Sunday, 20 March 2011

Ghalib's ghazal 18-- barzakh as a 'lazy language' compiler.

I've been  trying to think of how Ibn Arabi's notion of the barzakh might influence a poet's choice of verses for his published Divan. The notion that an early couplet might be a 'hopeful monster' or represent 'tying the knot' in a 'lazy language' - itself influences Reception, which might be thought of as a sort of bootstrapped compiler- and changes the hermeneutic circle.

Ghalib's Divan, for obvious reasons, suggests itself as the ideal candidate for this sort of exercise- but, how productive is the outcome? At least in English, one so wants to be seized of a conceit, elided or otherwise, it is precisely the poetic afflatus, or breath generated heat or tapas, which fails to be captured on the page.

Consider ghazal 18

shab ḳhumār-e shauq-e sāqī rastḳhez-andāzah thā
tā muḥīt̤-e bādah ṣūrat-ḳhānah-e ḳhamyāzah thā
1) last night the intoxication/hangover of the ardor of/for the Cupbearer was in the style of Judgment Day
2) up to the wine-circumference there was a picture-house of a yawn/stretch/gape 

It seems to me that the commentators miss something by taking rastkhez simply as Doomsday. The nurturing or burgeoning aspect of the word points to Ibn Arabi's conception of barzakh (limbo) as a place of imaginal growth and evolution.

Another point has to do with the manner in which the obvious conceit- viz. that the reflection of the Saqi in the wine cup causes the wine to become enchanted- is overlooked (though Ghalib considered such elision a special mark of beauty) in favor of the deeply unpoetical notion that drinkers yawn a lot..
Still the notion of Night as the hang-over of the enchantment of the lights of the Tavern strikes an experiential note.
yak qadam vaḥshat se dars-e daftar-e imkāñ khulā
jādah ajzā-e do-ʿālam-dasht kā shīrāzah thā
1a) with/through one footstep of wildness/madness the lesson of the chapter of possibilities opened up
1a) with/through one footstep of wildness/madness the lesson of the chapter of possibilities fell apart
2a) the path [that the madman had left behind] was the binding-thread of the pieces of the two-world desert
2b) the path [of madness itself] was the binding-thread of the pieces of the two-world desert

The two worlds here are the alam al amr and the alam al khalq- ie. the world of 'command' and the world of the created.
Again, Ibn Arabi's treatment of barzakh is required to make this couplet meaningful- indeed, barzakh is transformed into the individual's world line stitching his imaginal ontology together.
mānaʿ-e vaḥshat-ḳhirāmīhā-e lail;ā kaun hai
ḳhānah-e majnūn-e ṣaḥrā-gird be-darvāzah thā
1) who is a forbidder of the {madness/wildness}-walkings of Laila?
2) the house of Majnun the desert-circler was door-less

Again, it looks to me as though a (perhaps too obvious to be stated) elision needs to be made explicit- at least in English.
nālah-e dil ne diye aurāq-e laḳht-e dil bah bād
yādgār-e nālah ik dīvān-e be-shīrāzah thā
1) the lament of the heart gave the pages of the fragments of the heart to the wind
2) the memorial/keepsake of the lament was a single/unique/preeminent divan without a binding-thread
This, of course, is reminiscent of Jami picturing Majnoon as writing Lailah's name in the desert sand, which the wind then erases.

Night got drunk on the Saqi's ardor to intimate Resurrection
Fabled beauties bubbled the grape, agape at her reflection

One tread from desolation bethreads the Quran of instruction
Command & Creation, our path paginates as destruction.

The Sahara is a shack I'd  ignore as being of mean construction
Did not, on its door, Lailah's heart pound to such ruction!

That publishing Majnoon, as to Grief's Divan an Introduction
Bankrupted the Simoon, I remaindered rue deduction.


Sanjay K said...

Ustad Sahib- kya kamaal, sorry I mean qayaamat, kar diya!

Please for God's sake buy K.C. Kanda's book on Ghalib. I think he is the best translator and appreciator of Ghalib.

The funny thing about your verse is that it doesn't even sound like English. Kanda Sahib's English is so melodious he complements Ghalib, just like a lampshade adds beauty to the naked flame of the sha'ma.
If you can understand Gujerati, there are very good versions available on the web. It would be better to approach a difficult poet like Ghalib head on through English. First see the contemporary Indian language translations and it will be easier to get the meaning. If you look at Sahir's poetry and then listen to the versions in films like 'Pyaasa', it is much easier to get the message and, in fact, the lyrical quality is enhanced.
Ghazal is a lyric form- a song should translate a song. Can anybody sing what you have written? It does not 'trip of the tongue'.
Best wishes.

windwheel said...

@Sanjay K- Yup, I was a big fan of K.C Kanda's books- lovely nastaliq calligraphy, a joy to read and certainly melodious enough for the most correct of tastes.
I don't understand Gujerati, but can well believe what you say.
Apropos of the deficient musicality of my translation- well, a skilled singer could render them quite easily- if there are any false notes or purely aural infelicities you are welcome to point them out.
My concern, at the moment, is to see how ideas that Ghalib- or indeed present day Urdu speakers steeped in Islamic culture and religion- took or take for granted, ideas for example, about barzakh in its philosophical aspect, that is ideas which non-Muslims and ordinary English speakers of today don't know about, can help us see that poetry has a philosophic potential, ontological nuances and intentional vellieties, that we might not otherwise think possible.
The danger, as with Heidegger's analysis of Holderlin, is that a wholly novel philosophical etymology is foisted upon a classical tradition quite innocent of such fatuity. I welcome criticism from people who understand Islamic philosophy who have a better knowledge of the tradition in question who, it is my hope, will correct any errors or misconceptions of mine in this regard.
Best wishes.