Ghazal 114, Verse 1


maze jahaan ke apnii na:zar me;N ;xaak nahii;N
sivaa-e ;xuun-e jigar so jigar me;N ;xaak nahii;N

1) the pleasures/relishes of the world, in [my] own view, are {nothing at all / not 'dust'}

2a) except for [drinking] the blood of the liver-- and then, in the liver there’s '{nothing at all / not 'dust'}
2b) except for the blood of the liver, well, in the liver there's {nothing at all / not 'dust'}
2c) except for the blood of the liver, well, there's {no / not even} dust in the liver


mazah : 'Taste savour, smack, relish; delight, pleasure, enjoyment; anything agreeable to the palate or to the mind, &c.; a delicacy, a tidbit; a bon-mot; jest, joke, fun, sport, amusement'. (Platts p.1029)


;xaak : 'Dust, earth; ashes; --little, precious little, none at all, nothing whatever'. (Platts p.484)


sivaa : (postposition) 'Except, save, but, besides, other than, over and above, further than'. (Platts p.690)


;xuun-e jigar piinaa : 'To suppress (one's) feelings, restrain (one's) emotion, or anger, or grief, &c.; --to consume (one's own) life-blood; to vex or worry (oneself) to death'. (Platts p.497)


There's no pleasure at all [;xaak bhii mazah nahii;N] in the world's eating and drinking. Indeed, although there's relish in drinking the blood of the liver [;xuun-e jigar piinaa], there's no blood at all in the liver. The use of 'thus' [so] is now being abandoned. (122)

== Nazm page 122

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, the enjoyment of the world's eating and drinking is, in my eyes, nothing [;xaak bhii nahii;N]. That is, I don't get any pleasure [;xaak mazaa] at all. Although in drinking the blood of the liver, there was always pleasure; but now there's nothing at all [;xaak bhii nahii;N] in the liver. That is, in the liver there's no blood left. I've devoured it all. (173)

Bekhud Mohani:

Besides drinking the blood of the liver, all the world's pleasures are trifling, in my eyes. But it's a pity that now in the liver there's not even a trace of blood. That is, in our view only experiencing disasters and tests, and enduring them, was an enjoyable task. But now there's no strength left for enduring cruelty. Now our life is useless. (230)


Compare {166,5}. (226)


FOOD: {6,4}
JIGAR: {2,1}

This ghazal uses one of the longest, most demanding sets of rhyming elements that Ghalib ever adopted: it has a rhyme of ar , followed by a refrain of me;N ;xaak nahii;N ; the two together take up, most unusually for Ghalib, almost half of the metrical line (7 syllables out of 15).

And surely much of the real enjoyment of the ghazal is in its idiom-play. The idiom ;xaak (see definition above), or kyaa ;xaak (as in {87,1}), or ;xaak bhii nahii;N (as in {67,3}), is also evocative on a literal level-- something is as useless as dust (a vivid reminder of mortality), or somewhere there's 'not even dust' (meaning, with melancholy overtones, that it's entirely empty). The different spins given to ;xaak nahii;N in the course of the ghazal are a study in themselves: most of the verses relieve their bleakness only by using it as a touch of idiomatic black humor (or black wordplay?). But then-- {114,3} is eager for the coming of someone or something magnificent, and {114,5} depicts a kind of mystical rapture of intoxication.

The commentators read the verse with enjambement: as a statement one and a half lines long, followed by a statement half a line long. I despise all the world's pleasures except 'the blood of the liver'; and I have no 'blood of the liver'. This, (2a), is a fine reading, and very Ghalibian.

Yet since most verses avoid enjambement, we should surely also consider (2b). Ghalib has, after all, an extraordinary number of 'A,B' verses-- in which the two lines make independent statements, and the relationship between them has to be determined by the reader. In the present verse, if we read the two lines separately, then there are two independent statements: in my eyes the pleasures of the world are nothing; and, my liver is good for nothing except producing 'blood of the liver' (for me to weep away, or bleed away, or 'drink'). Perhaps it's because my liver is shot that I look with a jaundiced (sorry!) eye on the world's pleasures?

And then, the reading (2b) inevitably provides another, literal sense: 'in the liver, there's no dust except the blood of the liver' (2c). The liver would be empty, without even dust in it, except for the blood of the liver-- which, in my state of disaffection, counts as dust? which has turned into dust through my weakness? Blood and dust are compared and contrasted in {7,4} as well.

There are the usual Ghalibian subtleties: is producing and consuming the 'blood of the liver' to be ranked among the pleasures of the world (as the only one of them with any value)? Or is it to be contrasted to them (it has value, they do not)?

And then of course there are the subtleties of ;xaak nahii;N -- worldly pleasures are as useless as dust (a vivid reminder of mortality); the blood of the liver is dust, or as worthless as dust; or the liver is so empty and incapable of fortitude by now, or so generally worthless to a world-despiser like me, that there's nothing to it except a doomed little clot of blood.

Then there's the second, latent idiom: 'to drink the blood of the liver' [;xuun-e jigar piinaa] (or sometimes khaanaa ), with the range of meanings given above, including both the suffering of intense vexation, anger, frustration-- and the extra suffering of suppressing such emotions. Rather than enjoying worldly food and drink, I 'drink the blood of the liver'-- or rather, did when I could get it, since now I apparently can't (2a).

As we in the ghazal world know, the manufacture of the 'blood of the liver' is all that keeps the heart in business; on this see {30,2}. The speaker's liver is a nonstop blood-producer, bringing him the only joy he knows: the joy of suffering, and of morbidly suppressing that suffering. Is this a worldly, or an anti-worldly, joy? Is it part of his living, or part of his dying? His liver contains and provides absolutely nothing else except blood. As a rule, 'possession of a liver' [jigar-daarii] is a measure of dignity, control, self-command (for an example, see {21,11})-- but not, of course, in this case, since the liver in question is, if not solely devoted to blood-production, either full of blood/'dust', or full of nothing at all. ('Oh, the liver? There's nothing in that.')

Not a bad range of possibilities for this opening-verse to extract! Once room has been made for two such restrictive, challenging sets of rhyming elements, a mere sixteen syllables remain for actual use.

On the use of apnii to mean merii apnii , see {15,12}.