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Here is the translation of a verse by Ghalib [1797–1869], originally written1 in the Urdu language:

Neither Asad besought cruelty,
nor was thy tyranny fond of the insanity;
to whatever extent I sought thee,
thou wert found tester of intimacy.

Although I understand the original verse in Ghalib’s difficult written Urdu, I cannot understand the translater's English because of the pronouns chosen. Could anyone please explain these “Shakespearian” pronouns so that I can understand what the translator means to say here? Or does my confusion simply reflect some poor translation whose resulting English makes no sense?


Footnotes

  1. For those who can read it, the original runs like this:

ﻧﮯ ﺍﺳﺪ ﺟﻔﺎ ﺳﺎﺋﻞ ﻧﮯ ﺳﺘﻢ ﺟﻨﻮﮞ ﻣﺎﺋﻞ ﺗﺠﮫ ﮐﻮ ﺟﺲ ﻗﺪﺭ ﮈﮬﻮﻧﮉﮬﺎ ﺍﻟﻔﺖ ﺁﺯﻣﺎ ﭘﺎﯾﺎ


ने असद जफा साईल ने सितम जनूं माईल
तुझको जिस क़दर ढूंढा उलफत-आजमा पाया

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  • 1
    It's a reasonable question. The translator is using these archaic pronouns, partly to give a historical feel to the piece, and partly because this usage persisted longer in English poetry than in everyday English. There are some useful answers here: Difference between Thee and thou?. The pronouns should not be too difficult to get used to. They not Shakespearian, just archaic, although they were used in some parts of the UK well into the 20th century. – Mick Oct 22 '16 at 17:42
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    It's also just very badly translated. – Lambie Oct 22 '16 at 18:09
  • @Lambie, what's that reason? – Arman Oct 22 '16 at 18:42
  • Is it Asad's tyranny? – deadrat Oct 22 '16 at 19:13
  • No, the first line has two clause… Ghalib is called Asad too – Arman Oct 22 '16 at 19:19
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The language is that of English poetry contemporaneous with the author’s own day. This is not 16th century English but rather poetic 19th century English. Poets of that time regularly used this sort of language, although by the end of the century these pronouns had largely faded from colloquial use.

The meaning of the archaic second-person pronouns and how to inflect verbs they govern is a simple matter of General Reference. We also have other questions here regarding thou, thee, thy, thine whose answers may prove helpful to you.

All other matters aside, surely the worst part of the translation is that last (rather “ad-hoc”) word, affection-scrutinizing. It’s especially ugly.

Please understand that we do not interpret poetry or other literature here because the Stack Exchange format does not lend itself to questions of interpretation. And while neither do we provide translations — for infinitely many translations are always possible — nonetheless one possible rewrite in more modern language might run like this:

Neither did Assad implore cruelty, nor was your tyranny fond of the madness:
For always that I implored you, were you ever-watchful of intimacy.

I cannot read the original so am basing that solely on what you provided alone.

  • 2
    How does this post answer the question? Is this question answerable? How can you post an answer without knowing what they mean? – user140086 Nov 21 '16 at 18:33
  • @Rathony The question asked what the archaic language of second-person pronouns and verbal inflection means. This answer clearly and obviously answers that question by rewriting into modern pronouns and inflections the things from the archaic translation which he said he did not understand. I need only English knowledge to convert thou wert into you were, so I have no idea what you think you are talking about. It further gives leads to which questions of ours treat with such matters. – tchrist Nov 21 '16 at 19:49

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