Traps and Treasures of Translation: 3

True Treasure

So my last post described my approximation in translation that had triple signification possibilities.

Before Jayant Kothari’s edition of Narsinh poems, Narsinh Padmala, that I am using was published in 1997, the best-regarded edition was by S. Jesalpura called Narsinh Mehta ni Kavya Krutiyo (1981) or NKK. Incidentally, both Sachin Ketkar in 1999 from a translation-studies perspective and Nilima Shukla-Bhatt in 2003 from a bhakti-rasa perspective, used the Jesalpura edition for their excellent dissertations discussing Narsinh Mehta and included translations. I have not done an active comparison of my translations with their remarkable efforts. However, since I knew the earlier collection was held in good standing, I referred to it. Even Kothari’s text always cites Jesalpura as a key cross-reference.

That’s when the truth dawned on me. In the Jesalpura edition, that tricky phrase, musee, is rendered mane, which easily translates as “to me.”  This expression makes the whole read quite coherently and realistically. In second occurence too, “to me,” makes absolute sense. No fancy signification required. So the whole poem reads as follows:

In my heart a sting O, mother, that gem-sporting Krishna the black gave me,
In waves on waves my heart slips away, some one brings me back, O.  In my  . . . 1

Don’t make me drink potions, don’t get shamans to check on me,
In Gokul lives Govind the snake-charmer, lay me at his feet, O.  In my . . . 2

The healer examines carefully: this bite indeed goes very deep, O,
Well met, Narsinya’s Lord, you made the woman poison-less. O. In my . . . 3

The bite/sting is metaphoric and so it’s cure is not medical but emotional/spiritual. This is Narsinya’s Lord’s realm. The love-struck gopi, traditional milkmaid in Vrindavan and Gokul, wandering under Krishna’s spell is a classic trope. Her complaint partly calls on “mother” as a general cry and partly on Krishna’s own mother, Yashoda. Again this usage is basic, routine, almost a cliché in multiple poems by Narsinh Mehta and others. So, one can say, my flight of fancy about the communal reference and the Mirabai association was only a fancy.

Yet some questions linger. There is a conversational use of the term which this latest translation captures and yet leaves one a little unsatisfied. Here reproduced is the original poem in transliteration.

Chittadaama chatkaavi re, maa musee, manidhar kanad kale re,
Lehere lehere jaaye jeevado, koyak paachho vaale re.  Chittadaama . . . 1

Ausadiyaa ma paa au re, musee, vaidadaa ma daakho re,
Gokul maa chhe govind gaarudi, te ne charane raakho re.  Chittadaama . . . 2

Vaidade vichaari ne joyun: dunka deese bhaari re,
Narsinyaacho swami bhale maliyo, nirvish keedhi, nari re.  Chittadaama . . . 3

Comments, anyone?


About meenapoetartisan

word lover, meaning maniac, bilingual with metalingual interests, sometimes potter, poet, playwright, writer, mover to music, always a pontificator.
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