Ghazal 49, Verse 5

{49,5}*

chaar-mauj u;Thtii hai :tuufaan-e :tarab se har suu
mauj-e gul mauj-e shafaq mauj-e .sabaa mauj-e sharaab

1) a whirlpool/'fourfold-wave' arises from the storm/tempest of joy/excitement, in every direction
2) a wave of rose, a wave of sunset/dawn, a wave of breeze, a wave of wine

Notes:

:tuufaan : 'A violent storm of wind and rain, a tempest, typhoon; a flood, deluge, inundation; the universal deluge; a flood or torrent (of obloquy, &c.); --a commotion, noise, riot'. (Platts p.754)

 

:tarab : 'Emotion, joyous excitement, joy, mirth, cheerfulness, hilarity'. (Platts p.752)

 

shafaq : 'Twilight; the red glow of dawn or sunset'. (Steingass p.749)

 

.sabaa : 'The east wind, or an easterly wind'; a gentle and pleasant breeze; the morning breeze; the zephyr'. (Platts p.742)

Nazm:

He has given for the turbulence of emotion/joy the storm-producing sea, the waves of which he has mentioned in the second line. And in this simile too [as in 49,4}], the ground of similitude is movement. (45)

== Nazm page 45

Hasrat:

A 'four-wave' [chaar mauj] means a 'whirlpool'. The pleasure is that in the second line four kinds of waves have also been mentioned. (49)

Bekhud Mohani:

In the spring, a storm of pleasure and joy has come; four waves are arising in all directions. On the ground a wave of rose and a wave of wine, in the atmosphere a wave of spring breeze, in the sky a wave of sunset. That is, nowadays everything in the earth and sky and atmosphere is in the grip of the fervor of spring and the intoxication of spring. (112)

FWP:

SETS
WINE: {49,1}

Hasrat takes a 'four-wave' [chaar-mauj] to refer to a whirlpool, and the use of the singular mauj rather than the plural mauje;N (along with the singular verb u;Thtii hai ) increases the plausibility of his suggestion. Hamid too makes this suggestion (p. 40), and it seems quite persuasive.

But there's more to be said on the subject of chaar . It can often colloquially mean 'some, a few', as in the famous line pa))e faati;hah ko))ii aa))e kyuu;N ko))ii chaar phuul cha;Rhaa))e kyuu;N , 'why would anybody come to say prayers, why would anybody offer "a few" (definitely not "four") flowers?'. (The source of this line will be discussed below.)

In the present verse the first reading would be 'a whirlpool', as Hasrat suggests. Or if not that, in view of the singular verb it would be something like 'a fourfold wave', some kind of special fancy wave. One or the other of these would be the best guess, after one had heard (under mushairah performance conditions) only the first line.

And here's an example (from a source to be discussed below) that does pretty much what Ghalib is doing in the present verse:

((umr-e daraaz maa;Ng ke laa))e the chaar din
do aarzuu me;N ka;T ga))e do inti:zaar me;N

[having asked for a long life, we brought four days
two passed in longing, two in waiting]

From the first line alone, we expect that chaar din will have the common colloquial sense of 'a few days' or 'some days'; but then when (and only when) we hear the second line, the expression unexpectedly turns out to mean exactly 'four days'.

In the present verse too, the second line would compel a mental re-imagining of chaar in the first one, since it would be clear that exactly 'four' different waves were in fact being enumerated. Thus there's a small iihaam here. And perhaps we are also meant to think of the four traditional Greek-Islamic cosmological elements-- earth (rose), air (breeze), water (wine) and fire (sunset). Here, these elements seem to arise not from the forces of impersonal nature but from the microcosm of the lover's soul, from the 'storm of emotion/joy' in his heart.

But in any case, all these elements converge for an occasion: a garden full of roses and breezes, at dawn or sunset, is an ideal situation for drinking wine and savoring the overwhelming sensual beauty of the world.

Ghalib always defeats you, though, when you try translating him. I remember how proud I was of coming up with my own version of this ghazal, and especially of this verse, which I knew was the best I could possibly do:

Out of the storm of joy
Four, flung from the vortex:
rose-wave, sunset-wave
wave of wind, wave of wine

And yet-- how unsatisfying. Even at the best, the sound effects you can get are so inferior to those of the original, the meaning is so attenuated or warped. What the hell is 'vortex' doing there? I can't seem to do without it, but obviously this is a 'transcreation'.

Some chaar examples from Zafar-- not! : Discussing chaar made me think of that famously melancholy verse:

pa))e faati;hah ko))ii aa))e kyuu;N ko))ii chaar phuul cha;Rhaa))e kyuu;N
ko))ii aa ke sham((a jalaa))e kyuu;N mai vuh bekasii kaa mazaar huu;N

[why would anyone come to say prayers, why would anyone offer a few flowers
why would anyone come and light a candle-- I'm such a tomb of helplessness!]

The verse provides a fine example of chaar meaning 'a few, some' rather than 'four'. And thinking of it reminded me that this is as good a good place as any to share some information about it. Be sure you're sitting down before you read on.

For that whole famous ghazal, nah kisii kii aa;Nkh kaa nuur huu;N nah kisii ke dil kaa qaraar huu;N / jo kisii ke kaam nah aa sake vuh mai;N ek musht-e ;Gubaar huu;N , doesn't appear anywhere in Zafar's four divans of poetry. The ghazal has been plausibly attributed to Muztar Khairabadi (1865-1927), with only minor changes in wording. The attribution appears in urduu ke .zarb ul-ma;sal ash((aar , by Shafiq 'Ali Khan (Karachi: United Book Corporation, 1988), p. 132; Shafiq 'Ali Khan cites an essay by Yunus Hasni, shaah :zafar nahii;N -- mu.z:tar ;xairaabaadii , that appeared in Nigar-e Pakistan, Jan. 1963, and the testimony of Jan Nisar Akhtar and 'other trustworthy gentlemen'. (Muztar's divan has remained unpublished.) I'm grateful to Irfan Khan for pointing this out, and for providing the Urdulist with a very helpful discussion of the whole situation (Aug. 2005). It was a shock to me, and to the whole Urdulist, to have to make this mental adjustment. But I've gone carefully through the largest edition I have of all the four volumes in Zafar's complete works [kulliyaat], and sure enough that ghazal is simply not there. (Though certainly it appears that various editions of Zafar's divan are surprisingly full of inconsistencies-- work definitely needs to be done on this!)

But we're not through yet. Here's another ghazal attributed to Zafar-- and so famously so that it has acquired its own postage stamp:

This ghazal too, by coincidence, contains another chaar verse that also illustrates the kind of iihaam that Ghalib had created in the present verse:

((umr-e daraaz maa;Ng ke laa))e the chaar din
do aarzuu me;N ka;T ga))e do inti:zaar me;N

[having asked for a long life, we brought four days
two passed in longing, two in waiting]

But more to the point, the closing-verse from that ghazal, as it's widely known, is:

kitnaa hai bad-na.siib :zafar dafn ke liye
do gaz zamiin bhii nah milii;N kuu-e yaar me;N

[how unfortunate is Zafar! --for burial
he didn't even get two yards of ground in the beloved's street]

I wish I had a nickel for every time an Urdu-vala has recited that verse to me, and then has informed me with pride (because of its 'natural poetry' biographical realism) that in it Zafar was referring to his exile in Burma after 1857; he died in Rangoon as a British captive, and was buried there in an unmarked grave. Unfortunately for the 'natural poetry' fans, there's very little evidence that Zafar ever composed any more poetry after his four pre-1857 divans. These four he caused to be edited by Zauq, and then to be published by his own printing house, the Matba-e Sultani in Delhi; the final two divans of the set were published in 1856.

Then after that-- basically, nothing. There are various reports of Zafar's composing verses both during the Rebellion (some martial verses attributed to him apparently were in oral circulation at the time), and even after it, while in British captivity in the Red Fort (supposedly by scratching with a charcoal-tipped stick on the whitewashed wall of his prison chamber). He was in his eighties, and by all accounts was not always tuned in to the world around him. If he did actually compose any verses during those circumstances, they haven't come down to us in any remotely reliable form. So even if Zafar had actually composed this verse during this period, it couldn't have been about his exile in Rangoon. (From his Rangoon period, we hardly even have any stories of verses attributed to him.)

So what is the source of that little ghazal, if it's not in any reliable divan of Zafar's? One verse of it can be pinned down:

((umr-e daraaz maa;Ng ke laa))ii thii chaar din
do aarzuu me;N ka;T ga))e do inti:zaar me;N

[Long-life, having asked, brought back four days
two passed in longing, two in waiting]

This one verse is found in the divan of Simab Akbarabadi (1880-1951), in an entirely different ghazal, with the difference that Simab wrote laa))ii thii in the first line, so that ((umr-e daraaz becomes the subject [siimaab akbaraabaadii , kaliim-e ((ajam , Karachi (Simab Academy Pakistan, 1985), p. 47; see also urduu ke .zarb ul-ma;sal ash((aar , p. 131]. As for the other verses, including the famous closing-verse, I'm still looking for a source.

To learn that these two famous and beloved ghazals are at least largely, and almost certainly entirely, misattributed is no doubt a bit of a shock. Ask yourself, though-- even if we have to rearrange our notions of their authorship, don't we owe it to the real authors to do so? After all, Zafar has an immense number of ghazals that he really did compose, and to which we have access; his popularity also receives an extra boost because he's seen by many as a kind of proto-nationalist quasi-mystical martyr figure. There's no reason for us to deprive other poets of their own claim to fame. For a discussion of verses similarly misattributed to Ghalib, see {219,1}.