Ghazal 217, Verse 9x


;hairat-e fikr-e su;xan saaz-e salaamat hai asad
dil pas-e zaanuu-e aa))iinah bi;Thaataa hai mujhe

1) the amazement/stupefaction of the thought/reflection of poetry/speech is the making/equipment of well-being, Asad
2) the heart seats me behind the 'knee that is a mirror'


fikr : 'Thought, consideration, reflection; deliberation, opinion, notion, idea, imagination, conceit; counsel, advice; care, concern, solicitude, anxiety, grief, sorrow'. (Platts p.783)


saaz : 'Making, preparing, effecting; feigning;... Arms, accoutrements; apparatus; instrument, implement; harness; furniture; ornament; concord, harmony; a musical instrument'. (Platts p.625)


salaamat : 'Safety, salvation; tranquillity, peace, rest, repose; immunity; liberty; soundness; recovery; health'. (Platts p.668)

Gyan Chand:

In Ghalib's poetry words like ;hairat and ((ar.z usually come only to fill out the meter; if they would be removed, then the meaning of the verse would become better. To teach a parrot to speak, a man hides behind a mirror and speaks. He [=Ghalib] says that for me, thinking about poetry procures the equipment of well-being, because I am sitting protected behind a mirror and speaking. The meaning of su;xan is both poetry and speech. The person seated behind the mirror speaks. Thinking is done with the head placed on the knee. The knee too is [habitually] clear and transparent [.saaf shaffaaf]; for this reason, he created the 'knee of the mirror', and this knee became 'thinking about poetry'. How much well-being there is in the veil of poetry, such that without anxiety you can speak what is in your heart, and no one will blame you! Through the connection with the mirror, he has created 'amazement'. The speaking mirror is the heart. Because of its clearness, they give for the heart the simile of a mirror. (386)


MIRROR: {8,3}

For background see S. R. Faruqi's choices.

The claim that in order to teach a parrot to talk, the trainer speaks from behind a mirror, is one that Gyan Chand makes elsewhere as well; for more discussion, see {29,2}. Gyan Chand seems to take it that the poet speaks from behind the 'mirror' of his poetry, so that the amazement and astonishment of the 'parrot'-listener gazing into the mirror works to the poet's advantage. The poet can thus create the most astonishing effects of form and even content, yet in his discreet hiddenness he cannot be reproached for anything he says.

But then on that reading, why does the poet sit behind the 'knee' of the mirror [zaanuu-e aa))iinah]? When it comes to 'knees', we at once think of that ubiquitous South Asian style of sitting on the haunches called do-zaanuu bai;Thnaa (for discussion see {32,2}), But it's hard to imagine that a mirror would sit in such a style, much less imagine that the mirror sits there on its 'haunches' with the speaker somehow shrinking down to make himself invisible behind this surely rather small shelter.

Instead, we can more plausibly invoke another quite possible reading of the i.zaafat , and can consider that the speaker sits behind 'the knee that is a mirror' or 'the knee that has the property of a mirror'. In his discussion of {213,1}, Nazm says, "In the state of thought, to be 'head on knee' [sar bah zaanuu] has become habitual; for this reason, in the literature of the Persian-users [faarsii-vaale] the 'knee of thought' is among the affinities, and to call the knee a 'mirror' is a well-known thing". If the speaker is seated on his haunches, eyes lowered, deep in thought, then his face is aimed downward and at a forward angle, looking (unseeingly?) at his knee from above and 'behind' it. His regarding the 'knee-mirror' like this keeps him motionless and 'stupefied'; his heart itself 'seats' him in this position, so that he can best devote himself to the 'thought of poetry'.

But just as Gyan Chand's reading can't make use of the 'knee of the mirror', my reading can't make any special use of saaz-e salaamat (as his reading can). Which of the various meanings of saaz (see the definition above) is to be foregrounded, and why? And in what sense is saaz to be characterized by, or productive of, 'well-being'? And where is the poetic 'proof' that poetry-composition is such a saaz-e salaamat ?

Thus neither reading is able to create a satisfactory amount of connection between the two lines. Perhaps some other, better reading eludes us. Or perhaps Ghalib himself decided that this was a verse that didn't really require publication.