piirii me;N kyaa javaanii ke mausam ko ro))iye
ab .sub;h hone aa))ii hai ik dam to so))iye

1) in old age, will you {keep recalling / weep for} the season of youth?!
2) now dawn is about to come-- well, in one moment/breath, go to sleep



ek dam : 'In one breath, in a moment, at once, all at once'. (Platts p.113)

S. R. Faruqi:

He's composed a verse with an extraordinarily subtle and cool tone. If only those people who in Mir's poetry hear the sound of tears and sighs and so on from all six directions, would sometime read Mir with close attention-- and read him in such a way that they would put aside the 'Mir' of books of criticism! Then instead of the intikhab of Maulvi Abd ul-Haq or the mazaamiir of Asar Lakhnavi they would open Mir's kulliyat to any page at all, and read it carefully. Then they would know that Mir has certainly composed verses of weeping and wailing (which ghazal poet has not?), but his tone is neither drenched in the conventional kind of 'pathetic' emotionality, nor ponderous with self-pity.

Rather, his tone is loftily harmonious, resonant; and his style is particularly cool, understated, and illumined by sense/imagination. For example, in the present verse the speaker not merely doesn't grieve over the passing of youth, but even for the passing of life and its being finished he presents a clear proof of rakishness and careless cheer. Consider the following points:

(1) 'To weep for the season of youth' has two meanings. The first is to grieve over the passing of youth, and the second is to tell the story of one's youth, to remember one's youth. For example, we say yih kyaa har vaqt kitaab kitaab kaa ronaa li))e bai;The rahte ho , vaqt aa))egaa to kitaab bhii aa jaa))egii . That is, to mention something again, and to ronaa ronaa about something, are one and the same. Thus in the first line there's also a suggestion that in the time of old age, to speak again and again of youth is a fruitless and foolish thing.

(2) In the second line we learn that the metaphor for youth is night, or the metaphor for the whole lifetime is night, and the metaphor for death is the dawn. There's nothing special in this, and we have already read a very famous verse based on these metaphors:


But here the pleasure is that these metaphors have been established through 'implication'. That is, nowhere has it been said that youth/lifetime = night and old age/death = dawn; but clarity has been achieved through implication.

(3) In ik dam se so))iye too there are at least two meanings. The first is that the night of youth/lifetime was not one of sleeping, but rather passed in weeping or in talking about youth; that is, even that time didn't pass with any great pleasure and delight. The second meaning is more interesting: that death is nothing, it's nothing but a moment of sleep. What there will be upon waking from this sleep, has not been made clear. But on this subject Mir's famous verse is before our eyes. From the first divan [{223,3}]:

marg ik maa;Ndagii kaa vaqfah hai
ya((nii aage ba;Rhe;Nge dam le kar

[death is a single pause from fatigue
that is, we will go on ahead, having taken a breath]

(4) In the second line the everyday appropriateness has created the effect of speech, and 'flowingness'. As if it's nothing important-- among the many things to be done in everyday life, one of them is also to die. For this no special preparation is required, nor is there any need for clamor and commotion. Just lie down on the bedding, go to sleep or go into death, both are the same.

(5) The addressee of the verse can be the speaker himself, and can also be some other person. In both cases, there's no regret at life's having passed, or at the past life's being unpleasurable or full of difficulties. Rather, there's a qalandar-like dignity and a careless joy.

(6) A final point is that between .sub;h and dam there's the connection of a zila, because people say dam-e .sub;h and .sub;h-dam [to mean 'daybreak'].

Sauda has altered the theme and has very well versified the running-together of the nights, but his verse doesn't have the breadth that Mir's verse does:

saudaa tirii faryaad se aa;Nkho;N me;N ka;Tii raat
aa))ii hai sa;har hone ko ;Tuk tuu kahii;N mar bhii

[Sauda, in your eyes the night passed by means of lament
dawn is about to come-- you just go ahead and die]



The 'kya effect' gives the first line several distinct readings, quite different in tone. It could be a genuine question: 'In old age, will you weep for the season of youth?' (You should reflect on whether this is something worth doing.) It could also be an indignant exclamation: 'What! As if in old age you will weep for the season of youth!' (Of course you won't-- you'll be glad that wretched time is over!) Or it could be an expression of sympathy: 'In old age, how you will weep for the season of youth!' (So you might as well cut the misery short by dying.)

No matter which of the readings is adopted, the second line proposes to short-circuit them all by offering a distraction: 'Never mind all that, the time for all that is over now. A new time is at hand: look-- it's almost dawn. So just get a little sleep.' It could be the voice of a friend trying to soothe a querulous invalid. The second line can perfectly well be read this way; there's not one word in it about death.

But as SRF notes, the immense force of 'implication' makes it impossible for us to stop there; we know perfect well that the line is (also) about death. And just as in {7,2}, the usual metaphor that a lifetime is a day, and death is its eventual night, is enjoyably inverted. In this verse, the dark night is the time for wakefulness, restlessness, longing, suffering, memory; the white light of dawn brings the day-- the time for peace, clarity, letting-go, sleep. (The time of black hair ultimately gives way to the time of white hair.) And how easy and convenient it is to go to sleep! It can be done with 'a single breath' (not) taken.

Note for grammar fans: The polite imperative can sometimes be used not as a real imperative (as it is in the second line), but as a sort of courteous version of the future, or the future subjunctive (as it is in the first line); it's used in this more abstract way in {543,6} as well. In {543,7} both options are open, as SRF makes clear in his discussion.