tan ke ma((muure me;N yihii dil-o-chashm
ghar the do so ;xaraab hai;N dono;N

1) in the town of the body, only/emphatically this heart and eye--
2) there were two houses-- so they are ruined/wretched, both



ma((muurah : 'An inhabited, or a well-peopled, place; —a cultivated spot, or a well-cultivated, or delightful, spot'. (Platts p.1050)


so : '—adv. & conj. So, so that, therefore, hence, consequently, accordingly; but then; thereupon; now, well'. (Platts p.690)


;xaraab : 'Ruined, spoiled, depopulated, wasted, deserted, desolate; abandoned, lost, miserable, wretched; bad, worthless, vitiated, corrupt, reprobate, noxious, vicious, depraved, profligate; defiled, polluted, contaminated'. (Platts p.487)

S. R. Faruqi:

In calling heart and eye 'houses', there are several subtleties. (1) He gives for both heart and eye the simile of 'house'. For the 'house of the eye' [;xaanah-e chashm] there are two meanings: the circle of the eye, and that house which is called an 'eye'. (2) For both heart and eye the idiom of rahnaa is used (to 'remain' in the heart, to 'remain' in the eye, etc.); and rahnaa is also used for living in a house. (3) When he called the body a ma((muurah , then of course that implied a house. And in the whole body, only heart and eye are organs such that they are given the simile of a house, within which one can speak idiomatically of someone's 'remaining', or from which one can speak of someone's departing, and so on.

Now let's consider the meaning. The word yihii bears a special power. In it there's suggestion, and force, and with regard to tone there's also sadness. There's also a simple narrative of what has passed away, and also a view of the speaker's own condition and the arrangement of the cosmos. For example, consider these possibilities:

(1) There were emphatically these two houses (gesturing toward the houses).

(2) There were only these two houses (that is, there were no others; giving force).

(3) Alas, that there were only/emphatically these two houses!

(4) There were only/emphatically two houses (a simple statement, devoid of emotion).

(5) There were only two houses (and they too are now ruined-- sadness).

(6) There were two houses (and the age/world didn't leave even those safe-- sarcasm at the arrangement of the cosmos).

(7) There were two houses (and they too are now ruined-- confusion).

In short, the word yihii has created a number of possibilities of meaning. To get many large tasks done by a small word is Mir's special style.

For example, look at this verse of Dard's:

so bhii nah tuu ko))ii dam dekh sakaa ay falak
aur to yaa;N kuchh nah thaa ek magar dekhnaa

[even so, you weren't able to look for a moment, oh sky
there was nothing else here; but do look at the one!]

Undoubtedly the verse is very fine. There is meaning, and there's also 'mood'. The theme resembles Mir's, but it doesn't have Mir's depths/complexities, and it doesn't have the style of using small words with even more than their whole power.

But we haven't yet finished looking at the meaning in Mir's verse. Consider the following points: (1) He hasn't told us the reason for the ruin of heart and eye. In this way, a new string of possibilities has been created. (2) He hasn't told us the nature of the ruin-- that is, what kind of ruin it was. In this way an additional string of possibilities has been created. (3) He has mentioned the past and the present, but he's left out the future. In this way, a third string of possibilities has been created. The beauty that has been created in the verse on the basis of these points-- if you want to understand it fully, then look at this verse on the very same theme by Jigar Sahib:

jab se us ne pher lii;N na:zre;N rang-e tabaahii aah nah puuchh
siinah ;xaalii aa;Nkhe;N viiraa;N dil kii ;haalat kyaa kahye

[every since she turned away her gaze, the style of destruction-- ah, don't ask!
the breast empty, the eyes desolate; the state of the heart-- what can one say]

Having seen people wracking their brains over this verse of Jigar's, the thought came to me that in every age, poets are born according to the understanding of poetry. In Mir's age people were better at understanding poetry, thus Mir was born. Our own poetic understanding was perhaps not entitled to a poet any better than Jigar Sahib. (Jigar Sahib himself had included this verse in his selection of his best poetry that he made for the Ghazal Number of 'Nigar' in 1941, edited by Niyaz Fatahpuri.) Now what more is there to say? Walt Whitman's saying comes to mind-- that for a great poet to appear, there must also be great listeners.

[See also {490,1}.]



In the town of the body, yihii heart and eye-- the first line is so stripped down that it's unable even to offer us a verb. And for a ma((muurah , a 'well-peopled' or 'well-cultivated' place (see the definition above), to have only two houses, both of which are in ruins, emphasizes the utter wretchedness of its present state. Plainly the 'town' of the body is no longer a town at all. There 'were' two houses, they 'are' both in ruins. The change of state has apparently been caused by some unspecified, and therefore all the more intriguing and ominous, disaster. Perhaps one of the few surviving locals, shocked and distraught, is showing the wreckage to a visitor. His initial account provides, in lieu of an explanation, only the utterly vague and uninformative so (see the definition above; it's always interested me that the Urdu so is often very much like the English 'so').

SRF emphasizes the flexibility of the yihii in creating seven different possibilities for reading the verse. Apart from the versatile nature of hii with its variant meanings of 'only' and 'emphatically', most of these are generated by differences of tone. He praises the verse particularly for using its semantic simplicity to create such complexity in the form of multiple possibilities of tone. I thoroughly agree with him, and to me it seems that many other verses offer the same wide range of possibilities-- including a number that SRF presents as conveying only one particular tone. For discussion of this question, see {724,2}.