yak bayaabaa;N bah rang-e .saut-e jaras
mujh pah hai be-kasii-o-tanhaa))ii

1) a single/whole desertful, with the style/color of the clamor of a bell
2) is upon me-- (of) forlornness and solitude



.saut : 'Sound, noise, voice, cry, clamour, shout, exclamation; calling for help, shriek of distress'. (Platts p.747)


be-kasii : 'Forlorn state, friendlessness, destitution'. (Platts p.204)

S. R. Faruqi:

To express abundance or intensity by the construction ' yak + a noun + a noun or adjective' is a particular feature of Persian. In Urdu, Mir and then Ghalib have used it with great excellence. People who don't notice the present verse by Mir (and this includes most people) declare Ghalib to be the sole master of this construction. It should be kept in mind that in this construction the first noun is usually more important-- that is, if it's not appropriate, then the construction will be declared to be unsuccessful.

For example, in this verse the construction is yak bayaabaa;N be-kasii-o-tanhaa))ii . Now if instead of bayaabaa;N there would be some word like aasmaa;N , daryaa , shahr , then it wouldn't work. Thus Ghalib has a verse,


Here too, in place of bayaabaa;N words like daryaa , etc., cannot come in. Consider another verse of Ghalib's:


Here, instead of yak shahr-e aarzuu he cannot say yak dasht-e aarzuu . The point of constructions like this is that between noun 1, and noun or adjective 2, there ought to be an affinity of meaning. Thus we see that between be-kasii-o-tanhaa))ii and bayaabaa;N there's a manifest and powerful affinity. The second point is that between (1) and (2) the affinity should be not straightforward, but rather metaphorical. For example, rather than saying yak ;xvurshiid raushnii it's better to say yak .sub;h raushnii ; better than yak kanz sa;xaavat is to say yak daryaa sa;xaavat , and so on. Since it's not so easy to make such constructions, and these forms are not very common in Persian, in Urdu too they're only few and far between.

Now we turn our attention to the meaning and theme of the verse. The first point is that this is probably the only theme that Mir has composed six or seven times, and has composed in Persian as well. In the first divan he has versified it three times. One time is the present verse, and the second time is this verse, that occurs only a few ghazals after the present verse [{463,2}]:

bah rang-e saut-e jaras tujh se duur huu;N tanhaa
;xabar nahii;N hai tujhe aah kaaravaa;N merii

[in the style of the sound of a bell, I am far from you, alone,
you know nothing, ah! of my caravan]

Then again in the first divan he has said [{562,4}],

.saut-e jaras kii :tarz bayaabaa;N me;N haa))e miir
tanhaa chalaa huu;N mai;N dil-e pur-shor ko liye

[like the sound of a bell, in the desert, alas, Mir
I have moved on alone, taking the clamorous heart]

Since his Persian divan is from the same time as the first divan, listen to a Persian verse too:

'In this valley there's no one to hear my complaint except Forlornness
For like the sound of a bell, I have wandered far from the caravan.'

The rest of the verses are as follows. From the fifth divan [{1570,4}]:

tanhaa))ii be-kasii mirii yak dast thii kih mai;N
jaise jaras kaa naalah jaras se judaa gayaa

[my solitude and forlornness was entire, for I
like the lament of a bell, went off apart from the bell]

From the sixth divan [{1796,4}]:

chalnaa hu))aa to qaafilah-e rozgaar se
mai;N juu;N .sadaa jaras kii akelaa judaa gayaa

[when it was necessary to move on, from the caravan of everydayness
I, like the sound of a bell, went off apart, alone]

From the sixth divan [{1845,8}]:

yak bayaabaa;N hai mirii be-kasii-o-tanhaa))ii
mi;sl-e aavaaz-e jaras sab se judaa jaataa huu;N

[a desertful, is my forlornness and solitude
like the sound of a bell, I go off apart from everyone]

From the sixth divan [{1915,3}]:

yak dast juu;N .sadaa-e jaras be-kasii ke saath
mai;N har :taraf gayaa huu;N judaa kaaravaan se

[entirely, like the sound of a bell, with forlornness
I went in every direction apart from the caravan]

Even a cursory examination of the above verses will reveal a number of points. (1) The beauty with which this theme has been versified in the present verse, was never achieved again. In {562,4} even the words are all just the same, but it shows verbosity, and was unable to become a 'reply' to the second line of the present verse. (2) In the Persian verse the vocabulary is entirely Hindustani, and there's also verbosity. (3) In {562,4}, dil-e pur-shor is fine because of the affinity with .saut-e jaras , but there's nothing else there. (4) In {1845,8} a touch of beauty is that jaras dar-galuu bastan means [in Persian] to resolve to make a journey ( -- [from the dictionary] bahaar-e ((ajam ); thus the verse has an affinity of words. But it lacks the intensity of the present verse, and the beauty of yak bayaabaa;N . (5) The sixth divan was edited only in the last two years of Mir's life, but in it he adopted this theme three times. Perhaps a feeling of solitude and of an approaching death had increased during that time. But a verse isn't made only from intensity of emotion. He wasn't able to compose a verse equal to the present verse from his youth, seventy years before.

Now let's give further attention to the present verse's aspects of meaning. Undoubtedly, for solitude/loneliness and the distantness of friends, a better metaphor than the sound of a bell would be extremely hard to find. The sound of a bell spreads afar off. The caravan, and the bell itself that is with the caravan, goes on ahead, and the sound of the bell remains alone in the desert. Then, to say for its solitude yak bayaabaa;N has a supreme affinity with 'bell' and things connected with the bell (caravan, desert).

A third point is that by saying mujh pah hai he has said several things at the same time. (1) They dominate and overpower me. (2) They have covered me like a shawl. (3) They have beset me like darkness or like some ferocious beast. (4) They have overspread me like clouds, or like some sickness (for example, fever). Thus 'mood', meaning, ambiguity-- all have been brought together with supreme beauty in this verse.

I have said above that Mir was later unable to compose a verse on this theme that equalled this one from his youth, seventy years before. This is correct, but augmenting the theme and using the solitude of the clamor of the bell like a simile, in the fourth divan he has composed an irresistible verse:


Here too the same thing is proved: that the 'reply' to a theme can only be made from a theme; intensity of feeling alone cannot be said to guarantee the excellence of a verse. The present verse is, in any case, peerless and unequalled. If more proof of this claim is desired, then look at the use of be-kasii-o-tanhaa))ii by Hatim-- how lifeless it is:

ek to tirii daulat thaa hii dil yih saudaa))ii
tis upar qiyaamat hai be-kasii-o-tanhaa))ii

[it was your own contribution alone, oh heart-- this madness
such that there's a Doomsday of forlornness and solitude]

[See also {471,7}; {1533,4}.]



Further discussion of yak constructions is found in


More examples from Mir: {1056,6}; {1079,6}; {1845,8}, presented above.

Putting the yak bayaabaa;N at the beginning of the first line gives it time to permeate our sense of the verse; then the be-kasii-o-tanhaa))ii is withheld until the last possible moment. These two elements are really part of the same construction, tightly bound together; it's very unusual for them to be separated. Inserting the 'clamor of a bell' in between them is awkward and even disquieting; it gives the simile extra power, and invites us to pay it some serious attention.

The .saut-e jaras can be something neutral, the 'sound, noise' of a bell, or it can be something quite terrifying, a 'call for help' or 'shriek of distress' (see the definition above). By going for 'clamor', I've tried to split the difference. But the ambiguity is extremely effective. The way a whole desert might ring with the sound of a distant, invisible bell, the speaker's whole self rings (echoes?) with forlornness and solitude.

There's a lovely bit of extra wordplay in the fact that in Persian barang means (among other things) 'a bell' (Steingass p.180). For clarity I have written 'with color' in the long form bah rang , but the short conjoined form for it, barang , would actually be more common.

Moreover, a bell is proverbially the mark of a caravan; a bell is rung loudly when the caravan is preparing to move on, to alert everyone and to warn any stragglers of the danger of being left behind. The sound of a bell heard from a long distance (throughout the desert) evokes both the presence of other people, and their loss. For the speaker will never be able to find or join the caravan whose bell resounds in his mind as the essence of his own 'forlornness and solitude'.