Ketaki

Here’s another:

SCAN0193

You can listen to it here: http://aathavanitli-gani.com/Song/Ketakichya_Bani_Tithe

-o-

Literal Translation

In the ketaki forest there danced, my friend, a peacock
Overcome, the cloud in the sky released, my friend, its hold

In the eyelid collected, in the heart colored
The love-song in my mind of minds hummed
On the lips drenched, my friend, the tear-soaked note

The feeling-flower in the inner being of night swayed
From the fog someone today a feeling-song spoke
In the eyes seen, amongst white water lilies danced
The dream-colors in the dream’s note and note stopped
On the tree I saw, my friend, the burdened partridge

[Alt. for tear-soaked is yearn-soaked]

-o-

This song poses three main difficulties for translating into English:

  • The exact shade of emotion: it is a song about love, but with sadness. It is sung by someone who has the experience of love, but that love is not presently accessible. It is not quite about two persons in love who are separated; rather it is as though the other person, who is at best hinted at as an unknown “someone”, is not available – either departed or disconnected. At least, that is how I read the poem.
  • The word “ga”: in Marathi this is used for a familiar, equal, close female person. The song is addressed to one such person. While it is not explicit, given the feelings expressed, the singer also is likely a female person, and this is a report shared between girl-friends.
  • The general tropical imagery: the ketaki (screw pine) with its delicate scent, vana which is not quite a forest nor a garden nor a grove nor a thicket, mor (peacock) strutting in the forest with its plumage displayed in a mating ritual at the onset of the rains, kumud or a white water lily, chakor or the legendary partridge—famed for a diet of moonbeams.

-o-

Here’s a version with some basic changes to the literal translation.

In the grove of ketakis
       the peacock danced, my friend,
The cloud above released its hold,
       overcome, my friend.

Gathered in the eyes,
       colored in the souls,
Echo of that love song
       in the mind unrolls;
Drenched in tears its note
       is wet on my lips, my friend.

The deep heart of night
       with emotion awoke,
In the distance of the day that
       a feeling voice spoke.
Its frolic in the lilies
       my witness eyes have seen —
The dream song’s colors
       in the dream intervene.
The nightingale is desolate
       in the tree, my friend.

-o-

[Alt for lienes 3 and 4:
Colored in the heart,
       gathered in the orbs,
The humming song of love
       my mind of mind absorbs.]

-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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10 thoughts on “Ketaki

  1. This is very good, lyrically acceptable. “mind of mind” may sound a bit abstract. How about “The humming song of love” instead of “Echo of that love song”? “orbs” is a bit archaic.

  2. After swapping the line and some more changes:

    In the grove of ketakis the peacock danced, my friend,
    The cloud above released its hold, overcome, my friend.

    Gathered in the eyes, colored in the souls,
    The humming song of love within the mind unrolls.

    Drenched in tears its note is wet on my lips, my friend,
    In the grove of ketakis the peacock danced, my friend.

    The deep heart of night with a feeling sway awoke,
    From the haze of far emotion a nameless voice spoke.
    The dream song’s frolics in the lilies I have seen,
    The dream colors still in the dream intervene.

    The nightingale is desolate in the tree, my friend,
    In the grove of ketakis the peacock danced, my friend.

    [Alt. Drenched in a yearn]

  3. “From the haze of far emotion” — the “a’ of “far” does not go well with other vowel-sounds of the line. How about “From the haze of distant emotion” or “From the haze of strange emotion”? But there is lyrical purity in the present version.

  4. Here’s another, more direct, take with less imagery and more English.

    The fragrant bloom
    The colored plume
    The gentle rain that mists the air

    The memory of
    Our song so soft
    Is humming still but you’re not there

    I thought I heard
    Today a word
    A stolen look but I was wrong

    The moon is bright
    In the soul of night
    The nightingale can sing no song

    The rainbow dream
    The lily stream
    The lovelorn notes in dream despair

    The memory of
    Our song so soft
    Is humming still but you’re not there

  5. This is certainly more natural, with the elegance of expression as well as rhythm in another medium yet carrying the inspiration of the original in another way. Congratulations.

  6. Thanks, Lopa.

    [She clarified by email: “Sun-drenched as opposed to mist-laden, which means the meaning/beauty of teh poem has revealed itself clearly at the end”.]

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