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Poetry of Michael Madhusudan Dutt

Ratnottama Sengupta translates Bengali poet Michael Madhusudan Dutt’s Bijoya Doushami (the last day of the festival of Durga Puja when the Goddess is supposed to return to her own home from her visit to her parents). This poem is a lament of Durga’s mother, who addresses her daughter as ‘Sati’ in the poem.

Bust of Michael Madhusudan Dutt at his memorial in Jessore, Bangladesh. Courtesy: Creative Commons

Michael Madhusudan Dutt (1824-1873) was a poet and dramatist who was a prominent precursor to Rabindranath Tagore. In his youth, he converted to Christianity (1843) and wrote in English and later turned to writing in Bengali. A product of Western education and the Bengal renaissance, he challenged the traditional literary systems and with his multilingual knowledge in several Indian and European languages including Bengali, Tamil, Sanskrit, Greek and Latin. Meghnadbadh Kavya (1861) was his most important composition, an epic on the Ramayana theme and a tribute to Milton’s Paradise Lost. His repertoire includes Sarmistha (1858), based on an episode of the ancient Mahabharta, Brajangana (1861), a cycle of lyrics on the Radha- Krishna theme; and Birangana (1862), a set of 21 epistolary poems on the model of Ovid’s Heroides and much more.

DEPARTURE

“Do not, O Night sky! leave
tonight, with your lot of stars --
Once you go, Blissful Night!
So will my Heartbeat!
Once Merciless Sun is up
in the East,
The apple of my eye will lose her shine!

“Full twelve months Sati shed tears
before Uma came home. What a balm!
In mere three days, tell me
Oh starry-tressed,
can one have a fill
of delight?
The golden glow of brass lamps
has driven afar darkness
within and without.
Words, the sweetest of creation!
have circled my ears.

“Darkness twice as thick, I know
will engulf this homestead
once you blow out this lamp...” 
Entreated Sachi, the Queen of Girish,
at the close of the Ninth Night...

Ratnottama Sengupta, formerly Arts Editor of The Times of India, teaches mass communication and film appreciation, curates film festivals and art exhibitions, and translates and write books. She has been a member of CBFC, served on the National Film Awards jury and has herself won a National Award. 

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