Ghazal 57, Verse 3

{57,3}*

sham((a bujhtii hai to us me;N se dhuvaa;N u;Thtaa hai
shu((lah-e ((ishq siyah-posh hu))aa mere ba((d

1) when a candle goes out, then from within it smoke arises
2) the flame of passion became black-robed, after me

Notes:

Nazm:

That is, it's not smoke, but rather the flame has become black-robed in mourning for the extinguished candle. In the same way, the flame of passion has become black-robed in grief for me. That is, I burned and melted like a candle from the flame of passion. (52)

== Nazm page 52

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, when a candle is extinguished, the flame that manifests itself by turning into smoke is in reality not smoke, but rather the flame becomes black-robed in mourning for the dead candle. In the same way, after my death the flame of passion has become black-robed in grief. (97)

Bekhud Mohani:

That is, the way after a candle is extinguished it becomes dark, in the same way after my death the world of passion was darkened, and after me no lover remained. I was a lover such that passion itself mourned for me, and put on black clothing in grief for me.

Janab [Nazm] Tabataba'i [writes], 'That is, I burned and melted like a candle from the flames of passion'. This is the sort of statement that destroys the city of this verse. That is, what he had written previously was incomplete, but not wrong. (164)

Faruqi:

Without a doubt we should count this among the best verses in Urdu.

[Later critics are wrong to complain that the me;N in the first line is mere padding. Ghalib could easily have omitted the me;N , but he instead chose to retain it. The me;N has also been accused of creating a 'two-part' verse, but this charge too is wrongheaded.]

All these quarrels have arisen from ignoring the word me;N ; otherwise, the truth is that in the verse there is neither a claim nor a proof of the claim-- there is only a situation. Or rather, it can be said that in the first line is a claim, and in the second line is the reply to the claim. The flame is dear to the candle; when it is extinguished, smoke arises from the candle's heart. But I was dearer to the flame of passion. When I died, then the flame of passion became black-robed, it became an embodiment of mourning, or by putting on black attire it vanished from sight. Because my death is the death of the person who was the most precious to passion, as if I myself were passion.

The candle loves the flame, but it only mourns its departure to the extent that smoke arises from within it (that is, smoke arises from its heart and spreads outward, and we feel that the smoke has emerged from inside the candle). Smoke is accidental and insubstantial, therefore the candle's mourning too is accidental and insubstantial. By contrast, at my death passion feels grief to such an extent that it puts on black attire-- black attire that is more durable and more concealing than smoke. After being extinguished, a candle can be relit, but the flame that submerges itself in blackness cannot be lit again.

Now look at one more aspect: in Persian, to extinguish a candle is 'to kill a candle' [sham((a kushtan]. Thus when the candle has been extinguished, it's as if it has died. On the candle's head the flame of passion burned. When the candle died, then the flame became lost in smoke; that is, it became black-robed. That is, assume that the candle is a separate being, and imagine that the flame is a separate being. When the candle is extinguished, then from within it smoke arises, but if the candle exemplifies the heart of the lover and the flame of the candle exemplifies the flame of passion, then we'll say that when the candle (the lover's heart) was finished, then from within it smoke did not arise; rather, the flame of passion itself became black-robed. That is, the speaker's death is not merely like the extinguishing of a candle, but rather it is far beyond it.

== (1989: 69) [2006: 84-86]

FWP:

SETS == A,B
CANDLE: {39,1}

This simple-seeming verse makes use of one of the common Ghalibian structures: two independent statements, one in each line, with no hint as to how we are to connect them. Do they describe similar situations, or contrasting ones?

Most of the commentators consider that the two lines describe similar situations. On this reading, just as smoke rises from a newly-extinguished candle, seeming to robe it in the black of mourning, so the fire of passion itself became 'black-robed' after I died, presumably because of a similar cloud of dark smoke that surrounded its embers. Just as the candle's black mourning attire seems to mourn the death of its own flame, so the mourning attire of the fire of passion seems to mourn my death as the death of its own burning heart, as though I were identified with passion itself.

Faruqi, however, maintains that the two lines describe contrasting situations: 'the speaker's death is not merely like the extinguishing of a candle, but rather it is far beyond it'. We should take seriously the difference between the candle's act of giving vent to smoke 'from within' it, and the fire of passion's much more significant act of becoming wholly 'black-robed'. Faruqi's case is a strong one, especially since it provides a much richer and less obvious meaning for the verse. He is even prepared to rank this verse 'among the best verses in Urdu', which the other commentators with their more conventional interpretation show no inclination to do.

The complexity Faruqi's interpretation stands in piquant contrast to the (apparent) simplicity of the verse. After the previous two relatively light, almost tongue-in-cheek verses, this one feels much more abstract, stark, and serious. But the imagery and the situation are very much part of the same universe, which adds to the pleasure.

For more on dead-lover-speaks verses, see {57,1}.