kiyaa thaa re;xtah pardah su;xan kaa
so ;Theraa hai yihii ab fan hamaaraa

1) we had made Rekhtah the veil/tone/pretext of speech/poetry
2) thus only/emphatically this has now been established as our art/skill



pardah : 'A curtain, screen, cover, veil, anything which acts as a screen, a wall, hangings, tapestry; film, fine web, pellicle, lid (of the eye); drum (of the ear); sail (of a ship); ... secrecy, privacy, modesty; seclusion, concealment; secret, mystery, reticence, reserve; screen, shelter, pretext, pretence; a musical tone or mode; a note of the gamut; the frets of a guitar, &c.'. (Platts p.246)


pardah : 'A veil, curtain, tapestry, caul, film, membrane; a partition between two rooms; the walls of a tent; a fence or wall for dividing fields; a coating, a layer, a lamina; the sky; a plait, fold; a musical tone or sound, a note; a melody; the key of an organ, harpsichord, or similar instrument; frets or divisions upon the neck or finger-board of a guitar or lute; modesty'. (Steingass p.241)


su;xan : 'Speech, language, discourse, word, words; —thing, business, affair (syn. baat ): (Platts p.645)


fan : 'A craft; an art; a science; an accomplishment; skill, sagacity (syn. hunar ); —art, artifice, cunning, wile, trick, ruse, manœuvre, stratagem'. (Platts p.784)

S. R. Faruqi:



From the word pardah the thought arises that in Mir's mind might have been this famous [Persian] verse of Maulana-e Rum's:

'It's better that the words of the beloveds' secrets
should be spoken by means of the words of others.'

But in Mir's verse there are a number of points. He adopted poetry composition because he wanted to draw a curtain over his real thoughts. But what those real thoughts were, and why he considered it necessary to place them behind a veil, or to speak of them guardedly-- this has not been expressed. That is, here too he has placed that same veil-- the one for the sake of which we had adopted poetry composition. The thing which we had adopted as a veil or an excuse-- that very thing people have declared to be our skill/art, or we ourselves made into our skill/art.

In this there's a kind of sorrow, but a greater sorrow is that the real thoughts were never able openly to be expressed. In the word vuhii allusions to both kinds are present. That is, Rekhtah has been established as our skill/art, or hiding thoughts has been established as our skill/art. Because the point of the second line can also be that in reality Rekhtah is not our skill/art. Rather, we made Rekhtah a veil for speech.

That is, a style of concealment of thoughts was established as our skill/art, as though our whole life passed in secret-keeping and the concealment of thoughts. Mankind is called the speaking animal; thus for him what greater sorrow could there be than to have devices for, instead of the expression of thoughts, the concealment of thoughts, to be established as his art/skill? The necessity of concealing one's condition might perhaps be in order to establish a 'dignified silence', as in this verse from the first divan:


The wordplay of 'Rekhtah', 'speech' (that is, poetry), and 'art/skill' is clear. He's composed a peerless verse.

It was a saying of Mir's French contemporary Voltaire that speech has been vouchsafed to man so that he would be able to keep his true thoughts hidden; and about two hundred years after Voltaire, I. A. Richards, in his book The Meaning of Meaning has written that there are only two choices. Either we remain deficient in presenting our inner thoughts, or else we say precisely something that's not what we intend. In the light of these thoughts, Mir's verse becomes even more enjoyable.

Qa'im has taken Mir's second line almost entirely. But in the first line he has presented an absolutely different theme, and has used it most effectively:

havas se ham kiyaa thaa ((ishq avval
vuhii aa;xir ko ;Theraa fan hamaaraa

[out of desire, we had fallen in love, initially
only/emphatically that, finally, was established as our art/skill]

The final point is that in Mir's verse between re;xtah and pardah there's the connection of a zila. Because one meaning of re;xtah is 'having fallen', and for a veil the word 'to cause to fall' is used.

[See also {610,5}; {1050,19}.]



The second line strongly emphasizes the yihii , but what exactly is the 'only/emphatically this'? The first line foregrounds the wonderfully multivalent word pardah (see the two definitions above), and invites us to explore its possibilities. Did the speaker make Rekhtah into a 'veil', a 'mystery', a 'pretext, pretense', or a 'musical tone or mode'? Or how about Steingass's additions: a 'partition between two rooms', a 'coating, layer', a 'plait, fold', or the 'sky'? Something as protean as poetry could surely be imagined, in the context-free setting of a single short line, to be in some sense metaphorically 'made into' virtually any of these possibilities.

But even beyond the complexities of pardah , the yihii isn't easy to pin down. For it need not refer simply to Rekhtah; it could also refer to the process of making or converting the pardah of speech/poetry into Rekhtah (the speaker once did a clever trick of evasion or conversion, and now everybody insists on considering him a trickster). Perhaps the yihii refers to the 'art/skill' of such trickery? After all, the meanings of fan include 'artifice, cunning, wile, trick' (see the definition above). Perhaps what people noticed about the speaker's 'art/skill' was its concealingness; perhaps what they noticed was its covertly alluring (poetic) glimpses of revelation; perhaps what they noticed was its ingenuity; perhaps what they noticed was its musicality.

In short, since we don't know what the speaker made Rekhtah into, and we don't know why people turned his action into a profession for him, we don't know what he did and why they latched onto it. We don't even know whether they latched onto it approvingly or punitively. Nor do we know whether the speaker is proud, ashamed, amused, or indifferent. He could be making a show of false modesty; he could be overtly boasting. He could be explaining away his reputation; or he could be claiming to be the great poet that he is. This verse is particularly maddening in that the kind of information it pretends to give us, but then withholds, is just the kind we'd love to have.