((aalam ((aalam ((ishq-o-junuu;N hai dunyaa dunyaa tuhmat hai
daryaa daryaa rotaa huu;N mai;N .sa;hraa .sa;hraa va;hshat hai

1) world world passion and madness is; world world suspicion/slander is
2) ocean ocean I weep; desert desert wildness is



((aalam : 'The world, the universe; men, people, creatures; regions; ... —age, period, time, season; state, condition, case, circumstances'. (Platts p.757)


tuhmat : 'Evil opinion, suspicion'. (Steingass p.339)


va;hshat : 'A desert, solitude, dreary place; —loneliness, solitariness, dreariness; —sadness, grief, care ;—wildness, fierceness, ferocity, savageness; barbarity, barbarism; —timidity, fear, fright, dread, terror, horror; —distraction, madness'. (Platts p.1183)

S. R. Faruqi:

In this verse the magic of the repetition is extraordinary-- it has brought an intensity to the 'mood', but it has also added to the layers of meaning. As a rule repetition creates 'mood', or if not 'mood' then emphasis. But here the arrangement of the words is such that additional meaning has in fact been established.

From ((aalam ((aalam to .sa;hraa .sa;hraa , there are four repetitions. They also have wordplay of 'commonality' [muraa((aat ul-na:ziir]; this too enhances the 'mood'. With regard to meaning, each repetition gives, for the present, two meanings:

((aalam ((aalam = (1) extremely much, so much that it's a whole world full; (2) in every direction, in every situation

dunyaa dunyaa = (1) ditto; (2) in the whole world

daryaa daryaa = (1) extremely much, so much that it's a whole ocean full; (2) equal to several oceans

.sa;hraa .sa;hraa = (1) extremely much, so much that it's a whole desert full; (2) equal to several deserts

But if we consider attentively, then additional aspects of meaning come into view. The first is that if we take the second ((aalam to have an izafat after it, then the result, ((aalam ((aalam-e ((ishq-o-junuu;N hai , can mean 'My world is now a world of passion and madness'. Then, dunyaa dunyaa tuhmat hai can mean that 'In the whole world, suspicion/slander is attaching (to me)'. That is, my world is a world of passion and madness, but people misunderstand me and suspicion/slander about me is widespread in the whole world.

Then, daryaa daryaa rotaa huu;N mai;N can mean 'On the shore of every ocean, I weep'. That is, only the overflowingness of the ocean and its abundance of water can compare with me; thus I sit and weep on the shore of every ocean. Or again, the flood that comes from my weeping-- the ocean can carry it off; thus I sit on the shore of the ocean and weep. And .sa;hraa .sa;hraa va;hshat hai can mean, 'I go into every desert and practice wildness'. Or again, that 'Although I weep ocean after ocean, my wildness is still not satiated, and like the desert it remains dry and desolate'.

There's also the possibility that after the first word in each repetition we can suppose there to be a pause-- or rather, a question mark. That is, the verse would be read like this:

((aalam ? ((aalam ((ishq-o-junuu;N hai _ dunyaa ? dunyaa tuhmat hai
daryaa ? daryaa rotaa huu;N mai;N _ .sa;hraa ? .sa;hraa va;hshat hai

Now the meaning becomes, 'What is the universe?' (or, 'If you're asking about the universe, then listen')-- 'The universe is nothing, it's only passion and madness'. Then if the additional question is asked 'What is the world?' (or, 'If the universe is passion and madness then what do we call the world?' (meaning everyday life, its preoccupations, its quarrels). The answer comes: 'The world is only a suspicion/slander, only a false accusation'. That is, 'The world doesn't exist at all'. Or again, 'If it exists, then it's like a false accusation against us'. That is, we're not passing our days in the world, we're only enduring the suspicion/slander of living.

If we read ((aalam-e ((ishq-o-junuu;N with an izafat, as we have seen above, then the meaning of the first ((aalam becomes 'What is the world?' Or, 'In reality, which world is it that would be entitled to be called a world?' The reply to it is, 'Only the world of passion and madness is entitled to be called the true world'. It's clear that in this regard the world will be only suspicion/slander.

Now let's look at the second line. 'What is an ocean? An ocean is what I weep. What is a desert? A desert is wildness.' (Or: 'The desert is my wildness'.) Or again: 'What rank does the ocean have-- the ocean is however much I myself weep. What status does the desert have-- the desert is only my wildness'. That is, possibly it might for others be some very big thing; or other people, obliged to prove their wildness, might touch the garment-hem of the desert. But for me, the whole desert is nothing, it's only the embodied state of my wildness. I myself contain, within myself, the wildness and extent of the desert.

The whole verse is so dominated by wildness, madness, intensity of passion, and helplessness that it makes one's hair stand on end; and passion and madness begin to seem such powers that they truly would weigh heavily on the whole world. In this respect the harmony and tone of the verse too are forceful, masterful, and full of strength. Such a 'tumult-arousing' verse-- well-made from beginning to end in every way, showing along with its 'flowingness' and apparent simplicity of language such dimensions of meaning!

Poor Firaq, poor Ibn-e Insha, are nowhere; even Nasir Kazmi has his wings burned:

aatish-e ;Gam ke sail-e ravaa;N me;N nii;Nde;N jal kar raakh hu))ii;N
patthar ban kar dekh rahaa huu;N aatii jaatii raato;N ko

[in the moving flood of the fire of grief, slumbers burned to ashes
having become stone, I am looking at the coming and going nights]

In Nasir Kazmi's verse the expression is that of personal experience, in a limited individual tone. Mir's verse on the one hand makes use of cosmic imagination; then, its speaker comprehends/includes his own situation-- or rather, the whole world. He is not, like Nasir Kazmi's speaker, limited to his own life, which has delivered itself over to sleepless nights. Nazir Kazmi's speaker says of the moving flood of the fire of grief, that it has burned his sleep to ashes. Mir's speaker is himself the creator of oceans and deserts. His weeping is not the weeping of someone who weeps over his separation from some beloved; rather, it's the weeping of someone who weeps over the melancholy of the cosmos, and whose weeping is itself a cosmic melancholy.

Askari Sahib has said an excellent thing: that Mir 'in his greater poetry does not give to his personal feelings the importance that other poets give .... Mir isn't at all absorbed in the pleasant idea that his own emotions can be considered the center of the universe .... The poet whose emotions are related directly to the whole of life is of a different kind from the poet whose emotions are related to his own personality.' It's very clear that Nasir Kazmi's poem is from a world in which the poet's emotions are related to his own personality.

And Mir's verse is something even beyond that world-- it's from a world in which the poet is compelled to give some special importance to the expression of his own emotions. According to Askari, 'In Mir was such a powerful capability ... in his mind was such strength that he was able to reflect at the same time not only on experiences of passion or his own experiences, not only on 'poetic' experiences, but also on many small and great experiences of life, of different kinds-- and to bring them all together and give them the shape of a greater experience'.

In the excerpt cited above, from the manner-- and the number of times-- in which Askari Sahib has referred to 'experience' [tajrubah], the suspicion can arise that Askari Sahib has used this word with the meaning of a term of Western criticism. The idea is to a great extent correct, because the piece from which I took the excerpt is from the period when Askari Sahib had not yet given full attention to the problems of theme and meaning. But he felt that our ghazal is not 'lyric' poetry in the sense that in it the poet expresses his own experiences and emotions. In the above excerpt too he has said that in Mir's 'greater' poetry he gives central importance not to his personal emotions, but rather to the making of a 'synthesis' of small and large experiences of different kinds.

Then, Askari Sahib also knew that the abstract 'experience' is meaningless. Thus some weeks after the piece cited above, in jhalkiyaa;N he wrote, 'If our ghazal poets, especially the most recent poets, understood the relationship between experiences and structure/style, then their illusion wouldn't last for even a day.' (That is, new experience (= a new theme) is successful when the structure too would be new.)

As I have said in the the introduction to SSA, volume 4 (p. 97), the reason that in our poetics central importance is not given to the experience of life, is that theme and imagination encompass all experience. The poet's real task is not to create expressions about the world (to express experience). Rather, it is to create expressions about the expressions about the world that are already present. That is, from a theme to create a new theme, or to create new meaning in a theme. 'Mood' and 'tumult-arousingness' can be said to be aspects of theme, and meaning can be said to be the offspring of theme.

In Mir's present verse, the theme is very commonplace, but it has been expressed with 'mood' and 'tumult'. The 'mood' and the 'tumult' have seemingly suppressed the layers of meaning. When we reflect, then new aspects of meaning too begin to open out. It's a verse that's complete/perfect in every way. Praise be to God! Such 'meaning-creation' can be found in Ghalib, but not such 'mood' and 'tumult'.

[See also {1533,1}; {1896,6}.]



Particularly important to this verse is the beautifully multivalent word ((aalam (see the definition above), which so unmistakably straddles the gap between outer ('world, universe') and inner ('state, condition'). It calls our attention as strongly as possible to the speaker's own madness. By contrast, the other three repeated words are more straightforwardly geographical.

One of the few verses Mir ever composed that can compete with this one in its superb use of repetition is


This present verse is an 'A,B' verse, and is particularly like a kind of 'list' verse. Of its four sentences, three have exactly the same form: 'X X Y hai '. This very open-ended formal structure opens out several ways of reading each of them:

= 'X after X, every single X, is Y'. Or: 'In/near every X is Y'. Or: 'There is a whole X-ful of Y'.

= Y is X after X, every single X. Or: Y is in every X. ('symmetry')

= X? X is Y. (SRF explicates this reading.)

Then of course we cannot tell whether 'X is Y' in an abstract, absolute sense, or only 'to me' or 'in my mystically crazed state of passion'. Similarly, 'ocean ocean I weep' might be taken as (almost) parallel to the other three sentences, or it might be in some different (causal? resultant?) relation to them-- since after all it's the only sentence that brings the speaker himself into the verse.

Note for translation fans: At least you can't say I'm not literal! I simply couldn't stand to have to choose among all those compelling alternatives, so I decided to simply mirror what Mir had done. It's a very effective way to achieve my great goal of getting as close to the original Urdu as is humanly possible. You may think that I'm torturing English syntax in the process; but that's between me and English. English knows how much I love it. I like to think that I'm not torturing English, but massaging it.