A Lullaby by Faiz
By Dr Zafar M. Iqbal
TCCI, Chicago

Faiz left Pakistan in the late 1970s, after Gen. Zia-ul Haq’s military rule began, to become the editor of ‘Lotus’, a product of Afro-Asian Writers’ Association, based in Beirut, Lebanon. In those days Beirut was the scene of a vicious conflict between PLO stronghold there and Israel. He wrote two poems on the Palestinians, one titled ‘Palestinian Martyrs in Foreign Lands’, and the other, ‘Lullaby for a Palestinian Child’. Both are included in his book, ‘Mayray Dil, Mayray Musaffir’ (1981), which he dedicated to Yasser Arafat.

This heart-rending ‘Lullaby’ could well have been for ANY child, not just Palestinian. An embodiment of innocence, fragile and precious at the same time, their plight transcends religious, political and geographical boundaries formed, set up and ferociously defended by their elders. Children dragged into conflicts of not their making suffer the consequences. Children are children, in every culture, every country (friend or foe), everywhere in the world. They inherit the world with all its progress and problems that the older generation leaves behind.

Faiz was in a war-torn Beirut when he wrote ‘Lullaby for a Palestinian Child’. I take some liberties with this poem’s title since I suppose Faiz would agree that ANY child in such circumstances needs consolation, regardless. Faiz, who went through such miseries himself in his own country by his own countrymen, could not have been oblivious of how emotionally wrenching this Lullaby is to any family (including his own, long ago), anywhere in the world.


A Lullaby

Don’t cry, baby,

your mummy, just dozed off crying.


Don’t cry, baby,

your daddy left a short while ago,

when grief became too much for him.


Don’t cry, baby,

your brother,

chasing the butterflies of his dreams,

has gone some place far.

Your sister is married off

in a foreign land.


Don’t cry baby,


dead suns washed themselves

in your backyard and left,

moons are buried here.


Don’t cry, baby,

but if you cry

your mummy, daddy, sister, brother

moon and sun

will make you cry more.


If you smile, maybe then

all of them, in their disguise,

will return to play with you.


[Beirut, 1980]


Romanized Urdu Original:


Palestini Buchchay Kay-liyey Lori


Muth ro buchcha,

ro ro kay abi

thayri ammi ki aankh lagi hai.


Muth or buchchay,

kutch hi pehlay

thayray abba nay

upnay gham say rukhsuth li hai.


Muth ro buchchay,

thera bhai

upni khaab ki thith-li peechay

door kahin perdais gaya hai.


Muth ro buchchay,

theyray baji ka

do-la pura-yeydais gaya hai.


Muth ro buchchay,

theray aangun main

murda sooruj nihla ka ga-yey hain

chunderma dufna kay gayey hain.



Muth ro buchchay,

ammi, aba, baaji, bhai

chaand aur sooruj

thoo gur roo-ay ga tho yeh sub

aur bhi thuj ko roo-layain gay

thoo muska-yey ga tho shayed

saaray ek din bhais badul ker

thuj say khail-nay laout a-yain gay.

[Beirut, 1980]


Faiz recites this poem from about 10:30 to 11:52 minute in this long UrduLife YouTube video; you can also see his wife, Alys, speaking in Urdu from 13:49 to 17:30 minute:



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