One of Bendre’s poems from the early period, with a wonderfully original conceit. The peacock and the koel serve as metaphors. The language of the original is folksy and abounds in end-rhymes, assonance and onomatopoeia (mina mina mina minchatitta: ಮಿನ ಮಿನ ಮಿನ ಮಿಂಚತಿತ್ತ). Though the onomatopoeia is untranslatable, I have looked to include a measure of assonance and end-rhyme in the translation. The unusual sentence-structure is a consequence of this attempt.
Also, here is a recording of my reciting (singing) the original Kannada poem. The tune, if one is discernible, is Mysore Ananthaswamy’s.
The Peacock-Smile (ನಗೀನವಿಲು)
Woman, upon your lips Did play a peacock-smile; Did play a smile, did flee a smile; Did it look cloudward the while.
A-flash a-flash a-flashed the smile; Did rise the smile, did fall the smile; Did fall the smile, did glow the smile: Did the land and waters gleam the while.
Within your eyes the coloured gaze Did dance its rhythmic dance; Did dance and prance; did droop and fade: Did play coquette at every chance.
Upon the fruit-tree of the mind Did sit a kōel all alone; Did sit and never sing a note: Did gaze on you with look forlorn.
A living life was suffering; Did wail all through the day and night; Did wail all through, did flail all through: Did search for something with its might.
With a rain of tears too Did it pour forth its woe; Did pour its woe, did plead its case: Did wilt when no response did show.
(Translated by Madhav K. Ajjampur)
Poem Details: From the collection “ಗರಿ,” first published in 1932.
One of Da Ra Bendre’s most famous poems, revealed to the world when he recited it at the close of his President’s Speech at the Kannada Sahitya Sammelana in 1943. Per his own admission, the rapturous reception it received left him reeling.
Here is a recording of my reciting the original Kannada poem.
The Descent of the Ganga (ಗಂಗಾವತರಣ)
Come down, mother, Come down; From Hara’s locks, From Hari’s feet, From the rishi’s thighs, Slide forth. Quench the devās as you come, Wet the regions as you come, Feed every being as you come, Come down, mother, Come down.
My salutations I offer you, I shall wear and wrap you, So do not hesitate, you, Spill forth. Leave the heavens behind and come, Plummet through the skies and come, Stream along the land and come, Come down, O mother, come, Come down, mother, Come down.
Within the regions of my head, In front of and behind my back, Up and down inside my blood, Surge forth. Washing each atom of the eye, Tuning every fibre of each sigh, Sprouting words inside the mouth that’s dry, Swell forth. Come, take your place within my breast, Come, roll through the waters of my chest Come, in my very quick do take your rest, Come down, mother, Come down.
Come as the lightning flashed, Come as the rolling waters splashed, Come as the thunder smashed, Come back. Come calling on The abandoned wretched, The devitalised agèd, The waterless parchèd, Come down, mother, Come down.
O cow’s compassion for its calf, O mother’s love on its child’s behalf O grand benediction from high above, Enfold us in your clasp. Shiva’s compassion unblemishèd, Tinged only by Shakti’s slightest red, Incarnate maternal-love full-blooded, Come, come down, Come down, mother, Come down.
Come, none but you can wash us clean, Come, every other power is mean, Come, or we shall remain unclean; Come, feed us in our very marrow, Come, circle our land that’s lying fallow, Come, breathe life into these deadened hollows.
O, beloved, into whose waters fell Reflections from the gods’s dream-well, That made your pool of consciousness swell. O Gangē, with new-opened eyes; O Gangē, who now do span the skies Ready to descend upon Bhārati’s thighs From the starry-flowers Of the holy Pārijāta’s bowers That fed upon your showers. Worshipped by the tulsi garland, Perfumèd by mandāra’s scent, You alone are both parents. Born of an ecstatic rasa flood, You are none but the fluid Fruit of Sacchidānanda–Brahma’s blood. Come on down, mother, come to play; Come júst this once, I pray: For my tears of joy I cannot stay. Yes, mother, such a fall is what they meant When they talked of the avatāra, the descent.
Like a boon to one who’s prayed, Like one in compassion bathed, Like river full-filled and flooded, Bouncing and uninhibited, Rush forth. For your darling come a-searching, Yes, come a-searching, mother, Come a-rushing.
Come, renew the breath of life, Come, swell; and illuminate this life, Come, show yourself as flesh and blood, Come, wash your hands of all the mud, Come, alight upon this earth for good, Come down, mother, Come down.
Come, O Shambu-Shiva-Hara’s thought-consummate Come, O Datta-Narahari’s grandmother-great Come, O come, to Datta, son of Ambikā late, Come down, mother, Come down.
(Translated by Madhav K. Ajjampur)
Poem Details: From the collection “ಗಂಗಾವತರಣ,” first published in 1951.
Note: I was only able to approach this translation thanks to the wonderfully thorough and fascinating Kannada explication provided by Sunaath Kaka on his blog. To receive his praise for this translation (when I shared it with him two years later) was particularly gratifying. My thanks to him.