book excerptise:   a book unexamined is wasting trees


Rabindranath Tagore

Tagore, Rabindranath;


UBS Publishers' Distributors Ltd, 2003, hardcover, 304 pages

ISBN 8174764275

topics: |  poetry | tagore | bengali | translation

When Tagore first published his "translations", the links to the Bengali poems were not given. Indeed, the translations are more like re-creations, skipping over much detail and at least in one poem, fusing two bengali poems into one.

After many years of familiarity with both Tagore's English versions and many the bangla poems from gitanjali, gitimAlya, naibedya, etc, I started matching the original bAnglA poems for each of the English forms. In the mid-1990s, I had compiled a list of all but one of these poems. Then I found the complete list in Sisir Kumar Das's English writings of Rabindranath Tagore vol.1: Poems

This elegant production from Visva Bharati of Tagore's work includes the bangla text, mostly in Tagore's original handwriting, and you can see the edits that he went through in many of these manuscripts. Facing each of these rare manuscripts is the english poem, superimposed on a well-chosen B&W photograph. The text is further enlivened by a set of documents at the end, underlining the reception of these poems in the west.

The book is as much a visual as well as a poetic delight. Surely the layout and editing was done by some very competent aesthetes, possibly at Shantiniketan. While their names are lost in the bureaucratic process, at least the work has reached us in reasonably good state.


Suko Watanabe's prologue to his translation p. 286

	 			 tr. from Japanese: Gita A Keeni

First of all, Gitanjali should be recited, sung.  

I had to choose the literally style to see that it can be sung even in
Japanese, as it is in the original poem.  In order to do so, I tried my
best to retain the shape of the original poem, keeping the length of
each line almost the same as the original one, and of course, the
number of lines.

My work is nothing but an attempt.  I am offering this immature
literal translation to the world, with an expectation that someone will
be there in future who will transfer this into the oral verse of Japan,
keeping the character of the original poem intact. 

	p. 4 and 5, with poem 2: tumi Jakhan gAn gAhite bala in 
	tagore's original writing. 

newspaper clippings p.302-303

			British and US papers from Nov 1913, after
			announcement of the Nobel Prize.

	The Nobel Trust have never fulfilled their trust more richly than by
	their award of the Literature Prize to Mr. Rabindranath Tagore.  
		      - Pall Mall, London 14 Nov 1913

	Although in their English dress, at any rate, the love songs
	and devotional hymns of the Bengal genius bear as much
	resemblance to what we are accustomed to call poetry as the
	super-Alexandrian lines of Walt Whitman, yet this defect is
	more than counterbalanced by the warm delight in and love for
	his fellow-men expressed in lyrical forms of great beauty.
	There is much in common between him and George Eliot. 
	The award is a reminder of how cosmopolitan we are all
				- Evening Standard, 14 Nov 1913

	Hindu Nobel prize poet known to Chicagoans (headline)

	Mr. Tagore, his son and his daughter-in-law became known to
	Chiccagoans on their visit of last winter to Miss Harriet
	Monroe and to Mrs. William Vaughan[?] Moody.  This notion for
	travel no doubt was augmented by his desire to see his son, who
	for some time had been taking a special course in chemistry and
	scientific agriculture and kindred subjects at the University
	of Illinois.
				- Tribune, Chicago


  Preface : Sujit K Basu, Vice-Chancellor Visva-Bharati	       vii
  Gitanjali								 1
  Note introducing archival material 				       259
  Introduction : W.B. Yeats 					       261
  Andre Gide’s introduction to his French translation of Gitanjali   268

	The last poems of Gitanjali are written in praise of death. I
	do not think I know of a more somber and more beautiful accent
	in any literature.

  Excerpts from Ivo Storniolo’s prologue to his Portuguese 
	translation of Gitanjali 				       285

	Gitanjali... is to be read a little at a time, tallying each
	moment the poetic and mystic perception of the author with
	life's experience. He begins by comparing himself to an
	instrument in the hands of God. At the end he exclaims: "In one
	salutation to thee, my God, let all my senses spread out and
	touch this world at thy feet" (Gitanjali, Poem 103)

  Excerpt from Suko Watanabe’s prologue to his Japanese 
	translation of Gitanjali 				       286
  Germany’s reaction to Gitanjali 				       291
  Tagore's Nobel Prize acceptance speech 			       304

amitabha mukerjee (mukerjee [at-symbol] gmail) 2012 Dec 16