Before you came (Original: “tum jo naa aa’e the”) by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Note: The following translation into English is by Naomi Lazard.

Before You Came by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Before you came things were just what they were:

the road precisely a road, the horizon fixed,

the limit of what could be seen,

a glass of wine was no more than a glass of wine.

With you the world took on the spectrum

radiating from my heart: your eyes gold

as they open to me, slate the color

that falls each time I lost all hope.

With your advent roses burst into flame:

you were the artist of dried-up leaves, sorceress

who flicked her wrist to change dust into soot.

You lacquered the night black.

As for the sky, the road, the cup of wine:

one was my tear-drenched shirt,

the other an aching nerve,

the third a mirror that never reflected the same thing.

Now you are here again—stay with me.

This time things will fall into place;

the road can be the road,

the sky nothing but sky;

the glass of wine, as it should be, the glass of wine.


Note: The following translation into English is by Agha Shahid Ali.

Before You Came by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Before you came,

things were as they should be:

the sky was the dead-end of sight,

the road was just a road, wine merely wine.

Now everything is like my heart,

a color at the edge of blood:

the grey of your absence, the color of poison, or thorns,

the gold when we meet, the season ablaze,

the yellow of autumn, the red of flowers, of flames,

and the black when you cover the earth

with the coal of dead fires.

And the sky, the road, the glass of wine?

The sky is a shirt wet with tears,

the road a vein about to break,

and the glass of wine a mirror in which

the sky, the road, the world keep changing.

Don’t leave now that you’re here—

Stay. So the world may become like itself again:

so the sky may be the sky,

the road a road,

and the glass of wine not a mirror, just a glass of wine.


Note: The following translation into English is by Ravi Kopra.

It’s the Color of My Heart by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

When you didn’t come,

things were they should be –

the sky was as far as I could see,

the road to travel by was a road,

the goblet was a glassful of wine.

And now, a glassful of wine,

the road to travel by,

and the color of the sky,

are like the colors of my blood,

flowing from my heart to my liver.

Sometimes golden, like the

shine of your eyes when we meet.

Sometimes grey and saddening like

the sickening feelings of partings.

Other times like colors of old

leaves, of trash, of dry grass,

of red flowers in flower-beds,

of dark sky, of poison, of blood.

Now I see the sky, the road,

the glass full of wine, my wet

robe, my aching nerves in a mirror,

changing moment by moment.

Since you’ve come, please stay.

May the things – the colors, the seasons,

stay as if they were in one place.

May everything be as it used to be –

The sky, as far as I could see,

the road to travel by, a road,

the goblet, brimming with wine.


Note: The following translation into English is by Victor Kiernan.

Before You Came by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Before you came, all things were what they are—

The sky sight’s boundary, the road a road,

The glass of wine a glass of wine; since then,

Road, wineglass, colour of heaven, all have taken

The hues of this heart ready to melt into blood—

Now golden, as the solace of meeting is,

Now grey, the livery of despondent hours,

Or tint of yellowed leaves, of garden trash,

Or scarlet petal, a flowerbed all ablaze:

Colour of poison, colour of blood, or shade

Of sable night. Sky, highroad, glass of wine—

The first a tear-stained robe, the next a nerve

Aching, the last a mirror momently altering….

Now you have come, stay here, and let some colour,

Some month, some anything, keep its own place,

And all things once again be their own selves,

The sky sight’s bound, the road a road, wine wine.


Note: The following translation into English is by Shiv K. Kumar.

The Colour of the Moment by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Before you came, everything was what it is—

the sky, vision-bound

the pathway, the wine-glass.

And now the wine-glass, the pathway, the sky’s tint—

everything bears the colour of my heart

till all melts into blood.

Sometimes the golden tinge, sometimes the hue of the joy of

seeing you,

sometimes ashen, the shade of the dreary moment—

the colour of yellow leaves, of thorn and trash,

of the crimson petals of the flower-beds aglow,

the tint of poison, of blood, of sable night.

The sky, the pathway, the wine-glass—

some tear-stained robe, some wincing nerve,

some ever-revolving mirror.

Now that you’re here, stay onso that so

me colour, some season, some object.


Note: The following translation into English is by Frances W. Pritchett.

It’s the Color of My Heart by Faiz Ahmed Faiz

Before you came everything

was what it is:

the sky the limit of sight

the road a road, the glass of wine

a glass of wine.

And now the glass of wine, the road, the color of the sky

are the color of my heart

while it breaks itself down

into blood.

Sometimes a gold color—a color of eyes’ delight

that sooty color, the color of disgus

tthe color of dry leaves, straw, thorns

the color of red flowers in a blazing garden

poison color, blood color, the color of black night.

The sky, the road, the glass of wine

are a sodden cloak, an aching vein,

a mirror changing every moment.

Now that you’ve come, stay—let some color, season, thing

stay in place.

One more time let everything

be what it is:

the sky the limit of sight

the road a road, the glass of wine

a glass of wine.


Note: Here is the original poem in Urdu transliterated into English script. If you have the original in Arabic script, or even Devanagiri script, please comment.

tum jo naa aa’e the to har chiiz vahii thii kih jo hai
aasmaaN hadd-e-nazar, raahguzar raahguzar, shiishaah-e-mai,

aur ab shiishaah-e-mai, raahguzar, rang-e-falak
rang hai dil kaa mere, “khoon-e-jigar hone tak”
champaa’i rang kabhii, raahat-e-diidaar kaa rang
sur’ma’ii rang kabhii, saa’at-e-bezaar kaa rang

zard pattoN kaa xas-o-xaar kaa rang
surkh phuuloN kaa, dahakte hu’e gulzaar kaa rang
zahar kaa rang, lahuu rang. shab-e-taar kaa rang

aasmaaN, rahguzar, shiishaah-e-mai
koii bhiigaa hu’aa daaman, ko’ii dukhtii hu’ii rag
ko’ii har lahzaah badaltaa hu’aa aa’iinaah hai

ab jo aa’e ho to Thahro kih koii rang, koii rut ko’ii shai
ek jagah par Thahre
phir se ik baar har ik chiiz vahii ho ke jo hai
aasmaaN hadd-e-nazar, rahguzar rahguzar, shiishaah-e-mai,


Untitled by Rumi

The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.

Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.



Note: Above translation by Coleman Barks. Please comment if you have the original.

True Love by Wislawa Szymborska

True love. Is it normal
is it serious, is it practical?
What does the world get from two people
who exist in a world of their own?

Placed on the same pedestal for no good reason,
drawn randomly from millions but convinced
it had to happen this way – in reward for what?
For nothing.
The light descends from nowhere.
Why on these two and not on others?
Doesn’t this outrage justice? Yes it does.
Doesn’t it disrupt our painstakingly erected principles,
and cast the moral from the peak? Yes on both accounts.

Look at the happy couple.
Couldn’t they at least try to hide it,
fake a little depression for their friends’ sake?
Listen to them laughing – its an insult.
The language they use – deceptively clear.
And their little celebrations, rituals,
the elaborate mutual routines –
it’s obviously a plot behind the human race’s back!

It’s hard even to guess how far things might go
if people start to follow their example.
What could religion and poetry count on?
What would be remembered? What renounced?
Who’d want to stay within bounds?

True love. Is it really necessary?
Tact and common sense tell us to pass over it in silence,
like a scandal in Life’s highest circles.
Perfectly good children are born without its help.
It couldn’t populate the planet in a million years,
it comes along so rarely.

Let the people who never find true love
keep saying that there’s no such thing.

Their faith will make it easier for them to live and die.

Note: Translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh. If you have the original, please leave a comment.

Unclaimed by Vikram Seth

To make love with a stranger is the best.
There is no riddle and there is no test. —

To lie and love, not aching to make sense
Of this night in the mesh of reference.

To touch, unclaimed by fear of imminent day,
And understand, as only strangers may.

To feel the beat of foreign heart to heart
Preferring neither to prolong nor part.

To rest within the unknown arms and know
That this is all there is; that this is so.