When the British decided to teach the Indians English, they had the problem of making up the syllabus, which would, of course, include poetry. Poetry is untranslatable. And even those who know a foreign language well, do not feel its poetry as would one whose mother tongue it is, though they may appreciate its finer literary points. The British, therefore, decided to give the main place to English romantic poetry in the syllabus, as it was closest to the ghazal, which was the dominant genre in Urdu. One who had been brought up on Allah ray iztirab-e-tamannai-deed-e-yar, Ek fursat-e-nigah mein sao bar dekhna, they reasoned, may appreciate she was a phantom of delight when she first gleamed upon my sight. And that decision still holds. Our teaching course of English poetry is still centered on Wordsworth-Keats. Mallarme too is romantic, but not in the same way. He feels the inadequacy of the notes of his flute before the sound of the childs laughter of Terese Roumanille, which lights up the atmosphere: Oui ce vain souffle que jexclus, Jusqua la derniere limite, Selon mes quelques doigts perchus, Manque de moyens sil imite, Votre tres naturel et claire, Rire denfant qui charme lair. (Yes this vain breath that I emit, up to its utmost limit, dictated by my fingers perched on the flute, cannot succeed if they imitate your very natural and clear childs laughter, which lights up the whole atmosphere.) Well I imagine all these declarations are true. Subjective feelings (and those are the only ones there are) change the atmosphere, but only to the extent that they are generally shared. Where Ghalib says: Mein hoon apni shikast ki awaz, he confesses not only his own frustration, but more so, the inability of the Mughal state to resist the European onslaught. However, he never lamented the end of that moribund culture. Instead he exhorted the young people, like Sir Syed, to learn from the scientific advancement of Europe, though that did not prevent him from insisting that he, himself, be shown the respect due to a titled dignitary of the decayed empire. Coming back to Mallarme, he told a young man, who had asked him the meaning of his verses: My dear reader, I have concluded that the verse has no meaning if it does not hit immediately and does not awaken a divination in whoever reads it; thus meaning should not be looked for in it, while the consciousness is fading slowly. We have the same theory: One should feel it before understanding it, e.g. Sajay huay hain dareechay pay phool bailay kay, Bahot raha hai tera intizar teray baad (Irfana Aziz), or 'Is there anybody there? said the traveller, Knocking on the moonlit door; And his horse in the silence champed the grasses, Of the forests ferny floor (Walter de la Mare). Lines like the Autumn breeze sliding gently past ones ears, whispering of the dreams one dreamt long ago, of the friends who parted somewhere along the way, of what one did or did not, of the Jewish girl who came pushing a pram with her little niece in it and rang the bell of his flat at the same time each afternoon, inviting him to go to the park with her. But Walter de la Mare wrote, non-sense verses too. He ran away; he went to the sea; to far Peru he came. There where the Ataquipa flows and odorous Cinchona blows and no one knows his name, He nests now with humming bird that sips, but never pecks; And silent slides the silver Brent, and mute is Middlesex. Well, non-sense verse is not confined to the English language. It exists, one imagines, in every language. At one time, in the nineteenth century, mohmal goee was a la mode in our literary circles as a way of relaxing, though it often tended to slide into ribaldry. Moments do come in everybodys life when one feels exhausted by reason. After all, reason is built upon a basis whose raison detre we do not know. All the same, it is our passion face-to-face with contrariness that creates the basic conflict from which poetry is born. Lamour sen va, Comme la vie est lente, Et comme lesperance est violente (Apollinaire). (Love slips away, How slow life is in its stride, And hope is so violent.) But I would stick with Firaq: Vo teri narm doshiza nigahi dil nahin bhoola, Pari jab jab nazar, teri nigah-e-avaleen nikli. n The writer is a retired Ambassador.