Ghazal 15, Verse 17x


be-;xabar mat kah hame;N be-dard ;xvud-biinii se puuchh
qulzum-e ;zauq-e na:zar me;N aa))inah paa-yaab thaa

1a) don't call us ignorant/unaware, oh cruel one-- ask (through/from) self-regardingness!
1b) don't call us cruel, oh ignorant/unaware one-- ask (through/from) self-regardingness!

2) in the ocean of the relish of/for sight, the mirror was {fordable / a ford}


be-;xabar : 'Uninformed; without intelligence, senseless, ignorant, stupid; incautious, imprudent, careless, heedless; --unwittingly, unintentionally'. (Platts p.202)


be-dard : 'Unfeeling, void of compassion, pitiless, merciless' (Platts p.204)


paa-yaab : 'Within (one's) depth, fordable; --a ford'. (Platts p.213)


paa-yaab : 'Power, strength, force; resistance; a well, any shallow stone reservoir of water easy of access; the bottom of the sea, of a pond, or a piece of water; eternity, perpetuity, duration; shallow, fordable, shoaly; a ford'. (Steingass p.234)


Oh cruel one, why do you call us unaware/ignorant? Just inquire about our situation through your own self-regardingness, because when you were looking in the mirror, at that time compared to the ocean of our relish of/for sight, the mirror was nothing, and we were seeing your self-regardingness. (58)


That is: oh cruel one, you call us ignorant of the springtime of beauty-- although when you were absorbed in self-adornment, at that time where was your mirror?! Now just listen: this mirror was drowned in my own relish of/for sight! That is, it was my own relish of/for spectacle that made you aware of your own beauty and absorbed in mirror-regarding. For paa-yaab is the opposite of drowning, but here Mirza has taken it in a contrary meaning. (43)

Gyan Chand:

Whose is the 'relish of/for sight', the beloved's or the lover's? From both aspects, two meanings emerge:

1) Oh cruel one, don't call us unaware and self-ignoring! You, before the mirror, were so absorbed in self-regardingness that your relish for the sight was as fathomless as an ocean in which the mirror, having come within its depth, was passing. That is, you were immersed in mirror-regardingness. What did you know about our state? Thus you're not entitled to call us unaware.

2) Don't call us unaware! What do you know-- ask your own self-regardingness! You were looking at the mirror, and we were looking at you with such intensity and absorbedness that our relish of/for sight was like an ocean, in which the mirror, within its depth, was wandering around.

The first meaning is better. From 'self-regardingness' it appears that the relish of/for sight is that of only/especially the beloved. (81)


[See his comments on Mir's M{1501,5}.]


MIRROR: {8,3}

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

In my view this verse simply offers too many possibilities, with no particular way to narrow them down. It is not enticing like a river, but dismaying like a swamp. Not only can we not definitively choose among three or four readings (a situation entirely and excellently common in Ghalib's verses), but we can't even confidently formulate a smallish number of readings to try to choose among.

At least the literal grammar of the verse is fairly straightforwardly translatable, and I have translated it, word by word. You, dear reader, can see for yourself exactly where the difficulties lie. How many important entities are in the verse? There's the addressee (who receives the intimate tuu and is presumably the beloved), and the speaker, who seems to be the lover.

But then is 'self-regardingness' a form of behavior-- and if so, is it the beloved's, or the lover's? Or is it a personified abstract quality, an agent in its own right (since it can be 'asked' something)?

And then, of course, we have be-;xabar : is it the adjective 'ignorant' or the adverb 'ignorantly'?-- and if the former, is it a vocative ('oh ignorant one') or is it what the addressee might call the speaker? Similarly, is be-dard a vocative ('oh cruel one'), or is it what the addressee might call the speaker?

Nor should we forget and the i.zaafat of ;zauq-e na:zar (is it a relish 'of' sight, experienced during sight, or is it a relish 'for' sight, experienced as a longing to see?).

In addition, is the mirror 'fordable' (like a shallow stream or pool through which one could wade), or is it 'a ford' (a special, local shallow place in the midst of deeper water)? See also the definition above from Steingass; clearly the word is particularly multivalent in Persian.

And even more radically, we have the 'A,B' situation: how do we connect the two lines? There are so many possible ways to do so that I really find myself at a loss-- how to start, or rather how to even want to start? This doesn't seem very satisfactory.

For other verses about 'self-regardingness', see {22,2}.