At Urduwallahs, we have often pondered over the etymological origin and similarity in the Urdu lafz ‘ghazal’ (poem) and the English ‘gazelle’ which is a graceful, swift antelope with long ringed horns and black face markings, which is known in Arabic and Persian as ghazaal. Here is a wonderfully enlightening article in the Pakistani publication, Dawn by Mehr Afshan Farooqi who elaborates on this idea and takes it further with exceptionally haunting couplets on the idea of vahshat. She says:
“The quality that best describes the gazelle’s temperament is vahshat. Depending on the context, vahshat could mean: wilderness, desert, solitude, loneliness, dreariness, sadness, dread, fright, terror, desolateness, bewilderment, grief and much more. The delicate beauty, beguiling eyes, and more important, its elusiveness make the gazelle a foil for the beloved. Because the Urdu ghazal is a part of the Indo-Muslim literary tradition, the gazelle also embodies the mirg, the doe that is emblematic of the mystical quest of the human soul for union with God. The elusive doe is an enigma.
I have selected three verses from three great 18th century poets, Mir Taqi Mir (1723-1810), Sheikh Ghulam Hamdani Mushafi (1747-1784) and Mirza Mohammad Rafi Sauda (1713-1780/81) that engage with the theme of the ghazaal and vahshat with a view to showing the subtleties of mazmun afrini or developing new facets of meaning within the parameters of the theme. My rendition is somewhat free because I wanted to capture the playfulness of the theme in English.”
Here is one of the couplets from the article:
Vahshat hai mere dil ko tu tadbir-e vasl kar
Paon mein us ghazaal ke zanjir-e vasl kar
I am beside myself — do something to meet!
Chain down that gazelle’s foot!
— Sheikh Ghulam Hamdani Mushafi
And here is one by our eternal favorite, Mirza Ghalib:
“The first verse that I chose to begin my commentary with was one that spoke about the gazelle in a manner that only Ghalib can achieve:
Hun ba vahshat intizar avarah-e dasht-e khiyal
Ek safedi marti hai dur se chashm-e ghazal
Ghalib has juxtaposed the two images: of thoughts running wild and the gazelle running wild.” The speaker’s world is so utterly lonely that only the whiteness of the gazelle’s eye can be seen glimmering in the distance. Safedi marna also means to see a spark at a distance. It can be compared to the spark of a new idea. The despair of waiting, vahshat intizar is an entirely new twist to the concept of vahshat in the ghazal.”
The entire article is available here with many more couplets on the idea of vahshat and ghazaal: http://www.dawn.com/news/1190816/column-ghazal-ghazaal-and-gazelle