Ghazal 15, Verse 16x

{15,16x}*

dekhte the ham bah chashm-e ;xvud vuh :tuufaan-e balaa
aasmaan-e siflah jis me;N yak kaf-e sailaab thaa

1) we used to see, with our own eyes, that typhoon of calamity
2) in which the low/contemptible sky was a single froth/foam of the flood

Notes:

siflah : 'Low, mean, ignoble, base, vile, sordid, contemptible'. (Platts p.662)

Asi:

We were watching with our own eyes when that typhoon of calamity was arising-- such that in it even the sky seemed to be a single froth/foam of the flood. Probably it was this very verse that Mirza altered and composed the closing-verse, {15,15}. (58)

Zamin:

A flood such that its foam would be the sky-- what kind of a balaa would that be?! In this verse bah chashm-e ;xvud dekhte the offers no benefit of meaning, it's only padding [bhartii]. (42)

Gyan Chand:

The sky is very extensive; thus it is responsible for calamities descending on the whole world. Our eyes have, weeping, caused such an ocean to flow that its typhoon was more extensive than the sky and more calamitous than the sky. In the typhoon of calamities of the eyes, the sky seemed to be only the foam of the flood; that is, our eyes had filled up a flood of calamities greater than the sky. (80)

FWP:

SETS == IDIOMS; PETRIFIED PHRASES
EYES {3,1}
GRANDIOSITY: {5,3}
SKY {15,7}

For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices. For more on Ghalib's unpublished verses, see the discussion in {4,8x}.

The first time through, 'with our own eyes' registers as a stylized an expression, like its literal English counterpart. It's not really about eyes in themselves, it's just an assertion of direct, first-person observation.

Only after hearing the second line do we realize that that 'with our own eyes' is a wonderfully operative phrase: our typhoon of tears and sighs may well be the origin of the cosmic flood that towers up furiously to the sky, and makes the sky look like a puny handful of grey foam by comparison. (For a similar activation of another such stylized phrase, see {62,5}.) This verse belongs to the 'snide remarks about the natural world' set; for others, see {4,8x}.

There are also the implications of the past habitual dekhte the to consider. We used to see this awesome cosmic sea-storm, but apparently we don't expect to see it again. Why not? Because our eyes are now wept out and can't produce any more such storms? That's one possibility, but there might be another as well.

For calamities, as Gyan Chand notes, traditionally originate in the sky. And now the sky has been (perhaps in reality, but at least rhetorically) minimized, turned into froth, and swept away in the wild currents of the flood. So perhaps there are no new calamities left? Or at least, surely there are none so dire-- none that can hold a candle to the ones we used to see 'with our own eyes'.

Compare this verse with its more fortunate divan-verse cousin, {15,15}.