Ghazal 75, Verse 2


zabaan-e ahl-e zabaa;N me;N hai marg ;xaamoshii
yih baat bazm me;N raushan hu))ii zabaanii-e sham((a

1a) in the tongue of the 'people of the tongue/language', death is silence
1b) in the tongue of the 'people of the tongue/language', silence is death

2) this matter, in the gathering, became illumined by the tongue of the candle



In this verse, zabaan and ahl-e zabaan and marg and ;xaamoshii and bazm and raushan and zabaanii -- all these are words connected by .zil((a to the candle, but all are used unostentatiously [be-takalluf]. (76)

== Nazm page 76; Nazm page 77

Bekhud Dihlavi:

The meaning is that when a candle is extinguished, then they call it a 'dead candle' [sham((a-e kushtah]. And when it continues to burn, then they call construe the flame as the 'tongue of the candle' [zabaan-e sham((a]. The intention is that the falling silent of the ahl-e zabaan is considered to be their death. (122)

Bekhud Mohani:

In the idiom of the ahl-e zabaan, the falling silent of the poetry-knowers [su;xan-sanj] is itself their death. In the gathering, this fact became known through the tongue of the candle. That is, just as in the gathering the candle's becoming extinguished is its death-- that is, when that happens, sadness and darkness spread [over the gathering]. In the same way the death of a poet [su;xanvar] is his silence. (158-59)


CANDLE: {39,1}

In this verse, the wordplay is such a tour de force that even Nazm is moved to admiration at how informally, with what ease and unforcedness, it is deployed. Just consider his inventory of the verse's effects:

'In this verse, zabaan [tongue, language] and ahl-e zabaan ['people of tongue'; 'masters of language'] and marg [death] and ;xaamoshii [silence] and bazm [gathering] and raushan [illumined, radiant] and zabaanii ['from the tongue of', orally]-- all these are words connected by .zila(( to the candle, but all are used unostentatiously [be-takalluf]'.

All this is true, and of these effects the greatest is the use of the 'people of tongue/language' [ahl-e zabaan]. In Urdu literary tradition these are the people who police the boundaries of proper usage-- they are the ones who are able to declare that a certain idiom or turn of phrase is acceptable or matruuk , 'rejected'. They are the educated poetry-knowing native speakers, the ones whom poets and commentators address when they say things like 'Only the ahl-e zabaan will know the real pleasure of this'.

So in all this tangle of elegant multiple wordplay, what is actually being said? Except at a basic level, it's impossible to be too sure. At a basic level, the connection of the candle-- which in English too, fortunately, has its 'tongue' of flame-- and the ahl-e zabaan , the 'people of tongue/language', is clear. Both of them will be dead if they lose their 'tongues'; in Urdu a 'silent' (or 'killed') candle is an extinguished one. This situation becomes illumined [raushan] 'by the tongue of' [zabaanii] the candle. In short, in the language of poets, critics, and candles, death is silence and/or silence is death.

This is not, after all, a very revelatory thing to say. Surely the pleasure of the verse lies elsewhere-- in its wordplay, and its sound effects. This could be called a verse of 'word-exploration' based on the word zabaan . And listen to how it sounds when you say it! With three slightly differing variations of the same word-- zabaan zabaa;N zabaanii -- the verse can hardly help but be rhythmic and even a bit hypnotic.

Other verses about the tongue of the candle: {75,3}; {81,9x}.