Research article
Issue: № 2 (10), 2017


The article analyses the conceptual metaphor ‘love is war’ in the ghazals of ‘Abd al-Hamid Mohmand, an Afghan classical poet of the late 17th-early 18th century, and showcases its versatile manifestations. In poetic tradition this metaphor is utilized to map the source domain of ‘war’ to the sensual and non-empiric target domain of ‘love’, which means that the relationship between the lyric hero and his Beloved is conceptualized in terms of war or a battle. This conceptual pattern relies on associations to produce a myriad of metaphors where military and love concepts are amazingly intertwined. In Hamid's ghazals ‘love is war’ pattern would imply that it is the lyric hero who is suffering from love. His suffering is meticulously displayed by various situation metaphors. The investigation into the conceptual metaphor ‘love is war’ and its use in Hamid Mohmand's ghazals yields the conclusion that the poet did not develop this metaphoric pattern without any purpose. Jointly, numerous poetic images create Hamid Mohmand's impressive poetic landscape that emerges through metaphorical mapping of the source domain of ‘war’ to the target domain of ‘love’.

Abd al-Hamid Mohmand, an Afghan classical poet of the late 17th-early 18th century, was a unique phenomenon of his time. As a sophisticated and broadly educated person, Hamid Mohmand enriched the Afghan literature with his unique intricate style that was in tune with preferences of the Afghan elite and encapsulated the best of Classical Afghan and Persian literature.

The development of the Afghan written poetry largely relied on the Persian Classical literature; more so, it also echoed some hallmarks of the late Classical Persian literature of the 16th – 18th centuries. Afghan poets ambitiously mastered Persian poetic forms and contents in order to adapt it to their national ethnic and cultural environment. Khushhal Khan Khattak (1613 – 1689) is considered the father of original Afghan literature who inspired fresh national interpretations in traditional Classical Persian literature by adjusting the latter to Afghan tribal reality and thereby expressing his own identity of an author [1, p. 111-112]. ‘Abd ar-Rahman (d. ca. 1711), another Classical Afghan poet and Hamid’s senior contemporary, also followed the traditions of Classical Persian literature. Some of his poems have a lot in common with ghazals by Hafiz (ca. 1315 – 1389) or are, in fact, their interpretations in Pashto. Thanks to simple and musical language Rahman Baba’s lyrics provokes emotional response with Afghans of whatever social status or educational background. Hamid Mohmand’s manner is different. His poetry is recognizable for its sophisticated syntax, semantic gaps, deliberate subjectivity of emotions, and symbolic notions that often refer to some routine concepts [2, p. 238]. Well-educated Pashtuns were the ones who highly valued Hamid’s works. Many of such well-educated Afghans copied Hamid Mohmand’s manner in their works and became his followers, including Kazim Khan Shaida, a prominent poet of the second half of the 18th century, Mirza Hanan Barakzai, a poet of the late 19th century, and so many others.              

Ghazal was Hamid Mohmand's favorite literary genre. In his poetry collection ghazals account for 98% of all poetic items. These ghazals belong either to love poetry or to didactic poetry. Hamid’s poetic language is highly metaphoric. In his poetry metaphors are crucial ingredients of the text artistic structure, as well as mere poetic decoration.

This article addresses metaphors as a key device of poetic text generation and modeling. The analysis is based on the cognitive approach to metaphors established by G. Lakoff [3].

The analysis of all metaphors in Hamid's lyrics pointed to Hamid's favorite and most productive metaphors; those are ‘love is commerce’, ‘love is hunting’, ‘love is war’, ‘love is sickness’. According to G. Lakoff, commerce, hunting, war, and sickness are source domains, that share a common target domain – i.e. love. Metaphorization initiates interaction between source domains and the target domain. As a result of metaphorical mapping of a source domain to the target domain, the source domain encapsulating personal life experience is utilized to structure the less clear target domain – this mechanism builds up the cognitive potential of metaphors [4, p.245].

Conceptual metaphors are routine correlations between the source domain and the target domain that have solidified in language and culture of a society. All the above-mentioned patterns are conceptual metaphors borrowed from Persian classical literature and established in Afghan literature very well.

This paper analyses ‘love is war’ pattern and its metaphors; this pattern is in tune with Afghan culture and is abundant in the works of all prominent Afghan poets and Hamid Mohmand’s predecessors.

‘Love is war’ metaphoric pattern refers to war or military action to convey the love story of the lyric hero and his lover. It is always the lover who unleashes war, whereas the lyric hero has to protect himself, however, sometimes he is reluctant to do so. Metaphoric associations expand this pattern into myriads of metaphors that amazingly intertwine love with combat.

The hero in love is subject to constant love attacks’ (tāxt-u bāxt də muhabbat): ‘I’m exhausted by love attacks, / And nowhere can I seek consolation’ [5, p. 254]. ‘The troops of love’ (də ‘išḳ fawj) deprives the lyric hero of any reasoning: ‘When the troops of love in black garment arrive, / Emotions, sense, and reason are bound to escape’ [5, p. 130]. Hamid’s lyric hero is attacked by ‘the troops that make lovers separate(fawjūna də judāyī): The troops that make lovers separate have besieged us / With voices from everywhere shouting ‘Fire, fire!’ [5, p. 105]. The army of sorrow (də ġam laẋkar) make the lyric hero cry: ‘The army of sorrow is amplifying my crying and pleading voice, / A combat leader is leading an army inside my head’ [5, p. 21].  

In his love ghazal ‘The entire world is saturated with grievous pleas ‘the troops that draw lovers apart(də hijrān fawj) destroy the city of reunion(də wisāl ẋahr) between the lyric hero and his Beloved: The city of reunion is in ashes, / Where have the troops arrived from to draw us apart’ [5, p. 292]. These troops are horsemen who throw stones in the house of the lyric hero and destroy it: From there the horsemen threw stones that fell from the sky / And hit my house only to draw us apart’ [5, p. 292].   

 The lyric hero is attacked and robbed by love, sorrow, grieve, and – more so – by the beautiful face of his Beloved; and this is expressed by the metaphor of an attack of the beautiful face(də ẋə məx tāxta). Hamid’s hero is seeking shelter to escape from 'attacks of the beautiful face' in the castle of patience(də sabr kalā), but he fails to find any: Even if I surrounded myself by hundreds of castles of patience, / I would still be unable to escape the attacks of the beautiful face’ [5, p. 179]. The image of a castle is also seen in Hamid’s didactic lyrics; in ghazal ‘In the turmoil of averse eternity [of destiny] do be able to discern…’ the castle is rendered by the metaphor of a castle of virtue(də ihsān ḳalʻa): You will not find salvation from enemies if you are at war, / Rather surround yourself by castle of virtue’ [5, p. 278].  

The beautiful face attacks the lyric hero with arrows of its lashes(də baṇō ġəšī) and arrows of glances’ (ġəšī də nazar). These metaphors are the most frequent in Hamid’s divan. Love ghazal ‘With or without you I feel no better the Beloved is targeting the target of his heart (nəẋē də zṛə) with arrows of lashes’: ‘No matter how curved the arrows of [your] lashes are / None of them fails to hit the target of [my] heart’ [5, p. 15]. This beit highlights the unique property of the lashes: though curved, they are still able to hit the target. The ‘curved lashes’ metaphor emerged on the basis of the routine comparison ‘lashes are like arrows’ that was popular in Persian classical literature. In his ghazal Do not dream of a medicine to cure the pain of love to your lover…’ Hamid combines in one of the beits the set comparison ‘lashes are like arrows’ and the metaphor ‘the target of heart’. However, in this ghazal the idea that the lashes of the Beloved hit the target of the heart has a different interpretation: ‘If all the lashes of my Beloved are sharp arrows, / May none of them fail to hit the target of my heart’ [5, p. 293]. If earlier the poet emphasized the property of curved lashes to hit ‘the target of his heart’, in this beit he is determined not to miss any of these arrows. A similar motif, related to the lyric hero's intention to be wounded with the arrows of lashes, appears in Hamid's ghazal I love it, when I'm chained by the curvy hair of my Beloved’; the lyric hero is ready to sacrifice his dignity for the sake of love: However unwilling is dignity, / May I rather be wounded to death by the arrows of lashes’ [5, p. 209].

The lyric hero of the ghazal ‘Flowers cannot convey the beauty of your face...’ complains that ‘on the battlefield’ (janga) where his sweetheart is fighting no one has a chance to escape ‘the arrows of lashes’: ‘You are so skilled in targeting the arrows of your lashes, / That none has left this battlefield safe and sound’ [5, p. 308]. Nothing would protect from these arrows, even ‘a chain armor of patience and asceticism’ (bəxtərpōẋ də sabr-u zuhd): ‘Those who are covered by a chain armor of patience and asceticism will also fail to escape as well, / When [beauties] place sharp arrows of their lashes between the thumb and index finger’ [5, p.224].  

The metaphor arrows of a glance’ (xadang də nazar) has much in common with ‘arrows of lashes’ and creates a similar effect in the text. In love ghazal ‘When red garments are put on to ride a horse...’ the lyric hero claims that it is impossible to escape ‘the arrows of lashes’ of his Beloved: I wonder if anyone is able to escape from these eyes alive / When the glances [of the beautiful Beloved] wound you with their arrows’ [5, p. 39]. Another Hamid's love ghazal points to the metaphor of ‘a battle of a date’ (də dīdan jang) accompanied by ‘arrows of a glance’ metaphor, that also stems from the pattern ‘love is war’: My heart rushed to the battle of the date [with my Beloved] / [Who] throws arrows of glances to the left and right’ [5, p. 244].

The image of an arrow is typical in Hamid's didactic lyrics as well. Opposite to his love ghazals where this image is associated with such metaphors as ‘arrows of lashes’ and ‘arrows of glances’, in didactic lyrics those are such metaphors as ‘arrows of torment’ (də āzār ġəšī) and ‘the arrow of belief’ (də bāwar ġəšay). In didactic ghazal ‘Patience develops the ability to breath with fire...’ the hero is trying to persuade the tyrant: ‘Arrows of torments thrown by the abused ones flawlessly hit the target / None would fly astray’ [5, p. 125]. The motif of the arrow hitting the target is found both in love poetry, and in didactic lyrics; however, it is rendered by means of two different metaphors: ‘arrows of lashes / a glance’ vs. ‘arrows of torments’. In didactic ghazal ‘If anyone pulls the bow of doubt, / the arrow of belief will fail to hit the target’ [5, p. 299] the poet explores an opposite motif of the arrow failing to hit the target. In this beit the idea that doubt is incompatible with belief is articulated by two echoing metaphors – ‘the bow of doubt’ and ‘the arrow of belief’.

In Hamid's divan we may also identify a group of metaphors based on the image of ‘arrowhead’ (tūbray). Their meaning and contexts echo other metaphors based on the image of an arrow; however, even insignificant modifications of the basic metaphoric image allow Hamid to tap its unexplored metaphoric potential (‘an arrow’ vs. ‘an arrowhead’). In the love ghazal ‘Those who have eyes of a deer have robbed me of my heart…’ the poet uses the metaphor ‘arrowhead of separation (tūbray də hijr): The one who has taken an arrowhead of separation out of the arm of a loving one, / Has taken out [this] scarlet seed of hope without intension’ [5, p. 137]. This beit compares two metaphors – ‘the arrowhead of separation’ and the scarlet seed of hope’ (də umēd zəṛay). The idea of the beit is that the loving man is missing his sweetheart and is cherishing the hope to see his Beloved again; unless the arrowhead is taken out, he will not be deprived of hope. To convey this idea Hamid invented a complicated metaphor that allowed him to render this idea in a unique artistic, emotional, and literary way.

The ghazal ‘This is how I'm submerged in the thoughts about my Beloved…’ tells us about the destiny of lovers if their heart is wounded with ‘the arrowhead of separation’: ‘Those were buried holding a burning candle, / If their heart had been wounded with an arrowhead of separation’ [5, p. 53]. This means that after death the way of those who have died from the arrow of separation will be lit by candle light.  

The love ghazal ‘God, may my Beloved treat me well features the metaphor the arrowhead of love’ (də ‘išḳ tūbray): My heart has transformed into the arrowhead of love as far as my Beloved is concerned, / Therefore I cannot have this arrowhead taken out’ [5, p. 225]. The lyrical hero’s heart is compared to the arrowhead of love and cannot be taken out as if it were a regular arrowhead – otherwise it would be fatal for the lover. This is another typical example of Hamid's reversed artistic reality where life with an arrowhead in one's heart becomes a true grace.

In the ghazal ‘Why are you blaming me of ignorance the arrowhead is a metaphoric equivalent of the arrowhead of eyewink' (tūbray də ġamzō): If the arrowhead of eyewinks is not in my heart / But for this lamp, there is nothing else to light my house’ [5, p. 261]. The lyric hero claims that even eyewinks that his Beloved is talking about change things for the better and ‘light his house’; without these eyewinks his house is deprived of this vital source of light.

The metaphoric pattern ‘love is war’ in Hamid’s love lyrics often refers to the image of the dagger that produces numerous metaphors: the dagger of the eyes (tēġ də stərgō), the dagger of curly hair’ (tēġ də zulfō), ‘the dagger of injustice’ (tēġ də nāhaḳī), ‘the dagger of love’ (də ‘išḳ tēġ), ‘the dagger of curses’ (də bad du’ā tēġ).  

The dagger of the eyes’ is yet another metaphor in Hamid's love ghazal with a redif 'blood' (wīnē): 'You have sharpened the dagger of your eyes using the grindstone of sufferings / And I'm at a loss again whose blood you are going to shed' [5, p. 388]. ‘The grindstone of sufferings’ (də ranjō bāṭ) is a metaphor, that refers to artifacts; it is amazingly expanded and amplified by ‘the dagger of eyes’. By torturing lover the Beloved is sharpening the ‘dagger of the eyes’.

By combining the image of a dagger and one of the beautiful properties of his Beloved the poet invented the metaphor the dagger of curly hair’. The ability of a dagger to murder is extrapolated to the hair of his Beloved: ‘I will gracefully die stabbed by the dagger of your black curly hair / So that my grave will scent with musk’ [5, p. 249]. In this beit the lyric hero is ready to be stabbed to death by ‘the dagger of curly hair’; in addition, the poet emphasizes that the hair of his Beloved scent with musk. The scent is so strong that if the hero is stabbed to death with ‘the dagger of curly hair’, his grave will emanate the scent of musk.

It is not ‘the dagger of eyes’ and ‘the dagger of curly hair’ that make the Beloved dangerous for the hero. The bias of the Beloved is expressed by the metaphor the dagger of injustice’ (tēġ də nāhaḳī): The lips of my Beloved are smiling gently / Or she has uncovered the blood-stained dagger of injustice’ [5, p. 138]. This beit skillfully combines the metaphor 'the dagger of injustice' with an implied comparison of colors: ‘lips of the Beloved – a blood-stained dagger'.  

Both the beauty and personality of the Beloved, as well as the feeling of love are associated with a dangerous dagger; this is where the metaphor the dagger of love’ stems from (də ‘išḳ tēġ): ‘Though all my heart is wounded with the dagger of love, / You have not cast a single glance on any of my wounds’ [5, p. 15]. In a different love ghazal instead of highlighting the ignorance of his wounds manifested by his Beloved, Hamid emphasizes the reaction of the loving ones whose heart had been wounded by ‘the dagger’: ‘When someone’s heart is massively wounded by the dagger of love / He would inevitably cry like a zurna’ [5, p. 11].

In Hamid's ghazal 'While he was painfully looking in the face of every beautiful Beloved…' the lyric hero is wounded by separation – not by love – which uses ‘the dagger of curses (də bad du’ā tēġ): Separation with my sweetheart has been continuously stabbing my chest with the dagger of curses / And has rendered Hamid stubborn when he is facing death’ [5, p. 102]. The metaphoric pattern 'love is war’ is utilized to create ‘some parallel reality’ for this poetic text: results and consequences of all actions are drastically different from what one would expect in reality. Thus, being stabbed in his chest with ‘the dagger of curses’, the lyric hero is not bound to die; quite opposite – he has become stronger in resisting death.

Hamid's metaphoric pattern ‘love is war’ refers to the saber (tūra), another type of popular Afghan cold weapons. In the ghazal ‘If [my Beloved] with a birth mark and down on the skin helps me, the ailing one…’ the lyric hero believes that he has died of ‘the sabre of love’ (də ‘išḳ tūra): ‘The sabre of love transformed me to a shahid / I was unable [to] reach the veil of patience with my arm’ [5, p. 121]. Shahids are martyrs who died fulfilling a religious commandment in the military expansion of Islam; in Muslim tradition they are buried in their garments, and their bodies are not washed or covered with a veil. In the second hemistich of the beit the author uses the metaphor ‘the veil of patience’, but the logics is different – the lyric hero failed ‘to reach the veil of patience with his arm’ (i.e. to overcome his passion) and therefore he became ‘a shahid hit by the sabre of love’. 

In Hamid’s poetry the sabre is also associated with such a manifestation of female beauty as downy lips. In one of the beits of the love ghazal ‘No one would accept such torture from their sweetheart…’ the Beloved has drawn from-under the girdle the sabre of down (də xat tūra): Unless spongers turn away from the beautiful face / Unless [the beauty] draws the sabre of down from-under the girdle’ [5, p. 29]. Here Hamid later refers to a popular Persian classical motif of the Beloved being deprived of beauty by the appearance of black down above the upper lip. The metaphor ‘the sabre of down’ is a tool to express the idea that those who are just admiring the Beloved's beauty in vain without any passionate feeling will turn their faces away as soon as they see the down above the lip of the Beloved.

In the love ghazal 'The tenderness in the kiss of my sweetheart was and will be missing…' Hamid’s lyric hero has the sabre of sighs (də āh tūra) in his hands, which he uses to defeat his rival, but he fails: ‘I thought I would stab my rival to death with the sabre of sighs, / But my attack was not [strong] enough and will never be’ [5, p. 296]. 

The last beit of the ghazal 'May no one consider me weak in love…', that exposes motifs of the author glorifying himself (faxr), persuades the lyric hero to cast ‘the sabre of thought’ (də fikr tūra) away, i.e. to finish the poetic contest with his rivals because he does not have any equals in Pashto verse: ‘Now cast the sabre of your thought away, oh, Hamid, / Because you do not have any [rivals] in Pashto’ [5, с. 163].

The metaphoric pattern ‘love is war’ includes references to armor, as well as the tradition of taking captives. In one of love ghazals the lyric hero is depicted as a captive: 'I like it being among those held in captivity by the curly hair of my sweetheart / I would better be taken captive by Hindu, than by Islam' [5, p. 209]. In addition to the metaphor ‘the captive of the curly hair’ (bandīwān də zōlfō), this beit implicitly compares the curly hair of the Beloved with Indians by color and uses the traditional motif of a lover denying his faith – i.e. Islam – in favor of paganism (kufr).

The metaphor 'captives of the curly hair' (bandīwān də zōlfō) appears in Hamid's love ghazal ‘Even if you lose your head on your way to love, do not get upset…’. But now it [is] not the lyric hero who is held captive by the curly hair of the beauty, but a hermit (zāhid), who is usually a negative hero: ‘The hermit spoke a lot about my disadvantages, and he did a good job / Why is he then among those held in captivity by the curly hair’[5, p. 103]. In this beit the author addresses the traditional motif of even most religious ones being unable to resist the passion of love.

The ghazal ‘When I look at the cheeks of beauties…’ uses a set of echoing military images – the shield and the sword. Separated with his Beloved, the lyric hero is wounded by the sword ‘Zulfiqar’ in his heart; the lyric hero is not trying to protect himself from attacks by ‘the shield of virtue’ (də mihr sipar) on purpose: ‘Even if my heart is split in two parts by sorrow, / I’m not going to protect myself from the sword ‘Zulfiqar’ with the shield of virtue’ [5, с. 247]. The point of the blade of prophet Muhammad’s legendary sword Zilfiqar is split in two; therefore, the heart of the lyric hero is split in halves as well. The beit implicitly compares separation with sword Zilfiqar; thus, Hamid gives a hint that like from sword Zilfiqar, one cannot escape from the sorrow of separation.

The analysis allows us to conclude that in the metaphoric pattern ‘love is war’ the poet uses the source domain of ‘war’ to structure the sensual target domain of ‘love’ which cannot be explained empirically. Such analysis allows us to observe metaphorization of the surrounding environment in action; this mechanism is the cornerstone of poetry and relies on the principle of poetic associations.


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