Ghazal 120, Verse 9


shahaadat thii mirii qismat me;N jo dii thii yih ;xuu mujh ko
jahaa;N talvaar ko dekhaa jhukaa detaa thaa gardan ko

1) martyrdom was in my destiny, since it/He had given me {such a / 'this'} temperament--
2) where I saw a sword, I used to bow my neck



The sword is a metaphor for airs and graces and oppression and cruelty, and 'to bow the neck' is an implication of accepting, and by 'martyrdom' is meant the shedding of blood. And if these words are taken in a mystical [;haqiiqii] sense, then no conclusion [mu;ha.s.sil] remains to the verse. (129)

== Nazm page 129

Bekhud Dihlavi:

In my destiny the rank of martyrdom had been written. Accordingly, the habit had been bestowed on me that wherever I used to see a sword, I used to bow my neck. As if the sword in my eyes was acting as the niche for worship. It's an extremely eloquent and enjoyable verse. (183)

Bekhud Mohani:

Mystical [;haqiiqii] martyrdom can also be intended. Janab [Nazm] Tabataba'i's statement that if it is taken in a mystical manner, then the verse no longer has any conclusion-- God knows on what experience it's based! People who will be accomplished in any special art usually display traits right from their childhood that insightful people understand. (243-44)


SWORD: {1,3}

Here the jo means something like 'since' or 'in that, and the subject of 'had given' is 'X ne '. Thus we can know nothing about the number or gender of the X. The verse makes clever use of this ambiguity, for who or what is it who has given the speaker such a temperament? It could be, most obviously, one of the antecedent nouns in the first line, either 'martyrdom' itself, or 'destiny'. Or it could be considered to be some unexpressed but implied entity like 'God' or 'He' or 'Nature'.

Then in the second line, we're also left to interpret the meaning of that bowing of the head. Complete submission to fate? Worship, as Bekhud Dihlavi suggests? Readiness or even eagerness for slaughter, so that the bowed head will encourage the sword to do its work?

It would also arguably be possible to read jahaa;N as 'world'-- 'I saw the world as a sword' (or equally, 'I saw the sword as a world'). But this feels like overreaching. It is after all possible to overread poets, even Ghalib.

The curved shape of the sword itself might also suggest a reciprocal bowing of the head: