Ghazal 190, Verse 7


shauq-e diidaar me;N gar tuu mujhe gardan maare
ho nigah mi;sl-e gul-e sham((a pareshaa;N mujh se

1) if [when I was] in the ardor of sight/vision you would strike [through] my neck
2) may/might/would the gaze be scattered like the extinguishing/flame of a candle, from me?!


diidaar : 'Sight, vision... look, appearance; face, countenance, cheek; interview'. (Platts p.556)


gul : 'A rose; a flower; a red patch (on anything);--snuff (of a lamp or a candle)'. (Platts p.771)


gul-e sham((a is used to mean both 'the extinguishing of a candle' and 'the flame of a candle'. Here both meanings have connection: that is, the way they put out a candle with a snuffer [gul-giir] and smoke comes out of it and spreads around, in the same way if you strike through my neck in the ardor of sight, then my glances, like smoke, would emerge and become scattered.

Or: the way that after the candle's 'head'/wick is trimmed, its flame becomes brighter and its illumination spreads, in the same way after my 'trimming' [qalam honaa], in the ardor of sight my glances will spread in all four directions. (213)

== Nazm page 213

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, 'If in the state of ardor for vision you would even cut off my head, then my glances will emerge and spread out to search for you in all directions, the way after a candle's wick is trimmed its flames become brighter and cast more light'. (272)

Bekhud Mohani:

My ardor for vision has now already reached a limit. And the state is that if in punishment for this sin of ardor my beloved would even cut off my head, then I won't feel it. Rather, from her doing that the ardor for vision will increase further, the way when a candle's wick is trimmed its light becomes more brilliant. In addition to this, the way when a candle is snuffed out its elements become scattered and dispersed, my glances too will in their ardor become scattered, and one glance will become a number of glances. (373)


CANDLE: {39,1}
GAZE: {10,12}

Well, Nazm has described the two senses of gul-e sham((a , and indeed they're the obvious and surely correct things to describe. Those two possibilities are surely what Ghalib had it in mind to invoke. But I find this verse not just unappealing but actually off-putting. Thus it earns a place in the set that I call 'grotesquerie'. It offers us two possible visions.

One vision is that of a person being suddenly decapitated, by having his neck struck right through; this is the state, we're to think, of a candle that has been abruptly snuffed out. We are supposed to compare the scattering and dispersion of his last lingering gaze, during and right after his death, to the way smoke suddenly appears and diffuses in the air when a candle is snuffed out. But what gets in the way of this highly esoteric and attenuated image is the much stronger and more vivid image of how, if a person's head were to be suddenly struck off, a huge gush of blood would burst out and redden everything in the vicinity. Blood itself is so ghazal-like an image that it keeps wanting to manifest itself, to make its presence felt in the verse. But we're required to ignore the unignorable gushing and 'scattering' of blood everywhere, and instead are to consider only the hard-to-envision 'scattering' of gazes. Here Ghalib is being too clever by half, and getting in his own way.

The other vision, even harder to imagine, is that of a person being suddenly decapitated, as analogized to the state of a candle whose wick has just been trimmed. When the wick of a candle is properly trimmed, the candle flame burns more brightly. Thus we're supposed to imagine that the dying (and/or dead?) lover's gaze would suddenly shoot out and scatter all around the room more radiantly, more ardently, than even during his lifetime. Here the imagery is even more perverse. Trimming the wick of a candle makes it work better as a light source, and happens to it repeatedly as a normal part of its life; are we to think the same thing about decapitation, in the case of the lover? Does he regularly get his neck or head 'trimmed'? To compare decapitation to the trimming of a candle wick is genuinely grotesque. There is a strong 'yuck' factor, and it's not counterbalanced by any significant poetic merit.

In Ghalib's defense it can of course be said that the second line that envisions the scattering of the gazes is in the subjunctive-- it thus describes something that might or might not happen, something that is being tentatively hypothesized, or thought about. So we can always remind ourselves that all this can be the extravagant (wishful?) thinking of a morbidly infatuated lover, envisioning the delicious moment of his death-- which would occur in a kind of orgiastic 'ardor of sight'.

Note for grammar fans: if you think it strange that 'in the ardor of sight' should describe the mere object of a postposition, 'me', rather than the subject of the sentence, 'you', then I agree with you. But if we try to imagine the beloved so consumed with longing to decapitate the lover that she herself feels such an 'ardor of sight', then we run into even worse problems. Whose glance would then be 'scattered'? Not hers, since she's the murderer and not the victim, the snuffer/trimmer and not the candle; and if it's his, then we lose the connection with the first line (her 'ardor of sight' then has no relationship to his 'glance'). There's a similar grammatical situation in the previous verse, {190,6}.

For more 'you and I' verses, see {71,2}.