bah rang-e buu-e gul is baa;G ke ham aashnaa hote
kih ham-raah-e .sabaa ;Tuk sair karte phir havaa hote

1) with the color/style of the scent of the rose, if only we were familiar/acquainted with this garden!
2) so that traveling with the dawn breeze, we would have taken a bit of a stroll, then vanished/'become air'



aashnaa : 'Acquaintance; friend; associate; intimate friend, familiar; lover, sweetheart; paramour; mistress, concubine; —adj. Acquainted (with, - se ), knowing, known; attached (to), fond (of)'. (Platts p.57)


havaa ho jaanaa : 'To fly with the velocity of the wind; to run with the wind; —to scamper off, to vanish, disappear'. (Platts pp. 1239-40)

S. R. Faruqi:

Apparently this verse is pallid and devoid of pleasure. But if we take a bit of time, then various questions arise:

(1) What is meant by aashnaa ?

(2) For aashnaa))ii , why is there the condition of becoming the scent of the rose?

(3) The speaker longs to become the scent of the rose, but what is he himself now?

(4) Does phir havaa hote mean that now too the speaker is havaa , or that he is about to become havaa ?

In the light of these questions, the verse seems to be a treasury of meaning. 'This garden' can mean the world, the garden of the body, or the 'garden of passion'; or 'this garden' could also be some real garden. The speaker doesn't know a great deal about the garden. He longs to be a familiar (that is, friend) of the garden. The meaning of this is that he has a slight experience of the garden-- that is, he is not well acquainted with the existence/passion/body garden, but he seeks its friendship. If we take aashnaa to mean 'knower, acquainted person', then the meaning becomes that the speaker has very little acquaintance with the garden, and he wants to stroll to his heart's content among its details-- paths, corners, water-channels, etc.

In both cases, this longing to be the scent of the rose is very meaningful. A flower is a part of the garden, but it remains fixed in one place. In contrast, its perfume spreads to a distance. Thus to be the rose-scent has a double value for knowing the garden. First, by being a part of the garden the flower naturally and necessarily knows the garden. Second, the rose-scent spreads through the whole garden, so that it has an entire acquaintance with the garden.

It's also possible that the speaker might long only to be the rose-scent, and his mind there would be no condition that the rose would have bloomed in that (existence/passion/body) garden with which he seeks to be acquainted. In this case, the longing to be rose-scent will be assumed to be on the basis that rose-scent is subtle and mobile, and the speaker wants to be subtle and mobile like the rose-scent.

In the second line, the first thing he has said is ordinary-- that 'if I were rose-scent, then along with the dawn breeze I too would wander through the whole garden'. But the second thing, phir havaa hote , has a number of aspects. The first point is that havaa honaa ( = to disappear = to become nonexistent) is the speaker's destiny in any case, but he longs to have one good stroll through the (existence/passion/body) garden before death comes.

The second point is that since the breeze spreads out in all directions, the goal is that I should spread to all four quarters of the world. Then, this spreading out has two aspects as well. One is that in this way I would acquire information about this garden from every direction; and the other is that although perfume is subtle, the breeze is subtler; thus as I remain with the dawn breeze and travel with it, I would become subtle the way it itself is subtle.

Then, in phir havaa hote is the third point that although at that time I would be omnipresent or subtle like the breeze, a better thing would be for me to first become rose-scent and then become subtle or spread in every direction like the breeze, because at this time there's no perfume in me.

A fourth point is that the longing to 'become air' does not result from the longing to become rose-scent; rather, we can suppose it to be a quite separate longing. That is, the speaker has two longings-- one, that he would become rose-scent and stroll around in the garden; the other, that he would 'become air'.

Fundamentally, the theme of the verse conveys a strange paradox: that on the one hand the speaker has a desire for strolling around and seeing sights, and on the other hand he also wants to be subtle/refined and pure like the rose-scent and the breeze. Thus in this verse the poet has very well presented the dualities/oppositions of human nature-- that in it both spiritual and physical, heavenly and earthly stages are present at the same time.

With regard to 'commonality' [muraa((aat ul-na:ziir], this verse is beyond compare. For rang , buu , gul , baa;G , .sabaa , sair , havaa -- all these words have been strung together into a chain of affinity.

Mir has elsewhere too called rose-scent a breeze. For example, there's this verse from the second divan:


This verse will be discussed in its place, but in the present verse the tone of yearning, longing, 'wistfulness' is such that it was not vouchsafed even to Mir to achieve it again and again. This verse is prima facie proof that it's not wise to pass over in a cursory way even Mir's apparently simple verses.

Suhail Ahmad Zaidi has brought this theme together with the Qur'anic phrase 'Have they not walked through the land?' [Qur'an 35:44], and brought out a new idea. Look at how the benefit of Mir continues to travel onward:

aur dunyaa me;N bahut kuchh hai gulistaa;N ke sivaa
sair tum bhii kabhii hamraah-e .sabaa kar ;Daalo

[there's much more in the world besides the garden
even/also you, sometime, just take a stroll along with the dawn breeze]



SRF reads 'this' garden, and I agree that it's the better choice. But 'that' garden is also possible. A reading of 'that garden' makes the speaker seem to long for something more distant, more inaccessible, or even somewhat unknowable. 'That garden' then will come into view like an antechamber to be traversed on the way to 'becoming air'.

There are really two ways to read the first line. One is more physical: 'We already know this garden in our own way-- how doubly fine it would be if we could know it also the way the rose-scent does! A stroll with the breeze would be the icing on the cake, and then we'd be satisfied and ready to move on from this thoroughly-known world.'

The other is more ethereal: 'We really aren't able to know this garden at all-- if only we could experience it the way the rose-scent does! We could then travel with the breeze, and finally escape beyond this unsatisfactory physical garden entirely.'

To speak of (literally) the 'color' of the scent of the rose gives a fine touch of synesthesia.

Note for grammar fans: It would also be possible to read the karte as a present participle, a short form of karte hu))e . The speaker would then wish that 'While taking a bit of a stroll', we would then-- in the process-- vanish/'become air'. A slightly more ethereal vision perhaps, but not really so different. Basically, the grammar of hote is contrafactual.

Note for translation fans: In the second line, a literal translation could be 'we would take a bit of a stroll, then vanish/'become air''. But in English, that looks like a subjunctive, like something that might happen; whereas in the Urdu it's clear that it is a contrafactual longing that cannot be fulfilled. By saying 'we would have taken a bit of a stroll, then vanished/'become air', it's possible to capture the contrafactuality. This of course is a problem of English grammar only; Urdu grammar is much more consistent and lucid in this case.