book excerptise:   a book unexamined is not worth having

In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali

Edward C. (trans.) Dimock and Denise Levertov and Anju Chaudhuri (ill)

Dimock, Edward C. (trans.); Denise Levertov; Anju Chaudhuri (ill);

In Praise of Krishna: Songs from the Bengali

Doubleday Anchor 1967, 95 pages

ISBN 038507073X

topics: |  poetry | bengali | translation | devotional-physical | medieval | anthology

A collaboration between South Asia scholar Edward Dimock and poet Denise
Levertov, mediated by Bonnie R Crown of the Asia Society, NY.  Dimock sent
Levertov rough translations from the Vaishnava literature, which she
spruced up.   Poets include vidyApati, govindadAsa, rAmAnanda, and others.
Compare vidyapati with Deben Bhattacharya's Love Songs of Vidyapati
and also critique and comparisons of various translators of Vidyapati by
Zide/Pandey there.


Awakening of love (purva-rAga)

The girl and the woman
bound in one being:
the girl puts up her hair,
the woman lets it fall to cover her breasts;
the girl reveals her arms,
her long legs, innoently bold;
the woman wraps her shawl modestly about her,
her open glance a little veiled.
Restless feet, a blush on the young breasts,
hint at her heart's disquiet:
behind her closed eyes
Kama awakes, born in imagination, the god.

Vidyapati says, O Krishna, bridegroom,
be patient, she will be brought to you.  [p.7]

  [The poem is shortened from the original, and also alters some of the
   text.  Here is the original, from bn.wikisource ]

শৈশব যৌবন দুহু মিলি গেল : বিদ্যাপতি

(শ্রীরাধার বয়ঃসন্ধি)

শৈশব যৌবন দুহু মিলি গেল ।
শ্রবণক পথ দুহু লোচন লেল ।। ১ ।।
বচনক চাতুরী লুহু লুহু হাস ।
ধরণীয়ে চাঁদ করল পরগাস ।। ২ ।।
মুকুর লই অব করত সিঙ্গার ।
সখী পুছই কৈসে সুরত বিহার ।। ৩ ।।
নিরজনে উজর হেরই কত বেরি ।
হসইত অপন পয়োধর হেরি ।। ৪ ।।
পহিল বদরী সম পুন নবরঙ্গ ।
দিনে দিনে অনঙ্গ অগোরল অঙ্গ ।। ৫ ।।
মাধব পেখল অপরূব বালা ।
শৈশব যৌবন দুহু এক ভেলা ।। ৬ ।।
বিদ্যাপতি কহ তুহু অগেয়ানি ।
দুহু একযোগ ইহকে কহ সয়ানি ।। ৭ ।।

--Radha describes the depth of her love (anurAga)-- 

As the mirror to my hand,
the flowers to my hair,
kohl to my eyes,
tambul to my mouth,
musk to my breast,
necklace to my throat,
ecstasy to my flesh,
heart to my home --

as wing to bird,
water to fish,
life to the living --
so you to me.
But tell me,
Madhava, beloved,
who are you?
Who are you really?

Vidyapati says, they are one another.  [p.15]

Krishna is always new

My friend, I cannot answer when you ask me to explain
what has befallen me.
Love is transformed, renewed,
each moment.
He has dwelt in my eyes all the days of my life,
yet I am not sated with seeing.
My ears have heard his sweet voice in eternity,
and yet it is always new to them.
How many honeyed nights have I passed with him
in love's bliss, yet my body
wonders at his.
Through all the ages
he has been clasped to my breast,
yet my desire
never abates.
I have seen subtle people sunk in passion
but none came so close to the heart of the fire.

Who shall be found to cool your heart,
says Vidyapati.  [p.18]

Last two texts also at

Marks of fingernails

The marks of fingernails are on your breast
and my heart burns.
Kohl of someone's eyes upon your lips
darkens my face.
I am awake all night
your eyes are red.
So why do you entreat me, KAn,
saying that you and I have but one heart?
You come with choking voice
while I want to weep.
"Only our bodies are apart."
But mine is light
and yours is dark,
Go home, then.
   says GovindadAsa.

Radha is terrified on her way to the forest

O Madhava, how shall I tell you of my terror?
I could not describe my coming here
if I had a million tongues.
When I left my room and saw the darkness
I trembled:
I could not see the path,
there were snakes that writhed round my ankles!

I was alone, a woman; the night was so dark,
the forest so dense and gloomy,
and I had so far to go.
The rain was pouring down -- 
which path should I take?
My feet were muddy
and burning where thorns had scratched them.
But I had the hope of seeing you, none of it mattered,
and now my terror seems far away. . . .
When the sound of your flute reaches my ears
it compels me to leave my home, my friends,
it draws me into the dark toward you.

I no longer count the pain of coming here,
says Govinda-dasa

original Bengali text

		      [Raga Dhanasri.]
mādhaba ki kahaba daiba-bipāka
patha-āgamana kathā      kata nā kahiba he
yadi haya mukha lākhe lākha
mandira teja yāba          pada cāri ā-olu
niśi heri kampita ańga
timira duranta patha          hera-i nā pāriye
pada-yuga beḍhala bhujańga
eke kula-kāminī       tāhe kuhu-yāminī
ghora gahana ati dūra
ā;re tahe jaladhara       barakhiye jhara jhara
hāma yā-oba kona pūra
eke pada-pańkaja      pańke bibhūṣita
kaṇṭake jarajara bhela
tuyā daraśana āśe        kachu nāhi jānalu
cira-dukha aba dūre gela
tohāri muralī yaba         śrabaṇe prabeśala
choḍalu gṛha-sukha āśa
pantha dukha tṛṇahu      kari nā gaṇalu
kahatahi gobinda-dāsa

Dark, cloudy night

This dark cloudy night
he'll not come to me. . . .
But yes, he is here!
He stands dripping with rain
in the courtyard. O my heart!

What virtue accrued in
another life has brought me
such bliss? I who
fear my elders and dare not go out to him?
I who torment him? I see

his sorrow and deep love
and I am tormented.
I would set fire to my house
for him, I would bear
the scorn of the world.

He thinks his sorrow is joy,
when I weep he weeps.

When it comes to know such depth of love
the heart of the world will rejoice,
	says Chandidasa

GovindadAsa: When they had made love

When they had made love
she lay in his arms in the kunja grove.
Suddenly she called his name
and wept -- as if she burned in the fire of
The gold was in her anchal
but she looked afar for it!
-- Where has he gone? Where has my love gone?
O why has he left me alone?
And she writhed on the ground in despair,
only her pain kept her from fainting.
Krishna was astonished
and could not speak.

Taking her beloved friend by the hand,
Govinda-dasa led her softly away.

Ramananda Basu: How shall I go home

Lord of my heart, what have I dreamed. . . .
How shall I go home, now that daylight has come?
My musk and sandalwood perfumes are faded,
the kohl smudged from my eyes, the vermilion line
drawn in the part of my hair, paled.
O put the ornament
of your own body upon me,
take me with you, down-glancing one.
Dress me in your own yellow robes,
smooth my disheveled hair,
wind round my throat your garland of forest flowers.
Thus, beloved, someone in Gokula entreats.

Basu Ramananda says, Such is your love
that deer and tiger are together in your dwelling place.

Radha on Krishna's attraction

To her friend:
    How can I describe his relentless flute,
    which pulls virtuous women from their homes
    and drags them by their hair to Shyam
    as thirst and hunger pull the doe to the snare?
    Chaste ladies forget their wisdom,
    and clinging vines shakes loose from their trees,
    hearing that music.
    Then how shall a simple dairymaid withstands its call?

    Chandidasa says, Kala the puppet master leads the dance. 

Radha rejoices hearing that Krishna is coming

Radha hears that Krishna will return;
She rejoices at their reunion

When my beloved returns to my house
I shall make my body a temple of gladness,
I shall make my body the altar of joy
And let down my hair to sweep it.
My twisting necklace of pears shall be the intricate
My full breasts the water jar,
My curved hips the plantain tree,
The tinkling bells at my waist the young shoots of the mango.
I shall use the arcane arts of fair women in all lands 
	to make my beauty outshine a thousand moons.

Soon your hopes, O Radha, says Vidyapati, 
	will be fulfilled, and he will be at your side.


govindadasa extensive works, in original and translation, many notes by AC
Bhaktivedananda, along with song audios :

amitabha mukerjee (mukerjee [at-symbol] 2010 Sep 04