, or is there some beastly unsatisfaction gnawing and gnawing inside me.’ And if there is some unsatisfaction, it is physical at least as much as psychic, sex as much as soul. She goes for man, or men, after her own fashion, and so is called a Sphinx, and her riddle is that the man wasn't able to satisfy her - riddle enough for him: And an artist - a poet - is like a woman in that he too must have this satisfaction. There is that much life in him, more than in other people, which will not let him beii
'The mouth in the mouth
Under the mouth
Is the round tuffet that becomes us'

Alva Bernadine, 'Reflect Upon This (Round Mirrors)'.

'So these are the roots that grasp at the fly in aspic': Aspic is a savory jelly made with meat stock that contains pieces of meat, seafood, or eggs and is set in a mold; its name derives from its colour, resembling that of the small, venomous snake called an asp (which Cleopatra used to commit suicide). Flies have been preserved in amber, but the expression ‘flies in aspic’ has become widespread as a simile for an anachronism.

'Love answers all the ogress' grave questions': The ogress is the ogress in Ted Hughes' Crow who asks the seven questions, not all of which Hughes allowed Crow to answer. Also the questions such as those in Gwion’s riddle in Graves' The White Goddess and many others scattered throughout the classical world literature which are too numerous to mention. 
         Afagddu's ugliness is prerogative to his success and high intelligence (to recompense). He achieves this by quaffing a cauldron of the Triple Muse that has simmered for a year and a day from below by mephitic jets of chewed toadstools and warmed from above from the breaths of the nine Muses (season by season with a brew of the sacred magical herbs ivy, hellebore and laurel, in accordance with the planetary motions). The cauldron itself contained a mash of barley, acorns, honey and bull's blood. 
               Afagddu eventually grows up to be swineherd royale to King Guaire of Connaught. His rival is Gwion who accidentally tasted the elixir when a drop bubbled onto his finger and Cerridwen tries to destroy him, adopting many guises - But thereon hangs another tale. In his poem 'Kadweir Taliesin' he mentions the cauldron 'of the five Trees.’ Taliesin himself was a Second Coming of Gwion. 
          Cerridwen is also the White Goddess of Life-in-Death and Death-in-Life. The Welsh bards described her as a Grain Goddess. Robert Graves in The White Goddess explicates upon the etymology of her name (and speculates that Arianrhod is another one of her many aspects). Graves points out Cerridwen's close connection with the witch Sycorax in Shakespeare's The Tempest in the chapter 'Hercules on the Lotus.' J. A. MacCullock in The Religion of the Ancient Celts (1911), equates her with the Sow Demeter (who is succeeded by Rhiannon). She had a cast in her left eye that has been recorded in the Romance of Taliesin. Sir James George Frazer records her existence in parts of Germany and France as spirit-of-the-corn and Cat Goddess. 
       In Christianity from as early as the thirteenth century the Virgin Mary herself becomes the cauldron or source of inspiration. Long before this she had already been reinvented by the Saxons, Angles and the Danes who brought very similar versions of her over to England with them: 
Cerridwen abides. Poetry began in the matriarchal age, and derives its magic from the moon, not from the sun. No poet can hope to understand the nature of poetry unless he has had a vision of the Naked King crucified to the lopped oak, and watched the dancers, red- eyed from the acrid smoke of the sacrificial fires, stamping out the measure of the dance, their bodies bent uncouthly forward, with a monotonous chant of: 'Kill! kill! kill!' and 'Blood! Blood! blood!’iii
In Hughes' unfinished Crow the eponymous hero is forced to cross a river carrying an ogress on his shoulders, but she gains weight en route until he cannot move; to decrease her weight he had to answer her riddles. His answers to her questions, were wrong to begin with but progressively better, until finally he was able to answer her seventh question correctly – The poem ‘Bride and Groom Lie Hidden for Three Days’: 
So, gasping with joy, with cries of wonderment
Like two gods of mud
Sprawling in the dirt, but with infinite care
                   They bring each other to perfection.
'Offering even as counter-question (a salve), itself in a frisson': 
The effect on readers of Muse poetry, with its opposite poles of ecstacy and melancholia, is what the French call a frisson, and the Scots call a ‘grue’ – meaning the shudder provoked by fearful or supernatural experiences.iv
There is more but this is the passage in mind.

'Lives, the Life-in-Death, an antevasin': Antevasin is Sanskrit for ‘One who lives on the border’.  Elizabeth Gilbert, the author of Eat, Pray, Love (2006), discovered the world when she was living in an ashram.  In her words ‘It indicated a person who had left the bustling centre of worldly life to go live at the edge of the forest where the spiritual masters dwelled.  The antevasin was not one of the villagers anymore – not a householder with a conventional life.  But neither was he yet a transcendent – not one of those sages who live deep in the unexplored woods, fully realized.  The antevasin was an in-betweener.  He was a border-dweller.  He lived in sight of both worlds, but looked toward the unknown.  And he was a scholar.’
              Also referencing the Prophet Tiresias’ lines from Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ that are boomed out by megaphone by Anthony Blanche from the balcony’s venetian arches in the Evelyn Waugh novel Brideshead Revisited.

'When the tongues of flame are in-folded': T. S. Eliot.  ‘Four Quartets: Little Gidding’. Collected.

'Of your ‘Jour-Nuit'French for ‘day/night’. See poem of same name by Hollace M. Metzger in the book Transcriptions of Time. (MiDEA, 2009). 137.

'Because I am already there.'  W. H. Auden. ‘The Maze’. Collected Poems. Edited by Edward Mendelson. (Faber & Faber, 1976, 1991).

Love is you
You and meJohn Lennon. ‘Love’. John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band . (1970).

'And our first meeting.'  Auden, ‘A Bride in the 30’s’. Collected.

© Rehan Qayoom, 2012, 1018.

i Alexander Pope. ‘Epistle To a Lady: Of the Characters of Women’, 1735.
ii D. H. Lawrence. To Henry Savage, 31 October 1913. The Letters of D. H. Lawrence ii: June 1913 – October 1916
   Edited by George J. Zyfrank & James T. Boulton. (Cambridge University Press 1981). 94, 95.
iii Robert Graves. The White Goddess. (Faber & Faber, 1948, 1952, 1961).
iv Graves, ‘The Dedicated Poet’, Oxford Addresses on Poetry, (1962). Collected Writings on Poetry. Edited by Paul 
    O’Prey. (Carcanet, 1995). 308.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Contextual Notes to 'India'


* 'To return to love'.  As often the poem is “intricately patterned”,[1] mapped out and peppered with dense allusions - The returning at the beginning of the poem is partly a backward glance at T. S. Eliot's:

Because I do not hope to turn again
Because I do not hope
Because I do not hope to turn 
                (‘Ash Wednesday’, 1930).
Partly at the film poem 'Return To You', (Hollace M. Metzger).  Also referencing Eliot’s eternally true lines the author is always quoting because they need to be:

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.

The end is where we start from.
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time. 
         (‘Four Quartets: Little Gidding’, 1942).

* 'Ach, du.'  Sylvia Plath.  ‘Daddy’, 12th October 1962.  Collected Poems.  Edited by Ted Hughes.  (Faber & Faber, 1981).

* 'dark dark dark'.  Eliot, ‘Four Quartets: East Coker’, (1940).  The Poems of T. S. Eliot: Collected & Uncollected Poems.  Edited Christopher Ricks & Jim McCue.  (2 vols, Faber & Faber, 2015).

* 'Secretamente, entre la sombre y el alma.'  Pablo Neruda.  Cien sonetos de amor, (Editorial Universitaria, 1959).

* 'You might know her too, she is oft-returning ...' One of God's Divine attributes in the Quran is al-Tawwab (the Oft-returning).  It is contrasted here with 'She comes corrected, comes alive in colours:' with a nod to Ted Hughes' 'Crow's Undersong' whereas the She is the She Who Must Be Obeyed (of John Mortimer's Rumpoles).

* 'hastío forcejea con los lentos crepúsculos.'  Neruda, Veinte poemas de amor y una canción desesperada. (Santiago, Editorial Nascimento, 1924).

* 'Than a craving in the weather of her love'.  'A process in the weather of the heart', (Dylan Thomas).

* "I push you away                                              
Because you’ll go anyway”.  

Quotation from the character Lauren Branning in the British soap opera Eastenders.  The author is himself an Eastender, born and bred in the East End of London.

* 'Warning of those ...' The verse offers answers to (and reasons for) the great questions in the style of Hughes' 'Fate Playing':
Because the message somehow met a goblin,
Because precedents tripped your expectations,

Because your London was still a kaleidoscope

Of names and places any jolt could scramble,

You waited mistaken.
'Why.' by Metzger is another poem along these lines from Transcriptions of Time. (MiDEA, 2009). 154, 155 as is 'Why?' by John Siddique in Full Blood.  (Salt, 2011).  81.

* 'Is She? Will There?' 'Do you? Is she?' (Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited.  1945, 1959).

* 'The third beside'.  Third Man Syndrome - Thus Eliot:

Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together

But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
— But who is that on the other side of you? 
                     (‘The Waste Land’, 1922).
Who is this walking eternity’s highway
Towards the moment of fusion? She who winds her watch
With childhood’s logic of subtractions and reductions?
She for whom the dawn is not heralded
With rooster’s crow, but by breakfast’s aroma?
She who wears love’s crown
And is withering in the folds of her wedding dress? 
                  (Forough Farrokhzad, ‘Let Us Believe in the Beginning of a Cold Season’).

* 'a chameleon soul.  No moral compass pointing due north, no fixed personality.'  Lana Del Rey.  ‘Ride’.  Born to Die: The Paradise Edition, (2012).

* 'The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant,' Eliot, 'East Coker'.

* 'She was born to be somebody else’s girlfriend'.  With Damage in mind by Josephine Hart, (1991, 2011) and its 1992 film adaptation:
Eros is a god.  We have seen him tear down empires.  We have seen him tear down families.  The idea that erotic life is funny is, I think one of the great tragedies of our time.  It has not been regarded as a joke before to quite the same degree and it is an area of life in which we must tread carefully because we imagine we're in control of it, we imagine we can solve this, we imagine we can dominate this but very rarely do we ... 
     (Josephine Hart.  Interview, 1998).
Usually it dominates us.  Nobody can possess another person except in death; we do this by rewriting their stories.   In the symbolism of Tantric Yoga, Kali stands with her feet on the chest of the phallic god Siva, in an emblem of reversed sexual intercourse, which nevertheless produces an erection in Siva (as portrayed in numerous Indian temple carvings and medallions).  The serpent Vasuki is found in Hindu and Buddhist mythology, its sister Manasa is to be found in Chinese and Japanese mythology. The god Shiva in Hinduism is believed to be garlanded with 5 serpents that represent wisdom and eternity. Greta Garbo performs an exquisite Divine dance around the idol of Shiva in the 1931 film Mata Hari. Hughes' discussion of serpent imagery can be found in 'The Snake in the Oak'.[2] 

* 'When their eyes were dazzled'. فَإِذَا بَرِق الْبَصَرُ  ['When the eye is dazzled'] (The Holy Quran. Al Qiyamah [The Resurrection]: 8).

© Rehan Qayoom, 2017.

[1] F. Scott Fitzgerald to Max Perkins.  The Correspondence of F. Scott Fitzgerald.  Edited Matthew J. Bruccoli & Margaret Duggan, (Random House, 1980).  113.
[2] Ted Hughes.  Winter Pollen.  (Faber & Faber, 1994).  458 - 464.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Socrates: Philosopher or Prophet?

The ground-breaking lecture now available as a book at

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Contextual Notes to 'Conversazione'

[1] The Romans quaffed celebratory wine prepared from rose and violet petals and honey.a  Thirteenth century apothecaries sold crystalised violets, roses and lilies to be steeped in sweetened hot water as a laxative. Violet flavoured candies were sold in decorated tins in Paris since the nineteenth century and also dusted on pastries as sugar crystals.b 

[2] I love no meat but Ortolans, and no women but you. Tho indeed that's no proper comparison but for fatt Dutchesses; For to love you is as if one should wish to Eat Angels, or drink Cherubim-Broath.

Alexander Pope. To Teresa & Martha Blount, 13th September 1717. The Correspondence of Alexander Pope: i. Edited by George Sherburn. 5 Vols, (Oxford University Press, 1956).

[3] Proclus (412 – 485), one of the last of the Neoplatonist philosophers and commentator on Plato writes ‘…the heliotrope follows in its movement the movement of the sun and the selenotrope the movement of the moon, forming a procession within the limits of their power, behind the torches of the universe? For, in truth, each thing prays according to the rank it occupies in nature, and sings the praise of the leader of the divine series to which it belongs, a spiritual or rational or physical or sensuous praise; for the heliotrope moves to the extent that it is free to move, and in its rotation, if we could hear the sound of the air buffeted by its movement, we should be aware that it is a hymn to its king, such as it is within the power of a plant to sing.’ 
                 ‘On earth suns and moons can be seen in an earthly state and in the heavens all the plants, stones, animals in a heavenly state, living spiritually.’
            ‘…the lotus manifests its affinity and sympathy with the sun. Before the appearance of the sun’s rays, its blossom is closed; it opens slowly at sunrise, unfolds as the sun rises to the zenith, and folds again and closes as the sun descends. What difference is there between the human manner of praising the sun by moving the mouth and lips, and that of the lotus which unfolds its petals? They are its lips and this is its natural hymn.’

It is written in The Holy Quran that the 7 heavens, the Earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, the mountains, the trees, the beasts and many among humankind glorify God, all knowing their individual mode of praise and glorification:c

The 7 heavens and the Earth and those that are therein extol His glory; and there is not a thing but glorifies Him with His praise; but you understand not their praising.  Yet He is Forbearing and Most Forgiving.
The Holy Quran. Bani Israel [Children of Israel]: 44.

I would comment that when first built the mosque of the Prophet ﷺ had no minbar [pulpit] from which to address the congregation. He would speak while leaning against a palm tree trunk in the wall next to the qibla near where he prayed. Eventually he began to use a minbar, as we will explain in its proper place. As he moved over towards it to make his address from it and passed by that tree trunk, it moaned like a love-lorne camel because it had always heard his speeches delivered near itself. And so the Prophet ﷺ returned to it and hugged it until it settled down, just like a baby, and became quiet. Details of this will be given hereafter through various lines, from Sahl b. Sa'd al-Sa’idi, Jabir, 'Abd Allāh b. Umar, 'Abd Allāh b. 'Abbās, Anas b. Mālik and Umm Salama, God be pleased with them.
          What more appropriate than the comment made by al-Hasan al-Basri after relating this story, from Anas b. Mālik, "O Muslims! A piece of wood so pining for the Messenger of God ﷺ! Do not men hoping to meet him have even more right to yearn for him?"

Ibn Kathīr, Ismail. Al-Bidāya wa al-Nihāya: Al-Sīra Al-Nabawiyya [The Beginning & the End: The Life of the Prophet Muḥammad: ii]. 4 vols, (Garnet Publishing Ltd, 1998).  205. 
[4] "Are you there, Little Daughter?" they called, "Twii! Twii! Are you there?" "Yes, robins", she whispered, "I am here".  "Do come back, Little Daughter", they pleaded, "the … [whole] world is so sad without you … Do come back, Little Daughter, … the tall trees have lost all their leaves, so hard have they wept.  The birds sing no more.  No one knows where the daisies have vanished, and [even the] Great Sun is so sad that he rises later every morning and leaves us earlier every night.  Sometimes he hides his face for days behind the clouds and if you do not return, Little Daughter, he may never come again".  "Chut! I will come", whispered Little Daughter, "but I will come as a flower as tiny as a drop, and as white as the snow so that Queen Winter cannot see me".  And Snow-Drop grew out of the snow but everyone knew it was Great Sun’s Little Daughter.  They whispered it to each other when Winter was not about.  And new leaves grew on the branches again, and very shyly the birds sang again, and Great Sun smiled again as never before, and he woke earlier every morning and went to sleep later every night for his little daughter was found and all the big big world was happy once again.
 Khan, Noor Inayat.  Twenty Jataka Tales.  (1939). 

© Rehan Qayoom / Poets and Dreamers, 2015.
a See the Apicius.  
b See Stephanie LaCava. An Extraordinary Theory of Objects.  (HarperCollins, 2012).
c The Holy Quran. Al-Hajj [The Pilgrimage]: 19, Al-Nur [The Light]: 42.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Important Publications Relating to 'Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life' by Professor Jonathan Bate

Falling in love is often about place and placing yourself.
(Ted Hughes: The Unauthorised Life).

Ted Hughes at the Hay Festival, (30 May 1996).  A list of all the poems read can be found here.
Interview with Professor Jonathan Bate about his forthcoming biography Ted Hughes: The Inner Life, (February, 2012).
Jonathan Bate: 'Hughes & Plath', (9 February 2014).
Ted Hughes' estate withdraws biographer's access, (The Guardian, 31 March 2014).
Jonathan Bate: How the actions of the Ted Hughes estate will change my biography, (The Guardian, 2 April 2014).
Damon Parker (on behalf of Carol Hughes), (The Guardian, 3 April 2014).
Frieda Hughes: Why I became a councellor, (BBC, 13 May 2014).
Friday Hughes: The Trouble With Death, (BBC, 13 May 2014).


Jonathan Bate: Sylvia Plath's suicide note - did it name a final lover?, (The Guardian, 1 October 2015).
Review by Jeremy Noel-Tod, (The Telegraph, 4 October 2015).
Front Row, (BBC: Radio 4, 7 October 2015).
Interview: Sylvia Plath's Husband, Ted Hughes, Lived A Life Of Poetry And Tragedy, (NPR Books, 10 October 2015).
Ted Hughes: Stronger Than Death, (Featuring Frieda Hughes, Melvyn Bragg & Simon Armitage.  BBC, 2015)
Book Review by Carl Rollyson author of American Isis: The Life & Art of Sylvia Plath, (Star Tribune, 16 October 2015).
Statement from the Ted Hughes Estate, (The Spectator, 14 October 2015).
Book Review - 'The Deauthorised Life of Ted Hughes' by Carl Rollyson, (The University Bookman).
Erica Wagner: Gossip, truth & the impossibility of biography, (The Guardian, 16 October 2015).
Today, (BBC: Radio 4, 16 October 2015).
TORCH Discussion, (16 October 2015).
Letter - Jonathan Bate: There is no reason to doubt Sylvia Plath's word, (The Guardian, 26 October 2015).
The World at One with Martha Kearney, (BBC: Radio 4, 27 October 2015).
Book Review by Ann Skea: 'Telling Tales', (October 2015).
Frieda Hughes - Alternative Values: Poems & Paintings, (2015).
Interview, (The Telegraph, 31 October 2015).
Review, (New York Times, 21 December 2015).
Janet Malcolm: 'A Very Sadistic Man'(New York Review of Books, 11 February 2016).
Bridget Reed on Malcolm's Review: 'Janet Malcolm: Biased, Mean & Brilliant', (Literary Hub, 26 January 2016).
David Troupes's Review, (PN Review, Jan/Feb 2016).
Review, (The Poetry Review, Winter 2015).
Christopher Benfey, 'Getting Over Sylvia Plath', (The Atlantic, Jan/Feb 2016).

Ted Hughes: Posthumous Poems

Live Skull, (Daily Telegraph, 13 May 1999.  31).
Knave of Clubs, (Independent on Sunday, 12 November 2000).
The Zeet Saga, (The Times, 5 June 2003).
A Torridge Tragedy, (The Times, 29 January 2005).
If I were to hear you sigh, (The Sunday Times, 13 August 2006).
'VI' and 'X': Poems not included in Birthday Letters, (The Times, 17 October 2008.  19).
Last Letter, (New Statesman, 11 October 2010).
Sorrow in a Black Coat, (Times Literary Supplement, 5 February 2014).  Hughes' diary for the last week of Plath's life.
Hoof-trimming, (The Spectator, 19 September 2016).

This page will be updated as more material becomes available.

Related Blogs & Essays

A Review of A Memoir of Ted Hughes by Dr. Nathaniel Minton, (Turk's Head Review, 21 June 2015).
A Review of Fixed Stars Govern a Life - Decoding Sylvia Plath I, (The Plath Diaries - a PhD Blog, 16 February 2015).

Friday, 1 August 2014

From the Chaucer of Urdu Poetry: Mir Taqi Mir

But when I tried to catch her, nothing could I find,
A mere hallucination, a fiction of the mind.
One day, out for a walk, I happened to take the road to the newly ruined city [Delhi]. At every step I shed tears and learned the lesson of mortality. And the further I went the more bewildered I became. I could not recognize any neighbourhood house. There were no buildings to be seen, nor any residents to speak to.

The scene of desolation filled my eyes with tears and my mind with the most solemn thoughts.  At every step my distress and agitation increased.  I could not recognise the houses and often lost my bearings.  Of the former inhabitants there was no trace, and no matter whom I inquired about, I was told that he was not there and nobody knew where he might be found.  

Houses had collapsed. Walls had fallen down. The cloisters were bereft of Sufis. The taverns were empty of revelers. It was a wasteland, from one end to the other. What can I say about the rascally boys of the bazaar when there was no bazaar itself! And what can I tell of the pale-cheeked children playing in the streets when there was no [rosy-cheeked one to ask].  The handsome young men had passed away. The austere old men - All had gone. The palace quarters were wholly ruined, their lanes were lost in the rubble. Every place was desolate; there was no sign of a human anywhere.

Suddenly I found myself in the neighbourhood where I had lived - where I gathered my friends and recited verses; where I lived the life of love and cried many a night for the love of tall and slender beloveds and sang high their praises in verses to them; where I spent time with the beauties whose long tresses held me captive. If I were without them for even a moment I would pine for them restlessly. This was in the days when I arranged joyous gatherings and invited beautiful people, feasted them and lived a really [pleasant] life. And now? Not a  soul I could recognise to spend a few convenient moments with in conversation.  The bazaar was a desolate waste; the lane was a track into [the] wilderness. I stood there and looked in amazement, stunned and silent and was horrified and filled with abhorrence at the scene. I swore I would never return to the city again, as long as I lived. 

Mornings and evenings I went to the bank of the river and enjoyed the sights. Such a beautiful place - with gardens on one side and the fort and the establishments of great nobles on the other, you would say it was a river in paradise. The fame of my bikr tarāshi poetic genius [the creation of a new poetic theme or a bundling of associative ideas] had spread far and wide. Bashful beauties and those who had thick black eyelashes; those who coined fine phrases and those who dressed elegantly; and those who had a gift for poesy - they never left me alone and treated me with great respect. 2 or 3 times I walked through the city from one end to the other meeting its scholars Sufis and poets but none could comfort my restless heart.  I said to myself 'Great God! This is the same city that had its fair share of fine houses and gardens and inns, scholars of Hadith; dervishes; Quran-memorizers; Quran-reciters; Imams of mosques and Muezzins, abodes of Faqirs, schools and seminaries and where scholars and jurists, dialecticians, philosophers, divines and gnostics, saints and mystics, physicians and teachers and poets and writers were often seen in every place.  But now I find no place to sit and rest a while and I find not a single person whose company I may share.'  I saw a terrifying wasteland.  And so I grieved deeply and returned after having spent 4 months in the city of my origin. I left with my eyes awash with tears of longing and reached the forts of Suraj Mal.

When they entered Lucknow, his permanent abode, and took residence in the royal palace, new carpets of manifold hues were laid out every day, with golden incense-burners placed on their corners. The area surrounding the house was sprinkled with rose water, and attar was rubbed in the beds. Everyone's clothes were fragrant with perfume. Velveteen carpets [were spread out] such as none had ever stepped upon. Walls glittered like silver [sīm gil karda]. Elegant pavilions were set up in gardens and decorated with screens and curtains. The sweet smell of amber spread everywhere, creating a unique effect. The houses put to shame the homes for spring [makān giraw az bahār band burda]. Roasted almonds and pistachios and firangi tidbits [nuql e firangī] were laid out for munching. At night, there were dances by women who were like fairies - nay, who were like the houris of paradise. Flower vases of crystal and porcelain were carefully arranged. Shelves and niches in the walls were filled with choice fruit, perfectly ripe. A firangi [raqŝ e firnachī] dance was held, a lovely scene - a house of joy. In the evening, they had elaborate illuminations and set off fireworks. The starbursts and rockets [sitārahavāi] touched the sky. The sight of the illuminations stole the hearts [of the spectators]. The flares [mahtābi] turned the night into day. A pavilion of gold brocade was set up - of such beauty that not even the sun had seen its like. The nobles were busy, offering hospitality; the rajas went about, offering their services. Excellent poets sang their praises. Young stalwarts stood by to tend to things. Every house was finely prepared, with shady nooks and channels of flowing water. Vases that held bunches of narcissus flowers seemed like a garden to behold [bāgh e naẓar] in Isfahan, or a garden in Kerman, containing a large lake.  Ice, more pleasing to the sight than molten silver, carefully gathered from water. Bowls of fāluda of many colours and kinds, their sherbet sweeter than the syrup of life.

As for the types of breads at meal times; almond bread [nān e bādām] of utmost delicacy; shīrmāl and bāqar khāni both coloured with saffron on top that would put the sun to shame; youthful bread [nān e javān], so soft and warm that if an old man were to eat it he would act like a youth; paper bread [nān e varaqī]of such a quality that I could fill a whole book with its praises; ginger bread [nān e zanjabīl] too, so flavourful that Taste itself grows happy comprehending it. In the middle were placed varieties of qaliya and do-piyaza, such rich stews of different kinds that the guests were all delighted and satisfied. And the kebabs that were laid out on the long table-cloth: flower kebab [kebāb e gul], full of bloom and flavour; perfectly salted Indian kebab [kebāb e Hindī] stole every heart; Qandahari kebab [kebāb e Qandahārī] attracted all and sundry to itself; stone kebab [kebāb e sang] brought relief to those who were tired from the hardships of the journey; leaf-of-paper kebab [kebāb e varaqī] made to such an amazing recipe-manuscript that it delighted everyone; and all the more common kebabs, spicy and flavourful. 10 large plates of food were placed before every single guest. Then there were pulaos of all kinds and wonderful soups of every type. 'Praise be to One, who is Bountiful and Generous!' 

What a splendid guest! What an exemplary host! A grand guest; a glorious host. A guest of wonderful disposition; a host of the greatest eminence. A guest, so refined and elegant; a host, sun-like in his munificence. The guest, a man of perfect sagacity; the host, an embodiment of hospitality. Their likes had never been seen by the eyes of ages, nor heard of by the ears of sages. In that manner they continued to meet for 6 months, day and night, and conversed and exchanged thoughts.

In short, the world is a place of strange happenings. What houses there were that crumbled down! What young men there were who gave up their lives! What gardens there were that are now a wilderness! What joyous assemblies there were that now seem a fantasy! What flowers, that withered away! What handsome men who passed away! What gatherings of friends, that were tossed to the wind! What caravans, that loaded up and disappeared! What honourable men there were who suffered ignominy! What bold men there were who tasted mortality! I have had eyes to see, and ears to hear, and what things have I not seen and heard! In this brief span of life this drop of blood which men call the heart has suffered all manner of blows, and is all bruised and bleeding.  My temperament was unsuited to these times, and I no longer mix with people.  I am 60 now, and old age is upon me.  I am generally ill, and for some time my eyes have been troubling me .... My failing powers, my sensitiveness, my weakness and grief and despondency, all tell me that my end is near, and the truth is that the times are no longer fit to live in.  it is time to withdraw from the world.  I wish that I may come to a good end, but God's will must prevail

And what should I say of the pain in my teeth - I was at my wits' end.  How long could I go on treating them? Finally I resigned myself to it and had them all pulled out.
Mir Mohammad Taqi Mir. Zikr - E - Mir.  Translated by C. M. Naim. (Oxford University Press, 1999).  93, 94, 96, 97, 121 - 123, 129.

Related links: 'Colonel Mordaunt's Cock Match' By Johann Zoffany, (1788). 
                         A Garden of Kashmir.
                         Ab e Hayat: Mir Taqi Mir.  Muhammad Husain Azad, (1880).