kah'h saa;Njh ke mu))e ko ai miir ro))e;N kab tak
jaise chiraa;G-e muflis ik dam me;N jal bujhaa hai

1) for one who has died in the evening, how long would/should we say 'oh Mir!' and weep?
2) like the lamp of a poor man, in a single moment/breath he has burned and gone out



ai : 'O! ho! holla! (used in calling or addressing); ah!'. (Platts p.111)

S. R. Faruqi:

This proverbial saying, saa;Njh ke mu))e ko kab tak ro))e;N , is not found in any dictionary. Although indeed, shaam ke murde ko kab tak ro))iye is found in the aa.sifiyah and the nuur ul-lu;Gaat . Platts has also given a form of it, shaam ke mare ko kab tak ro))iye . Since Platts's form could easily have been used in Mir's verse, it's clear that the form Mir used in his verse was not chosen because of the constraint of meter, but rather because he considered it too to be a correct form. If for no other reason, then on the warrant of Mir's usage it should have been entered into dictionaries.

This proverb is said at times when some grief, or difficulty, or quarrel, or complexity has persisted for so long that there's the possibility of its becoming chronic. That is, the quarrels or difficulties of a whole lifetime-- well, how long can anyone keep them fresh? The point is that this matter is such that it's not possible for it to be quickly resolved. Platts has written that the foundation of this proverb is on the fact that after a death at night, the body is not taken up. If the death is in the day, then the body would be taken up in the day itself and the weeping and wailing would cease. But if the death is at night, then the funeral procession will set out on the following day; thus weeping and wailing will continue for the whole night.

Taking this form of the proverb, look at how excellently Mir has created a new metaphor. In a poor man's lamp the oil would be a small amount; thus it would go out in the course of the evening itself. Mir too, like a poor man's lamp, quickly, in the course of the evening-- that is, in the time of his youth-- surrendered his life. For such a death, how long would a person weep? However much we would weep and wail, it's too little-- but still, for how long? The person who dies in the evening will be mourned for during the whole night, and that's all.

By bringing in the simile of the 'poor man's lamp', Mir has bestowed on the proverb in the first line a new kind of power. Then, it should also be noted that while 'burned and went out' has of course an affinity with a lamp, it also has an affinity with the lover, because the lover too burns in the fire of passion and the fire of separation. A final point is that 'burned and went out' also has an affinity with the poet, because flame is used as a simile for poetic capability. It's a fine verse.

[See also {12,2}.]



SRF's reading is reflected in the translation above. The prose order would be saa;Njh ke mu))e ko kab tak ' ai miir ' kah'h [kar] ro))e;N .

Grammatically speaking, however, that ai miir certainly looks like a perfectly straightforward vocative-- an address to Mir, as the speaker tries to persuade him that it's time for the mourners to stop all this weeping and wailing for some dead person (another lover?) who has died young. (The third-person subject of the second line reinforces this reading.) And if we put the ai miir is together with the initial kah'h taken as 'say!' (second-person singular, intimate), the obviousness and naturalness of the vocative are reinforced: 'Tell me, oh Mir, how long should we keep on weeping...?'. Mir is alive, and is being addressed by some neighbor or friend (or by himself, inwardly), and urged to realize that it's time for the survivors to bring their mourning to an end.

The main reason that I can see for preferring SRF's reading is contextual: it's much more archetypal in the ghazal world to have other people lamenting the lover's death (an extremely common theme), than to have the lover lamenting someone else's death (rare, though not unheard-of). And of course the lover's death is also the most poignant and moving one, because he's the only person in the ghazal world whom we know and care about.

The verse also creates an elegantly ambiguous effect with ik dam -- the lamp has gone out in a brief 'single moment' of time, the space of a single breath; it has burnt itself out. But it's hard to avoid also thinking of a 'single breath' in its own right-- since the flame of an oil lamp can readily be blown out, and the flame of a lamp that's guttering anyway is particularly easy to blow out. Might the beloved somehow have helped to hasten the frail lover's end?