In his Utopia or ideal state Plato does not assign any distinctive place to poets, for according to his judgment they are not capable of living up to his criterion of Beauty

Allama Iqbal Poet

In his Utopia or ideal state Plato does not assign any distinctive place to poets, for according to his judgment they are not capable of living up to his criterion of Beauty, Goodness and Truth: they also not seem to conform to their implications, so to say. And yet the scholars and specialists of Greek language and literature bear testimony to his linguistic sensibility, his prose being characterized by a sort of felicity of phrasing. Iqbal, likewise, has repeated several times his disclaimer of being a poet, par excellence and yet despite his insistence on it who can dare grudge him the status of a universal poet? Further, in the perspetive of growth of his poetic genius and keeping in view some of his statements in prose, one can tentatively evolve a valid and convincing framework of his Poetics. Apropos of creativity he says in a suave and unambiguous way in Javaid Namah.

پیش ماجز کافر و زندیق نیست

ہر کہ اور اقوت تخلیق نیست

One who is not endowed with the potentiality to Create

Is for us no better than an apostate and a blasphemer.

This statement evinces his firm conviction and a sense of certitude: it is not an isolated utterance either but is repeated on more than one occasion. The craft of poetry, to all intents and purposes, amounts to a highly creative process and is rounded off by a totality and wholeness of the poetic self. The springs of poetry are believed to be instinctive, contemplative and pre-logical: to be more precise, in the course of this process the conscious and the unconscious motivations are merged together. The creative stirrings and promptings or impulsions converge on a point of concentration. They are welded together in a sort of equilibrium. I.A. Richards associates this equilibrium, specifically, though, with the tragic alone. These urges co-exist and tend to be related to feeling-tones: this occurs, when, according to T.S. Eliot, we arrive at the point of intersection of the timeless with time. Putting it differently, we may uphold that just as Reality discloses itself in the unification of the sensible and the intelligible, likewise these two components become one at the core of the poetic. The following two entries in Iqbal’s personal diary, Stray Reflections, are of vital significance:

A mathematician cannot but a poet can enclose infinity in

a line, Science, Philosophy, Religion: all have limits, art

alone is boundless.

It has been said endlessly, and thus the repetition has turned into a truism that the Self, the nucleus of psychic potencies, is at the center of Iqbal’s philosophical speculation. The same is true of his poetic art as well. Whereas the search for significance in art leads on, according to Shelley, to Infinitude, the Hegellian Absolute, for Iqbal, it reaches its climactic point with the full realization of the Self. He offers the same criteria for determining the nexus of Good and Evil:

That is good which has a tendency to give us the

sense of personality. That is bad which has a tendency to suppress and ultimately dissolve personality.

Iqbal’s poetry is not so much concerned with percepts as with classifying that نگاہِ شوق (Ardent Gaze) and Vision that may help disclose the world of spirit and provide us with an inkling of the poet’s world-view or his system of values. It is more or less equivalent to a kind of certitude that leads to the deification of the Self. Croce’s aesthetics is centred on the primacy of Intuition involving belittlement of the act of expression or communication. Inner perception has been explicated in Zerb-e-KaIeem thus:

نگاہِ شوق اگر نہ ہو شریک بینائی

کچھ اور ہی نظر آتا ہے کاروبارِ جہان

اس نگاہ میں ہے دلبری ورعنائی

اس نگاہ میں ہے قاہری وجباری

ترا وجود ہے تعب و نظر کی رسوائی

نگاہِ شوق اگر میسر نہیں تجھ کو

The transactions of the world look differently

If objective assessment is not supplemented by inner vision

Omnipotence and awesomeness derive from the same vision

So do beauty and effulgence

Inner vision not being accessible to you

Your existence amounts to despoliation of heart and mind

Poetry does and ought to emanate from the delight, pathos and beauty of the Self and these are ultimately subsumed into the depth and intensity of the vision. A single couplet in the poem, entitled اہلٍِ ہنر (Master Craftsmen) reads thus:

تری خودی کا حضور عالم شعر و سرود

تری خودی کا غیاب معرکہٴ ذکر وفکر

Self’s otherwiseness is tantamount to the fluency of remembrance and cognition

Exuberance of the Self is equivalent to poetry and music.

So long as the self is dormant and connotes ‘possibility’ it is on par with reflection and contemplation, and when exteriorized it emerges in the form of poetry and music. Hence in the perspective of literary art, this view-point is brought out in the insistence on preoccupation with cerebral processes on the one hand and ecstatic delight on the other, and both are necessary constituents of the whole complex. Sensuousness as such has little or no place in Iqbal’s poems, and that way he is opposed to the early Keats and bears a curious resemblance to Wordsworth. Sensuousness ends up with a sort of lassitude and passivity: hence in the poem, entitled ہنرورانِ ہند (Master Craftsmen of India) he speaks with an air of polite disdain thus:

آہ بے چاروں کے اعصاب پہ عورت ہے سوار

ہند کے شاعر و صورت گر و افسانہ نویس

Apropos of Indian poets, sculptors and fiction writers

They are pitilessly obsessed with sex

Iqbal’s Poetics can in no way be dissociated from his view of life and his concept of the self. For him mere embellishment and control over the architectonics of a literary piece are not enough: it ought to be sustained and energized by a paradigm of human values. He is no partisan of pure art that is regarded in modern literary parlance as the autotelic character of the poetic. Artistic finesse, unless quickened and enlivened by the apprehension of Truth is not worth much: hence in پیرس کی مسجد (Paris Mosque) he speaks categorically thus:

کہ حق سے یہ حرم مغربی سے بیگانہ

مری نگاہ کمال ہنر کو کیا دیکھے

تنِ حرم میں چھپادی ہے روح بت خانہ

حرم نہیں ہے فرنگی کرشمہ سازوں نے

Why should my eye be deluded with the perfection of craftsmanship

For this Sanctum is wholly devoid of Truth?

No Sanctum it is but the Western artifices

Have concealed the essence of idolatry within it.

The finesse of craftsmanship is equivalent to images of art, and Truth is sharply juxtaposed to them, and here a subtle distinction lies between the relativity of the work of art and the notion of eternality. The Western artificers are condemned by sleight of hand, for they have merely tried to establish the illusion of the uniqueness and particularity of art but are not concerned with its essence. The soul of idolatory is equivalent to craftsmanship that is devoid of vision. Needless to add that in all the major belief-systems, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity and Islam, Truth is equated with God. The British Romantic poet, John Keats, referred to earlier also, avers to this effect: ‘Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty/ That is all that ye know, and all that is ye need to know’. The British philosopher Shaftesbury, also maintains that all the manifestations of Beauty are almost equivalent to Truth. In his inimitable poem on Shakespeare, lqbal pays a glowing tribute to him thus:

دِل انساں کو ترا حسن کلام آئینہ

حسن آئینہ حق اور دل آئینہ حسن

Beauty is the mirror of Truth, and the heart mirrors beauty

Your felicitous poetry holds a mirror to the human heart.

For Iqbal there is no dichotomy between Beauty and Truth but Beauty is consecrated only when it reverberates with sublimity of Truth, for Truth any way enjoys priority and precedence over Beauty. Truth and Beauty are inter-related in the same way as Eternity and Time enjoy the status of co-ordinates. The authentic work of art encompasses all the triple aspects of Time: the past, the present and the future whereas according to the German mystic philosopher Meister Eckhart, Truth enjoys the status of an eternal ‘Now’. In the poem, entitled اہرامِ مصر (Monuments of Egypt) Iqbal speaks in a tone of finality thus:

کس ہاتھ نے کھینچی ابدیت کی یہ تصویر

اہرام کی عظمت سے نگو نسار ہیں افلاک

The Heavens are prostrated before the sublimity of the monuments

What human hand has carved this image of eternality?

and eternality is synonymous with sublimity. The element of sublimity that vibrates through a great poem or an overwhelming piece of architecture contributes to its unique significance and power. Grandeur or awesomeness are important ingredients of sublimity and embedded in it is the throb of inevitability. Opposed to the Paris Mosque, Iqbal while standing in front of Mosque Quwwatul lslam, unburdens himself thus:

جس کی تکبیر میں ہے معرکہ بودو نبود

ہے تری شان کے شایان اسی مومن کی نماز

Only that Momin [believer’s] prayer is in conformity to your dignity

Whose call to prayer betrays involvement in the conflict between Being-non-Being

Sustained conflict between Being-non-Being which is of a piece with the rhythms of life is symbolic of the pattern of human destiny. Such is the impact of the believer’s call to prayer and it so coalesces with the architectonics of the mosque that it transforms the latter into an awe-inspiring entity.

One of the couplets in اہرامِ مصر  (Monuments of Egypt) runs thus:

صیاد ہیں مردان ہنر نہ کہ نخچیر

فطرت کی غلامی سے کر آزاد ہنر کو

 Set art free from the thraldom of Nature

 Are Master-craftsmen hunters or targets of hunting?

It may be reiterated that Iqbal never rejected outright the reality of the physical world: the poetry of Bang-e-Dara is a convincing witness to it. Not only in Bal-e-Jibreel but in earlier collections, too, Iqbal advocates not thraldom to Nature but transformation of its chameleon shapes into something rich and stable. In the earliest collection, Bang-e-Dara he has employed conventional symbols of Urdu poetry into his own distinctive and original way, thus changing their physiognomy according to his own idiom. In later poetry he is deeply engaged in evolving symbolic poems of experiential reality and thereby communicating his own perception of things. He is not attracted towards the sensuous fecundity of the physical world for its own sake but tends to treat the physical and the transcendental as two contrary models of understanding. ‘Prayer’, ‘Before Ravi’, ‘Lovely Flower’ and the ‘Glow-worm’ are poems in which the conventional nodal points are treated as revelatory of deeper significance. Far more important is the poem, شمع اور شاعر ‘Candle and the Poet’ in which the age-old conventions of Urdu poetry, inclusive of diction and symbology, have been re-fashioned with a view to communicating an altogether new perspectivism: their leitmotif may be distinguished as a transition from the realm of factity to that of ideality. This process of idealization fully harmonizes with his philosophical approach to life: the distinction between factity and transcendence is apparent if we were to compare the opening section of  خضرِ راہ (Khizr-e-Rah) with  ذوق و شوقDhauq-o-Shauq. His mind seems to be moving from accumulation of vivid and bright images towards some sort of distillation of experience in terms of philosophical discipline. Thraldom to Nature amounts, according to him, to mere cataloguing details of the milieu, aspects of the visible reality. That way lqbal’s poetry is very much similar to that of the British poet, William Wordsworth, that is not primarily concerned with portrayal of the physical landscape but with modes of perception that determine the quality of his apprehension of things.

Speculation over the two co-ordinates, Beauty and Sublimity started with the publication of Longinus’ epoch-making treatise On the Sublime whose manuscript was discovered in the sixteenth century. Edward Burke, primarily and significantly known for his political speeches and writings in the eighteenth century England, spoke elaborately on this theme in his treatise On the Beautiful and the Sublime, and this initiated prolonged discussion on this theme in the years that followed. Burke’s contention amounts to the fact that whereas the Beautiful stimulates our sense — perceptions and helps us in their patterning and organizing the Sublime takes us to a higher level and becomes the medium of our acquiring the sense of exaltation: it provokes, putting it with concision, the reverberations of a mighty and capacious soul. A beautiful object is characterized by elegance, finesse and transparency, the Sublime, on the contrary, is mirrored in the turbulent winds, the limitless expanse of the ocean, the dreadful and awesome sounds, and in heightened emotions. The distinguished American philosopher and critic, George Santayana, puts it with great lucidity by observing that the Beautiful makes us feel harmonized with the cosmos around us and the Sublime, contrarily enables us to transcend it. The following two couplets, occurring in the poem جلال اور جمال (Sublimity and Beauty) puts the matter very emphatically thus:

ترا نفس ہے اگر ختم تو پھر آتش ناک

نہ ہو جلال تو حسن و جمال بے تاثیر

کہ جس کا شعلہ نہ ہو تندو سرکش و بیباک

مجھے سزا کے لئے بھی نہیں قبول وہ آگ

Without the admixture of the Sublime the Beautiful is inefficacious

if the melody does not burn with passion, it is no more than breath

Even for chastisement that fire is not acceptable to me

Whose flame is neither burning ferociously nor is unsubduable.

Sublimity is the component that energizes and enlivens the Beautiful: it is the source and fountain-head of the intense, burning and the unquenchable flame and nothing can withstand its impact. Through the symbolic medium of pure historical figures this notion has been mediated thus:

فقر جنید و بایزید ترا جمال بے نقاب

شوکت سنجر و سلیم تیرے جلال کی نمود

Splendour of Sanjar and Salim is nothing more than an objectivation of your Sublimity

Asceticism of Junayd and Bayazid is no more than an unveiling of your Beauty.

Longinus specifies three components as essential to writings that reflect sublimity: exaltation, intensification and lucidity. Whereas the function of Beauty is to civilize the emotions and make them pliable and agreeable the Sublime evokes the sense of the exalted and the awesome. lqbal has used two more terms in this context, and these are particularly relevant to his own poetry, دلبری allurement and t5, awesomeness, and it is of avail to search them in any other Urdu poet, including Ghalib. Towards the end of Zaboor-e-Ajam we come across this significant couplet:

دلبری باقاہری پیغمبری است

دلبری بے قاہری جادوگری است

Allurement unmixed with awesomeness is mere sorcery

Allied with rigour it is on par with prophecy

In other words, poetry confined to merely creating linguistic excellence is not distinguishable from a sort of incantation, but if it amalgamates both the beautiful and the sublime in a unified whole and has the power to penetrate to the centre of the Ego it will be raised to the status of prophecy. The British poet and painter, William Blake, offers in his poetry, these two varieties of artistic creation: his long and comparatively short poems are known, respectively, as Major and Minor Prophecies. Prophecy, in the Blakian perspective, is that species of poetry that offers a unique reflection of the transcendental vision, is a revelation of the ‘ineffable Reality’ and helps explicate the enigma of human existence. Apparently it has not much to do with the conventional view of religion but in the ultimate analysis and at the highest level of cognition poetry, religion and metaphysics become indistinguishable, however much their modes of communication may vary, their vital center is undeniably the same. For Blake the source of this sort of vision is the poetic genius that he designates as the First principle. According to this view point all the implications of the poetic process are embedded in the Poetic Genius and seem to emanate from it alone. He says categorically and unambiguously that Poetic Genius is the Man in the perspective of all potencies and limits of the possible. In Blake’s estimation, and Iqbal seems to concur with him, all religions are vital in proportion to how they assimilate and bring poetic genius within their orbit: this, too, determines the essence of revelation and is identical with it. And this is how he puts it:

All religions of all nations are derived from each

nation’s reception of the Poetic Genius which is

everywhere called the spirit of Prophecy.

Here Poetic Genius, prescience and a priori comprehension of things are on par with Revelation or Genius in the course of which the subject seems to approximate himself with the Divine. The problem of communication, depending upon deft handling of literary modes and conventions arives, for both Blake and Iqbal, later. In his poem, entitledشعر he embodies a very acute perception thus:

یہ نکتہ تاریخ اُمم جس کی ہے تفسیر

میں شعر کے اسرار سے محرم نہیں لیکن

یا نغمہ جبرئیل ہے یا بانگ سرافیل

وہ شعر کہ پیام حیات ابدی ہے

I am not knowledgeable about the mystery of poetry

But this is the point that is explicated by the history of nations

Poetry that contains the eternality of emotions

Is equivalent to the melody of Gabriel or of Israfel Further:

خدا مجھے نفس جبریل دے تو کہوں

وہ حرف راز کہ مجھ کو سکھا گیا ہے جنون

Ecstasy has revealed that secret to me

Which I may disclose if gifted with Gabriel’s breath

The image of the Greek Orpheus is immediately evoked and the melody or breath of Gabriel becomes the medium of impressing the analogy of the Holy Ghost on the surface of the mind. Both bear one identical connotation and are linked to that unknowable intuitive power that accounts for the genesis of poetry. And not unlike painting, poetry, too, is not merely concerned with unveiling the alluring aspects of the phenomenal matrix. Meister Eckhart is of the view that Nature and Art are only theoretically one, otherwise, they exist poles apart. As in the case of other major poets, too, these two co-ordinates Nature and meta-Nature invite attention to themselves in Iqbal’s poetry. The juxtaposition of the bounded and the boundless as binary opposites is evident in other poets, too. Blake’s Songs of Experience may justifiably be read in the double perspective of Time and Eternity. The amalgamation of these two co-ordinates stimulates us to realize that Shakespeare, too, seems to be fascinated by them in his dramatic universe. Though Art insinuates an extension and enrichment of Nature yet in one of his last plays The Winters Tale, Shakespeare seems to indulge in a sort of mockery of art, too. Towards the end, Nature, equivalent to an elemental power, seems to enjoy pride of place in this hierarchy. Iqbal is reluctant to concede primacy to Nature, he is allured by a sort of ideality and transcendence.

Opposed to Plato’s hypothesis that the creative process resulting in a work of art is a sort of mimesis of the reality, Aristotle lays emphasis on the fact of transformation involved in a literary artifact, on its structure and those integuments of experience that are organized into a definite form. The modern critical stance that a work of literary art is more than a form of structured experience may ultimately be traced to Aristotle. That way Iqbal tends to agree with Plato rather than Aristotle: likewise he does not uphold anywhere that poetic art is a projection of unconscious motivations and drives. His own poetry is an exteriorization of those themes and motifs that relate to and are consistent with the exercise of free will and are volitional in character. Despite this, we also come across a number of poems that are structured in a primordial world where the impingement of Time and Space is not yet discernible and where man is unaware of and indifferent to the pressures and constraints of the material surroundings. Also in places we find some sort of deviation from the consciously and solemnly held ideals and norms. Iqbal’s portrayal of Iblees or Satan and his fearless appreciation of his character betray his partiality for him. In the context of the impact of unconscious motivations stressed in the present-day discussions and for which the blanket term ‘intentional fallacy’ was used lately, is very relevant in the following perception of William Blake, and it seems that the modern idiom is not really that modern:

‘The Reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels

& God and at liberty when of Devil, & Hell is because he was

of the Devil’s party without knowing it’.

This point of view is not applicable to the major bulk of Iqbal’s poetry though it does have a tangential bearing on some of his poems. For instance, in  مقالہٴ جبریل و ابلیس(Colloquy between Jibreel and Iblees) the former’s character, contrasted with that of his antagonist, looks rather pale, colourless and vapid. Iblees’s flamboyant rhetoric, and his heightened consciousness of his own Ego, add spiciness to it: his irony is very pungent and corrosive. Earlier in. تسخیر فطرت (Subjugation of Nature) in Payam-e-Mushriy his saying ‘Nay’ to God, his peremptoriness and disdain are also very noticeable. As opposed to his spasmodic and assertive personality Adam looks as no more than an ossified being. In Javaid Namah Iqbal exalts him by placing him as the leader and champion of the ‘debased men’, and he goes to the extent of proclaiming:

کہ یزداں دارد و شیطان ندارد

مزی اندر جہان کور ذوقے

Do not continue to live in the inwardly blind world

That contains Yazdan but no Devil.

And he adds further:

ہزار فکر اودراعماق دل است

کشتن ابلیس کار مشکل است

To annihilate Iblees is well-nigh impossible

As he is subsumed into the depths of the heart.

Iblees’s character, in varying perspectives is thoroughly dynamic and fully capable of realizing his infinite potentialities. In the poem, entitled ابلیس کی مجلس شوریٰ (Iblees’s Assembly of Consultations), too, his self – aggrandizement is pretty high, indeed, though ultimately he becomes a witness to his own deflation. On the theoretical level Iqbal seems to uphold that the evil, symbolized by Iblees, is integral to a complex whole and may not be uprooted and liquidated altogether: the conflict between good and evil is unending but evil may, however, be transformed into its opposite:

کشتہ شمشیر قرآنش کنی

خوشترآں باشد کہ مسلمانش کنی

Far better it is to Islamize it

Be it subdued by the Quranic sword

What is implicit here is that instead of crushing evil it may be made to undergo some sort of alchemical transformation by making the Quranic Logos operate on its roots. Iqbal does in some weaker and fugitive moments feels lured by Iblees. It may not be amiss to quote here the German poet, Goethe, (whom Iqbal any way held in great esteem): ‘I don’t feel contented with a single mode of perception: as a poet and artist I am a devotee of several gods at a time’. In other words, apropos of co-presence and simultaneous functioning of conscious and unconscious motifs he may take account of the two points of reference in Islamic mysticism, sobriety and ecstasy: the former one is applicable to poetry reflecting consciously articulated beliefs and ideals in exercise of one’s volition, and the second one betrays the imprint of unconscious motivations and impulsions. They are not necessarily exclusive of one another but have a tendency to interpenetrate and merge into one another.

Two more points may be stressed here: Iqbal firmly believes in the functionalism of literary art, he does not subscribe to the view that it merely caters to providing sensuous or aesthetic pleasure: to him, on the contrary, it offers some sort of value-charged, structured experience In defence of the autotelic character of poetry, otherwise termed formalism, it may be argued that the creative artist involved in it is primarily concerned with and committed to what Eckhart calls the First Cause: nothing can be imposed upon it from outside that may tend to violate its integrity. Apropos of this Iqbal in Bal-e-Jibreel speaks with succinctness thus:

حرفِ تمنا جسے کہہ نہ سکیں رو برو

فلسفہ و شعر کی اور حقیقت ہے کیا

What do philosophy and poetry eventually amount to?

Only an inward interaction that may not be fully explicated.

The import of a literary artifact cannot be elucidated on the spur of the moment, for it reveals itself gradually as the flower blossoms forth in all its radiance and delicacy, little by little. Its interiority moves towards expressiveness and its potential is actualized in some sort of concrescence. Any possible contradiction, if it is there, may be removed in the light of the Kantian dictum ‘purposiveness without purpose’. In other words, some kind of ultimate purposiveness lies at the heart of the linguistic literary artifact by which it is animated though we may not get it on the surface and at a quick glance. In the contexts of Iqbal’s poetry, and generally speaking, too, it is equivalent to unravelling the ultimate values underlying it though as delightfully pointed out by the British romantic poet, Keats, the artist does not have any palpable design on the reader.

Under the caption  حکمت وشعر (Sapience and Poetry) in Payam-e-Mushriq, lqbal speaks thus:

شعرمی گردو چو سوزاز دل گرفت

حق اگر سوزے ندارد حکمت است

Truth devoid of emotion amounts to wisdom

It turns into poetry if it is fed on emotional sources

Varying his idiom a little he puts it slightly differently thus:

سمجھو تمام مرحلہ ہائے ہنر ہیں طے

جس روز دل کی رمز مغنی سمجھ گیا

یہ اک نفس یا دو نفس مثل شرر کیا

مقصود ہنر سوز حیات ابدی ہے

The day the musician grasps the heart’s secret

All processes of craftsmanship are well-nigh accomplished

Art is rooted in a sort of perpetual emotionality

It has nothing to do with the momentary flickering of the flame.

Here the heart’s secret implies the surge of passion, a sort of heightened emotionality that is regarded as the primary stimulus not only for the musician but is equally shared by all creative artists. This emotional upsurge is indistinguishable from that abiding intuition of love that is central to Iqbal’s value-system and cerebral processes. It is germane to the ritual of I and Thou and holds the two together: this reveals the ultimate Truth and brings to view the symbolic forms of Being. According to Kant these constitute the a priori structures that help us organize experience and its pattern is mediated through them, and for Iqbal this patterning is the ‘objective co-relative’ of the fundamental values. In modern parlance the word is the talisman that is fully allied both to the patterning of experience and the implicit logic of art. Iqbal uses two highly significant phrase  ارتباط حرف و معنیand اختلاط جان و تن (integration of word and meaning) and (immersion of soul and body) in Zerb-e-Kaleem for identifying this process. This integration and assimilation is effected by the intuition of love, is in fact synonymous with it, and soul and body are symbolic of the inward and practical or efficient self, respectively, of the creative artist that are held in unison through the magic of love. Here one is instantaneously reminded of the rare insight of St. Augustine: ‘Love and do whatever you like’. What is worth stressing vis-à-vis Iqbal is the fact when the literary artist is swamped into the intuition of love, overwhelmed by its enormous and titanic force, then craftsmanship, with all its appurtenances, poses no challenge for him: everything is swept away by this tidal wave. The love impulse does not connote any mere subjectivity, it is an effective means of intuiting things and helps the artist in grasping the structure of Reality. This mode of apprehension is Iqbal’s foremost priority:

جو شئے کی حقیقت کو نہ سمجھے وہ نظر کیا

اے اہل نظر ذوق نظر خ وب ہے لیکن

O man of vision, the mode of aesthetic apprehension is a precious gift

But what worth is the intuition that does not penetrate to the heart of things.

Apropos of this intuitive approach Iqbal unburdens himself in this ecstatic way:

عشق است امام من عقل است غلامِ من

من بندہ آزادم عشق است امام من

I am a free man, love is my guide

Love is what leads me and Reason is my vassal.

Regarding the impulse for creativity or love he speaks in Bal-e Jibreel thus:

عشق سے مٹی کی تصویروں میں سوز دم بدم

عشق سے پیدا نوائے زندگی میں زیرو بم

Love is the source of the rhythm of life

Love invigorates the models of clay.

In the first couplet Reason is equivalent to mathematical exactitude and is thus a reductionist force, and in the succeeding one the models of clay are those art forms that are quickened and energized by the( impulse of love. Once a unified Ego, invested with the intuition o love, is achieved, then acquisition of mastery over technique is a matte of secondary importance:

سمجھو تمام مرحلہ ہائے ہنر ہیں طے

Now, take care, all formalities of craftsmanship have been taken care of

Linked to and implicit in it is another problem, too: what value is to be assigned to Word or craftsmanship vis-à-vis the integrity of a work of literary art? The American critic, Archibald MacLeish’s view, often quoted by the formalists, in support of their stance, reads like this: ‘A poem must not mean, but Be’: in other words, what really counts in poetry is the symbolic value of the word. Poetry demonstrates the miraculous power of the Word and the organic unity of the work of art is achieved through it. The imagistic and symbolic suggestibility of the word effects a synthesis that could not be foreseen prior to the creation of the work of art. Words have their far-flung tentacles and their primary connotations tend to multiply when they are carefully manipulated by the literary artist. Masterly grasp of the nuances of words and their interplay contribute towards the emergence of a sort of microcosm that possesses its own cohesiveness and unique identity. It should also be borne in mind that the creative use of words is distinct from conventional handling of them: the first one provokes us to ponder over the meaning of meaning and the latter ends up with only a clever and scintillating word-play that does not lead to any illumination. One may legitimately inquire whether the poetic structure so assiduously and dexterously built up is self-subsistent or can be validated in terms other than the merely aesthetic? The formalistic criterion does not lead us very far. Purposiveness in literature or literary criticism is not an altogether irrelevant proposition but this purposiveness, as pointed out earlier, is implicit and is not directly and insistently propagated. Words are doubtless possessed of enormous potencies but these are not an end in themselves nor is the literary artifact merely a self-contained whole. In spite of its uniqueness and individuality, it is not like Coleridge’s Kubla Khan’s palace ‘a miracle of rare device’ alone.

It is, indeed, a unique and complex whole but it is also deeply rooted in the concerns and ambiguities of life and is always and in the ultimate analysis referable to them. Accessibility to a sort of aesthetic delight has its own justification, for aesthetic is an important dimension of literary art but it is not an end in itself: Truth and Goodness are no less significant values in the pattern of human living. One should not over-emphasize the ethical criteria but one may justifiably uphold that vis-à-vis literature and literary criticism due attention may be paid to what the Germans call Weltanschauung: its projection is a positive value for the literary artist who cannot avoid being concerned with the manifold imperatives of life. Absorption in artistic finesse and the pleasure arising from that may generate a sort of languor or lassitude. Likewise the propagation of any kind of political ideology may add an extra literary dimension to the work of art and this may distract attention from its authenticity or viability. As opposed to these procedures the cognition of Reality achieved in the light of the Weltanschauung avoiding over-emphasis and explicitness, may enable one to develop the correct perspective. When one thinks of Iqbal’s major poems like ‘Loneliness’, ‘Dew-drop, ‘Evolution’, ‘Cordova Mosque’, ‘Ecstasy’, ‘Saqi Namah’, ‘Tulip of the Desert’ ‘Lailaha illallah’, ‘Sir Ross Masood’, dare one gainsay the fact that their extraordinary excellence derives from their being unique literary structures in point of organization, intricacy and many-sidedness. But in fact their greatness in the canon of Urdu literature derives from that pattern of values and that subtlety and intensity of vision that pulsates through them and turns them into monads of unsurpassable authenticity. For Iqbal a literary artifact should not be used as an instrument for publicity, for in its essentials it is revelatory of the ineffable Reality. William Blake puts it differently by upholding that the artist who reaches the highest level of creative imagination ‘lives in Eternity’s sun-rise’.

In literary and academic discussions this truism is often repeated that in poetic art beauty is achieved by linguistic execution and finesse and for assessment of its unique significance the norm is the one referred to earlier. Further, what distinguishes Ghalib and Iqbal in the hierarchy of Urdu poets may also provide a basis for discussing Iqbal’s Poetics. Like the seventeenth century British poet, John Donne, Ghalib employs cerebral processes in his poetry and these amount to a kind of ratiocination while Iqbal’s poetry, not unlike that of William Blake tilts towards an apocalyptical vision of things. The present writer in his book Arrows of Intellect, 1965, focuses on the different aspects of Blake’s apocalyptic imagination. A literary artist is not exclusively concerned with the architectonics of the work of art and does not stop there but is in search of something supervening it. Beyond the verbal magic and rhythmic resonance we are in search of that which animates it. Vis-à-vis Iqbal’s poetics the emphasis on his superb craftsmanship is not enough: he speaks unequivocally in Zerb-e-Kaleem to this effect:

جو شئے کی حقیقت کو نہ سمجھے وہ نظر کیا

اے اہل نظر ذوق نظر خوب ہے لیکن

O ye connoisseurs, the gift of vision has its own value

What good is vision if it does not penetrate through the Real.

Scientific investigation of physical reality amounts to amassing of facts and framing of general laws on the basis of the available data: the process of arriving at generalizations is a continuous process. The literary artist’s technique of envisioning Reality is almost identical with that of the mystic: it is a direct and spontaneous seeing into the life of things as Wordsworth puts it. For the scientist Reality is an opaque phenomena: the gaze of the poet and the mystic penetrates through it instantaneously. For Iqbal, the mode of apprehension of both is not argumentative but revelatory: man’s interaction with things in the surrounding world is marked with subjectivity and has a touch of intimacy and inwardness about it. To keep abreast with the ‘Other’ the scientist and the utilitarian puts emphasis on the externality of things: scientism has no notion of those forms and techniques that may tentatively be designated as mystic apperceptions. Most instances of these we come across in Payam-e-Mushriq and stray ones in Bang-e-Dara, too, where the beauty of the terrestrial world serves only as a veil for the darker mysteries of life. Perhaps keeping in view Iqbal’s later collection Zerb-e-Kaleem which is characterized by extreme terseness. The Urdu poet Firaq calls Iqbal’s poetry ‘epigrammatic’ (and this betrays his critical impercipience) though as a matter of fact here deep contemplation coalesces with mordant irony. Owing to the ‘impulse of the heart’ and ‘drop of life-blood’ infused into it, the literary artifact acquires the capability of making us travel from the limited region of the senses to the illimitable sphere of the soul. The authentic poet does not offer us mere concepts but their ‘objective co-relatives’ in Eliot’s phrase and these become instrumental in the disclosure of value. This process is preceded by the emergence of a unified, dynamic and perfected self that may help him in the re-ordering of things: conversely, and logically enough, it is also true to uphold:

وائے صورت گری و شاعری و نائے و سرود

گر ہنر میں نہیں تعمیر خودی کاجوہر

If art is incapable of helping us build the true self

Of what avail is sculpture, poetry, dance and music.

Unless the primary emotions undergo the process of catalysis and acquire thereby an unprecedented form they are lacking in significance.

The poem, entitled محاورہ بین خدا و انسان (Colloquy between God and Man) in Payam-e-Mushriq, is marked with a sort of transparency, and rests upon a skilful and deliberate juxtapositions.

سفال آفریدی ایاغ آفریدم

تو شب آفریدی چراغ آفریدم

خیابان و گلزار و باغ آفریدم

بیاباں و کوہسار و باغ آفریدی

من آنم کہ از سنگ آئنہ  سازم من آنم کہ از زہر نو شینہ سازم

You created Night and I created the Lamp

You created the cup, and I provided wine,

You created desert, mountain and garden

I created orchards and the garden

It is I who can create mirror out of the stone

It is I who can create anti-dote out of poison.

In the first two couplets the opposition between ‘you created’ and ‘I created’ is reflected in the framing of the two characters on the back-stage: their utterances bring their identities into lime light. One who is capable of originating lamp, orchard and the rose-garden (all these are icons of human civilization) is also one who is invested with the power of pseudo-creation and thus he becomes co-sharer in God’s immense creativeness. The British poet and critic Coleridge, in his philosophical way, presents the functioning of the Primary Imagination in a succinct way thus:

‘The Primary Imagination I hold to be the Power And

Prime agent of all human perception, And as a

representation in the finite mind of the Eternal

Act of Creation in the Infinite I am’.

The world of creative art is a sort of microcosm that is made to emerge and exists parallel to the macrocosm by the ingenuity and resourcefulness of poetic genius and in that lies the secret of its authenticity and credibility. Creativity is the most precious gift and distinctive mark of genius and is exteriorized by the use of colours; stones sounds and words –the essential media of art and these provide opportunity for the articulation of meaning. Some creative artists, like William Blake, operate through words and colours simultaneously. It is also worth pointing out that on the one hand Blake depreciates the phenomenal world – Maya or Prakriti – and on the other his configurations emanate from the world of Nature. More than painting, poetry, drawing upon the rich potencies of words, creates such a luminous world that looks more substantial than the material forms existing around and enveloping us. Putting it differently we may maintain that the creative art does not depend on mimesis as was upheld by Plato. lqbal highlighted a new aspect of this problem by visualizing the world of the ‘possible’ as opposed to the perceptible world. The three couplets, constituting the poem, entitledc  صوفی سے (To the mystic) read thus:

مری نگاہ میں ہے حادثات کی دنیا

تری نگاہ میں ہے معجزات کی دنیا

غریب تر ہے حیات ممات کی دنیا

تخیلات کی دنیا غریب ہے لیکن

بلا رہی ہے تجھے ممکنات کی دنیا

عجب نہیں کہ بدل دے اسے نگاہ تیری

Your gaze is fixed on the world of miracles

Mine is riveted on that of occurrences

Unique is the world of the imaginings

More unique is that of life and death

May be your world undergoes transformation

You are being summoned by the world of possibilities.

Beyond the world of occurrences to which we are exposed via sense-perceptions lies the world of the ‘possible’ or the Absolute: this is the world of the ideals that continues to motivate and challenge the free human will. This problem can be seen in another perspective, too: Prior to the emergence of the Ego and self-consciousness we may visualize another mode of Being called the ‘unconditioned’ or of primordiality. When the Prophet, Mohammad was asked about the whereabouts of God before Creation he used the most enigmatic phrase ‘impercipience’ apropos of the created world one point of view offered is that God made it emerge ex nihilo by imposing a definite form on it: prior to the impingement of the senses it was concretized and made transparent. Apparently it looks as though the infinite beauty and fecundity of the physical world and its organic rhythms cannot be made accessible except though colours, sounds and words fabricated by man. This, however, is not a fully satisfying assessment. The world of human creation is an improvement on and extension of the natural world. To specify these organic rhythms in the man — created utterance and bring them within the orbit of comprehension postulates the kind of vision that may penetrate to the reality of things. Borrowing William Blake’s unique terminology we may well uphold that the Single Eye can be of no avail in this venture, on the contrary, one has to depend upon the guidance and help of what he calls the Fourfold Vision. The latter is the unitary impulse of creativity and is of vital significance in responding to the symphony of the universe and embodying this response through the medium of words. Hence one reaches ,erg: indirect conclusion that the creative and critical procedures do have a point of convergence. Here again we are not so much piqued by these two divergent and yet partially identical activities as by the exteriorization of the Divine and human potentialities that is a unique phenomenon and invites us to reflection.

Iqbal’s view of the art of play-acting and his definitive judgment on it, throws light, however tangential, on his conception of poetry, too:

رہا نہ تو تو نہ سوز خودی نہ ساز حیات

یہی کمال ہے تمثیل کا کہ تو نہ رہے

The acme of play acting is the eradication of your identity

I f you cease to be, the pathos of the self and rhythm of life will also be eradicated.

Iqbal is not prepared to budge even an inch from his view of the sanctity of the Ego and its sphere of operation. It, however, needs stressing that in the course of staging of play the actor’s wearing the mask of the dramatic persona and thus leaving no distinction between

Thou and I is only a short-lived affair. The masks worn by the different actors are taken off at the end of the stage performance, for they are no longer needed: this in no way invalidates or minimizes their Ego or individuality, and the play-actors are still aware of and in possession of it. There is no other means of highlighting the image of the dramatic characters with all their mental and psychological prerequisites, except that the play-actors achieve a near-self-identification with them. The illusion of the mergence lasts and is accepted till such time as the play is put on the stage for the benefit and pleasure of the spectators. Iqbal’s very crisp and rounded statement:

If you cease to be, both the pathos of the self and life’s rhythm cease to be is, indeed, in conformity with the earlier premise:

حیات کیا ہے اسی کا سرور و سوز و ثبات

تری خودی سے ہے روشن ترا حریم وجود

Your Sanctum of existence remains enkindled by your Ego

Life is nothing but its ecstasy, pathos and stability

The flaw in Iqbal’s logic seems to derive from the fact that a temporary phenomenon is being treated as of an abiding nature: on the contrary, Dante’s dictum to the following effect deserves to be pondered over:

Who paints a picture, if he cannot But be it

Cannot draw it.

Successful play-acting, or in other words, effective communication of insights, mediated through dramatic characters, to the play-goers, postulates complete immersion of play-actors into dramatic persona: without some sort of rapprochement, the objective can in no way be effectively achieved. The term persona, current coin in modern literary criticism, is derived from the concept of the mask: the term has had various connotations but in modern parlance it means that by renouncing temporarily, our ego, we can communicate certain significances in an objective and detached manner. One important aspect of drama criticism and stage repertoire is that apart from reading plays in a closet we study them from the viewpoint of stage-production, too, and make thereby our own assessment. The logic on which this technique rests is that to begin with plays were written more for showing and performance than for reading purposes. This in no way amounts to belittling the poetic, philosophical and linguistic dimensions of dramaturgy but to offer a new approach to it. Shakespeare has himself, unconsciously, perhaps used the image of play-acting in some of his plays very dexterously. Prior to the couplet from Zerb-e-Kaleem earlier Iqbal also speaks to this effect:

دوبارہ زندہ نہ کر کاروبار لات و منات

حریم تیراخودی غیر کی معاذ اللہ

Sanctum is yours but the Ego is someone else’s, God forbid Do not revive the ancient practice of idolatory.

The ritual of idolatry, in the present context, connotes those premises of play-acting that Iqbal rejects outright. His mode of address insinuates severe castigation implied by the term ‘God forbid’. This shows that Iqbal clings unflinchingly to the implications of his view of the Ego and refuses to accommodate other possible approaches. It looks as if he is disdainful of the implications of the technique of illusionism that also entails the use of dramatic irony and this involves the emergence, in this perspective of the characters as role-players, too. The basic postulates of both the art of drama and of play-acting have been the focus of attention and are referable to practical experience. Further, they are at the periphery of Iqbal’s speculative system or in spite of his profound erudition he avoided attending to them with any seriousness of purpose. Needless to say that the art of drama and the technique of play-acting are independent varieties of discourse, and based on their own assumptions can in no way be made subservient to any kind of philosophical idealism. Ego and Love on the one hand, and play-acting on the other, have their co-ordinates and it is futile to conceive any point of convergence among them. Confusion in this regard may have been engendered possibly by the fact that the instinct for drama composition and play-acting is rooted deeply in the cultural milieu of the West and is an essential and ineradicable part of the national psyche. Barring, perhaps, Japan, the drama convention has been almost non-existent in the East, and in Urdu and Persian languages in particular. That may be one of the reasons why Iqbal neglected them, and their postulates of play-acting do in no way fit in with his scheme of things.

It may not be out of place to mention here that Hali and Azad had to formulate tentatively some sort of Poetics derived from their experiments in the art of versification but it seems to suffer from their ingrained literal-mindedness. Both of them seem to subscribe to a naive and simplistic view of reality and their main concern was to introduce the reader to a variety of narrative poetry in which fact and Reality were indistinguishable. Iqbal’s Poetic universe and consequently his Poetics is sustained by a sort of dynamism and the complex heterogeneity of life’s experiences. In his Poetics, fact, symbol and imaginative transformation are related together and the way in which he tries to come to terms with the Real is very much removed from the merely logical and rationalistic approach to experience. Both Hali and Azad were given to simplifying experience, reducing its intricacy to bare essentials. Azad did practise the art of allegory in prose with marked success but in the genre of poetry he simply ignored the allegorical and symbolic modes of expression: his narrative poems are just insipid and monotonous. Hali did produce some very attractive ghazal poems but his narrative poems, like those of Azad, do not betray any sensitivity to delicacy of feeling or deep perceptiveness. Neither of them had any notion of the process of idealization that is evident at the highest level of poetic achievement. Both of them were wedded to the reformist mission of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and were persuaded to believe that poetry should be used as an instrument for achieving the needs and directives of the collective Ego. Iqbal’s environing of Truth and Reality was beyond the ken of Hali and Azad: didacticism was the very core of their being and their approach to the Real was very much in accord with ethical and reformist trends of their day. They seem to be knowledgeable about the history of the rise and fall of the nations but were almost completely ignorant of the dynamics of change, they were aware that individual and social groups interact but they gave no thought to the dialectical nature of this interaction. Some fundamental postulates of Iqbal’s Poetics can, indeed, be deduced from a close textual reading of his poems, and they may well be organized in the light of these premises. His poetry may as well and fruitfully be re-read and evaluated with fresh insight in the context of the Reconstruction Lectures, for his aesthetic cannot be dissociated from his concepts, of the Ego, Love and Faqr (non-attachment). Apropos of the themes of poetry and the principles of Poetics evolved by him Iqbal bears a close similarity to the British Romantic poets, Coleridge and Keats, as also to the modernist poet, T.S. Eliot whose poetic practice and the theory of poetic functioning have a great deal in common. It may be asserted with some amount of cogency that the art of poetry and engagement with Poetics reinforce each other as both of them are in fact a manifestation of a single complex temperament and both well up from the depths of the Poetic genius, as William Blake visualizes it. In view of the fore-going the basic assumptions of Iqbal’s Poetics provide enough food for reflection.

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