kuchh gul se hai;N shiguftah kuchh sarv se hai;N qad-kash
us ke ;xayaal me;N ham dekhe;N hai;N ;xvaab kyaa kyaa

1a) some are blooming {like / by means of / more than} the rose, some are lofty {like / by means of / more than} the cypress
1b) [we] are somewhat blooming {like / by means of / more than } the rose, somewhat lofty {like / by means of / more than} the cypress

2a) in the thought of her, what-all dreams we see!
2b) in the thought of her, what-all dreams do we see?



S. R. Faruqi:

Many people think that ambiguous verses are only those in which something convoluted has been said. In fact, the fundamental relationship of ambiguity is with the style of expression. not with the thing that's being expressed. In the present verse simple words like se and ham dekhe;N hai;N have created an enjoyable ambiguity.

One meaning is that we are lost in the thought of her, and what-all dreams we see! Some dreams are blooming like the rose, and some dreams are straight and lofty like the cypress.

A second meaning is that some dreams are more blooming than the rose, and some dreams are more straight and lofty than the cypress. (That is, here se is not for similitude but for comparison, as though someone would say 'you are more beautiful than something [falaa;N se ;xuub.suurat]'-- that is, falaa;N se ziyaadah ;xuub.suurat .

A third meaning is that lost in the thought of her, we have different kinds of dreams, and because of the pleasure and delight of those dreams we have become somewhat (that is, more or less) blooming like the rose, and somewhat (that is, more or less) straight and lofty like the cypress.

It should be understood that the way a flower's beauty is to be blooming, in the same way the beauty of a cypress is to be straight and lofty. Then look at the arrangement of affinities. The beloved is a flower, and also a cypress. That is, on the basis of her beautiful face, delicacy, and freshness, he calls her a flower; and on the basis of the verdure and beauty of her stature he calls her a cypress. Thus after he has become lost in the thought of the beloved, the dreams that would be seen would be like roses and cypresses, or even better than they, and the dreamer too would be an equal of the rose and cypress.

Then there's the affinity of 'thought' and 'dream'. And it should be recalled that in Arabic ;xayaal means 'dream'. An additional pleasure is that the style of the first line is 'informative', and of the second 'insha'iyah'. Let someone compose such verses, and then make a claim to be the 'Lord of Poetry' [;xudaa-e su;xan]!

One final point is that in the thought of the beloved whatever dreams we see cannot equal the beloved herself in heart-attractingness and drawing-power; the beauty of these dreams can be expressed through the adornments of rose and cypress, not through those of a human form.

[See also G{228,9}.]



Sure enough, this verse is a tribute to the gloriously multivalent possibilities of se . It can mean 'like' (as a short form of jaise ); it can mean 'by means of' (as an instrumental postposition); and it can mean '(more) than' (as a comparative: x se ba;Raa , bigger than x). But of course, it can only mean all these things at once when the semantic context is very carefully managed. Most of the time its range is narrowed by its environment, but here it's been most cleverly allowed to run free.

Then in the first line there's also the question of the subject, which in proper mushairah-verse style is carefully withheld from us. It could of course be 'some', kuchh , as in (1a), although we still need to know, 'some of what?'; this is SRF's preferred reading. But kuchh could also adverbially mean 'somewhat', as in (1b); in that case the subject could only be known after we had been allowed to hear the second line. In the second line, when we are finally allowed to hear it, we find two possible subjects: the 'dreams' (1a); or else 'we' (1b), as we are 'somewhat' transformed by our dreams of her. I agree with SRF that the 'dreams' are the more obvious choice, but why ignore another perfectly legitimate and suitable possibility, when it adds to the pleasure of the verse?

'What-all' is my attempt to represent kyaa kyaa , which makes it clear, in a way uncapturable in standard English, that many possibilities are being queried, not by any means just one. And of course its insha'iyah power means that the second line can be either an exclamation (with feeling-tone to be supplied by the reader), as in (2a), or else a bewildered or amazed question, as in (2b).