Ghazal 97, Verse 10


laakho;N lagaa))o ek churaanaa nigaah kaa
laakho;N banaa))o ek biga;Rnaa ((itaab me;N

1) hundreds-of-thousands of affections-- a single/particular/unique/excellent averting of the glance
2) hundreds-of-thousands of adornments-- a single/particular/unique/excellent fit of anger



Here lagaa))o means lagaava;T [intimacy, attachment]; that is, the beloved's treating the lover in a way that would reveal her affection and inclination. The meaning of the verse is that on one side are the beloved's hundreds of thousands of intimacies, and on the other side one averting of the glance. And her hundreds of thousands of adornments and embellishments are on one side, and on the other side a single show of petulance in anger. This verse too is 'unattainably simple' [sahl-o-mumtana(( ; though the standard form of the term is sahl-e mumtana((]. If you look at the words, it's surprising that two such equally balanced lines have come together, in which the fullest justice has been done to elegance of structure [;husn-e tar.sii((].

And if you look at the meaning, then in each line a situation has been incorporated that in truth always occurs between lover and beloved. The beloved’s intimacy is a very great thing for the lover, but her averting her glance, which is the opposite of intimacy, in the lover’s eyes is very much more heart-beguiling than intimacy. In the same way, from adornments and embellishments the beloved’s beauty is undoubtedly doubled; but her showing petulance in anger seems much more attractive and heart-stealing than her adornments. All these things that I’m writing about this verse are external and superficial; its true excellence is connected with mystical intuition [vajdaanii], which only possessors of taste can understand.

One day somebody recited this verse in the presence of the late Maulana Azurdah. Since the Maulana liked extremely clear and easily understood verses, when he heard Mirza's poetry he usually grew confused, and always disapproved of his style. But on this day, hearing this verse, he lost himself in rapture [vajd]. And he asked in astonishment, 'Whose verse is this?' He was told that it was Mirza Ghalib's. Because he never used to praise any verse of Mirza's, and on this day, in ignorance, praise had uncontrollably emerged from his mouth, when he heard Ghalib’s name he said by way of a joke, as was his habit, 'What praise does Mirza deserve for this? This is a verse especially in my style!' But in reality in terms of meaning and words this verse too is of that peerless and unique kind such that Mirza's whole body of poetry can't be rivalled by anyone else's poetry. As far as I am aware, up to the present this style has not been seen with such excellence in anyone else's poetry.

==Urdu text: Yadgar-e Ghalib, pp. 148-49


In the structure of the sentences, in the illustrations and 'seating' [nishast] of the words-- if there's to be elegance of comparison [;husn-e taqaabil], then this Quranic verse is famous as its ideal [structural] paradigm: [Qur'an 82:13-14]. But in Urdu, this verse too is a suitably adorned witness/beloved [shaahid-e zebaa]. (102)

== Nazm page 100

Bekhud Mohani:

How he has juxtaposed two equal fragments! In a simple-seeming verse, there are hundreds of thousands of affections.... To the lover, every coquetry of the beloved is appealing. He says, in her averting her glance and remaining silent there is such style that thousands of affections would sacrifice themselves for it. And in her show of petulance in anger, thousands of adornments offer themselves up. That is, for her there's no need to express love in order to ravish away the heart, nor to adorn herself since her simplicity steals the heart. (196)


[See his comments on Mir's M{1783,3}.]



Oh talk about adorable, and so sneakily simple-- as well as clever, witty, and inexhaustibly complicated! How could anybody not delight in this verse! It moves even the persnickety Nazm to effusiveness. It's so 'unattainably simple' that it has no verbs, just four phrases-- so it's like one of those puzzles that give you no guidance for how to assemble them. Here are some of the ways it could be put together. For convenience, let's call the four quarters of the verse A, B, C, and D:

A = B, C = D -- Her B and D are equal in charm to her A and C.

A = B, C = D -- Her B and D are equal in charm to other, ordinary women's A and C.

A + B, C + D -- Her numerous instances of A and C are accompanied by only a single instance of B and D, because she's so sweet-natured and lovable.

A -> B, C -> D -- She may lull you into complacency for a while with her A and C-- but then suddenly, without warning, you'll feel them all nullified by the full force of her terrifying B and D.

A -> B, C -> D -- All her great show of A and C merely goes into the making and reinforcing of her B and D.

Astonishing, isn't it? The very simplicity of the means makes the possibilities almost infinite. Its nearest counterpart is surely {4,4}, an equally remarkable 'list'-like tour de force (its first line consists of 'A and B and C and D'). And there's also the ambiguity of the 'one X and a hundred Y' of {360x,6}.

This verse somehow feels all warm and fuzzy-- it must be the ratio of 'hundreds of thousands' (and notice the oblique plural [laakho;N] that makes it technically mean 'all the hundreds of thousands') of charming things to one single [ek] negative one. And yet when you think about it, the negative possibilities are just as possible, just as powerful. After all, this may still be the same beloved we just saw in {97,9} so ominously frowning beneath her veil, as her lover watched with helpless fear. But then again, the radical multivalence of ek also introduces some favorable possibilities as well.

But the sound effects are still friendly and comforting, with all those long aa sounds; the strong parallelism of structure between the two lines creates a soothing rhythm in its repetitiveness. But is the lover really being soothed? Or is he being lulled and gulled-- and set up for a single devastating show of cold aversion or hot anger? It all hangs in the balance.