The Ostrich

First Version: July 5, 2014. Present Revision: July 30, 2014

 

ostrich

 

Can’t you hear my words of counsel pray?
Why in vain then burrowed lies your head?
Where to hide? How vast the desert’s sway –
Footfall squeezed, all shady nooks lie dead.
E’en a mirage today the horizon won’t display
Ruthless, silent, blue the sky will loom
To delude the hunter, seems there is no way
He’s got to snare you, else he spells his doom.
Where can you flee? Run you’ll how much more?
The sands uncaring won’t your claw-marks veil
Childhood friends, those associates of yore
Bygone all, helpless, alone your trail.


What will you reap, why nurture a cracked egg-shell?
Even penitence will not make it whole.
Won’t boundless cravings self-destruction spell?
In a wish free void too you can’t hope to stroll.
Best that to my reasoning you pay heed
Sail your fancied ship in a sea of sand
News of oases you know well indeed
Cautious wisdom never was your brand.
A fresh new home then let us go and build
In any odd retreat, thorny bush enclosed
Salty water, at least, it will yield
Dates will fall too, gravity’s pull unopposed.


Behind a fence of mythical creepers there
We shan’t build a zoo with iron grills
Nor call up hosts of buyers to the fair
To prune your wings of all their needless frills.
With surplus feathers scattered on the ground
Fans for a hermit’s fret-free needs we’ll weave
The dusty trail of a star extinction bound
We won’t hunt on a dark and moonless eve.
In your undying praise no rattle will be heard
Mindless greed with thoughts will never combine
Lullaby songs of a harvest stealing bird
Won’t link you with the crash of twenty nine.


The wounds of damage must, of course, be borne
By us alone, I know, in equal share
The early ones have booked their gains and gone
It’s left for us all remaining debts to clear.
Disgusting is this game of self-amour!
Can blindness ever keep devastation on wait?
Avoiding me will swell your woes for sure
Self-deception suits not a dire strait.
Let’s get together and sign this treaty then
Helping each our opposite goals to reach
You can guide me beyond the mortal plane
And I my friend will find you a worldly niche.

______________________________

This is a translation/transcreation of a classic Bengali poem “utpakhi” (উটপাখী) into English. The poet was Sudhindranath Datta. He published it in his collection called “krandasi” (ক্রন্দসী) in the Bengali year 1344, which could have been 1937 approximately according to the Western calendar. The exact date of writing this particular poem is not clear at this point of time. It was my good friend Dianne Shiff Thaler who taught me the correct American pronunciation of the last word I used in my work. That was more than 40 years ago. However, it is never too late to thank a friend.

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  • Susmita Rakshit  On July 8, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    There is a possibility that the poem was written in 1934, The date printed is 22 October 1934

    ‘It’s certain you are not that lullaby bird
    Which consumed plundered grains in twenty nine’.

    What would the non Bengali reader make of this line? Doesn’t the word ‘lullaby’ add to complications?

    • dipankardasgupta  On July 9, 2014 at 11:26 am

      Dear Susmita,

      I couldn’t agree more. It is no easy job to make a Bangla poem meaningful for a non-Bengali reader. The result is that one has to go through several revisions before the right effect is achieved. What you have pointed out is absolutely correct and I thank you for drawing my attention to it. I will try to fix the problem to the best of my ability. But it will take time and a great deal of imagination. Almost all the entries in the Translation Section of my site have undergone such revisions, keeping in mind precisely the problem you have raised. In a way most of them are semi-finished, or, perhaps, can never be completed. Language is not the only barrier, culture too matters. To make a piece of literature fit more than one culture is a towering task. Unless you are a Hemingway writing The Old Man and the Sea.

      Best wishes.

      Dipankar-da

  • Susmita Rakshit  On July 8, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    Yet, somehow, I like the last stanza a lot.

  • Susmita Rakshit  On July 9, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    On second thought, lullaby bird is appropriate. To describe the bird, Sudhindranath Datta uses the adjective ‘para jurono’.

  • Susmita Rakshit  On July 13, 2014 at 5:33 pm

    Link established.

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