Monday, May 9, 2011

Poetry Session May 6, 2011: Rabindranath Tagore's 150th Birth Anniversary - 8

Rabindranath Tagore as a young man

Although the attendance was sparse the celebration of the anniversary of Rabindranth Tagore was central to this Poetry session.

Thommo & Priya before the Poetry reading

Private translations were provided. Besides, translations by poets like William Radice added a new verve to the poetry of Rabindranath; his copious notes enhance the appreciation of certain poems.

Soma read Sonar Tori (The Golden Boat) by Rabindranath

Even the lyrics of a song (Rabindrasangeet) were adduced as worthy poetry, combining the musical and poetic genius of Rabindranath for an unforgettable effect.

Thommo, Priya, and Bobby follow Soma's reading

Here are the readers posing, happy as a flock of mynas, at the end.

 The Happy Six (Soma, Priya, Joe, KumKum, Thommo, Bobby) at the end of the reading

For a full account read the record that follows.

Kochi Reading Group Poetry session on May 6, 2011

Attending: Bobby, Thommo , KumKum, Joe, Soma, Priya
Absent: Talitha (attending a family function)), Indira (domestic confusion), Minu (chaperoning son for admission), Amita (?), Zakia (?)

The next session for reading the novel Tess of d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy will be on Friday June 10, 2011, at the Cochin Yacht Club library.

July 8 is proposed for the next Poetry session.

I propose skipping the Aug session (as we did last year) and having the next session after July on Sep 16 to read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. (KumKum and Joe won't be on base in August)
Since the morrow was Rabindranath Tagore's 150th birth anniversary, most of the readers at this poetry session recited a poem of his to mark the occasion.

Soma read Tagore's poem Sonar Tori or The Golden Boat. She said:
This unique poem was mercilessly criticised by many uncomprehending critics. Some called it sheer mysticism; others claimed that the poem was nothing but a barren spray of mist. To me it is a lucid touch of revelation. Here the finite wants to taste the infinite, and even wants to unite with the all pervading infinite.

Tagore used symbolism extensively in this poem. The inner meaning is wrapped in a simple play of rhythm and nature in a rural setting by the banks of a river. The poet is a farmer sitting amidst the rice crop he has harvested. A golden boat arrives. He stacks his harvest high onto the boat, so much so that there is no space for him on the boat. The boat sails away leaving him alone and empty.

We live our lives like a farmer tending tirelessly to our little farm, sowing and harvesting the golden crop which is the fruit of our labour. We are attached to our worldly gains, symbolised here by the golden crop of harvested rice; we want to take it all with us. When the golden boat arrives to take us to salvation, we stack the boat with our material harvest to the etxtent there is no space for ourselves on the boat. The boat leaves and we remain on the farm, going through the cycle of sowing and harvesting, proceeding with the repetitive routine of life, without end …

When we are ready to break attachment with our golden harvest and are able to leave it all behind, only then will we be able to board the golden boat and sail toward our ultimate destiny.”

Joe asked if the meaning provided was by some academic or was it her own interpretation. Soma replied that this was the meaning taught by her teacher in high school and is the traditional manner in which the poem has been expounded to generations of school-children. KumKum nodded in agreement. Thommo added in Bengali (rusty from disuse) the saying ja chhilo chhalegelo, meaning, even what you had was taken away.

The poem as given was translated by William Radice. See ).
He writes in the notes to his translation (Rabindranath Tagore – Selected Poems, Penguin Books, 1985) of the poem Sonar Tari from the collection Sonar Tari (The Golden Boat), 1894:
In 1890 Tagore’s father gave him charge of the family estates, which included land at Shelidah, by the river Padma in north Bengal. As a result, Tagore came into much closer contact with rural, riverine Bengal than he had known hitherto, and the experience inspired poems, short stories and letters. This famous and elusive poem captures much of the atmosphere of Bengal’s rivers during the monsoon. The sex of the person in the boat is indeterminate, as Bengali pronouns do not distinguish gender; but Tagore has ‘a woman at the helm’ in his own translation, so perhaps we should follow him. In line 11 the verb — baoya is used, generally translated as ‘to row’; but the boat is big enough to have sails (line l3) and carry a cargo of grain, so it is probably being steered or paddled by a single oar. The river-bank is not precipitous, but a beach shelving down into the water.

Readers will always disagree about the meaning of this poem (and Tagore himself disliked such discussions: poems should be not mean: see My Reminiscences p. 222); but the distinction between self and soul seems to me to lie behind it. Soul is liberated through self-surrender, disinterested love: but there is self-interest in the giving of the harvest by the speaker of the poem, a desire to be rewarded and praised for his efforts (lines 23-4) and a wish for the self to be ‘taken aboard’ along with what it has given. The result is spiritual failure, a sense of loneliness and alienation. In this mood the khela (line 7) of the swirling flood-waters takes on its negative aspect: the separateness of the created world from its Creator. The image of the village as a painting (line 9) can be compared with the pictorial imagery in the poem Railway Station, where there is a similar sense of failure; compare also the story told in The Religion of Man p. l82 of the person who was barred from entering the Garden of Bliss after it was discovered that ‘inside his clothes he was secretly trying to smuggle into the garden the self, which only finds its fulfillment by its surrender'.

One can also relate ‘The Golden Boat’ to the jiban debata poems, particularly Unyielding, which also combines giving and rejection. See notes to the poem On the Edge of the Sea.

KumKum introduced her piece from Tagore thus:
The poem Sabala, was composed on August 23, 1928 by Rabindranath Tagore and appears in his collection of poems called Mahua. He adored women who had spirit, and used their mind. These were women who dared to challenge male patriarchy and did not submit to it. The word 'Sabala' means: a woman who is strong. It's antonym in Bengali is 'Abala.' Both these words are from Sanskrit and exist in many other Sanskrit-derived Indian languages. I would title the poem 'Empowered' in English translation, as this would convey the message of the poem well. In the poem, a dependent young woman is desperately seeking a way out of the confining traditions of her time, which imposed complete dependence of women on male members of the family. It is a wild cry for freedom.”

KumKum said Sabala is a woman who is strong; the translation was made by her with some editorial help from Joe. She pronounced like Jack Horner, “We did a good job.” Priya thought it was a nice translation after KumKum read the poem in English. Then KumKum recited it in Bengali to demonstrate the sound and the rhetorical elevation of the poem. The poem was written in 1928 in Santiniketan and therefore belongs to the later period of the poet's life; it is from the collection of poems titled Mahua.

KumKum mentioned that Rabindranath was married to a young child-bride who was untutored before she came to the Tagore household. Some education was imparted thereafter, but she seemed largely untouched by matters literary or things of the mind. Tagore would make her listen to his poems, but she did not respond. She did not even learn to sing, a most common requirement of Bengali married women. However, she became attached to Santiniketan. Tragically, his wife and all the sons of Rabindranath but one, died in quick succession.

Joe narrated the story of someone who asked Einstein's wife if she understood the Theory of Relativity. She replied, that while she did not understand Relativity, she understood Einstein!

The surviving letters to his wife concern mundane matters of the household, said Bobby, but his letters to Victoria Ocampo (the Argentinian who was attracted to him), are more spirited and tender.

KumKum mentioned husbands who do consider their wives are 'caring' but don't think of them as a worthy object of more than caring; of romantic love, in fact. Priya replied that KumKum must be imagining. Joe added that some men can care for more than one woman. The converse is true of some women, chimed in Priya.

Bobby read the Tagore poem The Champa, calling it a bit of fun. The version read is taken from the site, where the 'm' in champa is mistakenly written as 'n'. He said it used to be called 'pallapoo' in Malayalam but it is really called Chembagam, and the botanical name is Magnolia champaca. There is a grandmother's fable that a ghost (yakshi) sits in the flower, but why it sits there we do not know.

Champa flower - Magnolia champaca

About the second poem The Child-Angel, Bobby said it is mystical and religious. And reminded him of a poem by Larkin, whom he has recited earlier (so has KumKum). 
Another conversation continued on the lines of what marriage demands of husbands and wives. Priya said both fail in expressing appreciation for ordinary things done with attention by the spouse. A wife is taken for granted and the marriage grows cold. Bobby asked if Joe and KumKum exchange e-mail. Very often, KumKum replied, for we share literature and take an active interest in things around us. Priya lamented that men confine their conversation to sports and politics, and if a mention of reading is there, it is just about pulp.

Priya recited a poem by Tagore called Parting Words. It has an interesting history:
With his [Tagore's]work reaching such a wide audience Tagore had many acquaintances and admirers amongst significant artists and writers around the world. One of them was Wilfred Owen, the poet and soldier whose work so powerfully evoked the experience of the British armed forces during World War I.

Owen copied one of the poems from Tagore's Nobel Prize-winning Gitanjali ('Offering of Songs') and took it to war with him. It began:

When I go from hence let this be my parting word, that what I have seen is insurpassable.

After he died in the trenches, Owen's mother wrote to Tagore to tell him that her son had quoted the poem when they said goodbye for the last time and had kept these lines with him in his pocket book. She asked what book of Tagore's had these lines, and Tagore replied.

KumKum mentioned that Amita is the reader who has recited war poetry (Wilfred Owen and Alun Lewis). Joe thought some war poetry may have been inspired by these lines. For example Rupert Brooke wrote his famous poem The Soldier, which opens:
If I should die, think only this of me: That there's some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.
In Bengali Kazi Nazrul Islam is considered more the war poet, said KumKum.

The second poem Priya recited was by Carol Ann Duffy, the Poet Laureate of England, who has dutifully come up with a poem to celebrate the recent royal wedding; the poem is not particular to William and Kate, but applicable to all weddings. It is called The Rings. She makes a play on the word 'ring' and all the ways it is used in English, and dwells at length on all the possible kinds of rings (this is where the great Oxford English Dictionary would have been of great benefit to Duffy, since it lists historically all the uses of a word with quotations). Finally she settles on the conventional ring:
and therefore I give you this ring.

KumKum who saw the TV marathon of the wedding noted that the ring had to be forced on Catherine's finger for it was not sized right by the designer (made of Welsh gold; did one know that gold was mined in Wales?) Priya said her son-in-law had a similar experience when his ring at the engagement did not fit, and forcing it led to swelling and the ring had to be cut next day to extricate him from pain.

Miram, Thommo's daughter, is into ecology. This was the reason Thommo chose a poem by Ian McCallum, an ecologist and wilderness expert who runs a wilderness leadership school in South Africa. He played for their rugby team, the Springboks, in his youth and specialises in evolutionary theory and the animal-human interface. He lives in Capetown. He is also a medical doctor and a specialist in Jungian psychology.

Joe mentioned that we teach our children to be afraid of nature and the creatures that inhabit the wild, instead of respecting creatures and giving them their space. Somebody said there is a village in Bengal where snakes are all over, and neither the villagers bother the snakes, nor vice versa. Marvellous! Thommo hoped the villagers won't let the CPM get anywhere near, or else there will be wholesale massacre.. The talk went to elections and somebody mentioned the pretender to the CPM crown in Kerala is a No. 1 rogue.

This was Joe's introduction:
I have chosen a short poem and a Rabindrasangeet for this poetry session.

The Myna is a poem descriptive of a common scene in Indian gardens. I chose it because it has nothing to do with meditative devotion, the theme of his Gitanjali. Nor does it deal with love, many forms of which Rabindranath describes in his novels and his poems, mostly in a form that floats in an airy spiritual sphere.

Rabindranath had an acute sense of the wonders of nature from the time he was a boy. Here is an example: “I would run to greet the first pink flush of dawn through the shivering branches of the palm trees which stood in line along the garden boundary while the grass glistened and the dew-drops caught the earliest tremor of the morning breeze.” This is a man of seventy recalling one particular scene from his boyhood memory! His heart lay open to all the physical sensations aroused, and he could lend nature his genius with words to convert the impressions into word-music. Of course, much will be lost in the poor translation I offer. The Myna  is taken from a 1932 collection of 51 poems titled Punascha in Bengali, meaning 'postcript'. Yet it was no postcript at all, for Rabindranath produced eight or nine more volumes of poetry before he died at age 70, nine years later.

1. Read The Myna

The next is not a poem, but a song. Many of Rabindranath's lyrics composed for his songs have the quality of poems; much the same is true of some of Bob Dylan's lyrics, and a few of John Lennon's also belong to that category.

This song was inspired by Tagore’s poignant relationship with his sister-in-law Kadambari. At an early age she came to live in the extended joint family of the Tagores as the wife of an elder brother, Jyotindranath. Kadambari and Tagore grew up together and she had a keen appreciation of his artistic sensibilities. But Kadambari committed suicide at the age of 22, why we do not know; Tagore was grief-stricken, as if a soul-mate had been taken. This song Tumi Ki Kebali Chhabi (Were you but a portrait?) was written to express his grief. He had already dedicated four works to her and was to dedicate two more. Rabindranath had the capacity to sublimate his raw feelings into deeper thoughts that give the song a wistful edge.

I think you will hear this when I play it from an MP3 file after reciting the lyrics as a poem.

2. First I shall read Tumi Ki Kebali Chhabi in a translation where I had a lot of help from KumKum, just as with the poem.

And then let me play the song for you with the lyrics; it's sung by Hemant Mukherjee, a very popular playback singer of the fifties and sixties.

Bobby mentioned in connection with the lone myna of the poem, that mynas normally come in pairs, or in an entire flock. That is correct. Bobby paid a compliment to the poem by saying he felt like that lone myna now, and thought it a beautiful poem. Priya's rejoinder was she felt more like a champa (a feeling we all understand as but natural for Priya).

Thommo referred to the song saath bahi champa jago re, jago re. See

Someone remembered the nursery rhyme:
One for sorrow
Two for joy
Three for a girl
Four for a boy
Five for silver
Six for gold
Seven for a secret, never to be told
Eight for a wish
Nine for a kiss
Ten for a bird you must not miss.

And then Bobby recalled a line which fascinates him; it is by Nabokov observing a wagtail: 'A wagtail stopped as if it had remembered something and then went on enacting its name.'

Joe noted that a perennial problem every poet has to solve is how to end the poem. It is easy enough to get started based on some inspiration, a feeling, a scene sharply etched; but to conclude the poem requires a bright thought. Poems that follow a form, such as a sonnet, simplify matters. But Rabindranath deftly writes the concluding three lines of The Myna veering off from the myna scene to the heavenly scene above, and compares the lone myna to the evening star (Venus). At least so it seemed to Bobby; to Joe it was a case of a short meditation at the end of the day to seal the absence of the myna during the day.

Joe was asked to attach the sound files and the Powerpoint file through which he presented a manually synchronised playing of the song Tumi ki kebali chabi and the lyrics to it in Bengali transliteration and English translation. It was done (see below at the end).

The Poems

The Golden Boat
Clouds rumbling in the sky; teeming rain.
I sit on the river-bank, sad an alone.
The sheaves lie gathered, harvest has ended,
The river is swollen and fierce in its flow.
As we cut the paddy it started to rain.

One small paddy-field, no one but me -
Flood-waters twisting and swirling everywhere.
Trees on the far bank smear shadows like ink
On a village painted on deep morning grey.
On this side a paddy-field, no on but me.

Who is this, steering close to the shore,
Singing? I feel that she is someone I know.
The sails are filled wide, she gazes ahead,
Waves break helplessly against the boat each side.
I watch and feel I have seen her face before.

Oh to what foreign land do you sail?
Come to the bank and moor you boat for a while.
Go where you want to, give where you care to,
But come to the bank a moment, show your smile -
Take away my golden paddy when you sail.
Rabindranath Tagore (translated by William Radice)

Oh God, why shouldn’t a woman have
The right to attain her destiny?
Why should I meekly bow my head
And wait patiently until the end of an exhausting day –
For a chance fulfilment of my desire?
Should I just rest in hope?
Why can’t I seek
The path to success myself?
Can I not press ahead on the chariot of discovery?
And urged on by my intense desire,
Traverse the arduous path to success,
Grasping every opportunity
And risking my future?
I refuse to enter the bridal chamber
All decked up, bangles tinkling –
Rather, make me an indomitable lover,
Who will some day accept the garland of love from a hero.
That memorable moment shall not dissolve
In the gloom of twilight,
Nor will I ever let him forget the resolve within me.
Meek submission will not be worthy of his valour
Hence, I’ll be rid of weak and bashful diffidence.
We will meet by the raging sea;
The sound of trumpets announcing our union
Will be blasted to the horizon by roaring waves.
Letting slide my head scarf, I’ll whisper to him:
“Here on earth or in heaven above, you’re the only one for me.”
Just then the sea birds will take off with a great clamour,
Silencing the westerly wind, and
The lambent light of the Seven Sisters
Will guide them on their way.
Dear God, unloose my lips!
I feel the swelling music of the Rudra Veena in my blood.
The most arduous milestone of my life is past;
Now I shall pour out my heart, without reserve,
Like a gushing spring. And whatever remains unspoken,
My beloved should find them within me.
When the spell dissipates,
And the spring of eloquence dries up
The sea shore will go silent.
Rabindranath Tagore (translated by KumKum Cleetus)

The Champa Flower
Supposing I became a champa flower, just for fun, and grew on a
branch high up that tree, and shook in the wind with laughter and
danced upon the newly budded leaves, would you know me, mother?
You would call, "Baby, where are you?" and I should laugh to
myself and keep quite quiet.
I should slyly open my petals and watch you at your work.
When after your bath, with wet hair spread on your shoulders,
you walked through the shadow of the champ tree to the little court
where you say your prayers, you would notice the scent of the
flower, but not know that it cane from me.
When after the midday meal you sat at the window reading
Ramayana, and the tree's shadow fell over your hair and your lap,
I should fling my wee little shadow on to the page of your book,
just where you were reading.
But would you guess that it was the tiny shadow of your
little child?
When in the evening you went to the cow shed with the lighted
lamp in your hand I should suddenly drop on to the earth again and
be your own baby once more, and beg you to tell me a story.
"Where have you been, you naughty child?"
"I won't tell you, mother." That's what you and I would say
Rabindranath Tagore

The Child-Angel
They clamour and fight, they doubt and despair, they know no end
to their wrangling.
Let your life come amongst them like a flame of light, my
child, unflickering and pure, and delight them into silence.
They are cruel in their greed and their envy, their words are like
hidden knives thirsting for blood.
Go and stand amidst their scowling hearts, my child, and let
your gentle eyes fall upon them like the forgiving peace of the
evening over the strife of the day.
Let them see your face, my child, and thus know the meaning
of all things; let them love you and thus love each other.
Come and take your seat in the bosom of the limitless, my
child. At sunrise open and raise your heart like a blossoming
flower, and at sunset bend your head and in silence complete the
worship of the day.
Rabindranath Tagore

Parting Words
When I go from hence
let this be my parting word,
that what I have seen is unsurpassable.

I have tasted of the hidden honey of this lotus
that expands on the ocean of light,
and thus am I blessed
---let this be my parting word.

In this playhouse of infinite forms
I have had my play
and here have I caught sight of him that is formless.

My whole body and my limbs
have thrilled with his touch who is beyond touch;
and if the end comes here, let it come
let this be my parting word.
Rabindranath Tagore

(for both to say)
I might have raised your hand to the sky
to give you the ring surrounding the moon
or looked to twin the rings of your eyes
with mine
or added a ring to the rings of a tree
by forming a handheld circle with you, thee,
or walked with you
where a ring of church-bells,
looped the fields,
or kissed a lipstick ring on your cheek,
a pressed flower,
or met with you
in the ring of an hour,
and another hour . . .
I might
have opened your palm to the weather, turned, turned,
till your fingers were ringed in rain
or held you close,
they were playing our song,
in the ring of a slow dance
or carved our names
in the rough ring of a heart
or heard the ring of an owl's hoot
as we headed home in the dark
or the ring, first thing,
of chorussing birds
waking the house
or given the ring of a boat, rowing the lake,
or the ring of swans, monogamous, two,
or the watery rings made by the fish
as they leaped and splashed
or the ring of the sun's reflection there . . .
I might have tied
a blade of grass,
a green ring for your finger,
or told you the ring of a sonnet by heart
or brought you a lichen ring,
found on a warm wall,
or given a ring of ice in winter
or in the snow
sung with you the five gold rings of a carol
or stolen a ring of your hair
or whispered the word in your ear
that brought us here,
where nothing and no one is wrong,
and therefore I give you this ring.
Carol Ann Duffy

From the book, Wild Gifts

Have we forgotten
That wilderness is not a place,
But a pattern of the soul Where every tree, every bird and beast
Is a soul maker?

Have we forgotten
That wilderness is not a place
But a moving feast of the starts,
Footprints, scales and beginnings?

Since when did we become afraid of the night
And that only the bright starts count?
Or that our moon is not a moon
Unless it is full?

By who’s command
Were the animals
Through groping fingers,
One for each hand,
Reduced to the big and little five?

Have we forgotten
That every creature is within us
Carried by tides
Of earthly blood
And that we named them?
Have we forgotten
That wilderness is not a place
But a season
And that we are in its final hour.
Ian McCallum

I like the word, fierce –
the way it aligns itself with
nakedness and solitude:
a fierce nakedness ...
a fierce solitude ...
And I like the way it holds
the word, fire.

I like the word, fire –
the way it ignites
the cutting edge of poetry
refusing to be nothing less than
a fiery edge …
a fiery tongue ...
And I like the way it is linked
to the word, wildness.

I like the word, wild –
how it weaves its way
between yes and no,
how it announces itself as
a wild anger …
a wild joy …
And I like the way it nurtures
the word, fierce.

I like the word, fierce ...
Ian McCallum

Poem – The Myna
What's with the myna I wonder
Why, from the flock is it apart?
When first I saw him under
The silk-cotton tree in my garden,
It appeared he was hobbling.
Since then I mark him each morning
Hopping about and ferreting insects.
He comes right by the veranda
Treading this way and that —
Not a bit wary of me.
But why this plight?
What sanctions of the flock
Have exiled him?
What tyranny of mynadom
Has caused this slight!
Nearby some mynas are piping,
Scampering around the lawn
And flitting from branch to branch of the shirish tree —
But look, he's not bothered!
What hurt in life was it
That wounded him, I wonder.
By morn, as it warms,
He forages for grub from habit
Among the fallen leaves,
And limps around the livelong day.
He's not sore at anyone;
No prideful disdain he shows in his gait,
Nor fiery anger in his eyes.
It's dusk and I haven't sighted him —
Now's the time he goes to roost in a corner of the branches,
As the crickets begin to chirrup
To the sound of rustling bamboo leaves,
Carried on a puff of breeze.
I remain sleepless, watching
The lone evening star,
Through a cleft of the tree.
Rabindranath Tagore (translated by Joe Cleetus)

Song Tumi ki Kebali Chabi
Are you a mere picture,
A portrait on canvas,
A faint blur in the distance
Like remote constellations —
Those myriad hosts in the vault of the sky,
Traversing the night
Like lamps unfailing,
As do the planets, stars and the sun —
Are you not real, as they are?
But alas! You are a picture, a mere picture!
Though no longer before my eyes,
You've possessed my inner vision,
And it's you I see in the green of the earth,
And you, in the blue of the sky.
My Being was complete
In union with you;
And none else knows,
What even I was unaware —
That my lyrics gave voice to your melody;
For it's you who are the poet within me;
Hence no picture, not an image at all,
Oh! you in me, are no mere image!
Rabindranath Tagore (translated by Joe Cleetus)

Further below you can see the lyrics in Bengali transliteration (red) with the English translation (black), line by line. Click on the media file below first and follow the song as it plays.

 Tumi Ki Kebali Chabi

tumi ki kebali chabi
are you a mere picture,
shudu potey likha
A portrait on canvas, 
oi-je sudur niharika
like those distant constellations 
jara korey achey bhid
which are crowding

akasher neer
in the vault of the sky

oi jara din-ratri
those which night-and-day

aalo hathey chaliyachey andharer jatri
lamps in hand do their nightly journey

graho thara rabi
planets, stars, and sun

tumi ki tader moto satya nao
are you not real as them?

hai chabi, tumi shudu chabi
alas a picture, you are a mere picture!

tumi ki kebali chabi
are you a mere picture?

nayano samukhey tumi nai
you are not in front of my eyes

nayaner majkhane niyecho je tai
you have taken possession of my eyes within

nayano samukhey tumi nai
you are not in front of my eyes

nayaner majkhane niyecho je tai
you have taken possession of my eyes within

aaji thai
that's why today

shyamaley shymol tumi, nilimay neel
you are in the green of the earth and the blue of the sky 
amaro nikhil tomate peyechey tar antharer mil
my wholeness was found in union with you

nahi jani, keho nahi jane
I do not know, nor does anyone else

taba sur baje mor ganey
that your tunes play in my songs

kabir antharer tumi kabi
you are the poet within the poet

nao chabi, nao chabi, nao shudu chabi
not a picture, not a picture, not a mere picture

tumi ki kebali chabi
are you a mere picture, 
shudu potey likha
A portrait on canvas, 
oi-je sudur niharika
like those distant constellations 
jara korey achey bhid
which are crowding

akasher neer
in the vault of the sky

oi jara din-ratri
those which night-and-day

aalo hathey chaliyachey andharer jatri
lamps in hand do their nightly journey

graho thara rabi
planets, stars, and sun

tumi ki tader moto satya nao
are you not real as them

hai chabi, tumi shudu chabi
alas a picture, you are a mere picture!

tumi ki kebali chabi
are you a mere picture?



paul said...

Joe, can you include the song you played in some format where a reader can listen to it.
And by the way, the Nabokovian description of the wagtail goes:

A wagtail stopped as if it had remembered something and then went on enacting its name.

Management - Learning from Experiences by Reflection said...

Thank you for your helpful comment, Bobby. I have included the song and lyrics at the end of the Rabindrasangeet. Now you can hear Hemant Mukherjee singing, and follow the Bengali lyrics with translation.

Thanks to several others who sent in corrections.

-- joe