;zikr-e gul kyaa hai .sabaa ab kih ;xizaa;N me;N ham ne
dil ko naa-chaar lagaayaa hai ;xas-o-;xaar ke saath

1) what mention of the rose is there, oh spring-breeze, now?! -- since in the autumn we
2) having no recourse, have attached our heart to {'straws and thorns' / litter}



naa-chaar (Persian): 'Without remedy, remediless; constrained; helpless, destitute, abandoned, forlorn, distressed, poor, miserable'. (Platts p.1110)


chaarah (Persian) : '(akin to S. char ; cf. H. chaaraa ), s.m. lit. 'to be applied'), Remedy, cure, expedient; redress, help, resource'. (Platts p.417)


chaaraa (Prakritic): 'Food (for cattle), fodder, forage, herbage' (Platts p.417)


;xas-o-;xaar : 'Sticks and straws, litter, rubbish'. (Platts p.489)

S. R. Faruqi:

This theme is founded on the [Persian] verse of Hakim Shifa'i given below:

'What will be the state of this bird who, after the rose, having no recourse
Would attach its heart to the 'straws and thorns' of the garden?'

Undoubtedly, despite the presence of some unnecessary words, Shifa'i's verse is very fine. Mir found this theme so pleasing that he versified it again and again. From the first divan [{549,10}]:

chhaatii saraah un kii paa))iiz me;N jinho;N ne
;xaar-o-;xas-e chaman se naa-chaar dil lagaa))e

[praise to the spirit/courage of that one who, in autumn
would, having no recourse, attach his heart to the 'straws and thorns' of the garden!]

From the first divan [{610,10}]:

yih sitam taazah hu))aa aur kih paa))iiz me;N miir
dil ;xas-o-;xaar se naa-chaar lagaayaa ham ne

[this fresh, additional tyranny happened-- that in autumn, Mir
having no recourse, we attached our heart to 'straws and thorns']

From the second divan [{1014,2}]:

yih qiyaamat aur jii par kil ga))ii paa))iiz me;N
dil ;xas-o-;xaashaak-e gulshan se lagaayaa chaahiye

[this additional Doomsday nailed down our inner-self-- in autumn
it was necessary to attach the heart to the 'straw and debris' of the garden]

All three of these verses have in common the word paa))iiz (meaning 'autumn'). The second and third verses have in common their theme as well. In the first verse, although the theme is fresh, and it's also something of a departure from Shifa'i's verse, the 'connection' between the lines is a bit weak, and in the second line the word chaman is not particularly effective. There's certainly a freshness in paa))iiz , but using it time after time has reduced its uniqueness.

Despite these points, the present verse not only has gone beyond Shifa'i's theme, but also has an entirely flawless style, and every single one of its words is meaningful.

The first point is that in the first line, because of the insha'iyah style and because of the grammatical ambiguity, there are several possible meanings:

(1) The spring breeze has appeared, after wandering around somewhere, and has begun to speak of the rose. In reply, the speaker has said, 'Oh spring breeze, what's this mention of the rose, now?'; or 'Oh spring breeze, what's this mention of the rose at this time when...'.

(2) He is saying to the spring breeze, 'Oh spring breeze, why mention the rose-- now, after all, the situation is...'.

(3) He is saying to the spring breeze, 'Now how would we have the nerve to mention the rose-- we had so little constancy that in the autumn we...'.

(4) 'Oh spring breeze, since in the autumn we (having had no recourse, having attached our heart...)-- thus, oh spring breeze, to whom would we mention the rose?'

(5) 'Now what's this mention of the rose? Now things are such, oh spring breeze, that we, in the autumn...'.

Behind all the above interpretations this question lurks: why did he attach his heart to 'straws and thorns'? No doubt he had no recourse, but why did he do it? To this question several answers are possible. (1) He knew that the rose-season would not come again. (2) Whether the rose-season would or would not come again, he never got his hands on a rose; thus he contented himself with only 'straws and thorns'. (3) He had too little constancy-- when he didn't obtain a rose, or the rose-season passed, then he attached his heart to 'straws and thorns'. (4) Passion was necessary to him-- if not a rose then at least a thorn, but he had to attach his heart somewhere.

It's clear that this fourth interpretation is more probable in Mir's verse, but the other three, or any one of them, we cannot declare to be erroneous.

Fundamentally, this verse presents the theme of the world's oppression-- that people are obliged to stay alive, and to deal with the worse instead of the better. They are obliged not only to deal with it, but even to thrive and flourish, because even if it's through having no recourse, their hearts have in any case become attached to 'straws and thorns'. This theme is expressed in the English proverb 'The good is the enemy of the best'. With regard to 'mood' and meaning both, this is a peerless verse.

[See also {574,4}.]



The 'kya effect' operates brilliantly at the very beginning of the verse, offering the widest possible range of readings:

= What [a powerful/excellent thing] it is, to mention the rose!
= As if there's any mention of the rose!
= Is there any mention of the rose?
= What is [the meaning of] a 'mention of the rose'?
= What do you mean by mentioning the rose?!

And it's combined with the equally clever grammatical ambiguity noted by SRF: the verse doesn't make clear who might be doing (or not doing) the ;zikr-e gul -- is it the spring breeze, or the speaker? Has the spring breeze mentioned the rose, or tried to talk with the speaker about the rose, or asked why the speaker has not mentioned the rose? There's also the beautifully situated 'midpoint' word ab , which can be read with either the clause before it or the clause after it.

Thus the readings of the first clause can range from 'Why do you mention the rose now, oh spring breeze?' to 'How could we even mention the rose, oh spring breeze, now that...'-- with all sorts of rich possibilities for tone, from the reproachful to the apologetic, from the nostalgically melancholy to the resolutely cheerful.

The 'spring breeze' makes an ideal addressee, since it's associated with the rose in its prime during 'rose-season', and with the diffusion of the rose's scent, and also with the blowing-away that overtakes the petals of the withered rose.

Also, look at the definitions above, and consider the richly developed background of naa-chaar . It's Persian, but it's closely linked with the Prakritic Hindi form chaaraa , meaning 'fodder'. One who has no recourse or remedy, who is miserable and helpless (think of bechaaraa ), is like a cow with no fodder. And of course, fodder often consists of hay and straw (though definitely not thorns), so the wordplay becomes truly enjoyable.

The phrase ;xas-o-;xaar means 'litter' or 'rubbish' (see the definition above). But I'm determined to retain as well the literal sense of 'straws' and 'thorns', partly because of the wordplay with chaaraa , but even more for the obvious reason that withered, dead roses would have the look of dried grass or straw, interspersed with thorns. The verse certainly mustn't be deprived of this final great glory (carefully positioned in the powerful rhyme-slot) that so elegantly combines wordplay with meaning-play. For after all, isn't it also very possible that the speaker is such a faithful lover that after the death of the rose, he continues to be devoted to its poor withered corpse? The ;xas-o-;xaar , the 'straws and thorns', that remain of the rose may be 'litter' to others, but the true lover's heart may be still, helplessly, attached to them.

This is one of my favorite verses in the whole kulliyat. Here's an adorable cousin for it that reinforces my own favorite reading [{585,1}]:

naaz-e chaman vuhii hai bulbul se go ;xizaa;N hai
;Tahnii jo zard bhii hai so shaa;x-e za((faraa;N hai

[the coquetry of the garden is the very same toward/for the Nightingale, although it is autumn
even/also the bough that is yellow/pallid-- it is a branch of a saffron-tree]