Ghana

A friend suggested this challenging song. You can listen to it here http://aathavanitli-gani.com/Song/Ye_Re_Ghana and here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xt_GCoAm2BY.

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The setting is of a person aspiring to and experiencing the first effects of freedom, a breaking out of the shackles of convention and personal limitations into a freedom that holds the promise of natural expansion, but also a state of liberation which the person still does not fully trust.

The aspiration is fulfilled through the agency of a cloud that works on the mind, which is the poem’s refrain. In the first stanza, the poet’s flowers are few and the wind can crush them. In the second stanza, the poet breaks free, or at least promises to do so — with the indication that the singer is a woman whose shackles are of “home-and-door”. In the third stanza, the strong wind invites the poet to enjoy. Assuming it to be the same wind as in the first stanza, the growth of the poet in liberty is indicated since something that could previously crush you is now a companion.

The difficulties of language are present, but not the difficulties of imagery. The “re” is the masculine counterpart of the “ga” we encountered in Ketaki. “While saying don’t don’t” has a complex layer of meaning — of yielding under protestation. The “re” has been reflected in the address “O”, and “don’t don’t” has been indicated by the negatives of limits such as “unrestrained”, “unfettered”, and “bounds recede”. Come to think of it, “wandering cloud” has a faint connection to Wordsmith’s Daffodils – but it is entirely incidental.

-o-

Literal Translation

Come friend cloud, come friend cloud
Bathe my mind

My flowers few
The wind looks to crumple
While saying “don’t, don’t”
The scent went to the forest and orchard

Throwing off house and door
I will dance, I will dance
While saying “don’t, don’t”
The mind-peacock filled out in the forest

How much should I say “don’t, don’t”
The distant flute will sound
The rushing wind calls me
To drink the essence

-o-

Poetic Translation

Slake my mind, O wandering cloud.

My scattered flowers, frail and few,
Were crumpled by the slightest breeze;
But unrestrained their fragrance flew
To find in woods and groves release.

Casting off this house and way
I will dare to dance and dance;
Unfettered my mind in hues will sway
Like a forest peacock-prance.

All my bounds recede in a rout:
The far-off flute will beckon soon;
The rushing wind invites me out
To taste the essence of the boon.

-o-

Please read the comments below for an organic discussion of this translation, or read the “finished” version of these translations here: (pdf).

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7 thoughts on “Ghana

  1. This is realy good, with the happy lyricism native to such compositions. The rhymes are perfect, and very natural. In the last stnza I don’t quite appreciate the “far-off flute”, sounds prosaic. What about distant flute, quiet flute, unheard flute, or something like that giving a mystic touch also which is there in the poem in a subdued manner.

  2. I have “distant” in the literal translation and as an alternative in the poetic one, but it somewhat seemed to clash with “rout”.

    The “venu” in the original was a bit problematic for both significance and translation. Venu has the distinct, almost unique, connection to Krishna (Venugopal), and hence a spiritual sense. But the poem is not a spiritual experience per se. Hence, venu appeared to me to be misplaced or a “reach” for the rhyme in the original. Venu also has the secondary meaning of bamboo, and the original could refer to the sound of strong wind rushing through a bamboo thicket in the distance – but this is too prosaic an image. So I stuck with “flute”, though both significances could be connoted by “reed”. “Quiet” seems anti-climactic, and since it is expected to play, it’s not “unheard”. But point taken, will look for another formulation there.

    May be “distant reed” is alright since the “t” sounds will reduce by one (rout, distant, flute=reed), and some consonance will enter through recede-rout-distant-reed.

    Also, one more line is needed to complete the sonnet form, and it can be used to indicate the refrain of invoking the cloud.

  3. Bathe my mind, O wandering cloud.
    Slake my mind, O wandering cloud.

    My scattered flowers, frail and few,
    Were crumpled by the slightest breeze;
    But unrestrained their fragrance flew
    To find in woods and groves release.

    Casting off this house and way
    I will dare to dance and dance;
    Unfettered my mind in hues will sway
    Like a forest peacock-prance.

    All my bounds recede in a rout:
    The distant reed will beckon soon;
    The rushing wind invites me out
    To taste the essence of the boon.

  4. Here’s a completely different take, more abstracted but still grounded in the original.

    -o-

    Free Translation

    When I first turned to boundless thoughts,
    Broken soon by restlessness,
    The urge beneath them continued
    And flowered in the wilderness.

    When the rhythms from the wild
    Resonated in my feet,
    My mind expanded in the woods
    And blossomed into a thought complete.

    When the distant music wells
    And stormy winds give me a call,
    The clouds arrive and flood my mind
    With the core of freedom that is in all.

  5. Sounds a bit metaphysical, and heavy. The earlier lyrical tone had something captivating in it, and I’ll prefer to go by that. There is something exceptional about “venu” and it should not get lost.

  6. Yes, the lyrical one retains the feminine voice of the original, and the abstract one is more on the masculine side. It’s not all metaphysical in the sense that there is an interplay between the orderly and the wild.

    I have observed the trend from literal to poetic to abstract recurring in the various translations – as the original translation relaxes into more normal English.

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