Sunday, April 12, 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: (Part 2) – 6 samplesTranslator’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.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.

* * * * * * * * * * * ** ** *
Tumi hatath haway bheshe asha dhan
Tai hatath paoyae chamke othe mon
[Note: God’s revelation to us is off and on in course of our life, without notice or ritualistic processes, but even through the simplest objects of Nature if we keep our perceptions open.]

Thou art my treasure windfall
So my mind does startle.
On my secret travel
Thy abrupt reveal I marvel –
In the wind fragrant
On Thy fancies errant.

Daily as we come and go
Each other we do not know;
Kicking up dust visit many
To convey message hardly any;
All of a sudden Thy flute yonder
Alerts the lost passenger.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * *
Tomar holo shuru, amar holo shara
Tomay amay mile emni bahe dhara

[Note: Among the Hindu gods, Vishnu is the protector of Creation while e Shiva is for its destruction. One will agree, concepts of Vishnu and Shiva are more philosophical, rather than religious, to perceive this dual faces of Existence. This song brings out this very philosophical perception.]

You set out as I end;
Such a stream founts as we blend.
For you the light does glitter,
At home with mate you are.
For me is the night,
The stars above only I sight.
You have the shore,
For me the seas roar.
You have station,
Mine is motion.
You preserve, I undo,
You fear, I brave in lieu.

* * * * * * * * * * * * **
Bhenge mor gharer chabi niye jabi ke amare, Bandhu amar
Na paye tomar dekha aka aka din je amar kate nare
[Note: While we are confined to the narrow limits of our life, we pine for a bigger significance of our existence beyond our mundane boundaries. This song wonderfully brings out the distress of the human soul seeking exit beyond its confinement and, in the case of the Poet, I believe the eternal Truth is his quest.]

Who’ll break loose oh
My room’s lock for my bondage to go,
That from me does fend
Thou, oh my friend!
Without Thy sight
Lone days are my plight.
Is the night over
The Sun soon to appear
At the horizon Eastern
My rescue to earn;
By the long road ahead
Thy chariot to my door will be led?
In the sky stars countless
Stare at me blink less
Awaiting the dawn
With Thy floodlight to be gone.
The travelers in the morning
All come amidst din;
Pass their pageants with music
Thy glory to seek
In the flowers blooming
Tunes struck by the Sun’s golden string.

* * ** * * * * * * * * * * * * ** **
Charanrekha tabo je pathe dile lekhi
Chinnha aji tari apani ghuchale ki
[Note: Everything beautiful in our life is only transitory. Yet. the Poet’s conviction is that only the eternal Truth manifests in these temporal.]

On the path Thou left Thy footprints
To-day to blot out all its hints.
Pollens of Ashoka (*) rendered Thy dust crimson (*= tree)
Only to be lost in the grass on Thy lawn.
Ends flowering,
Birds forget to sing;
The southern wind ceases
Oblivious, self-forfeits as it pleases.
Yet, the Immortal did they not carry,
In death will end its memory?

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
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.

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