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Post by Gulzar on Sat Sep 13, 2008 7:46 am

Iqbal had a fine sense of the dramatic, and in his poetry he frequently employs dramatic techniques. Many of his poems are structured like a play, with the first half of the poem building a tension or conflict that is resolved, or raising a question that is answered, in the second half Examples are Gabriel and Iblis, The Dew and the Stars, The Houri and the Poet and Fatimah bint Abdullah. Many poems are dialogues, with well-argued positions taken by the interlocutors (A Dialogue Between God and Man, The Dew and the Stars, Reason and Heart and A Dialogue Between Knowledge and Love; also the fables). Some poems are one-sided dialogues or monologues (Give Me Another Adversary, The Falcons Advice to Its Youngster). Again, Iqbal carefully weaves the plot of a poem, arousing the readers curiosity, dropping seemingly casual hints that turn out to be prophetic, providing flashback, and saving his masterstroke for the end. Two excellent examples are The Night and the Poet and The Houri and the Poet.
Iqbal has some favorite images and motifs. The eagle is Iqbals favorite bird, and the tulip his favorite flower. We will here say a few words about the tulip. The tulip is a pretty flower, but, when it grows in the desert (Lala-i sahra), it combines strength with beauty, for it then represents the assertion of ones self (khudi) in the face of hostile circumstances. The tulip owes its splendor not to an outside source but to the scar inside its heart, its glow being indigenous to it, as befits a flower with a khudi of its own. The tulip is thus a model for individuals and nations to follow. In one of his quatrains (Freedom and Determinism and Philosophy of History), speaking of the difficult circumstances that alone give birth to new nations, Iqbal says: From mountains and deserts do nations arise. Although Iqbal does not mention the tulip in this quatrain, it would not be far-fetched to suggest that, conceptually, Iqbal here has the desert tulip in mind. The cup-shaped flower suggests to Iqbals mind several analogies, and in one piece (Locke, Kant, and Bergson,) Iqbal, makes consistent use of the tulip image to describe and analyze complex philosophical ideas. It is in view of the deep significance of the flower in Iqbals poetry that I have chosen Tulip in the Desert as the title of my volume of translations (Mustansir Mir, Tulip in the Desert, Hurst and Company, London, 2000). The images of the eagle and the tulip illustrate how Iqbal adds to the native literary tradition or makes an innovative use of that tradition (the tulip). Another example in this connection is that of the moth. In Persian and Urdu poetry the moth represents the devoted and self-immolating lover. Like the moth, which keeps circling the light, the lover (a male) desires to stay close to the beloved (a female). But in Iqbal, typically, the moth often represent a reprehensible rather than a praiseworthy quality: the shining light it is in love with is not its own. The moth is to be contrasted with another, the firefly, which, though it has a weak light, can at least call this light its own. The firefly, in other words, is possessed of khudi, but the moth has no khudi. Iqbal often uses a series of images to convey a thought, producing a cumulative effect. In Fatimah bint -Abdullah, for example, he uses no fewer than four images to express the idea that, even in its present age of decadence, the Muslim Community can produce individuals of exceptional caliber:

O that our autumn-stricken garden had
A flower-bud like this!
O that in our ashes would be found, O Lord,
A spark like this!
In our desert is hidden many a deer still.
In the spent clouds lies dormant still
Many a flash of lightning.

Iqbal is capable of writing biting satire. Two examples are: Give Me Another Adversary, in which Satan argues that he deserves a better rival than Adam, and Scorpion Land, which criticizes slave mentality.

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