Ghazal 64, Verse 9x

{64,9x}

yih kyaa va;hshat hai ay diivaane pesh az marg vaa-vailaa
rakhii be-jaa binaa-e ;xaanah-e zanjiir shevan par

1) what wildness is this, oh madman-- 'before death, lamentation'?!
2) you have inappropriately laid the foundation of the madhouse/'house of chains' on grief/lamentation/mourning

Notes:

va;hshat : 'Loneliness, solitariness, dreariness; —sadness, grief, care; —wildness, fierceness, ferocity, savageness; barbarity, barbarism; —timidity, fear, fright, dread, terror, horror; —distraction, madness'. (Platts p.1183)

 

vaa-vailaa : 'Weeping and wailing, lamentation, bewailing'. (Platts p.1171)

 

be-jaa : 'Out of place, ill-placed, misplaced, ill-timed; unbecoming, improper, amiss, unlawful, unjustifiable; unreasonable, absurd; foreign to the purpose, irrelevant; inaccurate, wrong, objectionable; —improperly, inopportunely; injudiciously, wrongly'. (Platts p.204)

 

;xaanah-e zanjiir : 'A prison; a mad-house'. (Platts p.486)

 

shevan : 'Grief, mourning, lamentation'. (Platts p.741)

 

shevan : 'Lamentation'. (Steingass p.777)

Asi:

He says, oh madman after all what wildness is this, and what madness is it, this lamentation before death? The theme is that grieving and mourning are done after someone's death. But how remarkable is your wildness, that you have made the very foundation of the house of chains on mourning. And it's obvious that when a fetter-maker would make them, then in the process there would be noise created too. What a deep and what a good vision this is-- so to speak, the very foundation of the house of chains is on mourning. (119)

Zamin:

pesh az marg vaa-vailaa karnaa has the meaning of imagining a difficulty before it comes, and lamenting over it. Here, from the sound of the madman's foot-fetters, the poet has considered that he is mourning and lamenting over the thought of his own death; and on the basis of this misunderstanding-- which is a madness in itself-- he is alerting him about this. (172)

Gyan Chand:

A chain clanks-- that is, it grieves/laments. The basis of this has been established on mourning. Mourning is done over someone's death. If a madman is bound in chains, then this is to lament and complain before death. This is madness.

== Gyan Chand, p. 209

FWP:

SETS == IDIOMS
MADNESS: {14,3}

For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices. This verse is NOT one of his choices; I have added it myself, partly for the sake of completeness.For more on Ghalib's unpublished verses, see the discussion in {4,8x}.

The Persianized idiom pesh az marg vaa-vailaa karnaa means, as Zamin notes, imagining some difficulty and lamenting about it before it has occurred. In effect, it means complaining before you have anything to complain about; this can easily seem foolish, hysterical, or self-indulgent. Like most proverbial sayings, it can be used in a wide variety of contexts; 'setting the fox to guard the hen-house' is not about chicken farming.

Thus from the first line, we have almost no idea what the madman might actually have done to warrant the reproachful invocation of this idiomatic saying. No doubt it would be something full of 'wildness', but va;hshat has an extraordinarily broad range (see the definition above), and in any case a madman is crazy by definition. So we are prepared for the second line to give us-- after, under mushairah performance conditions, a suitable delay-- almost anything.

What we are not expecting, however, is an extremely literal application of the idiom: the madman is apparently being reproached for clanking his chains: the clanking of the chains is construed as lamentation, so that he is guilty of pesh az marg vaa-vailaa karnaa , 'lamentation before death', and thus, even more sweepingly, of inappropriately 'laying the foundation of the madhouse on grief/lamentation/mourning'.

As Zamin also notes, this accusation is itself a piece of madness. Since the madhouse is after all a 'house of chains' (see the definition above), the madman's chains may simply clank whenever he moves, with no particular meaning. Or he may clank his chains for other reasons entirely (to pass the time? to attract the watchman's attention? to reveal his pain?).

And on a larger scale, what is a madhouse full of chained-up madmen if not an occasion for lamentation? The very foundations of such a madhouse have been laid on the clanking of chains, and if this sound expresses lamentation then such grief can hardly be called 'inappropriate'. The reproachful speaker of the verse turns out to sound much crazier than the madman whose behavior he reproaches.

But if anybody ever said vaah! vaah! on hearing this verse with its awkwardly constructed second line, it was surely at the amusingness of taking an idiomatic or proverbial saying and suddenly, unexpectedly, fussily, applying it literally.