dil ke ta))ii;N aatish-e hijraa;N se bachaayaa nah gayaa
ghar jalaa saamne par ham se bujhaayaa nah gayaa

1) [even] up to the heart, was not (able to be) saved from the fire of separation
2) the house burned before us, but it was not (able to be) extinguished by us



S. R. Faruqi:

Ghalib has a famous verse, and undoubtedly it's an extremely superb verse:


But Mir, having placed the word saamne , has established a new aspect of helplessness or inability to act. For bujhaayaa nah gayaa has two meanings: one is that it couldn't be put out, and the other is that we didn't even want to put it out. In the first line too, bachaayaa nah gayaa has this quality, but not with such force. In the 'fire of separation' the point is that separation is a kind of fire, and also that if it had been only separation then perhaps somehow the heart would have survived, but when separation turned into fire then flight from it was not possible. With regard to the heart's burning to ashes too, saamne has a great affinity, because the heart is a part of the body, thus whatever happens to the heart, definitely happens 'before us'.

Hafiz too has presented this theme [in Persian], and the honor of primacy goes to Hafiz alone. But in his verse the first line is very slack:

'Because of the fire in the heart, in grief for the beloved my breast burned,
This house caught fire in such a way that the house was burned down.'



This verse is an exercise in the idiomatic 'passive of impossibility' ('X absolutely could not be done by Y'); but as SRF notes, the context also gives the option of a 'normal' passive reading ('X was not done by Y'). By no coincidence, both alternatives work beautifully in their different ways, and their doubleness enriches the verse. Compare the similarly double possibilities in the rest of the verses presented from this ghazal.

The idea of saamne also works particular well with both these possibilities. If we adopt a 'passive of impossibility' reading, then we have the terrible helplessness of the appalled spectator ('my house burned down before my very eyes, and I was unable to save anything!'). And if we adopt the plain passive reading, then we have a pathological, or even suicidal, refusal to act ('I watched my house burn down before my eyes, and I didn't lift a finger to save it').

Note for meter fans: In the first line, the archaic ta))ii;N is scanned as one long syllable.