Well, that was fun. We heard some good poetry, we made some good poetry. Along the way, we learnt a bit of Marathi language, history, culture, and aesthetics, a bit about romance, and a bit about the continuous thread of Indian spiritual tradition, in fact, of the tradition of creating tradition that keeps that thread alive in India.
This couldn’t have happened without the encouragement, explanations, suggestions, corrections, improvements, and sidelights I received from the circle of readers and friends. I am grateful to all the readers and contributors.
We found a method of translation that could serve well for others and for other languages. The method is first to create a literal translation, as true as possible to the original, while being sensitive to the various shades of meaning and implication. A keen observer will notice that an element of interpretation enters even at this stage, and it is best to cast the net of literal sense and association reasonably wide so the true connections are discovered as the translation develops.
The next step is to place oneself fully in the frame of mind and emotion and context of the original poet to get in touch with the experience, and from that place to write in English as naturally as possible. If more steps are needed, they consist of refining or restarting the translation so it gets successively better, a term that means something only to the ear and the heart.
There are so many more songs that are worth attempting. Let us encourage other poets, other voices to come forward to entertain and enlighten an ever-widening circle of readers.
Translation can be constraining. You have to think and feel and express like someone else. After the last translation, the constraints have started to lift and I have started to resume my native voice. Since the Hari poem was still at hand, I wrote this one loosely using its images:
The mind ascends to a vast of golden light,
Life is a throb in the pulse of original sound,
Body seized in a storm of immortality,
Heart one with the peace of the spirit all around.
In a blank of self, plunged in a mystic holocaust,
Revealed is Form in a diamond vest of identity,
It’s him I see everywhere. He am I. He am I.
Everywhere him, it’s only him I see.
We dedicate this poem to Dnyaneshwar’s samadhi. He led a difficult life, attained spiritual realization, gave an outpouring of original expression to his experience, accomplished his life’s mission, and finally willed a conscious withdrawal from the world – all before the age of twenty one.
- A booklet version (pdf) of these pages, cleaned up for easier reading, and updated with final versions of the translations, is available here.