baare sijdah adaa kiyaa tah-e te;G
kab se yih bojh mere sar par thaa

1) finally I performed a prostration beneath the sword--
2) for how long had this burden been on my head?!



sijdah : 'Prostration (in prayer, &c.); bowing so as to touch the ground with the forehead in adoration (esp. to God), adoration'. (Platts p.643)


adaa karnaa : 'To perform; accomplish; fulfil; discharge; liquidate, pay; to effect or accomplish satisfactorily, properly, &c.'. (Platts p.31)

S. R. Faruqi:

The wordplay of baare [which contains baar , 'burden, load'] and bojh is manifest. In order for the head to be cut off, to do a 'prostration' beneath the sword is also a fine metaphor. And for the head to be a burden on the head, or for it to be a burden on the head that the head is present, is also very fine.

By means of these same idioms, he has also expressed this theme like this, in the first divan:


But in this latter verse there are other kinds of wordplay and meaningfulness as well. These will be discussed at the proper time.



The first line might be setting us up for a very different kind of verse-- one with the feeling-tone of an 'elegy' [mar;siyah]. We could imagine the hero fighting to the limit of his powers, doing superhuman deeds, and finally, perhaps on an inner command from God, ceasing to fight and expressing religious devotion at the very point of death.

But as so often, the second line invites (and compels) us to go back and re-imagine the first line. In the light of the second line, we realize that to 'perform a prostration' means bending over, so as to facilitate the executioner's task. And it also conveys an expression of appreciation, and grateful submission. As well it should, for the second line makes clear how welcome is the prospect of removing a heavy burden that the speaker has been carrying on his head for so long that (as is clear through his rhetorical question) he can't even remember a time when he didn't have it.

What was the burden? Possibly the weight of his head itself, as SRF suggests. On that reading, the burden was the literal head itself that was 'on his head' in the metaphorical sense. (On this very literal reading, the grammar of the second line does seem a bit awkward.) Or else possibly the burden was the weight of the heavy thoughts that were 'on his mind'.

Or else possibly the burden might have been the metaphorical weight of death itself looming always over the head of a morbidly imaginative person-- as Shakespeare puts it (Henry IV part 2), 'we owe God a death'. The burden of obligation, the burden of indebtedness, can be a source of humiliation and shame; and the only way to escape from it is to surrender the petty little life that we 'owe' and get the whole thing over with in a satisfying, honorable way.