.sad mausam-e gul ham ko tah-e baal hii gu;zre
maqduur nah dekhaa kabhuu be-baal-o-parii kaa

1) a hundred rose-seasons passed for us only/emphatically 'under wing'
2) we never saw the power/capacity/presumptuousness of wing-and-feather-lessness



maqduur : 'What one is able to do or accomplish,' &c.; power, ability; capacity; --means, resources; --presumption, presumptuousness'. (Platts p.1055)

S. R. Faruqi:

It's a strange, extraordinary verse. By 'wing-and-feather-lessness' is not meant that in reality somebody has chopped off the wings, because in the first line he's said 'under wing'. Thus the 'wing-and-feather-lessness' is not physical, but rather a mental and spiritual helplessness. There is so much melancholy that even while having wings and feathers, he considered himself wing-and-feather-less, and he didn't have the courage to test the power of even this wing-and-feather-lessness, or he didn't have occasion to do so. From the situation in this verse, the next aspect he has expressed in the first divan itself, like this [{33,3}]:

chhuu;Taa jo mai;N qafas se to sab ne mujhe kahaa
bechaarah kyuu;N kih taa sar-e diivaar jaa))egaa

[when I left the cage, then everyone said of me
'Poor thing, how will he go as far as the wall?']

He has expressed another, and opposite, aspect of this mood in


If 'under wing' is taken to mean 'flying', then the point will be that a hundred rose-seasons passed for us in wandering. We were never vouchsafed the chance to sit without wing and feather. An echo of this theme is found in Khalil ur-Rahman Azmi:

nah hu))aa yih kih tah-e daam kabhii so rahte
zindagii apnii to rusvaa-e par-o-baal rahii

[it didn't happen that we remained asleep under the net
our life remained a disgrace to feather and wing]

But for the meaning of 'under wing' to be 'having hidden the head under the wing' seems better. By not being able to see the power of wing-and-feather-lessness what seems to be meant is that he considered himself to be without wing and feather, and didn't have the courage even to try the strength and power of that wing-and-feather-lessness.

Qa'im has composed two verses on almost this same theme, and in one verse he has used 'wing-and-feather-lessness' and in the other verse he has used 'head under the wing':

dekhaa nah mai;N juz saayah-e baazuu-e shikastah
;hirmaa;N-zadah juu;N ;hasrat-e be-baal-o-parii huu;N

[I saw nothing but the shadow of a broken wing
I am hopelessness-stricken, like the longing of wing-and-feather-lessness]

sar tah-e baal ka;Tii ((umr mire bulbul ko
qaabil-e sair magar yih gul-o-gulzaar nah thaa

[the lifetime was spent with head under wing-- to my Nightingale,
perhaps this flower garden was not worth strolling in]



This is the first example we've seen of a verse in which the lover speaks as a bird. There are many others. The bird is almost the only non-human creature into which the speaker/lover inserts his own voice.

Of the two possible readings of tah-e baal , it's easy to see how 'on the wing' would contrast with 'wing-and-feather-lessness'. But if tah-e baal is taken as 'with head hidden under wing', then what would be the contrast with the 'power' of 'wing-and-feather-lessness'? Would this 'power' be the chance to make a great show of weakness, and thus blackmail the strong? Or the ability to look out at the world philosophically, with less urge to project one's ego? Or an insight into the true nature of life? Perhaps the verse hints at some great missed opportunity-- that kind that's seen only when it's too late to use it.

Or perhaps there really is no such power-- rather than never 'testing' its capacity, the speaker literally never 'saw' it. Perhaps then the second line is the cause, and the first the result, instead of the other way around. On this reading, it's out of despair that the bird hides its head under its wing-- because it realizes the futility of any attempt to act. But then, as SRF points out, in order to hide its head under its wing, the bird must have a wing, so in what sense is it wing-and-feather-less?

A verse like this, so submerged in 'mood' and melancholy, would never deign to answer such questions. It's the kind of verse you keep thinking you're just about to get a grip on, but then it slides away again. But it's got a kind of hypnotic appeal-- you always feel like trying again. So isn't that a form of irresistibility in itself? (It also feels very Ghalibian.)