The Tyrant

This is the festival; we will inter hope
with appropriate mourning. Come, my people.
We will celebrate the massacre of the multitudes.
Come, my people.
I have caused the ghost city known as Limbo
to be inhabited. I have liberated you
from night and from day.

You desire something from dawn’s first brushstrokes?
You make a wish on your bed of dreams?
I have decreed death to vision;
all eyes have been excised.
I have sent all dreams to the gibbet.

No bough will display its wealth of blossoms.
The spring that is near will not bring
the embers of Nimrod’s fire.
This season’s beads of rain will not shimmer
like pearl drops; its clouds
will cover you in dust and ashes.

Mine is the new religion, the new morality.
Mine are the new laws, and a new dogma.
From now on the priests in God’s temple
will touch their lips to the hands of idols.
Proud men, as tall as Cypress trees, will bend
to lick the dwarves’ feet, and taste the clay.

On this day all over the earth the door
         of beneficent deeds is bolted.
Every gate of prayer throughout heaven
         is slammed shut today.

— Faiz Ahmad Faiz
(Trans. by Naomi Lazard)

Pakistani poet Faiz Ahmad Faiz was a politically active leftist and member of the Communist Party. After Partition, he worked as the editor of the Pakistan Times, a socialist English-language newspaper. He was arrested on March 9, 1951, and charged with plotting a coup against the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Liaquat Ali Khan. Faiz was given the death penalty and spent four years in prison before his sentence was commuted by Prime Minister Huseyn Shurawardy. After his release, he lived in exile until 1964. Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated on October 16, 1951.