Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Power Of Music

When summer comes, we hear the hums of
Bhisma Lochan Sharma.
You catch his strain on hill and plain from Delhi
down to Burma.
He sings as though he’s staked his life, he sings
as though he’s hell-bent:
The people, dazed, retire amazed although they
know it’s well-meant.
They’re trampled in panic rout or languish
pale and sickly,
And plead, ‘My friend, we’re near our end, oh
stop your singing quickly!’
The bullock-carts are overturned, and horses
line the roadside;
But Bhisma Lochan, unconcerned, goes
booming out his broadside.
The wretched brutes resent the blare the hour
they hear it sounded,
They whine and stare with feet in air or wander
quite confounded.
The fishes dive below the lake in frantic search
for silence,
The very trees collapse and shake – you hear the
crash a mile hence -
And in the sky the feathered fry turn turtle while
they’re winging,
Again we cry, ‘We’re going to die, oh won’t you
stop your singing?’
But Bhisma’s soared beyond our reach, howe’er
we plead and grumble:
The welkin weeps to hear his screech, and mighty
mansions tumble.
But now there comes a billy goat, a most
sagacious fellow,
He downs his horns and charges straight, with
bellow answ’ring bellow.
The strains of song are tossed and whirled by
blast of brutal violence,
And Bhisma Lochan grants the world the golden
gift of silence.

Source: p. 64, Images of Life, An Anthology of Poems by Neil O’Brien (Frank Bros. & Co.)Note: Summers are unbearably hot in most parts of India (this does not prove that winters aren’t cold enough though!). It is hard to tolerate someone singing out of tune in that crazy heat. This is a poem by Sukumar Ray, translated by Professor Sukanta Chaudhuri. Sukumar Ray is the Lewis Carroll of Bengali literature, much inspired by Carroll’s works. His poems seemed untranslatable till the gem of a collection The Select Nonsense of Sukumar Ray by Professor Chaudhuri (Oxford University Press) came into existence. Sukumar Ray’s famous son, filmmaker Satyajit Ray had also made an attempt to translate his father’s poetry into English and later highly praised The Select Nonsense of Sukumar Ray. This poem would go well with my previous post as well as serve as an introduction to the fantastic world of Sukumar Ray. Although structurally Bengali and English are very different languages, like in English, great poetry often rhymes well. This makes it doubly difficult to translate as much of the essence/ play on words would be lost if it didn’t in the translation.

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