MIR Anees, one of the most awe-inspiring poets of Urdu, says:

Laga raha hoon mazameen-i-nau ke phir ambaar
Khabar karo mere khirman ke khosha cheeno ko

This can loosely be translated as:

‘I am amassing the fruits of new thoughts yet again,
Let those know who make gleanings form my crop.’

Indeed Anees was taunting his literary opponents who, so he thought, used to take ideas from his poetry and present them as their own. Here the word mazameen, plural of Arabic word mazmoon, has been used to say: contents, purports, theme of poetry, thoughts or significations, albeit now the word mazmoon means essay or article in Urdu.

Prof Dr Baseera Ambreen has named her new book Mazameen-i-Nau. As nau means new, she has subtly used the double-entendre alluding to Anees’s couplet. She apparently means ‘new essays or new articles’ and new purports or new thoughts are definitely there. Just published by Lahore’s Daar-un-Navaadir, the book contains 10 papers discussing the art and thoughts of Urdu and Persian poets, deliberating on some technical aspects of Urdu and Persian poetry.

She writes in her brief foreword “this book of mine is a collection of my research and critical papers that deal with some select classical and modern poets and their styles and dominant tendencies. ... also, some technical and linguistic aspects, such as allegory, tazmeen (emulation), proverb, idiom, metaphor, metonym and symbol etc., have been discussed”. Thus the book proffers “the glimpses of greatness of classical poetry as well as uniqueness of modern poets”, she adds.

What binds these papers together is the idea to explore the technical, stylistic and rhetorical finer points of poetry written by some of Urdu’s outstanding poets, classical as well as modern, such as Mir Taqi Mir, Altaf Husain Hali, Muhammad Husain Azad, Majeed Amjad and Aslam Ansari.

Two articles included in the book discuss tazmeen, or emulation, a figure of rhetoric, wherein a line or couplet from a well-known poet is inserted, with or without minor changes, in one’s poetry. It is a kind of borrowing to either give the emulated line or couplet a new meaning in a deeper context or to add something to one’s own ideas. When skilfully used, this technique can bring in wonderful results, adding to the joy of poetry, both the original and the quoted one.

An article in the book surveys and reviews samples of tazmeen composed by classical poets such as Mir Taqi Mir, Mirza Sauda, Mushafi, Mir Dard, Nasikh, Bahadur Shah Zafar and many others. Interestingly, many of the inserted lines are from classical Persian poetry and this not only shows the influence of Persian poetry on Urdu’s classical poets but also shows Dr Baseera’s profound study of Persian literature. She has quoted the original full texts of such insertions or emulations, further explaining the meaning and expounding the context.

Another article in the book discusses tazmeen as found in modern Urdu poetry too. In the modern era, writes Dr Baseera, a peculiar aspect of tazmeen is that poets from different and opposing schools of thought inserted lines or couplets from earlier poets and used them to strengthen their own point of view. But many of them used the quoted lines for enhancing effect of their own poetry, thereby giving different angle and depth to their own thought.

For instance, Shibli, Iqbal, Hasrat Mohani, Akhter Sherani, Makhdoom Mohiuddin, Tilok Cand Mahroom, Fani Badayuni, Akhter-ul-Iman, Jigar Muradabadi, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Nasir Kazmi and many others employed the technique of tazmeen to greater effects.

An interesting article in the book discusses Omar Khayyam’s poetry, its translation by Fitzgerald and how Mirajee used Fitzgerald’s translation to create his own poetic work that had its own meanings and feelings but little resemblance to what Khayyam had said originally.

While introducing poetry of Omar Khayyam (1048-1131) and its English translation by Fitzgerald, Dr Baseera has stressed the fact that the West, largely due to Fitzgerald’s translation, sees Omar Khayyam as a poet whose speciality is wine poetry, or khamriyat, as known in Urdu. While in reality, Omar Khayyam’s rubaiyaat, or quatrains, do not only sing of wine and ask the reader to have joy, as it has deeper meanings presented with symbols. Fitzgerald’s translation has often been criticised for being too loose and often just a line has been taken and translated with added things, without considering the real message. But it suits the West to swing to the thoughts like “a jug of wine, a loaf of bread and thou”, and “the flower that once has blown, dies forever”, attributed to Khayyam.

The article compares Mirajee’s translation with the original Persian and the English translation.

With the help of her hugely vast reading of Urdu and Persian poetry, Dr Baseera has discussed topics that others usually do not try their hand at.

drraufparekh@yahoo.com

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2023

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