dhokaa hai tamaam ba;hr-e dunyaa
dekhegaa kih ho;N;T tar nah hogaa

1a) it's a deceit/trick/mirage, the entire ocean of the world
1b) it's an entire deceit/trick/mirage, the ocean of the world

2a) you'll see that your lips won't be wet
2b) you'll see it-- {and / while / in that} your lips won't be wet


dhokhaa (of which dhokaa is a variant): 'Deceit, deception, delusion; blunder, mistake; disappointment, baulking; doubt, hesitation; alarm, panic; anything that may deceive or mislead, false appearance, a scarecrow; anything imaginary or unreal, a mirage; an object or form indistinctly seen at a distance'. (Platts p.551)

S. R. Faruqi:

In the verse there's a reflection of the tone of hortatory prophets. It's admonition, but the speaker is not without relationship to his addressee; rather, he's concerned about his benefit or harm. Among the Muslim elders, Shaikh Abd ul-Qadir Jilani gave preachings in just this style. Mir has also expressed this same theme in this way, in the sixth divan [{1802,3}]:

jahaa;N kaa daryaa-e be-karaa;N to saraab-e paayaan-e kaar niklaa
jo log tah se kuchh aashnaa the unho;Nne lab tar kiyaa nah apnaa

[the fathomless ocean of the world turned out to be a mirage of the completion of action
the people who were somewhat acquainted with the depth-- they did not wet their lips]

In the verse from the sixth divan, the wordplay is very fine: 'ocean', 'fathomless', 'mirage', paayaa;N (in the sense of 'depth'), 'depth', lab (in the sense of 'shore'), etc. But in the verse there's so much clarity that the excellence of the theme has been overpowered.

In the present verse, there's a subtle ambiguity. For ba;hr-e dunyaa can mean 'the world that is an ocean', and also 'the ocean of the world'-- that is, 'the ocean that is the world'. If the second meaning is adopted, then the point emerges that 'ocean' [samundar] can mean 'fountainhead', 'hope', and 'peace'. That is, those things in the world that are fountainheads of hope and peace-- that is, those places and things from which a cure for restlessness of the heart and inner burning can be hoped for-- they are all a deceit. The real ocean (that is, those places and things through which thirst could be slaked and peace of heart be obtained) doesn't exist at all in this world.

The word dhokaa also has two meanings. One is that the ocean of the world is like a mirage. That is, however much you might draw near to it, by exactly that much it will keep going farther away. The other meaning is that the ocean of the world is a mirage in the sense that it's a trick of the eyes. It's visible, but it doesn't exist at all. In 'the lips won't be wet' there's also the suggestion that you'll become submerged in the ocean of the world, but nevertheless your thirst won't be slaked. A sinner is also called a 'wet-skirted' [tar-daaman] one, thus the meaning also emerges that from diving into the ocean of the world the skirt will become wet (that is, you'll become a sinner), but the lips won't become wet-- that is, peace won't be vouchsafed. The 'misdirection' [iihaam] of preaching is also very fine.

In this one verse the three poetic voices that Eliot has mentioned, can all be heard together. (For more on this, see {71,1} and {71,3}.) Those three voices are: (1) the poet is talking to himself; (2) the poet is addressing someone else; (3) he is speaking in someone else's voice. These three voices can also be called [in English] 'lyrical' [;Ginaa))iyah], 'narrative' [bayaaniyah], and 'dramatic' [;Draamaa))ii].

Mir Tahir Vahid too has versified this theme [in Persian], but he has spread it out to such a degree that the pleasure has become diminished:

'I saw this fountain of life that they call the world,
it didn't have even enough water for the hands to be washed.'

Mir has composed an extraordinarily 'tumult-arousing' verse. The simplicity of the words is also devastating. And then, the meaningfulness that's in 'wetting the lips', isn't there in 'washing the hands'.

[See also {904,13}.]



Here the word dhokaa is beautifully and fruitfully versatile (see the definition above). It can refer to a deliberate 'deceit, deception' contrived by someone else; it can refer to something accidental ('blunder, mistake, doubt'); and it can also specifically refer to a 'mirage'. This latter sense is especially apt, since the most common form of mirage takes place in a desert, and involves the sight of an apparent body of water just at the edge of the horizon.

The positioning of tamaam as a kind of 'midpoint' in the first line invites us to take it as describing either the 'deceit' or the 'ocean'.

And the clever little kih in the second line can have two different uses. If it's read as a clause-introducer (2a), then it introduces the content of what it is that the addressee will 'see'. And that 'see' is metaphorical-- it's not something to be done with the eyes, but something to be done with the mind ('You'll realize, or discover, or verify, that your lips won't be wet, and that will prove the truth of what I'm telling you'). Alternatively, the two clauses can be parallel (2b), and only loosely linked ('You'll see it as an ocean, but meanwhile your lips won't be wet, and that's how you'll know it's a mirage').

This is surely an 'unattainably simple' verse. I like SRF's observation that in {1802,3} there's 'so much clarity' that the verse-- with its long meter and lucid explication-- has become less enjoyable. The present verse, so much shorter more cryptic, creates an ominous sense of foreboding. Is its tone bitter, wry, melancholy, resigned, neutral, amused? As so often, we are left to decide for ourselves.