Above All

“Enmeshed in the loving embrace of my life
Even your crimes are enchantments, my dear”
    “My love I give in return for your love
    And share in your joys and your sadness, my dear”

“Not even the beauty of heavenly nymphs
Nor laughter nor charms nor their wiles entice
Your love is above all to me, my darling —
The colorful magic bestirred by your eyes”

    “The unending story of my life is but you
    My fortune and destiny, all that is true”
“The moon and the sun are but shadows of your face
The depths of my heart have been lit by your grace”

    “My love I give for your love, my dear”
“Your bright love is above all, my dear”

-o-

This translation is of a light romantic duet from an old Hindi movie about the early stages of a loving relationship. You can hear it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amRMVEXb-xI, but try to guess the original if you can.

As with all my attempts, it has several untranslatable elements: a mixture of Hindi and Urdu with corresponding cultural sensibilities, references to mythological beings, and the social constraints of the time. There is also the melody and the rhythm. The translation, while being faithful to the other elements, attempts especially to recreate the rhythm, as typified in this line:

No_t e^ve_n | the_ beau^ty_ | o_f hea^ve_n | ly_ ny^mphs

Here, the ‘^’ mark denotes stress and ‘_’ denotes lack of it, and the ‘|’ marks separate rhythmic beats. Try to sing it with the melody of the “Apsara” line.

The corresponding poetic scansion goes:

Not ev | en the | beauty of | heaven | ly nymphs

10 thoughts on “Above All

  1. I read the translation while the song was running in the background. And then I read the translation again. Probably my optimized way to enjoy the translation. Excellent job! Really enjoyed.

  2. Abhay says:

    तुझे जीवन की डोर से बाँध लिया है
    तेरे जुल्म-ओ-सितम सर आँखों पर
    तुझे बदले में प्यार के प्यार दिया है
    तेरी खुशियां और ग़म सर आँखों पर

    This used to be a very popular background song for the wedding videos of last generation.

  3. RYD says:

    Sorry Akash this doesn’t impress me much. It is not natural in its rendering, in its diction or idiom. Maybe you will have to try again … Maybe a free verse form with its own rhythm will be more appealing and successful.

  4. I have to agree that this translation is not “above all” in quality. The original is a song with a distinctive rhythm, but not much of a poem since it’s rather literal. The translation gets the rhythm, but this rhythm is not naturally singable in English. So the translation is neither a song nor a poem. We have to bring in some abstraction and at the same time simplify it to a singable English rhythm. The signature metaphor of the original, tying with the rope of life, is not natural to today’s English sensibility since it invokes a bondage. Giving love in exchange for love sounds transactional or commercial in English. These and the other literal devices need to be generalized and depersonalized and ambiguated. Let me try …

  5. Beauty of heaven
        Soft as the starlight
    Brighter than sunshine
        Deep as the midnight

    Our likeness is hid in
        Flower and stone
    Bringing together
        Hearts that were lone

    Bestirred by magic
        A wave from beyond*
    Our lives are now joined in
        An eternal bond

    Heavenly beauty
        Softer than starlight
    Bright as the sunshine
        Deeper than midnight

    * Was “The wave of a wand”. See below.

  6. This is absolutely beautiful. Poetry is so rich and exquisite! But please see if wand-bond assonance can be rendered into some truer rhyme. Instead of “The wave of a wand” how about “The wave from beyond”? In terms of thought-association “beyond” and “eternal” will support each other.

  7. “A wave from beyond” it is, then.

    -o-

    The final version has deviated fully from the original, bearing less than half of a shared metaphor. “Bound by the rope of life” has combined with “unending story” to become “lives joined in an eternal bond”, “Heavenly nymphs” have become “beauty of heaven”, the moon and sun as shadows has changed to “softer than starlight, brighter than sunshine”, the depths of the heart have transferred to the midnight, and the image carried in the heart (in the original song but not in my first translation) has become likeness in flower and stone. But who’s complaining?

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