Failed Life

In learning by rote I never ranked first in class.
My teens didn’t cause me a broken heart alas.
In wholesome praise of erotic love, I never composed verse.
In tides of youth I didn’t swim, or in luxuries immerse.
No lofty court my oration skills considered more than farce.
A hashish addict I did not turn, to fight my motherland’s curse.
My offspring breed I sadly failed, annually to enhance
And I never shed a drop of tear inside a cocktail glass.

I failed to float in money, or receive titles great.
Books I did not write, to suit my reader’s taste.

Moral dictums to the public, I couldn’t manage to preach.
At home or abroad, no one praised, my character out of way.
My hairs have greyed, though the mind, a wisdom’s yet to reach.
I do not aspire to be an ascetic, till my terminal day.


This is a translation of a Bengali poem titled ব্যর্থ জীবন (byartho jibon, meaning Failed Life) by Pramatha Choudhury. To the extent that it has 14 lines, the poem was probably intended to be a sonnet. However, its metric structure differs from the classical Shakespearean iambic pentameter.The rhyme scheme too is unusual. I tried to remain as faithful as possible to the rhythmic structure the poet had employed. It was “a-a-a-a-a-a-a-a,b-b,c-d,c-d”.

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