buu kiye kumhlaa))e jaate ho nazaakat haa))e re
haath lagte maile hote ho la:taafat haa))e re

1) having smelled [a flower], you go on fainting/withering-- delicacy/softness, oh alas!
2) at the touch of a hand, you become dirty/sad/vexed-- refinement/delicacy, oh alas!



kumhlaanaa : 'To fade, wither, droop; to become blighted; to faint or sink (as the heart)'. (Platts p.849)


nazaakat : 'Softness, tenderness; —delicacy; neatness; elegance; politeness'. (Platts p.1136)


mailaa : 'Dirty, filthy; foul; soiled; defiled; nasty; —sad, troubled, vexed, annoyed'. (Platts p.1107)


la:taafat : 'Slimness, slenderness, delicateness; fineness, thinness, tenuity, subtility; neatness, elegance, grace, beauty; purity; delicacy'. (Platts p.957)

S. R. Faruqi:

This verse has received a wealth of praise and analysis. Still, it's necessary to say this much: that the informality with which 'delicacy' and 'refinement' have been proved is beyond the reach even of Nizami, not to speak of others. Through Nizami's ideas based on the depiction of beauty and the abstractness of images, he had a special capability in the expression of physical beauty. in 'Shirin Khusrau', Nizami describes Shirin's bath [in Persian] like this:

'When that fountain of light turned toward the fountain,
The eyes of the sky became wet, from afar.
She wrapped a sky-colored silk shawl around herself,
She herself went into the water, and she lit a fire in the world.
Her fair body rippled in the water,
The way ermine ripples on sable.
When with her hands she poured water over her head,
The sky wove pearls onto the moon.'

Obviously, if people who have given their hearts to Keats's 'sensuous' poetry had read Nizami, then they would have known what a level of accomplishment the art had reached among us as well.

But in the present verse of Mir's, the human level on which the beloved's beauty reaches us is something beyond even Nizami, because in Nizami's verses, in the glow of light imagery our other senses (especially the sense of touch) are not involved. In the third verse there was some possibility of touch, but Nizami has placed more emphasis on color and movement (the 'fluidity' of the body).

Mir has in his verse evoked all the senses, and with such powerful balance that no one sense prevails over any other: (1) perfume, to smell = smell; (2) kumhlaanaa = flower = colorfulness = sight; (3) a flower's velvety surface and texture = touch; (4) 'the touch of a hand' = touch; (5) la:taafat = taste, relish (a refined taste); (6) the sound of grief = haa))e re .

This latter exclamation also deserves special attention because through it the immediacy of the experience becomes clear, and its effect is extraordinarily sensuous. If the balance of the expression would be thrown off even a little, then the effect would be degraded. As the verse stands now, it has the force of insha'iyah speech. See:


We know that Mir's power over firmly sensory images and, through that means, over things-- and especially the mention of things related to mankind-- was not possessed even by Ghalib, Iqbal, Dard, Sauda, or Mus'hafi. In this ability only Mir Anis approaches Mir. But verses like the present one are rare even in Mir's poetry. It's a verse that's in a class by itself.

[See also {1039,5}.]



Usually the beloved is happy in the garden, for she dominates it with her beauty; here, however, she is so delicate that when she merely smells a flower she becomes faint-- perhaps from some kind of allergic reaction, or perhaps merely from the effort involved in taking a few deep breaths. The verb kumhlaanaa works well here, since one of its meanings is 'to wither'-- and in this verse, the beloved withers faster than the flowers in the garden. Similarly, the beloved can't be touched-- even a single touch would render her 'dirty', or 'sad', or 'vexed' (see the definitions above).

That degree of 'princess and the pea' refinement seems so excessive that I'm tempted to think of the verse as some kind of humorous parody of ghazal themes. But SRF and many other Mir fans form a large cheering section, so I feel decidedly outvoted.

Note for meter fans: That unusual word kumhlaanaa is to be pronounced and scanned with the mh treated as a single conjunct consonant. For a more common such case, think of tumhe;N .