Monday, March 23, 2009

Song of Tagore

Thou Hast Made Me Endless

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:
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.

Ganer bhitar diye jakhan dekhi bhubankhani
Takhan tare chini ami, takhan tare jani

[Note: Music of highest aesthetics and philosophical values starting from the Vedic hymns down to folksongs inundate the Poet’s university Viswa-Bharati at Santiniketan. The Poet’s own songs Rabindrasangeets, approx. 2500 in number, have freely drawn from India’s and also from West’s various musical traditions which gift us a new look to the world for our deepest perception of the creative wonder behind it. Maybe, the few songs translated here will give one glimpse of it, though not having access to the original Rabindrasangeets due to linguistic barrier.]

Through music the world as I see,
I know it, reveals its intimacy.
Language of its light
Fills sky in loving delight;
Its dust speaks the innate
Divine words ultimate;
Ceases to be external
In my soul melodies to spell;
On its grass
My heart’s throbs pass;
Beauty shapes up, flows the nectar
My own bounds to blur;
With all then I see
My camaraderie.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Amader Shantiniketan, Se je sabar hote apan,
Tar akash bhara kole, moder dole hriday dole

[Note: In various 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

Purano sei diner katha bhulbi kire hai
O sei chokher dekha, praner katha
Se ki bhola jai.
[Note: This song as a rule is heard in the alumni associations of the educational institutions of Bengal when old mates meet after a long time gap after they have left their Alma Mater. There could not be a better outlet of their emotions at that moment than this song. Of course, this song is not the exclusive preserve for the alumni and may be appropriately used in similar other get together]

Will you forget that yore,
Our sighting then and heart’s talk that still lure;
O mate, come once more,
To my heart’s core;
Let’s talk our weal and woe
To quench our soul parched so.

At dawn we plucked flower,
Cradled in our bower,
Played flute under the Bakul tree
And sang in musical spree.
In between was our departure –
One from the other flung far;
If we’ve met again,
Be within my heart lain.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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 honour 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.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *

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