Ghazal 230, Verse 7


majbuurii-o-da((vaa-e giriftaarii-e ulfat
dast-e tah-e sang aamadah paimaan-e vafaa hai

1) duress/compulsion, and a claim of imprisonment by love!

2a) the hand that has come under a stone is a pledge/measurement of faithfulness
2b) the pledge/measurement of faithfulness is a hand that has come under a stone


paimaan : 'Measuring; --agreement, compact, convention, treaty, stipulation, pledge, promise; security; confirmation; asseveration, oath'. (Platts p.301)


For the hand to be pressed beneath a heavy stone, and to be unable to pull it out-- he says that the upholding of love is like that. At the time of making a vow and promise, they slap down one hand on another; and here, on the hand is a stone. (260)

== Nazm page 260

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, passion is an uncontrollable thing. That is, it can't be created through the will. After passion has been created, to claim to be imprisoned by passion is something like someone's hand having been pressed down beneath a single heavy stone, and his saying 'I've made a promise of faithfulness to this stone-- I'll never pull back my hand from under the stone'. Although to pull out the hand from under the stone is outside the realm of possibility. (317)

Bekhud Mohani:

Mirza says, we are upholding love in a state of duress. With us, the image of faithfulness is as if someone's hand would be pressed down under a stone, and he wouldn't be able to pull it out. In this there's this subtle point too: that at the time of making a vow, they slap down hand upon hand. As if there was a pledge of faithfulness made by us not with the beloved, but rather with Duress. Here a living picture of Duress has been made. (484)


BONDAGE: {1,5}

Oh, the joy and glory of this verse! It puts me into a state of ecstasy, or even vajd -- my poor students have had to listen to me recite it repeatedly over the years, and especially the second line, as I try to help them feel the endless rush of strong possibilities. It's such a simple-looking little verse-- just an 'A and B' structure in the first line, and a 'C is D' (of course thus also implying 'D is C') structure in the second line, with the challenge of putting all the puzzle pieces together. Yet it's endless, and infinitely thought-provoking, and entirely colloquial in its diction; there's not the smallest feel of contrivance or forcedness about it. Moreover, the thoughts it provokes are not abstract or hyperbolic, but are very solid, fascinating, necessary, inescapable ones, that radiate their lines of inquiry directly into all of our lives.

'Duress-- and a claim of imprisonment by love'. (An invaluable extra touch of ambiguity is provided by the fact that a 'claim' made about something may be either true or false.) In this 'A and B' phrase, are the 'A' and 'B' items the same thing? Are they similar, and thus comparable? Are they reciprocally linked, such that you can't have one without the other? Are they opposites, so that it's almost paradoxical or shocking or scandalous to connect them (as in {30,1})? Is one a cause, and the other an effect? (And if so, which way around?) Or are they not particularly connected at all-- have they just been mentioned together for some incidental reason? (The lack of a verb makes this one of Ghalib's cleverly fruitful 'list' lines; for more on these, see {4,4}.)

As so often, Ghalib leaves us to our own devices: we're allowed (and thus also compelled) to frame the relationships for ourselves. And whichever ones we choose to highlight, is the result merely descriptive, or does it have a prescriptive implication as well (such that the situation is presented as desirable or undesirable)? Is the verse to be exclaimed in a tone of wonder, of sorrow, of rueful amusement, of detached observation? We can't even dream of narrowing down all these options without help from the second line.

In classic Ghalibian style, the second line starts afresh, both grammatically and semantically. And perhaps more brilliantly than in any other such verse, the second line resonates fascinatingly, meaningfully, even provocatively-- though of course quite differently depending on how we read its 'symmetry'-- with the immense variety of readings generated in the first line. Part of the second line's cleverness is the use of aamadah (the Persian counterpart of aayaa hu))aa ): the line gives us merely a 'having come under a stone' hand, with no indication at all of how the hand came to be there (voluntarily? forcibly? accidentally? inevitably?). The permutations that we can easily put together are striking-- and strikingly varied. Here are some of my favorites:

=Hypocritical self-proclaimed 'lovers' make grandiose claims of loyalty, but the only thing that would really hold them would be actual duress-- to trap their hand under a stone.

=Passion is itself a form of duress, even of captivity-- the helpless lover offers a pledge of faithfulness that is as unnecessary as that of a man whose hand is trapped under a stone.

=Ordinary vows can be 'sealed' with a pressure of hands, or even with the pressing down of a seal on paper-- but vows of love should have a special, more powerful ceremony: the hand should feel the pressure of a stone.

=Passion and physical duress have a lot in common-- the 'captivity' and suffering of love are as inescapable, and as agonizing, as the pain of a hand trapped under a stone.

=Duress and passion-- they can't even be mentioned in the same breath! Passion is free and uncontrollable, while a 'vow' or 'pledge' is nothing more than an outward coercion, like a hand trapped under a stone.

=A claim of 'imprisonment by love' should be backed up by something more persuasive than mere words-- to prove his seriousness, the lover should cause a huge stone to be placed on his hand.

=People are inherently fickle-- no matter what extravagant things they say, the only way you can really count on their steadfastness is to physically pin them down.

The rhythm and recitability of the second line are especially enjoyable, probably because the semantic patterns and breaks are so beautifully coordinated with the metrical structure. Try it yourself-- don't you find you've effortlessly memorized the second line, and wouldn't you recite it with relish?

This is one of the ultimate 'meaning-machines' of the divan. For a look at some of its few real peers, see {32,1} and, even more aptly, {214,10}. (Thematically speaking, it can also be compared to the less powerful {228,11x}, with its 'shroud pressed under a stone'.)

Also, compare Mir's own brilliant treatment of something like this theme: M{19,1}.

Faiz called his fourth volume of poetry (1965) dast-e tah-e sang .