Ghazal poetry, defination and details

The ghazal is an ancient and an art form very unique to Dari, though it has since been utilised by a number of other languages, including Pashto, Turki, and Urdu. It is not known exactly when the first ghazals were written, as most of them perished in the destruction of the Mongol invasions of the 13th century.

It was originally a type of poem about love and wine, as its short form made it easy for singing. However it was soon taken over by the Sufi poets, who used the images of wine (may), cup-bearer (saqi), love (eshq), and nightingale (bolbol) to describe their quest for union with God.

In form, the ghazal is a short poem composed of a number of beits (two lines). In each beit, a story is told and it stands independent of itself. However it may be encompassed in the ghazal by a theme. Apart from the first beit (misra), the second line in each beit rhymes, for example in the following ghazal of Maulana Balkhi:

Biayid, biayid, ke golzar damida ast
biayid, biayid, ke deldar resida ast

Biarid ba yak-bar hama jan o jahan ra
Ba khorshid seporid ke khosh tegh kashida ast

Bar an zesht bekhandid ke u naz numayad
Bar an yar begeryid ke az yar borida ast

Hama shahr beshorid chi awaza dar uftad
Ke dewana degar bara ze zanjir rahida ast

Bekobid dohl-ha wo degar hech magoyid
Chu jaye del o aql ast ke jan nez ramida ast

In addition to rhyme, a ghazal must follow a meter. This is a pattern where each line has the same number of syllables, which are either short or long. It is the meter which gives the poem its grace, and makes it able to be sung. There are a number of meters to which the ghazal writer can use, and some examples are given below (note that ‘x’ means a short syllable, such as “ke” or “az” while ‘–’ indicates a long syllable, such as “hech” or “raft”:

- - x x - - x x - - x x - -

Gol dar bar o may dar kaf o ma’shuqa ba kam ast
Sultan-e jahanam ba chunin roz ghulam ast

(A flower on my breast, wine in hand, and my beloved with me
My nations king is on such a day nothing but my slave) - Hafez

x x - - x x - - x x - - x x -

Dar kharabat e mughan nur-e khoda mibinam
In ajab bin ke chu nuri ze koja mibinam

(In the Magian wine tavern, I see the light of God
See this wonder, this light which I see from such a place!) - Hafez

- - x – x - - - - x – x - -

Dast az talab nadaram ta kam-e man bar-ayad
Ya tan rasad ba janan ya jan ze tan bar-ayad

(I will never lift my hand from searching, until I obtain my desire
Either my body will arrive to the beloved, or life will leave my body) – Hafez

The ghazal has changed over time, and undergone changes with all the notable writers. Hafez Shirazi is often considered to be the most talented writer of ghazals, though his predecessor Sadi wrote of an equally high standard. Bedil is probably the most respected ghazal artist in Afghanistan, as his poems are the choice of many Afghan singers.

Today in Afghanistan, more than in Iran, the ghazal is used by many poets. It is also sung in a purely Afghan art form. Sometimes singers will sing the whole ghazal, though more often just 3 or 4 beits will be sung from a ghazal. Verses from other poets may also be mixed into a ghazal singing, and the ghazal is often begun with a “fard”, a single beit of the singers own choosing.