garchih ham par-bastah :taa))ir hai;N par ai gulhaa-e tar
kuchh hame;N parvaa nahii;N hai tum agar par-vaa karo

1) although we are a wing-tied bird-- but, oh moist/fresh roses

2a) we don't care at all [about that], if you would care about us!
2b) we don't care at all [about that], if you would open your wings!
2c) we don't mind/care at all if you would open your wings



bastah : 'Bound, shut, closed, fastened, folded up; frozen, congealed'. (Platts p.155)


parvaa : 'Care, concern, anxiety, vexation; fear, terror; inclination, desire, affection, concupiscence'. (Platts p.255)

S. R. Faruqi:

The verse has at least three meanings, and some verbal subtleties as well. Let's first consider the verbal subtleties. Between par in the first line and parvaa in the second line, there's the pleasure of a zila. In both lines there's an abundance of internal rhyme: gar , par , par , tar , par ( -vaa ), ( a- ) gar , par ; the rhythm too of these is very fine, as will become clear below.

One meaning is that although we are a wing-tied bird, oppressed and in a cage, if the moist/fresh roses would care about us, if they would have attention and regard for us, then we don't care at all about our imprisonment and oppression. That is, if the beloved would care even enough to notice that some person was immersed in grief over her, then this is enough so that life can pass, even if that life would pass in a cage.

Here W. B. Yeats comes to mind, who in his deathless poem 'No Second Troy' has expressed this idea in reverse. Yeats asks why he should blame his beloved for filling his life, and his nights and days, with pain and suffering:

Why should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery ...

Her beauty itself was such that it was like a tightened bow, lofty and solitary and devoid of attachment:

... With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
Being high and solitary and most stern ...

Then he asks what such a woman could have done-- as if it was her nature that, like Helen of Troy, she should have destroyed a city. Well, where was my beloved to find a city like Troy to burn? So she destroyed simply me:

Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?

In Mir's verse too, there's no complaint about the beloved's destructiveness; but just as Yeats's beloved seems to be a cosmic force, in Mir's verse there's no hope of any humanity/humaneness from the beloved, but a plea can be made. If you would care, then I wouldn't care that I am imprisoned and bound and sorrowful. Yeats's beloved has not been physically described, but her murderourness, her inhuman beauty, has certainly been expressed with an extraordinary beauty and power.

By contrast, Mir has used the apparently conventional phrase 'moist roses'. But behind it there is present a whole individuality that is fresh and moist, delicate and colorful, and perhaps also careless like a tightened bow. Yeats's speaker knows that he has gotten nothing from his beloved, and will get nothing. Mir's speaker too knows this, but in his plea there's a little hope too. The relationship that both have with the beloved is very different from the ordinary relationship.

But in Mir's verse there are still more meanings. In the second line, we can also read tum agar par vaa karo -- 'if you would open your wings' ( vaa karnaa = to open). That is, we cannot open our own wings (a 'wing-tied bird'), but if you would open your wings-- that is, somehow or other fly along and come to us-- we won't care about our own 'wing-tiedness'. Then you and we will become one. (That is, you too like us, will become imprisoned. Or, you and we will achieve union.)

Another meaning is that if the moist roses would open their wings and fly off away from the garden, even then we don't care. We are a thousandfold 'wing-tied', but we're not so small-minded that we would envy the moist roses their flight, or be sorrowful. After all, the moist roses too are in any case captives of a kind, because they are tied to the branches of the garden. So if they would become free, then we will have no care (complaint, discontent). Or, if they would fly away and leave us alone, even then we won't care, for we are bound by our fate, we know that we have to remain here.

The question might arise that since moist roses have no wings or feathers, how is it possible to speak of their opening them? One answer to it is that the speaker (the wing-tied bird) considers others too to be, like him, possessors of wings and feathers. Another answer is that he has made the opening of wings a metaphor for springing into motion, for going away.

In all these meanings the equal weighting of 'we' and 'you' is very meaningful. It can be clearly seen that the moist roses are in reality 'the Other', and between the wing-tied bird and the moist roses there's nothing in common. That is, in the light of the first meaning the theme is of a certain kind of solitude. In the light of the second meaning too, the theme becomes solitude. But in the light of the third meaning the theme is one of 'alienation' and 'otherness'.

Apart from the first meaning, with regard to both other meanings there's an iham between parvaa and par plus vaa . If Yeats had been brought face to face with this verse, he would have been confounded. The Lord knows what occasion caused this verse to come to Mir.



In the translation I've lined up SRF's three meanings in the order in which he presents them, as (2a), (2b), (2c). Really the verse is gorgeously, ravishingly constructed. It gets such an array of meanings, and without even needing any of the helpful little devices that I take such a delight in analyzing on the 'Sets' page. The 'doubly activated' refrain readings are both strongly evoked for us by earlier usages in the verse ( parvaa by another, earlier parvaa , and par - vaa by an earlier opposite, par-bastah ). As SRF notes, the verse even manages an astonishing amount of internal rhyme. And all this seems completely easy, unforced, flowing.

SRF entertains the idea that the roses might have actual 'wings', which they might use for getting around; in his second meaning, he imagines the bird as anticipating a visit from the roses. Such a possibility would never have occurred to me. To me it seems that the petals are 'wings' in a very different sense. They are wings because the act of opening them brings a rose to its full glory, its essential rose-nature, its own ultimate possibilities-- just as the act of opening his wings would be equally meaningful for the wing-tied bird. (And if you'll forgive a personal note, as I work year after year on this huge Mir/Ghalib project, it has come to feel like opening my own wings.)

Then of course, more poignantly, when a rose opens its petals, it has only a few days to live-- for soon its fluttering petals themselves will 'fly' away with the wind. By sharing its beauty with the world (including the wing-tied bird) at such a cost, the rose will be showing a kind of supreme gallantry, grace, and acceptance of fate. A gesture that matches this gallantry, grace, and acceptance of fate is the wing-tied bird's empathy and even identification with the rose. He doesn't care what happens to him, if only he can see (even if perhaps only in his mind's eye) the glory of the rose with its petals fully unfurled.

Note for translation fans: 'Wing-bound' is much more elegant and evocative than 'wing-tied', but there are some serious ambiguities. It could easily be taken as 'bound for wings' (in the sense of traveling, like the song 'I'm Alabama-bound'), or as 'bound by wings' (like 'muscle-bound'). So as usual, I've gone for the clunky choice that is better able to get us directly and accurately into the Urdu. But that doesn't stop me from being wistful sometimes.