kuchh nahii;N ham mi;saal-e ((anqaa lek
shahr shahr ishtihaar hai apnaa

1) we are nothing, in the likeness of the Anqa, but
2) in city after city is our fame/'publicity'



mi;saal : 'Likeness, similitude; simile; analogy; parable, metaphor; specimen, example, model; a case adduced as a precedent'. (Platts pp.1000-01)


ishtihaar : 'Publication, divulging; publicity, public notice; notification, announcement, advertisement, proclamation, declaration, notice, placard, poster; fame, rumour, report, renown'. (Platts p.56)

S. R. Faruqi:

This verse seems to be borrowed directly from [the Persian of] Bedil:

'We have the equipment of the Anqa-- don't ask anything about the faqirs!
Our story is in the whole world, and we are nothing.'

Both poets have well used the possibilities of their respective languages. In Bedil is the word hech (= 'nothing'); since the Anqa has no existence, he is 'nothing'. Mir too has in this same way taken advantage of kuchh nahii;N -- that is, either 'having no reality' or 'very contemptible'.

Mir also has also made use of 'poetic trickery' [makr-e shaa((iraanah]; Bedil's verse is devoid of it. The Anqa is 'nothing' (that is, it has no existence), but it's an extremely famous bird, and it also has a special importance in poetry. Thus to call the Anqa 'nothing' is proper with regard to logic, but with regard to belief and custom it's not proper. This is the trickery of the verse: that the thing that the speaker has presented as proof of his own contemptibleness, is very important in its own right and is admired in the whole world.

It's true that the meaningfulness of the word 'story' [afsaanah] in Bedil's verse, is not there in shahr shahr ishtihaar . We can say only this: that ishtihaarii things are not the kind that are made manifest. Thus although shahr shahr ishtihaar is not as replete as Bedil's afsaanah , it's also not without affinities.

Mir Asar too has well expressed this theme, but his verse doesn't have a depth like that of of Mir's verse:

mi;sl-e ((anqaa yih terii gum-shudagaa;N
naam ko hai;N kahii;N nishaan nahii;N

[like the Anqa, these lost ones of yours
exist in name-- no trace of them anywhere]



How cleverly framed is that 'humble' boast: 'we are nothing-- the way the Anqa is nothing'. And what way is that? The Anqa's nonexistence (invisibility, un-capturability) makes him literally 'nobody', but by the same token is exactly what assures him of being 'somebody' all over the world, famous exactly for his unique 'nothingness'. What a superbly enjoyable way for the poet to depict his own fame!

SRF has pointed out the excellent doubleness of kuchh nahii;N . Along similar lines, mi;saal is also witty, since if taken literally it invokes a 'likeness' or 'specimen' of a creature that by definition cannot be seen.

In the second line, with 'city -- city -- publi-city' we can almost capture a bit of the sound-play and meaning-play of the Urdu. As with {724,1}, here too we have a short meter filled up as much as possible with words that have similar sounds. They're not from the same root, but they sound and feel as if they could be-- this effect creates the device of 'doubt about derivation'. Just substitute har jagah for shahr shahr , and see how greatly it diminishes the verse's punch.