aah niklii hai yih kis kii havas-e sair-e bahaar
aate hai;N baa;G me;N aavaarah hu))e par kitne

1) ah, whose desire for a springtime stroll is this, that has {come true / 'emerged'}?!
2) there come into the garden, having become wanderers, how many feathers?!



S. R. Faruqi:

This theme Mir has, in the refrain y , composed again and again in the first divan [{466,3}]:

muddat se hai;N ik musht-e par aavaarah chaman me;N
niklii hai yih kis kii havas-e baal-fishaanii

[for some time a single handful of feathers have been wandering in the garden
whose desire for wing-fluttering is this, that has come true?]

And [{506,3}]:

kis ne lii ru;x.sat-e parvaaz pas az marg nasiim
musht-e par baa;G me;N aate hii pareshaan hu))e

[who has obtained leave to fly after death, oh spring breeze?
the handful of feathers, the moment it came into the garden, became agitated]

And [{578,7}]:

anjaam-e kaar-e bulbul dekhaa ham apnii aa;Nkho;N
aavaarah the chaman me;N do chaar ;Tuu;Te par se

[the outcome of the deeds of the Nightingale, we saw with our own eyes
there wandered in the garden, something like three or four broken feathers]

For a verse similar to {578,7}, see


In the present verse, the melancholy of a failed effort and the outcome of that melancholy have been expressed in a very 'tumult-arousing' style. All the verses cited above have in their background an event, and in every verse reference has been made with great intensity to this event.

But in the present verse, the theme havas-e sair-e bahaar distinguishes it from the other verses, because in it both implications are present: that of distance, and that of compulsion. Compulsion in the sense that flight was not possible (because, for example, the bird has forgotten the road, or has lost its strength), and because the distance to the garden in the spring season is great. That is, it's not only that someone is bound and imprisoned, and has a longing to fly. It's also that someone is very far from the garden, and the spring season has come, but the distant, weakened bird has no strength left to fly as far as the garden and stroll through its springtime.

Shad Azimabadi has composed a fine verse, but where Mir's theme begins, there is the limit of Shad's:

chain degaa nah mujhe taazah asiirii kaa ;xayaal
dhyaan us kaa nah tujhe ;hasrat-e parvaaz aayaa

[it will give me no peace, the fresh thought of bondage
you have paid no attention to it, nor to the longing for flight]

In the present verse, the situation is that the longing for flight has been attained; and the longing for flight was not some pointless and thoughtless longing, but had behind it a desire for a stroll in the garden. But because of the distance of the destination, or the lack of strength for flight (both in reality are the same thing), it was not possible to arrive there. Then on the road a typhoon, or some enemy, has seized the bird, and then his wings and feathers have been broken to bits.

Bani has an extremely fine verse:

mai;N yih samjhaa thaa kih sar-garm-e safar hai ko))ii :taa))ir
jab rukii aa;Ndhii to ik ;Tuu;Taa hu))aa par saamne thaa

[I considered that some bird had been eager to travel
when the windstorm stopped, then a single broken wing was before me]

Now we will note a new aspect of Mir's theme: that the broken and wandering feathers that are flying around in the garden, are in fact those of the very birds whose ardor for a springtime stroll had caused them to fly up to the skies and who, because of a typhoon or some such cause, had not been able to reach their goal. The desire for a springtime stroll was so intense that it survived even after death.

But it has not been explained whether it's still spring or not, because the second line refers only to 'the garden', not to spring. Thus it's possible that these broken wings and feathers that have been carried along by the breeze and reached the garden, would not even have been destined to be buried in the spring.

To see the difference in thought between Ghalib and Mir, then listen to Ghalib on this same theme:


In Ghalib's verse is the idea of becoming dust after death, and then flying along with the breeze, so that the longing to fly could be fulfilled. In Mir's verse is the idea of wings and feathers becoming broken during flight, and then these very wings and feathers being picked up by the breeze and coming to the garden. In Ghalib's verse is shame and solitude; in Mir's verse is effort and struggle and earthly reality. In comparison to dust, a feather has in any case more corporeality. Both verses have a melancholy air. But in Mir's verse this air is more clear/enjoyable, because effort and struggle are the dignity/glory of melancholy.

Both Mir's lines are insha'iyah, so that his verse has more trimness of construction, and 'dramaticness'. There's also the aspect that his first line can be taken as a negative rhetorical question. Now the interpretation emerges, 'who is it whose desire for a springtime stroll has been fulfilled? (No one's at all!)'. Many floating feathers wander into the garden; from this it is learned that the one who wanted to satisfy his desire for a springtime stroll, was destined only to a death of broken-wingedness. He's composed a fine verse.



The insha'iyah observations that SRF makes at the end of his discussion can be pushed even further. For the 'kya effect' reasons that operate in the first line, so that it can be read not only straightforwardly ('Whose desire has been fulfilled?-- Someone's obviously has!') but also as a negative rhetorical question ('Whose desire has been fulfilled?!-- No one's, of course!'), are operative in the second line as well.

In fact the second line can be read in even more fully multivalent glory: 'How many wandering feathers have come into the garden-- there are such a lot of them!'); or 'How many wandering feathers have come into the garden?-- it's really hard to tell'); or 'As if any wandering feathers have come into the garden!-- how absurd an idea, when not even the leftover feathers of the longing bird are destined to make it into the garden!').

Mir versus Ghalib-- it's like the Iliad versus the Odyssey, or Plato versus Aristotle, or Herodotus versus Thucydides. Anybody with any literary sensitivity and judgment is entirely grateful for the riches of both. Still, deep down most people have something temperamental that goes one way or the other. Nowadays SRF is an unabashed Mirian; he may concede that the two are equally great poets, but he will always go on to point out, rightly, that Mir has a far wider range. I remain a Ghalibian, because Ghalib somehow cuts deeper. Mir has all kinds of poetic magnificences, but Ghalib... at his best, he makes waves of sheer exhilaration run through my heart and mind.