Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tagore:Thou Hast Made Me Endless

Thou Hast Made Me Endless – Part V

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941 AD) the Nobel Laureate of 1913 was introduced to the West primarily through the collection of English translation of some of his poems/songs captioned as ‘Gitanjali’ (=Offering of Songs).
More translations of his works followed by the poet himself and others after he had won the Nobel, including poems/songs, dramas, short stories etc. However, such efforts were sporadic and sluggish, mostly on individual initiative, which still remain so.
As a result, a vast volume of the poet’s works remains un-translated while, it appears, it is an impossible proposition to translate even a substantial part of the poet’s total works to permit those, not privileged by the knowledge of Bengali language, a reasonably broad view of his myriad creations where unfathomable perceptional depth of top grade aesthetics runs through, literally true to his song “Thou hast made me endless / Such is Thy pleasure”.
Notwithstanding this, an upsurge of Tagore translation took place in the last decade of the twentieth century by virtue of a good number of eminent poets/translators e.g.William Radice, Joe Winter, Ketaki Kushari Dyson, to name a few, all of whom left their valuable contribution to this oeuvre and my book THE ECLIPSED SUN is a modest addition to this. I have put stress on a few aspects of the poet’s works, particularly those in his twilight years, which seemed to me quite inadequately covered so far. The followings are presented mostly based on this book.

RAJAT DAS GUPTA: Calcutta: e-mail: rajarch@cal3.vsnl.net.in
Poem: Garthikani (Anonym) of the book Prahasini (Satirist) written in 1938, 3 years before the Poet’s death.

[Translator’s note: The poem is a reply from the Poet, while he was in Kalimpong, to the letter from a girl who had written to him in poetry (It appears, the girl has a long face as she heard that the Poet at the hill station was being attended by too many ladies around and, for that reason, she prefers to be aloof not to add to the Poet’s disturbances, enough of which he was having already, and the Poet in his letter was trying to mollify her). Maitrayee Devi’s book Mangpute Rabindranath (i.e. Rabindranath at Mangpu, a hill station near Darjeeling which was her husband’s workplace, translated by Maitrayee Devi herself into English with the title “Tagore by Fireside”) gives translation of a few lines of this poem while she depicts the Poet’s vivacity even at his old age, when he was her guest at Mangpu, as follows - ]

“I despise that hapless wretch who grows decrepit
Just because of age.
So even if I am at my last breath
I tell you not about my falling strength.

The truth of these lines was known to all, who knew him personally. At the age of eighty, the Poet remained an image of youth- no physical weakness or disability or illness could touch his mind. During these days, when he was filling our home with such gay laughter and entertaining repartee, and was reading out to us hour after hour in the evenings, he was not keeping well physically. An illness was slowly spreading its roots inside him. He sometimes had fever, but didn’t care; and if others expressed concern, he would resent it. He suffered but concealed his pain by an ever springing flow of poetry, a fountain of songs and merry laughter. That human existence can glow with such unbounded happiness and warmth, we would have never known, had we not seen him. The few days that we had the good fortune to be near him, we lived as life should be lived. Our youth would never have been so affluent, if we had not been near him. “Even if at my last breath, I tell you not of my failing strength!” – the truth of this we experienced every day.”]

High pitched and aimless your chatter
In this solitude my peace does shatter.
My onus, the Grandpa designate
On what plea do I negate?
You daring, in rhymes have written your letter,
Be paid in your own coin, that is better.
You knew well in your mind astute,
Prose would never my pride dilute.
The pen was a horse of mighty breed,
Though now aged, it limps a bit indeed.
There to you is my loss of face,
May I hide it and pass with grace.
Your pen trots lightly hence
Mine will pace in the same cadence-
Though breathless, yet I’ll not daunt
To keep it up lest my age you taunt.
Yet, in my heart is the apprehension
Of pride shattering Lord Madhusudan. (=Lord Krishna)
One who feels old just for age
On that unfortunate is my rage.
So, even though my soul seeks exit,
Betrayal of fatigue I do not permit.
But what confuses me,
You take a poet always as silly!
They do disturb me, people various
In ways very diverse;
That I endure them you’ve seen clearly
For that reason you keep wary,
You said so tenderly
Which I do note, not lightly.
Yet, I know, you know this,
Disturbances come in varieties.
With the poets the God has been kind,
So, the sweets the sisters bring I don’t mind.
Some compose sweet words flattering,
While some fetch milky sweets endearing.
In cuckoo voice some pitch an acrimony,
Some enchant just in musical harmony.
So, I think, if God out of sympathy,
Just to protect my tranquility
Would all these hassles free,
This parched life would a bigger torture be.
Let me explain with a simile –
The mountain there- the poles of electricity
Struck on its chest, emit light
More to prick human sight.
If the moon will so mortify,
To emit its bright fight shy,
Would it be a good plight,
Does mere heat always bring light?
That is my letter all about,
No, not as my vigor has run out;
Only I am wiser – it’s no fake –
Now realize, shelling words without brake-
Those may be widened with chatter,
May be flattened either.
Too much is with too little at par,
Rather than shout, better to whisper.
Unaware of this, the Bengalis miss
Both their price and lungs’ ease.
As outcome of their shouting mania
Bengal environs always with hysteria.
The unsaid itself is the art,
Mere chatter is that is overt.
Look here, your name latent,
Excels the price of fame’s patent.
But what a farce by Bharati - (=Goddess of Learning/Art)
Chattering is not arty –
To explain it, I’ve already yielded an epic,
Will the Goddess of Art excuse this act heroic?
The truth needs confession,
The row that senility has caught Rabi (*) on – (* Rabindranath)
In protest thereof is this challenge thrown,
All the chatter from my mouth blown.
So I talk on, not a moment to spare,
This is like dying my hair –
The grey inside hidden
By the outward green (implying freshness)
In feeble voice so I battle,
Why juveniles alone tittle-tattle?
To a brat I’ll surrender not
That ego I still have a lot.

Listen to Rabindra Sangeet

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