daaman par faanuus ke thaa kuchh yuu;N hii nishaa;N ;xaakistar kaa
shauq kii mai;N jo nihaayat puuchhii jaan-jale parvaane se

1) on the garment-hem of the glass-shade there was, somehow or other, some mark/trace of ashes,
2) when I asked about the extremity of ardor, from the 'life-burned' Moth



faanuus : 'A pharos, lighthouse; a lantern; (in Urdu) a glass shade (of a candlestick, &c.)'. (Platts p.776)


yuu;N hii : 'Thus, in this wise, in this manner; —just so, for no particular reason; without just ground, vainly, idly, causelessly, gratuitously'. (Platts p.1253)


nishaan : 'Sign; signal; mark, impression; character; seal, stamp; proof; trace, vestige; —a trail; clue'. (Platts p.1139)


nihaayat : 'End, extremity, extreme point, term, goal, boundary, limit; —excess; —adj. & adv. Very much, extreme, excessive'. (Platts p.1162)

S. R. Faruqi:

This verse has devastating 'mood' and 'tumult-arousingness'. On top of this, it also has an aspect of sarcasm. Consider the following points:

(1) We might consider jaan-jale to be synonymous with dil-jale -- that is, 'having endured extremely much spiritual sorrow'. (In particular, a person is called dil-jalaa when he would be in spiritual trouble and would not be able to escape from it.) In a verse of Momin's this meaning is well clarified:

garm-e javaab-e shikvah-e jaur-e ((aduu rahaa
us shu((lah-;xuu ne jaan jalaa))ii tamaam shab

[she remained 'hot' to reply to the complaint of the oppression of the enemy
that flame-tempered one 'burned her life' the whole night]

Thus in Mir's verse the Moth has not yet become dust; rather, he is dil-jalaa and has endured suffering, and is circling the candle. When the speaker asked him what the extremity of passion was, or what its outcome was, then he flew into/against the glass-shade and burned to death. A slight mark that his collision had left on the glass-shade remained as, so to speak, a reply to the question. Or again, in a symbolic way, somehow that light mark that had been made on the glass-shade meant 'the extremity/outcome of passion is this'.

This interpretation conveys sarcasm-- that 'How can anyone who has not felt it in his heart speak about the outcome or extremity of passion?'. For the extremity of ardor, there isn't even any memorial. Of so much burning only a light mark remains, which not only will be wiped away in the morning, but also shows that the Moth couldn't even reach the candle, but could get only as far as the glass-shade.

(2) If we take jaan-jale to mean 'one whose life has already burned to ashes'-- that is, one who has burned to death and been finished off-- then the interpretation of the verse will be 'When I asked the Moth who had turned to ashes-- or asked about him-- what the extremity of ardor was, then I received no reply; only a lightish stain of ashes could be seen'. That is, the extremity/outcome of ardor is just this, that one should simply turn to ashes and at the very most should in the process leave only a light stain on the beloved's garment-hem.

Now let's consider some additional subtleties. In the first line there's an uncommon 'dramaticness'; then, by saying kuchh yuu;N hii nishaa;N the Moth's low rank, the small value of his life, and the transitoriness of his whole being have been expressed so well that it cannot be equalled in any other art (for example, painting). Some people who declare that the supreme height of poetry is painting have been afflicted by Aristotelian philosophy. Otherwise, anyone at all can see that whatever has been expressed in the present verse cannot possibly be painted.

Another possible interpretation is that the speaker is someone who is newly entered into the doings of passion. Since in this affair the Moth is famous for expertise and mastery, the speaker asked a Moth what the extremity of ardor was. In this way we can call jaan-jale a general quality of the Moth's. That is, all Moths are normally jaan-jale . Another situation can be that the speaker inquired not from some ordinary, random Moth, but rather from some jaan-jale Moth.

There's also the highly enjoyable aspect that the extremity of ardor and the outcome of ardor are both a single thing. Because of the double meaning of nihaayat , this point has become possible. Then, it should also be kept in mind that for a garment-hem to be disturbed or stained is usually considered a bad thing. Thus daaman par dhabbah lagnaa means to lose one's honor, to become notorious, to be reproached/blamed, etc. And even if we don't make use of the idiom, a stain on the garment-hem is not something that would be permitted to remain.

Thus the extremity of ardor, its summit, its perfection and limit, is only a single stain that the beloved will want to have washed from her garment-hem as quickly as possible. And even if we don't assume it to be a spot or stain on the beloved's garment-hem, even then what has remained of the extremity of ardor? Only a faint mark, with a lifespan that can be measured in moments.

Thus for 'tumult-arousingness', 'mood', meaning, theme, flowingness-- in whatever aspect we look at, this verse is a masterpiece.



On the nature of a faanuus , see G{39,1}.

In a normal 'mushairah verse', the sequence of the two lines as '1,2' is crucial to the effect. That is still true in this case, but there's also a kind of reversal: the narrative sequence '2,1' is crucial to the effect. 'When' [jo , meaning jab] the speaker asked, there (already, statively) 'was' [thaa] a mark on the garment-hem. So probably the speaker is asking his question belatedly, after the Moth has already immolated himself. (Or he could conceivably be asking some other Moth who is not yet 'life-burned', but that would be a much less dramatically effective scenario.)

He asks the Moth-- but even as he asks, the Moth is already gone. The Moth doesn't even hear his question. The inquirer is left with no company except a small, casual mark of ash on the 'candle-glass'-- a protective glass shade that we should probably imagine as somewhat cone-shaped, so that it would resemble a skirt and could be said to have a 'garment-hem').

Along these lines, there could also be a 'midpoints' reading of jaan-jale parvaane se . It could most obviously describe the inquiry ('When I asked from the life-burned Moth'); but might it not also be taken to describe the mark on the candle-glass ('a mark from the life-burned Moth')? On that reading, when the speaker went around with his theoretical questions about the nature of passion, asked from someone unspecified, the candle that lit their conversation already had a small smudge on its candle-glass, from the death of the Moth.

Here the yuu;N hii works to devastating effect. 'For no particular reason, vainly, idly, causelessly, gratuitously' (see the definition above) there was some [kuchh] sort of mark or trace on the candle-glass. The speaker (if we assume he's the source of this information in the first line) is thus doubly distanced from the 'mark, trace': he has no idea why it is there, or what it is. But it certainly doesn't seem to be significant; naturally he sounds dismissive when he even mentions it.

Does the speaker ever even realize that it is the answer to his question? The verse gives no hint. Does the 'life-burned' Moth who made the mark care at all what the speaker, or anyone else (even the beloved?), thinks? The verse gives no hint. It's a perfect example of what I call a 'gesture' verse. Since the gesture is non-verbal, it remains unsatisfyingly (or satisfyingly), radically, irrevocably, uninterpretable. And what a potent, complete, self-consuming gesture it is, and what poetic power it gives to the verse!

Note for grammar fans: There's no ne , although puuchhii nevertheless agrees with the feminine nihaayat . Mir can get by with this sort of thing.

Note for translation fans: What to do about faanuus ? I really didn't want to call it a 'candle-shade', because shades in English are basically thought of as opaque, and it's crucial that this device for protection against the wind should be transparent, so that the candle can shine out through it (and the Moth can see the candle-flame through it). So I reluctantly went for the clumsy 'candle-glass', although the shape should surely be thought of as something like the top part of an oil lamp.