Caged linnets sing of hope and of despair.

Here is another poem I had learnt in school, the last stanza of which we were expected to know by heart.
The poem has been much analyzed, especially in the context of the tumultuous historical events that happened during the miid-seventeenth century in Britain as a consequence of the squabbles between the parliament and the Puritans on the one side and the Loyalists on the other, which culminated in the execution of King Charles I.

It is believed that this poem was written by Lovelace while he was incarcerated for a first time in 1642. This plight of Lovelace had a close parallel to that of his monarch who. himself too suffered confinement and hardship.

Lovelace was a Cavalier who.was steadfastly loyal to his king. After spending sometime in exile, he got imprisoned for a second term later and died in penury after his property got confiscated.
The main appeal of this poem lies just not in its historical setting but rather in its romantic content and in the defiant celebration by a linnet, of his cage as an hermitage.

It is also viewed by some as an allegory to the struggle of the spirit to rise above the limits imposed on it by the flesh.As another defiant, but disloyal subject of the Ultimate Lord states when he gets exiled from his haven headlong into perdition,,
” The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n”

 
To Althea, from Prison
Richard Lovelace.
  
When love with unconfined wings  
  Hovers within my gates,  
And my divine Althea brings  
  To whisper at the grates;  
When I lie tangled in her hair          
  And fetter’d to her eye,  
The birds that wanton in the air  
  Know no such liberty.  
 
When flowing cups run swiftly round  
  With no allaying Thames,   
Our careless heads with roses bound,  
  Our hearts with loyal flames;  
When thirsty grief in wine we steep,  
  When healths and draughts go free—  
Fishes that tipple in the deep  
  Know no such liberty.  
 
When, like committed linnets, I  
  With shriller throat shall sing  
The sweetness, mercy, majesty,  
  And glories of my King;   
When I shall voice aloud how good  
  He is, how great should be,  
Enlarged winds, that curl the flood,  
  Know no such liberty.  
 
Stone walls do not a prison make,   
  Nor iron bars a cage;  
Minds innocent and quiet take  
  That for an hermitage;  
If I have freedom in my love  
  And in my soul am free,   
Angels alone, that soar above,  
  Enjoy such liberty.  

 Urdu poetry is replete with, “getting tangled in her hair and fettered to her eye”, and ” steeping thirsty grief in wine.” The immortal Sanskrit epic , Megha Sandesam by Kalidas enthralls you with its captivating lyrics of longing of a forlorn celestial sentenced to banishment for an year away from his beloved
The basic tenet of Hinduism is that the pristine soul itself is sentenced again and again to don successive terms of mortal incarnations. Its sufferings in this lowly cycle terminates and it is released when it attains moksha or Deliverance, as a culmination of the net effect of all the good deeds one performs in those successive incarnations.

India too has had its own flocks of caged linnets like RamaDasa, Jawaharlal Nehru,Mahatma Gandhi and SriSri to name a few, who defied incarceration, taking inspiration from whatever was dear to them.

The first war of Indian Independence against the repressive regime of East India Company was on during 1857-1858. The rebellion scored a temporary victory in Delhi as also at several places elsewhere in India. Though Bahadur Shah Zafar (who was in his eighties at that time) is regarded as the last Mughal Emperor of India, his reign at that time as a vassal of the East India Company, getting a pension from them, effectively did not extend much beyond Delhi .A crown of thorns as the Emperor of free India was thrust on his tired and reluctant head after this pyrrhic victory. Soon the uprising was crushed by the East India Company and Bahadur Shah Zafar was taken prisoner . His two sons and grandson were executed and the severed heads of the sons were gifted to the defeated emperor, by the victorious Major William Hodson.
Zafar who takes it equanimously, He later gets exiled to Rangoon, Burma where he later breaths his last.
Hope in the face of repression breeds defiance. Hopelessness peters out into depression and self pity. Here is a poem of despair in the face such hopelessness.

This lyric ‘Na kiseeki aankh ka noor hoo”, by Bahadur ShahZafar in Urdu was included in the 1960 movie Lal Quilla. Set to soulful music in Siva Ranjani Raga by S.N.Tripathi , it was rendered poignantly and inimitably by, Mohamad Rafi.

It is averred by some that this lyric was not authored by Zafar Shah but by Riaz Khairabadi, grand-father of Javed Akhtar, the noted Urdu lyricist and husband of Shabana Azmi., I feel that, even if this were true, the lyric attained greater fame by having been ascribed to the forlorn, fallen emperor.

The poignant Urdu lyric , is reproduced below. Along with the lyric below, is an attempt by me to translate it into English.

Na Kisi Ki Aankh Ka Noor Hoon (Bahadur Shah Zafar)

Na Kisi Ki Aankh Ka Noor Hoon,
Na Kisi Ke Dil Ka Qaraar Hoon
Jo Kisi Ke Kaam Na Aa Sake Main Woh Ek Musht-e-Ghubaar Hoon

Neither am I the sparkle in someone’s eye,
Nor the solace to someone’s heart,,
I’m just a fistful of dust, fit for nothing,

Na To Main Kisi Ka Habeeb Hoon,
Na To Main Kisi Ka Raqeeb Hoon
Jo Bigad Gaya Woh Naseeb Hoon, Jo Ujad Gaya Woh Dayaar Hoon

Neither am I the beloved of someone,
nor do I strive with a competitor,
I am ill-luck personified, I am a hovel that has gone to decay.

Mera Rang Roop Bigad Gaya,
Mera Yaar Muhjse Bichad Gaya
Jo Chaman Khizaan Mein Ujad Gaya, Main Usi Ki Fasl-e-Bahaar Hoon.

I’ve turned pale, I look gnarled.
And I am bereft of my chum.
Foul weather has ravaged the garden , of what avail to it is this season of spring?

Pay- Faatiha Koyi Aaye Kyun,
Koyi Chaar Phool Chadaye Kyun
Koyi Aake Shama Jalaye Kyun,
Main Woh Be-Kasi Ka Mazaar Hoon

Why visit this place to say a Prayer,
Why place a few blossoms over it,
Why light a candle on it.,sir ?
I’m just the wretched tomb of a destitute.

Main Kahaan Rahoon Main Kahan Basoon,
Na Yeh Mujhse Khush Na Woh Mujhse Khush
Main Zameen Ki Peeth Ka Bojh Hoon,
Main Falak Ke Dil Ka Ghubaar Hoon

I’ve no place to live, I’ve no place to lie,
Neither these are happy with me, nor are they.
I am a burden to this very earth.
I am a clot in the heart of the heaven.

Na Kisi Ki Aankh Ka Noor,,
Na Kisi Ke Dil Ka Qarar Hoon
Jo Kisi Ke Kaam Na Aa Sake Main Woh Ek Musht-e-Ghubaar Hoon

Neither am I the sparkle in someone’s eye,
Nor the solace to someone’s heart,,
I’m just a fistful of dust, fit for nothing,

 

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About versa kay

Agile, keen, versatile,considerate,patient
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4 Responses to Caged linnets sing of hope and of despair.

  1. jagelees says:

    ARe your grandchildren required to memorize poems, etc.? When I was growing up, we always had to memorize something. Part of the Declaration of Independence, a poem, etc. NONE of my kids have had to memorize anything. Makes me wonder if its just not a requirement anymore or just not their school.

  2. versa kay says:

    I am afraid, they are not required to. It’s a pity. Thanks for tge visit.

  3. “Na Kisi Ki Aankh Ka Noor Hoon” is the exact feeling of mine at this moment 😦

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