Ghazal 164, Verse 5


vohii .sad-rang naalah-farsaa))ii
vohii .sad-guunah ashk-baarii hai

1) only/emphatically that hundred-{colored/styled} lament-wearingoutness--

2a) only/emphatically that is hundred-{qualitied/colored} tear-shedding
2b) there is only/emphatically that hundred-{qualitied/colored} tear-shedding


rang : 'Colour, colouring matter, pigment, paint, dye; colour, tint, hue, complexion; beauty, bloom; expression, countenance, appearance, aspect; fashion, style; character, nature; mood, mode, manner, method; kind, sort; state, condition; ... sport, entertainment, amusement, merriment, pleasure, enjoyment'. (Platts p.601)


farsaa : 'Wearing, rubbing; obliterating, effacing; worn, obliterated, old (used as last member of compounds, e.g. jaan-farsaa , 'distracting, or wearing out, the mind')'. (Platts p.778)


guunah : 'Colour; kind, sort, species; form, figure, fashion; mode, manner'. (Platts p.927)


[See his discussion of this verse together with {164,4}.]

== Nazm page 177

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He has given in this verse the details of the previous verse. That is, the heart is lamenting in a hundred ways, the result of which is disgrace and abjectness, and what stability can it find? And the eye in a hundred ways is shedding tears, which is a cause of vileness and ill repute. (237)

Bekhud Mohani:

[See his discussion of this verse together with {164,4}.]



A number of commentators treat this as the second and final verse in a small two-verse verse-set; for further discussion, see {164,4}. The case for treating the two as a set is the one made by the commentators: that this verse can be read as a sort of inventory or detailed list of the kind of 'merchandise' of (the relish/taste for) 'lowness/vileness' that is bought by the heart from the 'broker' of the eye. Merchandise of 'a hun dred colors/styles' would also be well suited to a commercial transaction.

The case for treating the two verses separately can be made along several lines. The use of vohii doesn't seem particularly appropriate to anything in {164,4}, unless weeping and lamenting is taken to be identical to, or 'the very same' as, the 'relish for abjectness/wretchedness'. No doubt an argument could be made to this effect, but it's not obvious on the face of it. (One can very well weep or lament without having 'bought' a 'relish' for 'abjectness'.) The case for separate treatment is also enhanced by the very different treatment of the eye. In {164,4} it's a broker, a middleman; in the present verse it is reduced to a mere appendage of the buyer, and appears only as a source of tears.

The enjoyableness of this verse is based on its extreme, elusive simplicity. Does the extraordinarily parallel structure of the two lines conceal identity, or similarity, or contrast? The juxtaposition of 'only/emphatically that one' [vohii] with 'hundred-{colored/styled}'-- expressed similarly and positioned identically-- has its own ambiguities. How is identity to be maintained, or even recognized, amidst hundreds of colors and styles? And is the lament-wearing-outness (that is, using-up-ness) the same as the tear-shedding, or a cause of it, or an effect of it, or a contrast to it? And it's all 'only/emphatically that same'-- but the same as what? As previously? Or as always? Or as promised to the beloved?

Even the use of rang in the first verse and guunah in the second is provocative. The two terms both literally mean 'color', and both have similar ranges of metaphorical extension; see the definitions above. Yet they aren't quite identical. Are we meant to notice their similarities, or their differences, or both? The power of parallelism is remarkable; before working on this commentary I'd never properly appreciated it. It goads the imagination in two directions at once. It becomes a refined and ostensive version of the old 'compare and contrast' essay questions that students used to be given.

And what, of course, is the tone? Is the verse rueful, melancholy, amused, wry, despairing, grimly determined?

The structure of the verse reminds me of the first line of {24,6}. We seem to get some kind of (equational) information-- but really, how informative is it? The very presence of an alleged huge equation only seems to point up the huge holes in our knowledge of the circumstances. It's like being given, very portentously, what purports to be a gigantic key-- but not being told which particular lock to put it in.

Compare this verse to its closest sibling, {164,8}, which has a structure almost as minimal.

Note for meter fans: Arshi's text gives the first word in each line as vohii , with a long vowel in the first syllable, in order to make the first syllable long, according to the basic pattern in this meter. This isn't necessary, however. There's a perfectly permissible variant in this meter, in which the first syllable may be short rather than long, at the poet's pleasure. Moreover, Ghalib was quite aware of this possibility and willing to use it elsewhere in this ghazal: notice the first line of {164,13}, which begins with an unambiguously short syllable. But in a case like this Arshi would surely take pains to reflect Ghalib's own usage; it seems quite plausible that Ghalib himself would have written vohii , in order to assure the strong initial emphasis that works so well in this verse. If life were longer, I'd go back and look at the early manuscripts and printed versions of the divan. But that's a secondary task compared to the really tough, rewarding, and necessary one of understanding what's going on in the poetry itself.