Jogi (ಜೋಗಿ)

Like with so many of Bendre’s poems, I listened to Jogi (ಜೋಗಿ) sung — in an abridged form — before I read it. Attracted almost immediately by its music, it was only later that I learnt of the poem’s special place in both Bendre’s poetry and Kannada literature. (It was hailed in 1999 as the “ಶತಮಾನದ ಕವಿತೆ” or the poem of the 20th century.)
In this translation, I have tried to recreate the rhyme and rhythm of the original. Consequently, the translation reads best when recited out loud.

As usual, here is a recording of my reciting (singing) the original Kannada poem. The rhythm is taken from the recording by B.R Chaya for the album Mayakinnari.

 

Jogi (ಜೋಗಿ)

At the edge of town where the three-fork ends and where the caves begin,
Where the running stream ducks under and rogue cattle go grazing,
The way is lost and if, once lost, you énter unknowing,
A stricken pair of owls appear, hootíng through the mid-morning.

Past that place, and past the graves, and beyond to the left
Lies such a lush of thickened-moss it looks like kama’s vest’s
Been spread luxuriously across the surface of the pond;
The moss removed black waters cáll into the dark beyond.

Past all of this come caves and hills looming to the right,
Spreading here and spreading there, encróaching kálamma’s site;
And when we clímb the tamarind at the centre of this site
We see ten bushes in a clump upon a little height.

Within that clump cry mammal-bats in the middle of the day,
Flocks of pigeons fly in and out and in and out away;
Out there the nectar-vine has spread and climbed the tree of neem
The aala drips its drops of milk and the peepul shakes its stem.

To the bottom of the atthi-tree is stuck a fruit that’s red,
Full of sap, it drips and drips — all eyes are attracted;
And somehow in this very yard a mango-tree is seen;
Beneath the tree’s a den of snakes — a seven-hooded serpent’s in.

Upon this tree, within this lush has come a single koel,
It calls to me to come to it like I am its máte-of-soul;
On and on and on and on, it cries its siren-call;
One note it calls without a break — without tíring at all.

An unknown fragrance pulls the bees, playing with their heads,
Their minds abuzz they turn and turn, uncertain where to head;
The spring did come, the spring has come, the spring is set to come
Kuhoo it says kuhoo it says kuhookuhoo it hums.

Jogi, in the highest note, the koel makes its call,
Shall I go and look and see its eyes and colour and all?
The yard itself turns into flowers, the branches into sprays
And then they all begin to fruit in tune with what it says.

In dress-of-dawn, without a care, on and on it goes,
Hot-headedly, in sweet mango tree, it ensúres the summer flows;
Kuhoohoohoohoohoohoohoo — like a flute that’s playing on;
Shall I plùnge into some other work or sée what’s going on?

You’re coming, come, come, jogi, come, what have you brought this time,
As I chanted what you taught me arrived the harvest-time;
Inside a chord within my head began the harvest-cry
And as I heard it grew and spread and filled my whole body.

As I set out to the temple, kuhookuhoo it says,
Ómkuhoo it calls to me in the middle of my prayers;
I hear a call within my dreams and turn a mango-tree,
How spellbound I’ve become, jogi, that you are coming to me!

What is this call, what is this koel, what is this mango-tree?
What is it that bothers it, that makes it cáll unceasingly?
The hills around have shattered now in echoing its call
The sunshine’s danced and come to sweat — nów the rain must fall.

(Translated by Madhav K. Ajjampur)

Poem Details: From the collection “ಗಂಗಾವತರಣ,” first published in 1951.

A Homage To The Gangá (ಗಂಗಾಷ್ಟಕ)

The ಭಾವ-ಸಂದರ್ಭ (~emotional context) of this poem was Bendre’s visit to the Ganga during his ತೀರ್ಥಯಾತ್ರ through North India.
Though not half as famous as Bendre’s “ಗಂಗಾವತರಣ”, this is the more intricate poem – with unusually long metrical lines that follow the aabb end-rhyme pattern. While the translation has not followed this scheme, I have looked to keep a consistent rhythm throughout.

A Homage To The Gangá (ಗಂಗಾಷ್ಟಕ)

When the wish-cow of your affection yields ceaselessly the milk of song,
To think of you is meditation; all other rosaries naught but a noose.
Why slobber then that you aren’t mine? Why unlock these lips in vain?
Know I not how empty is this pride that fashions but a song?

There is none that’s seen you who has not sung, your name rose on his lips;
As if a man may tie in song that rushing river which Shiva’s locks could not?
Yet I, beholding your blessed sight, could do little else but unlock
My lips: that the song which sprang forth might soothe the sorrowing heart.

O Gangé, the gold dust with which Bhárati once was filled;
The joyous faces of her fruit that once adorned your fertile banks!
Is there upon this earth a child that did not play within its mother’s lap?
Upon your river-lap did play the great empires of our land!

Those avatáras strange that made the earth-mother fret,
All came and swiftly left; the world returned to wilderness.
While you who came down for reasons else now flow as truth
Eternal; more glorious she who bore you than the avatáras ten.

Like departed mother who hears her wailing child, you rushed down
From your heaven-home; like brave who is not scared to wear this mortal coil.
Granter-of-salvation blessed, aloft on Shiva’s jewelled crest, what matters it where
You be; you came, you flowed and reached the sea; turned salvation-field yourself.

Where be Ayodhyá now? Where Dwárávati of yore? Where Gokula’s gardens?
O sole remnant of Ráma’s and Krishna’s fame; though all things succumb to time,
The Gangè lives so long as live the earth and sky; so long shall stand her idol white.
O, Bhagíratha of empire grand, it is the Gangá who is your claim to everlasting fame.

“If, from the bosom of the bathing princesses, the night’s leftover musk should fall; should then
This water with the waters of the Gangá mix, such blessed musk-deer’s salvation is certain.”
So sang the poet, and I, cut from the same cloth as he, believed him and in you bathed:
Then it felt as if my mother had herself in mukti’s waters bathed; for I am of her stomach made.

O mocking laughter of Shiva! Compassioned-gaze of Himálaya! White-bosomed stream of milk!
Who has flowed forever forth; the very heart within ma-Bhárati’s maternal-heart!
O, mother, the displays of your affectionate ways! Who the blessed one who sang your praise?
Let this my homage add to his lines of praise; let this be my knowledge offering.

(Translated by Madhav K. Ajjampur)

Poem Details: From the collection “ಗಂಗಾವತರಣ,” first published in 1951.

A Prayer (ಪ್ರಾರ್ಥನೆ)

Another poem inspired by (and with shades of) an Upanishad mantra, “ಸಹನಾವವತು | ಸಹನೌ ಭುನಕ್ತು | ಸಹ ವೀರ್ಯಂ ಕರವಾವಹೈ | … ”

As usual, here is a recording of my reciting the original Kannada poem.

A Prayer (ಪ್ರಾರ್ಥನೆ)

Let us together learn,
And together play,
And doing so together understand;
Let us together eat,
And together drink,
And doing so together do the work at hand.

Let us together walk,
And together feel,
And together hear and speak;
Let us together grow,
And together shine,
And together and together reach for the holy peak.

(Translated by Madhav K. Ajjampur)

Poem Details: From the collection “ಗಂಗಾವತರಣ,” first published in 1951.