Bitesize has changed! We're updating subjects as fast as we can. Visit our new site to find Bitesize guides and clips - and tell us what you think!
Print

English Literature

Mimi Khalvati: Ghazal

Structure and language

Structure

Like traditional ghazals, this poem is made up of a sequence of two-line stanzas (or 'couplets'). The two lines of the couplets do not rhyme but the end of each couplet does, partly through the repetition of the word "me".

Language

Ghazal makes extensive use of metaphors to explore the relationship between the speaker and the one they love. Many of the metaphors present pairs of items or objects that complement each other, reflecting the way in which the speaker sees the relationship.

In the second stanza the speaker describes the two sides of a relationship being like the "rhyme" and "refrain" (a repeated section of a poem, like a chorus). This metaphor suggests a sense of the two lovers being part of a larger whole. It also connects the two through poetry and creativity. The speaker sees themselves as a "refrain" while their lover is the "rhyme" in the poem. As a refrain is always repeated there's a suggestion that the speaker sees themselves as less inventive, original and important than the lover.

In the fourth stanza the speaker uses the metaphor of a snake charmer with their snake, another instance of a pairing that is beneficial. The reference to a "spell" hints at the powerful magic of love in its ability to transform or change, even to "subdue" a venomous snake.

If I am the laurel leaf in your crown, you arethe arms around my bark, arms that never knew me.

This couplet presents the metaphor of the speaker as a leaf from a tree; but the only contact they have with their loved one is through the tree's bark. Perhaps the speaker feels as if they have always been in the shadows. The writer is creating a character who appears to have low self-esteem; the object of their affection is a high achiever, worthy of laurel crowns while the speaker is just a leaf in that crown.

What shape should I take to marry your own, have you- hawk to my shadow, moth to my flame - pursue me?

The speaker is offering to change shape to appeal to the one they love. The use of the word "marry" is a pun, meaning to 'match up' but also hinting at hopes for the relationship. Both of these images (of the "hawk/shadow" and the "moth/flame") contain the idea of destruction and irresistible attraction. The speaker is well aware of the destructive nature of the feelings they have.

Back to Poetry: Relationships index

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.