Rabindranath Tagore's 1886 collection of verse কড়ি ও কোমল / ka.Di o komal, "Sharps and Flats", includes a set of 15 or so poems under the general heading বিদেশী ফূলের গুচ্ছ / videshii phuuler guchchha, "A Bouquet of Foreign Flowers". The poems lack titles. Instead, each is preceded by the name of a poet from whom Tagore is translating: "Shelley", "Mrs Browning", "Ernest Myers", etc.

Some of the poems are well-known enough that the translation rings a bell. For example, the first poem, marked "Shelley", begins:

মধুর সূর্জ্যর আলো, আকাশ বিমল,
সঘনে উঠিছে নাচি তরঙ্গ উজ্জ্বল।
     মধ্যান্হের স্বচ্ছ করে
     সাজিয়াছে থরে থরে
ক্ষুদ্র নীল দ্বীপগুলী, শুভ্র-শৈল-শির

madhur suurjyer aalo, aakaash vimal
saghane uThichhe naachi tara~Nga ujjwal.
     madhyaanher svachchha kare
     saajiyaachhe thare thare
kShudra niil dviipagulii, shubhra-shail-shira

Soft sunlight, a clear sky
Dancing, bright waves have oft risen.
     In midday's clean hands
     have been arranged, layer by layer
tiny blue islands, and white, rocky summits

This is recognizably Shelley's "Stanzas Written in Dejection, near Naples":

The sun is warm, the sky is clear,
          The waves are dancing fast and bright,
     Blue isles and snowy mountains wear
     The purple noon's transparent might

Likewise, the poem headed "Mrs Browning" that begins "ওই আদরের নামে ডেকো সখা মোরে / oi aadarer naame Deko sakhaa more", "Call me by that pet name, my love" is obviously Sonnet 33 from Sonnets from the Portuguese: "Yes, call me by my pet name!"

However, throughout the series, the lack of titles and the absence of any information about which specific poem is being translated makes it difficult to identify the originals from which Tagore is translating. Some of the poets, too, have faded into (relative) obscurity. It is unlikely that a mention of "Moore" or "Hood" or "Augusta Webster" will bring any of their poems immediately to mind, even to an English major.

Further, some of the poems Tagore translates were themselves not originally in English. For example, Tagore includes a translation from Victor Hugo, presumably working from an English translation of Hugo's French original. And the last poem, or subset of poems, is headed "কোন জাপানী কবিতার ইংগ্রাজী অনুবাদ হইতে / kon jaapaanii kavitaar i.ngraajii anuvaad haite", "From the English translation of some Japanese poems". No information is given about which poets or translations Tagore is referencing.

The poems in বিদেশী ফূলের গুচ্ছ / videshii phuuler guchchha read well enough in Bengali, but the absence of specific information about the originals is frustrating. Is there any source that provides comprehensive information about which English poems Tagore was translating? For the poems that themselves had been translated into English from another language, is there any information about what the originals were, and which English translations Tagore was using?


  1. The usual disclaimer applies: All translations from the Bengali are my own, and my Bengali is pitiful, so rely on them AYOR
  2. Transliterations from Bengali follow the iTrans schema.

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