baaham hu))aa kare;N hai;N din raat niiche uupar
yih narm-shaane lau;N;De hai;N ma;xmal-e do-;xvaabaa

1) mutually they always become, day [and] night, below [and] above
2) these soft-shouldered boys/rascals are two-napped velvet



lau;N;Daa : 'A boy, lad; a son; a brat; a page; —a slave; —a catamite'. (Platts p.971)


do-;xvaabah : 'Having two naps (as cloth); —a kind of double-napped cloth'. (Platts p.529)

S. R. Faruqi:

This verse is an example of Mir's command of poetry. Because despite the nakedness of the subject and the style of expression, the kind of weakness/languour has not come into the verse, examples of which can be seen in Jur'at and Insha. The poet indeed takes pleasure in the idea of the two soft-shouldered boys' intimacy and companionship, but in the verse there's no 'mood' of lip-smacking or personal relish. Rather, there's a kind of light sarcasm.

The meaning of narm-shaanah is 'weak, unable to lift much weight'. Asi has taken it in the sense of 'docile, easily persuaded'; or it's possible that Asi might have considered it synonymous with narm-gardan , which means 'obedient'. Varastah has, in mu.s:tala;haat-e shu((araa , provided a [Persian] verse of Talib Amuli's in which narm-shaanah means 'weak' and 'with bowed shoulders'. Since the shoulders of young boys usually aren't entirely straight, Mir's usage seems very fine. In my opinion Mir has here used the term not as an idiom, and not in a metaphorical sense, but rather in its dictionary meaning of 'having soft and delicate shoulders'.

As a further proof of this idea, Mir has versified narm-shaanah in this way in the fourth divan as well [{1484,8}]:

chhuu sakte bhii nahii;N hai;N ham lip;Te baal us ke
hai;N shaanah-giir se jo yih la;Rke narm-shaanah

[we cannot even touch his coiled hair,
since they are as if shoulder-seizing, these soft-shouldered boys]





Here's a verse of complete and spectacular wordplay. It's also a consummate example of what I call a 'mushairah' verse. Really the whole delight of the verse is wrapped up in 'two-napped velvet'.

The first line presents us with both the idea of sustained unity ('mutually', 'always'), and a maximal set of oppositions ('day night', 'below above'). But who are they, and what do they become? It's even possible that it's 'day and night' that constantly grapple with each other in this way. We wait with real curiosity for the second line-- which of course is, under mushairah performance conditions, delayed as long as possible.

Then even when we hear the second line, not until the last possible moment do we actually, suddenly, with a burst of delight, grasp the whole meaning. For 'two-napped velvet' pulls it all together: the sustained mutuality, the cosmic two-facedness (day and night, below and above), the two 'soft-shouldered' boys. (The same kind of structural trick is used in


So potent is the 'two-napped velvet' that even in English it generates an enjoyable bit of wordplay, for just as in Urdu the word for the nap or pile of a fabric [;xvaab] is also the word for sleep/dream, so in English the word 'nap' alludes-- quite coincidentally-- to a brief rest or sleep. And of course the idea of sleep has an affinity with 'night', and reminds us of the boys' sexual intimacy ('above and below').

Moreover, the series in the first line of 'day night below above' is such a treat in itself! It evokes the lovers' constant rolling around together, and at the same time invites us to imagine something cosmic. Velvet itself is soft and caressing, and two-sided or 'two-napped' velvet is the perfect paradoxical combination of difference (the two sides face in opposite directions, like day/night and below/above) and union (without both members of such pairs, neither could have its own identity).

This is the first verse SRF has chosen for commentary in which the 'beloveds' are imagined as beautiful boys. Needless to say-- at least, I hope it's needless-- verses of this kind, like ghazal verses in general, are based on highly stylized traditional 'themes'; they give us absolutely zero information about Mir's own sexual tastes or interests. Ghalib too has composed such verses (see G{9,2} for a list), and so have all the classical ghazal poets. A helpful theoretical article: C. M. Naim, "Homosexual (Pederastic) Love in Pre-Modern Urdu Poetry" (Urdu Texts and Contexts: The Selected Essays of C. M. Naim, New Delhi: Permanent Black, 2004, pp. 19-41).

Other verses of Mir's in which the beloved is imagined as a beautiful youth include: {12,3}, mu;G-bachche ; {77,9}, lauding the boy's charm even after he has down on his cheeks; {101,7}**, with further discussion, {102,2}; {108,1}*; {111,1}; {111,8}; {132,9}; {132,10}; {149,1}, tifl-e mu:trib ; {192,8}; {239,3}, mu;G-bachchah [many other verses have this as well]; {239,5}; {263,1}; {263,5}; {270,9}; {289,4}; {314,3}; {315,8}; {325,1}, mu:trib pisar ; {355,8}; {357,6}; {380,6}, lau;N;De dillii ke ; {394,3}, mu;G-bachcho;N ; {401,9}; {423,9}; {502,2}; {502,4}, a verse by Zafar; {510,6}; {518,6}; {523,9}; {548,5}; {561,1}; {584,11}, Delhi; {664,4}; {686,3}; {706,5}; {706,6}; {745,3}; {746,4}; {750,4}; {773,4}; {798,4}; {800,1}; {806,1}; {823,4}; {862,2}, zar-gar pisar ; {868,3}; {871,3}; {901,1}; {918,6}; {923,5}, Yusuf or his brother; {932,1}; {934,2}, turban; {935,6}; {938,5}, mi((maar kaa la;Rkaa ; {939,1}; {940,3}; {942,7}; {945,7}; {948,5}; {977,7}, mu;G-bachah ; {978,4}; {984,5}; {987,2}; {991,5}, boys of Delhi; {992,8}, muftii kaa lau;N;Daa ; {993,7}; {1003,12}; {1013,6}; {1026,12}, :tifl-e maktab ; {1051,3}, sayyid-pisar ; {1058,1}; {1062,9}; {1074,2}; {1079,6}*; {1081,1}; {1102,1}, turk-e sipaahii ; {1102,6}; {1120,1}, boys of Delhi; {1122,7}; {1164,6}; {1171,7}; {1177,3}, sipaahii-zaade ; {1184,6}; {1185,11}, javaa;N ; {1195,3}; {1203,4}; {1220,7}; {1225,6}; {1227,4}, newly downy-cheeked; {1231,4}; {1244,7}; {1259,2}; {1267,2}; {1273,6}; {1273,6}; {1274,5}; {1277,1}; {1291,4}; {1299,1}; {1313,4}; {1397,1}; {1422,4}; {1450,5}*, dhobi's boy; {1457,7}, perfumer's boy; {1473,5}; {1496,8}; {1505,2}, sipaahii kaa pisar ; {1514,1}, afsaanah-;xvaa;N kaa la;Rkaa ; {1529,2}, mu;G-bachcho;N ; {1548,2}; {1554,6}, turk-bachah ; {1559,4}; {1562,6}; {1571,7}; {1574,2}, turban; {1579,5}, turk-bachaa ; {1590,7}, hinduu bacho;N ; {1593,6}, turk-bachchah ; {1620,5}, baa;Gbaa;N pisar ; {1622,3}; {1626,4}; {1642,4}; {1663,2}, nau-;xa:t ; [{1664,6}, tear-child (not erotic)]; {1689,5}, hinduu bachcho;N ; {1696,5}; {1711,2}; {1717,3}; {1723,6}; {1736,6}, .sayyaad-bachchah ; {1780,7}, ((a:t:taar kaa la;Rkaa ; {1782,7}, mu;G-bachchah ; {1801,4}; [{1806,1}]; {1814,1}, mu;Gal-zaa ; {1822,4}; {1852,4}, sabzah-e ;xa:t ; {1858,8}, mu;G-bachche ; {1879,9}, barahman-zaadagaa;N ; {1888,5}; {1898,9}; {1900,3}, la;Rke bahramano;N ke ; {1904,5}; {1904,7}, general reflection; {1907,3}; {1912,5}; {1914,3}, down emerging on cheek

On the spelling of do-;xvaabah as do-;xvaabaa , see {60,1}.