:: The Fire Gone With the Wind ::

Ghalib was a unique phenomenon – a bull among a herd of cows! We come across numerous poets between the periods of Mir Taqi Meer and Asadullah Khan Ghalib. We note that their leader is Ghalib. None of them could reach even near the universal merit of Ghalib`s style

Dr. Saadat Saeed

The writer is a professor of Urdu Literature at Government College University Lahore

The basic aim of all arts is to research and express mysteries and allusions related to life, the universe and man. Artists who don’t care for this function cannot plumb the depths of their perception deeply or express their psyche freely. Determining the meanings (or even meaninglessness) of life is necessary for the artist. Furthermore, they are bound to concentrate on the human situation and its predicaments. It goes without saying that understanding the meaning of the universe also, is their privilege. Obviously, to determine the meanings of life, man and universe is a very profound and difficult task; that is if you want to rise beyond cliché level. The process involved requires philosophical vision. We can easily declare the creations of those artists ordinary, who lack this special quality. Philosophical insight plays a vital role in the exposure of the facts and internalities related to life, man and the universe. If any ‘rational being’ doesn’t become part and parcel of his thinking he remains thoughtless forever. The majority of thoughtless artists pass their life in the blind wells of tradition-worship. They cannot deviate from borrowed ideas, timeworn aphorisms and beaten paths. We cannot expect these artists to know contemporary needs and rapid changes which influence human sensibility. Their hearts cannot become fire-temples of meaningful passion and feeling. So they can neither appreciate or express the sad subtleties of the heart or encompass the vastness of humanity. I want to quote a part of a poem in praise of fire from ancient India to elaborate the observation: “Its (fire-Agni) food is wood. Its mane is illuminated. Its smoke goes up to the sky sometimes like a minaret and sometimes like a flag. In spite of the fact that it has no tail and no head, it walks through jungles like a bull moving hither and thither among a herd of cows. It thunders like a lion and demonstrates the roar of heavy and thundering rain. It wipes out forests, converts them into ashes through its tongue full of flames. Its iron teeth and jaws consume everything; clean the earth like a barber removes a beard. When it yokes the wind to a carriage, in the form of beautiful, fast and red horses, it bellows like a bull. It attacks the forests. Its noise terrifies sparrows. Its sparks, which make grass disintegrate into ashes, fly hither and thither and its wheels leave dark traces on the paths. It removes the darkness and shows itself in the darkness of the night. When it comes to the earth, the sky hidden in the darkness becomes visible. Deities, sky, earth, water and foliage, all seem happy having such a friend.


“It is friend of man’s. It never looks at anyone with scorn. It lives in every family. It lives with man as a companion and everlasting friend. It helps him in his works giving him light. It is a pillar of the house and a special guard. Its existence makes the hearth sacred in a house.”


Ghalib too had this crisis. Due to his hidden flames, his heart had become that fire-temple which could not find its full magnitude. Several verses from his poetry collection Nuskha e Hamidia contain this fire. Countless logs and straws of poetic tradition became fuel for his fire. This fire opened the doors of possibilities.


Ghalib cried: Where exists the second step of craving?


The desert of possibility lies under our one step.


His smoke has gone up to the sky like a minaret. We cannot personify creative power. It has no tail and no head but has concrete form. He was a unique phenomenon – a bull among a herd of cows! We come across numerous poets between the periods of Mir Taqi Meer and Asadullah Khan Ghalib. We note that their leader is Ghalib. None of them could reach even near the universal merit of Ghalib`s style. He was a versatile poet. As far as his diction is concerned none of his predecessors and contemporaries could compete with him in splendour, economy of expression, an overwhelming quality and grandeur. The magnificence of his fire is beyond time. The fire having a lion’s thunder and manly insights, is like those stallions: beautiful, fast, red and transforming into various shapes; colourful, fully formed, rich, vivid and full of aesthetical feelings!


Ghalib says: The desert cannot compete with my speed!


The horse of life is galloping, who can guess where it will stay.


Neither are there hands on the reins, nor feet in the stirrups.


Who is there to defeat the wine, which can overthrow the manly lover?


This is the fire turning the forest into ashes, through its tongue full of flames.


Ghalib further says: I have flaming feet don’t ask about the melting of the wilderness of the prison house.


Here every loop of the chain seems ablaze.


O God! Mujnon’s heart is so sorely wiped out.


Can’t we say that Ghalib`s creative genius sends sparks flying hither and thither convert grass into ashes, and its wheels leave dark tracks on the paths? Why not! Go through these verses:


We saw Asad leaving the place fretting and fuming,


Charged with lightning and standing lonely in the enclosure of pirouetting flames.


From the hotness of the heat of lightning my heart was terrified.


Every pirouetting flame was a circle of a whirlpool.


Through the fire of his creativity, the earth and sky hidden in the darkness become visible.


Ghalib says: Our ineffectual, maddening craving could not achieve anything,


Though each and every particle was the contestant of the sun illuminating the world.


Under every shade Asad was burnt waiting for some mischief.


The home of lovers is a shop of a fireworks manufacturer,


Whenever the flame of the beloved’s face unveils, it catches on fire


Asad, the collection from the wound on my soul-heart was ongoing,


The fire-temple, yet to become an estate of a salamander.


Thinking about a nightingale in the spring is to cultivate autumn,


The colour of the rose is a temple of fire beneath the wing of a nightingale.


One clear sight is like hundred compelling mirrors.


The vein of a ruby is a shadow of the margins of the goblet of the Sun.


O flame! Leave me alone as by the black spot of my heart


I still am reaping the field sown with the wild rule of hundreds of soul–hearts.


The page of this desert is completely a page on fire,


In the footprints there still exists the heat of the warmth of my speed.


So we can clearly visualise that temples of fire in the hearts of the artists can give birth to utterly new resurrections. If the artists try to suppress them consciously they will have to face the consequences of becoming traditionalists. It means they ignore the potent path of possibilities and grand expressions, so that they can easily give way to cowardliness and low spirits. They can be symbolised as goats and cows, since it will be difficult for them to act like lions and stallions. Such artists cannot achieve dimensional styles. Aesthetical expressions too require depth and allusion. The artists who do not possess creative fire can face the desert of unproductive wilderness. They can only become slaves of that wine, which can overthrow the manly lover.


Ghalib and poets like him never could favour these literary and artistic trends. They were ready to get lit with lighting the lamp in the house of mourning. Their aim was to reap the field sown with wild rule of hundreds of soul–hearts.


So it is obvious that such great men do not like to waste themselves through the process of extinguishing their creative sparks. They seldom want to act like those artists who cannot influence the audience or readers.


Great artists live like pirouetting flames and don’t wish to be engulfed by the whirlpool of time. Ordinary artists who negate contemporary realities cannot present the sun of reflection, illuminating the world. They give importance to concealment rather than manifestation. We can easily assess that they cannot understand the phenomenon of their own feelings. Furthermore it is hard for them to see entirety through parts and parts through entirety.


Great artists cannot conceal their powerful thoughts and feelings for long periods. They are bound to educate the audience and readers. Advocacy of worthless values doesn’t suit them.