kyaa jaanuu;N mai;N chaman ko valekin qafas pah miir
aataa hai barg-e gul kabhuu ko))ii .sabaa ke saath

1) how would I know the garden?!-- but to the cage, Mir
2) sometimes some rose-leaf comes, with the spring-breeze



S. R. Faruqi:

In this verse, the first point is that he has supposed the rose-leaf to come with the spring breeze. That is, the interpretation is not merely that the spring breeze has lifted up the rose-leaf and brought it along, as in


The interpretation also is that the rose-leaf and the spring breeze have become friends, and the rose-leaf wanders around with the spring breeze. Under these circumstances it also comes to the speaker's cage.

In the first part of the first line, there are also two meanings: (1) I don't know the garden, I have no information about conditions in the garden; and (2) I have no connection or relationship with the garden. In the light of the second meaning, the relationship between the speaker and the garden has virtually broken down. He was captured long ago, so that now he has more or less forgotten the garden. In the light of the first meaning, the relationship still perhaps exists, but between the cage and the garden the distance (physical or spiritual) is so great that the speaker gets no news of the garden.

In both cases, the theme is one of hopelessness and oppression. In the tone is an outward flatness, but there's an inner touch of something like bitterness, especially because the rose-leaf has become friends with the spring breeze. Its coming to the cage suggests that possibly the rose-leaf does not simply wander, but might deliberately come to visit the speaker and, so to speak, to inflame his heart with jealousy.

Another possibility is that the reason the rose-leaf flies around and wanders is that the garden has been destroyed (at the hands of autumn, or from some other cause), and the only trace of the garden that remains is that rose-leaf that sometimes, in its flight, happens by the cage. In the light of this interpretation the 'dramaticness' of the verse is increased, but the meaning becomes comparatively limited. Though indeed, the 'tumult-arousingness' greatly increases.

The theme of the rose-leaf flying here and there on the breeze, Muhammad Baqar Haravi has well versified [in Persian]; it's possible that Mir might have taken it from him:

'I see the rose-leaf in the hands of the spring breeze,
The garden too has found a Messenger to send to the beloved.'

In Baqar Haravi's verse the concentration on the beloved, and the theme that everything in the world is a lover of my beloved, is supremely enjoyable. Mir took the basic theme and gave it an entirely new aspect. When it comes to borrowing, this is how it should be done! A theme similar to this one, Mir has versified in the fifth divan as well [{1724,3}]:

aa;Nkho;N me;N aashnaa thaa magar dekhaa thaa kahii;N
nau gul kal ek dekhaa hai mai;N ne .sabaa ke haath

[in my eyes it was an intimate, but I have somewhere seen
yesterday, a single new rose in the hands of the spring-breeze]

[See also {459,3}.]



Now that I've become alert to 'gestures', I see them in abundance, and here's another. The caged bird sees a rose-leaf from the garden flutter by-- it is either paying a visit to the cage, or merely drifting past at random. In either case, the gesture is indecipherable, because it's unresolvably ambiguous. It could mean, as SRF notes, that the rose-leaf either cares for, or wishes to torment, the caged bird; but the rose-leaf might also be a haphazard wanderer, quite indifferent to him. The presence of the rose-leaf could mean that the garden is flourishing, or that it has been destroyed; or it could provide no information at all about the garden.

In any case the speaker, the caged bird, distances himself from the whole thing as much as possible. He disclaims all knowledge of the garden; he says that the rose-leaf, blown by the breeze, comes 'sometimes'. And most conspicuously, he denies all intimacy by referring to it as 'some rose-leaf'. Of course, as SRF notes, such self-distancing need not be proof of indifference; it can convey sorrow or sarcasm, or a determination to refuse (any further) involvement. The gesture of the drifting leaf passing by the cage is beyond the bird's power to interpret, and beyond our power to put into words. What better device can there be, for a poem fifteen or twenty words long?