Bidel Dehlavi

Your hair shines from the sun's shadow.
Your musk lines break in the sun's letters.
Imagination founders when overcome by love.
The pearl on the edge of the sea is a deep sun.
To me, your oppression is freedom from the light.
The last shadow passes from itself to the sun.
Even after our wild fortune has fallen low,
the sun still shines on our nakedness.
Sinking miraculously, its light frolics beautifully.
The flower's dew cuts through the sun.
Everywhere, your face is overwhelmed
by its beauty as its rays strike the earth.
It is a rare gift to boast of nothingness.
The pearl of astonishment blooms beneath the sun,
selling the soul while gliding over your face. Bidel,
like the dawn, make your movement through life a turn to the sun.

translated from the Farsi by Rebecca Gould

Read the original in Farsi

Bidel Dehlavi (Mirza Abd al-Qadir) was born to a Muslim family that immigrated to northern India from Central Asia and came of age in a multilingual environment. While his first spoken language was probably Bengali, Bidel soon acquired fluency in Persian and Arabic through his studies. He attained proficiency in Sanskrit and is reported to have memorized the Mahābhārata along with the Qur'an. Bidel, the name the poet chose for himself when he embarked on a literary career, literally means "heartless" in Persian (bi=without; del=heart). Although Bidel was supported by numerous patrons, he maintained his distance from court politics, and strove to carve out a literary aesthetic that was beholden neither to the sectarian religious differences of his milieu nor to its courtly intrigues. The prolific author of four narrative poems (masnavis), Bidel is best remembered as the "national" poet of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, where his poetry is recited by people of all classes to this day.

Rebecca Gould is a translator of Persian, Russian, and Georgian poetry. Her work has appeared in The Hudson Review, The Gettysburg Review, Washington Square, Guernica, Callaloo, and Literary Imagination, among many other venues. Her translated volume After Tomorrow the Days Disappear: Poems of Hasan Sijzi of Delhi is forthcoming from Northwestern University Press. Gould has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Association of Literary Translators, and is currently Assistant Professor in the Humanities at Yale-NUS College in Singapore.