Ghazal 18, Verse 2

{18,2}

yak qadam va;hshat se dars-e daftar-e imkaa;N khulaa
jaadah ajzaa-e do-((aalam-dasht kaa shiiraazah thaa

1a) with/through one footstep of wildness/madness the lesson of the chapter of possibilities opened up
1a) with/through one footstep of wildness/madness the lesson of the chapter of possibilities fell apart

2a) the path [that the madman had left behind] was the binding-thread of the pieces of the two-world desert
2b) the path [of madness itself] was the binding-thread of the pieces of the two-world desert

Notes:

va;hshat : 'A desert, solitude, dreary place; --loneliness, solitariness, dreariness; ...wildness, fierceness, ferocity, savageness; ...distraction, madness' (Platts p.1183)

Nazm:

That is, when possibilities in their beginning made a little bit of wildness/madness and otherness, then the world of possibilities became present. And one footstep of that wildness, wherever it fell, was like a binding-thread of the pages of two hundred deserts. Because when a foot is lifted in wildness/madness, it will be lifted only to move toward the desert. And in the eyes of the knower of mystic knowledge, the whole world is an empty possibility. In the construction 'two-world-desert' the author has made the measurement of the extent of the desert the whole world, the way he has made the measurement of fatigue a 'desert' [in {11,1}] and the measurement of hesitation a 'knee' [in {212,2}] and the measurement of longing a 'city' [in {16,2}]. (19)

== Nazm page 19

Vajid:

Urdu text: Vajid 1902 {18}

Bekhud Mohani:

In the state of wildness/madness I had taken the very first footstep. When the truth of the chapter of possibilities was revealed, then it was as if it was the binding-thread of the pieces of the path of the world. That is, the way in a binding-thread all the pages become strung together, in the same way the pieces of the two worlds were threaded in the path of the desert of wildness/madness. In this verse 'wildness/madness' means renunciation of the world, which is necessary for True Passion [((ishq-e ;haqiiqii] and mystical knowledge of the Lord. (44)

Josh:

The interpretation is that spirits experience a kind of wildness/madness and emerge into the world of possibilities-- that is, the world of existence-- and this state of affairs persists. Every one has set his face toward the road of this wildness/madness, and in this way this scattered world of spirits, on the road toward the wildness/desert of possibilities, in the aspect of a group, looks like a binding-thread. (75)

Arshi:

Compare {10,12}. (167)

FWP:

SETS == GENERATORS
DESERT: {3,1}
MADNESS: {14,3}
ROAD: {10,12}
WRITING: {7,3}

What is a 'two-world desert', anyway? A desert that contains the two worlds, in a relationship of inclusion? That is the two worlds, in a relationship of identity? That is the size of the two worlds, as a kind of measuring-rod? The ambiguity seems at least as rich and complex as that of an i.zaafat construction. It's a well-established idiomatic expression, but there seems to be no one way to resolve it. Other 'two worlds' examples: {4,10x}; {11,4x}; {16,10x}; {51,5x}; {64,6}; {154,2}; {212,6x}; {226,7x}. An example in which the 'two worlds' seem to have a more straightforward sense: {154,2}.

The measurement-rod possibility suggests that the first line could also contain a 'footstepful of madness' (a measurement of extreme smallness), if we read yak-qadam va;hshat as belonging to this measuring-rod family as well. For more on yak constructions, see {11,1}.

Madness or wildness left the beaten track and broke free, setting off into the desert-- and with one single first step the 'lesson of the chapter of possibilities' opened. There's a great play on khulaa -- the lesson 'opened' the way a book opens, of course. But as we learn from the second line, it might also have 'opened' the way the signatures of a book fall apart when the binding-thread is cut. And is the 'path' the one the mad lover has left, or the path of madness itself that he has now embarked on?

I've tried to show in my translation the two possibilities for each line. Their combinations thus yield four interpretations something like these:

=(1a) and (2a)-- When the lover set out into madness, a new lesson about possibilities was revealed to him, for his wild departure cut the binding-thread that artificially held the two-world desert together.

=(1a) and (2b)-- When the lover set out into madness, the path of madness on which he had embarked taught him a new kind of coherence, for this new path proved to be the binding-thread of the two-world desert.

=(1b) and (2a)-- When the lover set out into madness, the lesson of possibilities fell apart into incoherence, for the path of sanity he had left had been the binding-thread that held the two-world desert together.

=(1b) and (2b)-- when the lover set out into madness, the lesson of possibilities fell apart into incoherence; this was inevitable, since the path of madness itself was now the only binding-thread that could hold the two-world desert together.

And of course, there is the classic wordplay of va;hshat as both wildness and wilderness, loneliness and ferocity. No translator could possibly capture all that in English. There is also the piquant counterpoise of yak qadam va;hshat in the first line with do-((aalam dasht in the second.

The word shiiraazah works very well here; see the brilliant {10,12} for further discussion and examples. And the word jaadah , here as elsewhere, seems to be part of his regular tool kit of abstract imagery; for more examples, see {9,4}.

Consider also {5,4}, in which va;hshat in the mind destroys the desert itself. The present verse also resonates with {4,8x}, which also features a single footstep and, strikingly, a 'desert of possibilities'. Ghalib must be one of the world's most cerebral-chauvinist poets-- he is always (ruefully) celebrating the powers of the mind.

This verse is one of my own favorites. It's wildly abstract, but not at all incoherent; there are various paths through it, but it doesn't at all degenerate into a morass.