shash jihat se us me;N :zaalim buu-e ;xuu;N kii raah hai
teraa kuuchah ham se to kah kis kii bismil-gaah hai

1) from all six directions, in it, oh tyrant, there is a pathway/road of the scent of blood
2) your street-- tell us, whose slaughter-house is it?



S. R. Faruqi:

Sardar Ja'fri says, 'When we read this verse of Mir's, then even today the memory of the blood-drenched Delhi of two hundred years ago is refreshed'. This is absolutely correct, and the atmosphere of fear and slaughter in the verse also accords with it. But this construction very much limits the meaning of the verse. The interpretation is as small as the verse is large. The first point is, why would this verse bring to mind only the Delhi of Nadir Shah? Why should we not connect it to the Baghdad of seven hundred years ago, and the Mongols' massacre? Why should we not apply it to the Babylon of two and a half millennia ago, and in that time the battle of the valley of the Chenab, where Alexander of Macedon night after night sent eighty thousand people down into the valley of death?

Or why should we not take it as a metaphor for any situation in which people hang their heads in fear and walk softly, and at every corner the cold sharp eyes of a soldier stare at them intently? Why should this verse not be taken as a metaphor for a police state, where the meaning of 'justice' is the trampling underfoot of human rights and the uprooting of human freedom, and where between father and son, husband and wife, brother and brother, no trust or confidence remains? Or why should the addressee of this verse not be considered to be some non-human power (fate, the organization of the universe)?

In [the Persian dictionary] bahaar-e ((ajam two idioms appear: buu-e te;G aamadan and buu-e ;xuun aamadan . Both mean 'an implication of utter fear and danger'. The image of the scent of blood, and the meaning of this idiom, play a central role in the meaning of the verse. The smell of blood is not only in the beloved's street, but rather the road of the smell of blood has become open from all the six directions (that is, from every direction, from the earth, and from the air above). From every direction blasts of the scent of blood are coming along. This street is someone's slaughter-place, but it would probably be some important person, such that before his death as well, the whole atmosphere has become filled with the scent of blood, and in every direction complete fear and danger are seen.

Now, in the second line, a new 'dramaticness' comes into view-- that the speaker is perhaps himself too among those people whose blood is destined to flow in that street. See


Now the speaker, in a state somewhat of ardor, somewhat of fear, somewhat of expectation, asks, 'Tell the truth-- in your street, who is to be slaughtered, such that from all six directions your street has become a highway of this scent of blood?'. In this way the verse presents, on a personal level, the theme of the relish for slaughter; and on an impersonal level it has become a symbol of every despotism and military attack, and of the ground's being colored with the blood of innocents.

The image of the scent of blood has been used as a symbolic metaphor from ancient times, and is common to both east and west. Sardar Ja'fri has mentioned Lady Macbeth, who sees spots of blood on her hands, the scent of which cannot be removed even by the 'perfumes of Arabia'. Here too, the scent of blood is not only a metaphor for the unjust murder of King Duncah; rather, it is a metaphor for the unjust murder of all men, and for the stabbing deaths of all conscious creatures.

Even older than this, and in western culture probably the most famous narrative, is the story of Cassandra, the daughter of King Priam of Troy, who predicted the future but whose grief it was that no one believed her. Thus before the bloody wars of Troy she again and again said that in the air and water of that city, and from its streets and lanes, came the scent of blood-- that some very great calamity was about to come upon them. If it is read in this light, then the speaker of Mir's verse seems to be Cassandra herself.

With us too, the image of the scent of blood has often been used by our [Persian] 'Sabk-i Hindi' poets, and by our classical Urdu poets too. Kalim Hamadani:

'On whichever road I have traveled, the scent of blood comes,
My footprint falls at every step like an autumn leaf.

Kalim Hamadani:

'If it is not written in my fate for me to be martyred in your street,
Then why does the scent of blood come from its dust that I put on my head?'

In both of Kalim Hamadani's verses, the principles of the 'Sabk-i Hindi' and classical Urdu poetics are present-- the idiom has been used in its dictionary sense, and in this way the form of a 'reversed metaphor' has been created. In Kalim's second verse, and in Mir's present verse, and in {1094,11} which has been cited above, the similarities are obvious. Kalim's second verse is very 'dramatic', but it doesn't at all have a 'dramaticness' like that of Mir's present verse, in which the speaker himself, full of the hope/fear of his own martyrdom, inquires about the scent of blood. Mir's insha'iyah mode is better than Kalim Hamadani's insha'iyah mode. And the image in Mir's first line is peerless in its own way; Kalim's verse has nothing to match it.

[Discussion of two similar usages from bostaan-e ;xayaal .]

Siraj Aurangabadi says,

aatii hai bazm-e ((aish sitii mujh ko buu-e ;xuu;N
mauj-e sharaab jauhar-e te;G-e firang hai

[there comes to me, along with the gathering of enjoyment, the scent of blood
the wave of wine is the well-temperedness of a Frankish sword]

Here we see that the meaning of buu-e ;xuu;N aanaa has gone beyond the meaning mentioned in bahaar-e ((ajam . He's composed a superb verse.

Sauda too has versified buu-e ;xuu;N , but at a lower level than Siraj's verse. And both of them are far behind Mir. Sauda:

((aalam-e guft-guu se to aatii hai buu-e ;xuu;N
saudaa hai ik nigah kaa gunah-gaar kuchh kaho

[from the world/state of conversation comes the scent of blood
Sauda is guilty of a single glance-- say something!]

To approach the intensity and expansive scope of Mir's verse, Urdu poetry had to wait for Munir Niyazi. In Munir Niyazi's nazm too, ;xuun kii ;xvush-buu has gone far beyond its limited metaphorical/literal meaning (from jangal me;N ;Dhang , 1960 ed.):

jangal kaa jaaduu / magic of the jungle

jis ke kaale saayo;N me;N hai va;hshii chiito;N kii aabaadii
us jangal me;N dekhii mai;N ne lahuu me;N luth;Rii ik shahzaadii

[in the black shadows of which is the dwelling-place of wild cheetahs,
in that jungle I saw, bathed in blood, a princess]

us ke paas hii nange jismo;N vaale saadhuu jhuum rahe the
piile piile daa;Nt nikaale na((sh kii gardan chuum rahe the

[right near her, naked-bodied sadhus were swaying
with yellow teeth protruding, they were kissing the neck of a bier/corpse]

ek ba;Re se pe;R ke uupar kuchh gidh bai;The uu;Ng rahe the
saa;Npo;N jaisii aa;Nkhe;N meche ;xuun kii ;xvush-buu suu;Ng rahe the

[atop a biggish tree some vultures were seated, dozing
with snake-like eyes closed, they were sniffing the perfume of blood]

Munir Niyazi's nazm is a bit overstated, while Mir's tone, despite (or rather perhaps because of) being 'tumult-arousing', is very far from hysteria. But the lineage of Munir Niyazi's nazm includes Mir's verse.

Shahryar's nazm called apnii yaad me;N is worth noting in this regard-- for although its lineage too reaches to Mir's verse, Shahryar has used an image that also engages, along with the sense of smell, the senses of taste and hearing (from hijr ke mausam , 1978 edition):

labo;N pah luknato;N kii barf jam ga))ii
:taviil hichkiyo;N kaa ek silsilah
fa.zaa me;N hai
lahuu kii buu havaa me;N hai

on the lips the ice of stammering froze
a single chain of long sobs
is in the atmosphere
the scent of blood is in the air

A final point: for the meaningfulness of :zaalim in this verse, see


also helpful will be a consideration of




I have nothing special to add.