sham((a hii sar nah de ga))ii bar-baad
kushtah apnii zabaa;N ke ham bhii hai;N

1) it wasn't only the candle that gave over its head to destruction/'wind'
2) slain by our own tongue, are even/also we



bar-baad : ' 'On or to the wind'; given to the wind, thrown or cast away, wasted, misapplied, squandered; laid waste, destroyed, ruined, undone'. (Platts p.144)

S. R. Faruqi:

The phrase bar-baad honaa is a translation of a Persian idiom, bar-baad zadan , meaning 'to annihilate, to waste', that didn't become popular in Urdu. Since the candle is extinguished by wind (to blow it out is a wind-creating action), the wordplay between candle and bar-baad honaa is very elegant.

The flame of a candle is called its 'tongue'. By aatish-zabaa;N is meant 'someone in whose speech/poetry is heat and sharpness'. Mus'hafi has excellently said,

in naalah-haa-e garm se jal jaa))egaa chaman
aisaa to :zulm bulbul-e aatish-zabaa;N nah kar

[from these hot laments, the garden will burn up
don't, oh fire-tongued Nightingale, do such cruelty]

By using the idea of aatish-zabaanii , Mir has incorporated three kinds of matters:

(1) The candle flame is itself fire, and the flame is called the tongue of the candle. As long as the flame remains, the candle goes on melting; that is, it goes on dying. Thus it's the candle's own flame that's responsible for its death.

(2) The candle's flame is its tongue. Thus the candle has been established as 'fire-tongued'. By aatish-zabaanii is meant the sharpness and heat of speech/poetry. Since the flame itself melts the candle and leads it toward death, the candle is slain by its tongue.

(3) The tongue of the candle is flame. This very flame also melts it. As long as the flame is burning, the candle's tongue is moving. But the candle doesn't care about the fact that if the flame burns, then it itself will burn. That is, it prefers speech to silence, even if in the process its own death would come about. Thus the candle is slain by its own tongue. After we have reached this point, zabaan in the sense not only of 'tongue' but also of 'speech, language' becomes meaningful.

Now let's consider the question of why the speaker is slain by his own tongue. The following possibilities can be seen:

(1) The speaker is a poet and he speaks words of truth, even if people might kill him for it.

(2) The speaker has mystical knowledge and speaks about his knowledge of God, even if his words don't please people (for example, Hazrat Mansur).

(3) The speaker speaks clearly/candidly, he doesn't obfuscate, even if people condemn him to decapitation.

(4) The speaker is a lover. In the presence of the beloved, he expressed his passion; the beloved became angry and sent him down to the execution-ground.

It's also an enjoyable thing that bar-baad denaa inclines the mind to think of bar-baad karnaa -- that is, the candle destroyed its own life, but if we became slain, then it was because of some important matter. And sar denaa too is fine, because a candle's 'head' is its most conspicuous part. He's composed a peerless verse.

[See also {977,3}.]



On an initial reading (or, ideally, hearing), that first line is notably ambiguous. The line could perfectly well be read as claiming that the candle did not give up its head to 'wind' or destruction: the hi could mean either that 'the candle alone' refused to give up its head, while others consented; or else that it wasn't the candle that refused to give up its head, but someone or something else that so refused. Of course, in the ghazal world that would be a surprising claim, because our normal belief is that the candle does indeed give up its life. But then, the poet could be setting things up most intriguingly for some extraordinary justification or 'proof' in the second line.

In fact, not until we hear the bhii at the end of the second line can we be entirely sure that we should read the first line as, in effect, 'the candle didn't do it alone' rather than 'the candle didn't do it'. Shouldn't this count as some kind of an iham, in the looser sense in which SRF seems to use the term?

Note for translation fans: How to convey de ga))ii ? It's not exactly de kar ga))ii , but it's somewhat over in that direction. It has a sense of 'gave and completed the transaction', 'gave and moved on'. I said 'gave over', but that really doesn't do the trick.