ar.z-o-samaa kii pastii bulandii ab to ham ko baraabar hai
ya((nii nasheb-o-faraaz jo dekhe :tab((a hu))ii hamvaar bahut

1) the depth or height of earth and sky-- well, now to us it's equal/flat/alike/futile
2) that is, when we saw the ups and downs, our temperament became very level/smooth /disciplined



baraabar : 'Abreast, even, level, on a level (with, - ke ), up (to); on a par (with), on an equality (with), equal (to); next (to), adjoining; agreeing, coinciding, fitting; facing, confronting, opposite; level, flat, even, smooth, horizontal, parallel; uniform, alike, similar, the same; exact, precise; straight, direct; regular; of the same age; answering, corresponding; unchangeable, impartial, indifferent; futile, without effect or result'. (Platts p.143)


nasheb-o-faraaz : 'Descent and ascent; height and hollow; ups and downs (lit. & fig.); unevenness, roughness, ruggedness; —vicissitudes (of fortune); —good and ill; advantages and disadvantages; profit and loss ... ); —adj. Low and high, down and up, uneven, rough, rugged'. (Platts p.1141)


hamvaar : 'Plain, even, level, smooth; —proportional, symmetrical, well-made; —trained, disciplined; —suitable, worthy, fit'. (Platts p.1235)

S. R. Faruqi:

To be ground down by the intensities of passion and become 'level, smooth', or because of the harshnesses of passion to make oneself 'level, smooth'-- that is, lowered-- is a theme that Mir versified a number of times. From the second divan:


From the third divan [{1194,3}]:

ab past-o-buland ek hai juu;N naqsh-e qadam yaa;N
paa-maal hu))aa ;xuub to hamvaar hu))aa mai;N

[now low and high are one, like a footprint, here
if I was trampled underfoot, then I became finely level/smooth]

In the present verse, the idea is entirely different, and has given it a turn in an unexpected direction. The tone too is such that it's difficult to decide whether the verse is sarcastic or qalandar-like.

First of all, consider the double meaning of hamvaar . A naa-hamvaar :tabii((at refers to one that would not be the most pleasing, because it is lacking in balance and constancy-- now it's one thing, now it's another. The person about whom it can't be said how he'll react to something-- his nature too is called naa-hamvaar . Thus for the temperament to be hamvaar means that balance has been created in it.

But hamvaar also means 'on the same [baraabar] level, smooth'. In this regard the hamvaarii of the temperament means that all its individuality, all its uniqueness, entirely depart. Since in hamvaar there's also an image of the opposition of high and low, hamvaarii also means 'lowness'; for example, they say 'The building having been demolished, the surface of the earth was made hamvaar '.

In any case, all this hamvaarii was created because we have seen many highs and lows. But the proof of this hamvaarii is not that we've become very meek/mild and humble/servile, but that now to us earth and sky seem to be the same [ek se]. And not only this, but in fact even if on the earth there's somewhere a high place, then that too seems to us low; and if the sky is somewhere low (as it seems to be at the horizon), even then we consider it high.

This is a strange level of mystic knowledge, that what is lofty is also low, and what is low is also lofty. Or perhaps this is the level of the falling-away of perception, when one's relation with external reality breaks down. Aristotle must have been looking at just such verses when he said that poetry requires a special kind of madness.

Finally, consider one further aspect. The sky is a symbol [((alaamat] of cruelty and lack of compassion. The earth is a symbol of home and stability. One of the sky's cruelties is that it doesn't let us sit in peace on the earth. Among those ups and downs that we have seen, perhaps one of them was the experience that the earth was unsafe and the sky had become compassionate; or it seemed to us that the earth was unsafe and the sky had become our friend. If such is the case, then necessarily the image of the earth and sky as being low and high becomes meaningless. No matter how we look at it, the verse is entirely new.



The wordplay here makes your head spin with earth-and-sky reversals, but how extremely satisfying it is! We have earth and sky, low and high, 'down and up' (translated as 'ups and downs' to capture the idiomatic effect; see the definition above). These three pairs of opposites show a marked parallelism as well-- the reader can hardly fail to notice the linkage of 'earth, low, down' versus 'sky, high, up'. They are similar-- but not identical. Are we meant to notice the overt similarities, the subtle contrasts, or both? And how concretely, as opposed to metaphorically, are we to take them? Platts says about 'ups and downs' that its usage is '(lit. & fig.)'; the same is fully true for all the metaphorical pairs.

Such oppositions the speaker finds to be baraabar -- and just consider the possibilities! They might be 'even, level, on a level'; or 'on a par, equal'; or 'adjoining; agreeing, coinciding'; or 'facing, confronting, opposite'; or 'level, flat, even, smooth'; or 'horizontal'; or 'parallel'; or 'uniform, alike, similar, the same' or 'unchangeable, impartial, indifferent'; or 'futile, without effect or result' (see the definition above). What a brilliant word choice! In the context of the verse, do any of these various senses not work superbly?

All these paired-opposite abstractions, and especially then in the second line the 'ups and downs', cue us to expect some kind of sententious proverb or cosmic pontification: 'The long and the short of it is that the world is ...' or 'Taking the bitter with the sweet, life is ...'. Instead, in the second line we ultimately get the perfect, irreplaceable hamvaar , which entrances SRF the way baraabar entrances me. 'Level-headed' might not be an acceptable translation, but it would capture some of the idiomatic feeling of the metaphor; another possible choice would be 'equable'. Any user of Platts would think that to become hamvaar was entirely a fine thing, but SRF points out that it can also suggest a loss of full, rounded, idiosyncratic humanity; in English too, a 'flat affect' is a mark of various psychological problems.

As so often, it's left to us to decide on the tone, and the verse fully supports anything from pride ('I'm worldly-wise, I've seen it all; by now I'm unshockable and can cope with anything') to despair ('I've seen that nothing in the world makes any difference, and by now it's all one to me; I no longer give a damn about anything').