Ghazal 78, Verse 2

{78,2}*

daam-e har mauj me;N hai ;halqah-e .sad kaam-e nihang
dekhe;N kyaa guzre hai qa:tre pah guhar hote tak

1) in the net/snare of every wave is a circle of a hundred crocodile-mouths
2) let's see what happens to the drop, until [its] becoming a pearl

Notes:

nihang : 'A crocodile; an alligator; —a shark ;—a water-dragon, or other similar monster; —a sword; —a pen'. (Platts p.1163)

 

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

Hali:

The meaning that has been expressed in this verse is only to this extent: that man, in reaching the level of accomplishment, has to face severe difficulties.
==Urdu text: p. 129 in Hali, Yadgar-e Ghalib

Nazm:

This verse is an illustration [tam;siil] that in the world a storm of events is constantly raging. The meaning is that even on the verge of success, one might not manage to succeed. Here every wave is a net; and every circle of the net, a crocodile's mouth. (79-80)

== Nazm page 79; Nazm page 80

Mihr:

Mirza's accomplishment is that he has presented the dangers in the most inescapable form possible. In addition, he has not described in detail which disasters will come to the drop; and these cannot be described, because every drop cannot be confronted by the same circumstances. And every reader, keeping the dangers in view, can estimate them himself. In truth, in the verse this non-describedness too has a special pleasure-giving effect. (264)

FWP:

SETS == FILL-IN; MUSHAIRAH
DROP/OCEAN: {21,8}

This verse relies on an Indian folk-traditional notion that raindrops falling into the sea during the month of Swati, if they reach the depths of the sea intact, and if they are then swallowed by oysters, are the source of pearls. This verse dramatizes the difficulties and dangers of this process. There's a related tradition in Persian, or at least in the Persian ghazal tradition.

The first line, appropriately to mushairah performance conditions, is entirely striking and powerful, but quite obscure. Why should waves be nets, and why should their round meshes be hundreds of round crocodile-mouths? It doesn't sound like a description of the dangers to humans in the sea. And yet, none of the other characters in the ghazal world-- the Moth, the Nightingale, etc.-- are aquatic. We are left perplexed, obliged to wait in suspense until, after a suitably tantalizing delay, we're allowed to hear the second line.

Now we receive the necessary information, but, as appropriate, only at the last possible moment. Even the mention of the drop doesn't help much, for the usual range of relationships between drops and oceans have nothing to do with the imagery of the first verse; for more typical drops and oceans, see {21,8}. Not until the end of the verse when we hear the word 'pearl', the rhyme-word itself, do we finally have the necessary information to make sense of the verse. And then, of course we grasp it completely and all at once.

As Mihr nicely observes, the very 'non-describedness' of the dangers facing the hapless, vulnerable, gallant, ambitious drop is also part of the charm of the verse. We are left to imagine them for ourselves. Which of course we are all too well able to do, for don't we recognize in the travels (and travails) of the drop, the journeys of our own lives?