Ghazal 15, Verse 1


shab kih barq-e soz-e dil se zahrah-e abr aab thaa
shu((lah-e javvaalah har ik ;halqah-e girdaab thaa

1) last night, when/since from the lightning of the burning of the heart the cloud's {fear was great / 'gall-bladder was water'}
2) every single circle of the whirlpool was a blazing flame


zahrah : 'Gall-bladder; bile; --boldness, spirit, pluck'. (Platts p.619)


zahrah aab honaa : ''The gall to turn to water,' to be much distressed or terrified, to be panic-stricken, to take fright'. (Platts p.619)


girdaab : 'Whirlpool, abyss, gulf, vortex'. (Platts p.903)


This was only the effect of the burning of my heart. (15)

== Nazm page 15


Urdu text: Vajid 1902 {15}


This ghazal has been called 'continuous'. In every single verse events and scenes only of the night of separation have been depicted. [Josh is speaking of verses 1-8 only; he takes 9-15 to be a separate ghazal.] (68)


The excellence of the verse is only in pushing exaggeration to the limit of its range. The poet has shown the perfection of 'thought-binding'. First he has supposed the cloud to be a person. Then he has shown that he has a gall-bladder. He has made the gall-bladder melt into water and run off, and in it he has shown the spectacle of a blazing flame. (290)



ABOUT FORMALLY IDENTICAL GHAZALS: Some editions of the divan divide this long ghazal into two separate but formally identical [ham-:tar;h] ghazals: verses 1-8 as the first, and verses 9-15 as the second. Verse 8 is not a closing-verse, but verse 9 is an opening-verse, so formally the case is a bit ambiguous. As always, I follow Arshi, who treats it as a single long ghazal. Gyan Chand, in his commentary on {15,18x}, refers to this long ghazal as a 'double ghazal' [do-;Gazlah].

A similar case is that of {97} and {98}, which are formally identical and are sometimes treated as a long single ghazal, even though each has its own opening-verse and closing-verse. They are actually a 'double ghazal' [do-;Gazlah], which consists of a pair of formally identical ghazals placed next to each other in the poet's divan; the idea is to suggest that they were composed at the same time.

Formally identical ghazals have the same meter, rhyme, and refrain. For other examples of formally identical pairs of ghazals composed by Ghalib, including both published and unpublished ones, see: {3}; {29}; {81}; {91} // also {294x} and {295x}. There are also cases in which Ghalib himself combined parts of two different original ghazals into a new one for divan publication: {3}; {4}, {6}, {24}, {108}, {190}, {214}, and {226}. There's also the intriguing almost-pair of {440x} and {441x}.

The present verse features a form of enjoyable wordplay: the 'concretization' of an idiom, as the cloud's gall-bladder literally, as well as metaphorically, 'turns to water' with fear. This use of a colloquial expression in both its idiomatic and its dictionary sense is a favorite device of Ghalib's; for examples, see {11,2}.

It's also an exercise in hyperbole (the cloud, made of water, fears the fire of the lover's heart); and it offers the arresting vision of a whirlpool with a heart of flame. But without the chance to savor the excellent doubleness of 'for the gall to turn to water', the verse really wouldn't have that much to offer.

Note for meter fans: The verse has a really clunky bit of scansion in abr aab , which with word-grafting comes out sounding like 'ab-RAA-b'. The abr almost fades away and seems to blend into the phantom word raab . There's nothing illegal about this, but it's distracting, awkward, and definitely no fun to say.