Ghazal 114, Verse 7


hamaare shi((r hai;N ab .sirf dillagii ke asad
khulaa kih faa))idah ((ar.z-e hunar me;N ;xaak nahii;N

1) our verses are now only for amusement, Asad
2) it {became revealed / 'opened out'} that the profit in the presenting/petition/breadth of art-- nothing at all


.sirf : 'Purely, merely, only'. (Platts p.744)


.sarf : 'Use, employment; expending; expenditure; cost'. (Platts 744)


faa))idah : 'Profit, advantage, benefit, good, avail, utility, use; gain; yield; interest; value'. (Platts p. 776)


((ar.z : 'Presenting or representing; representation, petition, request, address; ... Breadth, width'. (Platts p.760)


== Nazm page 123

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, oh Asad, now we compose verses only to divert the heart. We've learned that in the expression of accomplishment there's no profit at all. The meaning is that now neither do people value fine composition, nor can they understand the excellence of verses. (174)

Bekhud Mohani:

Oh Asad, now we only compose poetry to divert the heart. Because it has been confirmed by experience that in the expression of art there's no profit. That is, there is no one to do justice to it, or to esteem it. (232)


People consider our verses mere casual diversions, and things with which to divert the heart. This makes it clear that there's no profit in our composing verses and expressing our art. (296)


That is, now whatever we compose, its theme is one of diversion of the heart, or a popular [((aamiyaanah] one. From this it's clear that there's no profit in composing artfully crafted verses. If there were any benefit, then why would we have renounced our style, in which our poetry arrived at the level of art? (217)


WRITING: {7,3}

Such an astonishing verse-- it looks so straightforward at first, and then opens up beyond all expectation. In the first line, we don't know for whose amusement the verses are now meant-- the poet's? the patron's? the general public's?

And as Baqir's reading suggests, the judgment that the verses are only for amusement could also be taken not as one that the poet himself is making, but as one that the poet is quoting sarcastically-- one that he resents and doesn't share. On this reading, the time when he heard someone making this observation was the time when the insight in the second line 'became revealed' to him.

And the word 'now' expands these temporal possibilities. Is 'now' part of people's reaction to the poet's work (they used to take it seriously, but now they consider it a joke)? Or is it part of the poet's response (he used to aspire to profit from his work, but now composes only for his own pleasure)?

In the second line, we see the elegant use that's been made of the various senses of ((ar.z :

=There's no profit in 'presenting' one's art, in general (to the public? to anybody?).
=There's no profit in 'humbly presenting' one's art or in any 'petitioning' (to a powerful patron) about one's art.
=There's no profit in creating a 'breadth' or 'scope' in one's art.

The third meaning, of 'breadth', resonates perfectly with the use of khulaa -- literally, 'opened' or 'opened out'-- to mean, idiomatically, 'it was revealed, it became clear'. (On the idiomatic sense of ;xaak nahii;N , see {114,1}.)

And then, if we emphasize the second meaning, the purpose of making one's art a 'petition' or offering (to a patron) is of course to obtain 'profit' [faa))idah] from his acceptance; this can mean any kind of benefit, but has at its heart a commercial sense (just as is true of 'profit' in English). The opposite of a financial 'profit' is an 'expenditure' or 'loss'-- which is a central meaning of .sarf (see the definition above). And although the primary sense here (as Arshi carefully indicates) is .sirf with a zer rather than .sarf with a zabar , the wordplay is, in such a context, impossible to miss. If we can't miss it, how could Ghalib have missed it? And if he didn't want us to experience it as part of the verse, he could easily have altered the line.

Finally, what's the tone of this verse? Bitter? Rueful? Sarcastic? Amused? Resigned? Indifferent and dismissive? Neutral and factual? Nothing at all in the verse tells us. We have to choose a tone every time we read it, even in our own minds; and each tone reinvents the force and pleasure of the verse.