Ghazal 111, Verse 16

{111,16}

yuu;N hii gar rotaa rahaa ;Gaalib to ay ahl-e jahaa;N
dekhnaa in bastiyo;N ko tum kih viiraa;N ho ga))ii;N

1) if Ghalib would keep on weeping {like this / for no reason}, then, oh people of the world
2) you just look at these towns-- that they've become desolate

Notes:

yuu;N hii : 'In this very manner, exactly thus; --without any apparent cause or reason, causelessly, &c'. (Platts p.1253)

 

dekhnaa , the infinitive, is used as a neutral imperative.

Nazm:

Either consider that from the [emotional] effect [taa;siir] of weeping desolation happened, or consider that the flood of tears made them desolate. But this second aspect is a limited theme, and is commonplace. (120)

== Nazm page 120

Bekhud Dihlavi:

In this closing-verse two meanings have been created. One is that from the effect of weeping, populated areas will be destroyed; and the other meaning is that the flood of tears, destroying houses, will make towns desolate. (169)

Bekhud Mohani:

The reason for eloquence [balaa;Gat]: in yuu;N hii alone are so many interpretations. (1) That the pain, the intensity with which he is now weeping-- in this is the subtle aspect too that a person can't weep like this for very long. (2) People can't hear him. (3) yuu;N hii also means in a commonplace way, or in the way that the neighbors have given him leave to weep. In the interpretation of 'people of the world' there's a great scope. That is, the effect of this weeping will be world-conquering. By 'towns' is meant the towns of the whole world. (225)

FWP:

SETS == IDIOMS
WARNINGS: {15,15}

Bekhud Mohani is right on target-- the idiomatic multivalence of yuu;N hii provides the central pleasure of the verse. For more on yuu;N , see {30,1}.

The phrase can mean 'casually, for no special reason, by happenstance'; or, as Platts proposes, 'causelessly'. And its clever placement at the beginning of the first line opens two possibilities for its application. It might describe the nature of his 'going on weeping': 'if Ghalib just happens, for no particular reason, to go on weeping'. Alternatively, it might describe the nature of his weeping itself: 'if Ghalib goes on weeping in a casual way, for no particular reason'. (Compare the use of aisii hii in {161,5}.) For another, even more elegant use of yuu;N hii , see {168,3}.

Bekhud suggests other possible nuances as well: that his present weeping might be so intense as to be unsustainable; and/or that his weeping might be unheard or ignored by his neighbors, so that he has to warn them specifically about its effects.

In short, we have a wide range of possibilities about the nature, cause, and future prospects of the weeping. We don't know whether the Ghalib-persona's weeping is caused by some special thing that the 'people of the world' are being warned to fix before their towns are destroyed; or whether it's completely causeless, and he's just warning them to evacuate their houses because of the high risk of uncontrollable flooding or other disasters. If the weeping is causeless, we don't know whether it's due to his own whim (such that he can control the weeping if he happens to choose to do so); or to the devastating effects of passion (such that weeping may overpower him at any time against his will).

Nazm maintains that we shouldn't consider weeping as a mere source of tears, since that's narrow and trite; rather, we should consider that it's the emotional effect of his weeping on human hearts, rather than the physical effect of his tears on buildings, that may devastate whole towns. But Nazm's preferred meaning lacks a clear 'objective correlative': by what mechanism will a mere display of emotion devastate whole towns? (Whereas it's easy to see that a huge tear-generated flood would do so.) It has the further problem that the people who can hear this warning can presumably hear his weeping already, and it doesn't move them; so why should it move them so powerfully in the future? (Whereas we all know that huge floods can start with small inconspicuous streams.) Nazm is perhaps just showing his (sporadic) 'modern' hostility to stylized themes in the ghazal.

This verse reminds me of {233,17}, which plays more directly with the various possibilities of control versus lack of control over weeping. In that verse, he doesn't want to be teased, because 'again', through the turmoil of tears, he has 'prepared a typhoon'. It's impossible to tell whether he's threatening to unleash it, or warning that any stress might cause it to burst out beyond his control.

On the use of the perfect verb form as a subjunctive, see {35,9}.

On the translation of viiraa;N ho ga))ii;N as 'have become desolate', see {38,1}.

Compare Mir's threat to the city-- it risks being burnt with his fiery breath: M{21,2}.