Ghazal 212, Verse 2


hai ((adam me;N ;Gunchah ma;hv-e ((ibrat-e anjaam-e gul
yak-jahaa;N zaanuu ta))ammul dar-qafaa-e ;xandah hai

1) in nonexistence the bud is absorbed in the admonition/warning of the end/outcome of the rose
2) there is 'whole-world' kneeling deliberation behind the smile


((ibrat : 'Admonition, warning, example; (met.) fear'. (Platts p.758)


zaanuu : 'The knee; the lap: -- zaanuu badalnaa , v.n. To change the knees, to rest the knees alternately (in kneeling): -- du-zaanuu bai;Thnaa , To sit on the hams, to kneel'. (Platts p.614)


anjaam : 'End, termination, completion, accomplishment, conclusion; result, upshot; accident; vexation'. (Platts p.88)


ta))ammul : 'Careful consideration, meditation, reflection, deliberation; deliberate action, pausing, hesitation, cautious procedure; disinclination, scruple'. (Platts p.307)


qafaa : 'The back of the head; nape of the neck. -- adv. Behind, after; in pursuit. (Platts p.793)


Since deliberation and thought are related to having the head on the knee, the author adopted for deliberation the standard of measurement of the knees, and said that after smiling, the bud is engaged in the thought of what will be the end/outcome of the rose. But the standard of that thought, and of the deliberation, is the knee; and he has referred to it as yak-jahaa;N zaanuu . And when he has said that the bud is in nonexistence, the reason is that when the bud smiled-- that is, bloomed-- it became a rose, and the bud did not remain.... A verse of this kind we can call merely 'versified speech' [kalaam-e mauzuun] or a 'riddle' [chiistaan] or an 'enigma' [mu((ammaa], etc., and the reality is that it is outside the correct path. (240)

== Nazm page 240

Bekhud Dihlavi:

That is, when a man is thinking and reflecting, his head bows on his knee; and after a little while, when he becomes tired, then he changes the knee, or lifts his head from the knee. As if in such a small amount of time the flower sees its end/outcome, and it fades or dies. (299)

Bekhud Mohani:

The bud that is still in a state of nonexistence is absorbed in the admonition/warning of the end/outcome of the rose....

[Disagreeing with Nazm:] Why does Janab Tabataba'i declare it to be a 'riddle'? This construction is so clear, so captivating, so modern and heart-pleasing, that words can't describe it. (431)


The meaning of the verse is entirely clear; also, almost all the commentators agree about it. Before the bud blooms, or before it comes into existence, it is absorbed in thought and reflection about the admonitoriness of the end/outcome of the rose. A little smile/laughter, and after that a long period and a great deal of thought and reflection-- this is its life. But what is the proof, or the justification, for calling the bud absorbed in thought? After its coming into existence, thought and reflection are all very well; for this thought and reflection are about its end/outcome. And the end/outcome of coming into existence itself, is thought and reflection, because right after blooming the bud begins to wither, as if it is absorbed in thought about what its end/outcome will be, and how much time is left in its life.

They call the bud 'afflicted', but they don't call it 'absorbed in thought'. So there should be some proof on the basis of which we would be able to call the bud 'absorbed in thought', or some warrant [sanad] on the strength of which we would be able to say that to suppose the bud to be 'absorbed in thought' or 'meditative' is also a part of poetic custom. Until this problem is clarified, commentary on the verse will remain imperfect. It was probably for this reason that Tabataba'i has called the verse a 'riddle' and 'outside the correct path'. Bekhud Mohani has become very displeased at this, but he's failed to come up with an answer to the objection....

The reality is that the verse is neither a riddle, nor is it outside the correct path. Between a bud, and thought, and deliberation, there is affinity in several aspects. The first point is that to be 'silent' and 'concealed, private' [sar-bastah] are among the qualities of a bud (cf. bahaar-e ((ajam ). It's obvious that the fundamental qualities of thought and deliberation are silence and privacy. [There are also a number of Persian idioms that liken the private, inward-turned person to a bud.] Thus in the very word 'bud' itself are hidden meanings of thought and deliberation. How was Ghalib wrong to say that the Persian language was established in his essence the way temper was in iron? At the age of nineteen, the meaningfulness of 'bud' was revealed to Ghalib in a way that was not accessible to revered elders throughout their whole lives.

== (1989: 336-37) [2006: 365-66]



To me the idea of a later, secondary 'nonexistence' of the bud that takes place after it has bloomed is very un-compelling; surely its becoming a rose means that it continues to develop and thus 'exist'. What I love in this verse is the vision of the bud long before it's a bud, when it's in a radical state of 'nonexistence', and yet somehow it's still brooding about its future. It foresees its whole life and death-- all that destiny comprised so aptly in a 'smile'. No wonder it hesitates! Yet, as we all know, it still leaves the state of nonexistence (by choice? helplessly?) to live that brief life. Ghalib is fond of nonexistence, and takes radical liberties with it: in {5,3} he blithely goes beyond it entirely, and in {210,5} he incorporates it into another sort of paradox.

This verse is part of the yak-jahaa;N series discussed in {11,1}. A phrase like yak-jahaa;N zaanuu , while strange, is thus not without precedents and parallels. The word zaanuu can mean 'knee' (or sometimes 'lap'), but it's almost always used to describe a position of kneeling, or sitting on the haunches with the knees drawn up to the chest. Such a position evokes the gathered-in shape of a bud, and also suggests a posture of thought, or doubt, or hesitation. For more on the role of the knees [zaanuu] in sitting like this (on the ground), see {32,2}. The striking sequence of yak-jahaa;N zaanuu , literally 'one world knee', is memorable for its cleverness; but still it feels a bit flashy and forced.

Best of all for comparison is the brilliant {155,2}, which also plays on the gathered-in 'composure' of the bud, and has an unforgettably resonant second line; Ghalib has commented on it in a letter.