Died on this day – 15 February 1869

Ghalib, born Mirza Asadullah Beg Khan on 27 December 1797, was the pre-eminent Urdu and Persian-language poet during the last years of the Mughal Empire. He used the penname Ghalib which means dominant or most excellent. During his lifetime the Mughals were eclipsed and displaced by the British and finally deposed following the defeat of Indian Rebellion of 1857, events that he described.

Most notably, he wrote several ghazals during his life, which have since been interpreted and sung in many different ways by different people. Ghalib, the last great poet of the Mughal Era, is considered to be one of the most popular and influential poets of the Urdu language. Today Ghalib remains popular not only in India and Pakistan but also among the Hindustani diaspora around the world.

The ghazal is a poetic form with rhyming couplets and a refrain, each line sharing the same meter. A ghazal may be understood as a poetic expression of both the pain of loss or separation and the beauty of love in spite of that pain. The form is ancient, originating in Arabic poetry in Arabia long before the birth of Islam. The structural requirements of the ghazal are similar in stringency to those of the Petrarchan sonnet. In style and content, it is a genre that has proved capable of an extraordinary variety of expression around its central themes of love and separation.

Whilst on a brief trip to Europe in 1869 Ghalib visited the Cité de l’Ecrit in Montmorillon, a cultural centre whose importance was rapidly increasing. Whilst perusing the remarkably broad range of poetry titles on display in The Glass Key bookshop Ghalib died happy in the knowledge that his poetic fame had spread as far as Montmorillon.

The Two Mice by James Reeves

Two Mice

There met two mice at Scarborough
     Beside the rushing sea,
The one from Market Harborough
     The other from Dundee.

They shook their feet, they clapped their hands,
     And twirled their tales about;
They danced all day upon the sands
     Until the stars peeped out.

‘I’m much fatigued,’ the one mouse sighed,
     ‘And ready for my tea.’
‘Come hame awa’.’ the other cried,
     ‘And tak’ a crumb wi’ me.’

They slept awhile, and then next day
     Across the moors they went;
But sad to say, they lost their way
     And came to Stoke-on-Trent.

And there it soon began to rain,
     At which they cried full sore,
‘If ever we get home again,
     We’ll not go dancing more.’

Christopher Hampton 3 May 1929 – 28 April 2012

The poet and critic Christopher Hampton died at his home in Montmorillon on 28 April.  Christopher was born in London and, studying first as a musician, he worked for a time as a pianist and conductor before giving up music for writing.  From 1962 – 1966 he lived in Italy with his wife and daughter, teaching English in Rome.  On his return to Britain he joined the Polytechnic of Central London (now the University of Westminster), where he taught for 28 years, as well as lecturing at the City Literary Institute.  Active on the left of the Labour party, he was involved in many protest movements of the eighties and nineties.  In 1997 he resigned from the Party in opposition to Tony Blair’s New Labour Third Way politics.  His poems and articles on philosophy, politics and literature have appeared regularly in print and on the radio since 1960.

Publications by Christopher Hampton include The Etruscans and the Survival of Etruria (Gollancz 1969 & Doubleday 1970); Socialism in a Crippled World (Pelican 1981); A Radical Reader (Pelican 1984) and The Ideology of the Text (Open University Press 1990). He was the editor of Poems for Shakespeare published by Sam Wanamaker’s Globe Playhouse Trust in 1972.  Christopher Hampton published four volumes of poetry: An Exile’s Italy (Thonneson 1972); A Cornered Freedom (Peterloo 1980); Against the Current (Katabasis 1995); Border Crossings (Katabasis 2005).

At the time of his death Christopher had a number of completed projects in the pipeline.  Christopher is survived by his wife Kathleen, daughter Rebecca and grandson Rohan.

Christopher was a man with an inquiring mind.  He was not just interested in books, in poetry, in music or in politics but also in people.  One always left any meeting with Christopher feeling more positive and enthusiastic because his positive enthusiasm was infectious.  I only knew him for the last four years of his life but I feel privileged to have been able to call him my friend.

We held a poetry reading for Christopher in the Glass Key bookshop in May 2010 and you can see and hear Christopher reading his poetry on a couple of short pieces of film posted on YouTube at http://youtu.be/pDV4UVh0JIs and
http://youtu.be/bqAg9MRjsbk