us ke sone se badan se kis qadar chaspaa;N hai haa))e
jaamah kibriitii kisuu kaa jii jalaataa hai bahut

1) how adhesive/fitting/suitable it is to her gold-like body, alas!
2) someone's sulphurous gown burns the inner-self greatly



chaspaan : 'Sticking (to), adhesive, viscous, slimy; coherent; congruous; applicable, suitable, to the point'. (Platts p.433)


saa;Nvlaa : 'Of a dark or sallow complexion; dark, swarthy; sallow, brown, nut-brown; of handsome countenance; an epithet of Krisha: —saa;Nvlaa-salonaa , adj. (f. -ii ), Brown and salty; rich brown; —piquant, pleasing:— saa;Nvlii-.suurat , adj. & s.m. Having a sallow or a handsome countenance; —one who has a sallow countenance, &c., an epithet of Krisha'. (Platts p.630)

S. R. Faruqi:

This verse too ought to be numbered among Mir's miracles. With regard to 'sulphurous', 'to burn the inner-self' is very fine, because sulphur bursts into flame. On the beloved's golden-colored body, tight clothing of a yellow-golden color is so tight-fitting that it awakens the lover's jealousy. Or again, it seems that she isn't even wearing clothing at all. The meaning of chaspaa;N honaa can be 'to seem fitting, appropriate', and also 'to sit well upon'; for example, they say 'in this verse, the refrain hasn't become chaspaa;N '. At a minimum, in the words the beloved's beauty, her being well dressed, and the speaker's jealousy-- and to necessitate the use of the words 'image' and 'metaphor' and 'wordplay'-- is something that even the best of the best can scarcely manage.

The idea is that a 'golden-colored body' doesn't mean a 'white/fair [gauraa] body', but rather a coppery light red-- that is, 'tawny' [lit. 'salty', saa;Nvlaa]-- color. Baudelaire never came to India, but he called the girls of Mauritius 'red-mixed tawny' in complexion. A hundred years after Baudelaire the short-lived English poet Sidney Keyes, who was assigned to duty in South India during the second world war, was affected by the beauty here and co mposed a poem in which he mentioned 'girls tawny as gazelles'.

The veneration of a white/fair color we learned from the English; otherwise, Abru says,

qadr-daa;N ;husn ke kahte hai;N use dil-murdah
saa;Nvare chho;R ke jo chaah kare gauro;N kii

[connoisseurs of beauty call that one 'dead-hearted'
who would abandon a tawny one and desire white/fair ones]

And after Abru's tawny ones, Nasikh said,

;husn ko chaahi))e andaaz-o-adaa naaz-o-namak
lu:tf kyaa gar hu))ii gauro;N kii :tara;h khaal-e safed

[beauty needs airs and graces, coquetry and saltiness
what pleasure if there was, as with white/fair ones, white skin?]

Then, for an elaboration of the golden color, look again at Nasikh:

sho;x hai rang sunahraa yih tire siine kaa
.saaf aatii hai na:zar sone kii zanjiir-e safed

[it's mischievous, this golden color of your bosom
a white-golden shackle comes clearly into view]

And Rajab Ali Beg writes in fasaanah-e ((ajaa))ib that 'When the reflection of the cheeks fell on the earrings, then in shame their gold color looked yellow' [ru;xsaaro;N kaa ((aks baaliyo;N par jo pa;R jaataa thaa , sharm se kundan kaa rang zard na:zar aataa thaa]. A kundan saa rang , or a kundan saa damaktaa hu))aa chahrah -- these idioms are not heard so much now, but their very presence is proof that a reddish-tinted tawny color was one standard of beauty.

Abbasi has read sote se badan , which is entirely incorrect. But it's possible that Hasrat Mohani too might have used that reading, because one of his verses is:

rang sote me;N chamaktaa hai :tara;h-daarii kaa
:turfah ((aalam hai tire ;husn kii bedaarii kaa

[the color of elegance, in sleeping, glitters
it's a wondrous state, the wakefulness of your beauty]

If any external thing, such as clothing or a ring or a wineglass, touches the beloved's body, then to express envy of it is a beloved theme of our poets. Talib Amuli has composed a peerless [Persian] verse on this:

'I died of envy-- how long could I watch the glass of wine
Touching its lip to your lip, and emptying its body?'

In the second line, the appropriateness of the image and the erotic suggestion are more valuable than hundreds of verses. Poor Hasrat Mohani too has made a great effort:

rashk se mi;T hii ga))e ham tishnah-kaamaan-e vi.saal
jab milaa lab'haa-e saaqii se lab-e paimaanah aaj

[we who were thirsty-throated for union were destroyed by envy
when the lip of the wineglass met the lips of the Cupbearer, today]

But he couldn't attain even the scope of Talib Amuli.

Mir was clever; he abandoned this theme and brought together a golden body and yellow clothing in order to kindle a fire in his inner self. [As in the Persian saying] jaa-e ustaad ;xaaliist ['The Ustad's place is empty'; that is, no one but a great master could do it.] He has also versified the tight clothing again in the sixth divan [{1869,6}]:

jii pha;T gayaa hai rashk se chaspaa;N libaas ke
kyaa tang jaamah lip;Taa hai us ke badan ke saath

[the inner-self has burst with envy/jealousy of the adhesive clothing
how the tight robe has clung on to her body!]

[A discussion of some comments by Nisar Ahmad Faruqi on the Talib Amuli verse.]

In farhang-e aa.sifiyah one meaning of kibriit is also given as 'pure gold'. In this regard, the meaning of kibriitii can also be 'gold-appearing'. This meaning is also plausible because in the language of the workmen of Delhi, doing gold-work on fabric or attaching gold to it is called kibrii lagaanaa . (For this information I'm indebted to Khalil ul-Rahman Dihlavi.)

In chiraa;G-e hidaayat , Khan-e Arzu has written that kibriitii is a color that is gold-inflected and resembles the color of sulphur. That is, according to Khan-e Arzu kibriitii is some special color. Then he has noted down a [Persian] verse by Mir Tahir Vahid from which it seems that Mir has taken his theme:

'From the light of the sun of her beauty my eyes are dazzled,
Her sulphurous gown burns me like a candle.'

Mir certainly borrowed the sulphurous gown and the burning, but by adding the theme of envy and her body's tight-robedness he also distinguished his verse from Mir Tahir Vahid's.

[See also {544,9}; {859,5}; {1426,1}; {1501,6}.]



Really the chaspaa;N is so multivalently perfect! Both its literal meaning (the gown is so tight that it clings adhesively to her body) and its metaphorical extension (the gown suits her coloring so beautifully) work perfectly. And that 'alas!' at the end of the first line that initially seems just a casual expression of admiration turns out to be just what one might exclaim on feeling himself burned.

What about the kisuu kaa ? Positionally it's a 'midpoint' and could perfectly well describe either 'somebody's' gown or 'somebody's' inner-self. We already know from the first line that the gown belongs to 'her/him', but we can read the possessive with the gown, as a kind of coyness or suggestiveness. And since the speaker says 'alas!', we get the clear sense that he's describing himself, so why would the vagueness need to be created in his case, if not out of the same kind of coyness or abstractness? This was such an interesting double possibility that I asked SRF, who replied (June 2013):

The kisuu is a loving, almost coy way of referring to the beloved; ko))ii kahtaa thaa , ko))ii rahtaa thaa , ko))ii chalaa gayaa , ko))ii dekh rahaa hai were quite common phrases before the advent of TV, etc., when everything became explicit .... a sweet way of referring to her, even if one is talking to oneself. Josh Malihabadi, who rarely composed a good verse, has some good lines. One of them:

is vaqt yaqiin;an ;xvaab me;N ko))ii dekh rahaa hai josh mujhe

[now, certainly, in a dream someone is seeing me, Josh].

There are issues of color here-- what color should beautiful skin be? Mostly, in the ghazal world, it seems that the beloved's complexion is very fair and also 'bright' or 'radiant'. In South Asia nowadays the general trend is to value lightness of skin literally shade by shade. This tendency can be seen in deities too: Krishna is nowadays often a very light blue, not the deep blue-black suggested by his name. (We Americans have our own skin-tone weirdness: we tend to value light skin over dark skin in general, but not shade by shade; and we also value sun-tanned skin over pasty-white skin.) SRF takes some pains to show us how beautiful a 'golden' or tawny skin was considered to be, before the days of 'the whiter the better'.

Consider also the complexities of saa;Nvlaa ( saa;Nvaraa in Abru's verse; cf. namak in the first verse by Nasikh). From the definition above it's clear that it's often compounded with the even more literal salonaa : 'Salt, salted; seasoned; tasteful, tasty, savoury; beautiful, handsome; interesting, piquant; intelligent; dark-complexioned, nut-brown (complexion); expressive (countenance)' (Platts p.670), which comes directly from the Sanskrit sa plus laavanya plus ka , 'possessing salt'. When SRF uses saa;Nvlaa I've translated it as 'tawny', since in English 'salty' as a color would probably be taken as white.

But there's more than just a color being shown. 'Salty' and 'spicy' and 'piquant' can all apply to quick-wittedness and repartee. These can be irresistible qualities in a beloved-- or maybe not. Think of the fair, blonde, blue-eyed, innocent girls that heroes in Victorian novels tend to marry, versus the lively, olive-skinned, black-haired, dark-eyed girls who often have much more wit, freedom, and knowledge of the world-- girls who may help the heroes and be helped by them, but are not usually destined to marry them. The back-and-forth attraction of fair/white skin versus a tawny, 'golden' glow, and of virtuous naïveté versus a spicy or piquant wit-- some at least of this is temperament, personality, behavior, rather than just complexion; though complexion can of course be a metaphor for it. Thus the 'adhesiveness' of the beloved's gown is part of her charm, and also marks her as erotically charged-- she's so fiery that her clinging 'sulphurous' gown and clung-to body kindle in her lover a furious flame of envy and desire.