kyaa ham me;N rahaa gardish-e aflaak se ab tak
phirte hai;N kumhaaro;N ke pa;Re chaak se ab tak

1) what has remained in us, from the revolving of the heavens, up to now?
2) fallen/prostrate, we turn/move/wander like the potters' wheel, up to now



phirnaa : 'To turn, go round, revolve, whirl; to circulate; to turn back, to return; to walk, walk about, walk to and fro; to wander, rove, ramble, stroll; to travel; to turn over, to roll'. (Platts p.286)

S. R. Faruqi:

Apparently it seems that in the first line the refrain has not come fully into play. But in reality that's not the case. For ab tak means 'until now', until the coming of this time. Thus the idea is that at this time (whether we call it old age, or the time after the desert-wandering of passion, or the time of enduring the difficulties of passion), nothing now has remained in us-- to the point that not even our former wandering and house-wreckingness have remained.

Now we, like a potter's wheel, are turning, but we remain in place, we neither go nor come. There's a turning, but it's useless. From the affinity with the simile of the revolving of the heavens, there's a doubled beauty. The word pa;Re is also fine, because a potter's wheel remains lying [pa;Raa] on the ground.

The prose order of the second line will be like this: ( ham ) ab tak pa;Re kumhaaro;N ke chaak se ( = kii :tara;h ) phirte hai;N . He's drawn a fine picture of fruitless revolving.



I was glad to see that SRF provided the prose order for the second line; in this case it's well warranted. The line is really quite confusingly disordered. (We could always consider it aashuftah , dizzy, and crazed like the lover himself-- but that would be special pleading, like claiming that a dull novel was really a novel about dullness.)

Mir has a right to jumble the word order, but I also see in the second line a pretty flagrant case of padding: why are the 'potters' plural, while their 'wheel' is singular? Do all the potters in the world use the same wheel? Both should be singular (or, less idiomatically, both plural). As far as I can see, there's no reason in the world for pluralizing the potters except the need for an additional long syllable right at that point in the line.

SRF is convinced that the turning of the potter's wheel is 'useless' and 'fruitless'. But of course, it's really not so: it's the way the potter creates all the pots and vessels that justify his existence. It's only that we ourselves, worn-out lovers, burnt-out cases, are passive now. We are perhaps used by the heavens the way the potter uses his wheel: as a foundation or substratum for making new and fresh creations. We are, in a wonderfully apposite sense, being 'recycled'.

Note for grammar fans: In the second line, se is of course short for jaise .