Poet, weaver, mystic and saint, Shah Hussein created a stir in sixteenth-century Punjab through his unconventional lifestyle and the subversive power of his poetry. Popularly known as Madho Lal Hussein, after he adopted the name of his young lover and disciple, he remains a beguiling, enigmatic figure: a firebrand whose growing fame was a cause for anxiety for the political elite, a Muslim who fell in love with a Hindu boy and won his heart and devotion, a rebel philosopher who found solace in ignominy.
Deceptively simple and astonishingly relevant, the poems in this magnificent collection are charged with longing and offer insight into the true nature of love and death, desire and sublimation. Naveed Alam’s lilting translation brings out the verve and allure of Hussein’s verses which continue to be sung and recited over 400 years after his death.
Madho Lal Hussein (1538–99), also known as Shah Hussein, was a weaver by profession and a mystic by vocation. To this day, he commands great reverence as a poet–saint in Punjab. His urs (death anniversary), known as Mela Chiraga’an (Festival of Lamps), continues to be held annually at his shrine in Baghbanpura, Lahore.
Naveed Alam is a poet and translator. His first collection of poems, A Queen of No Ordinary Realms, won the Spokane Poetry Prize, and his works have been published in a number of literary journals and magazines including the Prairie Schooner, American Poetry Journal and Poetry International, among others. He currently lives in Lahore, Pakistan.