Category Archive: Verse

Waxwing slain


Death in Leamington

तीर पर कैसे रुकूँ मैं

तीर पर कैसे रुकू मैं आज लहरों में निमंत्रण!

रात का अंतिम प्रहर है, झिलमिलतें हैं सितारे
वक्ष पर युग बाहु बाँधे, मैं खड़ा सागर किनारे,
वेग से बहता प्रभंजन केश पट मेरा उड़ाता,
शून्य में भरता उदधि-उर की रहस्यमयी पुकारें;
इन पुकरों की प्रतिध्वनि हो रही मेरे ह्रदय में,
है प्रतिच्छायित जहाँ पर सिंधू का हिल्लोल कम्पन
तीर पर कैसे रुकू मैं आज लहरों में निमंत्रण!

जड़ जगत में वास कर भी जड़ नहीं व्यवहार कवि का,
भावनाओं से विनर्मित और ही संसार कवि का,
बूँद के उच्छ्वास को भी अनसुनी करता नहीं वह,
किस तरह होता उपेक्षा पात्र पारावार कवि का;
विश्व पीड़ा से, सुपरिचित हो तरल बनने, पिघलने,
त्यागकर आया यहाँ कवि स्वप्न लोकों के प्रलोभन;
तीर पर कैसे रुकू मैं आज लहरों में निमंत्रण!

जिस तरह मरु के ह्रदय में है कहीं लहरा रहा सर,
जिस तरह पावस पवन में है पपीहे का छिपा स्वर,
जिस तरह से अश्रु-आहों से भरी कवि की निशा में
नींद की परियाँ बनाती कल्पना का लोक सुखकर,
सिन्धु के इस तीव्र हाहाकार ने, विश्वास मेरा,
है छुपा रखा कहीं पर एक रस-परिपूर्ण गायन;
तीर पर कैसे रुकू मैं आज लहरों में निमंत्रण!

आ रहीं प्राची क्षितिज से खींचने वाली सदाएँ,
मानवों के भाग्य-निर्णायक सितारों! दो दुआएँ,
नाव, नाविक, फेर ले जा, है नहीं कुछ काम इसका,
आज लहरों से उलझने को फड़कती है भुजाएँ;
प्राप्त हो उस भी इस पार सा चाहे अंधेरा,
प्रप्त हो युग की उषा चाहे लुटाती नव किरण धन;
तीर पर कैसे रुकूँ मैं, आज लहरों में निमन्त्रण!

-हरिवंशराय बच्चन

Damn, you English language

The teacher claimed it was so plain,
I only had to use my brain.
She said the past of throw was threw,
The past of grow - of course - was grew,
So flew must be the past of fly,
And now, my boy, your turn to try.
But when I trew,
I had no clue,
If mow was mew
Like know and knew
(Or is it knowed
Like snow and snowed?)

The teacher frowned at me and said
The past of feed was - plainly - fed.
Fed up, I knew then what I ned;
I took a break, and out I snoke,
She shook and quook (or quaked? or quoke?)
With raging anger out she broke;
Your ignorance you want to hide?
Tell me the past form of collide!
But how on earth should I decide
If it's collid
(Like hide and hid),
Or else - from all that I surmose,
The past of rise was simply rose,
And that of ride was simply rode,
So of collide must be collode?

Oh damn these English verbs, I thought
The whole thing absolutely stought!
Of English I have had enough,
Those verbs of yours are far too tough.
Bolt upright in my chair I sat,
And said to her 'that's that' - I quat.

-Guy Deutscher

Melancholy Maiden

Child of the pure unclouded brow
And dreaming eyes of wonder!
Though time be fleet, and I and thou
Are half a life asunder,
Thy loving smile will surely hail
The love-gift of a fairy-tale.

I have not see thy sunny face,
Nor heard thy silver laughter;
No thought of me shall find a place
In thy young life's hereafter-
Enough that now thou wilt not fail
To listen to my fairy-tale.

A tale begun in other days
When summer suns were glowing-
A simple chime, that served to time
The rhythm of our rowing-
Whose echoes live in memory yet.
Though envious years would say "forget."

Come, hearken then, ere voice of dread,
With bitter tidings laden,
Shall summon to unwelcome bed
A melancholy maiden!
We are but older children, dear,
Who fret to find our bedtime near.

Without, the frost, the blinding snow,
The storm-wind's moody madness-
Within, the fireflight's ruddy glow
And childhood's nest of gladness,
The magic words shall hold thee fast:
Thou shalt not heed the raving blast.

And though the shadow of a sigh
May tremble through the story,
For "happy summer days" gone by,
And vanish'd summer glory-
It shall not touch with breath of bale,
The pleasance of our fairy-tale.

-Lewis Carroll from 'Alice: Through the looking glass.'

How... poignant and pertinent!

The Golden Gate - Vikram Seth

11263_f260A bittersweet lovestory it's in verse
of hope and sadness, jealousy and loss,
of love which always has hateful obverse,
set against the lovely Francisco canvas.

Language at once both beautiful and wise
set in the tetrameter's confines,
a work as evocative as Monet,
unflinching rhymes, and refreshing sonnet.

Through joy and sorrow the characters drift,
like the unsure antics of fog and mist,
the Golden Gate often is in whose fist,
A belated thanks for this thoughtful gift.

To read it, I remember you had willed,
That promise, dear, today stands fulfilled.

P.S: The book is in iambic tetrameter but since I have no feel for it, the only thing I could manage was a pentameter. It's a good book, highly recommended.


How can anyone have the ignorance to presume that 'Alice in Wonderland' is a mere children story when Lewis Carrol has also given us Jabberwocky. A poem which is often hailed as the greatest nonsense poem ever written and which probably holds the record for the most number of new words introduced into the language for a literary work this short (can you identify some?). Here, I share one of my favorite poems, a work that more than makes up for its lack of meaning with its aesthetic depth, which is a testimony to the primal allure of sounds and the pulchritudinous potential of the written word:


'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought—
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! and through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.

"And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!"
He chortled in his joy.

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

-Lewis Carrol

The poem has been translated into a number of languages but translators were faced with the challenge of inventing their own words since a lot of words in the original poem were entirely made up. Not only did they not have counterparts in other languages, Carrol did not even make it clear what they were intended to mean in the first place. Here I produce a German translation by Robert Scott:

Es brillig war. Die schlichten Toven
Wirrten und wimmelten in Waben;
Und aller-mumsige Burggoven
Die mohmen Rath ausgraben

>>Bewahre doch vor Jammerwoch!
Die Zahne knirschen, Krallen kratzen!
Bewahr' vor Jubjub-Vogel, vor
frumiosen Banderschnatzchen!<<

Er griff sein vorpals Schwertchen zu,
Er suchte lang das manchsam' Ding;
Dann, stehend unterm Tumtum Baum,
Er an-zu-denken-fing.

Als stand er tief in Andacht auf,
Des Jammerwochen's Augen feuer
Durch turgen Wald mit Wiffek kam
ein burbelnd Ungeheuer!

Eins, Zwei! Eins, Zwei! Und durch und durch
Sein vorpals Schwert zerschnifer-schnuck,
Da blieb es todt! Er, Kopf in Hand,
Gelaumfig zog zuruck.

>>Und schlugst Du ja den Jammerwoch?
Umarme mich, mein Bohm'sches Kind!
O Freuden-Tag! O Halloo-Schlag!<<
Er schortelt froh-gesinnt.

Es brillig war. Die schlichten Toven
Wirrten und wimmelten in Waben;
Und aller-mumsige Burggoven
Die mohmen Rath ausgraben

-Robert Scott (courtesy: Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid)

I wonder if there is an Indian language translation...

I was reading 'The Ballad of Reading Gaol'. A few lines worth sharing:

Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word.
The coward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!

Some kill their love when they are young,
And some when they are old;
Some strangle with the hands of Lust,
Some with the hands of Gold:
The kindest use a knife, because
The dead so soon grow cold.

Some love too little, some too long,
Some sell, and others buy;
Some do the deed with many tears,
And some without a sigh:
For each man kills the thing he loves,
Yet each man does not die.


Such a poetical exposition of the essential connection between love and hate that leaves them both tangled in each others embrace, hanging in an exquisite balance whose unstable equilibrium is a relationship.

Foggy and Gloomy

Wilde once said that all bad poetry is a result of honest emotions. Well... at least my poetry is bad... it's in fact verse!

I wonder what to write on
in times of such distress,
with gloomy days and foggy nights
solitude lone buttress.
Specters rise in ghostly dance
from all engulfing mist,
I raise my hand to touch them all,
moisture my mistress.

Memory with its shearing edge
cuts carves clean car-cass,
and chops it to a deja vu
bludgeons it to molass.
And I walk on with eyes put fix
into the foggy dark,
anxiety, nerves, concern, shivers,
trepidation en masse.

Ink in the pen, starts to dry
with careless nonchalance,
in horror do I gape at the
precarious imbalance.
As it tilts here and it tilts there
I'm left to ruminate,
over our hollow rein on life,
self-deluding pretense.

Well... too gloomy I think, too dark. No no, things are not nearly dark enough but midway through it I was seized by the romantic imagery of it all. It's a vicious circle, gloom. It feeds on itself. The more eloquently you express it, the more beautiful, alluring, all-consuming it becomes until you are reduced to a whining, bleeding heart that your emotion and sympathy laden ideas want you to be. I know it from experience and I believe it very deeply that I have been dealt a more than fair hand. My travails have not been worse than anyone else's just like the travails of most people in the world are probably worse only in their own eyes. But such rational justifications do not stop me from writing self-indulgent, morose lines like the ones above. Hmmm... was it Gandhi who once said that to be happy, you only need to look at a person sadder than you?


In one of the most poignant scenes in Bollywood history, a hyperventilating Rajesh Khanna says to a massively worried Amitabh Bachchan, 'जो खत्म हो रहा है वो शरीर है।' (That which is ending is the body) and follows it up with one of the most beautiful poems I've ever come across:

मौत तू एक कविता है,
मुझसे एक कविता का वादा है मिलेगी मुझको

डूबती नब्ज़ों में जब दर्द को नींद आने लगे
ज़र्द सा चेहरा लिये जब चांद उफक तक पहुचे
दिन अभी पानी में हो, रात किनारे के करीब
ना अंधेरा ना उजाला हो, ना अभी रात ना दिन

जिस्म जब ख़त्म हो और रूह को जब साँस आऐ
मुझसे एक कविता का वादा है मिलेगी मुझको

which, when translated reads like:

Death, you are a poem,
and you shall meet me; in your poetic promise.

when pain begins to subside in my sinking pulse,
and the pale moon reaches the horizon.
while the day is still in water, and night lurks on the bank,
neither dark nor alight, when it's neither a day nor a night

when the body ends and the soul takes breath,
you shall meet me; in your poetic promise.


Not the brightest of thoughts with which to start the day but it does serve to elucidate the power of creative effort. Art, in its best attempt, trying to veil the hideous reality in a beautiful raiment, thereby engendering an experience that is as rooted in ethereal beauty as in dead certainty. Bare truth is not only depressing, it's also predictably boring. A creative vision, in the above example, seeking to redress reality's morbid obsession with its own mediocrity and inevitability.