Paradise, that garden lavishly so praised by pious ascetics,
I deem a mere bunch of flowers placed by a nobody in a forgotten niche.
Piercing injustice, droplets of blood drawn by your piercing lashes:
Each transforms into a pierced bead strung on a coral rosary.
Though my lament was powerless to stop the Puissant’s act of murder:
The straw gripped between my teeth, token of my submission, became a resounding reed.
If the world would grant me the time, I would give it a sight to behold:
Each wound, each scar of my heart, would be a seed of light in a firework tree.
Concealed within my code I nurse the germ of my personal dissolution:
Absent the farmer’s hot and sanguine toil, no risk of lighting-blighted harvest.
When a rankness of green invades the desolate house, there will be no chance stranger’s visit:
The doorman then, to keep his post, must evict the intrusive weeds.
Within its hidden silence the blood reverts to a lakh of longings:
I am a burned out lamp sans its tongue of flame, within a stranger’s tomb
But there still remains the splendid ray of the image of the thought of the beloved
In the constricting coldness of the heart’s prison cell vacated by resplendent Joseph.
Beside another I now suspect you lie, who gives you this reason:
Else why would you visit my dreams with the secret smiles reserved for lovers?
Who owns your tears, formed of my blood which now have reverted to water?
Those vanquishing drops distilled from ruined hearts would call down ruin and disaster.
Within the ambit of my gaze now falls the path leading me on to oblivion,
And oblivion is the thread which binds all the worlds many and scattered pages.
But the garden I once loved is now transmogrified vexation
And I am made breathless by unrelenting rose-scented inspiration.
It was not fated in this lifetime that we should be united with the beloved,
But even so, a longer life span would merely have prolonged the waiting.
Though we lived clinging to your promise, we still recognised its falseness-
For had we known it to be true, we would have died of jubilation.
From your fragile delicacy, we surmised your promise could be easily broken:
If it had been sturdier it would have resisted all your efforts to shatter it.
What manner of friendship consists on merely offering counsel?
Commiseration would have been far more helpful in its stead.
From this vein embedded in the rock there would issue an unstoppable hemorrhage
If but a spark from this grief were to explode, it would cause extensive bloody damage.
Even though grief is life-destroying, what escape is there for those who have a heart?
But for the grace inherent in this grief of passion, a myriad mundane griefs would conquer us instead.
Death comes accompanied by public disgrace – rather to be sunk obscurely in the sea’
Sans the necessity of a cortège or obsequies – or the occasions of a memorial tomb.
Who has set eyes on it, ever? for the Prime Cause is ineffable, singular and unique.
If two had been present at the beginning, there would have been foremost some chance of meeting.
Ghalib,! this might well serve as your exegetical discourse on mystical subjects –
And we would almost take you for a saint, did we not already take you for an imbiber!
However distinctly we may recall the embellishments of those convivial gatherings,
Now they are faded neglections in the niche where they were formerly displayed.
The bearers of the bier, those celestial beauties concealed and veiled by day
Emerge in night’s darkness undissembling – what prompts these naked revelations?
Jacob, when deprived of any word from his imprisoned and beloved Joseph,
Nonetheless, with his blinding tears, wore fissures on the blank walls of that cell.
Even though all other lovers are found to be chagrined by their rivals,
Zulaikha delights in hers – since they share her own wounding obsession.
Let a stream of bloody tears flow from the eyes, during the night of separation:
I will suppose that by this act, two candles will materialise and be illuminated.
In paradise we’ll surely be avenged on these elusive flame-born Effulgents,
If by God’s justice, when we attain to heaven, they are bequeathed to us as lovers.
Scarcely had I set foot in the garden when they broke out in a student chorus ,
The nightingales who eavesdropped on my sighs, reciting poetic couplets.
God! why do those remembered glances still pierce me through the heart?
Those fleeting piercing looks belied by the deceptive delicacy of lashes.
Though parried, more and thickly, sighs came ripping and piercing from within my breast:
But then those sighs themselves amended the rending, as does the needle with the thread.
Would I repair to her, what new recompense could now be found for her contempt?
Since all my blessings have been exhausted on the one employed to always bar access.
Our faith resides within a singular divinity, we abjure laws, proscriptions, customs:
When such divisions are effaced, all will revert to an unique and faithful function.
By the embracing of accustomed grief, grief itself becomes obliterated:
Beset by showers of difficulty, accustomed difficulties are borne with ease.
O denizens of this world, if Ghalib capriciously is compelled to persist in useless weeping,
You will then behold the desolation of the earth’s cities and their complete desolation.
These translations derived by Dia Tsung, courtesy of South Asia study resources compiled by Dr. Frances Pritchett, Columbia University.