RABINDRANATH TAGORE was a versatile genius
Rabindra-Nath-Tagore

RABINDRANATH TAGORE was a versatile genius

RABINDRANATH TAGORE was a versatile genius

RABINDRANATH TAGORE was a versatile genius. Not a single branch of art and literature was touched that he did not appreciate. He was a poet of so high a caliber that the world hardly came across one such in a millennium. He was a prose* writer, essayist, and novelist of a very high order.

He was a philosopher by his own right who had synthesized deepest thoughts of the East and the West in him. He was an original painter. He was a prodigious composer and a musician in every fiber.

He composed over two Thousand songs to each of which he set his own tune. He was a very renowned dramatist. He was a prince of patriots This poet and guardian saint raised his stentorian voice against injustice perpetrated by the high and mighty, anywhere in the world. He was an educator whose dream had taken shape in his Visva- Bharat, the unique University at Santiniketan.

He, a person of greater humility for the lowliest and the lost, had worked all his life for social uplift of the poor. A devotee of natural beauty, associating the nearest tie with each of these elements and he naturally lived and breathed in them.

He was a strikingly handsome person. He was as pure as an angel in his personal life and his morality shone like a star. Above all, he was a man of God and was nearest to Him in his devotion.

He was a cultural ambassador of his country to his contemporary world. No wonder, his countrymen and others of distant climes, who knew him, came to regard this saintly poet with almost the same veneration as to a Messiah.

It was lucky that an English-speaking friend was impressed by a casually recorded recitation of mine and continued to press his request to get an authentic translation of the original Bengali poems of Rabindranath Tagore who drew the reverence of the world and was known as world poet (Biswa Kabi).

I was impressed by the sincerity of the purpose of my friend and did not like to disappoint him who, although speaking a foreign tongue, was interested in seeing authentic translations of the poems of the great poet.

I had an impelling command from within to satisfy his urge, although I genuinely felt that my very ‘feeble knowledge of the English language made me singularly unsuitable for the task.

However, it is my fond hope that others more competent shall be drawn into the field to improve upon my halting attempt and the gems of the purest ray of Rabindra literature will come out one by one in the literary mart of the Western world- The litterateurs and discerning public of the West have failed so far to relish the rich poetical repast the world poet Rabindranath bequeathed to them, for want of authentic translations in the English language.

I know the world would go into ecstasy over Poet Rabindranath if only the world would come in contact with forms as well as the subsistence of Rabindra literature. Rabindra¬nath was an artist par excellence.

His immense artistic sense has been displayed in his sonorous style, diction, choice of words, alliterations, imageries, and word pictures. He was a wizard in combining words with superb sense.

Even if a translator versed in the two languages, Bengali and English, were to work conscientiously, a large portion of the delicate nuances of the original poems of Rabindranath shall remain un¬interpreted.

Translated pieces would hardly mirror the originals, but would serve to focus the attention of the discerning people of other countries who would feel tempted to go through the original poems in order to enrich their souls.

The profound thoughts and philosophy of Rabindranath have hardly any parallel- But. So far his masterly prose and poetical writings have hardly been explored by foreigners.

During his foreign tours, the poet came in contact with some Western savants. Wherever he went, his high moral stature was recognized- Some regarded him as a mystic poet from the Orient.

There ended the inquiry about the poet. His winning of the Nobel Prize revived the interest of some Westerners in him for a while. But no one felt the urge to dive deep into (he works of Rabindranath. Some tried to belittle him from political motives- Some of the critics wrote patronizingly about him- They were like fire-flies trying to light the path of the sun. Others were carping critics who did not find anything of much merit in him.

These Western critics mostly failed to jump beyond the well of their minds, to discover a vast ocean in Rabindra literature- These critics had hardly a glimpse of what Rabindranath really was and had no notion that when a correct appreciation and estimation would be made, Rabindranath would be hailed as the greatest amongst the front-ranking lyrical poets of the world.

I am certain in my mind that the Western critics would make sufficient amends for their past neglect of Rabindranath Tagore’s genius, if only they come in contact with the gems of Rabindra literature through authentic translations.

How 1 would like to see some of them trying to master the Bengali language so that such scholars could themselves translate the original Bengali poems of Rabindranath into English and other foreign languages, all of which shall be enriched by such efforts beyond measure.

I should like to give the longest rope to my imagination and to wish that Rabindra literature would find an abiding place in most of the enlightened English-speaking homes.

Young men and young women would pore over 1he lyrical poems of Rabindranath to find the echo of their own souls. Looking around them, would not the youthful persons find the maidens having affinity, and would they not, taking their cue from Rabindranath’s ‘Name’, like to say ‘what is the name— Daisy ?’ and yet another would speak out ‘what is the name— Violet ?’

Famous Indologists of the latter half of the nineteenth-century have dedicated themselves completely for translating the Vedas of the Hindus, other scriptures, and well-known Sanskrit lite¬rary works like Abhijnon Shakuntalam of Poet Kalidas of immortal fame. Eminent scholars like William Jones.

Henry Colebrooke, Horace Hayman Wilson,  Franz Bopp, Eugene Burnouf, Alexander Cunningham. Monier Williams, Fredrich Maxmuller, Albrecht Weber, Edward Cowell, William Whit¬ney, Johann Buhler, Ivan Minaev, George Grierson Arthur Macdonnell, Arthur Keith, Moriz Winternitz have carried on painstaking researches on ancient Sanskrit tore of India and brought out excellent translations to enlighten Western minds.

Wilson was so much enamored of the Sanskrit language 9 

the sun. Others were carping critics who did not find anything of much merit in him- These Western critics mostly failed to jump beyond the well of their minds, to discover a vast ocean in Rabindra literature.

These critics had hardly a glimpse of what Rabindranath really was and had no notion that when a correct appreciation and estimation would be made, Rabindranath would be hailed as the greatest amongst the front-ranking lyrical poets of the world.

I am certain in my mind that the Western critics would make sufficient amends for their past neglect of Rabindranath Tagore’s genius, if only they come in contact with the gems of Rabindra literature through authentic translations.

How I would like to see some of them trying to master the Bengali language so that such scholars could themselves translate the original Bengali poems of Rabindranath into English and other foreign languages, all of which shall be enriched by such efforts beyond measure.

I should like to give the longest rope to my imagination and to wish that Rabindra literature would find an abiding place in most of the enlightened English-speaking homes.

Young men and young women would pore over the lyrical poems of Rabindranath to find the echo of their own souls.

Looking around them, would not the youthful persons find the maidens having affinity, and would they not, taking their cue from Rabindranath’s ‘Name’, like to say ‘what is the name— Daisy ?’ and yet another would speak out ‘what is the name— Violet ?’

Famous Indologists of the latter half of the nineteenth-century have dedicated themselves completely for translating the Vedas of the Hindus, other scriptures, and well-known Sanskrit literary works like Abhijnon Shakuntalam of Poet Kalidas of immortal fame.

Eminent scholars tike William Jones, Henry Colebrooke, Horace Hayman Wilson, Franz Bopp, Eugene Burnouf, Alexander Cunningham, Monier Williams, Fredrich Maxmuller, Albrecht Weber, Edward Cowell, William Whit¬ney, Johann Buhler, Ivan Minaev, George Grierson Arthur Macdonnell, Arthur Keith, Moriz Winternitz have carried on painstaking researches on ancient Sanskrit lore of India and brought Out excellent translations to enlighten Western minds.

Wilson was so much enamored of the Sanskrit language  

the restriction which, more or less, acted as a strait-jacket for me by making my style occasionally somewhat stiff, slightly artificial and a bit disjointed, when I attempted to translate Rabindranath’s original Bengali, one line with one line of English and similarly Rabindranath’s half-line with half of English.

By resorting to this technique of translation meant an extra sweating for me and this most difficult task was made all the more complicated.

This technique with all its faults takes the reader nearest to the poet, enabling him to enjoy the glow on approaching the immediate proximity of the original poems. The trouble was certainly worth it-

English translation of Rabindranath’s poems is essential for the benefit of the English-speaking world. But such translations are very vital for the rest of India minus Bengal, the poet’s home State.

In a multilingual country like India having dis¬tinct language groups exclusive of one another, precious little has been done to spread Rabindranath’s literature.

Most people are acquainted with Rabindranath’s writings. The main barrier is ignorance of the Bengali language, the vehicle the poet had chosen for expressing himself.

So. it is that even the educated Indians would have a good use for authentic English translations of Rabindranath’s poems

Personally, I think the original Bengali poems of Rabindranath transliterated (not translated) verbatim in regional scripts of northern, north-western and north-eastern India would most assuredly serve the purpose of disseminating Rabindra¬nath’s literature amongst persons of other language groups, making them enjoy the true emotions of so gifted a poet who is the pride of India.

If the poems are transcribed verbatim in Hindi, these should be followed with ease by people of Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Maharashtra.

A little mental adjustment with a few Bengali verb forms and some inflections are all that is required which should not prove too tiresome.

In one of his famous poems, Rabindranath said, ‘a thousand years’ effort is worthwhile to win a woman’s heart’. In the same vein it may be said, a life’s effort is worthwhile for following Rabindranath’s literature in original.

Although, in fact, Hindi-speaking people would generally succeed in their 11 efforts to follow Rabindranath’s poems in original if a sincere attempt is made for three months only.

It would not prove any very difficult to cross the barrier of language. People of Orissa and Assam would find it easier still. For the South Indians, it would be harder, but the same method should make the Bengali language easier of comprehension-

While translating the poems of Rabindranath 1 observed that there is a dearth of appropriate English words for expressing finer sentiments of the heart.

There are no suitable synonyms in the English language for such Bengali words as man, abhiman. purbarag, biraha, rasa, rasik, bhava and probably a hundred others Such an incredibly rich language as English should either borrow verbatim a group of words (which is more often found in Sanskrit rhetorics and baffles rendering in other languages) as it has absorbed in the past thousands of words from foreign sources or an expert body of English lexicographers should create a new set of words from Greek and Latin roots.

At the moment, the absence of accurate synonyms for such highly expressive words in the English language is to be deplored.

No doubt, due to my own limitations and in spite of my best efforts, I have failed to transplant even half of the superb beauty, exquisite music, divine serenity, and glorious emotions of the original poems into the translations. The fault is entirely mine.

I invite discerning souls of all countries to taste the nectar of Rabindranath’s hundreds of poems in original Bengali. I promise it would be an immensely rewarding, heavenly experience-

Manoj Agarwal

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