Francesca Chubb-Confer, PhD (UChicago Divinity School)
The poetry of the Islamic reformer, philosopher, and poet Muhammad Iqbal (1877-1938), commonly remembered as the spiritual originator of Pakistan and of the 20th century’s finest Urdu poets, incorporates a range of imagery from the Persianate ghazal universe and beyond. The appearance of the falcon in his verse has attracted particular attention and signification. The falcon is associated with Iqbal in the popular imagination as well as in scholarship; considered to be his “favorite” or “preferred” motif, the bird of prey is taken to symbolize independence, vigor, and noble ferocity, especially in the context of Islamic revival. Iqbal’s preference for the falcon is contrasted with his supposed disavowal of its symbolic opposite: the nightingale, fated to sing plaintively in the garden to the silent, unresponsive rose. A sustained analysis of Iqbal’s use of these avian symbols, however, has not yet been carried out.
In this talk, we will analyze three ghazals – two in Persian, one in Urdu, from Zabūr-i ‘Ajam (“Persian Psalms,” 1927) and Bāl-i Jibrīl (“Gabriel’s Wing,” 1935), respectively – with a focus on the figures of the nightingale and the falcon. Moving towards a new interpretation of their function in Iqbal’s ghazal poetry, we will examine their rhetorical capacities across linguistic difference, re-casting the two not so much as oppositional symbols, but ones that exist in supporting counterpoint, such that their attributes, capabilities, sympathies, and metaphorical relationships shift across and within individual ghazals.
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