Several new members of Kalliope are
admirers of the poetry of Rumi, which has given me the impetus to start
introducing non-European poetic forms to the workshop. This Primer will
be on the Urdu poetic form variously called the "gazel", "gazal", or "ghazal".
Who Is Rumi?
Mevlana Celaleddin-i Rumi, Turkish
poet and mystic, was born in Belh, in Afghanistan, on September 30, 1207
A.D. His six volume Mesnevi, consisting of 25700 couplets, is a major work
in Persian-Islamic mysticism, as well as being widely admired as poetry.
The date he started writing is unknown, but he started on the second volume
of his magnum opus in 1264.
second major work, Divan-i Sems (sometimes called Divan-i Kebir) is a
collection of verses called "gazels" (also translated as "gazals" or "ghazals").
It is regarded by poetry lovers as the height of poetry and music, and
by mystics as the mature expression of his consciousness of universal
unity (Vahdet-i Vucud).
Mevlana also produced works called
Fihi Ma-Fih, Mecalis-i Seba and Mektubat ( or Letters ) which have all
been translated into Turkish, and also, in part or in full, into Arabic,
English, French and German.
You can find a sample selection
of his poems at http://www.armory.com/~thrace/sufi/poems.html
Here are a couple:
On the Deathbed
Go, rest your head on a pillow, leave
me alone; leave me ruined,
exhausted from the journey of this night,
writhing in a wave of passion till the dawn.
Either stay and be forgiving,
or, if you like, be cruel and leave.
Flee from me, away from trouble;
take the path of safety, far from this danger.
We have crept into this corner of grief,
turning the water wheel with a flow of tears.
While a tyrant with a heart of flint slays,
and no one says, "Prepare to pay the blood money."
Faith in the king comes easily in lovely times,
but be faithful now and endure, pale lover.
No cure exists for this pain but to die,
So why should I say, "Cure this pain"? In a dream last night I saw
an ancient one in the garden of love,
beckoning with his hand, saying, "Come here."
On this path, Love is the emerald,
the beautiful green that wards off dragonsnough,
I am losing myself. If you are a man of learning,
read something classic,
a history of the human struggle
and don't settle for mediocre verse.
O lovers, lovers it is time
to set out from the world.
I hear a drum in my soul's ear
coming from the depths of the stars.
Our camel driver is at work;
the caravan is being readied.
He asks that we forgive him
for the disturbance he has caused us,
He asks why we travellers are asleep.
Everywhere the murmur of departure;
the stars, like candles
thrust at us from behind blue veils,
and as if to make the invisible plain,
a wondrous people have come forth.
For a lovely visual touch, see http://www.rassouli.com/rumi.htm
-- artworks inspired by Rumi's poetry.
What is a Ghazal?
An important thing to remember when
studying the technical aspects of the ghazal form is that they deal with
the poem as written in the original language -- and many of the technical
elements don't make the transition in translation. The original Urdu, for
instance, consists of an odd number of rhymed couplets -- usually 7, 9,
or 11 -- in which the first couplet uses a double rhyme and the remaining
couplet repeat the second half of the rhyme as a refrain.
is an example, in Urdu:
ta.ng A chuke hae.n kaSHmakaSH-e-zindagI
THukrA na de.n jahA.n ko kahI.n bedilI se ham
lo Aj hamne toR diyA riSHtA-e-umId
lo ab kabHI gilA na kare.nge kisI se ham
"zindagl" rhymes with "bedill" and
"se ham" echoes "se ham"; this rhyming pattern is repeated at the end
of every second line, as in "kisl se ham".
Each sher in the ghazal must be
of the same meter, or "beher". There are 19 forms of Urdu meter, more
simply classified as "short", "medium" and "long". The intricacies are
based on the characteristics of the Urdu language and its pattern of vowels
It is quite useless to try to pick
these patterns out in the poems of Rumi quoted above, however, because
those poems have been translated into English.
In order for us to create ghazals
in English, therefore, we have a choice of two approaches:
It is also possible to attempt both.
- Create patterns in English that
are as similar to the traditional Urdu patterns as possible: a series
of couples in consistent meter, using a rhyming refrain at the end of
each second line.
- Attempt to duplicate the style
of musical language, the quality of elevated thought, and the pattern
of each couplet being meaningful in itself that are typical of the ghazal.
I recommend that you browse the reference
sites above and read a few more ghazal to acquaint yourself with the pattern.
Then write your own ghazal.
Which of the elements of the ghazal
does the poem demonstrate?
- Written in couplets
- The couplets are all the same
length and meter
- Each couplet could stand as a
poem on its own
- A rhyming pattern unites all
the couplets: a double rhyme in both first lines, repeated at the end
of every second line
- The poem sounds musical
- The poem expresses almost mystical
thought or wisdom
- It sounds like
one lover speaking to another