sabz hotii hii nahii;N yih sar-zamii;N
tu;xm-e ;xvaahish dil me;N tuu botaa hai kyaa

1) it only/emphatically isn't [habitually] green, this land!
2) the seed of longing/desire-- what!-- do you sow it in the heart?!



S. R. Faruqi:

The image of the 'tree of longing/desire', which is similar to the image of the present verse, Mir has versified in the second divan like this:


and like this [{929,3}]:

phuulaa phalaa nah ab tak hargiz dara;xt-e ;xvaahish
barso;N hu))e kih duu;N huu;N ;xuun-e dil us shajar ko

[up till now it absolutely never flowered or fruited, the tree of desire
for years I've given the blood of the heart to that tree]

But in both these verses the idea has become a bit explicit. The same thing has happened to this verse from the first divan, in which the image of the 'seed of hope' has been used [{513,6}]:

mat kar zamiin-e dil me;N tu;xm-e umiid .zaa))i((
bo;Taa jo yaa;N ugaa hai so ugte hii jalaa hai

[don't waste, in the ground of the heart, the seed of hope
whatever was sown here and sprouted-- the moment it sprouted, it has burned up]

By contrast, in the present verse the appropriate idiom sabz hotii hii nahii;N has brought together past, present, and future. And he's put the word 'heart' in the second line. Because of the ambiguity, in the first line, there's a dramatic expectation. When this expectation is fulfilled by the 'heart' in the second line (that is, that ground that will never be green is our heart), then one feels something like a shock.

The ambiguity of the addressee here is also very fine. 1) The speaker is addressing himself. 2) The speaker is addressing some other individual (for example, us ourselves). 3) The speaker is addressing the whole world. Compare



It's possible that Mir obtained the image of the sowing of seeds in the breast from the [Persian] verse of Zuhuri that has been noted in the discussion of {71,4}.

Ghalib too has well presented the theme of the present verse:


Mir has well employed the image of seed-sowing in one more place; see


The theme of sowing seeds in the heart, perhaps Hafiz was the first one to use, and in truth he has used it [in Persian] finely:

'In my side I have made, like eyes, hundreds of canals,
because of this seed of love that I want to sow in my heart.
I weep, and from this tear-flowing fountain my goal is
that seed of love that I want to sow in your heart.'

Urfi has given to this theme a new style [in Persian]:

'Her beauty, even unseen, engendered love in my heart,
This seed grows even without being sown-- bravo to it!'

All these verses are fine, but Mir's 'tumult-arousingness' and meaningfulness are both, in their way, equal to any of the others.

The image of sowing seed in a brackish ground Sauda too has used, but in his theme there's no 'mood':

gar yaar ke saamne mai;N royaa to kyaa
mizhgaa;N me;N jo la;xt-e dil paroyaa to kyaa

yih daanah-e ashk sabz honaa ma((luum
us shor zamii;N me;N tu;xm boyaa to kyaa

[if, before the beloved, I wept, then so what?
if I strung heart-fragments in the eyelashes, then so what?
as if this seed of tears would become green!
in that brackish ground, if you sowed seed, then so what?]

Sauda's first two lines are ineffective-- or rather, useless.

In Mir's verse the 'seed of longing/desire' is also devastating. In the heart there are no longings; now he wants to sow longings in it. But the heart is such barren ground that there no longing, no yearning, can flower or fruit. The question is, what are the seeds of longing? That is, what are those things such that if they would be in the heart, then longing would grow up? It's clear that they are passion and its necessities.

Or else, again, they are hopes. If they are passion and its necessities, then they can also be the beloved's sharp eyelashes that have pierced the heart. If they are hopes, then they are those hopes that will have been created before passion. That is, the hopes of locking eyes with someone, of loving someone-- so to speak, the commotion of love.

In the third line of Sauda's quatrain he has said clearly that this seed cannot become green. Now in the final line there was no need to say 'brackish ground'. Both lines create an effect only because each has its own individual power. Mir's whole verse is the bearer of an uncommon unity.

[See also {667,16}.]



The idiomatic punch of this verse is almost impossible to capture in translation, so I've gone for clunky literalism as usual. But the real tone of the verse is so exasperated, annoyed, even petulant or sulky, that it's a pure delight. The flavor of the verse is something like 'Damn it, this wretched plot of ground-- no matter what you do to it, it just won't get green! Why even bother to waste seed on such a godawful barren patch?!'

And in contrast to the vivid specificity of the mood, the particulars of the situation are un-pin-downable. Consider especially the readings of botaa hai kyaa . Thanks to the 'kya effect', they include:

='Do you sow?' (are you really committing such a folly?)
='What do you sow?' (you're sowing some weird kind of seed)
='How you sow!' (you devote so much zeal to such a vain cause)
='As if you sow!' (you're no fool, you know better than to bother)

Note for grammar fans: We could also read the to as tuu , but then we'd unbalance the wonderful idiomatic flow of the line, and we wouldn't gain anything in particular.