Ghazal 170, Verse 4


ham se ((aba;s hai gumaan-e ranjish-e ;xaa:tir
;xaak me;N ((ushshaaq kii ;Gubaar nahii;N hai

1) about us, the suspicion of grief/offense of temperament is futile/absurd
2) in the dust of lovers, there is no vexation/grief/'dust'


((aba;s : 'Trifling, frivolous; vain, idle, absurd, nugatory, profitless, bootless'. (Platts p.758)


ranjish : 'Grief, &c. (= ranj ); indignation, offence; unpleasantness, coolness'. (Platts p.600)


;xaak : 'Dust, earth; ashes'. (Platts p.484)


;Gubaar : 'Dust; clouds of dust; a dust-storm;... impurity, foulness; (met.) vexation, soreness, ill-feeling, rancour, spite; affliction, grief; perplexity'. (Platts p.769)


The author's meaning is that there is no vexation in the composition [:tiinat] of lovers, but to say 'dust' [;xaak] instead of 'composition' is to fall below the level of idiom. In this situation they say 'a composition made of water and clay' [:tiinat sarisht-e aab-o-gil]; from the bringing of the word 'dust', there has appeared a flaw in the presentation of the meaning. And now, the meaning of this verse is that although the lovers have died and become dust, not even in their dust is their any vexation; and this is only a 'poetic claim', for which there is need of a cause. (191)

== Nazm page 191

Bekhud Mohani:

[Disagreeing with Nazm:] If it's a 'poetic claim' that after dying there's no vexation in the lover's dust, then why won't it be a 'poetic claim' that there's no vexation in the composition of lovers? It's this way: it's not even proper to the honor of true lovers that they would remain vexed with anyone-- and of all people, with the beloved! Because the meaning of passion is besides this beloved, a person wouldn't even think of anyone else for a moment. (334)


Although some commentators have written that the meaning of ;xaak is 'composition' [:tiinat] (perhaps because in Arabic the word for 'earth' is :tiinat ), the truth is that ;xaak absolutely doesn't mean :tiinat , and [Nazm] Tabataba'i's objection remains justified. In truth, the point to which Tabataba'i was alluding is one that the commentators have ignored. ;xaak with the meaning of 'composition' [:tiinat] doesn't exist, but the meaning of 'mould' is certainly there (Steingass). Thus the meaning of the second line is that in the mould in which lovers were shaped, or were poured-- that is, in their nature-- there is absolutely no vexation....

There is one more possibility as well. In Urdu as well as in Persian, ;xaak can mean 'ashes' [;xaakistar].... Thus, suppose that the lover was burnt to ashes by the fire of passion or the fire of separation. The beloved suspects that he must certainly have vexation in his heart, that his life was lost in the passion for her. Now the lover says, don't suspect us of being vexed, there's not any vexation/dust even in the lovers' ashes-- so how would it be in the heart? It becomes very interesting and meaningful: the meaning is 'ashes', but in it there's also a suggestion of 'composition' [:tiinat]....

But Tabataba'i made another objection: he says that to say that in the lovers' temperament there is no vexation is only a 'poetic claim', and required a cause; otherwise it remains unestablished. One response to this is that when ;xaak is taken to mean 'ashes', then it becomes a sign of exaggeration, and no proof is required for it.

== (1989: 298-99) [2006: 322-24]



All this subtlety is very well, but surely the chief relish of the verse lies in the mental jolt we get from the second line: 'in lovers' dust, there is no dust'. That's definitely the first reading, both in the dictionary sense and in one's colloquial experience of the words. Compared to the immediacy of this meaning, everything else is secondary and has to be worked out afterwards. First we are struck by such a seeming paradox, then we work it out and find ways to undo the paradoxical effect. But without the initial punch, the verse would have much less energy. Even after all the appropriate wordplay and secondary meanings have been figured out, it's still fun to reread that second line and re-experience something of the original jolt. (For another example of 'dust' versus 'vexation' wordplay with ;Gubaar , see {27,10x}.)

By no coincidence, the first line works elegantly with all the meanings of ;Gubaar . If ;Gubaar means 'dust', then suspicions about the lovers are futile because the lovers don't exist any more; if ;Gubaar means 'grief' or 'vexation', those are both very proper words to use in rejecting any 'suspicion' that someone might be cherishing a grudge or feeling a lingering 'offense'.

The grammar of the second line, in its flat absoluteness, also suggests that not only is there contingently (by happenstance or personal choice) no sense of grievance, but there's no possibility of one either: in lovers' dust there simply 'is' no such thing.