jaane;N hai;N farsh-e rah tirii mat ;haal ;haal chal
ay rashk-e ;huur aadmiyo;N kii sii chaal chal

1) lives are the carpeting of your path/road-- don't move swiftly!
2) oh envy of the Houris, walk with a gait like that of humans



farsh : 'What is spread (of household furniture, &c.), carpeting, bedding; a carpet, a mattress, a bed; a mat; a floor-cloth; a pavement; —the floor, ground; a wide or spacious plain or place; the earth'. (Platts p.779)

S. R. Faruqi:

;haal ;haal = swiftly

In this verse there are several interesting aspects. The first is that ;haal ;haal is an extremely fresh word. It's based on an eastern [puurbii] idiom, in which ;haalii is used to mean 'quickly' and (for a gait) 'swiftly'. The earlier Delhi people used to say ;haal ;haal , meaning 'quickly, swiftly'. For example, from the Masnavi [sa;hr ul-bayaan] of Mir Hasan:

qadam apne ;hujro;N se baahar nikaal
kiyaa sab ne aa peshvaa ;haal ;haal

[setting their feet outside the chambers
they all offered greeting, swiftly]

But ;haal ;haal or ;haalii in this sense is not found in any of the early dictionaries; though they have certainly entered ;haalii ;haalii chalnaa . In the Taraqqi-e Urdu Board of Pakistan's dictionary, in this sense it is indeed present. Fallon has described it as 'Eastern'. Probably for this reason the 'trustworthy' dictionary-makers ignored it.

There's a famous Persian verse:

'Move slowly-- or rather, don't move!
Beneath your feet are thousands of lives.'

It's clear that Mir gained some benefit from the Persian. But Mir's tone is one of pleasantry and teasing. In the second line, to call the beloved 'envy of the Houris' and then to request her to 'walk with a gait like that of humans' is an enjoyable thing. An additional pleasure is that about a person of ordinary face and form they say 'he's a human being' [aadmii kaa bachchah hai]. Here, a beautiful person is being told to come down to the human level.

In the poetry of East and West, the beloved has been described as one who walks slowly and one who walks intoxicatedly. Urdu and Persian are not inflected/complicated by this, but here's a picture of the beloved's swift-gaitedness that is probably not available in any other poetry.

The reason for calling the beloved swift-moving is apparently not to be understood. The reason might perhaps be that with us the beloved is also called a highway robber, who does her work and then very quickly departs. Another reason can be that the beauty of the beloved's gait pierces down into the heart, as though there is sharpness [tezii] in her gait. From this sharpness, the vision of her swiftness [tezii] of gait too has been created.



The idea of a farsh-e rah is that the highly honored guest is provided with a special, temporary walkway of valuable carpets, so that upon arrival his or her precious feet won't even be allowed to touch the dirty, common, rough street or entry-way. Ghalib offers a wonderfully sarcastic version of such a carpet-path to the Advisor:


The present verse also offers some enjoyable script (and sound) effects: consider ;haal ;haal chal at the end of the first line, and chaal chal at the end of the second. Rarely have the constraints of an opening-verse been turned so cleverly into assets.

Note for translators: SRF's point about tezii as meaning both 'swiftness' and 'sharpness' finds a supporting counterpoint in aahistah , with its two senses of 'slowly' and 'gently'. In English in both cases these two senses seem quite separable, so a good translator should always be alert to the problem. There isn't any one ideal solution, since of course the context is determinative; if the context is vague, sometimes it might be best to use both words.