Ghazal 1, Verse 4


aagahii daam-e shaniidan jis qadar chaahe bichhaa))e
mudda((aa ((anqaa hai apne ((aalam-e taqriir kaa

1a) let intelligence spread the net of hearing to whatever extent it might wish
1b) no matter to what extent intelligence might spread the net of hearing

2a) the intention/meaning of my world of speech is the Anqa
2b) my world of speech has no intention/meaning at all
2c) 'intention/meaning' is the Anqa of its own world of speech
2d) the Anqa is the intention/meaning of its own world of speech


shaniidan : 'To hear, listen, attend to; to obey; ... to perceive; to collect'. (Steingass p.764)


mudda((aa : 'Desire, wish, suit; meaning, object, view; scope, tenor, drift'. (Platts p.1015)


((anqaa : '(fem. of a((naq , 'long-necked'; rt. ((anq 'to be long in the neck'), s.m. A fabulous bird, the phœnix; a rara avis (syn. siimur;G ); —adj. Scarce, rare, hard to get or find; wonderful, curious' (Platts p.766)


That is, you can report my speech to whatever extent you may desire; it is impossible to arrive at its meaning. Even if the ardor for intelligence becomes a hunter and spreads the net of hearing, so what? The meaning of my speech is the Anqa bird, upon which a net can never be flung. In short, my verses are entirely mysteries [saraasar asraar]. (2)

== Nazm page 2


Urdu text: Vajid 1902 {1}

Bekhud Dihlavi:

That is, my speech is entirely a mystery from the Unseen [saraasar asraar-e ;Gaibii]. It is not popularly comprehensible, such that every Tom, Dick, and Harry would be able to understand it. Accordingly, Mirza Sahib says in one Urdu letter that poetry is a name for theme-composition [ma.zmuun-nigaarii , though what Ghalib actually wrote was ma((nii-aafiriinii (see {119,7})], not for rhyme-weighing [qaafiyah-pemaa))ii]. (10)

Bekhud Mohani:

No matter how much effort the power of understanding makes, it is deficient in understanding the goal and purpose of our speech. Gesturing toward his own 'love of difficulty' [mushkil-pasandii] and 'difficulty of style' [mushkil-bayaanii], he says that his poetic speech is very difficult to understand. Perhaps for this reason, growing annoyed, he versifies a thought very similar to this one: {62,2}. (4)

Arthur Dudney:

The ʿanqā (the mythical bird in Persian and Urdu literature characterized solely by its unlocatability) has a parallel in the Western tradition: the black swan. The Roman poet Juvenal (first/second c. CE) wrote in despair of finding a wife with all the right qualities that such a woman is “rara avis in terris, nigroque simillima cygno” [in this world a rare bird, very much like a black swan] (Satires 6.165). In his time and for most of the next two millennia, the black swan was presumed by Europeans not to exist. Indeed, “all swans are white” had long been a favorite postulate in philosophy. When black swans were finally discovered in Australia in 1697, many people thought for years afterwards that it was a hoax. (Mar. 2013)



As Faruqi has pointed out (July 2000), to say mudda((aa ((anqaa hai , 'the meaning is an Anqa', is also an idiomatic way of saying that something is meaningless. Ghalib's Anqa verses do in fact tend to be obscure and complex.

Line two is, in almost a mathematical sense, 'symmetrical': it plays on the Urdu grammatical fact that to say 'A is B' is equally to say 'B is A'. So we can say either that the mudda((aa is an Anqa, or that the Anqa is a mudda((aa .

It is common to take the apne in the second line as equivalent to mere apne , 'my own'; for examples and discussion of this flexibility in apnaa , see {15,12}. But it literally means 'belonging to the subject of the sentence', thus yielding the abstruse (and very post-modern-looking) meaning (2c). Moreover, we must then ask whose intention-- mine in composing poetry, or yours in seeking to understand it?

The result? Our first example from the set of verses that might well be called 'meaning generators', since they're impossible to resolve into one interpretation (or even two, or even three or four). There will be many more of these to come.

I used a free transcreation of this verse as a source for the title of Nets of Awareness. Could there possibly be a better introduction to Ghalib's poetry than this verse?

Here's a provincial Mughal vision of the Anqa: