This One Is For My Love

Music is like water.

*****

It quenches the soul, cools scorching days,

Calms frenzied minds, plays heart’s candy,

Powers the being;

Music sustains.

*****

Lullabies to dirges,

Music remains.

*****

Walkmans to discotheques,

Bhimsen Joshi to Pink Floyd,

Soothing ghazals to brisk songs of protest;

Iceland to Tahiti,

Music remains,

Ever so personal.

Ever the universal.

*****

Expressing what words cannot –

Hope, anguish, elation, hunger, freedom.

*****

Music captures – and – music sets you free.

*****     *****     *****    *****    *****      *****

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The Sea, Inside and Out

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It keeps eternal whisperings around
Desolate shores, and with its mighty swell
Gluts twice ten thousand Caverns, till the spell
Of Hecate leaves them their old shadowy sound.

Often ’tis in such gentle temper found,
That scarcely will the very smallest shell
Be moved for days from where it sometime fell,
When last the winds of Heaven were unbound.

Oh, ye! who have your eyeballs vexed and tired,
Feast them upon the wideness of the Sea;
Oh ye! whose ears are dinned with uproar rude,
Or fed too much with cloying melody—
Sit ye near some old Cavern’s Mouth and brood,
Until ye start, as if the sea nymphs quired!

~ John Keats

I grew up by the sea. Weekends were spent on the beach building sea castles, chasing crabs and the odd jelly fish, collecting shells, swimming and sampling delicious street foods and drinks. Many a crashing wave has been privy to conversations between my friends and I on overcast days when we’d bunk college to feel the breeze in our hair and the surf on our feet.

Waves of disquiet inside were often quietened by the waves outside.

I don’t live by the sea anymore, but I run to it whenever I can. I paint it when I can – like  the painting above made on request for a new home. It’s an abstract mixed media done with moulding paste, acrylics and gold leaf. Peace out!

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Right to Life

I haven’t painted figures in a while. More over, I haven’t used oils as medium for a long time now. But after reading this poem, the one you find below, this painting painted itself.

So.

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RIGHT TO LIFE ~ BY MARGE PIERCY

A woman is not a basket you place
your buns in to keep them warm. Not a brood
hen you can slip duck eggs under.
Not the purse holding the coins of your
descendants till you spend them in wars.
Not a bank where your genes gather interest
and interesting mutations in the tainted
rain, any more than you are.

I will choose what enters me, what becomes
of my flesh. Without choice, no politics,
no ethics lives. I am not your cornfield,
not your uranium mine, not your calf
for fattening, not your cow for milking.
You may not use me as your factory.
Priests and legislators do not hold shares
in my womb or my mind.
This is my body. If I give it to you
I want it back. My life
is a non-negotiable demand.

Mujh Se Pehli Si Mohabbat ~ Faiz Ahmed Faiz

While my father gifted me a book of Faiz’s 100 best works (curated by Sarvat Rahman) photo-69only about 6 months back, my introduction to Faiz happened as a child through music that always played in our home. Dasht-e-Tanhai, which remains not only a favourite poem of love but also a favourite ghazal, was my first exposure to Faiz. For a while he occupied the pedestal of most romantic poet ever… and then I came across works of his that boldly called out on & questioned several existing societal customs and norms. And then I loved him more because if there’s one thing I adore, it’s a rebel with a cause.

The nazm shared is Mujh Se Pehli Si Muhabbat (Don’t Ask Me Now, Beloved). While I understand it’s nuances best in Urdu, this English translation is pretty good.

To me the nazm is about coming of age, growing into this world we live in, understanding life in all it’s shades & hues. To me, this nazm is about Love

Urdu, written in English, translated into English

Mujh Se Pehli Si Mohabbat Meri Mehbub Na Maang
(Don’t ask me now, Beloved, for that love of days gone by)
Maine samjha tha ke tu hai to darakhshaan hai hayaat
(When I thought since you were, life would always scintillate)
Tera gham hai to gham-e-daihr ka jhagra kya hai
(That love’s pain being mine, the world’s pain I could despise)
Teri soorat se hai aalum mein baharon ko sabaat
(That your beauty lastingness to the spring would donate)
Teri aankhon ke siwa duniya mein rakha kya hai
(That nothing in the world was of worthy but your eyes)
Tu jo mil jaye to taqdeer nigun ho jaye
(Were you to be mine, fate would bow low before me)

***

Yun na tha, maine faqat chaha tha yun ho jaye
(But, it was not so; it was only my wish that it were so)
Aur bhi dukh hain zamaane mein muhabbat ke siwa
(Other pains exist than those that love brings)
Rahatein aur bhi hain wasl ki raahat ke siwa
(Other joys exist than those of lover’s mingling)

***

Anginat sadiyon ke taariq bahimanaa tilism
(Dark fearful talismans come down the centuries)
Resham-o-atlas-o-kamkhwaab mein bunwaye hue
(Woven in silk, damask and cloth of gold)
Jaa-ba-jaa biktey hue koochaa-o-bazaar mein jism
(Bodies that  everywhere in streets are sold)
Khaak mein lithrey hue, khoon mein nehlaaye hue
(Covered with dust, all their wounds bleeding)

***

Jism nikley hue amraaz ke tannuuron se
(Bodies that have passed through the furnace of ills)
Peep behti hui jaltey hue naasuron se
(With putrid ulcers which their humours spills)
Laut jaati hai udhar ko bhi nazar kya ki jiye
(How can I but turn my eyes sometimes that way?)
Ab bhi dilkash hai tera husn magar kya ki jiye
(Your beauty is still ravishing, what can I say?)

***

Aur bhi dukh hain zamane mein muhabbat ke siwa
(Other pains exist than those that love brings)
Rahatein aur bhi hain wasl ki raahat ke siwa
(Other joys than those of lovers’ mingling)

Mujhse pehli si mohabbat meri mehboob na maang
(Don’t ask me now, Beloved, for that love of days gone by)

The nazm has also been immortalized by Noor Jehan; have a listen.

Acknowledgement: 100 Poems by Faiz Ahmed Faiz ~ Sarvat Rahman

History & Mystery of Scarborough Fair

I”ve always loved Scarborough Fair, an enchanting tune that when layered with Art Garfunkel’s vocals is, Magic. However, despite harbouring a penchant for knowing lyrics to any song I love by rote, this one I missed until recently. When the lyrics did sink in, my interest in the song only grew – researching it has been fascinating.

It’s believed that the song can be traced back to an older, more obscure Scottish ballad  The Elfin Knight (Child Ballad #2), which dates at least as far back as 1670 or even earlier. There are several of versions of the song because it’s been around this long, but I’m posting lyrics to the most popular of those. The song is usually sung as a duet – and you’ll see why. Alongside Simon and Garfunkel’s version, I’v added Celtic Woman’s version too. Both are worth several sighs.

Lyrics

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Remember me to one who lives there,
For once she was a true love of mine.

Tell her to make me a cambric shirt,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Without any seam or needlework,
Then she shall be a true lover of mine.

Tell her to wash it in yonder well,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Where never spring water or rain ever fell 
And she shall be a true lover of mine.

Tell her to dry it on yonder thorn,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Which never bore blossom since Adam was born,
Then she shall be a true lover of mine.

Now he has asked me questions three,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
I hope he'll answer as many for me
Before he shall be a true lover of mine.

Tell him to buy me an acre of land,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
Betwixt the salt water and the sea sand,
Then he shall be a true lover of mine.

Tell him to plough it with a ram's horn,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
And sow it all over with one pepper corn,
And he shall be a true lover of mine.

Tell him to shear it with a sickle of leather,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme;
And bind it up with a peacock feather.
And he shall be a true lover of mine.

Tell him to thrash it on yonder wall,
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme,
And never let one corn of it fall,
Then he shall be a true lover of mine.

When he has done and finished his work.
Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme:
Oh, tell him to come and he'll have his shirt,
And he shall be a true lover of mine.

Scarborough & its Famed Fair

Scarborough, on the North Sea coast of North YorkshireEngland was allegedly founded around 966 AD. In the Middle AgesScarborough Fair, permitted in a royal charter of 1253, held a six-week trading festival attracting merchants from all over Europe. It ran from Assumption Day, 15 August, until Michaelmas Day, 29 September. Merchants and tradesmen from all over the area came to trade their goods through the barter system. It became a huge annual event with music, food and festivities. The fair continued to be held for 500 years, from the 13th century to the 18th century, and it is that which is commemorated in this song. The melody is very typical of the middle English period. (During the early 17th century, increasing taxation and competition from local markets and fairs caused the popularity of the fair to decline. Yet, even today, people gather for a medieval-themed fair in Scarborough).

The Riddle Riddled Song

The song relates the tale of a young man who instructs the listener to tell his former love to perform for him a series of impossible tasks, such as making him a shirt without a seam and then washing it in a dry well, adding that if she completes these tasks he will take her back. As mentioned, often the song is sung as a duet, with the woman then giving her lover a series of equally impossible tasks, promising to give him his seamless shirt once he has finished with those.

Because versions of the ballad known under the title “Scarborough Fair” are usually limited to the exchange of these impossible tasks, many suggestions concerning the plot have been proposed including one that says it is about the Great Plague of the late Middle Ages. Also, as in most stories concerning impossible tasks set for lovers or suitors, the tasks set forth in this song are probably riddles, and once the riddle is solved then the task can be performed easily. “Plough it with a ram’s horn, and sow it all over with one peppercorn” could be read as a sexual reference (?)

The Refrain that is Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme 

Parsley Sage Rosemary and Thyme

Again, there are several interpretations of why the refrain is what it is. Here are some more well-known ones- My favourite is the first version 😉

Version 1 –  Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, like many other herbs, have a symbolic meaning that goes back centuries – that these were the main ingredients to an old witches love potion, a potion that was wildly popular in the middle ages.

Version 2 –

  • Parsley has been used as a digestant, which should take the bitterness out of certain comestibles. Some medieval physicians used this herb in a spiritual manner.
  • Sage is renowned as a symbol of power.
  • Rosemary represents fidelity, love, and remembrance and is therefore often used in traditional wedding customs. Rosemary for remembrance.
  • Thyme symbolizes courage and thus found its way into heraldry.

Both man and woman in this ballad invoke said powers in naming these herbs: mildness to soothe the bitterness of their relationship, spiritual strength to endure being apart from each other, faithfulness and lastly encouragement, to fulfill the impossible tasks given.

Version 3 – The four herbs are traditionally closely associated with death, as well as with being used in charms to ward off the evil eye and the song  uses them for the same.

Version 4 – Plague doctors at the time are thought to have used the herbs to cover-up the smell of death and decay. The herbs were supposedly put in the beak of their costumes.

Version 5 – The refrain is simply be the result of an attempt to fill in forgotten portions of the song. (How boring this, my least favourite version)

The Song, Sung

Scarborough Fair has been sung by several singers and therein lie some controversies too. But I’m writing this because Simon and Garfunkel brought me here, wrapping the this timeless classic in abundant wistfulness and delicacy. Enjoy.

This post borrows heavily from Wikipedia in addition to several other links I came across on Scarborough Fair. The images are courtesy sherwoodforesthistory.blogspot.com & Anne McLeod Images on Flickr.

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

~~~ Maya Angelou ~~~
[Picture: Contrariwise:Literary Tattoos]

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 

~~~ Robert Frost ~~~