Categories
Tagore Translations

Abhisar by Rabindranath Tagore

Abhisar, translated as ‘The Tryst’, was written by Rabindranath in 1899. It is a story poem based on Upagupta, a Buddhist monk who lived in the 300 BCE and was revered by Emperor Ashoka and is still said to have a following in Myanmar.

THE Tryst

Sanyasi Upagupta
Was asleep under the shade of 
       The city ramparts of Mathura —
A breeze had blown off the lamps and flares.
The palace doors were shut. 
The stars of the night 
          Had disappeared behind clouds.

Whose foot adorned with anklets
          Suddenly rang on his chest? 
Startled, the sanyasi woke up.
His dreams fled. 
A dim light shone 
       on his forgiving eyes. 

The court dancer was going for a tryst with her lover,
        Intoxicated with her own vernal bloom. 
Dressed in a deep blue saree,
Her ornaments tinkled — 
As her foot fell on the monk, 
         Basabdatta halted.

With her lantern, she examined 
      his young radiant form —
A calm enduring tender face, 
A glance gleaming with compassion,
A white moon-like forehead 
       aglow with gracious peace.

The woman spoke in a gentle voice,
        Her eyes drooping with embarrassment, 
“Pardon me, O youthful one, 
I will be grateful if you come to my home. 
The ground here is hard and rough.
        This is not right the place to sleep.”

The sanyasi responded with kind words,
           “It is not yet time for me 
To visit O graceful one, 
Please go your way in prosperity. 
When the time is right, I will myself
            Come to your bower.”
                      
Eventually, a fiery spark thundered,
          Opened a monstrous mouth.
The young woman shivered with alarm.
As a terrifying destructive wind howled,
A lightening ripped a cruel smile
            Across the sky.

                 *

The year was not out. 
     It was an evening in Chaitra. 
The breeze fluttered with restlessness
The trees along the path were laden with buds. 
The King’s garden was flush with blooms of bakul,
       Parul and rajanigandha. 

From afar, wafting with the draft
      Was the mesmerising timbre of a flute.
The city was empty as everyone had left for
The festival of flowers in the honeyed woods. 
The full moon smiled at the town
      Emptied of people and protectors. 

On the lonely moonlit path, 
        The sanyasi walked alone
Under leafy branches, from where
Cuckoos cooed repeatedly —
After so many days, was it time for him
      To fulfil his tryst with the beloved? 

Crossing the town, the wise one 
        Went beyond the city walls. 
He stood beside the moat —
In the shade of the mango grove,
Who was that young woman 
         Lying near his foot? 

Her body was blistered with sores
         From a deadly disease —
As she darkened with the blight,
The citizens threw her out 
Beyond the city moat, fearing the
             Poison within her

The sanyasi sat down by her. 
        And put her stiff head on his lap —
He poured water into her chapped lips,
He chanted a mantra on her head,
Covered her body with a soothing
       Cool sandal paste. 

Bakul blooms were falling, the cuckoos were calling, 
       The night was filled with moonlight. 
“Who are you, o compassionate soul?”
The woman asked. The sanyasi replied,
“Tonight is that time. O Basabdatta,
         I have come for our tryst.”





Sanyasi-- a monk or mendicant, in this case a Buddhist Bhikshu

Chaitra -- spring when the old year ends and new starts in the Bengali Calendar. 

Tagore had translated this poem in English for a collection called Fruit-Gathering, brought out in 1916 by Macmillan. The eighty-six translated poems by Tagore in this edition were from a few selected collections in Bengali: Gitimala, Gitali, Utsarga, Kheya, Naivedya, Gitanjali, Katha and Balaka.

1916 edition of Macmillans’ Fruit-Gathering

(This poem has been translated for Borderless Journal by Mitali Chakravarty and edited by Sohana Manzoor and Anasuya Bhar.)

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL

Categories
Tagore Translations

Deliverance by Tagore

Tran (Deliverance)’ was first published in 1901 in a collection known as Naibedya (Offering to God). Here we present a translation from the Bengali poem as found in Sanchayita (Collection), a compilation of poems published by Visva-Bharati to mark the Tagore septuagenarian celebrations in 1931.

Art by Sohana Manzoor
Deliverance

From this hapless country, oh Benevolent One, 
Efface all petty fears —
Fears of society, governance and death. 
The rock-like burden borne by the impoverished and the weak,
This pain of being ground under dust, 
This endless abuse, reinforced each second,
This self-debasement, within and without,
This yoke of enslavement, terror, subjugation,
Is trod on again and again by many marching feet.
Beaten out of self-worth, pride —
Break this enormous pile of shame
With your foot. On this auspicious dawn,
Let us hold our heads high in the infinite sky 
Amidst the light of bounteousness and the heady breeze of freedom.

Subsequently, it was translated by Rabindranath Tagore himself as ‘Freedom from Fear’ and published in the Vishwa Bharati Journal in 1933; then, in Modern Review in 1934 according to Bichitra, an online Tagore valorium. It was first anthologised in Collected Poems and Plays of Rabindranath Tagore (Macmillan, London). The translation varies from the original Bengali poem with the last two lines missing completely.

(Translated by Mitali Chakravarty, edited by Sohana Manzoor on behalf of Borderless Journal. Thanks to Anasuya Bhar, Associate Professor of English and Dean of Postgraduate Studies, at St. Paul’s Cathedral Mission College Kolkata University, for helping with the research. Also thanks to Fakrul Alam and Aruna Chakravarti for their feedback.)

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL