W.H. Auden says that old poets used to say simple things in difficult language. Modern ones say difficult things in simple language. This change came in Urdu with Momin and Zauq. Ghalib generally kept away from Urdu until Momins death. Then he descended upon it with very unusual expressions. It was later that he began to write more naturally and attained unmatched greatness with lines like: Dil-e-naadan tujhe hua kia hai? Aakhir iss dard ki dawa kia hai? Actually, the complex expression is our Persian heritage, primarily the Qasida. Nizami Ganjvis Sikandarnama has 374 pages. But its explanatory notes are spread over 324 pages. Why should anyone want to read it except to torture oneself? Nizami writes: Biroon aar aan pinhan ra zay goosh, Kay dibai nau ra kunad zhinda poosh. It appears simple enough to us Pakistanis. But the commentator explains it as: Biroon aar would mean 'if you want the details of victories, go to the Shahnameh. But if you want a new style, avoid what is in the second couplet. And these conditions have been imposed (and what these conditions indicate) is that if you want new styles of expression, the cotton that has been stuffed into your ear by the old style, to which you have got used to, should be taken out, because, having been created by the old style, it causes resistance to the new. And that old cotton would hide the light of the new silks with old rags. Mon Dieu, I would rather read: Dil-e-zinda teray marhoom armanon pay kia guzri? (Sahir) And we should not think that those explanatory notes had to be written because, Persian not being our language, our students needed them. But similar explanatory notes were written in Iran itself for this and other works of Nizami, and especially for Khaqani. South Asian Persian, notably that of Ghalib, was written for the cultured upper class, whose members were expected to have command of Persian. Even then, explications were written for all his works. Here the commentator had to first wrestle with his far-fetched language, then decipher the traditional Persian code words and finally judge the couplet as poetry. Sufi Ghulam Mustafa Tabassum has translated 100 ghazals of Khusrau into Urdu verse. In some places, he has got it perfect. But, in many others, the Urdu version is wooden, e.g.: Baghanimat shumar aie dost agar yafta ee, Ruey zeba-o-raushan-o-ayyam-e-bahar. In translation: It is sheer good fortune if one gains the sight of the beloved, of good wine and the balmy days of spring. It is not a good prose translation. The translator poet has collected terms of love poetry and the lines are in the same meter as the original. But it is not poetry. Not that the Persian poetry of South Asia is not distinctive. Or that it is not recognised as a separate school. (Iranians call it sabk-e-Hindi.) But it is written by people whose mother tongue is not Persian. As a French orientalist used to say: Think Urdu, write Persian. However, Urdus own culture is strongly influenced by Persian and the ghazal is the dominant genre in both the poetries. So the continuity is not broken, though it is parallel not mechanical. Bedil, the sufistic poet from Patna, writes: Dast-e-man-o-damaan-e-hasrat kay dar bazm-e-wisal, Umr beguzasht, wa hamaan chashm-e-nadeedan baaz bood. (or) Sarmaya-e-aagahi gar aiinadariha ast, Dar ma-o-tau cheezi neest nazdeektar az doori. Sufism was the product of our intellectual tiredness, the manifestation of our inability to continue on the path of material progress for lack of an adequate economic basis. However, even on that constricted base, it has given us sickly, but soothing poetry. It can be very attractive when a civilisation comes to terms with its defeat, recognising both its period of greatness and of its exhaustion. Let us end with these lines of Bedil: Dar een veerana, bi saee-e-qinaat, va nashud jaee, Badaman pa kasheedam yaaftam aaghoosh-e-sahraee. n The writer is a retired ambassador.