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Bengal the Beautiful

Jibanananda Das

Translated by Joe Winter

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Paperback
ISBN: 978 0 856463 90 7
Imprint: Anvil Press Poetry
Published: July 2006
234 x 156 x 6 mm
80 pages
Publisher: Carcanet Press
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    10

    I do not know where it is that the world seeks interest
    in success and power; or a monument soars skyward high and proud;
    or a fleet of ships all raise their masts to attach themselves to a cloud:
    in this countryside of Bengal I have built my home, my nest;
    at dusk a rook flies off to a palm-grove – with two straw-wisps pressed
    in its beak – to a thicket of blue tamarind at dawn, crying aloud
    a neem-bird comes – that tender heart is mine … a firefly-crowd
    in a clump of berry-bushes delights me, leaves me distressed …

    I have heard an owl-of-Lakshmi sing out in the desolate moon
    on a kadam-branch – night-long I have heard tck tck tck tck the dew
    descend – and the worn face of a fort has bid me enter soon
    to a damp brick-crumble – the river murmurs something on its way through –
    there’s no one about – but still to the intent ear there’s a word
    on the wind in moonlight – Where are you off to on your horse, my lord?

    In these poems infused with a scent of unrequited love, the great Bengali poet Jibanananda Das captured his country’s soul through evocations of village life and natural beauty. Written in 1934, the sixty-two sonnets – discovered in an exercise-book twenty years after Das wrote them – achieved instant popularity on their posthumous publication in 1957, becoming a totemic symbol of freedom in Bangladesh’s 1971 War of Independence. This is the first English version of the complete collection, which was given its title ‘Rupasi Bangla’ by the poet’s brother who edited it for publication.

    Jibanananda Das
    Jibanananda Das (1899–1954) was born and raised in rural Barisal. He taught English in Calcutta, Delhi and Barisal. Periods of unemployment, and an unfulfilling marriage, made for an uneasy life. He is now magically popular in his native land, second only to Tagore himself. ... read more
    Joe Winter
    Joe Winter, born in London in 1943, taught English in secondary schools in London from 1967 to 1994. He lived in Calcutta from 1994 to 2006 before returning to England. His Bengali translations include Das’s Naked Lonely Hand and Bengal the Beautiful, and Tagore’s Song Offerings (Gitanjali), Lipika (stories) ... read more
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