Frost and Faiz: Two Shining Stars of the Poetic Galaxy
By Dr A. Khan
Chicago, IL

Few poets have enjoyed the popular success that Robert Frost (1874-1963) and Faiz Ahmed Faiz (1911-1984) achieved during the twentieth century. Frost and Faiz are two great poets of the modern times. Their work has been widely read and admired. Frost is to American poetry what Byron is to European poetry, whereas Faiz, by transforming Urdu in the twentieth century, joined the ranks of Ghalib, Mir and Iqbal.

Frost and Faiz are two giants, who reinvented English and Urdu poetry in their own different modes and poetic traditions. Frost wrote about human feelings and reflections of the rural American life. Faiz addressed love, peace, social change and revolution. His poetic expressions are bursting with melody, too. His ghazals, sung by Noor Jehan, Begum Akhtar, Iqbal Bano, Mehdi Hasan, and Tina Sani, can vouch for the melody of his poetic expression. His poetry is a blend of the new and old poetic traditions. Commenting on the poetic genius of Faiz, Professor Edward Said had observed:

“The crucial thing to understand about Faiz…is that like Garcia Marquez he was read and listened to both by the literary elite and by the masses. His major --- indeed its unique in any language --- achievement was to have created a contrapuntal rhetoric and rhythm whereby he would use classical forms (qasida, ghazal, masnawi, qita) and transform them before his readers rather than break from the old forms. You could hear old and new together. His purity and precision were astonishing, and you must imagine therefore a poet whose poetry combined the sensuousness of Yeats with the power of Neruda. He was, I think, one of the greatest poets of this century” (The Mind of Winter: Reflections of Life in Exile, Harper’s).

Frost and Faiz belong to a group of introverted intellectuals who withdraw into themselves and yet produce masterpieces that illuminate the somber moments of everyone . What makes their poetry special is their ability to express their feelings in simple reassuring words. Frost, considered by many as the greatest American poet, was a crowd-pleasing country sage. He pays attention to meter, diction and rhyme. Commenting on his poems, Frost said, “The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom.” Frost never could bring himself to acknowledge that the poem had not worked the way he had anticipated. This uncertainty and strong will is evident in his poem “A Late Walk.”

Out Walking in the frozen swamp one gray day,

I paused and said “I will turn back from here.

No, I will go farther --- and we shall see.”

Robert Frost was a guest at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy, and read his famous poem “The Gift Outright.” President Kennedy, admiring Frost, observed, “He has bequeathed his nation a body of imperishable verse from which Americans will forever gain joy and understanding.”

In his famous poem “Bereft,” Frost urges readers to refrain from material riches and look towards the sky for guidance.

Something sinister in the tone

Told me my secret must be known;

Word I was in the house alone

Somehow must have gotten abroad,

Word I was in my life alone,

Word I had no one left but God.

In his last Mushiarah (poetry slam) Faiz read his poem "Iss WaQt too yeh Laghta hai,” which reflects the feelings of sadness and sorrow in the testing times, and aims at taking courage in the hope that things will get better.

At this moment it seems like nothing exists
No moon, no Sun, neither darkness nor radiance
In front of eyes, there is some beauty behind laced curtains
In the domains of heart, some pain resides
May be it is just an illusion or something I heard
In the street, there are sounds of someone’s vanishing footsteps
Perhaps in the dense tree, in fancy boughs
No dream will ever come to seek refuge.
No estrangement, no affection, no involvement
No one is yours, for me no one a stranger
It is true, this lonesome moment is very cruel and testing
But, O’my heart, this is only just a moment,
Take courage, there is all the time that remains to live

Frost reflects on the state of loneliness in his famous poem "Acquainted with the Night”:

I have been one acquainted with the night.

I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.

I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.

I have passed by the watchman on his beat

And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet

When far away an interrupted cry

Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;

And further still at an unearthly height,

O luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.

I have been one acquainted with the night.

Frost echoes the loneliness and desolation of the modern times:

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet

When far away an interrupted cry

Came over houses from another street

But not to call me back or say goodbye…

Faiz illuminates the darkness of loneliness by remembering the beloved:

Last night, your lost memories sneaked into my heart

Like the spring arrives in a barren land

Like the cool morning breeze blows in deserts

Like the sickness of a person turns into wellness, without any reason

Faiz, in his poem “Yaad” (“Remembrance”) fills the vacuum of loneliness with the fragrance of the remembrance of the beloved:

In the wilderness of my heart, O love weaver

The shadows of your voice, the mirages of your lips.

In that wilderness of loneliness

There, under the remote dust and straw of separation,

Are unfolding the jasmines and roses of your lap

Frost’s “The Dark Night of the Soul” is a symbol of despair:

One dark night,

Fired with love’s urgent longings

--- Ah, sheer grace! ---

I went out unseen,

My house being now all stilled.

Faiz’s depth of imagination is evident in his poem “Tanhahi” (“loneliness”):

Is someone out there again,

No, my grieving heart

Perhaps, it is some passerby, bound for somewhere.

The night is ending,

The cluster of star appears to be scattering

The flames of lamps in palaces are now attenuating

Tired of the long wait

Even the avenue has fallen asleep,

The alien dust has erased the every footstep

Turn off the light

And put away the cups and wine

Lock those awakened doors

Now, no one will come here!

Frost, talking about man’s challenges in dealing with modernity, writes:

Space ails us moderns: we are sick with space.

Its contemplations make us out as small

As brief epidemic of microbes

That in a good glass may be seen to crawl

The patina of this the least of globes

The poetry of Frost and Faiz continues to provide relaxation to the minds of millions around the globe. They remain truly universal poets who provide solace to the millions of techno-stressed beings around the globe who are longing for love.

Woo loog boo’hat khush’kiss’mat thay

Joo IshQ koo Kaam samaj’tay’thay

Yaa kaam say Ashsee’Qey kar’tay’thay

Hum jee’tay jee mus’roof raa’hay

Kuch IshQ keyah kuch kaam keyah

Indeed, fortunate are those

Who considered love as their work

Or loved whatever they did

I kept busy all my life ---

Pursuing some love, doing some work

--- Faiz

 

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