Ghazal 13, Verse 4

{13,4}

.sarfah hai .zab:t-e aah me;N meraa vagarnah mai;N
:tu((mah huu;N ek hii nafas-e jaa;N-gudaaz kaa

1) expenditure/profit is in the restraint of sighs, otherwise I
2) am food of/for only/emphatically one soul-melting breath

Notes:

.sarfah : 'Expending, expense, expenditure; economy; utility, profit; addition, surplus, excess, redundance, profusion'. (Platts p.744)


.zab:t : 'Keeping, taking care of, guarding, defending, watching over, ruling, governing; regulation, government, direction, discipline; restraint, control, check'. (Platts p.748)

Nazm:

In this verse he means to express his weakness and debility, and the intensity and sharpness of his sighs; that is, if I don't restrain myself then with one single sigh I would dissolve and vanish. (14)

== Nazm page 14

Vajid:

Urdu text: Vajid 1902 {13}

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, I am controlling my sighs; I consider that this is to my advantage, otherwise with one single soul-melting breath my feeble body would melt away and become a morsel for the fire of passion. That is, the way a candle melts and flows away, my sigh is enough to consign me to oblivion. (27)

Bekhud Mohani:

I don't want to deceive the world. The reason I restrain my sighs is not fortitude. Rather, if I would sigh, then my burning sigh would finish off my feeble life. Mirza has, in a veiled way, shown the extremity of his weakness and of the soul-burningness of his sighs, although outwardly this purpose is not evident. (28)

FWP:

SETS == VARNAH
COMMERCE: {3,3}

The point of this verse eluded me. Most of the commentators just paraphrase it in prose, which doesn't much help. The wordplay of .sarfah and .zab:t in the first line is there, of course, but is that all? Surely there ought to be some wordplay or connection between the two lines, but I couldn't find anything much. So I asked S. R. Faruqi for his analysis (March 2003), and here it is:

Well, there is connection. Connection is not the problem, the problem is that there isn't much in the verse to raise it above the level of a rather plain theme of the sigh that destroys the sigher, by virtue of (a) the sigh being soul-searing; and (b) the sigher being physically weak and emaciated. Ghalib tries a bit of trickery here to explain why he is not sighing away his life, for that's what a lover does. So he says: I am not sighing, because I am so weak that if I let my breath out, I won't have the strength to bring it back.

The piquancy of the verse lies in the double meaning of .sarfah , as 'expense', and also 'saving'. The primary sense here is saving, but since it is also expense, it reinforces (in an ironical way) the sense of expense that is implied in :tu((mah , which means food or a mouthful of food-- hence, a mode of expense. When you eat something, you spend it; or, when you eat something, you first spend money to get it. Thus the .sarfah which is the aim of the whole exercise, becomes expenditure anyway.

This helps, of course, but I still don't really see much in the verse. I don't think it's at all up to Ghalib's usual standard.