Oxford India Ghalib
Mirza Ghalib (1797 - 1869) was an aristocratic Urdu/Persian poet who lived through the collapse of the Mughal empire and addressed himself to love and other personal concerns.
This compilation of essays sets the historical and literary context.
The history part is especially fascinating because Ghalib lived in Delhi when it was captured by the Sepoy mutiny and then later recaptured by the British.
He was defiantly non-political, and more than willing to solicit the patronage of either a Mughal Emperor or Queen Victoria. (the British queen thanked him politely, but paid him nothing)
Obviously, whatever got him recognized as one of the great poets of world literature, is going to be lost in translation
But here are a few of his couplets that I enjoyed:
Simplicity so full of wiles! Such unaware awareness! When beauty shows indifference, then comes the testing time.
Now I must mourn the sacking of a city of desires. You broke the mirror that reflected all I looked to find.
The steed of life runs on. None knows where it will stay its course. The reins have fallen from our hands, the stirrups from our feet.
Our creed is "God is one", our cry "abandon rituals!" So that communities dissolve to constitute one faith.
Each of us is a world in which all kinds of fancies throng. I sit in an assembly even though I am alone
Though proud of his Islamic culture, he was defiantly anti clerical -- and only partially observant. (he drank wine, but he avoided pork)
His romantic world is that of a pleasure district very similar to the one in Shanghai described here
Apparently, his heart was broken in his twenties when his young courtesan/lover died - and he never quite got over it. I wouldn't be surprised if his life was something of a model for this novel , which is also set in a declining Delhi and features a dying young courtesan who breaks the heart of her aristocratic lover.
Not to be too judgmental of that lifestyle, but it does seem that his love poetry is hermetically self-centered on his own grief or disappointments, rather than any serious involvement with the life of the beloved.
There's not too many interests that we have in common
But he was mightily attracted to delicious, ripe mangoes - and though we never get such things in Chicago, I do love Trader Joe's mango sorbet.