There is always a debate as to which is the language that is most suited for poetry. It is easily argued that French and Italian lend themselves most to writing poems easily since they are abundant with vowel sounds. This makes French and Italian poetry sound musical, as even the harshest objects are heard as lush sounds. Anyone who has heard an aria before an operatic scene of death can attest to this. Apart from historical tradition, this explains to some extent that most operas, even those written by German composers, are in Italian or French. On the other hand, the consonants that seem to be so derided give German poetry a certain weight, a certain intellectual air that has a different sort of beauty. Last week after listening to one of the most famous bass-baritones Thomas Quasthoff singing Schumann and Brahms lieder at the UMS, I want to totally revise the common notion that German cannot be the language of love.

Speaking in very traditional notions, despite Shakespeare and the Romantic poets, English poetry doesn't quite cut it as the language of love. Russian stakes a strong claim to being the sort of language that can be a strong contender. Word order is not strict and there are tons of vowel sounds. Apparently, it emerged as a winner at UN conference as 'the' language of love. Pushkin has everyone beat, so the story goes.

Closer to home and what I know - as any Indian is familiar - Urdu has the finest tradition of love poetry, of the sort that intoxicates and enthralls by its very beauty that the love object of those verses is a mere accessory. The poetry and its beauty is an end in itself. Urdu is a mish-mash of Hindi and Persian. It's remarkable that a language that arose from military camps in the Indian sub-continent was elevated enough to produce such wonderful poetry. Of course, any Persian worth his salt is going to argue that all the beauty comes from the Persian and the harsh consonants so to speak are all from the Hindi.

To paraphrase Shakespeare, poetry translated in any language would be just as sweet. Thanks to Mani for providing this gem from Muslih-ud-Din Mushrif ibn-Abdullah Shirazi or Saadi. A case in point that poetry is beautiful, even though it may be lost in translation to some extent.

هزار جهد بکردم که سر عشق بپوشم
نبود بر سر آتش میسرم که نجوشم

به هوش بودم از اول که دل به کس نسپارم
شمایل تو بدیدم نه صبر ماند و نه هوشم

حکایتی ز دهانت به گوش جان من آمد
دگر نصیحت مردم حکایتست به گوشم

مگر تو روی بپوشی و فتنه بازنشانی
که من قرار ندارم که دیده از تو بپوشم

من رمیده دل آن به که در سماع نیایم
که گر به پای درآیم به دربرند به دوشم

بیا به صلح من امروز در کنار من امشب
که دیده خواب نکردست از انتظار تو دوشم

مرا به هیچ بدادی و من هنوز بر آنم
که از وجود تو مویی به عالمی نفروشم

به زخم خورده حکایت کنم ز دست جراحت
که تندرست ملامت کند چو من بخروشم

مرا مگوی که سعدی طریق عشق رها کن
سخن چه فایده گفتن چو پند می‌ننیوشم

به راه بادیه رفتن به از نشستن باطل
و گر مراد نیابم به قدر وسع بکوشم

I made a few edits to Mani K's translation.

I made every effort to keep the secret of my love disguised.
However, it was impossible for me to not come to a boil from the fire.
I was cautious from the beginning not to fall in love with anyone.
When I saw you I lost both my patience and my caution.
I heard a story once about your mouth with the ears of my heart.
Since then people’s advice is just a story to my ears.
Only if you avoid me can this chaos settle down;
Since I cannot keep my calm and turn my eyes from you.
With such an untamed heart, it is better for me not to enter any dance ceremony.
If I enter on foot, people will be carrying me out on their shoulders.
Come in peace with me today and to my side tonight.
I didn't sleep last night in the hope of seeing you.
You sold me for nothing and I am still not willing to exchange a lock of your hair for the whole world.
I complain only to the injured about my wound; since the healthy will only blame me as I cry.
Don’t tell me: “Saadi, avoid the path of love”.
There is no point in telling since I am not listening to your advice.
Wandering off to the desert is better than sitting vainly; and if I don’t find my wish, I will try as hard as I can.

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