afsurdagii-e so;xtah-jaanaa;N hai qahr miir
daaman ko ;Tuk hilaa kih dilo;N kii bujhii hai aag

1) the coldness/sadness of the burnt-out ones is a calamity/violence, Mir
2) just move/sway the garment-hem a little, for the fire of the hearts has become extinguished



afsurdagii : 'Frozenness; frigidity, coldness; numbness; dejection, melancholy, lowness or depression of spirits'. (Platts p.62)


so;xtah-jaan : ''Heart-consumed,' heart-sore, consumed with the fire of love, or grief, &c.; pained, grieved; love-sick'. (Platts p.695)


qahr : 'Force, power, violence, vehemence, severity; excess; boundlessness; oppression; subjection; rage, fury, wrath, indignation; vengeance; torment, punishment, chastisement; a judgment; a calamity'. (Platts p.796)

S. R. Faruqi:

This verse is very famous, and rightfully famous, but perhaps few people will have paid attention to its meaning. Because if attention is paid, then it will be clearly felt that this is a verse only of 'mood', and in it there's virtually no meaning at all. It would be about such verses that Bedil said 'A fine verse has no meaning' [shi((r-e ;xuub ma((nii nadaarad].

The theme itself of this verse too, Mir definitely borrowed from [the Persian of] Bedil:

'The fire of the heart became high, from my handful of ashes--
Oh Messiah of ardor, from the swaying of whose garment-hem will this be again?'

In Bedil's verse there's no problem of meaning, because here the swaying of the garment-hem is being done by a 'Messiah of ardor' or some mysterious being. And it's also clear that the garment-hem and its swaying are both metaphorical, not real and true. The situation of Mir's verse is a bit different.

The theme of the swaying garment-hem as giving a breeze and fanning a fire, Nur ul-Ain Vaqif too has versified [in Persian] very excellently, showing a different aspect of it:

'May it not be that the smoke of my heart would follow you!
Don't sway your garment-hem any more on the fire of my heart.'

In Vaqif's verse too, the theme is based on a metaphor. Both verses are out of the ordinary (although Bedil's verse, on the basis of its mysterious, supernatural, dramatic mood, is better than Vaqif's), and it's probable that Mir would have known the verses of both these predecessors. To pull out a verse 'on' these verses was not easy. Mir made it look easy.

But in his verse the theme of the garment-hem providing a breeze and causing the fire to flame up is not metaphorical, but rather is natural/innate, because there's no mysterious person or beloved causing the garment-hem to sway by some action (for example, for the feeling of passion to be suddenly reawakened; for the beloved suddenly to appear in glory, or offer mysterious spiritual attention; for hopes to be unexpectedly revived; for the beloved to show her airs and graces, causing the fire or ardor to burn hotter) by means of which a situation would arise that he would be able to construe as the fire in the heart flaming higher.

Here, it's being said by the speaker himself, 'you should sway your skirt, so that the coldness/melancholy (the being extinguished) of the burnt-out ones would be lessened'. It's clear that the speaker cannot create those psychological or spiritual causes which are within the beloved's power to create. Thus the speaker's swaying of his own garment-hem, and by that means reducing the lovers' coldness/melancholy, is a meaningless idea.

All this is all very well, but in the verse the 'mood' is so powerful, and the words have been placed so suitably, that the gaze doesn't fall on the paucity of meaning. For afsurdagii , meaning 'to be extinguished' and 'sadness', with regard to both meanings is extremely fine with so;xtah-jaanaa;N . Then, for this afsurdagii to be a qahr has an additional pleasure, for qahr suggests turmoil and movement and dispersion, but idiomatically qahr honaa also means for something to be extremely sorrow-inducing and grief-creating. Thus in afsurdagii and qahr there's the pleasure of a paradox.

Then, there's the simplicity and simple-heartedness of the confidence that from the swaying of the garment-hem, the extinguished fire in the hearts would flare up again. In ordinary situations this ought to have been laughable, but on the basis of the mood of desperation created by despair and helplessness in the intensity of belief, we don't smile at the speaker's simple-heartedness and his vain endeavor, but rather we believe him.

One possibility can be that 'to sway the garment-hem' is a metaphor for sighing. If this is considered to be the case, then meaning is created in the verse. But this metaphor is very farfetched, and between swaying the garment-hem and sighing there's no common feature on which a metaphor could be based.

Probably it was for this very reason that Momin abandoned the theme of the swaying of the skirt and spoke directly of sighing. The verse isn't in Momin's style, so the suspicion arises that he attempted to imitate Mir and Bedil, and deliberately abandoned the theme of the movement of the garment-hem:

us kuuche kii havaa thii kih apnii hii aah thii
ko))ii to dil kii aag pah pankhaa-saa jhul gayaa

[the breeze of that street was such that it was its own sigh
something swung like a fan over the fire of the heart]

In comparison to Mir and Bedil, the theme has become limited, but within its limits Momin has composed it well.

Nasir Kazmi too has profited from Mir, and said,

karam ay .sar.sar-e aalaam-e dauraa;N
dilo;N kii aag bujhtii jaa rahii hai

[mercy, oh cold breeze of the sorrows of the age!
the fire of the heart is gradually going out]

His verse is accomplished and meaningful, but the first line is very awkward, and the construction aalaam-e dauraa;N is clumsy. In addition, although the word .sar.sar is necessary with regard to the fire, .sar.sar-e aalaam-e dauraa;N has become even more artificial-feeling. It was the place for .sar.sar-e dauraa;N , but because that wouldn't complete the meter, the useless word aalaam had to be added.

In Mir's verse not even a single letter is useless, and there's 'dramaticness' as well. Such a verse doesn't turn up every day! It's true that in Nasir Kazmi's verse there are two meanings, and both are opposite to each other; thus Nasir Kazmi's verse is admirable in its own way.

[See also G{86,7}.]



It's easy to see why it would be a famous verse! It really does have an intriguing sort of paradox in the idea of offering to those with burnt-out hearts something like a homeopathic remedy (one that in our own proverbial terms would be 'the hair of the dog that bit you'). For their hearts have been burnt out by the fire of passion, and now the speaker proposes to cure them by offering a small breeze from a fan-like twitch of the beloved's garment-hem, which will (as he apparently believes) renew the fire of passion in their hearts--and thus simply set them up to be burnt out all over again. Even if we suspect that the speaker is wrong about the efficacy of this cure, the naive simplicity with which he urges it has a charm of its own.

SRF says that the verse has only 'mood' to recommend it, and virtually no meaning at all. In view of his own discussion, this is perhaps too severe. The way we're forced to contemplate the nature and cure (or incurability) of burnt-out hearts surely involves us in mental work that includes the exploration of meanings. (Is the 'fire of passion' the same thing as the 'fire of life'? Can a burnt-out heart be revived by more fire? Should it be? If it can be so easily rekindled, is it really burnt-out?)

For further extensive discussion of a similar verse by Ghalib, see: