Ghazal 1, Verse 5

{1,5}*

baskih huu;N ;Gaalib asiirii me;N bhii aatish zer-e paa
muu-e aatish-diidah hai ;halqah mirii zanjiir kaa

1a) Ghalib, even in bondage I am restless/'fire-under-foot' to such an extent
1b) Ghalib, although even in bondage I am restless/'fire-under-foot'

2a) a link of my chain is a {singed hair / 'hair-that-has-seen-fire'}
2b) a {singed hair / 'hair-that-has-seen-fire'} is a link of my chain

Notes:

baskih : 'although'; [also short for:]

az-baskih : 'To such an extent that; --inasmuch as, whereas'. (Platts p.154)

Nazm:

They call a restless and impatient person one with 'fire under his feet'. And when fire is under the feet, then it's as if the ankle fetters are singed hairs. And it is known that when a hair 'sees' fire, it curls up and takes on a form like that of the link of a chain. (2)

== Nazm page 2

Vajid:

Urdu text: Vajid 1902 {1}

Bekhud Mohani:

In this verse too 'elegance in assigning a cause' has been employed. The circles of the chain look like eyes-- eyes which are fire-raining and from which sparks of the fire of love are emerging, and which make the prisoner of love restless and uneasy. (4)

Baqir:

[The commentator Sa'id] writes that a burnt hair gives rise to a kind of bad smell. In my opinion, the appearance of a bad smell in chains does not generate any meaning. (8)

FWP:

SETS == BASKIH; IDIOMS; SYMMETRY; WORDPLAY

BONDAGE verses == {1,5}; {4,12x}; {10,9}; {15,13}; {15,14}; {19,5}; {19,6}; {22,2}; {29,5x}; {33,5}; {34,3}; {36,4}; {44,5x}; {67,4x}; {82,1}; {83,2}; {92,1}; {94,2}; {101,7}; {103,2x}; {108,4}; {108,9x}; {108,11x}; {109,2x}; {109,4x}; {111,4}; {112,7}; {113,9}; {115,5}; {120,6}; {121,3}; {123,2}; {124,5}; {145,6x}; {145,11x}; {155,4x}; {165,2}; {167,2}; {172,4x}; {203,3}

ABOUT baskih : This is the first of many examples of the wonderful (and wonderfully exploited) powers of baskih to multiply meanings within a small space. The difference between 'to such an extent' (1a), with its emphasis on magnitude, and 'although' (1b), with its concessive sense, is sufficient to completely reframe the logical relationship between the two lines. In principle, the word can have three quite distinct meanings: 'to such an extent'; 'although'; and 'whereas, since, because' (see the definitions above). In practice, the first two meanings are much more common than the third.

It's worth noting that although 'end-stopped' lines (in which each line is a grammatically complete phrase) are definitely more common, the use of 'enjambment' (in which the grammar of the two lines forms a single unit) is also not so rare. In this first ghazal itself, here's a fine example.

In the second line, in a show of what I call 'symmetry', we can read either 'A is B' or 'B is A'. The verse can thus be read in two quite different ways. If we read (1a) and (2a), we learn that Ghalib is restless 'to such an extent' that it is impossible to keep him confined (his fiery passion turns his chains into frail curls of ash). Altenatively, if we read (1b) and (2b), we learn that 'although' Ghalib is restless, he is so burnt-out by the effects of passion that the frail ring of a singed hair is sufficient to make a shackle for his feet. Compare {67,4x}, in which the same kind of symmetry is invoked with regard to chains on the feet.

The expression muu-e aatish-diidah , a 'singed hair', has its literal meaning elegantly revived in this verse: a 'hair that has seen fire' takes on the appropriately round shape of an eye, and also the round shape of a link in a madman's fetters. In fact, if you've ever seen a burnt hair, you'll know it really does curl into a loop as it burns. In addition, it contributes to a set of words that enjoyably evoke parts of the body: 'foot', 'hair', 'eye' (from diidah ).

Baqir's observation is an excellent example of the ghazal's poetics at work. The bad smell may be there in reality; but if it can't be used in poetry, it's not there in the ghazal world.

For another verse about the impossibility of stopping the speaker's desert-wandering, and the uselessness of the (round) chains on his feet, see {92,1}.