musta((iddo;N par su;xan hai aaj kal
shi((r apnaa fan so kis qaabil hai myaa;N

1) capable/alert/prepared people are {criticized / 'talked about'} nowadays--
2) 'Poetry, your art/craft-- well, what is it fit for, sir?'



musta((idd : 'Ready, prepared; prompt; on the alert, on the qui vive; on the point (of) ; —prepared, arranged, put in order ... ; —able, capable, apt, fit, proper, worthy'. (Platts p.1032)


su;xan : 'Speech, language, discourse, word, words; —thing, business, affair'. (Platts p.645)


qaabil honaa : 'To be or become fit (for); to be competent, or skilled, &c.; to be deserving (of), to deserve, merit'. (Platts p.785)

S. R. Faruqi:

musta((idd = alert, active, prepared
su;xan honaa = for an objection to be made

In the first divan Mir has said:


Dr. Muhammad Hasan has presented this verse as a 'proof' that in Mir's view poetry was a kind of demeaning handicraft, and that people considered Mir himself to be in the 'demeaned' group-- that is, proletarian. Although it's clear that Mir is speaking of the disrespect for people of accomplishment, and poetry in his view is not a kind of handicraft. Thus in the present verse he, like Auden, seems to be saying that no practical deed is accomplished by poetry, so that poetry brings forth no worldly result ('Poetry makes nothing happen'); this is the kind of art/craft that is not 'fit for' anything-- that is, no one can get material, active work from it. Nowadays the age is such that when people are experts in getting things done, and are clever at practical tasks, they receive various kinds of taunts and criticisms. In such a situation, who will have any regard for poetry?

There's also the point that criticizing poetry, and trying to get things done through poetry, would in those days too have been the practice of materialistic people, just as it is today. Thus the modern English poet Seamus Heaney says:

'We live here in critical times ourselves, when the idea of poetry as an art is in danger of being overshadowed by a quest for poetry as a diagram for political action.'

It's clear that in such a harsh age, Heaney too gives the same answer as did Auden, and as did our Mir-- that poetry is an art/craft that doesn't get anything done, it is only an art/craft. (This should not be given the foolish label of 'art for art's sake'; in truth it is what establishes the existence and the 'poetry-ness' of poetry; without it, poetry cannot come into existence.)

Czeslaw Milosz, in his 'Dedication' (published in 1945), certainly said,

'What is poetry which does not save nations or peoples?'

But in reality this was a Platonic, romantic view of poetry. And Milosz himself in his later essays explained it: that he doesn't consider poetry to be dependent on 'historical communities'. We consider that the vision of 'art for art's sake' has come from the West, and is the creation of 'decadent' minds. Thus we energetically invoke those poets and thinkers in whose work this point of view has been rejected. While in fact, our classical poets have always accepted the idea that an art/craft has its own principles and goals, it ought not to be made dependent on the goals of practical action.

[See also {1039,1}.]



Obviously a large part of the charm of the verse is in the wordplay with su;xan (see the definition above), with its basic sense of 'speech, words' that extends in one direction to mean 'poetry', and in another direction to mean 'criticism' (in the sense of being talked or gossiped about).

The people who are imagined as poets, and as recipients of criticism, are musta((idd (see the definition above)-- alert, quick, apt, capable, ready for action. Such an adjective evokes the quick-witted qualities of the ideal Ustad, who is able to compose impromptu lines and verses (as we know from dozens of admiring anecdotes in aab-e ;hayaat and elsewhere) not only at his own pleasure, but also in response to a patron's sudden demand. Thus Mir imagines the poet as a sharp, lively, energetic person, not some woolly absent-minded maladroit dreamer. It's even possible that the capability of such poets is what subjects them to criticism-- people may feel that these alert poets have the talent to do more, that they should know better than to waste their time merely arranging and rearranging sequences of words.

Mir seems to consider the patronizing or skeptical question in the second line to be particularly characteristic of his own time ('nowadays'). SRF notes it in ours as well. Can there ever have been a time in which such questions were not asked? Poets of course ask such questions of themselves too, and work out their own answers.

Note for grammar fans: Here, apnaa fan is short for something like tumhaaraa apnaa fan jo hai . The second line could also be imagined as spoken by the poet himself, in which case apnaa fan would be short for hamaaraa apnaa fan jo hai . But this reading has less 'connection' with the first line, and in other ways too is less piquant and snarky.