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Page 2 in the conversation "OT: Poetry you (s)Wear by?" by ManidipaM
Bella, funny you chose that poem and then mentioned translation!
A couple of the poems in Indian Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore's award-winning volume actually very similar in style and sentiment to Kipling's 'If'. Interestingly, in their personal lives, Kipling and Tagore disagreed pretty fiercely on political positions; yet many a critic has drawn parallels between 'If' and these particular poems:
Tagore of course wrote originally in Bengali (happens to be my mother tongue, making life much easier and richer in this case); but he won the Nobel for the English translations (or rather, transliterations) he penned himself. Both versions appear in the wikipedia links.
I was recently in Shanghai, where I was startled to be invited to a Tagore evening --- I met the lady you had translated Tagore into Mandarin, and heard readings and plays in Chinese, English, and offered the Bengali myself! It was fascinating to hear from one young lady, sent to boarding school as young as four --- much younger than her peers, so oft neglected and perhaps pushed around, a little bullied by the 'big girls' --- talk of how at the age of six, her father's gift of the Chinese translation of the Gitanjali gave her courage at night!
One of the subjects I studied at university was comparative literature. We read Spanish, German, French and Italian writers; several African authors but not enough Scandinavian; some ancient Indian Sanskrit (dead language now) texts as well as modern Hindi. So while I'm cognizant of the difficulties, I also readily grasp that translated literature is art in its own right as well. Good thing too --- in a nation like ours, with so many languages (1,652 per the census in the middle of the last century!), it is imperative for communication. I can read Tagore in the original, but Kirti, Sunita, Una or Sona (if they have a knowledge of other Indian languages, I don't actually know) might be privileged to read different canonical classics --- and the only way for us to share each other's wealth is through Hindi and even more comfortably English (a foreign language!) translations. Isn't that stupendous? It's certainly not ideal, but it is far more enriching than if I had to learn 1652 languages, and then some to appreciate great literature.
If you will accept it, I would draw a parallel with food. The Chinese street foods of India and the Chinese takeaways of the US are worlds apart from each other and from mainland China --- but one can't but acknowledge they are informed by Chinese heritage, and enjoyable precisely because of that unique bouquet of textures, flavours and techniques. Likewise with literature I think --- much is lost in translation; yet it is its own achievement.
Darn it, I missed World Poetry Day! I loved reading all these; I used to write and read poetry all the time, and this really takes me back. If you will allow a belated entry, this is not a poem about fashion per se, but it encapsulates my approach pretty well - and it did inspire the title of a recent WIW post.
Frome Stephen Crane's "Black Riders":
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.
I said, "Is it good, friend?"
"It is bitter -- bitter," he answered;
"But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart."
Yay, Rae --- never too late for good verse! But really, you should've submitted your own song! We hold you poets to higher standards of anti-plagiarism, you know
Hehe, yes, I don't want that -- plagiarism is the kiss of death!
I'm afraid my own stuff is pretty negative, lol.
My reading list just grew exponentially through this post! I was a poetry major in college (before switching to history and public health - none useful for actual post graduate employment but very useful for lifelong diversion or Trivia Pursuit) and keep some books by my bed for late night/fitful sleep times.
I like to read published journals of favorite poets actually. To see their process and how they shuffle poetry and the "real world".
May Sarton (who through her journal turned me on to Auden - amazing) and Wallace Stevens have incredible letters and journals.
Been reading and watching some Civil War period topics and writers lately - Alcott, Whitman, Ken Burns documentary so Stephan Crane is perfect to do next.
Oh Bella, I love "If," even though there's so mucha bout Kipling that doesn't sit right with me. That poem is a very notable exception. Thanks for posting it!
Manadipa, I bow before your intellect.
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