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Somewhere in Southern Highlands, NSW

Lodore Falls, Wenthworth, NSW

The Rubaiyat : Quatrain XII

"How Sweet is mortal Sovranty!"--think some;
Others--"How blest the Paradise to come!"
Ah, take the Cash in hand and waive the Rest;
Oh, the brave Music of a distant Drum!

This is the twelfth quatrain of the Fitzgerald's Rubaiyat and unlike some of the previous one, this one is a little more obscure giving itself not easily to interpretation. The first two lines can be interpreted as some people think about how glorious is sovereignty of men. While other say how blessed would be the paradise in their afterlife. The wish for sovereignty can be read as a desire for freedom for men. (not necessarily of the nation state). That Men does not rule over men. All are made equal. And how sweet would that be. Think of equality and free men and same laws would apply to all. While others yearn for the fruits of the paradise that they will have in their afterlife. They think of all the joys and the bliss of heaven in their next life. The next two lines say that take whatever you have in your hands and waive the rest of it, let go of it what is not here, not present. And Oh don't worry about that sounds of a distant drums (probably a call to arms for a battle). Enjoy whatever you have today and forget about rest (be it the glories of the past or the dreams for the future, in this life or the afterlife). Savour what you have and relish it. Do not get bogged down about how to earn heaven in afterlife or dreams of glory! Live for Today, Concern yourself with Today. 

Translation - Naqsh Fariyaadee Hai Kiskee (Ghalib)

This is probably among the most famous of Ghalib's work and the most complex that I have come across with each verse having various connotations and multiple streams of interpretation. This translation uses fair help from other sources over the web.

naqsh fariyaadee hai kiskee shokhee-e-tehreer ka
kaaghazee hai pairhan har paikar-e-tasweer ka

Line 1/2 - The poet says this written complaint, against whose mischief of writing/painting is it against? Every face in this painting wears a dress of paper. A bit of history before we understand this seemingly meaningless couplet. In old Persia a complainant would enter the courts of kings wearing clothing made of paper in order to display their humility and abjectness. Ghalib cleverly employing this scheme says against whose mischief and fickleness is this written complaint directed? Who wronged? For every face in this painting is made of paper (i.e. they are in despair) The picture here being that of the Universe and the mischief doer being the God. The question asked being whose mischief was this to create such a painting where each character is suffering and helpless. All faces appear helpless pleading in front of God. The poet asks Why was Universe such created? Why are we made so helpless? The questioning in the first line and the realization in the second is the beauty of this verse.

kaave-kaave sakht_jaanee haay tanhaaee na pooch
subah karna shaam ka laana hai joo-e-sheer ka

Line 3/4 - The poet says ask me not of the hard and difficult work that life is excavating through this hardness of solitude. To turn this lonely evening into the morning is like creating a river of milk (an impossible task).  Ghalib says living life solitary is like digging slowly and laboriously through the hard and unyielding rock. It makes the whole existence toilsome and punishing. And to pass the night alone waiting for the next day is like making a river of milk. The passing of night (separated from my beloved) is no less taxing than that impossible task.

jazba-e-be_ikhtiyaar-e-shauq dekha chaahiye
seena-e-shamsheer se baahar hai dam shamsheer ka

Line 5/6 - The poet says you should have seen the passion of the uncontrollable desire. The breath of the sword is beyond the chest of the sword. This is such a brilliant play on words. Here the breath is used to describe the edge of the sword. Ghalib says that see the rage of the irrepressible fervor and zeal. It like as if the rage has filled the sword with emotion and fury so much that the sword was now outside its sheath. The breath is literally tearing out of the chest chaining it in midst of this uncontrollable rage. Totally awesome!

aagahee daam-e-shuneedan jis qadar chaahe bichaaye
mudda'a 'anqa hai apne aalam-e-taqreer ka

Line 7/8 - The poet says that let knowledge spread its trap of conversation that way it wants to. The meaning of my universe of discourse is like a angha bird. Angha or simurgh (in persian literature) is a mythical bird that is appears as a peacock with the head of a dog and the claws of a lion.(wikipedia) In short it is difficult to conjecture what exactly is it or even if it exists? Ghalib says the let the net of intelligence spread its reach where ever it wants through the conversation. Lets my knowledge (through talking) cast its net far/wide and anyway it wants. The intention of my domain of discussion is like a angha bird. What I discourse is hard to comprehend or there maybe no meaning or truth in it. Here angha is a metaphor of something which is elusive to make sense and grasp.

bus ke hoon 'ghalib' aseeree mein bhee aatish zer-e-pa
moo-e-aatish_deeda hai halqa meree zanjeer ka

Line 9/10 - The poet says I am as much Ghalib, the one who even in captivity, has fire beneath his feet. The rings of my chain looks like (curls) of hair burning. Ghalib in his fascinating imagery says even though he is imprisoned, he still has fire under his feet. He is burning restless in his legs. Even the shackles on the legs can not calm him. They chains appear like hairs that have caught fire (and subsequently curled). The ring of the chains on his legs evoke images of hairs being on fire. The coils of burnt hair are so soft and airy that they do not concern me (bother me), same are these shackles that bound me. I am not bothered by them. To me they are like coils of burnt hair, soft and un-hampering.

Meaning of difficult words.
naqsh = copy/print
fariyaad = complaint
tehreer = hand writing
kaaghazee = delicate
pairhan = dress
paikar = appearance
kaave-kaave = hard work
sakht_jaanee = tough life
joo = canal/stream
sheer = milk
joo-e-sheer = to create a canal of milk(here means to perform an impossible task)
ikhtiyaar = authority/power
shamsheer = sword
aagahee = knowledge/intuition
daam = net/trap
shuneed = conversation
'anqa = rare
aalam = world/universe
taqreer = speech/discourse
aseeree = imprisonment/captivity
zer-e-pa = under the feet
moo = hair
aatish_deeda = roasted on fire
halqa = ring/circle

Read more posts on Ghalib.

Borges - The Library of Babel - Part II (Summary)

I last month posted a brief summary of the Borges's famous story "The Library of Babel". It is such a vast expanse of very dense words. Ideas so vague that they stretch to the very edges of universe in thin ether and yet realistic enough for each and every one to make some sense of them.. for themselves. I will briefly touch on some themes that I could pick up among the infinite this story touches.

In the story, The Library is said to be "Total". It contains all that is written, all that is unwritten and everything in between. The narrator lives all his life in middle of this infinity trying to make sense of it, ultimately dying in the hope that this monstrosity is not meaningless, it is not random. It has an order, a purpose and a meaning. The order gives it a meaning. The existence gives it a purpose. Probably we are the purpose of its existence. We are the music that plays out of this celestial flute. Otherwise what would be the Library without the people trying to decipher the books? Why would it even exist if there is no one to flip through the pages. It would be a indefiniteness of perfectness and yet total absurdity in the absence of a Librarian. Are not we in the same plane as narrator trying to find a similar sense here? In this Our Universe. The self, the horror is all here as well, very perceptible and quivering and in midst of us.

All the hexagons of this Library are similar, in a way, this whole said Universe is symmetrical and yet there is randomness to the extreme present in the books. Both the perfect symmetry and perfect randomness is extrapolated to the utmost. Since the symmetry is perfect, hence the rule came that Library is Total and permanent. Near perfectness awes. To most it reveals the hand of creator. Near randomness despairs. To most it reinforces faith in the creator or higher power. Isn't it a metaphor for this universe where we see both these exist in similar fashion. There is this general symmetry and beauty and pattern in nature, and this turbulence and indefiniteness and chance and causality in human behavior and action. Symmetric yet random in the same canvas.The two parts of a Whole.

The Library has near infinite number of books, most meaningless. For every line that made sense, there are shelves and shelves of near nonsense. In this glut of "information", pretty much everything becomes useless. How does one know that a sudden appearance of meaningful text is not a chance play akin to monkeys scribbling haphazardly on paper. Does not this flood of text compromise whatever little made sense? Isn't this what's happening with the hyper-reality that plays out on media and arts these days? Isn't noise consuming us all? Isn't noise replacing reality?

This Library has books that have all combinations 25 symbols and each book is said to be unique. That means all possible knowledge is already in the books. Everything is already known. All possible actions and reactions are known. The truth, the falsehood, the proof of truth & the proof of falsehood. All. But can we comprehend? And then there is the question of - are we fated? Is everything foretold? The people trying to decode this books assumed majority of the text to be nonsense. Can it really be nonsense? Could it be some language that we don't know? It can be also said every book in this Library is understandable provided it is deciphered right. So all possible text could have a meaning in some remote language that we know not of. Could it also be that the text was written just for writing and was never meant to be understood? The act of writing now becomes disassociated from the act of understanding and whatever little we understood was a mere chance. Could the whole Library be like Voynich manuscript written for the sake of writing and the librarians are trying to understand something which never had sense to begin with. Could our Universe be same? A similar creation? In this enormity, can we understand the reality when we can not make sense of it completely? Is complete knowledge even possible when we do not see the complete picture. We have just bits and scraps of so-called information in midst of this glut. Do we even understand the language? Do we even understand what we are reading? How do we know for sure that this story was not a guide to catching fish without a bait?

The meaningless pursuit of wisdom in the books leads zealots, fanatics, blasphemers and mystics to run riot. Various theories are made. Some claims abandoned, other that still persist. Cults are created, Messiahs and false prophets abound. Some ideas becomes the cornerstone for the society of Men. Maybe they called it Religion. The multitude of Gods fighting the oneness of The Library. Some ideas that gave them hope, some that lead to their death and destruction.Truth is hard to come by here, Complete Truth is near impossible. What we are left with is a Great Mystery and our meaningless existence in it with no hope of ever understanding it fully. It is Near Omnipotence and Yet Nowhere near Omniscient! That is the fate of the mankind in this Universe.