The Little Black Pup (ಕರಿ ಮರಿ ನಾಯಿ)

An obviously satirical poem. “Milord” is the translation of the original poem’s “ಭಟ್ಟ,” a most felicitous translation if I say so myself.

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

The Little Black Pup (ಕರಿ ಮರಿ ನಾಯಿ)

The little black pup was whining away;
The voice of milord was shouting away.

Split-split splat-splat came down the rain;
Then rushed away along the drain.

The wind wailed like a stricken banshee;
The little black pup paddled furiously.

From the window of his cosy house,
Milord was looking out—curious;

The little black pup tried to get to the door;
A ‘thud!’ was the immediate answer.

O golly, O gosh, how brave of milord!
No house could have asked for a better guard.

‘I’d like to come in,’ said the little black pup;
‘You try, and I’ll kill you,’ replied his lordship.

(Translated by Madhav K. Ajjampur)

Poem Details: From the collection “ಗರಿ,” first published in 1932.

P.S: I have revised the second stanza of the poem to better reflect the original’s lines. My thanks to Sunaath Kaka for alerting me to the possibility of a better version and for offering his own couplet (which I have drawn from but not used).

New Year’s Day – Yugādi (ಯುಗಾದಿ)

Yugādi (ಯುಗಾದಿ) is a festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year (ಸಂವತ್ಸರ) according to the Hindu lunar calendar (ಪಂಚಾಂಗ). This tremendously popular poem by Da Ra Bendre – from his very first poetry collection, ಗರಿ – has become an inseparable part of the festival in Karnataka.

New Year’s Day – Yugādi (ಯುಗಾದಿ)

Though years and new years come and go,
New Year’s dáy is here again.
To the new year it’s bringing new cheer,
And things that are newer and newer.

Within the shrubs of hongē flowers,
The bees begin their songs of play:
Their symphoníes are heard again.
The fragrance of the flower spills
Upon the bitter tree of neem;
And lo, the glow of life is seen.

Bewitched by kāma’s fragrant shafts,
The mango tree has flowered forth;
It now waits eagerly for him.
And festooning the mango tree,
The parrots sing elatedly:
‘The harvest’s come, the harvest’s come!’

The year itself’s been born anew;
The world’s joy has a resting place
Within the hearts of all that move!
But in this single lífe of ours,
A single youth, a single prime;
Is that all that we desérve?

A death with every sleep we sleep;
New life with every waking day;
Why haven’t we been blessèd so?
O god-of-youth-unending!
O wanderer-untiring!
Does such a gift not interest you?

Though years and new years come and go,
New Year’s dáy is here again.
To the new year it’s bringing new cheer,
And things that are newer and newer;
But not a single one’s for man!

(Translated by Madhav K. Ajjampur)

Poem Details: From the collection “ಗರಿ,” first published in 1932.

A Prayer (ಪ್ರಾರ್ಥನೆ)

A poem inspired by (and with shades of) the Upanishad mantra, “ಓಂ ಭದ್ರಂ ಕರ್ಣೇಭಿಃ ಶೃಣುಯಾಮ ದೇವಾ । ಭದ್ರಂ ಪಶ್ಯೇಮಾಕ್ಷಭಿರ್ಯಜತ್ರಾಃ …”

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

A Prayer (ಪ್ರಾರ್ಥನೆ)

May only what is good be heard,
May only what is good be said,
May only what is good be seen,
May only what is good through this world spread.
May only what is good be done,
May good itself always pervade,
Feed on the good, breathe in the good,
May live among us good enfleshèd.

(Translated by Madhav K. Ajjampur)

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

The Face of Spring (ವಸಂತಮುಖ)

Not for nothing was ಹಿಗ್ಗು (higgu: ~a spreading joy; a wholesome delight) one of Bendre’s favourite words. Here then is a poem of ಹಿಗ್ಗು, of joy, of delight.

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

The Face of Spring (ವಸಂತಮುಖ)

The day has bloomed, the forest’s gay,
The birds are singing songs of play;
Such is life, yes such is living:
As púre as the wind that’s blowing.

What variety, what balance!
The wind has broken the curse’s influence;
The spirit leaps, the spirit twirls
In joy that life’s a luminous whirl.

A hundred trees! A hundred throats
Each singing note upon exquisite note:
This scene of romance knows no bounds,
This beauty’s wanton and unbound.

(Translated by Madhav K. Ajjampur)

Poem Details: From the collection “ಸಖೀಗೀತ,” first published in 1937.

Sorcerer (ಗಾರುಡಿಗ)

Da Ra Bendre shot to fame in 1929 at the Beḷagāvi Kannada Sahitya Sammelana when he read out his famous poem “ಹಕ್ಕಿ ಹಾರುತಿದೆ ನೋಡಿದಿರಾ” (The Bird’s On the Wing, Have You Seen It?) Enchanted by the bewitching (ಮರುಳುಗೊಳಿಸುವ) manner of his delivery and his charismatic stance, Māsti Venkatesha Iyengar – another giant of 20th-century Kannada literature and the father of the modern Kannada short story – was moved to call him a ಗಾರುಡಿಗ (precisely, a snake-charmer but more generally a sorcerer, an enchanter), a characterization that stuck to Bendre for the rest of his life.
In this poem – itself titled “ಗಾರುಡಿಗ” – Bendre dwells upon this epithet, the associated imagery, and his own poetic powers. The original poem is a free verse ಅಷ್ಟಷಟ್ಪದಿ (which is the Kannada adaptation of the Petrarchan sonnet).

Sorcerer (ಗಾರುಡಿಗ)

This is a mantra; a way with words
Defying meaning; its meter felicitous,
Spontaneous; totemic, enchanting;
Fashioned from the very quick of life;
The fletch upon the bowstring of the breath
Is on its focussed way; part of an effortless
Divine play; it swoops like Garuḍa himself:
Is this a delusion? A drunkenness? Poison?
Death? Slumber? Crazy passion? A waking
Shrouded in unmemory? The dream is now
Reality — and all is pure and white as milk.

You snake! You weaving-stomached
Creature! You have no ears, a pair
Of tongues; with venom in your tooth,
You feed on air; though you descend
To the nether world, you continue to irk;
Like a rasika you sway your head, but
All your praise is poisoned-spit! But keep
On, keep on — across my palm is the Garuḍa line!

(Translated by Madhav K. Ajjampur)

Poem Details: From the collection “ಉಯ್ಯಾಲೆ,” first published in 1938.

Not Ever Looking Back (Concerning an Old Painting) [ಹಿಂದs ನೋಡದs]

A number of Da Ra Bendre’s poems are from the perspective of a woman. This particular poem expresses the despair of one such “heroine.” The poet has indicated that the poem sprung from looking at an old painting (of a gōpi who entranced by Krishna’s presence is oblivious to her surroundings and her gōpi-friends).

As usual, here is a recording of my reciting (singing) the original Kannada poem. The tune, if one is discernible, is C. Ashwath’s.

Not Ever Looking Back (Concerning an Old Painting) [ಹಿಂದs ನೋಡದs]

Not ever looking back, my dear,
Not ever looking back.

He looked but once upon me,
And smiled a friendly smile;
Then he turned and on he went,
Not ever looking back, my dear,
Not ever looking back.

The scent that rides upon the air,
It said to me – ‘go there, go there’;
My mind followed without a care,
Not ever looking back, my dear,
Not ever looking back.

My heart itself’s no longer mine,
What care I for the rain or shine;
My mind follows its destined line,
Not ever looking back, my dear,
Not ever looking back.

Like the thread within the needle’s eye,
Like the foot caught in the míre,
Like the wheel of time upon its way,
Not ever looking back, my dear,
Not ever looking back.

(Translated by Madhav K. Ajjampur)

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

Feather (ಗರಿ)

The very last poem in Da Ra Bendre’s first poetry collection, itself titled Gari (ಗರಿ) and first published in 1932. The feather here serves as a wonderful metaphor for a poem (each, at its finest, an exquisite and ethereal creation). Given the luminous poetry Shri Bendre was to create (and “strew”) over the next five decades, this poem seems nothing less than prophetic.

Feather (ಗರಿ)

Upon this cloth of stretching sky
That has nèither start nor end,
Is forever and forever flying
The ever-moving bird of wind.

And flying like this bird of wind
Is the many-feathered bird,
In whose wake are sometimes strewn
The feathers of its flying wings.

Let these fallen feathers play
Just as much as they would like
Within the wind that blows and swirls
And rubs and sprays and spurts and whirls.

And, if by chance or accident,
These feathers light upon the ground,
Pick them up and blow them forth
Up to the heights from where they came.

Do not, smitten by their colours, keep
Them hidden safely in your palm;
Do not, though they seem a little off,
Pluck some hairs and comb some lines.

Yes, pick them up and blow them forth,
Let them fly as much they will;
For that’s the only reason why
They were put on a bird’s body.

And, ìf, as you watch their play,
You feel within a surge of joy,
Then, you too swell and peacock-like
Dance your way up to the sky.

Yet ìf you do not feel that way,
Then simply send the feather forth;
For èver blows the able wind
That takes it far, and out of sight.

But if, by chance, the wind does not;
If, perhaps, they tòo lack strength,
Then do your bit and make them soar
For that is all the life they know.

Upon this cloth of stretching sky
That has nèither start nor end
Is forever and forever flying
The ever-moving bird of wind
.

(Translated by Madhav K. Ajjampur)

Poem Details: From the collection “ಗರಿ,” first published in 1932.