A Few Days

Only a few days, dear one, a few days more.
Under oppression’s shadows condemned to breathe,
Still for a time we must bear them, and tears, and endure
What our forefathers, not our own faults, bequeath:
Fettered limbs, each impulse held on a chain,
Minds in bondage, our words all watched and set down
Courage still nerves us, or how should we still exist,
Now with existence only a beggar’s gown,
Tattered, and patched every hour with new rags of pain?
Yes, but to tyranny not many hours are left now;
Patience a little, few hours of lamenting remain.
In this parched air of an age that desert sands choke
We must stay now — not forever and ever stay!
Under this load beyond words of a foreign yoke
We must submit for a while — not for ever submit!
Dust of affliction that clings to your beauty today,
Crosses unnumbered that mar our few mornings of youth,
Torment of silver nights, a pain with no cure,
Heartache unanswered, the body’s long cry of despair —
Only a few days, dear one, a few days more.

— Faiz Ahmad Faiz
(Trans. by Victor Kiernan)

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.