4. Ghazal from Ghalib

translated by M. Shahid Alam

Only a few come back to us in roses and tulips.
Many more lie buried, dust on their sleeping eyelids.

By day, the daughters of Pleiades play out of sight.
At night, they lift their veils in ravishing display.

My eyes pour blood on this night of savage partings:
two lamps I have lighted to sanctify love’s sorrow.

I will make them pay for the years of torment, if
by chance, these darlings play houris in paradise.

He shall have sleep, perfumed air, silken nights,
if you untie your jasmine-scented hair in his arms.

I have no use for your coy approaches to the divine.
Past your schools and creeds, we worship God alone.

If Ghalib were to keep this up (he cries inconsolably),
every man, woman, child will soon be leaving town.

first published in Prairie Schooner, Spring 2011

For more ghazals from Ghalib, click here.

M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University. He is the author of Israeli Exceptionalism (Palgrave, 2009) and Challenging the New Orientalism (IPI, 2007). Visit his website at http://qreason.com. Write to him at alqalam02760@yahoo.com.