The ghazal emergedfrom a long traditionof Arabic poetry treatingissues of love, loss, andunattainability. It firstemerged as a distinctform in the sixth century,evolving out of an olderstyle of panegyric calledThe qasida.
The ghazals versatility and emphasis onuniversal themes made it exceedinglypopular throughout West and South Asia.In fact, its most famous practitioners werenot Arabs at all. The 13th-century Persianpoet and Sufi mystic, Rumi, has beendescribed as “the most popular Poet inAmerica”. “Behind this moon, there is another hidden Moon, Concealed like a Turk inside the tent of the Fast. The one who takes the road to that Moon comes to This excellent moon at the threshing floor of the Fast. If he makes his face as pale as satin, he will wear The gilded robe of honor of the Fast. Prayers are answered in this month, (for) the skies Are pierced by the sighs of the Fast.” -Rumi From Ghazal 2344
The 14th-century poet Hafizof Shiraz has been a majorinfluence on Middle Easternpoetry. His work can still befound in the homes of manyeducated Persians in Iranand Afghanistan. “It is, by the way, rather pleasing to read dissolute old Hafiz in the original language...” -Karl Marx In a letter to F. Engels
One of the finest and mostinfluential contemporaryGhazal writers was AghaShahid Ali (1949-2002), whoseoriginal compositions in Englishhelped to popularize the formto a Western audience.In the next section of thispresentation, we will use hiswork as a model to betterunderstand the formsconstruction.
In particular,exaggerated violenceis a popular ghazalmetaphor for theeffect the beloved hasupon the powerlesspoet.
Writing a ghazal : Form Ghazals are traditionally ly r composed in couplets. bab ose pro mp lish e is t co Eng The first couplet rhymes, and urn inen s in all subsequent couplets must bo rom plet y Os t p ou end with the same word that zz mos ed cO e m th rhy . ended the first. of day to what is more, each couplet must carry poetic meaning when standing-alone, in addition to its role in the overall composition.
Tonightby Agha Shahid AliWhere are you now? Who lies beneath your spell tonight?Whom else from rapture’s road will you expel tonight?Those “Fabrics of Cashmere--“ ”to make Me beautiful--““Trinket”-- to gem– “Me to adorn– How– tell”-- tonight?I beg for haven: Prisons, let open your gates–A refugee from Belief seeks a cell tonight.God’s vintage loneliness has turned to vinegar–All the archangels– their wings frozen– fell tonight.Lord, cried out the idols, Don’t let us be brokenOnly we can convert the infidel tonight.Mughal ceilings, let your mirrored convexitiesmultiply me at once under your spell tonight.[contd.]
He’s freed some fire from ice in pity for Heaven.He’s left open– for God– the doors of Hell tonight.In the heart’s veined temple, all statues have been smashedNo priest in saffron’s left to toll its knell tonightGod, limit these punishments, there’s still Judgment Day–I’m a mere sinner, I’m no infidel tonight.Executioners near the woman at the window.Damn you, Elijah, I’ll bless Jezebel tonight.The hunt is over, and I hear the Call to Prayerfade into that of the wounded gazelle tonight.My rivals for your love– you’ve invited them all?This is mere insult, this is no farewell tonight.And I, Shahid, only am escaped to tell thee–God sobs in my arms. Call me Ishmael tonight.
You may have noticed that Ali “signs” his name by including it in thelast verse. This is an optional, but traditional, device for which a poetcan use either his real name, as in this case, or a chosen poetic penname called a takhallus.
Pitfalls of the English ghazalStudents of poetry are aware of how much easier good rhymes are toachieve in Romance languages, and the adjustments that must bemade for English.Likewise, many of the languages in which ghazals have been composed,like Urdu, have postpositional pronouns and other grammatical devicesthat make it easy to unobnoxiously repeat an end word.Be sure to pick your repeating word carefully! Simple adverbs are often agood choice, as in Alis example. You will have to experiment.
Image sources (in order of appearance):http://www.humanevents.com/images/islm_cartoon_8.jpghttp://www.al-funun.org/al-funun/images/abu_nuwas.htmlhttp://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/5d/Andr04.jpghttp://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/c6/Hofizi_Sherozi.jpghttp://kafilabackup.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/shahid.jpg?w=600http://www.abcgallery.com/R/rossetti/rossetti8.htmlhttp://www.codart.nl/images/RubensSamsonAndDelilahCa1610LondonNG450.jpghttp://images3.mtv.com/uri/mgid:uma:artist:mtv.com:1004?width=281&height=211http://bookillustration.org/images/gallery108/14Fig8_L.jpg