kab tak rahe;Nge pahluu lagaa))e zamii;N se ham
yih dard ab kahe;Nge kisii shaanah-bii;N se ham

1) until when will we remain with our side pressed to the ground?!
2) this pain we will tell now to some 'shoulderblade-seer'



S. R. Faruqi:

shaanah-biin = one who discovers hidden matters by means of omens

This verse is an illustration of how skilfully a masterful poet uses an 'affinity'. The term shaanah-bii;N is used especially for the omen-reader who takes omens from looking at the shoulder-blades of animals (for example, sheep, goat, camel). In this regard, to speak of remaining with the side pressed to the ground (that is, of being helpless from pain in the side, so as to remain lying with the side placed along the ground)-- there's no need to explain how suitable it is.

From the perspective of [Greek-Islamic] medicine [:tibb], the beauty of the theme is that in cases of pain in the side and shoulder, when the patient is made to lie on a firm bed or on the ground, he obtains some relief.

Momin too has made good use of the theme of the 'shoulderblade-seer':

ham kisii shaanah-bii;N se puuchhe;Nge
sabab aashuftagii-e kaakul kaa

[we will ask some shoulderblade-seer
the cause of the disorder of the curls]

Here, he has taken advantage of the meaning of shaanah as 'comb' as well as 'shoulder-blade', but he doesn't have the double and triple meaningfulness of Mir's verse. (Similarly, for another verse, an unsuccessful imitation by Atish, see {114,1}.) Nevertheless, Momin has maintained the theme.

Momin's theme has been taken from Mus'hafi, but Momin composed a complete and well-demonstrated verse. In Mus'hafi's verse there's undoubtedly the pleasure of the iham of shaanah and shaanah-bii;N , but there's artificiality/contrivedness in the theme:

uljhaa hai kis kii zulf-e pareshaa;N me;N dil miraa
ay shaanah-bii;N samajh ke ;zaraa shaanah dekhnaa

[in whose disordered curls has my heart become entangled?
oh shoulderblade-seer, take heed, and just please look at the shoulderblade/comb]

Mir not only connected the theme directly to the experience of passion, but also put into the verse a new aspect of meaning. All these things are the mark of a major poet. The points of meaning-creation are in fact points of [the English word] 'intertextuality'. Without an understanding of this fact, justice cannot be done to the classical Urdu ghazal.

In Mir's verse, there's one additional aspect of [Greek-Islamic] medicine: that pain in the heart is often felt in the shoulder and beneath the ribs. A theme of this kind Mir has versified in one other place with extreme excellence: see




The widespread traditional technique of divination by examining the shoulder-blade of a freshly-slaughtered animal is called 'scapulimancy' (among other spellings and other names). Obviously, shoulder-blade divination as a source of information about pain in the shoulder/side has a fine 'affinity'.

Moreover, the patient might well be planning 'now' (after much pain) to offer his own shoulder-blade for examination-- so that he would be 'cured' of his pain by being slaughtered to make his shoulder-blade available to the seer. This view would fit into a common ghazal theme. Compare


in which stone (for bashing the head against) is 'now' the only 'cure' for mental distraction.