You can hear it here:
On the far side the crow is crowing
An omen [portent], good woman [Oh my!], it is telling
Fly, fly friend crow, your feet I will line [overlay] with gold
When will the guest, the Lord of Pandhari, reach [my] home?
A mouthful of curd-rice I will apply to your mouth
The sweetness of my life’s [soul’s] darling tell me fast [urgently]
A bowlful of milk I will apply to your lips
Tell me the true story, will Vitho come visit?
On the branch of the mango juicy fruit kiss
Today, friend, [itself] sometime the omen tells
Dnyandev says recognize these signs [marks]
Will meet the Lord of Pandhari, the omen tells [avers]
This abhanga is about Dnyaneshwar’s eager and intense anticipation of the arrival of a cherished guest, Vitho, the Lord of Pandhari, to his house.
In India, a crow crowing in front of one’s house is a portent of the arrival of a guest.
For Dnyaneshwar, the crow is crowing on the other side [possibly of a river]. He asks the crow to fly [over] and tell him when the Lord will reach his house, and to tell him urgently about the sweetness of the dear Lord, and to confirm that indeed the Lord will arrive.
As inducement or as a reward he offers to line the crow’s feed with gold and to feed him curd-rice and milk, and offers the attraction of juicy mangoes on the [nearby] tree. The reference to the juicy mangoes has another interpretation depending on whether the crow is asked to kiss the fruit or whether the fruit kiss the branch. Instead of being related to the crow, or marginally related as the tree on which the crow sits, it can be taken as another sign from Nature that the time is ripe for an epiphany.
So far, Dnyaneshwar was as if a giddy boy eagerly awaiting a favorite uncle. But in the last couplet, Dnyaneshwar, the realized master, emerges and says, recognize these signs: they aver that the meeting with the Lord is imminent.
The language of this seven hundred year-old abhanga is archaic. I wonder if he is talking of just one crow or crows in the plural (which is a possible reading of the first line, but the verb “to fly” in the second line is in the singular). Also, I wonder if he says or means “the other bank” or “the other side” or “somewhat far away”. Why is the crow on the other side? What is in the gulf? Is there a significance to it?
Then there is the symbology of the crow, not only as a harbinger, but also as the eater of curd-rice which invokes “shrAddha” or the acceptance by departed ancestors of one’s memory of them in their honor. Is this relevant?
The language itself is marvellously simple, natural, fluid, and conversational, with great intimacy between the singer and the crow, the Lord, and the listener. The listener is addressed by both “ga” for female and “re” for male, though a possible interpretation has no listener — he is singing to himself, and “ge maye” is not “good woman” but rather “Oh my!” in surprise, and “re” is for emphasis (“itself”). The rhymes are loose and casual, sometimes absent even.
The musical rendering beautifully conveys the anticipation and elation in the song, though the last couplet, which is the definitive answer, is not included.
I have written such elaborate notes mostly because I haven’t a clue to translating this poem into reasonable English.
Let’s see how it turns out, and feel free to suggest corrections, changes, and improvements.
(This attempt broadens the crow to multiple agents from Nature.)
Across the way, a raven’s cry
A sign, O my!, from Pandhari
Fly, fly, O friend, O magpie,
Your wings I’ll dye with a golden shine
Tell me how soon, I beseech,
The Lord will reach this house of mine
Hum in my ear, O hummingbird,
The sweetness heard of the Lord of my soul
I’ll set out for you, to urge your tweet,
The nectar sweet full in a bowl
These crumbs I spread, O sparrow flock,
Does Vitho knock, tell me now true
Your fruit so ripe, O mango tree,
Your branches free, to Him they grew
Dnyandev avers, I know this sign,
He will be mine, the king of Pandhari
Please read the comments below for an organic discussion of this translation, or read the “finished” version of these translations here: (pdf).