The characters of romantic urdu poetry part 1


Most urdu poetry is romantic in nature. There are some characters
that occur repeatedly in urdu poetry. Most of urdu poetry revolves
around these characters. These characters always seem to behave in a certain
specific way even if the poems are written by different poets. In the next
few MHFL posts I will describe these characters and also what their typical nature
in urdu poetry is. We will describe the poet himself, the beloved, the saqi,the rival
the waiz( preacher), the naseh( advisor), the kasid( messenger), the friends, the charagar( doctor) etc.
We will take these characters one by one and analyse them through assorted shers.
Please feel free to contribute your own to the list.

Today we will take the central figure of urdu poetry: the poet himself.

The poet is typically always a person who loves but cannot find love. Romantic
poetry is usually a result of sublimated lost love. If the poet could find love
he would be enjoying the company of his beloved. But since the beloved is
not interested in the poet’s love he writes poetry. So most romantic
urdu poetry is due to the poet wanting to express his feelings about love that
cannot be attained or has been lost.

The poet sometimes expresses his pain and longing but he knows that his desires will
never be satisfied:

yeh na thi hamari kismet ke visaal-e-yaar hota
agar aaur jeete rehte yahi intezaar hota

( It was not in my fate to meet my beloved
  If my life is made much longer still my desire would not be fulfilled)

The poet thinks that his beloved is cruel but beautiful. He also knows that his
beloved is more interested in his rival. We will cover the beauty and cruelty of the beloved
and her interest in the rival in a day or two. But the main thing is that the poet
sometimes is filled with jealousy:

ai “shakeel” unki mehfil mein bhi kya mila, kuch aaur badh gayi dil ki betabiyaan
sab ki janib rahi woh nigah-e-karam, hum taraste rahe ik nazar ke liye

( Shakeel what did you get in that “party”, your unhappiness has only increased
  she looked at everyone else with favour and grace but she did not even look at you)

The poet always gives a very high status to his beloved. All her actions are considered
great. Though he may consider her cruel but he always places her on a high pedestal.

jab main chaloon to saaya bhi mera na saath de
jab tum chalo to zameen chale aasmaan chale

( when I walk even my shadow does not follow me
  when you take a step, the earth moves, the skies move with you)

The poet wants to express his feelings to his beloved but he knows that either
she would not bother or would not understand:

ya rab!  na woh samjhe hain na samjhege meri baat
de aaur dil unko jo na de mujhko zubaan aaur

( God! She has never understood me and she will never understand me
  Give her some heart- she who does not give me the right to utter a few words)

The poet is almost always fond of wine:

aaye kuch abar kuch sharab aaye
iske baad aaye jo azaab aaaye

( Let some clouds come, let some wine be served
  and after that I am prepared for any problem)

The poet keeps feeling that the world does not understand him. He
also feels that he is the sensitive person who keeps getting hurt
by the insensitive world.

aik dil hai aaur toofan-e-hawadis ai “Jigar”
aik sheesha hai ke har patthar se takraata hoon main

( My one heart faces the violent storms of the world o “Jigar”
  It is like a delicate piece of glass hitting one stone after another)

The poet sometimes accepts that he cannot attain the love of the beloved.
But can’t he just look at her from a distance? Is that too much to ask?:

taskeen ko hum na royen jo zauk-e-nazar mile
hooran-e-khuld mein teri soorat magar mile

( I will not weep for the satisfaction of love if I can keep looking at her
  and I would also like the angels in heaven to look exactly like her.
  This will make me feel better in heaven too)

The poet’s love sometimes attains the level of worship:

sar zad hum se be adbi to weshat mein bhi kam hi hui
koson uski oor gaye par sajda har har gaam kiya

( Even in my state of madness I behaved very respectfully towards her
   I followed her for miles but at each step I knelt down and bowed my head)

The poet’s memory is his constant companion. He has created a whole world there::

yaad-e-ghazaal chashmaan, zikr-e-saman-azaaran
jab chaha kar liya hai kunj-e-qafas baharan

( The memory of those doe like eyes, the mention of that jasmine like face
  Using these two things I can create a season of flowers in my cage)

This brings us to the end of discussion regarding the poet. But we have not
covered all aspects of the poet’s feelings. The poet’s feelings are the core
of urdu poetry. But I hope that more aspects of the poet’s thought process will
be covered when we look at the other characters of urdu poetry in the next few days.
This is because every character is viewed from the perspective of the poet.


umar har chand ke hai barq-e-khiraam
dil ke khuun karne ki fursat hi sahi
( Life is very short- as short as a flash of lightning
  But there is still enough time to bleed one’s heart to death)



One thought on “The characters of romantic urdu poetry part 1

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