paa-e ;hinaa))ii us ke haatho;N hii par rakhe hai;N
par us ko ;xvush nah aayaa yih kaar-e dast-bastah

1) her hennaed feet, we have put on only/emphatically our hands
2) but it didn't please her, this 'hand-folded task'



dast-bastah : 'With close or folded hands (in token of respect)'. (Platts p.516)

S. R. Faruqi:

;xvush aanaa = to please
kaar-e dast-bastah = a task that would be very difficult, that not everyone could do

This verse too is an example of the [Persian] 'Sabk-i Hindi' style, and of Mir and Ghalib's special style: having versified some metaphor or idiom in its dictionary meaning, a 'reversed metaphor' is created. The meaning of kaar-e dast-bastah that I wrote in the marginal notations is taken from bahaar-e ((ajam ; as a 'warrant', a [Persian] verse by Ali Quli Salim:

'It didn't become repaired in Hindustan, our defeat
Here, even to recite the namaz is a 'hand-folded task'.'

As a commentary on this, Khan-e Arzu has written that the people of Iran who were Shi'a used to recite the namaz with their hands joined. But after coming to India, they had begun to recite the namaz with their hands folded, in the style of the Hanafis. Thus in Ali Quli Salim's verse, to recite the namaz is a 'hand-folded task'. That is, Salim too has used the metaphor in a dictionary sense.

In Salim's and Mir's verses both, there's the additional excellence that the metaphorical meaning too is appropriate. Considering seventeenth-century Hindustan to be a non-Islamic land, they can say that here, to recite the namaz is a great and difficult task. And if Khan-e Arzu's commentary is kept in view, then to call reciting the namaz a kaar-e dast-bastah gives a double pleasure.

In Mir's verse, the theme is that he has lifted up the beloved's hennaed feet and held them in his hands. It's clear that this task is not easy, it's one that requires great courage. And it's also clear that when someone's feet would be taken in one's hands, then the hands will definitely become closed (that is, will become 'hand-folded').

In Mir's verse there's a zila between ;hinaa))ii and bastah , because [the Persian] bastan is used idiomatically for henna. Then, it's also interesting that for taking up the beloved's ;hinaa-bastah feet in one's hands there can be several reasons. (1) With the thought that the henna shouldn't be spoiled (if her feet touch the ground, then inappropriately it will be spoiled). (2) Because she has applied henna, the beloved is prevented from walking; thus this occasion is very suitable for foot-kissing, taking the feet in the hands and pressing them to one's breast, and so on. (3) After the henna has been applied, her feet have already been washed. Seeing such beautiful feet, he has taken them in his hands.

It's a fine verse, although it can be said with virtually complete confidence that it was composed only in order to versify kaar-e dast-bastah . That same trait of Baudelaire's comes to mind, that he kept a good supply of his favorite words close at hand, since they would come in handy for poems. But our Urdu-vale even now firmly consider that a verse is composed not for the sake of words, but for the sake of 'feelings'. Thus even today there's no lack of people who dislike the practice of Mir and other classical poets, of also constantly composing verses in order to versify a certain word.

The enjoyable thing is that those whom our critics imitate-- that is, the Westerners-- have now accepted this [word-centered] idea themselves. Thus Valery says that only the execution of a poem is a poem. (That is, there is no poem outside the poetic text.) And Schlegel says that poetry is a kind of 'republic' in which every member is a free citizen, and has the right to cast its vote. (That is, in a verse every word is important; it's not important where that word has come from.) Today, in Western criticism, just these ideas are finding favor. Today, there, the idea is emphasized that outside of its own tradition, no speech can be poetry at all. Tradition itself tells us which speech we should consider as poetry, and which we should not.

Frank Kermode says that every literary text expresses the poet's experience by means of just those things that from the point of view of the time of the writing, and of the place of the writing, are called literature. Thus if in Mir's poetics there was the scope for making a verse in order to versify a particular word, then who are we to take it amiss? We have only to look within the current of the tradition in which the verse has been composed-- whether in the light of that, the verse is successful or not. If we look with this angle of view, then Mir's verse is not only successful, but rather very successful; and if we have understood this tradition, then for us poetry will become meaningful and full of pleasure.



On the nature of henna, see G{18,4}.

SRF's claim that the whole verse was created in order to make use of kaar-e dast-bastah is surely correct. And then, the positioning of the idiom in the closural position is just what we'd expect from a good 'mushairah verse'.