qadam ;Tuk dekh kar rakh miir sar dil se nikaalegaa
palak se sho;x-tar kaa;N;Taa hai .sa;hraa-e mu;habbat kaa

1) just look before you place your footstep, Mir-- it will thrust its tip/'head' out of the heart!
2) more mischievous than an eyelash is the thorn of the desert of love



S. R. Faruqi:

He has composed this theme in other places as well. In the first divan [{480,3}]:

us sho;x kii sar tez palak hai;N kih vuh kaa;N;Taa
ga;R jaa))e agar aa;Nkh me;N sar dil se nikaale

[that mischievous one has sharp eyelashes, such if that thorn
would lodge in the eye, then it would thrust its head/tip out through the heart]

From the second divan [{937,7}]:

;xaa:tir nah jam((a rakkho un palkho;N kii ;xalish se
sar dil se kaa;Rhte hai;N yaa;N ;xaar raftah raftah

[don't be complacent about the scratching of those eyelashes!
they dig out their heads from the heart, here, by degrees]

But in the present verse, the excellence is that he's turned three kinds of thorns into one. The first is the usual thorn in the heart, the second is the beloved's eyelashes, and the third is the thorn of the desert of love. Both the other verses cited above are devoid of any mention of the third thorn. And the greatest pleasure is in the fact that the natural and original thorn of the desert of love pricks in the foot-sole, then takes on an immaterial and romantic reality and shows itself in the heart. The 'commonality' of qadam , dekh , dil , palak , sho;x is also fine.

The word sho;x is superb also because it suggests that the thorn of the path of love is some mischievous creature that will gradually advance until it reaches the heart, and will show itself in this aspect of the heart. By not mentioning the thorn in the first line, but referring to its thrusting its head out from the heart, he has created a superb 'suspense' [tajassus].

(It should be kept in mind that in our culture poetry was a thing for oral recitation. For the classical poets, the first principle of the style of reading/reciting was that the poetry would be assumed to be orally recited. In a written verse, the gaze can fall on both lines at the same time. But if the verse is being heard, then there's suspense about what the next line-- or rather, the next word-- will be. Thus in the present verse, having heard the first line, suspense arises. There can also be an idea as to whether it might be about a thorn-- and then when the idea is borne out, the enjoyment is redoubled.)

Jalal [Lakhnavi] has sought, on the strength of the idiom, to make this theme broader. But he hasn't had any special success:

jigar kii phaa;Nsii hai mizhgaan-e yaar kii ulfat
jo dil me;N chubh ke nah nikle;N vuh ;xaar hai;N palke;N

[the strangling of the liver is the delight of the eyebrow of the beloved
those thorns that would pierce in the heart and not emerge-- they are the eyelashes]



SRF himself provides the calque of 'suspense' for tajassus ; he explicitly equates the terms. And he emphasizes the oral-recitation poetics of the ghazal. He reminds us never to forget them, and I don't think good ghazal poets ever did. (When it comes to critics, however, it's unfortunately a different story.)

For in fact the first line is genuinely confusing; in my translation I've been able to preserve the ambiguity of the Urdu. What is the 'it' (which of course doesn't even appear in the Urdu)? Since semantically as well as grammatically end-stopped lines are more common in the ghazal world than ones with enjambement, the least-marked choice is to take the line as complete, and to try reading it as such. On that first reading, it looks to be the 'footstep' that's the source of danger to the heart. Of course, with our knowledge of the ghazal world and our metaphorical common sense (footsteps can't pierce), we're able to realize-- after the fact-- that the initial reading is wrong. We'll need to wait to hear the second line, and very probably it will be about a thorn. But in the meantime, we've been made to do some rapid and enjoyable mental work. We've been given a kind of puzzle, and we've got a tentative solution, and then in the second line our solution is proved correct-- which, as SRF observes, gives a further pleasure of its own.

Of course, formally speaking this kind of thing doesn't constitute an 'iham'. But the effect is exactly the same: to misdirect the audience, then require them to do some rapid mental work on the fly, which may or may not succeed in helping them accurately anticipate the second line. Thus they must wait in suspense. Then finally the poet gives them the longed-for second line, with its sudden burst of fulfillment as all questions are answered and all meanings resolved (preferably, of course, as late as possible in the line). This intense internal organization, coupled with the radical lack of context provided by a poem two lines long, is truly a key to the intense delightfulness of classical ghazal. In my view as a Ghalib-lover, it could even be said to be the single biggest key; but I know that not everybody will agree, and this multi-pleasurability too is part of the ghazal's repertoire of delights.