kushtah huu;N mai;N to shiirii;N-zabaanii-e yaar kaa
ay kaash vuh zabaan ho mere dahan ke biich

1) I am slain by the sweet-tonguedness of the beloved
2) oh, if only that tongue would be in the midst of my mouth!



zabaan : 'The tongue... ; tongue, speech, language, dialect'. (Platts p.614

S. R. Faruqi:

To use shiirii;N as metrically 'long-short', and not to permit any unpleasantness to occur, is something only Mir would have had the nerve to do. For one more example of this kind, see {1537,4}.

The theme itself he has borrowed directly from [the Persian of] Khusrau:

'My mischievous one's tongue is Turkish, and I don't know Turkish,
How fine it would be, if her tongue were in my mouth!'

For Khusrau it was possible to suppose the beloved to be Turkish; for Mir, some other tactic was necessary. And he brought forth an aspect worthy of his greatness. The 'sweet-tongued' beloved-- that is, a beloved who would say very sweet and adorable things. By creating an iham in the word 'tongue', Mir performed two tasks-- or rather, three tasks:

(1) The beloved says sweet, sweet things. Oh, if only I too would be able to say such things!

(2) The beloved's tongue is sweet; that is, a sweet thing. It's natural to want to take a sweet thing in one's mouth.

(3) If the beloved's tongue would come into my mouth, then this would be the most enjoyable form of a kiss (and in truth this itself is the real object).

In Khusrau's verse, because there's no image of the sweet tongue, there are only two aspects. In Mir's verse, there are three aspects. Khusrau's cleverness is cold, Mir's cleverness is warm, because he both praised the beloved and said that he was slain by her sweet-tonguedness (was in love with her); now if that sweet tongue would come into his mouth, then he would be slain and slain again (that is, his love would increase further). Or else he himself would take on the qualities of the beloved, and the beloved's 'beloved-ness' would be lessened to the extent that she would be deprived of sweet-tonguedness.

In the fifth divan too he has composed this theme, but not so effectively [{1594,6}]:

kyaa shiirii;N hai ;harf-o-;hikaayat ;hasrat ham ko aatii hai
haa))e zabaan apnii bhii hove yak dam us ke dahan ke biich

[how sweet are the words and stories! -- we feel a longing,
alas, if only even/also our own tongue would all at once be in the midst of her mouth]

Jalal has combined the theme of taking the tongue in the mouth, with the theme of the mouth being nonexistent, and created a fine verse:

va.sl me;N to mire mu;Nh me;N vuh zabaa;N ho yaa rab
;Gaib se yaar kaa gum-gashtah dahan paidaa ho

[in union, may that tongue be in my mouth, oh Lord--
from the Unseen, may the beloved's lost mouth appear!]



At the center of the verse is the multivalence of 'tongue', meaning speech in general, or language in particular, or the actual body part. The first line leads us to expect one of the more common, more abstract senses of the word; then the fact that the second line can still provide such a sense, but also suddenly and strongly suggests an erotic use for the 'tongue', is amusing and witty. As in any good 'mushairah' verse, the punch-word, 'mouth', is withheld, for maximum effect, until the last possible moment.

The dahan ke biich is a bit of an irritant, however: the obvious 'least marked' thing to say here for 'in the mouth' would be dahan me;N , since 'in the midst of the mouth', with its excessive specificity, distracts the reader's attention and thus diminishes the punchy effect.

Compare Ghalib's more explicitly erotic use of the tongue in the mouth:


Note for meter fans: The word shiirii;N , normally scanned long-long, is already shortened from shiiriin , scanned long-long-short. So to shorten it further by scanning it long-short, as Mir does here, is unusual and might well give the reader an unpleasant jolt. Probably Mir's making it into a long compound, shiirii;N-zabaanii , is what rebalances the effect enough for him to feel that he could get by with it.