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.

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 áre following
Feathers stréwn from its wings.

Let these fallen feathers play
Just as much as they would like
In 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,
Push them, blow them, make them fly
Up again within the sky.

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.

Push them, blow them, make them fly,
Let them fly as much they will;
These feathers that were born to fly,
These feathers 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.

The Pollen Calls (ಪರಾಗ)

Sanskrit poetics gives great significance to the  rasika (ರಸಿಕ) or the sahrudaya (ಸಹೃದಯ), both words that mean ‘an appreciative spirit’, ‘(one) of the same heart.’ Steeped deeply in Hindu culture and poetics, Da Ra Bendre held similar beliefs and several of his poems speak directly to the rasika (ರಸಿಕ), even inviting him to take part (through his appreciative understanding) in the poem’s creation.
In this poem, the pollen (ಪರಾಗ) is the poet (and his poem) who call earnestly on the bee (ಭೃಂಗ) to come and partake of their (poetic) juice.

(The destructive-creative aspect of this exchange between the bee and the flower is captured by Bendre himself in another of his poems where he says: ಅಯ್ಯೊ ನೋವೆ! ಅಹಹ ಸಾವೆ! ವಿಫಲ ಸಫಲ ಜೀವಾ).

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

The Pollen Calls (ಪರಾಗ)

Come, dear bee, come,
Why wander so detachedly?
When the call of the fragrance is
Sweet, is an invitation necessary?

This fragrance holds within itself
The song-juice of the unripe fruit;
And within the honey of the flower
Is hid the rasa of tomorrow’s fruit.

In the poem’s heart, in the lotus’s womb,
The pollen waits on tiptoe;
Your slightest kiss itself’s enough
Fór a new creation to show.

(Translated by Madhav K. Ajjampur)

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

Afterword:

Here is my recitation of the translation.