Mirza Asadullah Khan (Ghalib)-27-12-1797(Agra) To 15-02-1869 (Delhi)
Seeing the radiance of the beloved's face, I ought to have burned up, why did not I burn up,
Seeing my own strength of sight, I burn with jealous. Jealousy has lit a fire within my heart.
(He has expressed the perfection of jealousy with such excellence that it is impossible to praise it sufficiently.)
(The use of burn in two lines is entirely different. This pleasure of language is especially worthy of note.)
(Ghalib exclaims that he is jealous of himself.)
Seeing the condition of mine, the people of the world call me fire-worshiper,
The intention with which fire-worshipers worship fire in that same relish and order I remain hot-headed in hearing spark-scattering sighs.
(Ghalib accepted the risk of having people abuse him with the general term infidel because of his worship of an infidel idol. Here people call him a fire-worshiper, as though he had abandoned Islam for the creed of the Parsis.)
(Ghalib's references to other religions are very sympathetic.)
(The verse never claims that in this particular case the people of the world are wrong.)
You have made cruelty universal, no kind of discrimination remains, and this deed of yours gas stained the honour of love,
Enduring cruelty is always the lover's essence. You show cruelty to the rival as well, in the rival's heart there is no passion for you. Seeing your cruelty to him, I can say that you are angry without reason, and this very thought is the reason that I pause.
(It gives me pause to see you be cruel without reason. What more ominous alarm signal could there be, than to see a show of wanton cruelty in someone you love. Naturally it would give you pause, and may because you to turn on your heel and make a quick escape.)
The lover dies of envy on seeing the sword in the beloved's hand,
He considers it in some sense a rival.
(This is a strange kind of jealousy, which is also contrary to the nature of passion.)
(He is apparently even jealous of his own power of vision.)
(When the emotion of jealousy reaches a limit, then the lover starts to take amiss even the beloved's looking in a mirror to adorn herself.)
On the neck of the wine goblet is proved to lie the blood of the Lord's creature,
For this reason, out of fear the wave of wine, seeing your gait, is trembling.
(In the state of intoxication your gait has become more intoxicated, and seeing it, the whole age is being slain.)
(The wave of wine naturally trembles. But Ghalib says the reason for this is that since your intoxicated gait has murdered the world, the wave of wine is realizing is that if you had not drunk wine, then your gait would not have been so intoxicated, nor would the world have been destroyed. The wave of wine considers itself to be the reason for this universal slaughter, and is trembling with fear of judgment day.)
I myself sold along with my poetry,
Having a correct taste for my poetry is a proof that that person is a person of accomplishment, and this is the reason that I myself am sold into his hands.
(To understand Ghalib's poetry requires an uncommon mind. In the depth of his ordinary verses too, something is hidden that can only be understood with great difficulty.)
(Ghalib complained at intervals throughout his life of not having the audience his genius deserved.)
The sacred thread and the prayer-beads are a kind of string, in the eyes of the knower of mystical knowledge, they are both paths,
In reaching the desired destination, Ghalib has constructed the sacred thread as smooth, because it is clear, and because of the rise and fall of the beads of the prayer beads, he has declared it to be an uphill downhill path, on which it is necessary to endure a hundred shocks on the way to the goal.
(Ghalib always gave preference to idol-homes, Brahmans and sacred thread over Sufi hospices, preaches, mullahs, holy men and prayer beads.)
(What does the knower of mystical knowledge need with prayer-beads and holy men.)
(Travelers prefer a level road to a rough one.)
I had become anxious over the blisters on my feet,
But now that I see the road ahead to be full of thorns, my heart is gladdened.
(Blisters did not let me walk, now the thorns will burst the blisters and I will quickly reach the desired destination.)
(When the human heart is cracked open by passion, then no matter how many troubles it has to confront, it does not lose courage.)
She is so jealous of me that even when I look in a mirror,
My beloved amuses herself by considering the greenness of verdigris to be the sweet voice of a parrot.
(Gradually my love for her will vanish, thus in her suspiciousness she is jealousness of the verdigris on the mirror.)
(When in the beloved's presence the lover pays more attention to a show or a nightingale or parrot, then this action displeases her.)
(beloved is jealous of the lover's looking in a mirror.)
(Ghalib is the kind of poet whom you can never be sure you are finished interpreting.)
It was my right to have the lightning of glory fall upon me,
Because wine is given after seeing the capacity of the wine-drinker.
(Mount Tur which is of a middling rank, how can it bear the lightning of God.)
(This seems to be an absolutely untouched thought.)
(To implicitly convert God's glory to lightning, and lightning to wine, and a lightning-bolt to a stream of wine into the drinker's cup, is a fascinating trick in itself, when done as effortlessly as it is here. But that is only the background of the verse, for it then goes on to make an aggrieved complaint about wine distribution. How much more metaphysical complexity could fit into two small lines.)
The picture of Ghalib breaking his head before the eyes, the time and occasion have passed,
But seeing her wall, even now that spectacle passes before the eyes, and those who see the doors and walls here their memory refreshed.
(The memory is so vivid that merely the sight of the beloved's wall can trigger it.)
(The use of word that raises the beauty of the verse from single fold to a thousand fold.)
(When anyone sees the beloved's wall he recollects the distressed Ghalib breaking his head in despair.)