Ghazal 42, Verse 6

{42,6}

kohkan naqqaash-e yak tim;saal-e shiirii;N thaa asad
sang se sar maar kar hove nah paidaa aashnaa

1) Kohkan was the carver/sculptor of a single image of Shirin, Asad

2a) from striking the head with a stone, intimacy would not be born
2b) from striking the head with a stone, would intimacy not be born?

Notes:

tim;saal : 'Resemblance, likeness, picture, portrait, image, effigy'. (Platts p.336)

Nazm:

That is, he was only a sculptor, not a true lover. Otherwise it would have been surprising-- that he would strike his head with a stone, and the beloved would not emerge from it? (40)

== Nazm page 40

Hasrat:

Kohkan spilled so much sweat, but still he was neither able to create a stone replica of Shirin, nor Shirin herself. In this is a suggestion that Farhad's passion was not perfect; otherwise, for Shirin herself to be created was not at all impossible. (42)

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, oh Asad, when Kohkan carved through the Pillarless Mountain his purpose was to make a shadowy picture of Shirin. That foolish one did not understand-- as if you can make a beloved by striking your head with a stone! The meaning is that his passion was not perfect. (79)

Bekhud Mohani:

Farhad only carved out an image of Shirin. That is, he was a sculptor, not a true lover. Otherwise, can it ever be the case that a man would smash his head open with a stone-- that is, go mad with love for someone-- and not obtain his beloved? (98)

Josh:

In this closing-verse is the verbal device of 'reference'[talmiii;h]. Kohkan, that is, Farhad, before was a stonecutter used to do construction work. He used to make pictures on every wall of Shirin alone. Then he took up stonecutting and began to live in the mountains. The meaning of the verse is that Kohkan's passion was defective. He can only be counted among the stonecutters; otherwise, was it not possible that by smashing his head open with a stone, he might obtain Shirin? That is, if he had been a perfect lover, then he would have taken up painting, smashed his head and died, and in this way obtained a sight of Shirin. (112)

FWP:

SETS

Farhad was nicknamed 'Kohkan' (literally, 'Mountain-digger'), and he dug through superhuman wildernessess of stone to carve out a channel that would carry milk for her bath (see {1,2}). Was there also a story of his having made a stone statue of her? If so, I've never heard of it, and it doesn't seem that the commentatore have either; we are thus on fresh ground when it comes to interpreting the verse.

So let's try to pull it together. What exactly did Kohkan do in this verse? As usual, we can't really be sure, beyond the fact that he created a single [yak] image of Shirin. There are obviously two possible interpretations of the second line; and we must also ask ourselves whether the act of striking his head with a stone is to be considered the same as the act of carving an image of Shirin, or a different act; and we must also ask ourselves whether he even did strike his head with a stone or not.

If we read (2a), and assume the identity of the carving and the striking, then we find that by striking his head with a stone, Kohkan in his madness created an image of Shirin-- but it was only an image. An image in his spinning head, presumably. Could any other true lover have done better, though? The commentators assume so, but I don't see why. The second line is very flatly negative about any such possibility: striking one's head with a stone would not give rise to intimacy. In his passion and torment he did the best he could, but he could not go as far as he would have wished, and actually reach out to a/the living Shirin.

If we read (2a), and assume that the carving and the striking are two separate acts, then we find that Kohkan became frustrated by merely striking his head with a stone, because it didn't give rise to any real intimacy with Shirin herself. So being a carver/sculptor, he created (out of stone? within his stone-softened head?) a private, unique image of Shirin that was his alone.

If we read (2b) as a negative rhetorical question, and assume the identity of the carving and the striking, then we find that by striking his head with a stone Kohkan created a unique image of Shirin that had a certain potency, a certain power to create intimacy. For would not striking one's head with a stone create intimacy?

If we read (2b) as a negative rhetorical question, and assume that the carving and the striking are two separate acts, then we find that Kohkan struck his head with a stone so much that it gave him a certain intimacy with Shirin, a certain sense of her real essence. Thus he was able to create (out of stone? within his stone-softened head?) a unique, singular image of her such as no one else could have made.

And if we read (2b) as a negative rhetorical question, there is one more possibility also: it could be that Kohkan did not in fact strike his head with a stone. In that case, his making a mere image of Shirin was a poor, blameworthy substitute for what he should have done. If he had struck his head with a stone (in a habitual way? to the point of death?), would that not have brought him a more genuine form of intimacy?

Sometimes the commentators are like the proverbial blind men, each feeling and describing a different part of the elephant. Whereas the brilliance of Ghalib is to compress into a tiny two-line verse the whole elephant, and to keep our minds and hands constantly roving over it.

I also like the sound effects of sang se sar maar kar . All those consonants and short, clipped syllables have a choppy effect-- like thrown stones.