Ghazal 226, Verse 1

{226,1}

hujuum-e naalah ;hairat ((aajiz-e ((ar.z-e yak-af;Gaa;N hai
;xamoshii reshah-e .sad naisitaa;N se ;xas bah dandaa;N hai

1) rush/assault/crowd of laments/complaints-- stupefaction/amazement-- incapable of the presentation/petition of a single lamentation-- is
2) silence, through the fiber/vein of a hundred reed-thickets, has a straw between its teeth

Notes:

hujuum : 'Rushing (upon, or at, par ); attacking; crowding, swarming (round, or about, -par);--assault, attack; effort; impetuosity;--crowd, throng, concourse, mob; a swarm'. (Platts p.1221)

 

;hairat : 'Perturbation and stupor (of mind), astonishment, amazement, consternation'. (Platts p.483)

 

((aajiz : 'Lacking strength or power, or ability, powerless, impotent, unable (to do), unequal (to); weak, feeble, helpless; brought low, overcome; lowly, humble; exhausted; dejected; in despair, hopeless; baffled, frustrated'. (Platts p.756)

 

reshah : 'Fibre; filament; nerve; vein (of a leaf)'. (Platts p.612)

Nazm:

On the battlefield, when some group is defeated, then in order to express their helplessness they take some straw, grass, etc. in their mouth and show it, to say, stop the battle. Here, the crowd of laments has won the day, and amazement is unable to make even one lament; and in order to express that helplessness, there is silence, etc. But in order to take a straw in its teeth-- what is the special quality of the fiber of a reed-bed? It's the root of lament and complaint, for from a fiber a flute is made; and from a flute, lament. And in a state of control, lament is silent, the way lament is hidden in the fiber of a reed-bed. It is in the vocative-- that is, he means 'oh rush of complaints'. Only through having addressed the rush of laments has the author said 'the fiber of a hundred reed-thickets'. (254)

== Nazm page 254

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, despite the rush of laments, stupefaction has made me helpless to present lamentation. As if silence has made the reed-thicket, in which hundreds of bamboo flutes are present, take a straw in its teeth. The meaning is that despite the power of speech, out of respect to secret-keeping I have sewn my lips shut. (311)

Bekhud Mohani:

The rush of laments is helpless and anxious since by reason of stupefaction it cannot weep and wail. The expression of its helplessness is taking place through its silence. By the taking of a straw between the teeth helplessness is also intended. Here the poet's intention is that the way a rush of laments, because of stupefaction, is silent, in the same way so is the fiber of the reed-thicket, whose similitude is to grass-- and from which hundreds of reed-flutes can be made. (459)

Arshi:

Compare {10,3}. (182, 268)

FWP:

SETS == A,B

The grammar of the first line is really hopelessly ambiguous. There's a 'rush of complaints', a 'stupefaction', and something 'incapable' which could also be a noun (an 'incapable one'). In order to show the difficulties, I've provided a 'translation' that really looks awful in English and hardly makes sense; it accurately reflects the semi-incoherent grammatical openness of the Urdu. Perhaps we could also argue that the confusion of the grammar mirrors the confused, 'stupefied' state that's being depicted, the way the grammar of {223,1} can be said to reflect the coming of a flood. (That kind of 'mimicry' argument is a slippery slope, however-- before you know it you open the door to people who write boring novels and claim they're actually novels about boredom.)

Nazm thinks the 'rush of laments' is being addressed, and Bekhud Mohani thinks that the 'rush of laments' is what is 'incapable'. Could we also invent 'stupefaction-incapable' [;hairat-((aajiz] as some kind of weird compound that would mean 'rendered incapable by stupefaction'? If we could, that would offer another possibility. In any case, our choices are limited. All the i.zaafat constructions in the line are metrically compulsory, and no others are metrically possible.

This means that we urgently need help from that second line, and we have to make serious use of our 'A,B' possibilities. Since parallelism would be the most informative relationship between the two lines, we are well entitled to try that one first. The second line depicts a personified 'Silence' that has 'a straw between its teeth' in token of submission-- but the straw is a 'fiber' or reed from a reed-thicket, and thus has latent in it the makings of hundreds of reed-flutes. So the image seems to be of an entity that is now quiet, motionless, passive-- but with an inner life likely to produce great noise and turmoil at some later point.

If we read the first line as parallel to the second, we're led to imagine a personified 'Stupefaction' that is powerless with amazement, frozen in place, unable to give voice to a single lament. What stupefies it may well be the 'rush' or 'assault' of laments that it is perhaps experiencing (though the grammar doesn't let us be sure of this). 'Stupefaction' wants to give vent to so many laments that they block each other's path and none of them actually get out; instead, their 'assault' knocks it off balance and renders it powerless and silent. Thus the connection with the second line: 'Silence' and 'Stupefaction' would then be in similar situations. Or else, of course, the two lines could be two ways to envision the same situation: the lover's inability to express his suffering.

Even so, we still have to decide how to link 'rush of laments' to 'Stupefaction', and the line gives us no help at all. We can always decide, with Nazm, that it is a vocative ('oh rush of laments, you should realize that...'), so that the speaker is explaining to the semi-personified 'rush of laments' why it is that 'Stupefaction' is so unresponsive. But the arbitrariness is irritating. We have to do a lot of work, and the results still don't fit together with a nice precise click. And if we try to set up other relationships between the two lines, our task becomes much more difficult, since then we have much less guidance to help us frame the grammar of the first line.

In short, the powerful second line is undercut by the awkward grammar of the first line. It just doesn't feel very satisfactory. But what's really a cause for 'stupefaction' is how few such unsatisfactory verses there are, and how many brilliant ones. Like a large part of the divan, this verse was composed when Ghalib was about nineteen years old.

The obvious verse for comparison, as Arshi points out, is {10,3}; but {155,3} too is a good 'straw in the teeth' example.