Ghazal 69, Verse 1


vus((at-e sa((ii-e karam dekh kih sar-taa-sar-e ;xaak
guzre hai aabilah-paa abr-e guhar-baar hanuuz

1) look at the extent of the effort for kindness, that from {end to end / 'head to head'} of the dust
2) it passes blister-footed, the pearl-shedding cloud, still/now


vus((at : 'Latitude; amplitude; spaciousness; capacity; space, extent; space covered, area; dimensions; bulk; --convenience, ease; opportunity, leisure'. (Platts p.1192)


sa((ii : 'Endeavour, attempt; exertion, effort; enterprise, essay; purpose'. (Platts p.661)


guzre hai is an archaic form of guzartaa hai (GRAMMAR)


The reason for calling the cloud 'blister-footed' is the word 'pearl-shedding'. By using this verbal device he has made clear that in the effort for kindness blisters have been worn on its feet, and still it is running from end to end of the whole land, to provide the benefit of kindness; that is, this is how the glory of kindness ought to be. (68)

== Nazm page 68


On the basis of the drops of rain, he has called the cloud 'blister-footed'. (66)

Bekhud Mohani:

Mirza has put so many meaningful words in it, that it's difficult to explain the pleasure of them all. The first word is, 'extent'. on which he has provided a commentary with 'from end to end of the dust'.... Then there's the word 'effort', which can also have the meaning of 'running'. Here, from it an iihaam has also been created, because the author's intention is 'attempt'.... It is completed with hanuuz , that is, from the beginning of creation to today. (152)


It is said [by most commentators] that since the cloud rains down water, it is 'blister-footed'-- that is, a blister is full of water, and a cloud too is full of water, therefore the characteristic of a cloud is blister-footedness. First of all, this relationship is not very successful, because a cloud is entirely full of water, so that we can call it a blister, but we cannot call it blister-footed. The second point is that the cloud is blister-footed because in order to do the service of providing water, it has traveled from far away. That is, the blister-footedness is a result of water-providing, not a cause of it....

The truth is that error in the interpretation of this verse has come about because of the reading abr-e guhar-baar , with an i.zaafat . If we read abr guhar-baar without an i.zaafat , then the meaning emerges that despite its blister-footedness, the cloud is so generous that it passes by scattering pearls. That is, the raindrops falling from the cloud are like pearls. And it's clear that this metaphor is absolutely correct. Because the cloud has traveled for long distances, blisters form on its feet. But it still doesn't stop its pearl-shedding. Now the verse has come to have metaphor upon metaphor. One is the common metaphor of calling a cloud 'pearl-shedding'; the second, special metaphor is that the drops that rain down from the cloud are pearls. From this special feature the advantage also accrues, that there has been no necessity of making the drops of rain into the water that fills the blisters.

Now the question remains, why has he called the cloud 'blister-footed'? There can be several possible reasons for this. From the burden of rain, clouds bend downward toward the earth, and seem to have a rounded shape. It's clear that the part of the foot in our view is its lower part; accordingly, it can be given the similitude of a blistered foot. It can also be said that since clouds come from afar, they can be imagined to have blistered feet.

== (1989: 79-80) [2006: 98-99]



What an unusually interesting test case for my concept of grotesquerie, discussed in {39,3}! Until I read Faruqi's commentary, it never occurred to me that the verse could possibly not suggest that the pearly raindrops were, or at least might be, fluid from the blisters on the cloud's feet. Now that I notice, I see that on the whole the commentators skirt the issue; without denying the connection, they avoid making it quite explicit. Faruqi considers it a definite 'advantage' that his interpretation removes any need to make this equation of raindrops with blister-fluid.

When I thought in the case of {60,9} that the verse went deliberately, amusingly over-the-top (into grotesquerie), Faruqi disagreed, and was willing to entertain the thorns-and-blistered-foot imagery straightforwardly. In the present case he seems to recognize the possibility of the grotesque, and then seeks to rescue the verse from it. Perhaps the thought of being actually rained on by liquid from a cloud's bursting foot-blisters is particularly repellent. He provides a whole paragraph of alternative justifications for 'blister-footed'. Despite his (tendentious?) arguments against the i.zaafat in the second line, I retain it on principle, since I'm following Arshi.

There's obviously an element of subjectivity here, and certainly 'grotesquerie' wasn't a category in Ghalib's thinking, or in the tradition as he knew it. (It might be said that the sometimes pejorative term ;xayaal-bandii , which means something like 'excessive, extravagant, far-fetched imaginativeness', would have included such verses, but that was a far wider notion.) To my mind the connection between 'pearl-shedding' and 'blister-footed' is so patent, and so solidly grounded in basic physical similarities, that it's hardly conceivable that it never occurred to Ghalib, even if it was not the only possibility he had in mind.

Of course, nit-picking is possible either way. One could well ask about the logical priority: if the cloud is so desirous of being kind, presumably it is traveling over the land in order to shed rain. But the blisters surely develop only after it has been running around over the land for a while. So it must surely have had raindrops already available for shedding, even before it had any blisters? But then in reply one could also say, a cloud that sheds any significant amount of rain usually 'rains itself out' and dissipates before long; a cloud that kept running back and forth in all directions thus can't really be showing much kindness or offering much rain-- unless, of course, it then develops fresh supplies of rain from its 'feet' blistered in running. And so on, in what soon becomes an absurd kind of argument. But look at the progression: for a cloud to have 'feet' is fine; for the 'feet' to have blisters is acceptable; but for the blisters to burst and rain down fluid on our heads is grotesque. Is it simply a question of poetic tact we're dealing with here?

At the end of his wide-ranging discussion of {92,7}, Nazm gives an example of a verse of Mir's in which a blister is compared to a pearl. He comments on it unfavorably, though not in the same terms that I am using here.

Thanks to the doubleness of hanuuz (on this see {3,4}), one is able to watch the cloud's journey either as Bekhud Mohani does, marveling at its continuing generosity from the beginning of time to the present; or else as a happening right before our eyes: right now the cloud is passing by, and perhaps its blisters have only recently grown so noticeable.

It's also conspicuous that the first line begins with two fancy, somewhat pretentious Arabic words, starting us off with a sense of obscurity and difficulty. By contrast, the vision of the helpful, kindly, self-sacrificing, cloud in the second line is a simple, vivid, pictorial one. And of course to offer us another kind of pleasure, there's the affinity among the eyes ('look'), the head, and the feet.

Compare Mir's similar grotesquerie, also involving admiration for the 'water' from foot-blisters: M{1537,5}.