Extracts from The Eclipsed Sun (TES) published in November 2013 Poems
49. Poem: ‘Ami’ (=Myself) from the book ‘Shyamali’ written on 29 May, 1936 at Santiniketan (Birbhum Dist of West Bengal, where situates his University Visva Bharati (=World University).
[Translator’s note: Whether ‘mind’ is dependent on ‘matter’ or ‘matter’ is dependent on ‘mind’ or whether they are mutually dependent, will ever remain man’s enigma. Tagore’s inclination was on ‘mind’. His difference of opinion with Einstein on this question made history in metaphysics. However, Tagore had a conviction that the Creation comprises a ‘Universal Mind’ which manifests itself through every individual human being as his ‘ego’ with which we perceive Creation. That Creation would be inane without this ‘ego’, has been marvelously upheld in this poem.
The apprehension haunts the poet if this ‘ego’ will be wiped out one day by some stellar disaster. The following media (The Hindu) news on the 8 Aug. 2K was quite reassuring that this human ‘ego’ will have an escape route even if the Earth will go to hell –
[Nine new planets have been discovered orbiting a distant star, bringing the number of known planets outside our solar system to 51 and raising prospects that alien life may be found to exist.
The discovery, announced at a major astronomy conference in Manchester, England, includes only the second solar system to be found outside our own. Astronomers now believe that planetary systems may be relatively common throughout the galaxy, and that some might eventually be capable of supporting human colonists. The planets orbit a bright star, slightly smaller than the Sun which lies on the constellation Vela. The system was found by a team led by Prof. Michael Mayor, from the Geneva observatory, who studied ‘wobbles’ in the star caused by the planets’ gravitational pull. “We’re now at a stage where we are finding planets faster than we can investigate them and write up the results”, said Dr. Geoffrey Marcy of the Berkeley team, “Planet hunting has morphed from the marvelous to the mundane”.]
Before the ink on this gratifying news was dry, the following news in The Statesman of 6 September, 2K passed a shiver down the spine of Mankind – [Asteroid just misses theEarth: The Earth has had a cosmic near miss with an asteroid half a kilometer wide. Had it hit this planet, a fourth of human population could have been wiped out, say scientists.]
So, are we back to square one as regards the poet’s apprehension about the doom of human ‘ego’?
The latest breaking news in this subject is US President Obama’s exhortation in the White House in his ‘State of the Union’ address in February 2013– “As humans we can identify galaxies light-years away, study particles smaller than an atom but we still haven’t unlocked the mystery of the 3 lbs of matter that sits between our ears,..”. Consequently, he has unveiled a $100 million research initiative to map the neural structure of the mind a relatively neglected sphere of research despite the advances in bio-technology. (Source ‘The Statesman’ Editorial in 7 April 2013 edition- ‘Matter Between Ears’. So, is answer to the age-old enigma round the corner? Readers will surely tarry a bit here where object of anatomy is ‘mind’ itself with which we perceive results of anatomy of other biological organs. But to perceive ‘mind’ with ‘mind’ itself will go in a vicious circle never yielding us a final conclusion. Thus, it is by no means going to be a metaphysical breakthrough. So, again, we are back to square one! Yet, Obama’s said step will rank as an abiding contribution towards battle against some presently incurable brain disorder (like debilitating neurological condition as childhood autism to Alzheimer’s disease) which are elusive to the present day medical science. And that will be a big bonus for the posterity. .) ]
4. Poem: The Artist- from the book ‘Charrar Chhabi’ (=Picture in rhymes) written in 1938
[Translator’s Note: The number of songs composed by Tagore is about 2500. I am not aware of such statistics as regards his poems, short stories, novels, essays, letters etc. which, however, far out-volume his songs. As regards the number of his sketches, I understand that it is also about 2500. The bulk of his sketches are preserved in the archives of his Viswa Bharati University (means- World University, which has been a pilgrim place for the academics and the aesthetes since Tagore’s days till now from various countries) at Santiniketan (means: Abode of Peace-4 hour train journey from Calcutta). But Tagore took to visual art with enthusiasm only in the last decade of his life which has possibly saved him from a reputation as a painter to his great relief. His ever mounting fame in literature which was his life long dedication was indeed a rod held at him, as he felt, to keep up his standard which left him ill at ease with his literary exercises. But it was not so with his painting, where he was a free bird to fly at his will. In his own words – “In defiance of that fame my brush is free to-day as Nature’s”. Let experts judge if Tagore was an authority or a quack in painting. But did anybody appreciate canvas better than Tagore? The following poem, which he wrote three years before his death, will possibly answer this question.
P.S. “Rabindra Chitravali” with Rabindranath’s paintings has very recently (August 2011) been published by Pratikshan Publishers in collaboration with Visva Bharati and the Ministry of Culture, reminding the following poem again.]
O Artist, for ever a traveler
Thou move on ceaseless, an astute observer;
Thine impressions in sketches
From far and wide the canvas fetches;
Countless trivia and momentous around
To thee blue blood and pariah are equally sound.
In the hovel there,
Only a few shanties bare;
Beyond, the arid land vast
Parched in the summer blast.
Do those ever entice a look humble
Or allure one to ramble?
Said thou, “By no means they’re low” –
This truth thine brush flashed aglow –
And we sit up and say, “Ah indeed,
These do deserve some heed”.
There they trot, some take rest,
Hardly they exist, their name none will quest;
Said thy brush, “They’re very much there” –
At once we say, “Ah yes, all beware.”
And only they are there,
Not the monarch of the empire;
To live in the dust of the earth
They are used to since their birth.
For his portrait the king spends a lot,
Alas, the maestro’s notice it draws not.
Its glamour dazzles the fools though,
Trite’s true self art heightens so.
O Artist, strange is thy bias,
To draw a banal goat slighting those uproarious;
The creature is not esteemed high
In its vegetables’ sneaky pry
So they chase it off
With due scoff.
But as thou exalt its goatish spree
I sit up to ask – “Who is he?”
There the goat-men wonder –
“Who is its owner?”
Yet, despite its claimant’s evasion
I know, it is thy heart’s creation.
65. Poem No: 10 of Patraput written at Santiniketan in 1935, 6 years before the Poet’s death.
[Translator’s note: Through his various dissertations Tagore lucidly explained different parts of Upanishad, the scripture for mankind left by the Indian sages nearly 5000 years back. Like me who do not have access to the original Upanishad for lack of command over Sanskrit, the language in which it was composed, may find Tagore’s essays/poems as the best guide to this great scripture. Thus is one of the numerous annotations on Upanishad by Tagore -]
“Those who are craven take this world as comprising impediments only which impair their vision and hope. So they know only the impediments as the truth, but not the real truth. But he who is great, sees the truth instantly beyond all impediments. That is why there is a gulf of difference between their thoughts. When everybody is in chorus that they see only darkness, he can assert- “Beyond all darkness I have seen Him who is great and luminous. (Upanishad)”
This annotation resounds in this poem also which helps us share the poet’s glimpse of the ultimate truth beyond the daily torments of this mortal world.
For long is carrying my body
From beyond the darkness, blazing golden.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
66. Poem No: 39 of the book ‘Sesh Saptak’ written in 1933, about 8 years before his death in 1941 at the age of 80.
[Translator’s note: Tagore’s wonderful interpretation of Upanishad is found in a large number of his essays which helps us understand this oldest scripture of mankind in Sanskrit which founted from the profound spiritual inspiration of the sages of ancient India more than 4000 years back. The following quote from Tagore’s essay ‘Dukkha’ (=Woe) is a sample of such interpretation which also appears to me very relevant to this poem on Death, the extreme form of woe according to the limited perceptions of lesser mortals like us. Only a saintly frame of mind, as the poet had, can perceive Death in the vast canvas of Creation where Death’s severity is so diluted.
“Those who lack in spiritual and devotional power, want to perceive as total truth the manifestation of God only amidst happiness, pleasure and wealth. They say, wealth and fame are gift of God, beauty evinces Him and that worldly success is His blessing and reward for our virtuosity. Benevolence of God, to them, is tender and piteous. These infirm with their euphoric reveries take the mercy of God as an aid to their greed, delusion and cowardice with their fragmented fads. But O Awful, where do I confine Your mercy and joy? Only in my happiness, wealth and a panicles life? Shall I have to split woes, hazards, fear and death to juxtapose against You for my knowledge about You? Not so. O Lord, You are sorrow, hazard, fear and death. The blazing flames of Your face are gutting out the mortals, Your vigour is warming up the whole world. O Terrible, we can get rid of the illusion of grief and death only by sighting Your awful form. Else, in Your world we have to go around with a coward’s inhibition, failing to surrender totally to Truth. Then I address You as Benevolent and implore Your mercy and, on its denial, complain against You and lament for my protection from You. But O Terrible, I beg of You that strength which will enable me to deem Your mercy not for my self-comfort and narrow utilities to deprive myself with Your incomplete perception. Let me not deceive myself by approaching You with a trembling heart and a moistened eyes to earn Your compassion. From age to age You are rescuing Man from untruth to Truth, from darkness to illumination, from death to immortality, the journey for which is not one of comfort, but of the severest ordeal.”]
They came to me to say –
“O Poet, tell us about Death, pray”.
Said I, “Death is my very intimate,
Its rhythms my heart vibrate;
Entangled in my vein
Joy of its flow in my blood lain.
Says He – ‘Go ahead
With your burdens shed;
Go on dying every second,
At my pull, on my moment.”
Says, “if you sit static
Everything to grip –
In your world flowers will harsh
Rivers will marsh,
The stars will fade –
Stop not” – so He said;
“Don’t look back –
Get across the old, ruins weary that slack.
I’m the Death shepherd
Driving Creation’s herd
From age to age
Pasture to pasture to graze.
When Life’s stream flowed,
Allowed it not to ditch,
Lured it past the guard of its beach;
Led it to the vast sea,
That is none but me.
The Present aims permanence,
Imposes on you hence
All its load; all your virtues
To this glutton you lose.
On its surfeit, this monster
Craves a stall in wake less slumber.
The Creation to rescue from the grip
Of this hibernate Present, is my severe sweep;
That eternal stumbling block
To smash with my disastrous shock,
To pave the way for the pageant perennial
Of the yet to appear, those newcomers to hail.”
* * * * * * * ** * ** * * ** ** * * ** ** ** * **
67. Poem” Punarabartan (Re-incarnation) from the book Geetali (Music) written in Buddha Gaya in 1914.
[Translator’s note: The Hindu belief in re-incarnation may conflict with the scientific mindset if we try to interpret it in a physical sense. But even scientists will never be able to explain the mystery behind the mortal life which apparently terminates while new life re-appears. Are these totally isolated phenomenon or linked up? The Poet is inclined to accept the latter. Incidentally, recital of this piece goes both as a poem as well as a song, the starting of which in Bengali is as follows – Abar jadi ichcha karo abar ashi phire,
Dukkha sukhar dheu khelano ei sagarer tire….] Here I revert to if you’ll wish so
This shore dashed by the waves of weal and woe.
Float my boat again,
On the dust play my game –
Run after the elusive golden deer
Only to flood in tear.
In the dark night, on the road thorny
Again I start my journey –
Either to succumb to my injury
Or survive its fury.
Again in disguise me to beguile
You play with me all in smile;
With my renewed mirth
Again I love this Earth.
* * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * *
Poem: ‘Sagarika’ (the daughter of the sea) of the book ‘Mahua’.
[Translator’s note: Toward the close of 2000 A.D. the then President of the USA Bill Clinton visited India and while addressing a gathering in his honour, India’s the then President K. R. Narayanan had said that it was of late fashionable to call the world a ‘Small Village’, which is of course a fall out of the revolution in the communication system defeating space and time. But, Narayanan had pointed out to Clinton that in the mediaeval age the villages were ruled by the Morols (Village Chiefs) while the modern villages are ruled by the Panchayats (Village Associations) manned by the elected representatives of the people. He had thereby analogized the United Nations (UN) with the Indian Panchayats for the purpose of to-day’s ‘Small Village’ and had implied that its affairs should be overseen by the UN instead of the sole superpower now existing e.g. the USA. Of course he had meant the Big Brother role for which the USA had been aggressive from time to time often myopic to others’ causes besides her own.
History tells us about such aggressive role of some Western nations over several centuries past with their imperialist ambition. Whichever territory they had occupied, they had enslaved the local people there by brute force to enjoy their “Master” status. We ourselves had been victim of the British rule for about 2 centuries till 1947. This instinct of domination has not died even to-day and has rather been found infectious world over with the progressive perfection in genocide technology.
Indian history had been quite different. Indians had taken their voyage abroad in the past to export their humanistic ideas, religious values, music and culture along with their merchandise, but never with imperialist contemplation. The poem was written on the 1st October 1927, soon after which the Poet took his voyage to Bali island, now a part of Indonesia. India’s link with this island is age old. Stamps of Indian culture, religion, music, art etc. have survived time in this island. The Poet recalls all this past link with Bali which dates back to the glorious period of Indian history, but was particularly snapped since mid-eighteenth century when the dark period of our country was at the worst with the advent of the British rule, and the Poet was on voyage to Bali with a heavy mind while the freedom fighters’ suffering was at its peak in his own land. The Poet thus regrets his inability to offer anything precious new to Bali except his humble music.
The following quote from Tagore’s diary recording his thoughts at the time of his voyage to Java will more clarify his thoughts behind ‘Sagarika’.
“The pure dedication that Science has ushered in is for all country, all time and all
men; so it has imbibed in man the power of God, to drive out all woe, penury and
ailment from human family with its weaponry. The Viswakarma (God of
Engineering) for creation of heaven for man is this Science. But when this very
Science laboured to shape up man’s desire for fruit to an enormity , it became the
Yama (God of Death). If man on this earth will annihilate, it will be for this reason –
he knew Truth but not its use. He achieved divine power, but not divinity. In
modern time that divine power is manifest in Europe. But has it been so for
genocide? In the last war this very question has emerged stark. Europe has become
a terror outside her boundaries, as evidenced throughout Asia and Africa. Europe
has not come to us with her Science, but with her greed. So the blockade for
manifestation of Europe within the heart of Asia. With impertinence of her Science,
hubris of her power and her greed for wealth, for long Europe has cultivated this
hassling of man all over the earth. When it boomeranged at her home she is anxious.
She put others’ pasture on fire which has now caught on her wood. She is now
wondering where to stop. Is it by halting her machinery? I don’t say so. But they
have to halt their greed. Will it be achieved by religious sermons? That won’t be
enough. Science also must complement it. The dedication which controls greed
inwardly is of religion, but that which removes the external causes of it is of Science.
These two combined, accomplish their dedications. Wisdom of science to-day awaits
union with religion’s. But why all these debates are labouring my head on my way to Java? The reason is, India’s erudition once went abroad. But those aliens had regarded it favourably.
Tibet, Mongolia, Malayas, wherever India had preached her wisdom, had been
through genuine human relations. To-day my pilgrimage is to witness those
historical evidences of man’s holy access everywhere. Also to note is, that India of
yore did not preach some cut and dried sermons, but inaugurated the inner treasure
of man through architecture, sculpture, painting, music and literature, stamps of
which remain in the deserts, woods, rocks, isles, rugged terrain and difficult
resolves………”. [Java diary, July, 1927] I am unaware of any poetry in any other language which better conveys one’s passion for the old link with a country through such a superb love allegory. I also think, evaluation of this poem in the context of goodwill that was in India’s political ethos in the past, as this poem reveals, but largely missing globally, is only relevant.]
Bathing in the deep blue sea,
We plucked Juthi, (1) Jati (1) and Champa (1) to pile. (1)
To sort those in the basket sat together,
Worshipped Nataraj (2) with our earnest prayer. (2)
The mist was over, light flooded the sky,
Facing Shiva (2), Parbati’s (2) smile did lie. (2)
As rose the evening star
On the mountain top there,
Thou alone at home
On thy waist shone
Bright blue sapphire,
Round thy head, garland of flower.
Bangles in thy hands both –
On my way playing flute I quoth –
“Guest I’m at thy door.”
Scared, stretched thy lamp my face to explore;
Asked, “Why did you come?”
Said I, “Let thy mind calm,
Thy charming person I’ll adorn
With the decors I’ve borne.”
Flashed a beaming smile
On thy face, its beauty sparked awhile.
The gold necklace on thy chest
I suspended, the crown on thy head set at rest.
Lit up lights thy mates, their frolic sublime
Flooded the entire clime.
Thy ornate person did flitter
The charm of the night’s lunar glitter.
With my rhyme matched thy jingle,
Smiles at the sky the full moon single;
Light and shade to and fro
As the sea waves go.
Unwittingly, the day was over;
So, my ship raised its anchor.
Sudden was the wind adverse on my voyage,
Unleashed havoc, put the sea in rage;
Drowned my ship in the salt water
In the dark night with all my treasure.
With shattered fate, I’m again at thy door
Attired as destitute, my royal robes no more;
Saw at the temple of Nataraj (2) (2)
As before, was the decor of flowers;
While at night, the festive sea
Rhymes moonlight dance in wavy glee;
With thy silent face down in that fest
I stole a look at my garland round thy chest,
At my paints, listened rhythms of my song
Sway thee in ecstasy, all to me belong.
I implore thee; O bonny,
Once more hold thy lamp to me;
Now I’m no more crowned,
My archery no more to be found;
In the southern wind brought neither
My basket to fill in thy bower;
Only I’ve brought my lute;
Try please to make me out thou astute.
51. Poem: Ora Kaj Kare (=They Toil) written in 1941 a few months before the Poet’s death.
[Translator’s note: The Poet says that all extravaganzas in human history in the form of heroic feats of the royalties, in their greed for empire and thirst for human blood are really not the formative ingredients of civilization and have not stood the test of time. Man’s real excellence is shaped up on the silent hard toil of the common people. The Poet at the fag end of his life leaves his compliment for these mute workers in this superb poem.]
Along the indolent stream of time
With blood stained sword in hand with their bloody look,
They hide face in the children’s lesson book.
They toil far and wide
At the river and sea side
Of Assam, Bengal, Orissa, Punjab
Bombay and Gujarat at civilization’s hub.
Day and night rumble and hum all over
Animate the earth with fervor –
To work up life’s supreme hymn –
They toil aside hundreds of empires’ ruin.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
these are Indian names of some flowers.
Nataraj, the Lord of Dance, is the other name of Shiva and, according to the Hindu concept, his dance cycles Destruction after Creation. Parbati is the wife of Shiva.
Shesher Kabita (=The Last Poem) A novel by Rabindranath Tagore (1861 to 1913 AD, Nobel Laureate of 1913)
Courtesy: Dr. N. D. Batra, Professor of Communications, Norwich University, Vermont, USA vide website: http://www.corporatepower.blogspot.com published in January 2009
(Forwarding note and poems in Bengali by Tagore translated by RAJAT DAS GUPTA, KOLKATA, email@example.com & firstname.lastname@example.org)
Tagore had no dearth of his critics who had to beat a retreat for the time being after the Poet had the accolade of Nobel Laureate. However, in the mid-twenties of the last century they surfaced again and some young scribes ‘revolted’ against Tagore’s hegemony in Bengali literature and tried a ‘coup’ to dislodge the Poet from his supreme position. They declared that Tagore’s time had ended and that it was their turn to hold the rein of the Bengali literature to re-vitalize it with their ‘new’ contributions. Tagore foiled their move simply with a big laughter and affection towards this young group through his brilliant novel ‘Shesher Kabita’ (=The Last Poem). I read this novel in early fifties in my college life as it became essential for a Bengali young man at that time to be ranked ‘intelligentsia’ which all of them aspired. Later I read its wonderful English translation by Krishna Kripalani captioned ‘Farewell my Friend’. Ido not know if Kripalani’s book is still available in the market but, I believe, some translation of ‘Shesher Kabita’ must be available. I would suggest any Tagorephile not knowing Bengali to read translation of ‘Shesher Kabita’. Seemingly, it is a story of triangular love, the theme on which numerous novels/stories have been written all over the world in all major languages. However, I daresay, this is the only novel/story of its kind on earth which marvelously echoes the contrast between ‘Finite’ and ‘Infinite’ as conceptualized in Upanishad (nearly 4500 year old Indian scripture) The story may be outlined as – Amit Ray, an accomplished Barrister, met Labanya in Shillong (the hill station in the easternmost part of India with superb natural beauty) and amnesiac of his first love Ketaki, fell in love with Labanya. Eventually, Labanya opted out of Amit’s life and he gets married to Ketaki. Amit was an ardent ‘modernist’ and would never miss a chance to downplay Tagore in the literary gatherings. One such example, Amit trashed Tagore’s widely celebrated poem ‘Shah Jehan’ [of the book ‘Balaka’ (=Crane) written in Allahabad in 1914], where the Poet compared ‘Taj Mahal’ with a ‘Drop of tear- on the cheek of Time, bright white’- ‘as a memento for Shah Jehan’s pathos’ for his wife Mamataj. However, the long poem concludes with the perception that ‘Taj Mahal’ is only a museum piece and that the ‘traveler’ (i.e. Shah Jehan) who had conceptualized this, had transcended this mundane ‘Taj Mahal’ for his eternal journey free from any earthly bondage. Amit discards this view with his antithesis of ‘Shah Jehan’ by offering ‘Basarghar’ (=Bridal Chamber) which is eternally vibrant with the perpetual visits of the married couple, giving a truer view of life, as Amit upheld. The poem is as follows –
30.Poem: Basarghar (Bridal Chamber)- of Tagore’s book Mahua (name of a flower) written at Bangalore in 1928.excerpted in the novel ‘Shesher Kabita’
[Translator’s note: It is a universal ritual that the couple spend their nuptial night ceremoniously in their Bridal Chamber which is gorgeously decorated for that night. But the euphoria is momentary as soon the couple will have to vacate the Bridal Chamber for their journey on the rugged road of their life. Yet, the eternal function of Bridal Chamber remains which welcomes the new couples every day to baptize them for their life’s new journey.
Thou hast to be left behind
As the dawn’s chariot wheel will grind
The night’s slumber,
O Bridal Chamber!
There the vast external
Is a separating demon terrible!
Yet, more it’ll massacre,
The Exchange Garland (*) in pieces will tear, (*)
Thou art there without decay
Night and day;
Thy gift ever festive
Won’t mute or strip.
The couple, who said,
Have vacated Thy bed?
They haven’t, no they haven’t,
Amidst new passengers to Thee is their bent –
At Thy call,
To Thy noble gate, they return all.
O Bridal Chamber,
Love is immortal, so Thou art.
(*) In Indian marriages the couple exchange their garland. It may be safely observed, Tagore’s rival Amit was only Tagore’s brainchild, which never achieved a separate flesh and blood entity in Bengal, nay, in the whole world ever. Several more poems transposed to the novel from the book ‘Mahua’ of the Poet to capture the passions/realizations of the concerned characters at different times are as follows.
31. Poem: Daymochan (Absolving from onus) of the book ‘Mahua’ written at Bangalore on 23 August 1928 excerpted in the novel ‘Shahser Kabita’
[Translator’s note: We should not scramble for whatever precious we pine for in our life as that only blights the sanctity of our claim. Our glory is more to find accomplishment in life’s rewards with which we are blest in due course rather than lament those which we miss.]
Rather than an encounter with the enormity of Tagore, if not to excel him, Amit eventually had his accomplishment in deeper perceptions through his life’s experiences. He realized that his love both with Ketaki and Labanya were equally true. Love with Ketaki was like ‘water drawn in pitcher from the pond for daily use’ representing our mundane life. On the other hand his love with Labanya was like a vast ocean, akin to Infinity, where he will swim never to find its shore where to anchor.
So, all roads lead to Upanishad!
Rabindra Sangeet – Songs of Rabindranath Tagore: Translator’s note: The songs of Rabindranath Tagore are known as Rabindrasangeet which number approx. 2500. It is no exaggeration to say that Rabindrasangeet has explored every corner of human emotion and perception to give them best possible expression. Their philosophical depth also is unparalleled in the music world. It may be claimed, Rabindrasangeet has climaxed wording of the ineffable in literature of all time. Anybody not knowing Bengali definitely miss this aesthetic treasure. A translation can at best explain the central idea of a song, but cannot surface the wonderful matching of music with the original poesy so intimate with its philosophical/spiritual canvas. Unfortunately, therefore, the best of Rabindrasangeet, with all its humanistic appeal of highest order, will remain confined within the Bengali circle. It may be possible, some highly talented musicians endowed with literary command also, will emerge with versions of Rabindrasangeet in other languages, equally appealing. Such experiment in Hindi has not been disappointing and has gained popularity. Hindi is of course quite close to Bengali which must have been a contributory factor to such success. But the Western languages are likely to pose insurmountable challenge to any such effort. While hoping that some highly talented musicians will some day perform this magic of perfect cloning of Rabindrasangeet even in the Western languages, a sensible suggestion in the meantime appears to be to keep its translation handy while the Westerners (and in general all not having access to Bengali) will give their ear to the original Bengali song and try to perceive its import. Those knowing Bengali can only sympathize those not so privileged for such a plight in their struggle to enjoy a song! Below appears translations of some Rabindrasangeets, with a few initial lines of the original Bengali given in Roman script to enable the listeners to relate the translation to the song.
Likhon tomar dhulay hoyechhe dhuli
Hariye geche tar purano akhar guli
[Note: The anecdote that goes with this song is, one day the Poet saw a piece of paper with his writings blown away by the wind. This simple incident was enough for him at once to visualize the temporality of the finest aspects of life. Yet, the truth that he perceives is, the return of seemingly lost in its eternally new form and that God’s aesthetic scribbling all around us in Nature or life at large cycle into oblivion and re-appearance.]
In dust your writings wallow
Its letters obscure, no more aglow;
Alone I sit in the spring night,
Do I then again sight
In the woods your scribbling
There in the budding seedling
Your lost letters errant
Re-appear no less significant.
Abound the Mallikas (*) in the bower (*)
Their fragrance in the air to shower
At Your touch tender
Brings to mind from yonder
Your nostalgic script
That does the farewell pain depict.
There in the Madhabi (*) branch sway (*)
Your old scripts of the remote day.
(*) These are Indian flowers. 6)Tomay natun kore pabo bole
Harai kshne khan
O mor bhalabashar dhan
[Note: With our limited perceptions we lose sight of God in our daily life. However,
we do glimpse Him at times to realize that He is our dearest who had created
humans to whom He occasionally flashes the mysterious intent behind his
wonderful creation of life, but only to be left again to the mundane. Is this
hide and seek His mirth, never giving us the final answer to our eternal
quest of mystery behind our existence? I would also be inclined to invoke
the scientists’ Big Bang theory here behind God’s Creation for occurrence
of the lines “Endless Thou art / So delude as null to covert” if of course it
means that the debut of myriad proliferation in Nature, as we see, started
from explosion of a single atom and the Universe, now in an expansion
mode will start shrinking again when it will reach the maximum point of
inflation as its physical elasticity will permit and then will start its reverse
course to be again reduced to an atom. My earnest request to the readers is
they may please take my interpretation of the Big Bang theory with many a
pinch of salt, if not with a lot of laughter too. However, assuming I have
marginally grasped the Big Bang, are we not still dwelling on the mundane?
Where is the spiritual dimension? Hopefully, even an erudite will share a layman’s
perception that Big Bang has not transcended to metaphysical height with spiritual
factor a lot of which I got in an article of Dr. Jaba Chatterjee (Faculty in Bengali
literature at Rishi Bankim Chandra College at Naihati, not far away from Calcutta).
Her subject is influence of Vaishnava cult on Tagore. In her essay she has
mentioned the following song of Tagore and also another close to it ( No; 18- To
unite with me / Is Thy eternal journey) which appears in this volume. She also gives
example of a good number of songs of Tagore influenced by the Vaishnavite poets
(e.g. from Joydeb’s (12th Century) Geetagovina.(in Sanskrit)& Bidyapati of 15th
Century (who wrote in Maithili) and quoted them in their respective languages
in original, in vogue in those periods in Eastern India, including Bengal.
The crux of Dr. Chatterjee’s paper is, though human enigma about
evolution of life on this earth is primordial going with an awe, the devotional
millennium old whose impact deeply influenced Tagore literature since mid
19th Century onward which may be noted in a large number of his songs,
which, quite a few in this volume illustrate (besides the 2 nos. mentioned in this
passage) and the reader may hopefully relate this introduction to those. I am
thankful to Dr. Chatterjee for making available her erudite paper to me
without which my introduction in this re-publication of my book would
remain deficient as in my original publication in January 2002. To get anew again
I lose Thee now and then;
O my precious love, Thy flight
Is only to be back to my sight.
Thou art not to remain,
Endlessly behind the curtain;
Mine Thou art for ever –
Drown in the temporal for frolic mere.
On Thy search trembles my mind,
Passion waves my love thou to find.
Endless Thou art
So delude as null to covert;
Such is Thy pleasure
To leave me in desolation tear.
15) He nutan dakha dik arbar
Janmero prathama subhakshan
[Note: There has been a boom of celebration of birthday parties of young and adults alike in the Western style even in our country with the trite song ‘Happy birthday to you …..etc.’ preceded by the ritual of cutting/eating of delicious birthday cakes to be followed by sumptuous dishes and, of course, the incumbents are flooded with costly gifts from their guests. Thus, the birthday parties do provide plenty of enjoyment. However, it may be interesting to compare this ethos with that which pervades the whole of Bengal during the Kabi Paksha (Poet’s fortnight) which starts on the 25th day of Baisakh (this month in the Bengali calendar synchronizes with the mid April to mid May period), the birthday of the Poet, when the entire clime here is inundated with Tagore’s songs/recitals etc. in various functions taking us deep into the perception of Creation’s mystery, which we badly miss in our said birthday rituals which, one may feel, are in utter mediocrity once one has experienced the ecstasy and philosophical height in Kabi Paksha. Out of many other recitals relevant to the profundity of ‘birthday’ the following song is sure to be heard on this occasion ] O Ever New, may Thee reappear
Through Life’s holy primal hour;
With the mist torn
Like Sun be Thy manifestation.
From the midst of inane
Thy victory be over its bane.
Let be hailed by Thy glow
And my heart’s trumpet blow;
Music of Life’s marvel
Infinity’s eternal wonder to reveal;
The clarion call to the Ever New be sent
At the advent
Of Baisakh the twenty fifth
For its un-blighting gift.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
23. Amader Shantiniketan, Se je sabar hote apan,
Tar akash bhara kole, moder dole hriday dole
[Note:Invarious celebrations/functions of Santiniketan, the University of the Poet, this song is sung in chorus. Is there a better paean for any institution anywhere in the world?] Our Santiniketan,
She is our very own;
Lapping our heart
Her sky rocks it to spurt
To see her novel again
In our renewed vein.
The rows of her trees
Our frolic in the field sprees;
Affection of the blue above
Dawn to dusk showers love.
In the shades of our Shawl trees
Music from the wood conveys the breeze.
The Amlaki (*) bowers gay *
With dancing leaves play.
Where we ramble for pleasure,
That never eludes from us far.
In our mind the Sitar (**) of love **
Is tuned to put us hand in glove
With my brothers
Who are one with me and others.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
(*) tree (**) musical instrument
32 Amra sabai raja amader eai rajar rajatwe
Naile moder rajar sane milbo ki swatte?
[Note: In God’s kingdom all his subjects are one with their King. While we are bound by His axioms, we never feel the bondage, while the human kings or even the rulers in a democracy tend to be tyrants, maybe with a difference in degree.] We all are kings in our King’s kingdom
Else how we be one with Him on what other term?
We are arbitrary
Yet, His cravings carry,
Not bound in slave’s bondage
To fear His rage.
He gives honor to all
That bounces on Him to fall;
None is there us to stunt
With any untruth blunt;
We go on our own
To meet the path He had shown;
We won’t die
In the whirl futile.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
35. Amra dujana swarga khelana garibo na dharanite
Mugdho lalito asrugalito geete
[Notes: The song was composed in early thirties of 20th Century, presumably dedicated to the great revolutionary Jatindra Mohan Sengupta and his foreign (Irish, I guess) wife Nellie Sengupta, who had worked shoulder to shoulder with her husband in the freedom struggle for India. In 1932, on his return voyage from Europe, Jatindra was arrested by the British police near Bombay. He was since interned and eventually breathed his last on 22 July 1933 at Ranchi (in Eastern India). Many a couple dedicated to freedom struggle had similar plight at that time and, naturally we may assume, this song was directed to them all. Yet, its appeal extends universally, beyond a particular milieu, to all the couple whose objective is far beyond a mere happy family life to respond to the cause of service of the people at large.] To compose the toy of heaven
Is not our aim craven –
In emotional songs occult
The nuptial night to exalt
In nostalgic charm
With a heart infirm
To beg at Fate’s feet
All our imploring to meet –
Is not for us intrepid
Both standing firm in our daring bid.
The banner of love we’ll hoist high
Along craggy path our perilous mission to vie;
The distress of the cruel day
Overwhelm us may;
Yet, for peace to languish
Or consolation we’ll not wish.
If the radar is broke, the sail torn,
To us this will be ever known,
That both of us are there
Even when Death at us will stare.
Both of us to vision the Earth there
And each other;
The desert heat to bear
Not to rush for the mirage mere
Evading truth to self beguile
This glory be ours all the while;
This message oh dearest
Be our heart’s closest –
Till we die
That you’re there; so am I.
* * * * * * * * * * **
Quotes from the chapter “A hindsight at Tagore translation”
B. Tagore deified
Also, the Bengali tendency to deify Tagore as infallible in all his feats, including translation of his own work, very much stood on the way of ‘Tagore literacy’ drive started by the modern translators. In the nineties of the 20th Century a good number of articles came out in the media, some of those arguing that Tagore’s own translations were ‘insipid’ etc. by which Tagore did injustice to himself. I fully agree with this view and feel that this has been the reason for the poor assessment of Tagore outside the Bengali circle. However, in all fairness, Tagore should be excused for this failure as he had to divert to translation amidst his enormous preoccupations, naturally at the cost of quality and quantity of his translations, while he could handle only a small fraction of his vast work. One may recall the episode of installing a bust of Tagore at Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon Avon, with Tagore’s poem ‘Shakespeare’ (from his book ‘Balaka’) inscribed on a plaque beneath it. It was a gift from the West Bwngal Govt. and the State’s the then Chief Minister Mr. Jyoti Basu inaugurated the bust towards the end of the last century. A few renowned translators offered their English version of the poem for this inscription but, eventually, Tagore’s own was chosen. It very much appeared to me that the choice was ‘political’ as the Chief Minister would not play with the Bengali sentiment by ascribing a secondary rank to Tagore below somebody else by any means and jeopardize his vote bank. However, out of all the translations of ‘Shakespeare’ offered for this purpose, I read Joe Winter’s which was published in The Statesman on the 27th November, 1996. It appeared to me superb and I pasted the newspaper cutting of this translation in my copy of ‘Shakespeare’s Complete Works’ (Publisher- English Language Book Society & Collins, London and Glasgow edition 1964). A few ‘Odes to Shakespeare’ appear at the preamble of this publication. So far as my copy is concerned, I think the said pasting is the best of all the ‘Odes’, very likely appearing in my copy alone, unfortunately. My suggestion is, henceforth the publishers of Shakespeare may consider inclusion of this Joe Winter’s translation of Tagore’s ‘Shakespeare’ (or anybody else’s if considered better) in their future publications. Thus, the Western literary circle may savor Tagore through Shakespeare which they keep at their elbow. The said publication of Joe Winter’s “Shakespeare” appears at the end of this ‘Hindsight’
Rabindranath Tagore’s poem ‘Shakespeare’ in his book ‘Balaka’ in Bengali – translated by Joe Winter, published in The Statesman in their Calcutta edition of 27 November, 1996.
You rose, world poet, on a shore for distant,
And England took you at that instant
Next to her heart, you were her treasure
It seemed, all hers, it was her pleasure
To kiss your forehead and to withhold you
In the forest’s arms, for a time; to enfold you
In mist’s shawl, in woodland flowers
A fairies’ field. The island bowers
Had not yet woken to sing the praises
Of the Sun-poet. But in slow phases
Of centuries, led on by Time’s singing
You rose to mid-heaven in your shining.
Taking your splendid seat in the centre
You lit up the world’s mind. See this new era
Branches of palm trees vibrating, thrill-singing,
By the Indian Ocean, your praises ringing.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *