Can you trust the smile of the rose?

Beauty that stays versus beauty that is transient. Three poems to ponder upon -

Percy Shelley - "The flower that smiles today"

The flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow dies;
All that we wish to stay
Tempts and then flies.
What is this world’s delight?
Lightning that mocks the night,
Brief even as bright.

(see below for entire poem and analysis)

Ghalib - Hai Kis Kadar

hai kis qadar halāk-e-fareb-e-vafā-e-gul 
bulbul ke kārobār pe haiñ ḳhanda-hā-e-gul 

है किस क़दर हलाक-ए-फ़रेब-ए-वफ़ा-ए-गुल 
बुलबुल के कारोबार पे हैं ख़ंदा-हा-ए-गुल 

How fatal 
is her false loyalty! 
The nightingale thinks the rose 
is smiling, he thinks that she
is interested while she
laughs at his

(see below for entire poem and meanings)

Guru Tegh Bahadur (Raag Basant) - Kahaa Bhuleyo Re Jhuthe Lobh Laag

ਬਸੰਤੁ ਮਹਲਾ ੯ ॥
बसंतु महला ९ ॥
Basanṯ mėhlā 9.
Basant, Ninth Mehl:

ਕਹਾ ਭੂਲਿਓ ਰੇ ਝੂਠੇ ਲੋਭ ਲਾਗ ॥
कहा भूलिओ रे झूठे लोभ लाग ॥
Kahā bẖūli▫o re jẖūṯẖe lobẖ lāg.
Why do you wander lost, O mortal, attached to falsehood and greed?

ਕਛੁ ਬਿਗਰਿਓ ਨਾਹਿਨ ਅਜਹੁ ਜਾਗ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥
कछु बिगरिओ नाहिन अजहु जाग ॥१॥ रहाउ ॥
Kacẖẖ bigri▫o nāhin ajahu jāg. ||1|| rahā▫o.
Nothing has been lost yet - there is still time to wake up! ||1||Pause||

ਸਮ ਸੁਪਨੈ ਕੈ ਇਹੁ ਜਗੁ ਜਾਨੁ ॥
सम सुपनै कै इहु जगु जानु ॥
Sam supnai kai ih jag jān.
You must realize that this world is nothing more than a dream.

ਬਿਨਸੈ ਛਿਨ ਮੈ ਸਾਚੀ ਮਾਨੁ ॥੧॥
बिनसै छिन मै साची मानु ॥१॥
Binsai cẖẖin mai sācẖī mān. ||1||
In an instant, it shall perish; know this as true. ||1||

ਸੰਗਿ ਤੇਰੈ ਹਰਿ ਬਸਤ ਨੀਤ ॥
संगि तेरै हरि बसत नीत ॥
Sang ṯerai har basaṯ nīṯ.
The Lord constantly abides with you.

ਨਿਸ ਬਾਸੁਰ ਭਜੁ ਤਾਹਿ ਮੀਤ ॥੨॥
निस बासुर भजु ताहि मीत ॥२॥
Nis bāsur bẖaj ṯāhi mīṯ. ||2||
Night and day, vibrate and meditate on Him, O my friend. ||2||

ਬਾਰ ਅੰਤ ਕੀ ਹੋਇ ਸਹਾਇ ॥
बार अंत की होइ सहाइ ॥
Bār anṯ kī ho▫e sahā▫e.
At the very last instant, He shall be your Help and Support.

ਕਹੁ ਨਾਨਕ ਗੁਨ ਤਾ ਕੇ ਗਾਇ ॥੩॥੫॥
कहु नानक गुन ता के गाइ ॥३॥५॥
Kaho Nānak gun ṯā ke gā▫e. ||3||5||
Says Nanak, sing His Praises. ||3||5||

A critical reading of Percy Shelley’s poem

Percy Shelley (1792-1822) was, along with Lord Byron and John Keats, one of the second-generation Romantic poets who followed Wordsworth and Coleridge – and, to an extent, diverged from them, having slightly different ideas of Romanticism. ‘The Flower That Smiles Today’, sometimes titled ‘Mutability’ (though Shelley, confusingly, wrote another poem called ‘Mutability’) is one of Shelley’s most widely anthologised poems, so we thought we’d share it here, along with a brief analysis of its language and meaning.

The flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow dies;
All that we wish to stay
Tempts and then flies.
What is this world’s delight?
Lightning that mocks the night,
Brief even as bright.

Virtue, how frail it is!
Friendship how rare!
Love, how it sells poor bliss
For proud despair!
But we, though soon they fall,
Survive their joy, and all
Which ours we call.

Whilst skies are blue and bright,
Whilst flowers are gay,
Whilst eyes that change ere night
Make glad the day;
Whilst yet the calm hours creep,
Dream thou—and from thy sleep
Then wake to weep.

‘The Flower That Smiles Today’, in summary, is a poem about the brevity of all things – all hopes, desires, and delights the world has to offer are short-lived and doomed to die. Everything is fleeting and transitory. This argument had been made before Shelley made it: consider Robert Herrick’s famous seventeenth-century poem ‘To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time’. Indeed, Shelley’s opening lines seem to be a conscious reworking of Herrick’s: where Shelley writes ‘The flower that smiles today / Tomorrow dies’, Herrick had written that ‘this same flower that smiles today / Tomorrow will be dying.’

percy-shelley-flower-that-smiles-todayIn the second stanza, Shelley laments that virtue or decency, friendship, and love are all rare and delicate: even once you have gained them you cannot guarantee they will last. (Shelley himself held to a philosophical view of love whereby, if you didn’t feel an intensely passionate love for someone any longer, you should leave them and be with the person you’re meant to be with; this goes a long way towards explaining his messy home life.) Yet Shelley affirms that we survive the deaths of these things: friendship, love, virtue. We have to go soldiering on, but at least we’re still alive.

In the third stanza, Shelley argues that, while we have this dreamy world of joy and delight, we should seek to enjoy it, before we ‘wake to weep’ when it’s all over. The dream analogy is a nice touch: we usually aren’t aware that we are in a dream, and are passively carried along by it. It’s only when we wake that we realise we’ve been had. Shelley’s message appears to be that we cannot control these things – they are greater than us – so all we can do is to enjoy them while they last.

The first stanza of Shelley’s poem in particular repays close analysis. There are long ‘i’ sounds at the ends of five of the seven lines, but also internally too (‘smiles’, ‘Lightning’), with the ‘light’ peeping out from ‘delight’ playing off the miserable darkness of ‘night’, and that flash of light glimpsed between them, in the word ‘Lightning’, being almost electrifying in its force at the start of the line. The world’s pleasures are as brief as a flash of lightning, but how exhilarating to experience!

‘The Flower That Smiles Today’ (or ‘Mutability’, as some anthologies have it) depicts Shelley’s ideas about worldly pleasures in an effective and memorable way. It might be productive to analyse this poem alongside something like Herrick’s, which was written in a very different, though equally turbulent, period of English history. One wonders how much that turbulence fed into the poems’ message, to enjoy fleeting joys before they’ve flown.

Ghalib's Ghazal - hai kis qadar halāk

hai kis qadar halāk-e-fareb-e-vafā-e-gul 
bulbul ke kārobār pe haiñ ḳhanda-hā-e-gul 

āzādī-e-nasīm mubārak ki har taraf 
TuuTe paḌe haiñ halqa-e-dām-e-havā-e-gul 

jo thā so mauj-e-rañg ke dhoke meñ mar gayā 
ai vaa.e nāla-e-lab-e-ḳhūnīñ-navā-e-gul 

ḳhush-hāl us harīf-e-siyah-mast kā ki jo 
rakhtā ho misl-e-sāya-e-gul sar-ba-pā-e-gul 

ījād kartī hai use tere liye bahār 
merā raqīb hai nafas-e-itr-sā-e-gul 

sharminda rakhte haiñ mujhe bād-e-bahār se 
mīnā-e-be-sharāb o dil-e-be-havā-e-gul 

satvat se tere jalva-e-husn-e-ġhuyūr kī 
ḳhuuñ hai mirī nigāh meñ rañg-e-adā-e-gul 

tere hī jalve kā hai ye dhokā ki aaj tak 
be-iḳhtiyār dauḌe hai gul dar-qafā-e-gul 

'ġhālib' mujhe hai us se ham-āġhoshī aarzū 
jis kā ḳhayāl hai gul-e-jeb-e-qabā-e-gul 

Additional unpublished shers from this ghazal -

dīvānagāñ kā chāra faroġh-e-bahār hai 
hai shāḳh-e-gul meñ panja-e-ḳhūbāñ bajā.e gul 

mizhgāñ talak rasā.ī-e-laḳht-e-jigar kahāñ 
ai vaa.e gar nigāh na ho āshnā-e-gul 

How murderous is the false faith of the rose!
The nightingale's doings amuse the rose.

Celebrate the breeze's freedom: everywhere lie broken
The meshes of the net of desire of the rose.
                        [I now think it should be "desire-net" instead of "net of desire"]

Deceived, everyone fell for its wave of color.
Oh, the lament of the bloody-voiced lip of the rose!

How happy is that drunken one who, like the rose's shadow
Rests his head on the foot of the rose.

Spring creates it for you, it's my rival
The perfume-like breath of the rose.

They make me ashamed before the spring breeze
My cup without wine, my heart without desire for the rose.

Your jealous beauty appears in such glory that
It's mere blood in my eyes, the color of the charm of the rose.

Even now, deceived, thinking it to be you
The rose runs recklessly after the rose.

Ghalib, I long to embrace her
The thought of whom is the rose on the dress of the rose.