A Voice from Ancient Delhi: “ After Tomorrow the Days Disappear”

by Brenda Gould and Beth Gould

ancientdelhi

My daughter Rebecca Gould is an author, translator and professor at the University of Bristol, UK. Her sister Beth lives in Ashland and has reviewed Rebecca’s new work, a compilation of ancient poems from the Sufi poet, Hasan Sijzi of Delhi.

In January 1995, my 14-year old Rebecca helped me move to Medford before leaving to continue her studies at Shasta College in Redding. She returned to our valley that summer for SOU courses and the next summer for Shakespeare plays. In a few years she would leave the West Coast for studies from New York to around the globe and to become a scholar of Russian, Georgian, Arabic and Persian literatures. Rebecca’s studies of Persian led her to explore Sufi poetry of the 12 th and13 th century (the era of Rumi) and to translate, compile and organize this collection from the Indo-Persian poet Hasan Sijzi of Delhi.

— -Brenda Gould

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The following review is by Beth Gould

This translation of poetry by the Indo-Persian poet Hasan Sijzi of Delhi (1253-c.1330) collects 70 of his poems. The city of Delhi, India was then ruled by the Persian-speaking Ghurid dynasty, which originated in what is now Afghanistan. Hasan Sijzi descended from immigrants of eastern Afghanistan and Iran who had fled the Mongol invasions to South Asia and had taken up residence in Delhi in search of new opportunities and a peaceful existence. Delhi served as “a haven for wandering scholars and poets”; Hasan began writing poetry at the age of thirteen. By the early modern period he was regarded as central to both Indo-Persian literature and to the history of Indian Sufism.
Hasan is considered the originator of the Persian poetic form known as the ghazal. Most of the poets who practiced this form have not been translated, but the ones best known to Western readers include Hafez (who was influenced by Sijzi's work) and Rumi. The poems translated in this collection include 50 ghazals. A ghazal has five or more rhyming couplets, with each line sharing the same meter. In the second line of each couplet, a word, syllable, or set of syllables recurs as a refrain. This refrain, called the radif, is given at the end of each ghazal so that readers of the translation can see where the radif is used in the original poem. The other poems include seventeen quatrains (ruba’i), fragments of poetry, and an ode (qasida).

Here are three poems that I especially liked.

Ghazal 1
Since my lover parted two days have passed.
Every joy left this body when he parted.
Like a bird torn from its nest, I lament
separation from the beloved’s door.
When life was severed from the body,
It became impossible to part from the beloved’s door.
Observe the city, killed by the arrow of my lover’s glance;
Signs of parting puncture the arrow’s tips.
Time yearns for blood, while the grief
Of my beloved’s departure is killed by stars.
Since it is my fate to be killed by grief,
I am severed from sorrow, stars and time.
Observe Hasan: far from his beloved,
unaware of his heart, far from home.

Ghazal 16
The universe has no one to be one with;
Out of hundreds of watchers,
not one can see.
Fate’s tree is crowned with thorns;
you can search forever but
no blossom will break its opacity.
Promises make the rounds of this world,
giving hopes not theirs to give.
Since the world has no sweetness,
restrain your bitterness when you see
the man selling vinegar. He will pass
to the seven roofs of heaven and see
that even the eight gardens offer no safety.
Hasan, why do your thoughts linger here?
After tomorrow, the days disappear.

Ghazal 17

The flower’s petal is moistened by rain
The branch’s spine is bent from the wind.
Oh bird! What creates each morning’s loud lament?
Or does it cry from despair?
Look at the garden, beautiful inside and out.
I too have times of rejoicing.
Although there is a turtledove on the roof today,
its voice and rhythm constantly make sounds.
Oh Saqi! Arise and pour the wine.
Hasan is not up to this feast.
His heart is free from the world’s pains.
His peace exceeds the world’s grief.
The *Ka’ba of faith—greatness of the world—
holds in its palm the water of Zamzam.