Ghazal 214, Verse 10


hai va;hshat-e :tabii((at-e iijaad yaas-;xez
yih dard vuh nahii;N kih nah paidaa kare ko))ii

1) the wildness/madness/dread of the temperament of creation/invention is despair-producing

2a) this pain is not such that anyone would not create it
2b) this pain is not such that no one would create it
2c) this pain is not that one-- such that anyone would not create [that one]
2d) this pain is not that one-- such that no one would create [that one]
2e) this pain is not that one-- may no one create [this/that one]!


va;hshat : 'A desert, solitude, dreary place;--loneliness, solitariness, dreariness;--sadness, grief, care;--wildness, fierceness, ferocity, savageness; barbarity, barbarism;--timidity, fear, fright, dread, terror, horror;--distraction, madness'. (Platts p.1183)


:tabii((at : 'Nature, disposition, constitution, temperament (syn. mizaaj ); a humour (one of the four); complexion; genius; mind; temper; natural constituent, intrinsic property, essence'. (Platts p.751)


iijaad : 'Creation, production; invention, contrivance'. (Platts p.112)


'Meaning-creation' and the creation of themes and invention and devising of witticisms is such a va;hshii art that despair is created from it. Nevertheless, all are absorbed in this illness. Through the affinity with iijaad , the use of paidaa karnaa , for which there's no paidaa))ii , is not devoid of pleasure. (243)

== Nazm page 243

Bekhud Dihlavi:

The meaning is that poetry is a very difficult task, but in it the pleasure too is such that every person has an attraction toward it. (302)

Bekhud Mohani:

The meaning that he [=Nazm] has presented is not closely tied to factuality and reality: 'Nevertheless, all are absorbed in this illness'. This is in no way suitable; rather, people of insight know that after centuries, the times have given birth to people who might be attentive to poetic creativity and so on. Otherwise, the common situation is that old spirits are always made to enter into [new] bodies; and this was the reason that researchers were forced to say that moral themes were not so necessary-- the main thing is that the theme would be shaped in a good mold. This meaning of Hazrat the Commentator has seized the wings of the spirit of meaning of the verse, and thrust it down into [the body of] a donkey of humiliation. (438)


An early analysis of this verse from 'A Ghazal by Ghalib', in The Secret Mirror, 1981.


MADNESS: {14,3}

This is the kind of verse that rivets your attention at once, and then frustrates you, and then inspires a kind of awe. Without explicitly saying so, it seems to be talking about poetry (and human creative activity in general) and to be saying something serious and fundamental about it. But what?

In the first line, the remarkable versatility of va;hshat means that the subject could be one of a number of (real or metaphorical) moods, or even a landscape; see the definition above. And the 'temperament/nature of creation' might belong to all humans, to a few (lucky or unlucky) humans, or to God or Nature in general. And this temperament might produce 'despair' in itself, or in others, or both. And the despair might be directly produced-- shaped right into the construction of the entity in question-- or it might be produced by that entity's reaction to the behavior of the 'temperament of creation'. All those possibilities emerge from the first line alone.

Then the second line turns out to be truly staggering: it's a maze of possibilities, and constantly sprouts new ones in all directions. Central to its multivalence is the Urdu phrase yih vuh nahii;N kih , which has two perfectly solid, well-established readings: first, 'this is not one such that' (describing the quality of the 'this'); and second, 'this one is not that one, such that' (describing the quality of either the 'this one' or the 'that one', in a way that can be determined only contextually). The complexities here are then greatly enhanced by the versatility of kih , which can introduces phrases that stand in a remarkable range of possible relationships to the preceding phrase. See {214,7} for a much simpler and more straightforward example of this kind of construction.

So if we are talking about one single pain, then it either is (2a) 'not such that anyone would not create it' (that is, everyone would create it); or else is (2b) 'not such that no one would create it' (that is, one or more persons would create it). This is already quite a difference in meaning.

And if we're talking about two different pains, then this present pain is being distinguished from 'that' other (unspecified) pain, and the grounds for distinguishing them are that (2c) 'anyone would not create' such a pain as that one, or that (2d) 'no one would create' such a pain as that one. Or alternatively, the line might be exclaiming that this present pain is not that pain-- a pain so dire that about it the speaker compassionately or ominously wishes (2d) 'may no one create it!'. And in this case, which pain is accompanied by such an urgent, ominous-sounding wish-- this one, or that one?

This ramifying structure, needless to say, deprives us of any real guidance in connecting the two lines. Nor does it even permit us to address the question of whether one does, or might, or should, create the pain willingly, or at least deliberately, or inadvertently, or unwillingly but unavoidably. Is the creation of the pain (or one of the two pains) part of artistic creativity; and if so, how exactly? What is the relation between artistic creation, pain-creation, and despair-creation? What is the relation between the despair and pain engendered by the creative temperament, and that other pain (if there is another pain)? As so often, Ghalib forces us to struggle with these puzzles, but makes it impossible for us to come up with a single satisfying solution to the problem; thus this verse, quite cleverly, resembles a tantalizing but sadistically unsolvable puzzle-- or, life in general.

We can always console ourselves, as Faruqi points out, by enjoying the word-play and meaning-play of creativity and madness that the verse spins around itself into a kind of impenetrable thicket.

For a parallel among the 'generators', see {32,1}, which is, if possible, even more wildly proliferating.