TRANSLATING KALIDASA 2

translating kalidasa 2Improving the Translation.

On the previous page we succeeded in learning enough Devanagari to read the Megadhuta text and use Hultzsch's vocabulary to set out word-for-word renderings. The result for Stanza 99 was:

 aGgenAGgaM tanu ca tanunA gADhataptena taptaM
 body body emaciated and emaciated intense tormented tormented

 sAsreNAsradravam aviratotkaNTham utkaNThitena
 weeping shedding_tears continual longing longing

 uSNocchvAsaM samadhikatarocchvAsinA dUravartI
  ardent sigh excessive sighing staying_far_away

 saMkalpais te vizati vidhinA vairiNA ruddhamArgaH
 longing unite_with fate adverse obstructed path

Now we use the Monier-Williams dictionary as we did for Bhartrhari, and an elementary knowledge of Sanskrit to note the declension/conjugations of the words and make some sense of the lines. We need to be methodical, keeping a record for later reference.

given text
text before sandh
dictionary entry
meaning
M.W. Dict. Page & Column
declension/ conjugation
completed meaning







aGgenA
aGgena
aGga
limb, body
7c
n I Sg
with/by body
AGgaM
aGgam
aGga
limb, body
7c
n N/A Sg
body
tanu
tanu
tanu
thin, emaciated
435b
mn N/A Sg
emaciated
ca
ca
ca
and, both
380a
Cn
and
tanunA
tanuna
tanu
thin, emaciated
435b
mn I Sg
with_emaciated
agADha
agADha
agAdha
deep, unfathomable
4c
mfn N/A Sg
deep
taptena
taptena
tapta
inflamed, distressed, afflicted (astrol)
437c
mfn I Sg
with_distressed
taptaM
taptaM
tapta
inflamed, distressed afflicted, (astrol)
437c
mfn N/A Sg
distressed







sAsreNA
sAsrena
sasra
flowing
1192c
mn I Sg
with_flowing
Asr
asr
asr
tear
123c
n N/A Sg
tear
rudravam
rudravam
rudravat
weeping
883c

weeping
avirato
avirata
avirata
continually
109c
mfn N/A Sg
continually
otkaNTham
utkaNTham
utkaNThA
desire, longing
175c
mfn N/A Sg
longing
utkaNThitena
utkaNThitena
utkaNThithA
desire, longing
175c
mfn I Sg
with_ longing







uSNo
uSNA/a
uSNa
ardent, impetuous
220a
mfn N/A Sg
ardent
occhvAsaM
ucchvAsam
ucchvAsa
sigh deep_breath
174b
m A Sg
sigh
samadhikar
samadhikatarA/a
samatirthaka
full_ to_ the_ brim
1152c
mfn N/A Sg
brimful
occhvAsenah
ucchvAsenA
ucchvAsen
sigh, deep_breath
174b
mfn I Sg
with_sigh
dUravartI
dUravartI
dUravartin
being in distance, far removed
489c
mfn
distant







saM
sam
sam
with
1152a
Ind
with
kalpais
kalpais
kalpa
proper, competent, equal_with
262b
mfn
wit_ proper
te
te
te
they them the_two we us
-
Pn, Sg Du Pl, N/A
them, we, the_ two
vizati
vizati
viz
enter, conjoin, settle_down_on
989a
Vb 3rd Sg Pres
conjoin
vidhinA
vidhinA
vidhi
rule, law, fate
968a
m I Sg
by/with_fate
vairiNA
vairiNA
vairi
hostile, inimical
1025a
n I Sg
by_enemy (hostile)
ruddham
ruddha
ruddha
obstructed stopped withheld
884b
mfn N/A Sg
blocked
mArgaH
mArgaH
mArga
way route path passage
812b
m N Sg
path







N= Nominative
A=Accusative
G=Genitive
I=Instrumental
m=masculine
f=feminine
n=neuter
Vb=Verb
Sg=Singular
Du=Dual
PL-Plural
Pres=present tense
Ind=Indiclinable
Cn=Conjunction


As far as possible, {1} we have 1. read the Devanagari, 2. picked out the relevant words, 3. changed the word back to its expression before sandhi rules operated, 4. looked up the meaning in the dictionary, {2} 5. consulted tables and textbooks {3} to identify the part of speech, and 6. adjusted the dictionary meaning to get the fuller meaning. Repeating the process for the stanzas 1, 2 and 3:

1. a_certain beloved separation by_master own_office negligent
with_curse brought_to_an_end greatness [a year to be endured] by_master
Yaksa made Janaka daughter bathing holy by_waters
caused_by_thick in_shady_ trees dwelling Ramagiri of_hermitage

2. on_that on_mountain much weak separated he longings_after
having led months gold bracelet loose bared forearm
of Ashadha won/completed a day a cloud clung to the summit
playfully_butting_ like_an_elephant_ against_a_bank rolling_down elephant pleasure_hurting he_saw

3. of_her having_stayed with_difficulty before desire impatience destitute_of_wealth cause
inward_tear for_a_ long_ time attendant of_king_ of_ kings holding
cloud in[not_of_the_world] is_being comfortable although [other_than conceals] grief
head_and_neck embrace longing_for in_person how_much again distant from_him

99 with_body body emaciated and with_emaciated deep with_distressed distressed
with_flowing tear weeping continually longing with_ longing
ardent sigh brimful with_sigh distant
with_proper we conjoin by_fate hostile blocked path

How has this improved matters? Well, firstly, we have found meanings for words missing from or hard to discern in Hultzsch, who has produced an immensely useful volume, but can't be expected to include a Sanskrit grammar. We recognize such words as tasminn, which is the third person singular locative of the pronoun saH (he) or tat (it), i.e. on_him or on_it, with the final n doubled for euphony (sandhi).

And we know a little more about  kazcit. It still means a_certain, but we don't now have to transcribe it blindly. It's simple an interrogative pronoun. A nineteenth century author, for example, might write: On a certain day towards the end of January, a man was . . . In a twentieth century, that would probably run: One day, towards the end of January, a man was. . . Today we might remove the phrase altogether: Towards the end of January, a man was. . . Or we might not, if that particular day was to be stressed: And on that day, had he been minded to glance down at the street, he would have noticed a young woman dressed. . . In fact, of the two serious translations of Meghaduta, McComas Taylor's has A certain Yaksha, whereas Leonard Nathan simply says This Yaksha. Does it matter? Not enormously in this instance, but it does bear on the latitude acceptable in translation, with which we shall end our treatment of Kalidasa.

But it does help to get back to the root meanings. Hultzsch translates prekSaNiyam perfectly correctly as worth seeing, beautiful, charming. The components of the word, pri and kSaNana, mean pleasure and hurting, however. The Yaksha acknowledges the felicity of the scene, but the image hurts because reminding him of his distant beloved. Equally, no one could quarrel with Hultzsch's translation of praNayin is longing_for. But Kalidasa may also be thinking beyond literal meaning, as the common verbal prefix pra means onward, and praNa is spirit, life or vital breath. The whole poem is some sense a breath of life, the cloud that brings rain also brings the revitalizing desire of the Yaksha for his distant mate. We don't have to overdo the image of the playful elephant butting the ground in stanza 2, therefore: the sexual connotations are present, but not overwhelming so.

Most important of all, we now have the inflections and conjugations, which enables us to rearrange the words within each stanza:

1. a_certain Yaksha own_office negligent brought_to_an_end
greatness with_curse a year to be endured by_master
beloved separation in_shady_ trees caused_by_thick dwelling of hermitage
Ramagiri by_waters made holy Janaka daughter bathing

2. on_that on_mountain he much weak separated longings_after
having led months gold bracelet loose bared forearm
pleasure_hurting he_saw a day of Ashadha completed a cloud rolling_down
clung to the summit elephant playfully_butting_ like_an_elephant_ against_a_bank

3. having_stayed with_difficulty before desire of_her cause impatience
destitute_of_wealth attendant of_king_ of_ kings holding inward_tear for_a_ long_ time
is_being comfortable cloud in_not_of_the_world although other_than conceals grief
how_much again head_and_neck embrace longing_for in_person distant from_him

99 with_body emaciated and with_emaciated body deep with_distressed body
distressed with_flowing tear because_of_weeping continually
longing
with_ longing ardent sigh brimful with_sigh distant
with_proper we conjoin by_(fate hostile) blocked path

Rearranging further:

1. A certain Yaksha, his greatness brought to an end by curse
from master at being negligent of his office has a year to be endured
separated from beloved in Ramagiry thick-shaded hermitage dwelling
by waters made holy by Janaka's daughter bathing

2. on mountain he much weak from longings spent months separated
his gold bracelet loose on bared forearm the sight hurting him
he saw the last day of Ashadha a cloud like an elephant
roll down, embrace the summit as will an elephant playfully attack a bank.

3. destitute, the attendant of the king of kings, with difficulty before desire of her
having stayed holding an inward tear for a long time, is comfortable
with the otherworldly cloud but cannot conceal cause of grief
being more impatient to embrace in longing for the head and neck of distant person.

99. his body emaciated by her body emaciated, and deeply
distressed by her distressed body, continually weeping as she is weeping,
with longing sighs as that distant body is brimful with ardent sighs,
to our lawful union hostile fate has blocked the path.

Sanskrit Poetry

Our translation should represent something of Indian court poetry of the time, which was rather artificial: idealized landscapes, little novelty or character development, impersonal expression. {4} The poetry was chanted, {5} and the poet is not telling us what he feels, but drawing on a very large number of synonyms to develop, ever more richly and sonorously, what his audience was familiar with. The poetry lies not in any western notion of freshness or individuality, but in its creation of a palpable, emotion-laden atmosphere where the audience could realize again the cultural insights of their world. Highly-crafted compositions, and quite unlike the occasional verse of Chinese poets, or the witty commentaries of Pushkin. But it is still poetry, and in fact great poetry, which should make us wary of generalizing too much from own perspectives.

That said, we must now start on final drafts.

The author's full (and free) translation of Kalidasa's Meghaduta is published in pdf format by the Ocaso Press.

A 568-page free pdf ebook on practical verse writing is available from Ocaso Press. Click here for the download page.

References


1. Like most classical Sanskrit poets, Kalidasa often uses nominal compounds (samasa) rather than inflections, which renders the sense even less straightforward. See Indian Poetry, Vinay Dharwadker et al. in Alex Priminger and T.V.F. Brogan (Eds.) The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics (Princeton Univ. Press. 1993).
2. I have used online dictionaries, supplemented by the English-Sanskrit Dictionary by Monier Monier-Williams (Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 2003).
3. Particularly useful is Roderick S. Bucknell's Sanskrit Manual: A Quick-reference Guide to the Phonology and Grammar of Classical Sanskrit (Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1991)
4. Leonard Nathan, The Transport of Love: Kalidasa's Megadhuta (Berkeley, 1976).
5. It helps to hear the Sanskrit, and a convenient tape and introductory booklet is Bruce Cameron Hall, Sanskrit Pronunciation (Theosophical Univ. Press, 1992).


Translating Kalidasa: page one   |  page two   |   page three   |  page four

 

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