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4/20 poetry rec - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
4/20 poetry rec
Well, I had an Indian flavored day today. :) I hired a lady to come to the library and do mehndi--she comes every year--and she did a henna tattoo on my hand to be an advertisement for it. I do love the designs, and it's so much more pleasant than ink tattooing--instead of needles and pain, you get pleasant conversation and a cool, relaxing paste applied in pretty swirls. She and her husband talked to me about their interests and answering questions from tourists about India and henna, and about the history of the name of India. So I'm in an Indian sort of mood.

Anyway, I decided to post Indian poetry today, from Rabindranath Tagore--"Ungrateful Sorrow." Here's the third stanza:

My mind becomes silent.
A friend arrived and says:
"That which is good is real
it is never non-existent;
entire world preserves and cherishes it its chest
like a precious jewel in a necklace."


The rest is here.

It's a really neat look at the difference between real and unreal, faith and cynicism.

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Comments
swatkat24 From: swatkat24 Date: April 21st, 2006 05:27 am (UTC) (Link)
It's not exactly a good translation, but then, I don't think there's a lot of good Tagore translation out there. Which is a pity. Sigh. Sometimes I wish I could do it myself, but translation is HARD!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 21st, 2006 05:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, most of the translations I found of his work were roughly the same (it was on "Banyan Tree" that I did most of the comparing), leading me to the conclusion that there was one translator and everyone putting it up in English just yanked it from there. ;P

Translating poetry is the worst--that's one of the reasons I've stuck with original-English-language stuff up to now (though I'm planning on hitting a couple of Psalms before I'm done). So much of poetry is based on the rhythm and melody of the words themselves that just catching the meaning isn't enough. But the idea in this poem was pretty powerful, and I thought it made up for what I assumed was kind of clunky translation. If you know of a good transliteration, I'd love to read it!
swatkat24 From: swatkat24 Date: April 21st, 2006 02:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
'At dawn shey departed'? Dear God. I understand that it's a gender neutral term and that it's acceptable to combine Indian words with English ones (we do it all the time, actually) ... but WTF? I think I'll have to look up the original poem now.

Translating Bengali into English is pretty difficult as it is - it's a very 'feminine' language, whereas English is 'masculine', and a lot more concise. English has all these extra words, like the auxiliary verbs and articles. It's even worse with Tagore - he kind of started of the trend of bad translations himself (in his own language, he is God. in English - well. he shouldn't have done them himself). And then the Tagore Trust kept on allowing craptastic translations for a variety of reasons. His works became public domain in 2004, so I really hope some good work is being done now. I've been looking for some myself - there are people I want to share them with. If I do come across some, I'll post them on the net. Make sure the world gets to see.

But the idea in this poem was pretty powerful, and I thought it made up for what I assumed was kind of clunky translation.

Oh yes. His thought leaves you gasping.

Sorry for the rambling, but it's not everyday I get to talk about one of my favourite poets on LJ, lol!



fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 21st, 2006 05:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, that "shey" was distracting. We're always complaining about not having such a word, but making it up doesn't help. I'm afraid you just have to pick one or the other.

Someone translating poetry has to be both a good translator and a good poet, which means a lot of people who don't natively speak a poet's language miss out on a lot. (A lot of people who read the Psalms all the time don't realize that they're using forms and tricks which in Hebrew are poetic devices, because they don't translate into English at all... and in one case I know of, they really shouldn't have tried to replicate it--in one prayer in the High Holiday services, the Hebrew goes letter by letter, and the English had to add "xenophobia" to cover "x.") I can see the poet not being the best person to do it, because it's not his native language, and he's more likely to try for an exact match (like "shey"), rather than finding a way to get a translation of an idiom that actually catches what the phrase means. Unfortunately, I can't read the script (I can sound out Hebrew and Cyrillic alphabets, but beyond that, I'm hopeless with non-Roman alphabets), so I can't tell what it sounds like in the original.
swatkat24 From: swatkat24 Date: April 25th, 2006 05:21 am (UTC) (Link)
Someone translating poetry has to be both a good translator and a good poet, which means a lot of people who don't natively speak a poet's language miss out on a lot.

Oh yes. I do know that about Hebrew poetry, but only because I was *told*. And ultimately, how much can you translate? This is something I've wondered about - if I was a better translator, maybe, I would know.

I can see the poet not being the best person to do it, because it's not his native language

At least, not this poet.

Unfortunately, I can't read the script (I can sound out Hebrew and Cyrillic alphabets, but beyond that, I'm hopeless with non-Roman alphabets), so I can't tell what it sounds like in the original.

Heh. You can't be expected to know the Bengali alphabet. You'll just have to take my word for it. *g*


ariesx5452 From: ariesx5452 Date: April 21st, 2006 02:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oooh! When is the Henna Tatooing this year? Did i miss it again?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 21st, 2006 05:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nope! 9th and 23rd of June. I haven't even done the flyers yet. :)
ariesx5452 From: ariesx5452 Date: April 21st, 2006 06:13 pm (UTC) (Link)
that's awesome, im doing a body art program in my dorm building where im an RA, i was thinking about getting someone to do henna just so they know the temporary options. I will so try to not miss the dates though!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 21st, 2006 06:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ask Nimmi! I'll be at the libe on Sunday, and I can give you her info. She's great.
austenrowling From: austenrowling Date: April 21st, 2006 08:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
Cool tattoo. I want one.
matril From: matril Date: April 21st, 2006 11:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like the poem a lot, even with the less than stellar translation. Makes me wish I could read it in the orginal language. And I absolutely adore Hebrew poetry, even in its imperfect English translations. I like getting a window, however small, into another culture.
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