SRF's translation comes, with his permission, from Mir Taqi Mir: Selected Ghazals and Other Poems, translated by Shamsur Rahman Faruqi. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2019. Murty Classical Library of India; Sheldon Pollock, General Editor. Ghazal 104, pp. 299-301.

S. R. Faruqi:

(1) Whose mosque? What winehouses? Where the shaikhs, where the young men?
All were destroyed, blind-drunk, when you rolled your dark eyes just once.

(2) Yourself and her waist? Don't even think of comparing them!
Rose-vein, don't bother--don't vainly twist and turn.

[A slender waist has always been regarded as an important component of beauty. The waist was imagined to be extremely slender, like the veins in a flower petal, or even a strand of hair.]

(3) Keeping the eyes shut tight is the truest act of seeing in this life.
A bubble can't see a thing when it opens its eye.

(4) May you live on, oh saqi, with the world and our perpetual intoxication!
Let the wine-duck unfurl its wings, let the wine colors fly everywhere.

["Wine-duck": a wine goblet fashioned in the shape of a duck.]

(5) Life has spice and flavor because of you, because of you life's salt is more pungent.
Stay a while, time of youth, stay! Old age is bounding forward.

(6) Was a cowardly life, safe in the sanctuary, really worthy of the deer in the Kaaba?
He should have been out to be slaughtered by the sword or burnt over fire like a kebab.

["The deer in the Kaaba": nothing, not even an insect, is permitted to be killed in the Kaaba. The "cowardly deer of Kaaba," living a life of safety in the Kaaba, is a conceit derived from this custom. Being wounded, or being killed (by the beloved) is life's chief and highest aim. The deer in the Kaaba escapes harm and thus lives a cowardly life.]

(7) What availed my complexion, which faded? What availed the messenger I entrusted with my letter?
Was any reply ever brought from her but a clear, resounding "No"?

(8) Woe to living this life, and oh my intoxication! Now the sky revolves to another phase:
the wineglass goes round upon evil times and the winehouse is in ruins.

(9) I can't recognize even the letters of the alphabet without the aid of a blunt pen to trace them on a tablet.
I'm still learning the alphabet, what account could I give of gnosis?

["Blunt pen": chob-e harfi: literally, a stick for the letters. Before children were taught writing, they were made to gain acquaintance with the shape of each letter by being made to carefully run a blunt piece of reed-like wood on each letter as written on the practice page or tablet--something like a series of dry runs, which avoided smudging the actual page. This verse is typical of a mode that Mir sometimes adopted: to use arcane meanings of words when the theme of the verse itself is light, if not trite and plain. Here the extremely rare phrase chob-e harfi is followed up with shinasa'i to mean "gnosis" and hisab to mean "concern." The meanings are valid, but quite unknown to the average native speaker.]

(10) Please don't tumble down from the eyelashes, my bright tear.
You'll lose your pearl-like high water for no gain at all.

(11) It's nothing at all. Don't be deceived by the high waves of the sea of life, oh Mir.
It seems an ocean from afar but is actually a mirage.



(inspired by SRF's translation)

(1) Whose mosque? What winehouses? Which elders and youths?
In a single flash of your black eyes-- all blind-drunk, all overthrown.

(2) Where are you, and where is her waist? Look-- don't get excited,
oh rose-vein, and twist and turn like that!

(3) In this life, to keep the eyes closed is the best part of seeing.
Nothing comes into view, when a bubble opens its eye.

(4) May there be you and the world, oh Cupbearer-- and me and endless intoxication!
May the wine-duck unfurl its wings, may the color of wine soar!

(5) You make life savory, from you comes its relish!
Stay a bit longer, oh youthfulness-- old age is bearing down.

(6) Since when was this cowardice worthy of a deer of the sanctuary?
He should have gone out to be slain by a sword, or burnt into a kabob!

(7) What use my pallid face, or the Messenger bearing my letter?
Did she ever send anyone any reply, except a clear flat 'No'?

(8) Woe to this life, oh intoxication-- that as the heavens revolve
the glass of wine would turn bitter, and the winehouse would be wrecked!

(9) Without using a tracing-pen, I don't even recognize 'A, B, C'.
I am a learner of letters-- what account can I give of gnosis?

(10) Don't drop down now from the eyelashes, oh shining wet tear!
Your pearl-gleam will steadily go-- for nothing.

(11) It's nothing! Don't be fooled by the waves of the sea of life, Mir.
From afar, it looks like an ocean-- but it's a mirage.


Zahra Sabri:

Zahra Sabri is a special guest translator for this site.

(1) What mosque? What winehouse? What venerable elder or callow youth?
Each laid to waste through one glance from your intoxicating black eyes

(2) You and her waist – miles apart! Don’t work yourself up
Writhing and twisting, oh rose-vein. Observe clearly.

(3) To keep the eyes shut in this worldly existence is the very essence of sight
Nothing is visible when the bubble opens its eye

(4) Let there be you and me, oh cupbearer, and the world and everlasting drunkenness
Let the wine-duck spread its wings, and let the colour of wine soar

(5) Because of you, there is piquant beauty, and spice and attraction
Oh era of youth, linger a bit; old age is firmly on its way

(6) How did this timidity behove the ‘deer of the holy sanctuary’?
It were better for him to be slaughtered by the sword, or roasted on the flame

(7) What could come of my lost colour? What could come of the messenger entrusted with my letter?
When has anyone brought from her any other reply but a clear ‘No’?

(8) Woe to such a life, oh drunkenness, where in the revolving of the heavens
The wineglass suffers a turn for the worse, and the winehouse is ruined!

(9) I don’t recognise ‘Alif, Be’ without the aid of an ‘alphabet-stick’
I’m still a learner of letters, what can I say of gnosis?

(10) Now don’t spill down from the eyelashes, oh glimmering teardrop
You would be losing your pearl-like gleam for nothing

(11) It’s nothing – don’t be fooled, “Mir”, by the billows of the world’s ocean
Though from afar it appears to be the sea, it is a mirage