Ghazal 111, Verse 13


jaa;N-fizaa hai baadah jis ke haath me;N jaam aa gayaa
sab lakiire;N haath kii goyaa rag-e jaa;N ho ga))ii;N

1) wine is life-increasing; into whomever's hand the glass came
2) all the lines of the hand became, so to speak, the {jugular vein / 'vein of life'}


jaa;N-fizaa : 'Life-increasing, animating'. (Platts p.373)


rag : 'An artery, a vein; tendon, nerve, sinew, fibre'. (Platts p.598)


The word goyaa is constantly used by many poets as padding, but such is not the case in this verse. If this were were removed from here, then the exaggeration would transgress the bounds of possibility, and the meaning would be that in real fact the lines became arteries. And in the rules of eloquence [balaa;Gat], exaggeration that would go beyond the bounds of possibility is not considered praiseworthy. But a number of poets in this age constantly and freely say such exaggerations and hyperbole-- rather, they consider it a verbal device. Here, in order to reduce the exaggeration, the author has used the word goyaa . (119)

== Nazm page 119

Bekhud Mohani:

Through wine, the spirit is made expansive. The one in whose hand the glass would come, because of expansiveness of spirit we ought to consider that all the lines of his hand have become arteries [shahrag]. (224)


[As for Nazm's view,] I don't believe that Ghalib would even have given a thought to whether exaggeration was transgressing the limits or not. Exaggeration and theme-creation go together like a blouse-and-skirt [cholii daaman], because a theme is made through metaphor, and the root of metaphor is exaggeration. Thus in this verse the word goyaa is not there in order to reduce the exaggeration, but for some other purpose.

I have reflected at lengh on the meaning of this apparently simple verse. The commentators have wrapped it up in two sentences: if the glass of wine comes into the hand, then the spirit is expansive, because the lines of the hand have become arteries. But [according to this reading] in the verse there's no proof [;subuut] of wine's being life-giving....

Now let's look again at the verse. The glass is full of red wine. The glass is in the hand; the redness of the wine, glimmering from the glass onto the hand, causes the lines of the hand to appear red, as if every line resembles an artery full of living blood. And when even the hand's dry lines appear to be full of flowing blood, then it won't be incorrect to say that in wine is the power of giving life. In the light of this commentary, all the words of the verse appear as operative. And the proof for the claim in the first line also becomes available.

One more aspect is this: the phrase 'for the glass to come into the hand' gestures toward chance and happenstance. That is, the receiving of the glass is a matter of coincidence: if it happens it happens; if it doesn't happen it doesn't happen. If it happens, then there's life in abundance; and if it doesn't happen, there's nothing but death. (Because when the glass isn't in the hand, then the lines of the hand won't appear full of blood, like arteries, but rather will look dry; and if the dryness of the arteries isn't death, then what else is it?)

The lines of the hand also gesture toward the 'line of the glass' [;xa:t:t-e jaam]. To the extent that there's wine in the glass, to that same extent the glass is alive; and to the extent that the lines of the hand are illumined by wine, to that extent the hand-- that is, the owner of the hand-- is alive.

The repetition of 'hand' in both lines seems apparently to be undesirable. But in reality, without it the interpretation of the verse is not established. In the first line, by means of 'glass came into the hand' the drinker's grip on the glass, and that too a coincidental grip, is proved. In the second line, if 'hand' is not mentioned then the lines of the hand becoming arteries becomes meaningless.

== (1989: 181) [2006: 202-03]

Owen Cornwall:

In the Qur'an 50:16, God describes himself as closer than one's own jugular vein.

Here, Ghalib puts his finger on the pulse of a theological discourse on the jugular vein. The stakes of this discourse concern the nature of God’s relationship with the world. 'We are closer to him than the jugular vein'(Q 50:16) was frequently invoked by Sufis to prove God’s immanence. Ghalib indicates how the heteroglossia of figurative language makes or breaks these reading practices. Does the glass vessel of inspiration allow for an unequivocal proximity with the wine of divine inspiration, or does it represent a critical distance?  Does the wine induce a heightened awareness, or a quixotic distortion?  


WINE: {49,1}

This verse has provoked unusually interesting commentary, especially Nazm's analysis of the use of goyaa , and Faruqi's pithy and effective rejoinder. Ghalib's lover-persona, after all, claimed to show every day a scar that people mistook for the rising sun (see {62,8}); and matter-of-factly planned to buy a new heart and life in the bazaar (see {62,4}); and produced dozens of other equally extravagant conceits. It's hard to believe that such a poet ever devoted one single moment to worrying about problems of exaggeration or hyperbole. As Faruqi rightly notes, the root of metaphor is often exaggeration, and the ghazal world in general-- not to speak of Ghalib's inventive genius in particular-- is founded on metaphor. Nazm would almost agree about the ubiquity of such hyperbole-- except that with the 'natural-poetry' part of his mind he thinks it's deplorable (though the other part knows better).

Nazm says that goyaa is saved from being mere 'padding' by its use in reducing the effect of hyperbole. Faruqi rejects this idea and says that it must be there for 'some other purpose'. But what might this other purpose be? In this verse, unlike so many others (see {5,1} for examples), the double meanings of goyaa are not exploited. If we imagine its absence, it's hard to see any harm to the verse, other than of course unmetricalness. So have we actually caught Ghalib here in a case of (oh, the horror!) padding?

And then,extravagant or not, how exactly does the metaphor work? Owen Cornwall points out the possible Qur'anic source. Is the verse then mystically profound (with the glass and wine representing the Divine immanence), or is it rakishly mischievous (with the glass and wine proving even more intoxicating than God's presence, since they operate through mere external touch)?

This verse also recalls {208,13}, in which not even physical contact is needed: in that verse the speaker, too incapacitated even to lift a hand, finds something he craves (vitality? delight? intoxication? life?) in the very sight of the wineglass and flagon.