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  • Translation

Gitanjali 11 & 35

Gitanjali 11

by Rabindranath Tagore

loose translation/interpretation/modernization by Michael R. Burch

Leave this vain chanting and singing and counting of beads:

what Entity do you seek in this lonely dark temple with all the doors shut?

Open your eyes and see: God is not here!

He is out there where the tiller tills the hard ground and the paver breaks stones.

He is with them in sun and shower; his garments are filthy with dust.

Shed your immaculate mantle and like him embrace the dust!

Deliverance? Where is this "deliverance" to be found

when our Master himself has joyfully embraced the bonds of creation; he is bound with us all forever!

Cease your meditations, abandon your petals and incense!

What is the harm if your clothes become stained rags?

Meet him in the toil and the sweat of his brow!

Gitanjali 35

by Rabindranath Tagore

loose translation/interpretation/modernization by Michael R. Burch

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been divided by narrow domestic walls;

Where words emerge from the depths of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason has not been lost amid the dreary desert sands of dead habit;

Where the mind is led forward into ever-widening thought and action;

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.


Mar 16, 2022

Shelley said that one can never really translate a poetic work into another language because of the ironies and subtleties of shared meaning unique to each language. One must create a poem anew in the other language, preserving the poetic intention, which is why only poets can truthfully translate poetry. Here we have, I believe, an excellent example.


Mar 15, 2022

It would be nice to have a less free translation of Gitanjali which preserves the form of the original as far as possible since we already have Tagore's own free verse rendition. Nevertheless it's nice to have another version.

(What most strikes me about Tagore's version by the way is the poem's similarity to the Vedas.)


Mar 15, 2022

I have read Tagore before in translation, but until now his work has never struck me as being fresh and relevant and alive. You have definitely achieved something here. Translation/ interpretation/ modernization (call it what you will) may well be a vital art form in its own right, requiring someone with the skill and vision to create new works that are paradoxically very close to what the poet originally intended. A pleasure to read!

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