sub;hah-gardaa;N hii miir ham to rahe
dast-e kotaah taa sabuu nah gayaa

1) Mir, well, we remained only/emphatically prayer-bead-revolving
2) the 'short hand' didn't go as far as the flagon



sub;hah-gardaa;N : 'Turning or revolving the rosary; one who is counting his beads'. (Platts p.632)


daraaz-dast : 'Long-handed; (met.) oppressive, tyrannical'. (Platts p.510)


sabuu : 'Ewer, jar, pitcher, pot, cup, glass'. (Platts p.633)

S. R. Faruqi:

A tyrannous and injust person is called 'long-handed' [daraaz-dast], and sin is a kind of tyranny. That is, in order to commit sin, a 'long hand' is necessary. Taking advantage of this idiom, he has called his own hand 'short'. That is, his hand itself wasn't long enough that he could have reached out and picked up the flagon. Prayer-beads are a nearby thing-- he picked them up, and kept revolving them!



The prayer-beads are nearby, and thus available to the 'short hand'. To make the verse a little more complex, we could also note that the speaker is 'revolving' or 'turning around' the prayer-beads in his hand, to keep count of his prayers. The prayer-beads are round, and so are the mouths of the wine-glass and wine-flagon. And of course the flagon of wine is also 'going round', passing through various hands as it circulates among the drinkers.

We know that the short hand 'did not go' as far as the flagon, but we don't know whether it made the attempt and failed, or whether it didn't even make the attempt. Perhaps the speaker was resigned from the beginning to what he knew would have been a predestined failure, so he didn't even reach out and try. Or perhaps he is presenting himself as a religious person who doesn't wish to stretch out his hand toward something sinful? In that case, to express his piety in the form of humility ('I'm too humble and powerless to even have access to worldly pleasures') would be a further sign of proper modesty, since he wouldn't be flaunting his own virtue ('I'm too religious to lower myself to drink wine'). Or perhaps it's just a neutral account of facts, like a chronicle ('this humble one prayed, and didn't drink wine').

Without our knowing the idiomatic associations of dast-daraaz , the verse would have very little appeal. So here's another case of an idiom that hovers over and informs a verse, without being present in it.

Note for translation fans: That untranslatable to in the first line, which I've tried to suggest by 'well', gives the verse a feeling of colloquial informality, and an air of summing-up. 'Well' is really not very satisfactory. But then, no other choice is that satisfactory either.