gosh-e diivaar tak to jaa naale
us me;N gul ko bhii kaan hote hai;N

1) go as far as the ear/corner of the wall, oh lament!
2) in it, even/also the rose [habitually] {'has ears' / receives advice}



kaan honaa : 'To have ears'; to understand, comprehend; to get a lesson, to be warned by experience'. (Platts p.806)


iihaam : 'Causing a blunder, deceiving, misleading, puzzling; exciting suspicion; omission, neglect; ambiguity, amphibology; insinuation'. (Steingass p.134)

S. R. Faruqi:

On the foundation of [the proverbial sayings] diivaar ke bhii kaan hote hai;N or [the Persian] diivaar ham gosh daarad he has assumed that the walls have ears, and has said to the lament, 'at least go and arrive as far as the ears of the garden wall'. The buds of flowers are given the simile of ears, and it's said that despite its ears, the flower is deaf, because it doesn't hear the lament of the Nightingale.

Then, kaan honaa is an idiom; it means 'for reproof/admonition to take place'; thus if the lament would arrive as far as the ears of the wall, then the flowers too will receive the reproof (that is, the flowers too will 'have ears'). It's an enjoyable verse. He has used the metaphor in its dictionary meaning, as often happens in an iham.

If we reflect a bit more, then we realize that in this verse, in addition to 'meaning-creation' based on an iham, there's also meaning-creation based on the theme. Mir as a poet is so dangerous that if we don't give full attention to his verse, then it remains possible that we might not do full justice to the verse.

In this verse, by meaning-creation based on the theme I mean that in the situation expressed by it there are several 'implications' and several possibilities:

1) The speaker is saying this to some singer or some bird.

2) The speaker is himself a singer or a bird.

3) The speaker or his addressee is in a cage, so that his voice doesn't arrive within the garden.

4) The speaker or his addressee is outside the garden, and has no permission to go as far as the garden or into the garden.

5) The lament is so soft that its sound doesn't go far; thus it is being told to become loud enough to reach as far as the ear of the wall.

6) Because of the 'connection' between the raisedness [bulandii] of the voice and the height [bulandii] of the wall, between 'lament' and 'wall' there's the relationship of a zila.

7) Since gosh can also mean goshah ['corner'], between it and 'wall' too there's the relationship of a zila.

8) The tone of the first line is prayerful; that is, 'oh lament, go as far as the ear of the wall'.

9) We can also take to to be tuu -- that is, ay naale tuu gosh-e diivaar tak jaa . In this situation too there can be a prayerful tone, but an imperious tone is dominant. If we don't read it as tuu , then a prayerful tone or a tone of longing is dominant.

This theme Mir has changed just a bit and composed in the fourth divan [{1462,9}]:

shor nahii;N yaa;N suntaa ko))ii miir qafas ke asiiro;N kaa
gosh nahii;N diivaar-e chaman ke gul ke shaayad kaan nahii;N

[here no one hears the noise, Mir, of the prisoners of the cage
the garden wall has no ears; perhaps the rose does not 'have ears']

A historical note on iham: The history of Urdu literature has become filled with suppositions and hypothetical statements. Among them is the supposition that in the beginning of the eighteenth century in Delhi a movement called iihaam-go))ii was very popular. Then under the influence of Mirza Maz'har Jan-e Janan, etc. the iham-go poets themselves (for example, Shah Hatim) changed their style. Gradually iham-go'i was finished off, and in its place the style of the Delhi-vale became a simple, informal, and 'mood'-filled expression of emotions and feelings.

As proof of this claim, no count of verses is presented (for example, after 1750 in the work of such and such poets, in (say) eighty or ninety percent of verses there's no iham). Nor is a count presented of the verses of the iham-go poets (for example, Abru, Naji, the early Shah Hatim)-- that in them (say) fifty percent of the verses contain iham. What our critics and historians do is that while resting on the bolster of a handful of verses and their expressions, they pronounce the decree that up till such and such a time iham-go'i remained popular, then after that it was taken to be rejected and repudiated.

The truth is that iham-go'i was never rejected. And how would it have been? Iham is in reality wordplay [ri((aayat], and wordplay is a means for 'meaning-creation'. And one of the great excellences of our language is that in it there are many possibilities for wordplay and affinity; no creative temperament, while knowing the language, can draw away its garment-hem from iham and wordplay. A good poet keeps in view all the possibilities of the language, and brings them into play in order to create 'the pleasure of poetry'. (In connection with 'pleasure', see


In any case, among the verses that are presented as proofs of the decline of iham-go'i, some are noted here. Sauda:

yak-rang huu;N aatii nahii;N ;xvush mujh ko do-rangii
munkir su;xan-o-shi((r me;N iihaam kaa huu;N mai;N

[I am one-colored; two-coloredness does not please me
I am a rejecter, in poetry and poetics, of iham]

This verse is in fact a 'reply' to the following verse by Dard; it has no special relationship with a rejection of iham:

az baskih ham ne naam duu))ii kaa mi;Taa diyaa
ay dard apne vaqt me;N iihaam rah gayaa

[although we erased the name of doubleness
oh Dard, in our time iham remained]

Dard is saying that 'we erased the name of doubleness everywhere; now only in poetry iham has remained, and no doubleness anywhere'. Sauda gives to this the reply that 'I am so one-colored that even in poetry I don't accept iham'. It can also be interpreted as saying, 'I don't believe in the existence of iham'. That is, it's not necessarily the case that Sauda would be saying that iham is bad. In any case, even if it would be assumed that Sauda means this and only this: that 'I don't like iham', Dard's verse is present-- and the enjoyable thing is that in it is an iham, because one meaning of rah gayaa is also 'became useless, became abandoned', etc.

Moreover, Dard is a later poet than the iham-go poets like Abru, Naji, Yakrang. And in both Dard's and Sauda's poetry, there's commonly plenty of iham to be seen. There's iham in the verse of Sauda's above, in which iihaam kaa huu;N mai;N = iihaam kahuu;N mai;N .

As proof of the rejection of iham, this verse of Mir's is often (more often than Sauda's verse) presented [{872,5}]:

kyaa jaanuu;N dil ko khe;Nche hai;N kyuu;N shi((r miir ke
kuchh :tarz aisii bhii nahii;N iihaam bhii nahii;N

[how would I know why Mir's verses grip the heart
they don't even have any such style, they don't even have iham]

In connection with this verse, the first point is that it's from the second divan. This divan was prepared after 1752 and before 1775. Thus at that time iham-go'i was so important that Mir was compelled to mention it. The second point is that this verse is in fact a praise of iham-- that Mir's verses don't even have iham, but even so his verses grip the heart. That is, iham is the kind of thing that when present draws the heart toward the verse. The third point is that in Mir's poetry there's no lack of iham. In the present verse, there's a 'faux-naïf' attitude [tajaahul-e ((aarifaanah].

Shah Hatim has a verse from 1746:

kahtaa hai .saaf-o-shustah su;xan baskih be-talaash
;haatim ko is sabab nahii;N iihaam par nigaah

[he composes clear and pure poetry to such an extent, without searching
for this reason, Hatim does not have his eye on iham]

From this verse it is undoubtedly learned that if without effort or searching, clear poetry would be obtained, then why would one adopt iham (in which in any case there can be a need for effort and searching). That is, in it iham is not presented as bad. Indeed, there's certainly a mention of more kinds of possibilities besides iham. It's a separate matter that even after 1746, Shah Hatim kept on composing verses based on iham.

A verse from that period [after 1746] by In'amullah Khan Yaqin is:

shaa((irii hai laf:z-o-ma((nii se tirii lekin yaqii;N
kaun samjhe yaa;N to hai iihaam mazmuu;N kaa talaash

[your poetry is through word and meaning, but, Yaqin
who here understands the search for iham and theme?]

Two things are proved by this verse. One is that up to that time iham was very popular; and the other is that like Hatim, Yaqin too is speaking of other possibilities for verse-making.

The truth is that our classical poets, whether from Delhi or Lucknow, never renounced iham. In Mir's poetry a considerable amount of iham can be seen, and until the final period it's present. The reason that I've chosen the present verse for the intikhab is that apparently this verse has been composed only with regard to iham. In previous pages [of SSA] there are many examples of iham and zila (zila too is a part/division of iham) but there are no verses in which there would be only iham.



What surprises me is that SRF considers the addressee to be possibly a singer, or a bird; not until his fifth point does he take the addressee to be the lament itself. Yet as far as I can see, the first line is straightforward: the addressee is the 'lament'. That's why naalah (also spelled naalaa ) has gone to naale (the way be;Taa goes to be;Te ), as a vocative. The lament is addressed with the intimate imperative jaa ; whether we decide to read to or tuu , the basic grammar doesn't change.

I asked SRF about this, and he said (June 2015) that of course the literal addressee is the lament, but that 'since the producer of the naalah is not specified, we are free to imagine who it can be who is doing the naalah .' Apparently he wants us to imagine that the speaker is technically addressing the lament, but that he actually means for his words to be applied to the lament by some intermediate addressee who is the lament-producer. But this sounds awfully convoluted, and is unnecessary to the analysis of the verse.

Our English idiom 'the walls have ears' is so subliminally powerful (and ominous!) that it's hard to get beyond it; but of course we must. In Urdu, if walls 'have ears' then they are not eavesdropping but are receiving advice, or heeding a useful admonition, or the like.

Note for translation fans: It's almost impossible to show helpfully in English the difference between jaa and tuu jaa . The only way to attempt the latter is to say not just 'go' but 'you go', which sounds more like an indicative ('You go to school, I know'). This reading is hard to prevent without creating further complexities, such as a sense of imperiousness or outrage ('You go to school this minute!') that is often inappropriate. It's better just to treat the two identically.