sudh le ghar kii bhii shu((lah-e aavaaz
duud kuchh aashiyaa;N se u;Thtaa hai

1) look out for even/also the house, oh flame of the voice!
2) smoke somewhat rises from the nest



sudh lenaa : 'To take thought (of), to remember; to take care (of), to look (after); to inquire (into); to accommodate'. (Platts p.646)


diipak : 'Kindling, inflaming, illuminating, making bright or luminous; exciting, stimulating; —a light, lamp, candle; a kind of fire-work; —a raag or musical mode sung at noon or at the dusk of evening in the hot season (the superstition is that singing it causes fire to break out)'. (Platts p.555)

S. R. Faruqi:

We have already seen a theme similar to this one in


but there the metaphor is of weeping. Mus'hafi too has well versified the rhyme-word aashiyaa;N ; his theme too resembles Mir's:

naalah kartii hai jis gha;Rii bulbul
shu((lah ik aashiyaa;N se u;Thtaa hai

[at the hour when the Nightingale laments
a single flame rises from the nest]

But in the first line of the present verse the insha'iyah structure has created a dramatic intensity. Compared to it, Mus'hafi's first line seems colorless.

To give for the voice the simile of a flame is a famous theme of our poetry:


and Momin:

us ;Gairat-e naahiid kii har taan hai diipak
shu((lah-saa chamak jaa))e hai aavaaz to dekho

[every tone of that envy of Venus is in [the raga] Dipak,
look at her voice-- it glows like a flame]

and Siraj Aurangabadi:

rishtah-e aah-e aatishii;N hai siraaj
mujh ko har raat shu((lah baanii hai

[there's the thread of fiery sighs, Siraj
every night, I do flame-weaving]

Even in the presence of such powerful verses, Mir's present verse stands out as exceptional, because in it is an abundance of both 'mood' and meaning.

It seems that the theme of the shu((lah-e aavaaz has been developed by the Hindustanis (or by the 'Sabk-i Hindi' poets). In [the dictionary] bahaar-e ((ajam , as a 'warrant' for shu((lah-e aavaaz , [Persian] verses by Muhsin Tasir, Ghani Kashmiri, and Sa'ib have been noted. That is, there are no verses by any sabk-i .safaahaanii or purely Iranian poet (such as Sa'di, Hafiz, Jami). Ghani's verse is so beautiful that although it is very different in theme from Mir's verse, it must be noted here:

'Through the gurgling of the flame of the voice, my gathering is illumined,
Cupbearer, I sacrice myself for you-- don't silence the candle of the wineglass!'

In bahaar-e ((ajam (and probably through imitation, in the urduu lu;Gat taarii;xii u.suul par ), the meaning of shu((lah-e aavaaz has been given as 'a burning voice that would have an affect on hearts'. It's clear that the Urdu poets have not restricted the phrase to this meaning. In the verses of Mir, Momin, and Ghalib-- all three-- the meaning of shu((lah-e aavaaz is, more than the burningness of the voice, its intensity, its artistic mastery, and its power and force.

Janab 'Abd ul-Rashid has directed my attention to a verse of Vali's, in which the meaning expressed in bahaar-e ((ajam and urduu lu;Gat is supported:

dard-mando;N kuu;N sivaa hai qaul-e mu:trib dil-navaaz
garmii-e afsurdah-:tab((aa;N shu((lah-e aavaaz hai

[to the sympathetic ones, the words of a singer are more heart-caressing
the heat of those with sad/cool temperaments is the flame of the voice]

Along with this supremely excellent verse, he also directed my attention to verses by Sauda and Yaqin that support the meaning that I have described. Sauda:

kiije nah asiirii me;N agar .zab:t nafas ko
de aag abhii shu((lah-e aavaaz qafas ko

[if in captivity restraint of breath would not be done
the flame of the voice would at once set fire to the cage]


nahii;N to thaamtii us shu((lah-e aavaaz ko apne
kabhuu jal jaa))e;Nge naa-;haq tire baal-o-par ay qumrii

[if you don't restrain that flame of the voice of yours
sometime, unnecessarily, your wings and feathers will burn, oh Ring-dove]

In my view, the construction 'flame of the voice' would have been inspired in Urdu and Persian poets by the Dipak raga.

In Mir's verse, because of the word bhii the implication is established that the flame of the voice had set fire to other places; now the house too has begun to burn. In the second line, the word kuchh has made possible several meanings: (1) something like smoke; (2) a little bit of smoke; (3) it seems as though smoke is rising from the nest. It's a peerless verse.



In this verse, who is the speaker? It could be a Nightingale, cautioning himself about the power of his own voice as he sees his nest begin to smolder. Or rather, he's cautioning the 'flame of the voice' itself, as though it is an independent agent. Thus the speaker could also be any bystander who notices the first wisp of smoke and hastens to sound an alarm.

Presumably we're not to imagine a caged bird, far from the garden, inadvertently setting fire to his own nest by remote control. Rather, it seems clear from the examples that the 'flame of the voice' acts like any flame, and starts a fire in or near its place of origin. So we need to think of a Nightingale in the garden, in or near its own nest, singing out its fiery longing for the rose.

SRF guesses that the fire-associated musical raga 'Dipaka' would probably have been what first generated the idea of the 'flame of the voice'. Platts' Dictionary reports the idea that singing in that raga causes fire to break out (see the definition above), and Momin's verse cited above makes the association explicit. Not surprisingly, Tansen has a role to play: 'Among the legends about Tansen are stories of his bringing down the rains with Raga Megh Malhar and lighting lamps by performing raga Deepak', according to Wikipedia. Here is a more extreme modern folk version of such a legend, from a website called Exotic Indian Art:

'As the flame of fire is the body of a ‘dipaka’ – lamp, fire is the body and inherent attribute of Raga Dipaka.... As the tradition has it, once Akbar forced him [=Tansen] to give a performance under the discipline of Dipaka Raga. Indeed a challenging job, Tansen descended into the waters of Yamuna and began singing. As soon as the notes began ascending, corresponding to the rise of pitch the waters of Yamuna began boiling. Unable to withstand the heat that the intensity of the Raga generated Tansen threw off his clothes and nude and semi-unconscious he whirled like an insect caught in a fire. A repentant Akbar saw all this but could not help it. Right then a young maiden, an accomplished musician otherwise, happened to come. She performed Raga Megh-Malhar which brought torrential rains, the heat was subdued and Tansen’s body was finally cooled.'

For a beautiful Ghalibian use of the 'flame of the voice', see: