Jibonando Das modernity in Bengali Poetry



Poetry and life are two different outpouring of the same thing; life as we usually conceive it contains what we normally accept as reality, but the spectacle of this incoherent and disorderly life can satisfy neither the poet’s talent nor the reader’s imagination … poetry does not contain a complete reconstruction of what we call reality; we have entered a new world.

                                                                                                 - Jibanananda Das

For thousands of years I roamed the paths of this earth,
From waters round Ceylon in dead of night
        to Malayan seas.
Much have I wandered. I was there
in the grey world of Asoka
And Bimbisara, pressed on through darkness
        to the city of Vidarbha.
I am a weary heart surrounded by life’s frothy ocean.
To me she gave a moment’s peace –
        Banalata Sen from Natore.

Idle Moment

Translated by Joe Winter

… how the wheel of justice is set in motion
by a smidgen of wind –
or if someone dies and someone else gives him a bottle
of medicine, free – then who has the profit? –
over all of this the four have a mighty word-battle.
For the land they will go to now is called the soaring river
where a wretched bone-picker and his bone
come and discover
their faces in water – till looking at faces is over.


It is a natural process, though perhaps the rarest one. Jibanananda Das’s style reminds us of this, seeming to come unbidden. It has many sentences that scarcely pause for breath, of word-combinations that seem altogether unlikely but work, of switches in register from sophisticated usage to a village-dialect word, that jar and in the same instant settle in the mind, full of friction – in short, that almost becomes a part of the consciousness ticking. – Joe Winter

After Twenty-five Years

Translated by Luna Rushdi

Amidst a vast meadow the last time when I met her
I said: ‘Come again a time like this
if one day you so wish
twenty-five years later.’
This been said, I came back home.
After that, many a time, the moon and the stars
from field to field have died, the owls and the rats
searching grains in paddy fields on a moonlit night
fluttered and crept! – shut eyed
many times left and right
have slept
several souls! – awake kept I
all alone – the stars on the sky
travel fast
faster still, time speeds by.
Yet it seems
Twenty-five years will forever last.


Translated by Clinton B. Seely

Lepers open the hydrant and lap some water.
Or maybe that hydrant was already broken.
Now at midnight they descend upon the city in droves,
Scattering sloshing petrol. Though ever careful,
Someone seems to have taken a serious spill in the water.
Three rickshaws trot off, fading into the last gaslight.
I turn off, leave Phear Lane, defiantly
Walk for miles, stop beside a wall
On Bentinck Street, at Territti Bazar,
There in the air dry as roasted peanuts.


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