Sabza-e-khat se, tera kakul-e-sar-kash na daba
Your green sideburns could not suppress your rebellious tresses
Yeh, zumurrd bhi harif-e-dam-e-afaee na hua
This magical Zumurrd was no match for this black cobra
Sabza= green Khat= hair, line Sabza-e-khat=near the age of puberty certain changes take place in a young human body; among them is growth of thin beautiful side burns. Urdu poets call them sabza-e-khat Kakul=hair, tresses sar-kash=one who raises his head against, a rebel Zumurrd =a magical jewel, if shined to a cobra or a snake it proves blinding Harif= an adversary dam= a breath, life Afaee=a cobra, a serpent
This is the 2nd verse of Ghalib’s 9th ghazal. This ghazal is a popular ghazal. It has 7 verses and all of them are beautiful and are bursting with great thoughts. It has been sung by many artists including Lata. For audio, please click here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FUBmrclUNM4
Meaning: For understanding of this verse, one must know the about idiom, simile, paradox, hyperbole, allegory, personification, and other figures of speech that an Urdu poet uses about a beloved’s hair, locks, or tresses. Imagine a picture drawn by an artist just of single braided long tresses of a damsel, without ears, cheeks, nose, or any other parts of face. It would look likea cobra stretching out its fang in an attack mode. Second, near the age of puberty certain changes take place in a human body; among them is growth of thin beautiful sideburns. Urdu poets call them Sabza or Sabza-e-khat, the green sideburns. There is also an anecdotal gem, green in color, called Zumurrd. If this gem is shined to a cobra or a snake, it proves instantly blinding; and, thus prevents a cobra from attacking. In short, this gem is an adversary that suppresses a rebellious cobra, by blinding. Since the concept of greenness is contained both in Sabza-e-khat the green side burns and Zumurrd, the green magical stone, Ghalib calls Sabza-e-khat, a Zumurrd. Building on this allegory, then he proceeds to conclude that even after the arrival of side burns or Zumurrd, the cobra of her shiny hair is still intact; so, is obvious that her rebellious tresses did not get suppressed by this Zummurd or sideburns.
The meaning of this verse is that, I hoped that your rebellious locks, which are just like a fang-stretched shiny black cobra, will be suppressed by the arrival of the Zumurrd, the green sideburns. But alas! it didn’t happen so. The fang of your tresses proved fatal to me
The second meaning is that, if your sideburns had succeeded in suppressing your black shiny cobra like locks, it would have diminished your beauty. But that never happened. You still are as beautiful and as fresh as you were before.
This Sh’er is a convincing proof of Ghalib’s mastery on his pen and colorful thoughts. The figures of speech that he so beautifully used, in this verse, are matchless. His play with the word green, and use of an anecdote or legend, to prove a point is Ghalib only! Appreciate the use of words Sar-kash= a rebel and Daba= suppress in the first line. How beautifully they oppose each other. In Urdu grammar, such opposition of words is called Tazad,