Friday, 26 February 2010

Rudel sails again (via Hyderabad)

Obscure and lengthy retellings of The Rudel legend, Part Three.

First we had John Graham, then Étienne-François de Lantier; now I bring you Nawab Sir Nizamat Jung Bahadur (1871-1955). This servant of the British Empire was born Nizamuddin Ahmed in Hyderabad State, south-central India, read Law at Trinity College, Cambridge, and worked in London from 1892 to 1895. A passionate reader of Shakespeare and the Anglo/European canon in general, he probably came across Rudel via Heine's rendition. He began writing poetry while living in London.

He returned to India in 1896 and served in various judicial posts in Hyderabad, then received the title of Khan Bahadur Nawab Nizamat Jung in 1905 and became Home Secretary (of Hyderabad, I assume) in 1909.

'Rudel of Blaye', a work of some 100 stanzas published in Hyderabad in 1926, was described less than glowingly by AR Chida (in An Anthology of Indo-Anglian Verse, 1930) as 'good enough in its way' and 'better than his sonnets'. Chida goes on: 'His mediaeval rhyming dictionary and an excess of the sedate and sombre manner of writing have ruined his poetry'. He also chastises the poet for favouring European subject matter and encourages him to compose 'epics and ballads dealing with our national history'.

Here's a snippet, rather reminiscent of John Graham's Rudel effort:

Immortal Beauty! Be thou still the theme
Of the heart's worship and its fervent song.
Still let the soul, by Faith and Love made strong,
See in God's works, though as a transient gleam,
The mystic light that veils thy form supreme!
Still let thy fleeting images that throng
Before the mind their magic spell prolong
Until man's life on earth becomes a heavenly dream!

I've gathered these biographical details (and the image) from Life's Yesterdays (1945) by Zahir Ahmed, which is available in somewhat badly scanned form (at the present time) at the Internet Archive. I have yet to find a complete text of 'Rudel of Blaye', but AR Chida's anthology, also online, includes selections from it. If I figure out how, I'll put up a pdf of the relevant pages for download.

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