Saturday, May 09, 2015

The Right Place

As the handful of regular readers of my blog know, every year I translate a poem by Rabindranath Tagore to English and post it here on Tagore's birthday. While translating, I try to maintain the rhymes and rhythms of the Bengali poems as much as possible. However, As I moved from simple children's poems to more complex poems over the years, I realized two things: first, I do not know enough Bengali, and second, I do not know enough English. But still, I keep trying, and here is my latest offering.

The poem translated below was selected by my father. It is a very beautiful poem and was also a little difficult to translate keeping the rhymes intact, though not as difficult as this one. I have tried to maintain the flow, rhymes, use of alliteration etc. of the original Bengali version wherever possible. I have also taken the liberty of changing some idiomatic phrases to English idioms rather than translating them literally. The illustrations accompanying my translation (except one) are by Nandalal Bose, but these were not originally drawn for this poem. The picture of the books was found on the Internet and modified slightly by me to match the style of the other pictures. I hope you like this effort.

The Right Place

~Rabindranath Tagore

What market would you be sold in,
  O my sweet song?
Where do you belong?
Where all the learned stay,
In the scholar’s land ---
Snuff-dust flies and fills the skies
It’s rather hard to stand,
A very delicate argument
Goes on night and day
“Did the chicken arrive first
Or did the egg lead the way?”
No dearth of tomes that try
        Dark desires to defeat,
In a corner of that land
Do you crave a seat?
Hearing this my song hums
                        And hums out so ---
                                          No, no, no.

What market would you be sold in,
O my sweet song?
                Where are you drawn? 
There’s the affluent,
Mahogany mantels with 
Volumes five thousand---
The gold lettering is unmarked,
No one opens a cover,
Like untasted honey,
Or an un-inhaled flower.
        The servant dusts them daily
Takes every care,
O my rhythmic creation,
Would you travel there?
Hearing this, in my ear
My song murmurs so---
                                            No, no, no.


What market would you be sold in,
O my sweet song?
Respect where you’ll earn?
The young student bends down
For a test he must prepare,
His mind has but gone away
Somewhere else from there,
Unreadable text books
Lie open on all sides
In fear of his superiors
All poetry he hides---
There, among those ragged rhymes
And things mixed and wild,
Is that where you want to play,
My talkative child?
Listening in silence, 
Hesitates the song---
She wants to go along.


What market would you be sold in,
O my sweet song?
Where’s respite lifelong?
A place where the gentle wife
Busy in her pantry,
To bedroom runs at every chance
Whenever she’s free
The book there lies under her pillow 
She pulls it outside,
Its pages are all worn out
Tortured by her child---
Kohl-daubed vermillion-rubbed
Fragrant of her hair
Her bedside waits, in torn attire
Would you hurry there? 
Sighing on my breast
The song lies silently---
Trembling longingly.


What market would you be sold in,
O my sweet song?
Where you'll live strong?
Where a pair of young lovers
Roam in a joyful craze,
For hidden nooks and darkness look,
To shun each prying gaze,
The wild birds sing them songs,
A ballad the river sings,
From the flowers, leaves and vines
An eternal melody rings---
There, by the simple smiles
By the eyes full of tear
In the midst of Nature’s flute music
That place do you desire?
With a sudden happy laugh
Speaks out my song---
That’s where I belong.

(Translation by Sugata Banerji)


  1. Apurbo hoyechhe. Lekha thamio na, khub sundor hochchhe. Amar anek ashirbad roilo.

  2. এটা আমার অন্যতম, অন্যতম প্রিয় কবিতা। খুব ভালো লাগল আপনার অনুবাদ।

  3. Gautam Banerji7:40 AM, May 09, 2015

    Very good translation. Captured the essence. Keep on translating more.

  4. A brave try. And you are improving.


  5. @Pisimoni: Thank you!

    @Kuntala: Are dhonyobaad, dhonyobaad. Kobita ta ki sundor na?

    @Baba: Thank you.

    @Anandakaku: Thanks for visiting!

  6. Darun!!! mul kavitar mejaj rekhe perfect rhyme and rhythm original verse parar ananda dilo.
    ABHINANDAN ! ! !.Jyotirmoy Mukherjee