qatl-gah me;N dast-bos us kaa kare;N fii al-faur log
ham kha;Re talvaare;N khaave;N naqsh maare;N aur log

1) in the killing-ground, people would instantly/hastily kiss her hand
2) we, standing, would be struck by sword-blows; other people would triumph/praise/boast



fii al-faur : 'Quickly, immediately, instantly'. (Platts p.784)

S. R. Faruqi:

fii al-faur = quickly, at once
naqsh maarnaa = to be victorious, to do justice

This theme has been borrowed from [the Persian of] Sayyid Husain Khalis; or rather, Mir to a great extent has simply translated the verse of Khalis:

har kase bar roz-e qatlam bosah-zad bar dast-e tuu
az sar-e jaa;N man gu;zishtam naqsh raa yaaraa;N zanad

'On the day of my killing, everyone kissed your hand,
I lost my life, and friends {triumphed / praised me}.'

But in Mir's verse there are several possibilities on the basis of which his verse has gone beyond the Persian original. The first one is that in Khalis's verse there's melancholy and defeatedness. By contrast, in Mir's verse there's a kind of rakishness, or rather we can even call it vaingloriousness. The speaker feels no special grief at receiving sword-blows; he indeed has a complaint against the injustice of the rule/order of passion, and he is expressing that complaint in a judgmental tone.

It's clear that he's a martyr who is criticizing the injustice of the ruler in a loud voice and with a careless style. This tone is confirmed by the use of the idiom naqsh maarnaa . In Persian the meaning of naqsh zadan is 'to be victorious'. [The Persian dictionary] bahaar-e ((ajam has written that it also has the sense of 'to do justice to; to praise' [daad denaa]. In Khalis's verse this sense is very clear.

But Mir, by writing naqsh maarnaa , has also given a suggestion of naqshah maarnaa . That is, other people are boasting that they are great judges of the beloved's beauty and have lost their hearts to her accomplished sword-wielding, while we who are being wounded get nothing. The sense of 'to do justice to; to praise' too is present in Mir's verse, because when people want to 'do justice to, praise' someone's skill then they kiss that person's hand, or they say vall;aah haath chuum lene ko jii chaahtaa hai , etc.

In Mir's tone the judicious style is reinforced by his mention of the killing-ground, whereas Khalis has mentioned only his being killed. With the mention of the killing-ground the theme too is broadened-- for many people are gathered. Some have come to be killed, some are spectators. The speaker of the verse is alone in this crowd. The spectators are doing justice: having praised the beloved's skilfulness they are boasting [about their own connoisseurship], and if the chance comes then they kiss her hands. And the speaker stands alone, receiving wound after wound.

In the word 'standing' there's also the suggestion that he doesn't draw back, but rather is prepared to receive wounds and to give up his life. But his solitude too affects us. By means of fii al-faur there's yet another addition to the theme. That is, after every sword-blow, people 'at once' run to kiss the beloved's hand. There's also the suggestion that nobody cares about the life-sacrificing lover and what is happening to him. Since a kiss too is a form of naqsh , in both verses naqsh zadan and naqsh maarnaa have an even greater affinity.

As I've already said, it's the special style of Mir's romantic poetry that his lover is a part of the ordinary world, as well as having all the glory of the traditional lover. In the present verse, this style becomes very finely apparent. If nothing else, then this very quality lifts Mir's verse above that of Khalis. The honor of primacy certainly goes to Khalis, but Mir didn't merely fight hand to hand with this ustad, but rather also made additions to the theme.

It was perhaps first of all Hali who pointed out that Mir had translated a number of the early [Persian] elders' verses. He also made it clear that in a number of cases Mir had improved on the original. For example, he says, 'A later poet who would take a theme from the poetry of some earlier poet, and would make in it some subtle addition or change that would give it more excellence or depth or breadth-- in truth he steals the theme away from the earlier poet.' Moving on, Hali records verses from Sa'di and Mir. Sa'di:

'Friends forbade me-- why did I give my heart to you?
First you should be asked-- why are you so fine/beautiful?'

Mir's verse is:


Now Hali writes,

In Sa'di's verse is the word ;xuub , and in Mir's verse is the word pyaare . It's clear that for a beloved to be fine/beautiful is not a necessary thing, but for a beloved to be lovable is necessary. Thus Sa'di's question can be answered, but Mir's question cannot be answered. [muqaddamah-e shi((r-o-shaa((irii , pp. 144-45]

Hali has shown his usual nit-picking, and has also alluded to something fundamental. But in our case, through the effect of English, the discourse of 'originality' has become so important that we've begun to dislike the idea of taking things from each other or building themes from the themes of others; and wherever a similarity can be seen between two verses, we reproach them with words like 'plagiarism' [sarqah] and 'imitation' [:tabaa((ii].

Earlier generations had discussed this matter in detail, and had enumerated various kinds of borrowing/appropriation. They divided it into five types: 'plagiarism' [sarqah], 'coincidence' [tavaarud], 'translation' [tarjumah], 'borrowing' [iqtibaas], and 'reply' [javaab]. It's obvious that most of Mir and Ghalib's borrowings are of the 'translation' and 'reply' kinds. To accuse them of 'plagiarism' or 'coincidence' is meaningless. In the present verse, we see clearly that Mir has both 'translated' the verse of Sayyid Husain Khalis, and composed a 'reply' to it.

[See also {324,1}.]



The lover simply 'stands' there, while all this activity is going on around him. People are bowing to kiss the beloved's hand, people are praising her swordsmanship, people are relishing the spectacle, people are boasting of their own romantic or martial prowess or discernment. The lover stands there as opposed to moving around, and he stands there as opposed to shrinking back, and he stands there as opposed to using mere words and self-aggrandizing social gestures.

But what does it mean that this whole vivid scene is hypothetical? All the verbs are in the future subjunctive, they are things that 'might' or 'would' happen (described neutrally, with the fear or hope to be added through context), or things that 'should' happen (since such verb forms can be used for desired outcomes, as a form of very polite imperative). Is the lover predicting or anticipating the scene, or dreaming about it, or speculating about it, or hoping for it? And does he feel any vexation at the anticipated behavior of the crowd? As so often, the tone is left for us to choose.