((umr bhar ham rahe sharaabii se
dil-e pur-;xuu;N kii ik gulaabii se

1) for a whole lifetime we remained like an intoxicated one
2) from a single/particular/unique/excellent flagon/'gulabi' of the blood-filled heart



gulaabii : 'Rose-colour; —red (or ruby) wine; —s.f. A bottle, flagon (for holding rose-water, or wine, &c.'. (Platts p.912)

S. R. Faruqi:

Usually in manuscripts the two lines are found in reverse order. But the correct one is the one given here. With regard to meaning too, this arrangement is superior. In the first line is a common idea, that we spent our whole life somewhat like an intoxicated person. Having heard it, we expect that the next line will be about the beloved's eyes, or the wine of passion. Thus when instead we hear about the blood-filled heart as a flagon of wine, then we are confronted with a pleasant surprise.

Then, gulaabii means 'wine-bottle'. Thus whether with regard to shape or with regard to contents, to make it a metaphor for the heart is very fine. It's possible that the idea might have come from Siraj Aurangabadi:

;xuun-e dil aa;Nsuu))o;N me;N .sarf hu))aa
gir ga))ii yih bharii gulaabii sab

[the heart's blood was expended in tears
this full wine-flagon was entirely used up]

S. W. Fallon and Platts have also given as one meaning for gulaabii , 'red-colored wine'. This meaning is not to be found in other dictionaries. [A brief discussion of meanings given in several dictionaries.] The possibility is that the container has been taken to represent what it contains, as has happened with some other wine-containers (for example, jaam , paimaanah , saa;Gar , ;xum ).

Mir himself has used gulaabii in one other place in the first divan itself, in such a way that the thought arises that he seems to be taking it in the sense of 'wine' as well [{441,9}}]:

((ajab kuchh hai gar miir aave muyassar
gulaabii sharaab aur ;Gazal apne ;Dhab kii

[it's extraordinary, if one would get hold of Mir--
'gulabi' wine, and ghazals in his own manner]

Thus gulaabii sharaab means 'that wine that is called 'gulabi''; otherwise, if its meaning is taken to be 'rose-colored wine', then there's no special pleasure, but rather a kind of repetitiveness. Abd ul-Rashid has pointed out various other such verses, in which wine, 'gulabi', and this kind of constructions have been used.

In the present verse, the layers of meaning are worthy of praise. In the first line the refrain has been superbly incorporated-- that we didn't have the habit of wine-drinking, but the intoxication of the 'gulabi' of the blood-filled heart was such that we passed our life like habitual drinkers (in a state of light-headedness). The meaning of the verse, it's clear, is just this: that we lived by drinking the blood of the heart, and its intoxication was such that we passed our life like habitual drinkers. In it there's also the implication that we didn't shed the heart's blood along with our tears, or that we didn't weep tears of blood. If we extent the implication a bit, then the meaning emerges that we lived by drinking swallows of blood.

Let's consider some additional points. In the second line too, the refrain has been used very skilfully. One meaning is the one discussed above, that gulaabii se means 'as a result of drinking gulabi'. But another meaning can also be 'from the effect of a single gulabi/flagon of the blood-filled heart'. That is, it was not a blood-filled heart; rather, in our breast we bore a gulabi. It alone caused such intoxication that as long as we lived we were like a habitual drinker. Thus the ideas is that when we turned our heart to blood, then we felt such joy and intoxication that as long as we lived we lay around in happiness.

It should also be kept in mind that in the light of every meaning the word ek takes on great importance. That is, the wine of the heart's blood was so potent and sharp that the intoxication of one gulabi of it lasted for the whole life. It should be noted that wine-vessels that are bottle-like (that is, that would be taken from place to place, in contrast to a 'cask' [;xum] that commonly remains in one place) have varying amounts of capacity. The biggest one is called pitlaa , then miinaa , then shiishah , then gulaabii , then qalam . (The word 'bottle' [botal], which today is the commonest, was the newest of them, and was brought by the English.) Thus in a 'gulabi', there wasn't even very much wine. So to speak, a small amount of the wine of the heart's blood was enough for a lifetime.

About this verse, Al-e Ahmad Surur has excellently expressed a thought. Surur Sahib says,

If in Mir's poetry there were only the story of the ebullience of youth, then it would not be so important. In Mir's poetry a style [va.z((a] of madness developed, and that style of madness included not only lover-ship [((aashiqii], but also some great values of life. Someone has rightly said that love poetry of a high order is not only about love, but becomes something else. The person who from one gulabi of the blood-filled heart would remain intoxicated for his whole life, has an intoxication that has some meaning in his life as well. This becomes a cultural value.

Surur Sahib's idea that 'lover-ship' would not be included among the 'great values of life', is certainly a focal point. This idea is not only contrary to the imagination of our classical culture, but is also contrary to the imagination of Mir himself. In Mir's poetry there's no value greater than passion, even if it would be only the 'ebullience of youth'. (For a brief discussion of 'worldly love', see


A discussion of Rimbaud's poetry: In all the poetry of Arthur Rimbaud, there's chiefly the story of the 'ebullience [haijaan] of youth'. The majority of his poetry is not romantic, but without this turbulence of the madness of youth, the source of this expression of Rimbaud's life would not have come into being. But within this 'ebullience of youth, the blackness of despair and ineffectiveness too has been dissolved. But this is the melancholy of the human condition in the world, which was felt by Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Ghalib, and Mir.

For example, in a poem of Rimbaud's ['Qu'est-ce pour nous, mon coeur'] we read [in a translation by Scott Horton]:

Europe, Asia, America, disappear!
Our avenging march has occupied all,
City and country!—We shall be crushed!
Volcanoes shall erupt! And the ocean struck. . .

In that one single stanza, along with a crazed ebullience and a resolve to erase the present order, there appears the bitter relish of the devaluation of our own, and of everyone's, 'ebullience of youth'. The poem ends like this:

But it’s nothing; I am here; I am still here.

In generalizing about great poetry, there's the danger that when we ourselves read this poetry, here and there we're obliged to insert 'if' and 'but, perhaps'. The case of Iqbal is before us-- he doesn't come within our grasp through any single principle/approach. The case of Mir and Ghalib is even more complex than that of Iqbal.

Read this present verse of Mir's, and reflect that if the 'ebullience of youth' were not there, then it would be nothing at all. But in this verse too, along with a kind of ebullience like that of Rimbaud's poem, there are also some mysterious forces-- some of which are in the personality of the speaker, and some outside him. From the second divan:




SRF uses the rubric of the 'ebullience of youth' to compare Rimbaud's poem to Mir's verse. I can't really see it, myself. Rimbaud's poem is full of wild, exclamatory passion and an explicit if (despairingly) vain call for vengeance, blood, terror-- apparently for universal revolution or destruction. (Read the whole poem and see.) Not only is that kind of cosmic violence (complete with volcanoes!) not apparent in Mir's little opening-verse, but it would hard to think how there could even be room for it.

SRF finds that without the 'ebullience of youth', the verse would be nothing at all'. Surely that sells the verse short. He points to the importance of the word ek , but only to one of its meanings: 'single'. But the 'gulabi' could equally well be 'particular', or 'unique', or 'excellent'. Mir and Ghalib are both so poetically clever that they almost never say anything like ek achchhii chiiz or ek burii chiiz ; they say only ek chiiz , and thus invite (and compel) us to decide for ourselves what kind of quality the thing in question would possess. By taking the multivalence of ek more seriously, we can see in the verse an exploration not so much of youthful passion, but rather of the nature of the obsessive personal 'intoxication' of madness and suffering, including its possible culmination in mystical 'self-lessness'. And this kind of intoxication is just the reverse of 'youthful', for it is explicitly said to last a lifetime-- just as a sharaabii doesn't at all have to be young.