Ghazal 234, Verse 8


bah qadr-e shauq nahii;N :zarf-e tang-naa-e ;Gazal
kuchh aur chaahiye vus((at mire bayaa;N ke liye

1) not proportional to ardor is the extent/area of the narrowness of a ghazal
2) some more scope/space is needed for my expression/discourse


qadr : 'Greatness, dignity, honour, rank, power; importance, consequence; worth, merit; estimation, appreciation, account; value, price; —measure; degree; quantity; magnitude; bulk, size; portion, part; —whatever is fixed or ordained of God, divine providence, fate, destiny'. (Platts p.788)


:zarf : 'Ingenuity, skill, cleverness; beauty, excellence; elegance (of manners), politeness (= :zaraafat ); --capacity, capability; a receptacle, vessel, vase'. (755)


tang-naa : 'A narrow place or passage, a strait; a defile'. (Platts p.340)


vus((at : 'Latitude; amplitude; spaciousness; capacity; space, extent; space covered, area; dimensions; bulk; --convenience, ease; opportunity, leisure'. (Platts p.1192)


That is, in this ground those themes that I have an ardor to bring in-- in the ghazal there's not enough scope for them. I need more scope/space-- that is, leaving off ghazal-composition, from here I begin to perform praise-composition [mad;h-saraa))ii].

Bekhud Dihlavi:

He says, the narrow field [maidaan] of the ghazal is not enough for my expression/discourse. I need a very much wider field than that. The meaning is that from here, leaving off ghazal-composition, from here I begin to perform praise-composition [mad;h-saraa))ii]. (325)

Bekhud Mohani:

In the narrow field of the ghazal where is there enough scope/space, that I would be able to compose as my inner-self desires! For this reason I leave off the ghazal and begin to perform praise-composition [mad;h-saraa))ii]. (506)



This verse is greatly cherished by 'natural poetry' fans, who claim that it shows that Ghalib shared their impatience with the tight formal constraints of the ghazal. I get very tired of hearing it triumphantly quoted at me as a clinching argument: 'Hah! even Ghalib recognized that the ghazal was a very narrow strait-jacket!'

There are at least two good replies to this claim, but of course neither of them (nor anything else, as a rule) is as punchy and instantly satisfying as a good verse from Ghalib (a good ghazal verse, of course). So often I just grit my teeth and smile politely. Here at last I can offer a proper refutation, at leisure, to such a misreading of the verse.

Actually, the first of the two good replies has already been framed for me by the commentators. (Thank you, gentlemen, and forgive me for all the impatient things I've said about you in the course of my commentary.) For the present verse does indeed mark a phase change-- it introduces a kind of informal verse-set to follow. In fact Hamid actually puts the verse-set marker qaaf on this verse. This informal verse-set consists of four verses of extravagant praise of a patron-- one whose name is given in full in the following verse, {234,9}. The question of whether such praise should be considered a separate genre apart from the ghazal, or simply a small excrescence in the ghazal's vast, rich, indefinitely expansive terrain, is one that we don't need to discuss here.

Rather, the point is that what Ghalib provides right after this verse, and apparently introduces as offering or occupying the 'greater scope/space' that he needs, is not anything remotely modern and 'natural poetry'-influenced, but just the opposite: a set of extravagant praises of a patron, far narrower in theme and more limited in interest than (normal) ghazal verses. (If you doubt me, just take a look at them.) If the following four verses represent no improvement in 'scope/space' (or anything else, for that matter) over Ghalib's normal verses, then such an example won't do the 'natural poetry' fans any good at all. For if the result of moving out from the ghazal's normal constraints is, in this case at least, narrower and more topically restricted poetry, what does this say about their whole enterprise?

And to wrap up this first argument, just take a look at {234,13}, which gives closure to the four intervening praise-verses just the way the present verse introduces them. And it too makes a complaint-- that the page is exhausted, but more praise still remains, so that a whole 'notebook' is needed to provide sufficient scope for such an 'ocean' of praise. The similarity to the complaint in the present verse is obvious-- and so is its hyperbolic and rhetorical (and conventional) character. Nobody would seriously claim that in {234,13} Ghalib was arguing for the introduction of bigger sizes of paper!

The other good reply is my own. If we take this verse more generally (as those who read it as a formal indictment of classical ghazal obviously do), my analysis of it will rest on several other superb verses with which this one invites comparison. Consider for example the brilliant {27,1}, in which 'ardor' is complaining of 'narrowness of place'-- even in the heart. Yet it's perfectly clear that this is not an insult to the heart, but rather a tribute to the wild, insatiable force of 'ardor'. The same claim could certainly be made about the present verse-- that 'ardor' generates an unstoppably expansive force that inherently always demands more space than it has, and such expansionism says more about 'ardor' than it does about any actual narrowness of the ghazal.

Or consider the complex {228,3}, in which the 'narrowness of place' is a cause of 'vexation/grief of ardor' for the sand-grains: their vexation is framed as part of a 'net', for which the 'scope/space of the desert' is the prey. Here too, if the sand-grains experience the whole width of the desert as too narrow for their ardor, this is not an insult to the desert (much less a suggestion that it has to be replaced by some other kind of terrain), but rather just another example of the radical expansionism of 'ardor'.

And then there's {68,5}, in which the 'scope/space' of the 'wine-house of madness' is such that in it the whole 'bowl of the sky' serves as a 'single dust-bin'. This verse is a (tongue-in-cheek?) tribute to the amplitude (and lofty pretensions) of madness; it would be absurd to read it as a serious criticism of the size of the sky. I could produce more such illustrative verses, but you get the idea.

So let me just wrap up my argument with an example from Mir that someone recently cited to me as showing dissatisfaction with the narrowness of the ghazal [M{65,10}]:

jii me;N aataa hai kih kuchh aur bhii mauzuu;N kiije
dard-e dil ek ;Gazal me;N to sunaayaa nah gayaa

[it comes to my inner-self that something more should be versified in addition,
the pain of the heart has not been recited in a single ghazal]

This verse too is clearly about the depth of the heart's pain, rather than the poetic narrowness of the ghazal. It seems to report an impulse to compose another ghazal, since not all of the heart's pain has been narrated to the speaker's satisfaction in 'one' ghazal. And in fact, the next two ghazals in Mir's first divan, {66} and {67}, are formally identical pattern-sharers with {65}, so it almost looks as if he proceeded to carry out his plan. Apparently what the heart's pain required was another ghazal or two, rather than a different genre.