Ghazal 178, Verse 10

{178,10}

hu))aa hai shah kaa mu.saa;hib phire hai itraataa
vagarnah shahr me;N ;Gaalib kii aab-ruu kyaa hai

1) he's become the King's companion-- he goes around giving himself airs
2) otherwise, what honor/dignity/reputation does Ghalib have in the city?!

Notes:

mu.saa;hib : 'A companion, an associate, a friend; favourite (of a prince)'. (Platts p.1041)

 

phire hai is an archaic form of phirtaa hai (GRAMMAR)

 

itraanaa : 'To behave with pride or self-conceitedness, or boastfulness, or arrogance, or insolence; to give oneself airs'. (Platts p.15)

 

aab-ruu : 'Brightness of face'; honour, character, reputation, rank, dignity; grandeur; pride, credit, ornament, show, appearance'. (Platts p.2)

Nazm:

To make a sand-grain into the sun, and a drop into the sea, and the low into the high, is a shopworn theme., which people always use in the informative [;xabariyah] style. Look at the power of the author's literary skill [inshaa-pardaazii], that he has presented that very same old theme in the inshaa))iyah style! (202)

== Nazm page 202

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, becoming a 'companion' to the King has made Ghalib vain; now he goes around putting on airs. Otherwise, before this, who in the city knew him? What a fine closing-verse he has composed! And what a well-adorned [mura.s.sa((] ghazal he has written! (260)

Ralph Russell:

Apparently a thinly-veiled hit at Zauq, the king's companion and poet laureate. Zauq was of humble birth and in Ghalib's view a facile versifier but not a poet. It is said that Ghalib composed the first line with direct reference to Zauq. The king heard of it and called him to account, whereupon Ghalib completed the couplet so as to make the whole thing refer humorously to himself.
==The Seeing Eye: Selections from the Urdu and Persian Ghazals of Ghalib (Islamabad: Alhamra, 2003), pp. 222-23

Bekhud Mohani:

How he has praised the King, and in what a new manner! And how he has expressed his poetic creativity [;Gazal-afzaa))ii]! (356)

FWP:

SETS == DIALOGUE

In the second line the speaker is asking a question, as Nazm points out. And as all the commentators observe, it's basically a scornful, negative, rhetorical one. (What honor does Ghalib have in the city? Why, none at all, of course!) As Bekhud Mohani observes, the whole effect works beautifully as a subtle form of praise for the King. It's so much more elegantly framed than the over-the-top hyperbolic flattery of, say, {177,10}.

And just think how many ideas flattering to the King are conveyed by implication:

=The King's favor is such an honor that it causes any recipient to give himself airs
=This is true even in the case of a real nobody like Ghalib
=Other people want the King's favor and keep an envious eye on anyone who receives it
=Thus other people gossip about Ghalib and jealously seek to sneer at him

This is one of the relatively few verses in the divan in which the speaker really doesn't seem to be the lover/poet persona; though of course we can imagine, if we choose, that he's talking to himself in a bitter and sarcastic mode, imitating the gibes of his enemies. But actually the speaker really does seem to be a jealous person enjoying a round of spiteful gossip. For another such example, see {22,9}.

I don't know where Ralph Russell got the anecdote about the first line referring to Zauq, but I'm dubious about its accuracy. It sounds like a folk anecdote to me, a back-formation from the rhetorical structure of the first line. And in any case, Ghalib surely didn't recite a verse explicitly attacking the royal Ustad in the royal presence. So how would the emperor come to hear of a single line of an unfinished verse?