Mirza Ghalib - Discovery of Soul Through Poetry Versus Riches

Sukhan kya keh nahi sakte ke joya hoon jawahir ka
Jigar kya hum nahi rakhte jo khoden hum maidan Ko

सुख़न क्या कह नहीं सकते कि जूया हूँ जवाहिर के 
जिगर क्या हम नहीं रखते कि खोदें जा के मादन को 

Can't we just say verses instead of seeking jewels?
Don't we have a soul? Why do we need to dig mines?

Why do we need
to dig mountains when 
we have a soul to dig deeper

Why do we 
need to seek jewels
when we can write verses

Found on Maskeen Ji's lecture: https://shivpreetsingh.blogspot.com/2020/09/mirza-ghalib-discovery-of-soul-through.html

suḳhan kyā kah nahīñ sakte kih jūyā hoñ javāhir ke
jigar kyā ham nahīñ rakhte kih khodeñ jā ke maʿdan ko

1a) can we not compose/say poetry-- that we would be a seeker of jewels [instead]?
1b) what's the idea?! you can't say that we would be a seeker of jewels!
1c) it's hardly [mere] poetry/speech!-- can we not say that we would would be a seeker of jewels?

2a) don't we have a liver-- that we would go and dig in a mine/quarry [instead]?
2b) don't we have the guts/courage to go and dig in a mine/quarry?

suḳhan : 'Speech, language, discourse, word, words; --thing, business affair (syn. bāt )'. (Platts p.645)


jigar : 'The liver; the vitals; the heart; mind; spirit, courage'. (Platts p.384)


That is, to abrade the liver and bring out damp/fresh [tar] verse is better than to dig in a mine and bring out jewels. (129)

== Nazm page 129

Bekhud Dihlavi:
He says, to make metrical verses through trouble/anxiety [jigar-kārī] is of a higher rank than to dig in a mine and bring out jewels. (183)

Bekhud Mohani:
He has beautifully said that verses are better than jewels and trouble/anxiety [jigar-kārī] is better than digging in a mine. (244)

JIGAR: {2,1}
SPEAKING: {14,4}

The parallelism of structure suggests the obvious meanings (1a) and (2a), two indignant rhetorical questions that are hard to translate both accurately and lucidly in English. 'Can't we compose poetry?! (Of course we can!) So why would we do an inferior thing like seeking jewels?' Similarly: 'Don't we have a liver?! (Of course we do!) So why would we do an inferior thing like digging in a mine?' The commentators all paraphrase the implication: that composing poetry is better than seeking jewels, and digging into one's liver (for poetic emotions or effects) is better than digging in a mine (for jewels).

But surely no one who knows Ghalib expects the verse to stop with anything so one-dimensional. The first line begins after all with the doubly multivalent suḳhan kyā , which is open to at least a couple of alternative readings. If the expression is taken to be like kyā bāt [hai] (1b), then it marks an exclamation of astonishment or even indignation: 'What's this that you say?!', 'What an idea!'. And it's then very plausible to imagine the rest of the utterance addressed to someone else, since no subject is present in the verse, and the masculine plural verb could easily apply to some āp -- someone who has insulted the speaker, perhaps, by suggesting that he was merely a jewel-miner. Alternatively, the phrase can suggest that what is being called 'poetry' is not really a mere form of words at all (1c), but in fact is something much more valuable-- something like jewels, mined with trouble and pain from deep within. (For a comparable usage see {20,6}.)

Similarly, in the second line the obvious first interpretation can be reimagined so as to yield another possibility: jigar rakhnā can mean 'to have heart/courage/guts' (for something). So the speaker might also be indignantly rejecting the idea that he didn't have the guts to go dig in a mine (2b), perhaps in order to wrest from the depths the real 'jewels' of poetry (1c).

In short, the search for poetry either isn't, or is, like the search for jewels. (And even if it is, the search for jewels itself at once becomes a metaphor for the search for poetry.) More permutations could be devised, but the ones I've outlined at least suffice to show the complexity of the possibilities. Here's Ghalib being Ghalib, and in excellent form. Which means that we're left to mix and match to our own (lack of) satisfaction, every time we encounter the verse.