A 19th Century Gujarati Ghazal in Translation

The ghazal is a poetic, lyrical form that captures the depths of the human heart in fleeting, poignant ways.

The renowned Gujarati writer known by the pen-name of Amrit ‘Ghayal’ once described the ghazal in a memorable couplet:

લીટી એકાદ નીરખી "ઘાયલ​"
હલબલી જાય આદમી તે ગઞલ​.

In glancing through a line or two, Ghayal,
If a man is shaken to the core, then that is a ghazal.

Gujarati as a language has a significant heritage from the Perso-Arabic tradition and the ghazal is much more than a loan form, taking its own shape, and cadence within a vernacular context. In this post, I translate a ghazal by Balashankar Ullasram Kantharia (May 17, 1858 –April 1, 1898), a 19th century Gujarati poet known for introducing the ghazal form in Gujarati. Kantharia also served briefly as an editor of the magazine Buddhiprakash which documented the literary and intellectual life of Gujarat in the 19th century. Although the ghazal had been written since the 17th century, since the time of Vali Gujarati, the Gujarati ghazal came into its own only much later. Known for his pen-names Kalant Kavi and Bal, Kantharia was acquainted with the ghazal tradition through his father, who served as an administrator and was familiar with Persian. Kantharia was also a prolific translator who translated Sufi Ghazals of Hafez into Gujarati.

In this post, I translate one of his best-known ghazals ગુજારે જે શિરેતારે into English. This ghazal, which almost became something of an anthem, advises the reader on how to navigate the deceitful ways of the world and to find happiness on one’s own. One can see a variety of words coming from Urdu (કાજી, દિલ,ભલાઈ, બેવફાઈ, કીમિયા),Sanskrit (ઉન્મત્ત,નિર્મોહી, શિરે) and Gujarati. Even the words જગત and દુનિયા both of which refer to the world, have slightly different roots. I am still not very sure about the line ‘From unfaithfulness, you will climb into censure.’ If anyone has any suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment.

ગુજારે જે શિરે તારે જગતનો નાથ તે સ્હેજે
ગણ્યું જે પ્યારું પ્યારાએ અતિ પ્યારું ગણી લેજે

Whatever the lord of this world casts upon you,  endure it
Whatever is beloved to the Beloved, adore it as a treasure

દુનિયાની જૂઠી વાણી વિષે જો દુ:ખ વાસે છે
જરાયે અંતરે આનંદ ના ઓછો થવા દેજે

If the deceitful utterance of this world causes you pain
Let your inner joy not lessen in the least

કચેરી માંહી કાજીનો નથી હિસાબ કોડીનો
જગતકાજી બનીને તું વહોરી ના પીડા લેજે

Here, the judge in a court is worth only a pittance
Don't invite suffering by passing judgement on the world

જગતના કાચના યંત્રે ખરી વસ્તુ નહિ ભાસે
ન સારા કે નઠારાની જરાયે સંગતે રહેજે

The truth of things cannot be seen through the lens of this world,
Keep not the slightest company of the good nor the wicked.

રહેજે શાંતિ સંતોષે સદાયે નિર્મળે ચિત્તે
દિલે જે દુ:ખ કે આનંદ કોઈને નહિ કહેજે

Always remain with a peaceful, content and pure mind
Tell no one of the sorrow nor of the joy in your heart

વસે છે ક્રોધ વૈરી ચિત્તમાં તેને તજી દેજે
ઘડી જાયે ભલાઈની મહાલ્રક્ષ્મી ગણી લેજે

Anger- that adversary who lives in your mind- abandon it.
When a moment of goodness passes you by, cherish it as a blessing.

રહે ઉન્મત્ત સ્વાનંદે ખરું એ સુખ માની લેજે
પીએ તો શ્રી પ્રભુના પ્રેમનો પ્યાલો ભરી લેજે

Remain euphoric in your own happiness and take that as true bliss,
Fill your glass to the brim with the Lord's love

કટુ વાણી જો તું સુણે વાણી મીઠી તું કહેજે
પરાઈ મૂર્ખતા કાજે મુખે ના ઝેર તું લેજે

If you were to hear harsh words, speak sweet instead,
Because of another's foolishness, bring not poison upon your tongue. 

અરે પ્રારબ્ધ તો ઘેલું રહે છે દૂર માંગે તો
ન માંગે દોડતું આવે ન વિશ્વાસે કદી રહેજે

Fate is erratic! What you ask for is kept from you,
What you don't, comes running to you. Never put your faith in it.

અહો શું પ્રેમમાં રાચે? નહિ ત્યાં સત્ય તું પામે!
અરે તું બેવફાઈથી ચડે નિંદા તણે નેજે

Oh! What is there in love? You will not find truth there!
From unfaithfulness, you will climb into censure

લહે છે સત્ય જે સંસાર તેનાથી પરો રહેજે
અરે એ કીમિયાની જે મઝા છે તે પછી કહેજે

The truth that is desired by worldly life- stay above it
And speak later of how amusing this ruse is

વફાઈ તો નથી આખી દુનિયામાં જરા દીઠી
વફાદારી બતાવા ત્યાં નહિ કોઈ પળે જાજે

In all this world, I have not seen the slightest faithfulness
Don't go there at any moment to show your loyalty

રહી નિર્મોહી શાંતિથી રહે એ સુખ મોટું છે
જગત બાજીગરીના તું બધા છલબલ જવા દેજે

Being unattached, staying in peace is great happiness indeed,
The world's sorcery and all its trickery- let go of it all

પ્રભુના નામના પુષ્પો પરોવી કાવ્યમાળા તું
પ્રભુની પ્યારી ગ્રીવામાં પહેરાવી પ્રીતે દેજે

Stringing flowers in the name of God, offer as devotion
This garland of poems around God's beloved neck

કવિરાજા થયો શી છે પછી પીડા તને કાંઈ
નિજાનંદે હમ્મેશાં ‘બાલ’ મસ્તીમાં મઝા લેજે

You became the king of poets-what pain is there now?
Always relish and take joy, 'Bal,' from  your own happiness.

Translating French Poems: For Love

Translations of 4 French love poems from public domain poets such as Sully Prudhomme, Victor Hugo, Sophie S’Arbouville and Arthur Rimbaud.

In this post, I translate four French love poems from poets available in the public domain. The first poem called ‘Le réveil’ (Awakening) is by René-François Sully Prudhomme (1839-1907), a 19th century poet and essayist who is known for winning the first Nobel in 1901. The next by Sophie d’Arbouville (1810-1850) called ‘La grand-mère’ (The Grandmother) describes an old woman’s nostalgia for youth. The third is the well-known ‘A Une Jeune Fille’ (To a Young Girl) by Victor Hugo in which the poet gently chides a young girl for wanting to grow up before her time. The last one is Arthur Rimbaud’s lyrical ‘Sensation.’ In many cases, I have not followed a literal translation as I have preferred to render the meaning, cadence and nuance rather than just the literal sense. This has also been a great way for me to spend time reading French and catch up on beautiful poetry. The source for most of these poems has been the very resourceful Poésies Françaises.

Alors à bientôt et bonne lecture!

Le Réveil par René-François Sully  Prudhomme (1839-1907)
Recueil : Les solitudes (1869).

Si tu m'appartenais (faisons ce rêve étrange !),
Je voudrais avant toi m'éveiller le matin
Pour m'accouder longtemps près de ton sommeil d'ange,
Egal et murmurant comme un ruisseau lointain.
J'irais à pas discrets cueillir de l'églantine,
Et, patient, rempli d'un silence joyeux,
J'entr'ouvrirais tes mains, qui gardent ta poitrine,
Pour y glisser mes fleurs en te baisant les yeux.
Et tes yeux étonnés reconnaîtraient la terre
Dans les choses où Dieu mit le plus de douceur,
Puis tourneraient vers moi leur naissante lumière,
Tout pleins de mon offrande et tout pleins de ton cœur.
Oh ! Comprends ce qu'il souffre et sens bien comme il aime,
Celui qui poserait, au lever du soleil,
Un bouquet, invisible encor, sur ton sein même,
Pour placer ton bonheur plus près de ton réveil !

Awakening by René-François Sully Prudhomme (1839-1907)
Collection : Les solitudes (1869).

If you belonged to me (let us but dream of this for a moment!)
I would like to awaken before you in the morning
To lean over and watch you awhile in your angel's sleep
Gentle and murmuring like a faraway stream.
I would go in hushed steps to pluck wild roses,
And, unspeaking, full of a joyful silence,
I would half-open your hands that find repose on your chest,
Slip my flowers into them and kiss your eyes.
And your startled eyes would come to know the earth again
In the sweetest things that God may have made,
Then they would turn their nascent light towards me,
Moved by my offering and moved by your heart.
Oh! Understand how he suffers and feel how he loves,
The one who will place, at the glint of dawn,
A bouquet, still invisible, on your breast,
To bring your happiness closer to your awakening!
La Grand-Mère par Sophie d'Arbouville (1810-1850)
Recueil : Poésies et nouvelles (1840).

Dansez, fillettes du village,
Chantez vos doux refrains d'amour
Trop vite, hélas! un ciel d'orage
Vient obscurcir le plus beau jour.

En vous voyant, je me rappelle
Et mes plaisirs et mes succès;
Comme vous, j'étais jeune et belle,
Et, comme vous, je le savais.
Soudain ma blonde chevelure
Me montra quelques cheveux blancs...
J'ai vu, comme dans la nature,
L'hiver succéder au printemps.

Dansez, fillettes du village,
Chantez vos doux refrains d'amour;
Trop vite, hélas ! un ciel d'orage
Vient obscurcir le plus beau jour.

Naïve et sans expérience,
D'amour je crus les doux serments,
Et j'aimais avec confiance...
On croit au bonheur à quinze ans!
Une fleur, par Julien cueillie,
Était le gage de sa foi;
Mais, avant qu'elle fût flétrie,
L'ingrat ne pensait plus à moi!

Dansez, fillettes du Village,
Chantez vos doux refrains d'amour;
Trop vite, hélas ! un ciel d'orage
Vient obscurcir le plus beau jour.

À vingt ans, un ami fidèle
Adoucit mon premier chagrin;
J'étais triste, mais j'étais belle,
Il m'offrit son cœur et sa main.
Trop tôt pour nous vint la vieillesse;
Nous nous aimions, nous étions vieux...
La mort rompit notre tendresse...
Mon ami fut le plus heureux !

Dansez, fillettes du village,
Chantez vos doux refrains d'amour;
Trop vite, hélas ! un ciel d'orage
Vient obscurcir le plus beau jour.

Pour moi, n'arrêtez pas la danse;
Le ciel est pur, je suis au port,
Aux bruyants plaisirs de l'enfance
La grand-mère sourit encor.
Que cette larme que j'efface
N'attriste pas vos jeunes cœurs:
Le soleil brille sur la glace,
L'hiver conserve quelques fleurs.

Dansez, fillettes du village,
Chantez vos doux refrains d'amour,
Et, sous un ciel exempt d'orage,
Embellissez mon dernier jour!

The Grandmother by Sophie d'Arbouville (1810-1850)
Collection: Poésies et nouvelles (1840).

Dance, young village lasses,
Sing your sweet refrains of love:
Too soon, alas! a stormy sky
Will darken the loveliest of days.

Seeing you, I remember
My own joys and my triumphs;
Like you, I was young and beautiful,
And, like you, I knew it.
Suddenly my blond tresses
Showed me a few white strands
I saw, as in nature,
Winter follows spring.

Dance, young village lasses,
Sing your sweet refrains of love:
Too soon, alas! a stormy sky
Will darken the loveliest of days.

Naive and without experience,
I believed the sweet vows of love
And loved with abandon...
How we believe in happiness at fifteen!
A flower, picked by Julien,
Was the pledge of his faith;
But, even before it had withered,
The wretch no longer thought of me!

Dance, young village lasses,
Sing your sweet refrains of love:
Too soon, alas! a stormy sky
Will darken the loveliest of days.

At twenty, a faithful friend
Nursed my first chagrin;
I was sad, but I was beautiful,
He offered me his heart and his hand.
Too soon did age catch up with us;
We loved each other, we were old...

Death broke our tenderness...
My friend was the happier one!

Dance, young village lasses,
Sing your sweet refrains of love:
Too soon, alas! a stormy sky
Will darken the loveliest of days.

Don't stop the dance, for me;
The sky is pure,
The grandmother still smiled
At the bustling pleasures of childhood.
May this tear that I efface
Not dampen your young hearts:
The sun shines over the ice,
Winter preserves a few flowers yet.

Dance, young village lasses,
Sing your sweet refrains of love:
Too soon, alas! a stormy sky
Will darken the loveliest of days.
À une jeune fille par Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
Recueil : Odes et ballades (1826).

Vous qui ne savez pas combien l'enfance est belle,
Enfant ! n'enviez point notre âge de douleurs,
Où le cœur tour à tour est esclave et rebelle,
Où le rire est souvent plus triste que vos pleurs.

Votre âge insouciant est si doux qu'on l'oublie !
Il passe, comme un souffle au vaste champ des airs,
Comme une voix joyeuse en fuyant affaiblie,
Comme un alcyon sur les mers.

Oh ! ne vous hâtez point de mûrir vos pensées !
Jouissez du matin, jouissez du printemps ;
Vos heures sont des fleurs l'une à l'autre enlacées ;
Ne les effeuillez pas plus vite que le temps.

Laissez venir les ans ! le destin vous dévoue,
Comme nous, aux regrets, à la fausse amitié,
À ces maux sans espoir que l'orgueil désavoue,
À ces plaisirs qui font pitié.

Riez pourtant ! du sort ignorez la puissance
Riez ! n'attristez pas votre front gracieux,
Votre oeil d'azur, miroir de paix et d'innocence,
Qui révèle votre âme et réfléchit les cieux !

To A Young Girl by Victor Hugo (1802-1885)
Collections: Odes et ballades (1826).

You, who do not know how beautiful childhood is,
Child! Envy not our age of sufferings
In which the heart takes turns being a slave and a rebel,
In which, laughter is often sadder than your tears.

Your carefree age is so sweet that we forget!
It passes, like a breath to the vast expanses of air,
Like a fleeting joyous voice that swiftly fades,
Like a halcyon upon the seas.

Oh! do not hurry towards ripening your thoughts!
Cherish the morning, cherish the spring;
Your hours are flowers intertwined one with the other;
Do not pluck them before their time.

Let the years come! Destiny will bestow upon you
Like on us, regrets, and false friendships,
These hopeless evils that pride disavows,
These pleasures that are pitiable.

Laugh nevertheless! ignore the power of your fate.
Laugh! do not sadden your gracious brow,
Your azure eye, a mirror of peace and innocence,
which reveals your soul and reflects the skies!
Sensation par Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)
Recueil : Poésies (1870-1871).

Par les soirs bleus d'été, j'irai dans les sentiers,
Picoté par les blés, fouler l'herbe menue :
Rêveur, j'en sentirai la fraîcheur à mes pieds.
Je laisserai le vent baigner ma tête nue.

Je ne parlerai pas, je ne penserai rien:
Mais l'amour infini me montera dans l'âme,
Et j'irai loin, bien loin, comme un bohémien,
Par la Nature, - heureux comme avec une femme.

Sensation by Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891)
Collection: Poésies (1870-1871).

In the summer-blue evenings,
I will go to the paths,
Prickled by the wheat, to tread upon the fine grass:
Dreamer, I will feel its freshness beneath my feet.
I will let the wind bathe my bare head.

I will not speak, I will think of nothing:
But infinite love would ascend in my soul,
And I will go far, quite far, like a bohemian,
By Nature,- happy as with a woman.