Bahadur Shah Zafar
Post Script: It turns out that these two ghazals, though attributed to Zafar, with the added embellishment that he wrote them after his imprisonment in exile, may not have been written by him at all, and the fact while largely known to people in the Urdu literary circles has largely been obscured by the mythology surrounding Zafar's poetic corpus, much has been done to Khusro and Kabir.
These hurried literal translations were spurred on because of a Russian student of Urdu poetry, Philip Nikolayev, who had translated these two ghazals and posted them on a listserv called SASIALIT in the late 90s. Much was made of the fact that these were written by the last Mughal to rule India who had been imprisoned and then exiled to Burma. How tragic that he ended up ruing his fate, missing the land he was born in, knowing that he wouldn't be buried there...these and such other romantic sighs were sighed. The imagery of the ghazal was used to conclude that they must have been written after his arrest and exile. An Urdu scholar, Frances Pritchett, had then pointed out that given that Zafar's state of health was known to be rather weak, and in the absence of any authorised Diivaan, there was no way that the provenance of the date of composition could be checked. Besides, even if he wrote them, how were they smuggled out? What did he write them on? Remember he was forbidden paper and ink? And so on and on, she argued persuasively. Enough to convince us as to when he actually may have written them, but there seemed not much of a doubt that he did actually write them. Afterall, all the compilations in Devnagri and Urdu always included these, as these two are perhaps the most famous of his ghazals, immortalised by Mohammed Rafi in the film Lal Qila. And thanks to Fran Pritchett's persuasive and logical argument, the alternative was actually even more romantic: what a coincidence that Zafar's ghazals turned out to be prescient, or at least prophetic!
Post Script 2: Now I am truly heart-broken! This time we had yet another translator on yet another list who's the culprit - and it is none other than the well-known literary figure Harish Trivedi who posted his translations on Urdu List and, as if inevitably, as it happens each time these ghazals get invoked, mentioned that Zafar wrote these during his exile in Rangoon. Fran (Frances Pritchett) once again pointed out that there was no record of Zafar having written any poetry after his exile, and in fact for some years prior to 1857.
And now, the romance is dead! It turns out that Zafar in fact never wrote either of these two. One of the Urdu scholars in Paksitan finally provided the answer (appended below is his email, quoted with his permission).
From: Irfan Khan
Date: Aug 30, 2005 9:34 PM
Subject: Re: URDULIST: site on zafar
as chance would have it i recently read a brief khaka of dr zaheer ahmed
siddiqui (formerly of delhi university) in dr aslam farrukhi's book
"laal sabz kabootroon ki chahtri", a collection of shakhsi khakay
(karachi: scheherzade, august 2005). here is a quote from dr siddiqui's
"aik bohat mashhoor shair bahadur shah zafar kay naam say mansoob hai:
umr-e daraz mang kay lai thi char din
do arzo main kat gaey do intezar main
zaheer bhai nay tahqeeq say sabit kiya kay yeh shair bahadur shah zafar
ka nahin seemab akbarabadi ka hai. un ki tahqeeq say yeh ghalatfahmi
i spoke to dr aslam farrukhi the other day to find out more about the
above shair. he pointed out that seemab's shair has "lai thi" (which
gives a *little* different meaning) instead of "laey thay". in his
opinion kalam that is generally attributed to zafar -- and is not found
in his four diwans -- should not be attributed to him just because the
maqta' has zafar's takhkhalus, or the shair is in zafar's style. dr
farrukhi also told me that "na kisi ki ankh ka noor hoon na kisi kay dil
ka qarar hoon" is by muztar khairabadi (janisar akhtar's father).
afterwards, i was able to locate both verses in mohammad shamsul haq's
"urdu kay zarbilmisl asha'ar" (karachi: idara-e yadgar-e ghalib, 2003),
in which credit is given to seemab and muztar respectively with detailed
notes and references. in both entries, it has been noted that the
attribution to zafar is incorrect.
now a little about zafar's diwans (from various sources): his first
diwan (believed to be completed in 1808) was published in 1845/1846. as
there were a number of typos in this edition, zafar requested zouq to
oversee the printing of its second edition (1849). the second diwan also
appeared in 1849. his third and fourth diwans were probably published in
1856. all four diwans were printed at the matba'a sultani, delhi. his
kulliyat (i.e. all four diwans) was first published in 1862, and then in
the little that we know about his "stay" in rangoon suggests that it
wasn't possible for him to write as "pen ink and paper [were], of
course, strictly prohibited" (jail governor quoted in "biyaz-e zafar",
complied by saleemudin qureshi. lahore: sang-e meel publications, 1994).
while he could have composed ghazals and remembered it by heart, "the
public [was], of course, not allowed to hold intercourse with the
prisoners" (ibid). it would not be unfair to deduce that zafar had
little or no communication with the outside world.
Now I am truly intrigued. It would be a fascinating project to find out when
and how these couplets first got attributed to Zafar. Irfan's research on this
is definitely a story worth sharing with a wider audience. Also, what intrigues
me even more is that when this controversy had first been broached on SASIALIT
many years back, with Philip Nikolayev's translations of these two very
ghazals, we were all content to not pursue it beyond Fran's comments that there
was no evidence of Zafar having written any poetry in Rangoon.
I would definitely would also be interested to learn what the status of the other couplets from these ghazals attributed to Zafar
is: Are they also by the poets identified by Irfan? Also, were there any ghazals in that zamiin and radiif in Zafar's Diivaan?
The attribution to muztar khairabadi (janisar akhtar's father).also leaves many questions unanswered. Seems reasonable to assume that Janisar Akhtar and through him Javed Akhtar etc and others would be familiar with his poetry? Surely it would be known widely in Urdu circles of one time at least? Perhaps those who knew just gave up on trying to sort out this misatribution, given the wide popularity, particularly since the release of Lal Quilla when Rafi immortalised these two ghazals, and others in India and Pakistan of course have widely known and popular renditions that leave everyone maudlin at the fate of this tragic poet-king?
While Irfan has promised to dig up more, on my above queries, he so far has this to say:
"in his book, mohammad shamsul haq has a two-page quote from an article
("shah zafar nahin, muztar khairabadi") that appeared in nigar (january
1963) re "na kisi ki ankh ka noor hoon na kisi kay dil ka qarar hoon".
it gives good reasons for this misattribution, including the reference
to "lal quilla" film. will try to scan the pages to share with the
urdulist walas. according to haq, seemab's verse appeared in nigar's
special issue on autobiographies (january-february 1941). have been told
that seemab himself selected "umr-e daraz mang kay lai thi char din" for
the special issue as one of his representative/favourite verses. am also
trying to locate dr zaheer ahmed siddiqui's paper on the verse(s)
attributed to zafar. so far, no success."
Watch this space, SD/Sept 6, 2005