aa))ii bahaar-o-gulshan gul se bharaa hai lekin
har goshah-e chaman me;N ;xaalii hai jaa-e bulbul

1) spring has come, and the rosegarden is filled with roses, but
2) in every corner of the garden, the place of the Nightingale is empty



S. R. Faruqi:

This verse is one of pure 'mood'. In it the meaning is very little [ma((nii us me;N bahut kam hai;N], and the theme too is commonplace, but still the verse makes an effect. The second line certainly has a bit of depth. One meaning is that in former times there were Nightingales here and there in the garden, and now there's not even one. The second, and better, meaning is that in every place the lack of the Nightingale is felt.

In the first line there was no need for the conjunctive vaa))o . The line would also have been fine like this:

aa))ii bahaar gulshan gul se bharaa hai lekin

But in Mir's temperament the urge to play with language, and to twist and turn it, was the basis on which he added the connecting vaa))o ; thus he nullified the pause that there would have been after bahaar . Because it was a 'broken meter', there was in any case one pause in the line; perhaps Mir might not have wanted another pause to occur in the line. In any case, the line was also complete and metrical without the vaa))o . Because of it, something like an informality has come into the line.

Later generations began to consider this kind of usage a 'flaw' [((aib]. Their argument was that both sentences are independent ('Spring came. The garden is full of roses.'), so that it wasn't correct to place between them a vaa))o of conjunction. Mir never worried about such things. It was definitely correct-- otherwise, how would it have come into his language with so much distinctiveness and capacity?

Mir's accomplishment is that in his poetry those very things that later generations have considered incorrect and have renounced, appear good and fitting. The reason for this is not that some inappropriate romantic attraction still remains in old things. The real reason is that Mir had a natural feeling for the limits up to which it was beautiful and possible to take the language. It is rare indeed that he does any linguistic act that would be uncouth or would not be in harmony with the temperament of the language. In this quality only Iqbal is his equal; even Anis and Ghalib remain somewhat inferior in it.

[See also {1850,3}.]



Undoubtedly this is a gloriously, hauntingly seductive verse of mood, but to me it doesn't seem as deficient in meaning as SRF declares it to be (though even he still accords its second line two 'meanings'), or as commonplace in its theme. The absence of the Nightingale-- an absence so potent that it seems to echo in every corner of the garden-- implicitly poses a question: where then is he? It's such a melancholy, resonant question, and its possible answers all cut right to the heart of the ghazal world. The Nightingale is lost in mystical self-forgetfulness; he has madly wandered off somewhere; he is suffering from the cruelty of his rose-beloved; he is grieving for the all-too-imminent death of his rose-beloved. Ultimately, looming in the background of it all, he is dead.

Of course, none of these possible answers are actually mentioned in the words of the verse, so in a technical sense they're not present. But how can they not hover around it and form part of every reader's enjoyment of it? The Nightingale is irreplaceable, and also doomed: every spring brings forth a rich crop of new roses, but the Nightingale is not so hardy. Roses are beautiful, but what is beauty if there's no Nightingale to be ravished by it? Roses are seasonal, the Nightingale is not. Roses are self-renewing, the Nightingale is not. Every corner of the garden is full of roses, and every corner of the garden is empty of the Nightingale-- what could be more evocative, more poignant (though of course, also full of the kind of dignity and lack of self-pity that SRF so often praises)?

Ultimately, it comes down to what we mean by 'meaning'. Of course the verse isn't multivalent; it really has only one meaning, in the sense that there's only one way to read it. (SRF's two 'meanings' of the second line are really just ways of teasing out implications, in my view.) But where are the limits of that meaning? If the poet is able to bring to the front of the reader's mind such vivid and resonant images of the Nightingale's fate, shouldn't he get credit for that considerable feat of 'implication'? Though, intriguingly, this verse is strictly 'informative' [;xabariyah], and even the insha'iyah question of where the Nightingale is, can only be asked through implication. To me, that's actually an additional beauty and further achievement of the verse.

Note for meter fans: This meter falls into two metrically identical halves, so like most such meters it has a natural quasi-caesura in the middle. That break would fall after gulshan . Such breaks very, very often (though not always) are made to accord with semantic breaks; it's one of the ways ghazal poets can, after a fashion, punctuate their lines. (As I never lose an opportunity to point out, any English-style punctuation in classical ghazals is the unfortunate, unwarranted work of modern editors.) So in this case, having a pause or break both before (because of the just-completed sentence) and after (because of the metrical pause) gulshan would be both choppy-sounding in recitation, and perhaps interpretively confusing. This is SRF's conjecture as to why Mir used the vaa))o to remove the former pause. It seems very plausible to me. Try reciting the line both ways, and you'll probably agree.

Compare the absence of the Nightingale in