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  • Untitled, from the sonnet cycle Bengal the Beautiful - #2 / রূপসী বাংলা - #২ : Jibanananda Das
    translated from Bengali to English by Clinton Seely




    I have gazed at Bengal's face, and hence the world's beauty
    I no longer go to seek. In the darkness I awake and glimpse
    Upon a fig tree, sitting underneath a big umbrella-looking leaf,
    The early morning magpie robin. I notice all around me piles of leaves
    Of jam and banyan, of jackfruit, hijal, and ashvattha, lying still;
    Their shade falls on the cactus clump, on the shati copse.
    I know not when near Champa, Chand, from his boat, the Honeybee,
    Had seen Bengal's exquisite beauty, those selfsame azure shadows cast by

    Hijal, banyan, tamal trees. Behula, too, upon a raft out on the Gangur river,
    When the sliver of a waning moon had died away atop some sandy shoal,
    Had seen countless banyan and ashvattha, by the golden paddy fields,
    Heard the shyama songbird's gentle tune, and once had gone to Amara, where
    When she danced her clip-winged-wagtail-bird-like dance at Indra's court,
    Bengal's rivers, fields, bhant blossoms wept like ankle bells around her feet.




    রূপসী বাংলা — #২

    বাংলার মুখ আমি দেখিয়াছি, তাই আমি পৃথিবীর রূপ
    খুঁজিতে যাই না আর: অন্ধকারে জেগে উঠে ডুমুরের গাছে
    চেয়ে দেখি ছাতার মতন বড়ো পাতাটির নিচে ব'সে আছে
    ভোরের দয়েলপাখি—চারিদিকে চেয়ে দেখি পল্লবের স্তূপ
    জাম—বট—কাঁঠালের—হিজলের—অশথের ক'রে আছে চুপ;
    ফণীমনসার ঝোপে শটিবনে তাহাদের ছায়া পড়িয়াছে;
    মধুকর ডিঙা থেকে না জানি সে কবে চাঁদ চম্পার কাছে
    এমনই হিজল—বট—তমালের নীল ছায়া বাংলার অপরূপ রূপ

    দেখেছিলো; বেহুলাও একদিন গাঙুড়ের জলে ভেলা নিয়ে—
    কৃষ্ণা দ্বাদশীর জ্যোৎস্না যখন মরিয়া গেছে নদীর চড়ায়—
    সোনালী ধানের পাশে অসংখ্য অশ্বত্থ বট দেখেছিলো, হায়,
    শ্যামার নরম গান শুনেছিল,—একদিন অমরায় গিয়ে
    ছিন্ন খঞ্জনার মতো যখন সে নেচেছিল ইন্দ্রের সভায়
    বাংলার নদী মাঠ ভাঁটফুল ঘুঙুরের মতো তার কেঁদেছিলো পায়।


    Notes:
    রূপসী বাংলা — #২. Characters Chand and Behula appear in the popular premodern Hindu verse narrative, the Manasa-mangal, a text eulogizing Manasa, goddess of snakes. Chand, a merchant devoted to Shiva and inimical to Manasa, plied the waterways from Champa, a city in north-western Bengal-Bihar, down through Bengal and out into the Bay of Bengal on his way to various trading centers. Behula, his daughter-in-law—whose husband one of Manasa's snakes bit and killed on his wedding night in retaliation for Chand's refusal to worship Manasa—remains faithfully with her dead husband, floating upon a raft with the corpse downstream through the lush Bengal delta. Such wifely devotion earned her entree into lord Indra'a heaven, called Amara, where she danced flawlessly and thereby gained back as a boon the life of her husband. Shyama has multiple meanings: It is feminine here, and, with its meaning of "the dark one," serves as one of the many names for the goddess; it literally can mean "the verdant one," implying richly green Bengal personified as a woman; and it is the name of a particular songbird, this third meaning being the primary one in the context of the poem. The other two meanings, however, remain latent. The jam, ashvattha, and tamal are all sizeable trees; the shati plant yields a camphor resin; the bhant is a flowering plant.
    Illustrated by Nilanjana Basu. Nilanjana has been illustrating regularly for Parabaas. She is based in California.

    Translation published in Parabaas: June 2015
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