parvaanah gird phir kar jal bhii bujhaa valekin
;xaamosh raat ko thii sham((-e zabaa;N-buriidah

1) the Moth, having gone around, even/also burned and became extinguished, but
2) silent, last night, was the cut-tongued candle



bujhnaa : 'To be put out, extinguished (a fire, light, &c.); to be quenched (as thirst); to be allayed or satisfied (as hunger, or a feeling or passion); ... to be calmed, cooled, composed, tranquillized, &c.; to be damped (as the spirits, courage, &c.), to be dejected, downcast; to be tired or weary'. (Platts p.135)


buriidah : 'Cut, clipped, amputated'. (Platts p.151)

S. R. Faruqi:

In this verse there's a rush of affinity and meaning, both. Then, the mysteriousness is such that it doesn't become entirely clear whether the verse is praising the candle or abusing it. If we take zabaa;N-buriidah in its dictionary meaning, then it's a kind of insult, the way women say muu;N;Dii kaa;Taa (one whose head would have been cut off, or would be worthy of being cut off) and marne jogaa (one who would be worthy of dying or being killed). On this reading, the idea would be that the Moth burned and was extinguished, but the candle-- may the Lord cut off its tongue!-- remained only/emphatically silent. That is, the candle wasn't at all affected by the Moth's burning and death, it didn't say a single word.

But if we take zabaa;N-buriidah as a metaphor, then the meaning changes. A candle's flame is called its 'tongue'. Thus a sham((-e zabaa;N-buriidah is one of which the flame has burnt out, or has been extinguished. Such a candle is called 'silent', and in the line the word 'silent' is also present. Now the idea becomes that the candle burned itself out with the heat of its own flame, but the Moth wasn't even aware of this. He flew around the candle, circumambulated it, gave up his life and passed on. He didn't even know that the candle itself had already burned out and could hardly do justice to his deed.

With regard to this interpretation the question arises, when the candle had already become extinguished, then how did the Moth burn? One answer is that many moths fly around a candle all night, and then with the coming of dawn they grow exhausted and die. Another answer is that according to the first line, the Moth flew around and then burned and became extinguished; that is, not the candle's flame, but rather the fire in his own heart, burned him up.

The theme of the ineffectiveness of the Moth's burning, Qa'im Chandpuri too has well versified:

aaj agar bazm me;N hai kuchh a;sar-e parvaanah
u;Rte hai;N paa-e lagan chand par-e parvaanah

[today if, in the gathering, there's some trace of the Moth
there fly around in the bottom of the basin some wings of the Moth]

But in Qa'im's verse, whatever is there is right on the surface. In Mir's verse, there's a great deal of 'mood', and the verse does not entirely open up. Qa'im has used a;sar with the meaning of 'mark, trace'; this meaning is not common in Urdu. In Qa'im's verse it can also mean 'result, outcome'-- that is, the result of the Moth's effort, or life, remains only some wings lying around here and there in the depths of the basin. The word 'today' is not very useful, but by means of it an atmosphere of story-telling is definitely created.



Here's a verse that tells us about two deaths-- but only from an outsider's point of view. The Moth flew around-- probably around the candle, but we don't know even that much for sure-- until he burned to ashes (perhaps in the fire of his own passion?). Meanwhile, the candle had had its 'tongue' of flame cut off, and was 'silent' (that is, extinguished). As SRF points out, we don't know whether the verse is praising the candle (for silently, inwardly, grieving to death at the Moth's sacrifice), or abusing it (for failing to notice and somehow mark or commemorate the Moth's death).

In short, here are two 'gestures'-- the Moth burns, the 'silent' candle does not burn. In neither case do we learn anything about the inner life of the participants in this small but archetypal drama. Did the Moth know, or care, that the candle was 'dead'? Did the candle know, or care, that the Moth died? The little word 'but' is tricky-- it seems to promise some kind of coherent relationship between the two events, but in fact it fails to do so.

Thus these two gestures, entirely wordless and unexplained, remain ultimately unexplainable. We are left to imagine their individual meanings-- and their mutual relationship, if any-- for ourselves. This is a powerful ghazal device, here used twice in the same verse by a masterful poet. SRF rightly speaks of the verse's 'mysteriousness'.