;Gam-e ma.zmuu;N nah ;xaa:tir me;N nah dil me;N dard kyaa ;haa.sil
hu))aa kaa;Ga;z nama:t go rang teraa zard kyaa ;haa.sil

1) neither grief of themes in the temperament, nor pain in the heart-- what result/gain?
2) although your color became pallid/yellow like paper-- what result/gain?



ma.zmuun : 'That which is included or comprised (in a thing); the contents (of a writing or letter), what is implied (in a writing, &c.), import, sense, signification, meaning, tenour; —subject-matter, subject; —a composition, an article, an essay, an address'. (Platts p.1043)


;haa.sil : 'Product, produce, outcome, what is cleared, what remains (of anything), result, issue, ultimate consequence; inference, deduction, corollary; produce or net produce (of land, or of anything that is a source of revenue), revenue; —acquiring, acquisition, advantage, profit, gain, good; sum, sum and substance, substance, purport, import, object'. (Platts p.473)


saa;Nvalaa : 'Of a dark or sallow complexion; dark, swarthy; sallow, brown, nut-brown; of handsome countenance; ... Brown and salty; rich brown; —piquant, pleasing'. (Platts p.630)

S. R. Faruqi:

This verse is interesting in a number of ways. The first point is that in it the whole splendor of life has been expressed. Life is meaningful and worth living only in two situations: either a man should be a poet (in his heart would be the grief of themes), or else he should be a lover (in his heart would be pain). Whether a pain-filled heart is considered to be a sign of love for God or for a human, the basic thing is that there should be pain in the heart. If a man is not a poet, or has no pain in his heart, then his life has no result/gain. If somebody's complexion is as pallid as paper, so what? Such pallor can come about because of sickness, sorrows and difficulties, asceticism and fasting, and so on. The main thing is to be a poet and to keep in the heart grief of themes, or to be a lover and to keep in the heart the pain of passion.

Now let's consider the 'grief of themes' [;Gam-e ma.zmuu;N]. It has three meanings: (1) thought/concern over themes; that is, the poet's role is that he always keeps thinking about themes; (2) grief because despite searching and thinking, themes are not coming to hand; and (3) some theme had come to mind, but before it could assume a robe of words and come into the gathering of poets, it vanished from the heart; that is, it left the memory, and now cannot be recalled, so that 'grief of themes' means grief over lost themes.

For pallor, the simile of paper too is interesting. Nowadays, for whiteness the simile of paper is commonly used. But in Mir's time paper was made by hand, and was usually made of rags of cotton fabric and silk, etc.; thus it didn't have the whiteness that's usually found in modern paper. But the pallor of the color/complexion is also interesting because the beloved's complexion is assumed to be nut-brown [saa;Nvalaa], yellow/orange [champa))ii], or golden [sunahraa], so that when such a color is overtaken by sickness, not whiteness but pallor/yellowness [zardii] comes over it.

Mir has expressed the beloved's golden complexion, and the lover's dark complexion, like this, in the fifth divan [{1733,2}]:

miluu;N kyuu;N kih ham-rang ho tujh se ay gul
tiraa rang shu((lah miraa rang kaahii

[how would we meet with you by becoming a color-sharer, oh rose?
your color-- flame; my color-- grassy]

In the third divan:


In the first divan [{162,3}]:

kisuu ke ;husn ke shu((le ke aage u;Rtaa hai
suluuk miir suno mere rang-e kaahii kaa

[before the flame of someone's beauty, it flies
listen, Mir, to how my grassy color comports itself]

That the beloved's color, because of sickness or fear, becomes white, and the lover's pallid-- this theme Atish has expressed like this:

va.sl kii shab jo hu))ii .sub;h yakaayak to hu))aa
mai;N idhar zard udhar ro))e dil-aaraam safed

[when the night of union turned to suddenly to dawn, then
on this side, I became pallid; on that side, the white-faced heart-comforter wept

And listen to two verses of Nasikh, on the beloved's golden complexion:

sho;x hai rang sunahraa yih tire siine kaa
.saaf aatii hai na:zar sone kii zanjiir safed

[it is mischievous, this golden color of your bosom!
your golden chain appears clearly to be white]

is qadar khap ga))ii hai terii sunahrii rangat
ay parii ab to samaataa nahii;N zar aa;Nkho;N me;N

[to such an extent your golden color has been absorbed
oh Pari, now gold can't be admired, in my eyes]

It's often been said that in Urdu poetry the beloved is always considered to be white/fair [goraa]. From this people draw the conclusion that in fact the Urdu poet has been influenced by the whiteness of the English. The truth is that in our classical poetry the beloved's complexion/color has been dexcribed more often as golden and wheatish than as white/fair.

And the whiteness/fairness that has been mentioned in our poetry is not connected to the pallid/insipid whiteness of the English. Thus Nasikh's verse:

;husn ko chaahi))e andaaz-o-adaa naaz-o-namak
kyaa hu))aa gar hu))ii goro;N kii :tara;h khaal safed

[beauty needs airs and graces, pride and saltiness/liveliness
so what if there would be, like the white/fair ones, a white skin!]

Then again, Nasikh has seen in whiteness/fairness the glitter of a diamond, not just whiteness:

mil ga))e hiire ke baazuu-band .saaf ay rashk-e maah
siim ;xaali.s se zyaadah hai;N tire baazuu safed

[you have clearly acquired diamond armlets, oh envy of the moon
your arms are whiter than pure silver]

Shah Mubarak Abru declares that those who prefer whiteness/fairness over brownness to be 'dead-hearted'. This theme is very fine, because he also construes the whiteness of death:

qadr-daa;N ;husn ke kahte hai;N use dil-murdah
saa;Nvare chho;R ke jo chaah kare goro;N kii

[connoisseurs of beauty call that one 'dead-hearted'
who would leave a nut-brown one and desire fair/white ones]

Ghalib went beyond this and made both 'dark-coloredness' and 'delicacy' into one [in the unpublished G{404x,2}]:

rach gayaa josh-e .safaa-e zulf kaa i((.zaa me;N ((aks
hai nazaakat jalvah ay :zaalim siyaah-faamii tirii

[the intensity of the purity of the curls has created in the limbs a reflection [of its color]
oh cruel one, your dark-coloredness is a glory/appearance of the delicacy [of your body]]

In our time, Nasir Kazmi and Zafar Iqbal have maintained the tradition of the beloved's nut-brown complexion/color. Nasir Kazmi:

chaand kii dhiimii dhiimii .zau me;N
saa;Nvalaa mukh;Raa dukh detaa hai

[in the dim, dim light of the moon
the nut-brown face causes sorrow]

Zafar Iqbal:

:zafar vuh saa;Nvalaa nanhaa saa haath rakh dil par
kih vuh bhii dekhe safiinah ;xa:tar me;N itnaa hai

[Zafar, place that nut-brown, smallish hand on the heart
so that she too would see in how much danger the boat [of my heart] is]

Zafar Iqbal:

hai yuu;N to us kaa saa;Nvalaapan saa;Nvalaa hii pan
chakho to ik mi;Thaas bhii us ke namak me;N hai

[somehow her nut-brownness is only/emphatically piquancy/saltiness
if you taste, then there's a single/particular/unique/excellence sweetness too in her salt]

Zafar Iqbal's second verse, by virtue of its colloquial trimness and the superbness of its theme, would have adorned even Mir's divan.

From out of this lengthy exposition, I've wanted to make two points clear. First, about what a place is occupied in our poetic culture by the color/complexion of the face and body. And second, in the present verse about why Mir called the addressee's color 'pallid' and didn't call it 'white'. See:


[See also {544,9}; {1501,6}.]



This kind of effortless flow of related verses is one of SRF's special achievements in SSA. It's hard to convey the nuances of the different color terms in English of course, but since I am using English mostly instrumentally, I can go for 'dark-coloredness' and the like. I thank SRF for helping me [Nov. 2014) with the translations of these verses: he corrected some errors, and suggested some improvements. The final choices are, however, my own.

The idea that a true poet must suffer from 'grief of themes' is one more refutation of the 'natural poetry' idea that Mir was a sort of naive innocent who simply poured out his sorrow, etc. etc., and hadn't an ounce of artifice to his name. On the contrary of course-- far from being immediately emergent from one's life, 'themes' are something one must search for, struggle over, shape with difficulty. Constantly wrestling with them causes 'grief', and the true poet must have a 'temperament' that requires-- and requites-- this kind of suffering.

Mir in fact spells out as explicitly as possible the mortal wear and tear of the poet's life [{1428,4}]:

;haal fikr-e su;xan me;N kuchh nah rahaa
shi((r meraa shi((aar hai taa ;haal

[of my condition, in the thought/concern of poetry, nothing has remained
poetry is my pursuit, as long as I am able]