The Master of Marsia
Mir Babar Ali Anis was a renowned Urdu Poet. He was born in Faizabad in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in 1803 A.D. For many generations, the ancestors of Mir Anis had enjoyed distinction in poetry and literature. “The Mir was warm Hearted, Humility-loving and mirthful.” The atmosphere which Anis was brought up, did condition his life. The result was that he had matured into a sober, serious-minded and cultured man with an unshakable belief in self-dignity. His artistic temperament, punctuated with a sober and serious attitude towards life, made him sensitive and touchy. The same sensitivities are reflected at places his Rubais and Marsias. But, where as Anis was a highly self- respecting man, on the contrary, he was considerably self-effacing, such a great lover and exponent of truth the poet was that, for its bold expression, he cared for none. Anis knew the taste and requirements of His age and was ready to contribute to it his own share. Not only had he written his marsia with the utmost of gusto and buoyancy, but He recited his works with the dramatic fervor and faultless perfection of an actor, sometimes through the most appropriate gestures.
As a poet Mir Anis was doubtlessly great and prolific, His fame was not confined to Lucknow or Awadh alone, it spread in the length and breathe of India, wherever the poet went, he drew large crowds and his audience comprised of men of all castes, creeds and religions. The number of his marsias runs into hundreds, if the whole number of his works is calculated in terms of couplets, Anis is said to have composed at least one hundred thousand couplets. He was a poet of Ghazal too. Had he continued composing ghazals, he would have perhaps earned a lasting fame in that field too. But there is a narrative that His father advised him to devote his talents to marsia and marsia lone. As an obedient son, he acted upon the advice of his father. His productive age was fairly long and he spent about 54 years in composing Marsias, Salams and Rubais.
It had not been less bountiful with regard to his talents for the rubai and beyond doubt; Mir Anis had an extraordinary capability for the writing of rubais. It is a fact that many compilations of the rubaiyat of Mir Anis have appeared, but the most voluminous and qualitative is the compilation of Syed Mohammed Abbas. The Book is titled “Rubaiyat-e-Anis”. In the preface, the learned compiler has shed much light on the artistic excellence of the rubais of Mir Anis. In recent years, other selections of the works including the rubais of Mir Anis have also seen the light of the day. out of these selections the valuable ones are Hakim Amjad Ali Ash’hari’s “Hayat-e-Anis”, Prof. Masood Husain Rizvi Adib’s “Rooh-e-Anis” and Ehsanullah Abbasi’s”Nishtar-e-Sukhan”.
He immeasurably enriched the contents of the rubai, making it much more colorful and multi dimensional. Anis further invigorated the rubai by introducing the tragic events of “Karbala” to it and their Moralistic Effect. Thus, he widened the scope of rubai to unfathomable limits. The result was that, after marsia, the rubai came to be reckoned as the most potential and representative medium for the didactic and reformative Urdu poetry.
The inclusion of Karbala resulted in the florescence of the Urdu Rubai. Thus, many internal and external aspects of our life found their echo in the Urdu Rubai. Along with the adoration of Ahle-Bait (The Progeny of the Holy Prophet) and lamentation for the cruel treatment meted out to them, a variety of new topics such as fortitude and forbearance, resoluteness and determination, love and amity, fidelity and faithfulness, service and sacrifice, righteousness and truthfulness, submissiveness and humility, self-effacement and selfishness, perseverance and purposefulness, and many themes of kindred nature cropped up. These virtues got a place in the spectrum of rubai. The contrasting vices such as selfishness, lust for power and pelf, lust for passion, cowardice, hard-heartedness, infidelity, atheism, agnosticism etc were condemned. Rubai, like marsia, was further enriched with the inclusion of these vices. Thus for Mir Anis, rubai was not an exercise of imagination. It was a purposeful and effective medium for upholding and promoting the moral values of life.
These are the greatest Rubaiyat from “Mir Babar Ali Anis”.
In an orchard I stroll, the scenic land I look,
Or treasures of mount, river and land I Look,
Everywhere, myriad is manifestations of Nature,
Dazed I am, with two eyes what a world grand I look.
Adoration of God
In the orchard, the wind blows but for Thee,
The music of nightingale flows but for Thee,
Each object mirrors they Majesty and Magnificence,
Each flower I smell, mellows but for Thee.
Adoration of the Holy Prophet
Mohammed-like Sovereign, the world hasn’t seen,
Aware of each divine secret, he has been,
Subtle are the words, regarding the Apostle’s Ascent,
Speak not; all speech here appears but lean.
Adulation of Ahle-Bait
Propitious he is, upon whom Shabbir showers affection,
Rewarded are the high and the low, with compassion,
A pebble he can turn into a touchstone,
And speck of dust into balm and unction.
Gone from this world, are very many rich men,
Wealth accompanied them not, nor their children,
After burying the dead, came back the bereaved,
Good deeds alone consorted him to chasten.
Old Age and Youth
The whole life will pass, but in this way,
Spread shall the news, of death and decay,
O anis! Lament not, for the dissipated youth,
Old age too, has to run out, one day.
Provisions for Life Hereafter
Sleep no more, it’s time to wake,
Close is parting time, provisions ye take,
The passenger sojourns there, after the death,
Horrible is grave, in it’s very make.
By embracing death, the comer has come to Thy lap,
Having forsaken all, he lie’s Thy grasp,
Why not to rest in Thy fold, O Grave!,
I have got thee, for my life’s mishap.
Tidings there are, death is in the offing,
O ignorant!, after food and drink, thou are running,
Life shall perish, Death shall prevail,
The proof of Thy going is Thy coming.
Selection of Men
From an ignorant being, I expect not eulogy,
It be a friend or foe, I listen to all and sundry,
Verily, the flavor of friendship fades not,
I remove thorns and pluck the flowers gently.
It’s God who exalts, whomever He wishes,
Self-effacing is the man, humility he practises,
Swaggering suits only to the brainless being,
As to an empty vessel, noise pleases.
To man, God Raised to what an exaltation,
He raised the low, to the summit of sublimation,
Life, Sense, Intellect, faculties of feeling and faith,
To this scum, He elevated to what a station!
I pine not for pelf, nor for any treasure,
Poverty has indeed its own sweet pleasure,
Brimmed are my eyes, with riches of contentment,
Where no rich man, any more does measure.
His Intellectually Tremendous Work
The days of pain how to pass,
Few moments of life yet lumbering, how to pass,
Thanks Anis, past is senility’s noon,
But in grave, night’s occurring, how to pass.
“To every mortal being, eternal I regarded,
Valuable I deemed, that which is to be discarded,
In the ocean of eternity, life is like a bubble,
O ignorant! What’s life? A trifling unrewarded”.
“Each moment of my life may pass in Thy adoration
I submit but to thy prayer and prostration,
O God! Grant me such a span of life,
This may pass in obedience and resignation”.
“Engrossed I ever be, in the messenger’s adoration,
My tongue be used, for the successor’s adoration,
O God! My age be spent like that of a quill,
In Thy prostration, in the savior’s adoration”.
“Drunk deep I am, at each step I waver,
My tavern is my heaven, a source of great pleasure,
Intoxicated I am with love, for the cup-bearer of Kausar.
My eyes are glasses, my heart a real measure”.
“Life is remission, do not spend,
For a while, look at the end,
The lengthening shadow of hope is vain,
Tomorrow is departure, shorten the tale, O Friend!”.
“It’s but for Thy blessing that position I hold,
Respect I command, by bowing at Thy Threshold,
Riches, reverence and unflagging faith,
From Thy treasure, I got gold!”
“Worthy of Thy Majesty, who worshipped Thee, O Creator!,
Each moment, Thy Grace is upon the transgressor,
On the doomsday, I shall but observe,
My sins or Thy Mercy, Which outweigh in measure”.
The oneness of God, each blade of grass manifests,
His Attributes and Grace, each flower reflects,
Like an unbounded sea, is the bosom of man,
Where each breath, the ebb and flow of life sets.
A Peerless gem Husain is, in the vast and Mighty Ocean
Like Mohammed, He is the leader of our nation,
He triumphed over love, by the sacrifice of his Life,
Husain, among the martyrs, is highest in exaltation.
One who craves salvation?
Disgusted he is, with this world of temptation,
How can an eye envelope the two?
O ignorant! Inebriety this is, that’s all sensation.
No hope for life, Sajjad had kept,
Peacefully at night, he never slept.
Never was his face lit with laughter,
For forty years, to his father, he went.
Inhabited is a house, another in desolation,
Marry is one, somebody, a picture of lamentation,
A blend of joy and sorrow, in this world,
Somewhere it’s chest-beat, somewhere exultation.
Alas! Time has changed to a tune, all somber,
A new age has dawned; old order is no longer,
Get away soon from here, O Anis! ,
There is everywhere, chaos and disorder.
Ah this transgression, this pollution of heart,
O anis! Yielded you, to the passion of heart,
These flaunting for your white dress,
How blackened in your soul, what a corruption of heart!.
Even after along span of life, death is a must,
The bubble that life is, shall soon burst,
Make provisions for life hereafter,
O ignorant! Leaving this world, thou shalt go to dust.
To mop tears, a hanky, one has to keep,
These days and these nights are not to sleep,
O friends! The long year is for rejoicings,
Such are Ten Days, When one Wishes to Weep.
From Zodiac, the radiant sun will greet,
Pearl-forming substance, into shell shall seat,
Whether east or West, Buried wherever he is,
The lover of Haider, at Najaf will meet.
As age advanced, eye lost their light,
Companions of youth were out of sight,
Be not oblivious of shroud, O Anis!
Camphoric became the musky hair in a night.
Breath in Bosom is, like the light of day,
Each traveler in this caravan is, on the way,
Never would Anis so lag behind,
O Long Life! It’s all Thy Play.
In silent there resides, the beauty of oration,
In folded eyes these exists, the power of all vision,
Friends fret not, nor frown foes,
How horrible is indeed, grave’s seclusion!
Turning sideward, when do here and there I look?,
Wonder-struck I am, whither I Look,
Be it this world or hereafter, the earth or the sky,
Thou and Thou alone art seen, everywhere I Look.
Born we are for the sorrow to bewail,
Weeping nourishes eyes, without any fail,
With two precious things, god has blessed us all,
Eyes and hands, with these the mourners regale.
Each day there was, a new composition,
Soothing were words, cogent their exposition,
From the pulpit, I fed them novel thoughts,
Down came manna, such was supposition.
Separation has made my heart anguished,
Flames of fire, my signs have extinguished,
Out, out, soon O Anis! Life is ebbing out,
Hapless India is no longer distinguished.
At the grandeur of the King, the shudder,
Servile acts they discharge, with utmost fervor,
This is the way that in ‘Tazia-Khana’.
The banners are bent, when they enter.
Nightingale learns from me, the felicity or oration,
Novelty I give, to the way of lamentation,
For limitless weeping, clouds envy my eyes,
My tears teach rivers, flow and fermentation.
No utterance be there, except in adulation,
From bosom there surges, a sigh of lamentation,
Ransom be my soul, for You and You, O Husain!,
I die for Your Love, with all Exultation.
Unrelenting were the buffets of adversity,
The boat sank, the crew lost in all dignity,
All riddles were but related to life, O Anis!
When I existed not, nothing remained in reality.
Surfeiting sorrow for that noble soul,
May cause a stream of tears to roll,
From the eyes, the drops drip at a time,
Making each-lash, a flowery band as a whole.
No Sorrow is palatable as this lamentation,
In thrashing, chest feels delectable sensation,
Tears became precious pearls, each eye thus speaks,
In Moharrum’s Month, Weeping is an act of Exhilaration.
The stages canopy, I Witnessed,
The heavenly glory, I Witnessed,
Thanks Heaven, To Najaf I flew like dust,
Bu Turab’s courtly beauty, I Witnessed.
Whither wanders, with thy head trailing,
In old age, like a stripling, thou art assailing,
Shrunk is world into a narrow and lowly place,
Bending over the earth, the sky moves unfailing.
The wrongs are measured in the scale of grace,
To heaven, like flower’s fragrance, they do pace,
Like the gates of Khyber, unlocked with Ali’s Ring,
Myriad mysteries are revealed, there exists no trace.
From Murky India, I seek my riddance,
If I avail a friend, I try my deliverance,
When luck has undone the shackles, O Anis!
My feet have refused to move, what a repentance!
To the holy sanctuary, the one who was sent,
Marhab — like youth he killed, with great
All glory be to God, with a tyrant’s sword,
In prostration he was, when his head was rent.
The jealous allowed me no respite,
Denied was thus, all worldly delight,
Had Khizr and Christ been ling this hour,
They should have been, in a pitiable plight.
Restless For Karbala, If there be a visitor,
In adversity, God is His Helper and Nourisher,
At the Holy place, He needs no Guide,
Each of the Footprints Acts as a Pointer.
When body from soul is separated, on that day,
Difficult will to be attend assembly, this way,
It’s no good to blandish new garments,
The same body into shroud shall stay.
Visible are yet, the traces of endearment,
The leader yet showers his love, most fervent,
The banners go ahead, when ‘Zari” is raised,
Abbas is yet devoted, Duty-bound and Diligent.
Pump and show feel threatened by adversity,
Awake! Fear lurks in this way, in all immensity,
Rise! How long will inertia and sloth be there?
Look! In ambuscade, Death dwells with all tenacity.
“Beloved of God we are”, the Sovereign said to enemy,
“We are the main support, of this great canopy,
The light, which the world is kindled with,
We are that constellation, O men of Syrian army!”
Alas! What faithful friends parted this world,
What lovely flowers left this orchard,
Was there a sapling, unvisited by autumn?
Faded not which flower, it was never heard.
In lusterless India, nothing is of essence,
No friend is there, nor an acquaintance,
Go to bright Najaf, O Anis! Your may get there,
Precious pearls and God’s Magnificence.
How to relate that heart is distraught,
Insipid is food, water tastes not,
O Anis! Resign to death somewhere is wilderness,
Covering the nakedness, this way can be wrought.
The faithful found peace, away from infidelity,
From a Noble House, borrowed Kaba its Dignity,
Having held Ali into His Hand, the Holy Prophet Said,
From God, I’ve got This Gem, Peerless for its Majesty’.
In the presence of Hussain, His Brother’s blood was shed,
On river bank, the Famished and Thirsty bled,
Laid was in the centre, the corpse of the warrior,
That side the river flowed, this side oozed Blood all Red.
In this age, not only man is debased and demented,
It’s true; none is happy and contented,
Snare is all around, fear of a fowler too,
How free birds are caged and tormented!.
Such are the luminaries, lustrous is all assembly,
These are the Dear of Zakra and Ali,
About the mourners who bitterly weep,
The sovereign says, “Such men are our friends verily”
Senses I have lost, my own shadow I dread,
I am that wizard, from trap who has always fled,
A lover of that I am, whom I have never seen,
Burning, yet no candle is there, I’m that moth inbred.
By God’s grace, with the blessings of the Messenger,
This city may flourish and thrive for ever,
Such is the ruler and such the potentates,
O God! May Hyderabad ever prosper.
Those who reached the King of Karbala,
Verily, they reached Mohammed Mustafa,
What a majesty Of Hussain’s Visitor’s, O God!
Those who reach Hussain, They reach Allah.
In the lap of grave, when sleep is a must.
No bed shall be there, except all dust,
Ah! It shall be utter loneliness, O Anis!
I shall be alone, and the grave’s thrust.
The Last few years of the life of Mir Anis were disturbed by the turbulent political events. It was the same period when the poet was faced with formidable economic difficulties. His health was fast deteriorating and he fell ill, and his illness took a serious turn. The great Poet breathed his last in the year 1291 Hijra, corresponding with 1874 A.D. The following couplet of Mirza Salaamat Ali Dabeer reveals not only he exact year of his death, but it is also the best tribute of the person who had been his life-long arrival.
As sky without full moon, empyrean without Gabriel is vain,
So is Mount Sinai without Moses, Pulpit without Anis inane.