Monthly Archives: November 2011

The Illusion Tree (Mayatoru)

Translation of an original Bengali poem by Ashok Bijoy Raha.

The poet experimented with an interesting and unusual rhythmic structure for this beautiful poem. It reads quite naturally in Bengali. However, for English readers, the rhythm may not come easily if the lines are arranged as they appeared in the original Bengali poem. To take care of the problem, I am starting off with the English reader friendly format. This is followed by the format that is closer to the Bengali original. The essential difference between the two is that the “English reader” version has split up long lines into short ones. The words used are identical for the two versions. Also, I have added punctuation in the first version that were absent in the Bengali poem. Version 2 of the translation avoids punctuation as well.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Version 1: For English Readers

There happened to be a tree
Throwing up its arms,
As soon as the eve arrived,
It danced in ghostly spree.
On occasions again,
When the clouds glistened as they gathered
Atop the woods it growled.
For a bear it’d become, its shoulders in a hump,
It shivered if it rained and in a fever it’d slump.
When a spell of rain is over,
And full of smiles once again the moon begins to hover.
Where on earth did the bear go, where for that matter the tree?
A million diamond fishes have thronged
To form the crown I see.

What was it that tilted
In the half-shadows of dawn?
I didn’t know –
This I could’ve sworn.
As the morning then arrived,
Not a single fish survived.
The silver fringe of a shimmering light
Is all that caught my sight.

Version 2: For Readers familiar with the Bengali language

There happened to be a tree
Throwing up its arms as soon as the eve arrived it danced in ghostly spree.
On occasions again
When the clouds glistened
As they gathered atop the woods it growled
For a bear it’d become, its shoulders in a hump
It shivered if it rained and in a fever it’d slump
When a spell of rain is over
And full of smiles once again the moon begins to hover
Where on earth did the bear go, where for that matter the tree
A million diamond fishes have thronged to form the crown I see.

What was it that tilted in the half-shadows of dawn
I didn’t know – this I could’ve sworn
As soon’s as the morning arrived,
Not a single fish survived.
The silver fringe of a shimmering light
Is all that caught my sight.

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Surrender (Samarpan)

First Version: 18 November, 2011
This Revised Version: 3 April, 2012

Showers have arrived over the river
The water has risen in a tide
Like hopes one keeps concealed — a few
Fireflies dim oft come to view
And switching off and on their glow
In bamboo groves they hide.
The mighty weight of the cloud filled sky
Is borne by the lightning’s pain
Naïve and inconsolable
It groans alone in vain.
Intangible, yet ferocious and false
The frothy waters’ uncertain calls
Fade away as mute destiny
Signals with a nod.
I came away and left you dear
In the custody of God.

 A lamp sits staring as it burns
Inside a chamber small
Next to a trembling bosom it shows
A solitary arm reclining close
On a patched cloth sewn from memories torn
Soothing cool its call
The magic spell of remembrances
Hides the door in a mist
Springs right then a pointed sword —
Straight on to my fist.
Lost away in the days of yore
Migratory winds come back to lure
When dark nights full of fragrance
From the childhood arrive and trod
I came away and left my love
In the custody of God.

Betwixt the folds of the sails the future’s
Womb to the full expands.
The stifling pressure of a pending fate
Makes the ribs of the planks vibrate
The stern begins to rock in panic
With the restless fishes’ bands.
His longings’ helm the sailor holds
With determination grim
In currents full of fraud floats off
My corpse discarded skin.
Beneath the heart, a holocaust rears
As the pull of the oars dare mortal fears
The waves and the horizon end colliding
Drunken in discord.
I came away and left my life
In the custody of God.

In reverse stream now starts to flow
My prayers in the dark.
Inside a slumber endless blue
A pain holds tightly — without a clue
To escape routes from the naïve deceit
Of a wakeful contrast stark.
Even so there stands a dwelling
Covered by creepers green
Upon its slip of a balcony still
The forefathers convene.
Let their whispers, supple and soft
Send raining down the cautions they brought
And a thousand blinding terrors and doubts
About objects strange and odd.
I came away and left you dear
In the custody of God.

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Translation of a Bengali poem, Samarpan, by Buddhadev Bose. Original poem composed during 6-9 September, 1954. The poem appeared in the poet’s collection entitled A Darkness that Exceeds Light (যে আঁধার আলোর অধিক), published in May, 1958.