Ghazal 62, Verse 9


letaa nah agar dil tumhe;N detaa ko))ii dam chain
kartaa jo nah martaa ko))ii din aah-o-fi;Gaa;N aur

1) if I hadn't given you my heart, I would have taken a few breaths/moments of ease/rest
2) if I hadn't died, for a few days I would have made additional/other sighs and groans


chain : 'Ease, comfort, relief, repose, rest, quiet, calm, peace, tranquillity '. (Platts p.471)


fi;Gaan : 'Cry of pain or distress, wailing, groaning, lamentation, complaint; clamour'. (Platts p.782)


[1864, to Junun:] This is an extremely refined/pleasing utterance [la:tiif taqriir]. letaa has a connection with chain , and kartaa is connected [marbuu:t] with aah-o-fi;Gaa;N aur . In Arabic, inversion of words and meanings [ta((qiid-e laf:zii-o-ma((navii] are both flaws. In Persian, inversion of meanings is a flaw, and inversion of words is permitted-- in fact it is eloquent [fa.sii;h] and agreeable [malii;h]. Rekhtah is a reproduction [taqliid] of Persian. The result of the meaning of the two lines is that if I had not given you [my] heart, then I would have experienced peace for a few breaths/moments; if I had not died, then I would have sighed and groaned a few days more. (Arshi 204-05)

==Urdu text: Khaliq Anjum vol. 4, pp. 1513-14
==another trans.: Russell and Islam, p. 301
==another trans.: Daud Rahbar, p. 266


But from the point of view of meaning, one ought to go against grammatical order here, and he has caused letaa and kartaa necessarily to be understood in a way that increases their meaningfulness. That is, now the word order establishes the meaning that it's as if the beloved has said to him, 'You never experience even a few breaths/moments of peace, and now you are heaving fewer sighs'. In answer to that, there is this verse. (63)

== Nazm page 63

Bekhud Dihlavi:

The beloved asks Mirza Sahib, 'Why don't you remain even briefly at peace, and why do you always lament?' In reply, Mirza says, [this verse]. Despite the complexity of word order [taakiid-e laf:zii] (which the Persianists have declared to be permissible), both lines have become extraordinarily enjoyable and meaningful. (110)

Bekhud Mohani:

Both lines are in one style and of one glory, and this is the style of speech that no one before Mirza had ever adopted in Urdu. (143)



When Ghalib boasts about this verse, what he's proud of is the refinement of its feats of connection: he shows how he has separated compound verbs that should be together, thus performing an 'inversion' [ta((qiid] of normal word order, and has operated right on (though not at all beyond) the limits of poetic permissibility. For what he has done would be a 'flaw' in Arabic, but is permissible in Persian, he says; and Urdu prefers, almost always, to follow Persian precedents. For further discussion, see Faruqi on M{1723,1}.

By separating the verb parts in this way, Ghalib has created something like an iihaam of sorts. When we read letaa nah agar dil tumhe;N detaa we at first think the two verbs taken [letaa] and given [detaa] are parallel, as they so often are: if the speaker hadn't 'given', he would have 'taken'. Not until the very end of the line, when we encounter chain , do we realize that the 'taking' would really have been illusory-- all that would have been 'taken' was a bit of peace (as in the English 'take comfort'), and that too for only a few 'breaths/moments' [dam].

Similarly, especially after seeing letaa and detaa , when in the second line we read kartaa jo nah martaa we tend to take the two verbs as psychologically opposite-- if the speaker hadn't 'died', he would have 'done' something or other. Not until we reach the end of the line do we realize that the 'doing' would really have been illusory-- all he would have 'done' is heaved a few extra sighs and groans [aah-o-fi;Gaa;N kartaa].

Thus according to Ghalib's account, the pleasure of the verse rests on the strategic placement of letaa (vs. detaa ) and kartaa (vs. martaa ), both widely separated from their proper grammatical and semantic other halves. Of course, these new juxtapositions offer the charms of strong internal rhyme and interesting rhythm as well. But surely the need to go back and enjoyably rethink the verse, reconfiguring it into a more subtle pattern, is a pleasure in itself. The commentators also see the word order as framing the verse as an answer to an implicit question (presumably asked by the beloved).

Like a number of verses, this one consists of two parallel lines, with no indication of how to connect them; for more on parallelism, see {22,5}. Do the two lines describe the same situation, or two different situations? Perhaps giving you my heart is basically equivalent to dying-- an equation that becomes plausible when we notice how readily taking a few breaths in peace can be compared/contrasted with heaving a few more sighs.

To me this verse recalls {20,1}-- if I had lived longer, it would have been more of the same old waiting around; but the main thing, union with you, would never have happened, so what would be the point of living longer? Similarly, in this verse, my giving you my heart was what sealed my doom. That having been done, what could possibly have been left of my life except a few sighs and groans more or less? For more examples of dead-lover-speaks verses, see {57,1}.

For more on the idiomatic ko))ii din aur , see {66,1}.