3 One word is too often profaned ―Ed.
valuable! I exaggerate perhaps, but, still, if it is at all open to a meaning of this kind, then it says the very reverse of Shelley's
intended significance. For in the English "what men call love" is strongly depreciatory, and can only mean something inferior,
something that is poor and not rich, not truly love. Shelley says, in substance, "Human vital love is a poor inferior thing, a counterfeit of true love, which I cannot offer to you. But there is a greater thing, a true psychic love, all worship and devotion,
which men do not readily value, being led away by the vital glamour, but which the heavens do not reject, though it is offered
from something so far below them, so maimed and ignorant and sorrow-vexed as the human consciousness which is to the divine
consciousness as the moth to the star, as night to the day. And will not you accept this from me, you who in your nature are
kin to the heavens, you who seem to me to have something of the divine nature, to be something bright and happy and pure,
far above the `sphere of our sorrow'?" Of course all that is not said, but only suggested
―but it is obviously the spirit of the
poem. As to the tail, I doubt whether your last line brings out the sense of "something afar from the sphere of our sorrow".
If I make these criticisms at all, it is not because your version is not good, but because you have accustomed me to find in you
a power of rendering the spirit and sense of your original while turning it into fine poetry in its new tongue which I would not
expect or exact from any other translator.
3. Amal.4 I think here you have not so much rendered the
English lines into Bengali as translated Amal into Dilip. Is not that the sense of your plea for Bengali colour and simile? Amal's
lines are not easily translatable, least of all, I imagine, into Bengali. There is in them a union or rather fusion of high severity of
speech with exaltation and both with a pervading intense sweetness which it is almost impossible to transfer bodily without
loss into another language. There is no word in excess, none that could have been added or changed without spoiling the expression, every word just the right revelatory one ―no colour,
4 This errant life
(see page 501 02) ―Ed.
no ornamentation, but a sort of suppressed burning glow; no similes, but images which have been fused inseparably into the
substance of the thought and feeling ―the thought itself perfectly developed, not idea added to idea at the will of the fancy,
but perfectly interrelated and linked together like the limbs of an organic body. It is high poetic style in its full perfection and
nothing of all that is transferable. You have taken his last line and put in a lotus face and made divine love bloom in it,
pretty image, but how far from the glowing impassioned severity of phrase, "And mould thy love into a human face"! So with
your মধুর েগাপেন
and the "heart to heart words intimate". I do
not suppose it could have been done otherwise, however, or done better; and what you write now is always good poetry
is what I suppose Tagore meant to say when he wrote "
েতামার আর ভয় নাি হ".
And after all I have said nothing about Huxley or Baudelaire!
11 July 1931
Your translations are very good, but much more poetic than the originals: some would consider that a fault, but I do not. The
songs of these Bhaktas (Kabir and others) are very much in a manner and style that might be called the "hieratic primitive",
like a picture all in intense line, but only two or three essential lines at a time; the only colour is the hue of a single and very
simple strong spiritual idea or emotion or experience. It is hardly possible to carry that over into modern poetry; the result would
probably be, instead of the bare sincerity of the original, some kind of ostensible artificial artlessness that would not be at all
the same thing.
I have no objection to your substituting Krishna for Rama,
and if Kabir makes any, which is not likely, you have only to
sing to him softly, "Rām Shyām judā mat karo bhāi ", and he
will be silenced at once.
The bottom reason for the preference of Rama or Krishna is
not sectarian but psychological. The Northerner prefers Rama because the Northerner is the mental, moral and social man in
his type, and Rama is a congenial Avatar for that type; the Bengali, emotional and intuitive, finds all that very dry and plumps
for Krishna. I suspect that is the whole mystery of the choice. Apart from these temperamental preferences and turning to essentials, one might say that Rama is the Divine accepting and glorifying a mould of the human mental, while Krishna seems
rather to break the human moulds in order to create others from the higher planes; for he comes down direct from the Overmind
and hammers with its forces on the mind and vital and heart of man to change and liberate and divinise them. At least that is
one way of looking at their difference.
If your translations are read as independent poems they are very
beautiful, but they have more of the true "eclogue" than Baudelaire. To be literal (grammatically) is hardly possible in a poetic
version and the style of Baudelaire is not easy to transcribe into another language. There is an effect of masculine ease and grace
which is really the result of the verbal economy and restraint of which you speak and has therefore at its base a kind of strong
austerity supporting the charm and apparent ease ―it is very difficult to get all that in together. It is what has happened in
your translation ―one element has been stressed at the expense of the other. Certain elements that are not Baudelaire have got
in here and there, as in the lines you point out. On the other hand at other places by departing from closeness to the original
you have got near to the Baudelaire manner at its strongest, e.g.
I'ld have my eyrie hard against the sky.
20 March 1934
There is no question of defective poetry or lines. There are two ways of rendering a poem from one language into another
― one is to keep strictly to the manner and turn of the original, the other to take its spirit, sense and imagery and reproduce them
freely so as to suit the new language. Amal's poem is exceedingly
succinct, simply-direct and compact in word, form, rhythm, yet full of suggestion
―it would perhaps not be possible to do the
same thing in Bengali; it is necessary to use an ampler form, and this is what you have done. Your translation is very beautiful;
only, side by side with the original, one looks like a delicate miniature, the other like a rich enlargement. If you compare his
Where is it calling
The eyes of night
with the corresponding lines in your poem, you can see the difference. I did not mean to suggest that it was necessary to
11 July 1937
The English Bible
The English Bible is a translation, but it ranks among the finest
pieces of literature in the world.
27 February 1936