Faiz Ahmad Faiz (1911 – 1984) is a Pakistani poet. He wrote most of his books in his native languages, Urdu and Punjabi. He worked as a teacher, army officer, and journalist.
When he was young he was part of undivided India till 1947. He was part of the British Indian Army. After independence, he became the editor of The Pakistan Times. He was a communist and he used his writings to propagate communism.
He fought against the wrong developmental proposals of the government. He spent four years in jail. Later, the soviet union acknowledged him with the Lenin peace prize in 1962.
A prison evening is a journey through the life of a prisoner. This poem depicts the innate conflicts of the writer. This poem seems to be personal for most of the readers as we are surrounded by loneliness and other limitations. Dilip Chitre’s Father returning home also discusses the theme of alienation.
In the first stanza, the poet explains how constrained his surroundings are. The writer finds the signs of the day by observing the light that comes down through the spiral staircase.
The writer feels even the trees in the jail compounds are refugees. He feels like even the trees are dreaming of experiencing freedom.
He feels dark green shadows overwhelming him. He feels they are there to subjugate him. He writes ” at any moment they may break over me like the waves of pain.”
The poet clearly outlines his concerns are never limited but it’s repeated like the waves. The poet is also concerned about his lover. He feels this separation is painful.
By the end of the poem, the poet expresses his optimism. The poet affirms that history has never marked a complete victory for any tyrants. He expresses himself as ” tyrants may command that lamps be smashed,… they cannot snuff out the moon.”
The poet clearly warns the tyrants that they cannot block him from his passionate love. He expresses it with the beautiful images of the moon and the lamp.
This thought enlightened him and he concludes this poem by clearly stating that for him a day in prison is similar to a day anywhere on this earth.
Read the poem below
A prison evening
Each star a rung, night comes down the spiral staircase of the evening. The breeze passes by so very close as if someone just happened to speak of love. In the courtyard, the trees are absorbed refugees embroidering maps of return on the sky.
On the roof, the moon lovingly, generously. is turning the stars into a dust of sheen. From every corner, dark-green shadows, in ripples, come towards me. At any moment they may break over me, like the waves of pain each time I remember this separation from my lover. This thought keeps consoling me: though tyrants may command that lamps be smashed in rooms where lovers are destined to meet, they cannot snuff out the moon, so today, nor tomorrow, no tyranny will succeed, no poison of torture make me bitter, if just one evening in prison can be so strangely sweet, if just one moment anywhere on this earth.