Translations from Marathi

Spiritual and Romantic Poems


Dedicated to the spirit of poetry and music for connecting hearts across all divides.

Akash Deshpande


One day I found an old book of Marathi poems. As I leafed through it, I came across the Kokila song. It is replete with tropical imagery and culture. The cycle of the seasons, ever-returning to spring, is personified as a king, love is likened to blossoming flowers, and its sweetness invoked by the bumble bee’s attraction to honey. And then there was a bird of life that picks pearls from a stream.

I wondered how a primarily English-speaking person could enter into the world portrayed in it. Human relationships, emotions, and experiences are universal. By going deep into them, the appropriate expression can be found in another tongue and cultural context. With this conviction, I began the search for an effective expression in English of diverse Marathi poems and songs.

I had to ask a few friends for the meaning of the bird of life that picks pearls from a stream. I learnt from them of the legendary royal swan whose diet is a harvest of pearls. Thus the series of translations started to get shared in a small circle of friends. I am indebted to the encouragement, suggestions, and improvements given in that circle. The organic discussions in which the translations unfolded are available on my blog.

With each poem, the first step was to create a literal translation, as true as possible to the original, while being sensitive to the various shades of meaning and implication. An element of interpretation enters even at this stage, and the net of literal sense and association must be cast wide so that the true connections are discovered as the translation develops.

The next step is to place oneself fully in the frame of mind and emotion of the original poet and get in touch with the central experience, thence to write it in English as naturally as possible. More steps are needed for refining the translation so it gets successively better (a word that has meaning only to the ear and the heart), until the poem “relaxes” into English.

In most cases, the final versions are well-supported by the corresponding originals. But some have deviated significantly. It is fair to say that the final translations are trans-creations in English. Not all intermediate versions are reproduced in this collection; refer to the blog for a full account of all the steps.

In addition to meaning, many other elements require consideration, such as the rhythm, the rhyme structure, and the melody. I attempted to preserve or at least to suggest the rhythm, and this was successful in many cases. The rhyme structure and melody generally did not survive, but a new, more natural rhyme-structure usually emerged, and in several instances, the English versions supported a new melodic structure that can be sung. The translations attempted after my study of the relationship between meaning, scansion, rhythm, and melody, produced here in Appendix: Poem, Chant, Song, exhibit a greater awareness of the demands of melody.

The poems I chose for translation are beautiful in the original. But they present some fundamental difficulties for translation, such as of imagery or style or rhythm or the shade of emotion or the cultural context alien to a non-Marathi, or at any rate, a non-Indian person. The notes accompanying the translations highlight the particular issues that needed addressing.

I wish you as much pleasure in reading these translations as I received in making them, and that a window opens for you on the Marathi world.

On Marathi

Marathi is the language spoken by the people of the western Indian state of Maharashtra. Derived from Sanskrit, this Indo-Aryan language has about seventy five million speakers, and is one of India’s official languages. While there are early references to Marathi from almost two thousand years ago, it has flourished as the vocable of regional statecraft, culture, and spirituality for the last thousand years.

The Yadava dynasty that ruled Maharashtra in the 13th and 14th centuries adopted Marathi as the court language. The Maratha Empire established by Shivaji In the mid-17th century grew over the next two hundred years under the Peshwa administration to encompass almost the entire subcontinental landmass.

Dnyaneshwar (1275-1296), one of the earliest poets of the Marathi language, composed Bhavartha Deepika, commonly known as Dnyaneshwari, a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, and Amrutanubhav, or Immortal Experiences. Namdev, a contemporary of Dnyaneshwar, also composed devotional songs which had wide influence not only regionally but also on the Sikh religion in Punjab. Later, Tukaram (1608-1649) composed the Gatha, a collection of devotional songs.

In the twentieth century, the Marathi renaissance effloresced into many forms including literature, music, drama, and movies, with emphasis on personal emotional exploration and fulfillment.

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Spiritual Poems


His golden light has dawned on me,
The call of his flute has haunted space,
A cloud-burst of immortality
Has flooded the universe with his grace.

It’s him I see everywhere. He am I. He am I.
Everywhere him, it’s only him I hear.
His hand of compassion has curved the sky,
His form of delight is the soul of the seer.

Resplendent he stands in the center of all,
Patiently he waits at the door,
Guest of the mind that’s held in his thrall;
The pathless wilderness sings his lore.


आजि सोनियाचा दिनु ।
वर्षे अमृताचा घनु ॥१॥

हरि पाहिला रे हरि पाहिला रे ।
सबाह्याभ्यंतरी अवघा व्यापक मुरारी ॥२॥

दृढ विटे मन मुळी ।
विराजित वनमाळी ॥३॥

बरवा संत समागमु ।
प्रगटला आत्मारामु ॥४॥

कृपासिंधु करुणाकरू ।
बापरखमादेविवरू ॥५॥


Literal Translation

Today a golden day
Rains immortality’s cloud

Hari [captivator, seizer, victor, defeater] I saw, friend, Hari I saw, friend
With-outside-towards-inside whole spanning [pervading] Murari [foe of Mura, (flute-holder)]

On firm brick mind grounded [On brick mind firmly grounded]
Splendid the Vanamali [forest-dweller]

Excellent saints arrive together [assemble]
Mainfested the Atmaram [soul-delighter]

Ocean of grace, hand [dispenser] of mercy
On father-mother-lady-Rakhu



This is a seven hundred plus-year old abhanga of Dnyaneshwar. Archaic and terse, it is a beautiful poem and song.

This poem’s central experience is Dnyaneshwar’s realization of that which pervades everything. He calls this reality by many names — Hari, Murari, Vanamali, Atmaram, Kripasindhu, and Karunakar. Nature participates through the dawn of a golden day and the cloud-burst of immortality. There is a packed philosophical expression, as if a settled formula by that time, of the pervasive spiritual truth with a direct linkage to the Upanishads. He has the devotional iconography of the brick on which Vitthal stands in Pandhari, and the socio-religious aspect of the congregation of saints. Finally, there is the reference to his parents equated to the Lord Vitthal and his consort Rukhmini.

The Isha Upanishad (fifth verse) has this description of the all-pervading “That” (English translation by Sri Aurobindo):

तदेजति तन्नैजति तद् दूरे तद्वंतिके ।
तदंतरस्य सर्वस्य तदु सर्वस्यास्य बाह्यतः ।।५।।

That moves and That moves not; That is far and the same is near; That is within all this and That also is outside all this.

The core revelation of the abhanga is, “I saw Hari.” The entire translation rests on finding the right expression for this, ideally, one that can be repeated for emphasis.

Hari by itself is an opaque term in English, and its significance needs to be brought out. Hari means one who defeats. What does he defeat? The ignorance, the sense of ego or separation.

His description in the next line as the all-pervading guides us to the significance of one who defeats the illusion of being separate from him. So the revelation in the poem becomes, “I saw him who is the destroyer of the illusion that I am separate from him.” This is directly another great revelation of the Upanishads, So’ham asmi, “He am I.”

Using this and abstracting the rest of the particulars, we get:

He am I. He am I.
Pierced is the illusion of a gulf between us.
A golden light, a cloud-burst of immortality,
A music floods the wide-flung expanse of space.
Resplendent he stands manifest in the midst of all.
Untamed, enchanting, benevolent, merciful, supreme.

Here’s Isha-16 with So’ham asmi or He am I (English translation by Sri Aurobindo):

पूषन्नेकर्षे यम सूर्य प्राजापत्य व्यूह रश्मीन् समूह ।
तेजो यत् ते रूपं कल्याणतमं तत्ते पश्यामि
योSसावसौ पुरुषः सोSहमस्मि ।।१६।।

O Fosterer, O sole Seer, O Ordainer, O illumining Sun, O power of the Father of creatures, marshal thy rays, draw together thy light; the Lustre which is thy most blessed form of all, that in Thee I behold. The Purusha there and there, He am I.


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Across the way, a raven’s cry
A sign, O my!, from Pandhari

Fly, fly, O friend, O magpie,
Your wings I’ll dye with a golden shine

Tell me how soon, I beseech,
The Lord will reach this house of mine

Hum in my ear, O hummingbird,
The sweetness heard of the Lord of my soul

I’ll set out for you, to urge your tweet,
The nectar sweet full in a bowl

These crumbs I spread, O sparrow flock,
Does Vitho knock, tell me now true

Your fruit so ripe, O mango tree,
Your branches free, to Him they grew

Dnyandev avers, I know this sign,
He will be mine, the king of Pandhari

Over there afar the blackbird eagerly sings,
A welcome surprise, an omen of joy he brings.

Fly, fly to me, O bird, your wings I’ll line in gold,
Tell me when will I the Lord of Pandhari behold.

Tell me of the sweet and cherished guest of my heart,
Tell me did his procession from Pandhari depart.

Ambrosia on a branch, your fruit invite him, O tree,
Tell him today itself he must taste them urgently.

Dnyaneshwar says, realize this auspicious sign:
His knock on the door, his step inside, his embrace divine.


पैल तो गे काऊ कोकताहे ।
शकुन गे माये सांगताहे ॥१॥

उड उड रे काऊ तुझे सोन्यानें मढवीन पाऊ ।
पाहुणे पंढरीरावो घरा कैं येती ॥२॥

दहिंभाताची उंडी लावीन तुझे तोंडी ।
जीवा पढिये त्याची गोडी सांग वेगी ॥३॥

दुधें भरूनी वाटी लावीन तुझें वोंठी ।
सत्य सांगे गोठी विठो येईल कायी ॥४॥

आंबया डहाळी फळें चुंबी रसाळीं ।
आजिचे रे काळीं शकुन सांगे ॥५॥

ज्ञानदेव म्हणे जाणिजे ये खुणें ।
भेटती पंढरीराये शकुन सांगे ॥६॥


Literal Translation

On the far side the crow is crowing
An omen [portent], good woman [Oh my!], it is telling

Fly, fly friend crow, your feet I will line [overlay] with gold
When will the guest, the Lord of Pandhari, reach [my] home?

A mouthful of curd-rice I will apply to your mouth
The sweetness of my life’s [soul’s] darling tell me fast [urgently]

A bowlful of milk I will apply to your lips
Tell me the true story, will Vitho come visit?

On the branch of the mango juicy fruit kiss
Today, friend, [itself] sometime the omen tells

Dnyandev says recognize these signs [marks]
Will meet the Lord of Pandhari, the omen tells [avers]



This archaic, seven hundred plus-year old abhanga is about Dnyaneshwar’s eager and intense anticipation of the arrival of a cherished guest, Vitho, the Lord of Pandhari, to his house.

In India, a crow crowing in front of one’s house is a portent of the arrival of a guest.

For Dnyaneshwar, the crow is crowing on the other side. He asks the crow to fly over and tell him when the Lord will reach his house, and to tell him urgently about the sweetness of the dear Lord, and to confirm that indeed the Lord will arrive.

As inducement or as a reward he offers to line the crow’s feet with gold and to feed him curd-rice and milk, and offers the attraction of juicy mangoes on the nearby tree. The reference to the juicy mangoes has another interpretation depending on whether the crow is asked to kiss the fruit or whether the fruit kiss the branch. Instead of being related to the crow, or marginally related as the tree on which the crow sits, it can be taken as another sign from Nature that the time is ripe for an epiphany.

So far, Dnyaneshwar was as if a giddy boy eagerly awaiting a favorite uncle. But in the last couplet, Dnyaneshwar, the realized master, emerges and says, recognize these signs: they aver that the meeting with the Lord is imminent.

The language itself is marvellously simple, natural, fluid, and conversational, with great intimacy between the singer and the crow, the Lord, and the listener. The listener is addressed by both ga for female and re for male, though a possible interpretation has no listener — he is singing to himself, and ge maye is not “good woman” but rather “Oh my!” in surprise, and re is for emphasis (“itself”). The rhymes are loose and casual, sometimes absent even.


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That which the universe longs for illuminated my mind,
Limitless became my entire body, without joints, unlined.

The fond and delightful, the beloved, pressed close into me,
The cosmic wonder in which are set all the worlds that can be.

The path is now easy and direct: you only have to start
Towards the pure, luminous presence resplendent in your heart.

The world’s yearning in my mind brightened,
The body lightened with him through and through.

That cherished love crowded me in embrace,
The wonderful grace shaped as the sky.

The way to that realm is easy and direct,
To him bedecked who stands in the heart.


विश्वाचे आर्त माझे मनी प्रकाशले ।
अवघेचि जालें देह ब्रह्म ॥१॥

आवडीचें वालभ माझेनि कोंदाटलें ।
नवल देखिलें नभाकार गे माये ॥२॥

बाप रखुमादेवीवरू सहज नीटु जाला ।
हृदयीं नटावला ब्रह्माकारें ॥३॥


Literal Translation

The universe’s longing in my mind lit
The whole body itself became Brahma

Fond love into me crowded
Marvel seen sky-form, good woman

On father-mother-lady-Rakhu easy, direct became
In the heart became bedecked [Alt: impersonated] in Brahma-form



This is another seven hundred-plus year-old poem of Dnyaneshwar, going back fairly to the beginning of Marathi.

The difficulties of translating this one are obvious—a complex spiritual experience tersely packed, archaic terms or dimly remembered senses of words used differently today, reference to the untranslateable Brahma known only as “not-this, not-this”. And then there is the “good woman” and the “on father-mother-lady-Rakhu”.

Let’s start with ge maye, good woman. The ge is the same as the ga from Ketaki—a close female companion or relative, and maye meaning “mother” or rather “mother-equivalent”, often used for someone who is close and loved but who needs to get with the program and needs convincing. The poem is addressed to such a person, and that tone is there throughout. In a sense it speaks to the followers of the path who may not yet be realized.

Then we come to “on father-mother-lady-Rakhu”. First it has to make grammatical sense, for which the entire phrase must be treated as the object. We can do so by considering the entity which is above his parents as the object, or by considering his father (who is his mother’s lord in this interpretation, in the sense of those times), and whose name is Vitthal, to be the object. My preference is for the former, in which case the entity above his father-mother as well as the entity above (or beyond) Vitthal, his father’s name, is Brahma. Thus the line becomes: “Brahma easy, direct became”.

The second line is the main realization—“the whole body itself became Brahma”. So, in the first line, the Universe’s longing lighting the mind is not congruent – rather, Brahma lit the mind. Hence the first line must be interpreted as “the object of the Universe’s longing lit my mind”.

The second couplet speaks to the oneness of the realization—whether within him or in the sky, it’s the same “stuff”, and the third couplet speaks to the access to the realization—the easy and direct path to that which is also established in the heart.

Finally we come to Brahma. Need this be translated, and, if yes, how? First, note that this is not brAhman, meaning priest or learned person, nor Brahma the creator. Rather, it is brahman, the “not-this, not-this”*mdash;meaning that it is not limited or conditioned in any way, not partial, and hence whole and relationless. In older scriptures, it is left unnamed as tat or that.

We note the completeness of Dnyaneshwar’s experience: That enlightened his mind, his body became it, it stood in his heart, and it became accessible in the cosmic form.

With this background, we can reword the literal translation:

That which the universe longs for, lit in my mind,
The whole body itself became that

That which is fondly loved crowded into me,
The marvel that is seen in the form of the sky

That became easy, direct,
The form of which is bedecked in the heart


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The jasmine has flowered, O the mogara sublime
As the flowers are taken the buds increase into prime

A mere sapling that was planted at the door:
Its vine has now reached the sky in a soar

Of the mind’s tangle a fabric is woven
Laid on my parents, to Vitthal is given

The white kiss of the mystical jasmine
Settles into peace and multiplies

A seed at the door open within
Took root in the soil, grew into the skies

The untangled strands of the mind are the weft,
On the warp of my stock, to the Eternal left


मोगरा फुलला मोगरा फुलला ।
फुलें वेंचितां बहरू कळियांसी आला ॥१॥

इवलेंसे रोप लाविलें द्वारी ।
त्याचा वेलु गेला गगनावेरी ॥२॥

मनाचिये गुंती गुंफियेला शेला ।
बाप रखुमादेविवरी विठ्ठलें अर्पिला ॥३॥


Literal Translation

The jasmine has flowered, the jasmine has flowered
While picking the flowers a prime has come to the buds

A wee sapling planted at the door
Its vine has gone up to the sky

From the mind’s tangle have woven a shawl
On father mother-lady-Rakhu to Vitthal offered



This is a more than seven hundred year-old poem of great simplicity, sweetness, and significance by Dnyaneshwar. It has layers of meaning, and several interpretations of it are readily found.

Notes on the Literal Translation

The — should it be “the jasmine has flowered” or “jasmine has flowered”? The poem refers to a sapling that has grown into a plant. Because of this particular instance of jasmine, the “the” is chosen.

jasmine — could be left as “mogara”, but “jasmine” is the direct translation and is more accessible in English.

has — should it be “the jasmine flowered” or “the jasmine is flowered” or “the jasmine has flowered”? “Is” gives a sense of a proclamation or of a singular occurrence of flowering rather than of a natural observation. Given the repetition of the phrase, there is a sense of wonder and emphasis or new discovery. “Has” gives it the required freshness.

flowered — “flowered” is repeated and “flower” is used again in the next line. Alternative could be “blossomed” and “blossom”. Since the word in the original starts with an “f”, “flowered” is chosen for consonance.

picking — “picking” is the direct translation. Alternatives like “selecting” or “choosing” (which do not finish the act by possession) or “culling” (which connotes a reduction or elimination) do not fit as well.

prime — the original word (for buds blooming) is derived from the season spring, and “prime” signifying both fullness (of blooming) and spring (primavera, printemps) is chosen.

has — should it be “has come” or “came”? The buds come into prime as the flowers are picked (while picking), hence “has come” is chosen.

wee — the original has the diminutive of tiny, tiny-like or tiny-so. “Wee” is chosen for consonance and to signify the diminution.

planted — the original is most closely translated as “applied”. “Planted” is chosen for the act of “applying the sapling” which is its planting.

up to — “until” in the vertical context of the sky

sky — could be “sky” or “heavens” for the psychological connotation. “Sky” is the direct translation of the original and is apt in the setting which is of nature (plant growing) rather than of psychology.

shawl — the original is a relatively narrow and long cloth used across the shoulder or on the upper body. Could be a “scarf” but not a “tunic” which is tailored or tied. “Shawl” is chosen for fit and consonance.

Vitthal — proper noun which, unlike jasmine for mogara, is without a direct translation in English. Any indirect translation such as “Preserver”, “Enterer”, “Receiver of the downtrodden”, etc. will bring in distracting interpretation.

Notes on Translation 1

The repetition in the first line is lost, and the second part of it has been redone. One of the reasons is to find the rhyme; but there are other reasons. The repetition doesn’t give the sense of wonder in English as it does in Marathi. Hence the “O” is added. Due to the “mind’s tangle” later, there is a psychological significance to the jasmine, and that is brought out by calling it “mogara” which will alert the English reader to something different, and by calling it sublime.

The “gone up” has been changed to “a soar”, with some minor changes such as “mere” and “reached”. These are not significant, just devices for meter and rhyme.

The “shawl”, which can be exotic, has been changed to the more general “fabric”.

“Father mother-lady-Rakhu” has been changed to the more general “parents”, partly for meter, but mostly because “parents” is more personal to the reader than the specific parents of the poet. Yet, this is a biographical point that makes the poem deeply personal for the poet as well as universal for readers, for the parents’ suffering can be universally understood.

Notes on Translation 2

The mogara blossoms are inner powers that have opened in the poet, and as he lives in them other powers open up for a more complete realization. The “kiss” gives it wonder and intimacy, its “white” relates to the clarity of mind to come later in the poem as well as to the quality that turns into peace, “settling into peace” indicates the picking, or the exercise or effect of the realized powers, and “multiplies” indicates the buds of new inner powers.

The door is an opening in his self to universal forces, and the seed of seeking planted there grows rapidly through the different levels of his being, from the “soil” which is the body to the “skies” which are the high reaches of the mind.

The poet’s mind is clarified by untangling its threads which are then woven into a fabric that gives peace to his troubled parents, generalized here as ancestors (and even more generally the human stock), who are also on the grand loom as a part of the weave. Vitthal, the benevolent universal power that pervades creation is here called “the Eternal” for its closeness of sound.

More Notes

The original poem’s imagery covers the physical body (door with the implied wall), the life force (vine), the mind (untangling), and beyond — individually in the picked flowers and universally in Vitthal.

The traditional interpretation of the jasmine as illusion, the picking of its flowers as enjoyment, and its buds as the recurrence of desire is not entirely satisfying because the sapling is willingly planted or accepted, and its upward growth to the skies seen as a positive development. If this illusion interpretation is taken, then the clarification of the mind will need to be a radical act (cutting of the tangles) rather than a natural progression (untangling and weaving).


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The pilgrim is He, the place is He
He is the deity, the worship is He

He is the mother, He is the father
Brother and sister, the clan are only He

He is the precept, the preceptor is He
A natural treasure, unintervaled is He

Nama says it is my Vitthal I have found
He is all around, the darkness has ceased


तीर्थ विठ्ठल, क्षेत्र विठ्ठल ।
देव विठ्ठल, देवपूजा विठ्ठल ॥१॥

माता विठ्ठल, पिता विठ्ठल ।
बंधु विठ्ठल, गोत्र विठ्ठल ॥२॥

गुरू विठ्ठल, गुरुदेवता विठ्ठल ।
निधान विठ्ठल, निरंतर विठ्ठल ॥३॥

नामा म्हणे मज विठ्ठल सापडला ।
म्हणुनि कळिकाळा पाड नाही ॥४॥


Literal Translation

Holy water Vitthal field Vitthal
God Vitthal ritual worship Vitthal

Mother Vitthal father Vitthal
Brother Vitthal lineage Vitthal

Teacher Vitthal teacher’s god Vitthal
Treasure Vitthal without gaps Vitthal

Nama says to me Vitthal is found
Hence to the age of one quarter truth there is no ripeness
[Alt. The age of darkness is defeated or cannot stand]



This is an abhanga of Namdev, a contemporary of Dnyaneshwar, from about seven hundred years ago. It sings of his complete and single-minded concentration on Vitthal until everything is only Vitthal and evil has no play.

From the point of view of translation, the language is straightforward. But there are words with specific deep meanings in the devotional tradition of India, such as teerthakshetra or holy-water-field, more naturally, a place of pilgrimage, devapuja or ritual worship of a god, and gurudevata or the teacher-deity.

There are also technical terms of social and philosophical nature such as gotra meaning ancestral line, which is deeply embedded in the relationships between social groups in India (for example, for marriage), and kalikala commonly known as kaliyuga or the present age in which virtue has diminished to one quarter of what it was in a previous age of truth.

Then there is the meditative repetition of the name Vitthal, which we also encounter in Dnyaneshwar’s Mogara poem.


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The pool is bliss, the ripple is bliss
The body of bliss itself is bliss

There are no words to say what happened
No charm is left in any path or end

An urge in the womb is the pang of the mother
For glows there the deep love for the other

Tuka says thus the stamp is poured
Of true experience, the unbroken word

All is delight
The wave, the sea —
The body of joy
Is only ecstasy.

Words fail this awe,
The paths are all stilled:
The secret urge in things
With a rapture is filled.

Tuka says the pouring
Force that I feel
Is the word on my lips,
A song of the real.


आनंदाचे डोही आनंदतरंग ।
आनंदचि अंग आनंदाचे ॥१॥

काय सांगो झालें कांहीचिया बाही ।
पुढें चाली नाहीं आवडीनें ॥२॥

गर्भाचे आवडी मातेचा डोहळा ।
तेथींचा जिव्हाळा तेथें बिंबे ॥३॥

तुका म्हणे तैसा ओतलासे ठसा ।
अनुभव सरिसा मुखा आला ॥४॥


Literal Translation

On the pool of bliss, the ripples are bliss
Bliss itself is the body of bliss

What to say what happened, something strange outside
No forward movement is of interest

What the child in the womb likes, the mother craves
Of that deep affection there is the glow

Tuka says thus is poured the stamp
Of that experience from my lips



Translating this four hundred year-old abhanga of Tukaram is a unique challenge — it is a spiritual experience tersely packed in an archaic tongue.

Abhanga means unbroken, and Tukaram’s songs express the infrangibility of his realizations. Here it is of a bliss that is all.

The word ananda, used repeatedly here, ranges in meaning from simple joy to the triune, even the only, basis of creation as Sat-Chit-Ananda or Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.

His experience has struck him dumb and still. His being is seized by the secret joy that compels fulfillment, just as the unborn child’s desire drives by love the mother’s cravings.


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Body is the house, the temple of God
Inside is the soul, the supernal Lord

Just as sugar is secret in the cane
There lives in the body the very Divine

Just as butter is latent in milk
The body’s wheel is of heavenly ilk

In body and body is seated God
The soul inside is supernal Lord


देह देवाचे मंदिर, आत आत्मा परमेश्वर ॥१॥

जशी उसात हो साखर, तसा देहात हो ईश्वर ।
जसे दुग्धामध्ये लोणी, तसा देही चक्रपाणी ॥२॥

देव देहात देहात, का हो जाता देवळात ।
तुका सांगे मूढ जना, देही देव का पहाना ॥३॥


Literal Translation

Body is God’s temple
Inside, the soul is the Supreme Lord

Just as in the sugarcane, yes, sugar
So in the body, yes, the Lord
Just as in milk butter
So in the body the wheel-holder

God is in body, in body
Why do you go to the temple
Tuka tells all dull people
In body why not see God



This is another abhanga of Tukaram. The revelation is contained in the first seven lines of the original, and the poetic translation is of them with a repetition of the second line with a variation to round it off.


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Measuring less than measurement,
Tuka’s enormity is the firmament.

Illusion the world uses to hide,
Swallowing its shape, is cast aside.

Dropping words, and sense and sound and sight,
The body and surroundings are filled with light.

Tuka is free, he exclaims –
O to serve the Name in all the names.


अणुरेणियां थोकडा ।
तुका आकाशाएवढा ॥१॥

गिळुन सांडिलें कलेवर ।
भव भ्रमाचा आकार ॥२॥

सांडिली त्रिपुटी ।
दीप उजळला घटीं ॥३॥

तुका म्हणे आतां ।
उरलो उपकारापुरता ॥४॥


Literal Translation

Too small to measure a speck [alt: atomic particles]
Tuka is as vast as the sky

Swallowing dropped on its side
The shape of the misconception of worldly existence

Dropped the trichotomy [of grammar]
The lamp brightened in the vessel

Tuka says now
I remain for fulfilling favors [alt: obligations]



This is another abhanga of Tukaram. It is the stirring spiritual experience of Oneness. Tuka is smaller than the smallest and vaster than the vastest. He has cast off the mask of illusion that covers reality. He has dropped all separation that is inherent in the normal workings of the mind. After this realization, he remains in the world, not for himself but for others.

The trichotomy of grammar is the subject-object-verb. The subject-object separation, based on ego-sense, is fundamental to language development. The structure of language and grammar, and the ego-sense is ingrained in the mind. Tukaram says he has dropped this trichotomy, meaning dropped the ego-sense, the separation between himself, not-himself and any connective action.

Tukaram’s composition is Upanishadic in experience and in expression; yet it has devotional lyricism. The Upanishadic reference is to Mundaka 2/2/2 (translation by Sri Aurobindo).

यदर्चिमद् यदणुभ्योSणु च
यस्मिँल्लोका निहिता लोकिनश्च ।
तदेतदक्षरं ब्रह्म स प्राणस्तदु वाङ्मनः
तदेतत् सत्यं तदमृतं तद् वेध्दव्यं सोम्य विध्दि ।।

That which is the Luminous, that which is smaller than the atoms, that in which are set the worlds and their peoples, That is This, — it is Brahman immutable: life is That, it is speech and mind. That is This, the True and Real, it is That which is immortal: it is into That that thou must pierce, O fair son, into That penetrate.

This passage from Savitri by Sri Aurobindo relates the same experience:

Life was not there, but an impassioned force,
Finer than fineness, deeper than the deeps
Felt as a subtle and spiritual power,
A quivering out from soul to answering soul,
A mystic movement, a close influence,
A free and happy and intense approach
Of being to being with no screen or check,
Without which life and love could never have been.
Savitri ||76.3||

The vangmanah (speech and mind) of the Upanishad has been carried forward into the triputi of the abhanga across 2000 or 3500 or more years (depending on whose account of history you go by). Imagine the social traditions for this transmission, not just from one poet to another, but also in the people who could understand what was said. Spiritual experience is an ever-living tradition in India, across millennia, and the tradition is to create tradition in new manners of expression.


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Meet Me

Meet me meet me close
My heart beseeches
Night and day it reaches
For you and only you

The fullness of the moon
Has flooded into life
So my mind is rife
Only the thought of you

Festival of lights
Brides await eagerly
The way to Pandhari
I watch and I watch

Hungry hungry infant
Inconsolably cries
Yet only has eyes
For the mother’s return

Tuka says the hunger
Pervaded my being
Sate it soon by showing
Your visage divine


भेटीलागीं जीवा लागलीसे आस ।
पाहे रात्रीं दिवस वाट तुझी ॥१॥

पूर्णिमेचा चंद्रमा चकोरा जीवन ।
तैसें माझें मन वाट पाहें ॥२॥

दिवाळीच्या मुळा लेंकी आसावली ।
पाहतसे वाटुली पंढरीची ॥३॥

भुकेलिया बाळ अति शोक करी ।
वाट पाहे परि माउलीची ॥४॥

तुका ह्मणे मज लागलीसे भूक ।
धांवूनि श्रीमुख दावीं देवा ॥५॥


Literal Translation

The soul is afflicted with longing to meet
Nights and days expecting you

Full moon is life for chakor (partridge)
Similarly my mind expects you

(Married) daughters long for invitation (to visit their maternal home) for Diwali
Watch the path of Pandhari

Hungry baby expresses extreme sorrow
Yet expectantly waits for its mother

Tuka says I am afflicted by hunger
Run, show your auspicious face, O God



There are many difficulties translating this abhanga by Tukaram. The warmth and intimacy of the original are intensely psychic and cannot easily be rendered into English, perhaps not even in other Indian languages.

The tone of intense devotion and extreme supplication is alien to English. Beseech is a request for a favor, such as from a king, while the original is a compulsion on god to show himself to the devotee.

Variations of the word laag occur throughout. Roughly translated, the word means put or attach, but here it connotes a deep integrality: bheti laag – meet me continuously, laagali aasa – afflicted by the longing or desire or yearning, maja laagalise bhooka – hunger has taken over my self.

The chakor (partridge) metaphor does not carry over at all. Moonbeams are the diet, hence life, of the chakor, which also means someone who is bright.

Daughters wishing to visit their parents for Diwali can be generalized as I have done, but with a loss of intensity.

Srimukha or auspicious face (of god) has many associations and connotations in India lacking in English.


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Cowherd O cowherd
The rhythm of my mind

Then from spirit to form
It’s all a single kind

My mind is filled with bliss
And love is in my eyes

Tuka says the longings
Of everything, of everything arise


गोविंद गोविंद ।
मना लागलिया छंद ॥१॥

मग गोविंद ते काया ।
भेद नाही देवा तया ॥२॥

आनंदले मन ।
प्रेमें पाझरती लोचन ॥३॥

तुका म्हणे आळी ।
जेवी नुरे चि वेगळी ॥४॥


Literal Translation

Cowherd cowherd
To the mind [is] attached [this] rhythm/meter/habit

Then cowherd to skin
No differentiation O God to you

Mind became blissful
With love flowed eyes

Tuka says an intense longing
Of whatever not left over [is] separate



This compact abhanga of Tukaram is esoteric and packs in it high philosophy as well as deep experience. Govinda, meaning cowherd, is the name of Vishnu, specifically of Krishna who tended cows. When the mind throbs with, is habituated to the divine spirit, then from that spirit to the very skin, the container of tangible form, there is no differentiation. Bliss and love permeate the being.

The last couplet has two grammatical readings: Tuka’s longing for that which is everything-with-nothing-left-over is different, and the longing of everything-with-nothing-left-over [to be whole] is different. I have preferred the second, more general and philosophical sense. The longing is different, hence new, hence it arises.



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Not a penny was spent, no price was paid,
My Shyam I possess — O, the sale was made.

Some say I borrowed, some that I lured,
In each breath of my life his name endured.

Cowherd on the river, slave of the saint,
Vitthal and Ram and names many and feigned*,

Called by his owners, their hearts are his homes:
Nameless and meek, incognito he roams.

*Alt. for line 6:

Tuka’s Vitthal, Ram of Das, named or feigned,

No money was spent
No price was paid
Shyam in my heart
The sale was made

Some say I borrowed
Some that I lured
In each breath of my life
His name endured

Cowherd on the river
Slave of the saint
His names are many
His names are feigned

Called by his owners
Their hearts are his homes
Nameless and meek
Incognito he roams


नाहि खर्चिली कवडीदमडी नाहि वेचला दाम
विकत घेतला श्याम बाई मी विकत घेतला श्याम

कुणी म्हणे ही असेल चोरी कुणा वाटते असे उधारी
जन्मभरीच्या श्वासांइतुके मोजियले हरिनाम

बाळ गुराखी यमुनेवरचा गुलाम काळा संतांघरचा
हाच तुक्याचा विठ्ठल आणि दासाचा श्रीराम

जितुके मालक तितुकी नावे हृदये तितुकी याची गावे
कुणि न ओळखी तरिही याला दीन अनाथ अनाम

ग. दि. माडगूळकर

Literal Translation

Did not spend a cowrie or a quarter of a penny, did not pay a price
Bought Shyam, lady, I bought Shyam

Some say this must be theft, some feel a borrowing
As many times as breaths in a whole life, I counted the name of Hari

Child cowherd on the Yamuna, black slave in the house of saints
He only is Tuka’s Vitthal and Das’ Sri Ram

As many owners so many names, so many hearts are his towns
Yet no one recognizes him poor, lordless, nameless

G. D. Madgulkar


This beautiful devotional song starts with the shocking statement that the singer has purchased Shyam. Shyam, which means dark complected, is a name of Krishna, which means black.

The singer spent no money on this surprising commercial transaction but instead counted the name of Hari [another name of Krishna] as many times as there are breaths in a full life.

Krishna, the child cowherd, is described as the slave of those who realize him, the object under different names of true seekers, and the resident in the hearts of devotees who pay the price of a lifetime of breaths to own him. While accessible to all, yet no one recognizes him in his humble forms.

Apart from this devotional sense and an intimacy with the divine alien to English, the other difficulty is the word bai or “lady”. Here it is addressed by the singer to herself. It is used as an indicator of surprise or incredulity, as if the singer has got away with something.

The key to translating this poem is to find an apt expression for counting a lifetime’s breaths uttering the name of Hari because that is the signal sacrifice needed. The rest of the translation turns on the expression found for this devotion.


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Veda Kumbhar

Thrown on the turning wheel, shaped from the clay
The spread of earth and water and light and the air
The skydome itself then comes into shape
Endless and boundless your creations array
O Vitthal, O Potter, O mad Fashioner of forms

Emerging from the elements stirred by your hand
Unique each pot, variegated in shape
Unique each destiny that you alone can see
Soft cream in some, in some burning embers land
O Vitthal, O Potter, O mad Fashioner of forms

You alone the maker, the keeper, the destroyer
The planner whose plans are hidden from all
The giver of sight, creator of darkness
You are the lover, the caresser, the savior
O Vitthal, O Potter, O mad Fashioner of forms


फिरत्या चाकावरती देसी मातीला आकार
विठ्ठला, तू वेडा कुंभार

माती, पाणी, उजेड, वारा
तूच मिसळसी सर्व पसारा
आभाळच मग ये आकारा
तुझ्या घटांच्या उतरंडीला नसे अंत, ना पार

घटाघटांचे रूप आगळे
प्रत्येकाचे दैव वेगळे
तुझ्याविना ते कोणा नकळे
मुखी कुणाच्या पडते लोणी कुणा मुखी अंगार

तूच घडविसी, तूच फोडिसी
कुरवाळिसि तू, तूच ताडिसी
न कळे यातुन काय जोडिसी ?
देसी डोळे, परि निर्मिसी तयांपुढे अंधार

ग. दि. माडगूळकर

Literal Translation

On the turning wheel you give shape to mud
O Vitthal, you are a mad potter

Mud, water, light, air
Only you mix all the mess
The sky itself then takes shape
To the stack of your pots there is no end nor boundary

Of pot and pot the form is distinct
Of everyone the destiny is unique
Beside you that no one knows
In someone’s mouth falls butter, in someone’s mouth embers

Only you make, only you break
You caress, only you save
Cannot understand through this what you join
You give eyes but in front of them create darkness

G. D. Madgulkar


The main difficulty in translating this devotional song is the tone of addressing the immanent deity as a mad potter: it carries both intimacy and awe. The other difficulties are the exact shade of meaning of “pasara” which is somewhere between litter, mess, and paraphernalia, and the balance of philosophy and literalness in the metaphor of pottery for the act of creation.


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O spirit of the anvil, the hammer and the hold,
Each spark of the furnace I offer unto Thee,
Thy love like the sky, may it bless and enfold
And envelope us through eternity.

May the fruit of our work give us all for our needs,
Our life be of honor, be just in the fight,
May we lead the brave step a tiger ever leads,
May Fortune bring weal and erase all the blight,
Thy grace fill our bellow and sing in our deeds.

This world is of joy, this world is of pain,
This world has a boon, this world has a bane;
A blow that may fall on a wounding blow —
To bear and to strive, may Thy force in us flow.

Thy love in the sky, may it fall like the rain,
A rainbow from heaven leaning below.

Each spark and each ember I give to you, O God of Airan,
Your sky of love spread out above, be warm to us like the sun.

We’ll eke out our honest takings,
The table set with smithy’s fare,
My lord a tiger, brave and bold,
Upright and of his strength aware,
Walk a leader among men.

Your sky of love spread out above, be warm to us like the sun.

May Lakshmi ever bless our lot,
We pray her whisk brush up and down
To chase away our pains and plagues;
With the hum of our bellow’s horn
Your song of grace has begun.

Your sky of love spread out above, be warm to us like the sun.

The world is good, the world is bad,
A bit of joy, a bit of pain,
A stroke will fall on cutting stroke:
To bear, to try it all again,
Let your strength our bodies run.

Your sky of love spread out above, be warm to us like the sun.


ऐरणीच्या देवा तुला ठिण्गी ठिणगी व्हावू दे
आभाळागत माया तुझी आम्हावरी राहु दे

लेऊ लेन गरीबीच चन खाऊ लोखंडाच
जिन व्होव अबरूच धनी मातुर माझा देवा
वागावानी असू दे

लक्षीमीच्या हातातली चौरी व्हावी वर खाली
इडापिडा जायिल आली किर्पा तुझी
भात्यातल्या सूरासंग गावू दे

सुख थोड दुःख भारी दुनिया ही भली बुरी
घाव बसल घावावरी सोसायाला झुंजायाला
अंगी बळ येऊ दे

Literal Translation

O god of the anvil, let me offer you spark and spark [every spark]
Let your sky-like love remain on us

We will take the takings of poverty, eat the bean of the iron
Life should become of honor. Let my man, a warrior, god,
be like a tiger

The whisk in the hand of Lakshmi should go up and down
Pains and afflictions will go. Your grace has come
With the note of the bellow let it sing

Happiness less sorrow more [heavy], this world is good-bad
Cutting blow will sit on cutting blow. To bear, to fight
In body let strength come


This song is a prayer. It is sung by the wife of the village blacksmith, both hard-working, simple folks. It offers to the anvil-god each spark of their work and being, and asks for a decent and wholesome life, free of troubles, and strength to fight the good fight, in the sense of the biblical phrase – since this is a moral and not primarily a spiritual song of prayer.

The language is of the village working class, but with great sweetness and intimacy and also wisdom.

The imagery offers some difficulty. The anvil itself is worshipped as god, which makes for an awkward translation into English. And then there is the whisk of Lakshmi. Lakshmi is the goddess of fortune and beauty. A whisk wards off flies that afflict; in the context of Lakshmi, these are misfortunes, here the idapida or pains and plagues, that she removes.

The rhythm is a series of high-high-low-low stresses, or to use the language of English prosody, a series of trochee-iambs (high-low-low-high), rather like the tritaal rhythm. This is not common to English, and is difficult to translate – at least for the entire song.


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In the palaces of kings
Whenever a joy is felt
The same satisfaction sings
In this humble hut of mine

Lie down resting on the ground
Gaze at shining stars above
The name of the Lord is found
In this humble hut of mine

Of no use safe and sentry
Treasures can yet be stolen
Wide open door for entry
In this humble hut of mine

Should you visit the palace
Your entrance will be denied
But you may step in fearless
In this humble hut of mine

In the palace soft comfort
And lamps and chandeliers
We accept a bed of dirt
In this humble hut of mine

Come with joyful intention
Leave with peace and happiness
On none an imposition
In this humble hut of mine

Even gods are bewildered
With my supreme contentment
Peace forever is ushered
In this humble hut of mine

In palaces of kings
Whatever joys are felt
A satisfaction sings
In this house of mine

Resting on the ground
With shining stars above
Light and love abound
In this house of mine

No treasures for a thief
No sentry and no safe
No cause for loss or grief
In this house of mine

Come free and be at ease
And go with happiness
Forever there is peace
In this simple house of mine


राजस जी महाली, सौख्य कधी मिळाली
ती सर्व प्राप्त झाली, ह्या झोपडीत माझ्या

भूमीवरी पडावे, ताऱ्यांकडे पहावे
प्रभुनाम नित्य गावे, ह्या झोपडीत माझ्या

पहारे आणि तिजोर्या, तिथुनी होती चोर्या
दारास नाही दोर्या, ह्या झोपडीत माझ्या

जाता तया महाला, मज्जाव शब्द आला
भीती न यावयाला, ह्या झोपडीत माझ्या

महाली मऊ बिछाने, कंदील शामदाने
आम्हा जमीन माने, ह्या झोपडीत माझ्या

येता तरी सुखे या, जाता तरी सुखे जा
कोणावरी न बोझा, या झोपडीत माझ्या

पाहुनी सौख्य माझे, देवेंद्र तो हि लाझे
शांती सदा विराजे, ह्या झोपडीत माझ्या

तुकडोजी महाराज

Literal Translation

In the palaces of kings
Whenever a joy is felt
The same satisfaction sings
In this humble hut of mine

Lie down resting on the ground
Gaze at shining stars above
The name of the Lord is found
In this humble hut of mine

Of no use safe and sentry
Treasures can yet be stolen
Wide open door for entry
In this humble hut of mine

Should you visit the palace
Your entrance will be denied
But you may step in fearless
In this humble hut of mine

In the palace soft comfort
And lamps and chandeliers
We accept a bed of dirt
In this humble hut of mine

Come with joyful intention
Leave with peace and happiness
On none an imposition
In this humble hut of mine

Even gods are bewildered
With my supreme contentment
Peace forever is ushered
In this humble hut of mine

Tukdoji Maharaj


This poem by Tukdoji Maharaj is a simple yet hard-to-translate poem of fulfillment in a desire-free life.


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Mind is absorbed in the deep color of Rama
Saturated by the aura of the soul
Steeped in the mood of the Universe

All attention is only on his tread in creation
The bee is lost in the avataric lotus
The ripple of existence gathers the being into oneness

Oh the heart absorbed in hues!
Hues of the heart-absorbing;
In the self-absorbing absorbed,
Absorbed the heart
In the hues of the world.

Eyes transfixed at the feet,
In the lotus-heart a nectar-drunk bee,
Absorbed in the waves,
In the rushing of rushing life.

(Translation 2 by R. Y. Deshpande.)


मन हो रामरंगी रंगले
आत्मरंगी रंगले
मन विश्वरंगी रंगले

चरणी नेत्र गुंतले
भृंग अंबुजातले
भवतरंगी रंगले

गोविंदराव टेंबे

Literal Translation

Mind, O, in the color of Rama is colored
In the color of the soul is colored
Mind in the color of the Universe is colored

In feet are eyes tangled
The bee in the lotus
In the wave of existence colored

Govindrao Tembe


The repetition of rangale in the original gives it a meditative quality which is not reflected in the repetition of “colored”. Instead, I brought in interpretive words such as “saturated”, “steeped”, “gathers” for “colored”, and “aura”, “mood”, “oneness” for color itself.

The second translation evokes the refrain of rangale and the alliterative repetition through “absorbed”, while using “hues” for ranga or “color”.


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Romantic Poems


The kokila’s dulcet call
Rises into the sky;
You are mine forever
And forever yours am I.

Beneath a far tree
Bright in a spring dress,
Awash in the light of stars,
Soft hands in a caress.

A glimmering stream below,
A swaying branch above,
A heart on homing wings,
A blossom of tender love.

Flowers on a climbing vine
Blushed in a sweet embrace,
Outside – a flow of honey,
Inside – a touch of grace.


कोकिळ कुहुकुहु बोले
तू माझा, तुझी मी झाले

ऋतुराजा तुझी वासंती
तरूतळी इथे एकांती
करकोमल देता हाती
चांदण्यात दिवसा न्हाले

हिंदोळत डहाळी वरती
मोहरून आपुली प्रीती
निर्झरात टिपण्या मोती
पाखरु जीवाचे आले

तू येता सखया जवळी
फुलवेल तरुला कवळी
मधुमकरंद भरतो कमळी
पापणीत हसता डोळे

[Alt. for lines 7, 8]
मोहरून डहाळी वरती
आपुली हिंदोळत प्रीती

[Alt. for lines 13, 14]
मधुमरंद भरतो कमळी
अंतरात मिटता डोळे

पी. सावळाराम

Literal Translation

Kokila says kuhoo kuhoo
You mine, I yours have become

King of seasons your Spring
Under a tree here alone
Soft hands given into yours
In starlight I bathed in the day

Swinging on a branch
Has blossomed our delightful love
In streams to pick up pearls
The young bird of our being has flown in

Dear when you draw close
Flowering vine embraces the tree
The lotus fills with sweet honey
Under the eyelids smile our eyes

[Alt. for lines 7, 8]
Blosoming on a branch
Our delightful love swings

[Alt. for lines 13, 14]
The honey fills in the lotus [The bee fills honey in the lotus]
Inside closing our eyes

P. Savlaram


This song is of a couple who is recently secure in their love for each other and is beginning to luxuriate in it.

The challenge for translation is the rich tropical imagery used to convey the commitment, romanticism, and satisfaction of new love. And then there is the onomatopoeia of the kokila’s “kuhoo, kuhoo”. In an intermediate version, I had rendered it as “cooing”. In this final version, it stands simply as “call”, recalling the other word for kokila, coïl.

As an example in English poetry of the treatment of Nature and love, here’s an excerpt from Lord Byron, the romantic classical poet known for his love songs. Nature in it is reserved.

O’er fields through which we used to run,
And spend the hours in childish play;
O’er shades where, when our race was done,
Reposing on my breast you lay;

See still the little painted bark,
In which I row’d you o’er the lake;
See there, high waving o’er the park,
The elm I clamber’d for your sake.

Another fine excerpt about love is from Shelley:

I can give not what men call love;
But wilt thou accept not
The worship the heart lifts above
And the Heavens reject not:
The desire of the moth for the star,
Of the night for the morrow,
The devotion to something afar
From the sphere of our sorrow?

Here are some lines from Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri related to the coïl, set in rich tropical imagery.

Impatient for felicity he came,
High-fluting with the coïl’s happy voice,
His peacock turban trailing on the trees;
His breath was a warm summons to delight,
The dense voluptuous azure was his gaze.

Asocas burned in crimson spots of flame,
Pure like the breath of an unstained desire
White jasmines haunted the enamoured air,
Pale mango-blossoms fed the liquid voice
Of the love-maddened coïl, and the brown bee
Muttered in fragrance mid the honey-buds.

The air drank deep of unfulfilled desire;
The high trees trembled with a wandering wind
Like souls that quiver at the approach of joy,
And in a bosom of green secrecy
For ever of its one love-note untired
A lyric coïl cried among the leaves.


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The fragrant bloom
The colored plume
The gentle rain that mists the air

The memory of
Our song so soft
Is humming still but you’re not there

I thought I heard
Today a word
A stolen look but I was wrong

The moon is bright
In the soul of night
The nightingale can sing no song

The rainbow dream
The lily stream
The lovelorn notes in dream despair

The memory of
Our song so soft
Is humming still but you’re not there


केतकीच्या बनी तिथे, नाचला ग मोर
गहिवरला मेघ नभी सोडला ग धीर

पापणीत साचले, अंतरात रंगले
प्रेमगीत माझिया मनामनात धुंदले
ओठांवरी भिजला ग आसावला सूर

भावफूल रात्रिच्या अंतरंगि डोलले
धुक्यातुनी कुणी आज भावगीत बोलले
डोळियांत पाहिले, कौमुदीत नाचले
स्वप्‍नरंग स्वप्‍नीच्या सुरासुरांत थांबले
झाडावरी दिसला ग भारला चकोर

अशोकजी परांजपे

Literal Translation

In the ketaki forest there danced, my friend, a peacock
Overcome, the cloud in the sky released, my friend, its hold

In the eyelid collected, in the heart colored
The love-song in my mind of minds hummed
On the lips drenched, my friend, the tear-soaked note
[Alt. On the lips drenched, my friend, the yearning-soaked note]

The feeling-flower in the inner being of night swayed
From the fog someone today a feeling-song spoke
In the eyes seen, amongst white water lilies danced
The dream-colors in the dream’s note and note stopped
On the tree I saw, my friend, the burdened partridge

Ashokji Paranjape


This song poses three main difficulties for translating into English.

The exact shade of emotion: it is a song about love, but with sadness. It is sung by someone who has the experience of love, but that love is not presently accessible. It is not quite about two persons in love who are separated; rather it is as though the other person, who is at best hinted at as an unknown “someone”, is not available – either departed or disconnected.

The word ga: in Marathi this is used for a familiar, equal, close female person. The song is addressed to one such person. While it is not explicit, given the feelings expressed, the singer also is a female person, and this is a report shared between close friends.

The tropical imagery: the ketaki (screw pine) with its delicate scent, vana which is not quite a forest nor a garden nor a grove nor a thicket, mor (peacock) strutting in the forest with its plumage displayed in a mating ritual at the onset of the rains, kumud or a white water lily, chakor or the legendary partridge famed for a diet of moonbeams.


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On silver sands
In coconut stands
Walk with me won’t you talk with me
Stand with me won’t you hold me close

With a soft footfall
In the moonlit mall
Fold in your love won’t you hold me close
Walk with your love won’t you hold me close

Today the sky has swooned up there
In the arbor sings the languid air
Love, your signal crowds my chest
My body quakes in a sweet unrest

Your sign, my quake has told me, goes
Walk with me won’t you hold me close

Bashful are the blossoms now
The blushing fruit but sing of love
The night is blaring its command
Love, your arms now I demand

Safe in your arms won’t you hold me close
Walk with me won’t you hold me close

On the shining
Silver beaches
Where the moonlight
Softly reaches

The coconut grove
In palm tree rows
Come into love
Come into love
And take me close

Fills in my heart
On my body
Little quakes start

Drunk the sky above
And the mad wind blows
Come into love
Come into love
And take me close

Flowers glow in
Shy surrender
Cheeks are fresh with
A love song tender
[Alt: A love so tender]

Night beckons and now
In your arms I repose
Come into love
Come into love
And take me close


रुपेरी वाळूत माडांच्या बनात ये ना
बनात ये ना, जवळ घे ना
चंदेरी चाहूल लावीत प्रीतीत ये ना
प्रीतीत ये ना, जवळ घे ना

बेधुंद आज आसमंत सारा
कुंजात गात मंद धुंद वारा
दाटे उरी प्रिया तुझा इशारा
देहावरी फुले असा शहारा
तुझा इशारा… असा शहारा

लाजेत आज ही फुले नहाती
गाली अनार प्रीतगीत गाती
तू ये निशा अशी करी पुकारा
दे ये प्रिया मला तुझा निवारा
तुझा निवारा… तुझा निवारा

शांताराम नांदगावकर

Literal Translation

In silver sands, in the grove of coconut palms come no
In the grove come no, take me close no
With a moonlit footfall enter into love no
Enter into love no, take me close no

Intoxicated today the entire sky
In the bower sings the languid, besotted breeze
Crowds in my breast beloved your signal
On the body blossoms such a tremor

Your signal, such a tremor

In bashfulness today these flowers bathe
On the cheeks pomegranates love song sing
“You come” night so gives a call
Give, come, beloved to me your shelter

Your shelter, your shelter

[Alt. for “In the bower”: “Amongst the vines”]

Shantaram Nandgaokar


The emotion is of an invitation to enter into a deeper commitment of young love which may or may not endure. The imagery is relatively benign from the perspective of translation.

The main difficulty is the na sound which is an entreaty to agree with what precedes or at least to respond and keep the dialog going. For example, ahe na in Marathi translates literally to “is no” and naturally to “it is, isn’t it”. But “come no” and “take no” are problematic. “Don’t you think”, “don’t you say” are elicitors of thought and speech, but what are the elicitors of action? “Do come”, “do take” don’t insist on a response. “Why don’t you” is a relatively neutral suggestion, and (recalling Shelley’s “wilt thou accept not”) “won’t you” by itself runs the fair risk of refusal.

The other difficulty is to get the refrain right. Removing all particularities such as the scenery and the weather, the poem becomes:

Come won’t you
Take me close won’t you
Fall in love won’t you
Your signs, my shivers
Come, give me your shelter

The sign and shiver can be dispensed with as the transitory initial stages of love, and the giving and taking of shelter can soon be reversed depending on the vicissitudes of life. So what remains and should become the refrain is:

Come into love, take me close


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Bathe my mind, O wandering cloud.
Slake my mind, O wandering cloud.

My scattered flowers, frail and few,
Were crumpled by the slightest breeze;
But unrestrained their fragrance flew
To find in woods and groves release.

Casting off this house and way
I will dare to dance and dance;
Unfettered my mind in hues will sway
Like a forest peacock-prance.

All my bounds recede in a rout:
The distant reed will beckon soon;
The rushing wind invites me out
To taste the essence of the boon.

When I first turned to boundless thoughts,
Broken soon by restlessness,
The urge beneath them continued
And flowered in the wilderness.

When the rhythms from the wild
Resonated in my feet,
My mind expanded in the woods
And blossomed into a thought complete.

When the distant music wells
And stormy winds give me a call,
The clouds arrive and flood my mind
With the core of freedom that is in all.

My flowers few
Tossed in the breeze
Their fragrance flew
In a wild release

I have no home
I have no way
I will be free
My mind will sway

And I will dare
And I will dance
And I’ll step out
In a peacock prance

The flute has called
The storm has rushed
My mind unwalled
A flood has hushed

And I am free
And I am free
And I am free
And I am free


ये रे घना, ये रे घना
न्हाउ घाल माझ्या मना

फुले माझि अळुमाळु, वारा बघे चुरगळू
नको नको म्हणताना गंध गेला रानावना

टाकुनिया घरदार नाचणार, नाचणार
नको नको म्हणताना मनमोर भर राना

नको नको किती म्हणू, वाजणार दूर वेणू
बोलावतो सोसाट्याचा वारा मला रसपाना

आरती प्रभु

Literal Translation

Come friend cloud, come friend cloud
Bathe my mind

My flowers few
The wind looks to crumple
While saying “don’t, don’t”
The scent went to the forest and orchard

Throwing off house and door
I will dance, I will dance
While saying “don’t, don’t”
The mind-peacock filled out in the forest

How much should I say “don’t, don’t”
The distant flute will sound
The rushing wind calls me
To drink the essence

Arati Prabhu


The setting is of a person aspiring to and experiencing the first effects of freedom, a breaking out of the shackles of convention and personal limitations into a freedom that holds the promise of natural expansion, but also a state of liberation which the person still does not fully trust.

The aspiration is fulfilled through the agency of a cloud that works on the mind, which is the poem’s refrain. In the first stanza, the poet’s flowers are few and the wind can crush them. In the second stanza, the poet breaks free, or at least promises to do so — with the indication that the singer is a woman whose shackles are of “home-and-door”. In the third stanza, the strong wind invites the poet to enjoy. Assuming it to be the same wind as in the first stanza, the growth of the poet in liberty is indicated since something that could previously crush you is now a companion.

The difficulties of language are present, but not the difficulties of imagery. The re is the masculine counterpart of the ga we encountered in Ketaki. “While saying don’t don’t” has a complex layer of meaning — of yielding under protestation. The re has been reflected in the address “O”, and “don’t don’t” has been indicated by the negatives of limits such as “unrestrained”, “unfettered”, and “bounds recede”. Come to think of it, “wandering cloud” has a faint connection to Wordsworth’s Daffodils – but it is entirely incidental.

The venu in the original is a bit problematic for both significance and translation. Venu has the distinct, almost unique, connection to Krishna (Venugopal), and hence a spiritual sense. But the poem is not a spiritual experience per se. Hence, venu appears to be misplaced or a “reach” for the rhyme in the original. Venu also has the secondary meaning of bamboo, and the original could refer to the sound of strong wind rushing through a bamboo thicket in the distance – but this is too prosaic an image. Both significances are connoted by “reed”.


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Pahili Raat

In peals of joy the night arrives
And lights the wick of braided lives.

As the candle shines on me,
With youth in prime felicity,
My bridal heartbeats fail and rise,
A smile brightens my dreamy eyes.

Enchanting, beautiful are the flowers
Of devotion, this love of ours.
In the gentle touch of union
Dissolve our beings, two in one.

Bewildered, bashful, I decree
My senses back from a reverie
And follow the drift of a blissful stream
Into the heart of a lovely dream.


आली हासत पहिली रात
उजळत प्राणांची फुलवात

प्रकाश पडता माझ्यावरती
फुलते बहरून माझे यौवन
हसली नवती चंचल होऊन
नयनांच्या महालात

मोहक सुंदर फूल जिवाचे
पतिचरणावर प्रीत अर्पिता
मीलनाचा स्पर्ष होता
विरली अर्धांगात

लाज बावरी मी सावरता
हर्षही माझा बघतो चोरून
भास तयाचा नेतो ओढून
स्वप्‍नाच्या हृदयात

पी. सावळाराम

Literal Translation

Came laughing the first night
Lighting lives’ wick [spun wick or blossom-wick]

As light falls on me
Blossoms in a prime my youth
Laughed the young woman trembling
In eyes’ palace

Alluring beautiful flower of life [Alt. being]
On the feet of the husband offering love
With the touch of union
Melted in half-body

Bashfulness confounding as I gather
Happiness also of mine looks stealing
His [Alt. Its] impression leads me pulling
Into the heart of dream

P. Savlaram


This is a song of a newlywed bride feeling a mixture of joy, apprehension, devotion, and the promise of fulfillment.

The language is straightforward except for the word ardhanga which means half-body as well as a wife, or as in English, the better half.

There is lightness and innocence, a naturalness, to the experience and its expression.

The “peals” invoke laughter which is in the original, and also the festivity of the wedding which must have preceded. This setting has continuity with the preceding activity (wedding) at the beginning through “peals” and with the ensuing rest of life at the end through “lovely dream”.

Also, the setting is somewhat more symmetrical between the two (man and wife), because an asymmetric treatment soon starts to feel as if the bride is excessively naive or trapped.

The bridal emotions are highlighted in the heartbeat-dream in the second stanza and the bewildered-bashful in the fourth. The heart-dream of the second stanza is reflected in the heart-dream in the last line to give the setting continuity with the rest of life.


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A bashful smile
    And then a joyous glance
I know your signs,
    Pretenses of young romance

In a lowered gaze
    Does the waning moon retreat?
The doubts of the wise
    Recede in full defeat

Not the archer
    But the heart pierced knows the pain
An innocent sidelong look
    And here I’m the slain

Ours are the fields
    The fragrant breeze, the twilight,
The melodious song
    Of stars dreamt by the night


लाजून हासणे अन्‌ हासून हे पहाणे
मी ओळखून आहे सारे तुझे बहाणे

डोळ्यांस पापण्यांचा का सांग भार व्हावा ?
मिटताच पापण्या अन्‌ का चंद्रही दिसावा ?
हे प्रश्न जीवघेणे हरती जिथे शहाणे

हाती धनुष्य ज्याच्या त्याला कसे कळावे ?
हृदयात बाण ज्याच्या त्यालाच दुःख ठावे !
तिरपा कटाक्ष भोळा, आम्ही इथे दिवाणे

जाता समोरुनी तू उगवे टपोर तारा
देशातुनी फुलांच्या आणी सुगंध वारा
रात्रीस चांदण्याचे सुचते सुरेल गाणे

मंगेश पाडगांवकर

Literal Translation

Having shied, laughter, and having laughed, this look
I am having recognized all your pretenses [Alt: I have recognized, or simply, I recognize]

Why, tell, should the eyelids happen to the eyes to be heavy?
And right on closing the eyelids, why may the moon also be seen?
These life-taking questions — where become defeated the wise

How will he in whose hand is the bow come to know [alt: realize]
Only he knows sorrow in whose heart is the arrow
Slanted glance innocent, we [royal] here enamored

On you going in front arises a bright star
The breeze brings the fragrance from the province of flowers
A melodious song of the stars occurs to the night

Mangesh Padgaokar


This is a carefully arranged song of early love, or rather, of attraction. It is difficult to translate literally because of the verb tenses which are packed with subdued meaning. The last line with its mystic-surreal tone drew me to translate this complex, well-composed song.


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When she and I met, the flowers bloomed.
The fragrance of the jasmine adorning her hair
Lingered in the twilight of her dark tresses
And night unfurled a pageantry of stars.
Our racing hearts could speak no words and yet were one,
Our touch was a sliver secret of the low crescent moon.

When she and I met under the far canopies
Flowers flamed in passion, a prime descended on trees

Ruby-chains of distant lights arranged in perfection
The whole sky of stars spread in a pooled reflection
A palanquin of glowworms swaying in the breeze
When she and I met under the far canopies

Jasmine-scented tresses perfuming the night
Breathlessly the heart-beats racing out of sight
The rapturous embraces in rapture increase
When she and I met under the far canopies

All signals, all meanings were wordless in silence
Our touch held the moon, a million stars held our sense
Space itself was curved in an envelope of ease
When she and I met under the far canopies


जेव्हा तिची नि माझी चोरून भेट झाली
झाली फुले कळ्यांची, झाडे भरास आली

दूरातल्या दिव्यांचे मणिहार मांडलेले
पाण्यात चांदण्यांचे आभाळ सांडलेले
कैफात काजव्यांची अन्‌ पालखी निघाली

केसांतल्या जुईचा तिमिरास गंध होता
श्वासातल्या लयीचा आवेग अंध होता
वेड्या समर्पणाची वेडी मिठी मिळाली

नव्हतेच शब्द तेव्हा, मौनात अर्थ सारे
स्पर्शात चंद्र होता, स्पर्शात लाख तारे
ओथंबला फुलांनी अवकाश भोवताली

मंगेश पाडगांवकर

Literal Translation

When her and mine stealthily meeting happened
Buds became flowers, trees became full [of blossoms]

Of the far lamps gem-neclaces arranged
In the water the sky of stars spilt
In intoxification fireflies’ palanquin goes

To the darkness was the scent of the jasmine in the hair
The momentum of the rhythm in the breathing was blind
Of the mad self-giving a mad embrace received

Then no words were, in muteness all the meanings
In touch was the moon, in touch a hundred thousand stars
Bent over by flowers the interval [space] around

Mangesh Padgaokar


This is a poem of a man’s exhilaration upon meeting his beloved away from the eye of society. The exhilaration is expressed almost entirely through over-the-top symbols from Nature.

The poetic high point of the original is the reflection of the night sky, described as its spilling. In the last line, flowers are superfluous and need to be replaced by something appropriate to space evoked by the moon and stars.

This poem was particularly resistant to good translation. In the pentametric sonnet, I have stayed true to the original imagery and also tried to catch the rhythm.


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Full and ripe, as much as I like, I just cannot linger
For someone has done, he flicked my cheek with a finger
To tell this tale I wouldn’t choose
My breath is caught, his thought is nigh

Of this one, or that one? Whose, dear, whose?
Don’t be bashful, don’t be shy.

Tall and slender, fair and tender, scramblin’ up the bank
My waist so narrow, wind is a harrow, shirtsleeves rose and sank
Twigs in a rustle, stalks in a bustle, his step was soon on the crest –
A flutter filled my chest
My breath is caught, his thought is nigh

Of this one, or that one? Whose, dear, whose?
Don’t be bashful, don’t be shy.

Lyin’ on this side, sighin’ on that side, a pillow is made of my arm
A flowin’ breeze, a bitin’ freeze, and yet my mind’s in a charm
For me is meant this sweet torment, he in a dream appears
His looks are sidelong spears
My breath is caught, his thought is nigh

Of this one, or that one? Whose, dear, whose?
Don’t be bashful, don’t be shy.

‘Woke this mornin’, ‘fore the dawnin’, went to the river side
Swimmin’ and sunnin’, the water is runnin’, tickle in a slippery glide
In the water, wits a-slaughter, I am spinnin’ in his thrall
He has me in a whirl
My breath is caught, his thought is nigh

Of this one, or that one? Whose, dear, whose?
Don’t be bashful, don’t be shy.

Night and day I watch his way, how much should I call him
My sleep is fitful, magic bea’tiful, his thought is never dim
Lest we met, oppression set, my mind is in a danger
To myself I’m a stranger
My breath is caught, his thought is nigh

Of this one, or that one? Whose, dear, whose?
Don’t be bashful, don’t be shy.


आलि आलि सुगि म्हणून चालले मी बिगि बिगि
गोष्ट न्हाइ सांगण्याजोगि
कुनी गालावर मारली टिचकी
मला लागली कुणाची उचकी

कुणाची गं कुणाची ह्याची का त्याची
लाजू नको लाजू नको लाजू नको

तरणीताठी नार शेलाटी चढले मी बांधावर
अटकर बांधा गोरा गोरा खांदा पदर वार्‍यावर
फडामध्ये चाहुल वाजलं त्याचं पाऊल
माझ्या उरात भरली धडकी

निजले डाव्या कुशी हाताची उशी करुन मी कशी
वार्‍याच्या लाटा थंडीचा काटा मनात न्यारी खुषी
सपनात आला त्यानं छेडलं बाई मला
त्याच्या डोळ्याची नजर तिरकी

उठून सकाळी ल‍इ येरवाळी गेले पानोठ्यावरी
उन्हात बसले न्हात अंगाला पानि गुदगुल्या करी
पाण्यामध्ये दिसं त्याचं लागलं मला पिसं
त्यानं माझीच घेतली फिरकी

रात दिसं जागते वाट त्याची बघते किती मी घालू साद
झोप माझी उडली जादू कशी घडली जाई ना त्याची याद
भेटीसाठी आले मनी कासाविस झाले मी माझी मलाच परकी

जगदीश खेबूडकर

Literal Translation

A season of abundance has arrived hence I am walking so fast so fast
This tale is not worth telling
Someone on my cheek snapped their fingers

Whose hiccup afflicts me?
Whose, dear, whose? Of this one, or that one?
Don’t be shy, don’t be shy, don’t be shy

Young and erect [healthy, in prime], woman tall and slender, I climbed up on the embankment
Compact build, fair shoulder, the border of my sari on the breeze
In the stalks [roots] a footfall, sounded his step
In my chest filled a palpitation

Refrain & Chorus

I slept on my left side, making a pillow of my hand, somehow
Ripples of breeze, goose bumps from the cold, in my mind a strange joy
He appeared in my dream and teased me, lady
His eyesight is slanted

Refrain & Chorus

Waking up in the morning really early I went to the watering place
Sat in the sun bathing, the water is tickling my body
In the water I see, I have lost my wits for him
He has taken me for a whirl

Refrain & Chorus

Night and day I wake and wait for him, how much should I call
My sleep has taken flight, how did this magic happen, his memory doesn’t leave
I came to meet, my mind oppressed, I to myself am foreign

Refrain & Chorus

Jagdeesh Khebudkar


This lavani is a song of inveiglement sung by an entertainer to attract patrons. The singer, a young woman, affects desire for an unknown someone, leading each patron to imagine he is the one to fulfill it.

There are many difficulties in translating this song. The language is of the village and farm and the dialect is unrefined yet rich in vocabulary and terminology. There are double entendres or suggestive word phrases. The rhythm is fast and complex, supported by internal rhyme and assonance structure.

In addition, there are untranslatable concepts such as uchaki (hiccup) and padar (the free end or border of the sari draped over the shoulder). In Marathi, a hiccup is the sign of being remembered by an unknown dear person who is far away. Having the end of the sari untucked is a sign of leisure and having it wave in the wind a sign of freedom with a hint of availability.


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This rapid walk
Your swishing hair
The fallen lock
A silken snare

A swaying grace
A rustling run
A fragrant trace
The slanting sun

No one’s around won’t you please stay awhile
Won’t you light up your lovely eyes in a smile
With a gentle word won’t you gather close
Won’t the bud of your lips petal into a rose

Your bustle and chase
Yet a backward gaze
The path in a twist
Arrests in our midst

A swaying grace
A rustling run
A fragrant trace
The slanting sun

Why is your eyebrow arched in a doubt
Why affect such a sulk and a pout
Why clutch your blouse in a checked assent
Why bite your lips, end the “yes” you meant

This vexing rage
Your false excuse
I’ve learnt to gauge
Your sign, your ruse

A swaying grace
A rustling run
A fragrant trace
The slanting sun


ही चाल तुरुतुरु उडती केस भुरुभुरु
डाव्या डोळ्यावर वट ढळली
जशी मावळत्या उन्हात केवड्याच्या बनात
नागीण सळसळली

इथं कुणी आसपास ना
डोळ्याच्या कोनात हास ना
तू जरा माझ्याशी बोल ना
ओठांची मोहोर खोल ना
तू लगबग जाता मागं वळून पाहता
वाट पावलांत अडखळली

उगाच भुवई ताणून
फुकाचा रुसवा आणून
पदर चाचपून हातानं
ओठ जरा दाबिशी दातानं
हा राग जीवघेणा खोटा खोटाच बहाणा
आता माझी मला खूण कळली

शांता शेळ्के

Literal Translation

This gait trot trot fly hair swish swish
On the left eye tress descended
As if in the setting sunlight, in the kevada forest
A female cobra slithered sounding sal sal

Here no one is in the vicinity
In the corners of your eyes laugh no
You a little with me speak no
The bud of your lips open no
You going in a bustle, turning back and looking
The path in steps faltered

Without cause tensing eyebrow
Bringing a false sulk
End of the sari squeezing with hand
Lip a little you press with teeth
This rage life-taking, false false-only pretense
Now to myself the sign has become clear

Shanta Shelke


This is a light song of early wooing in which the man entreats and the woman, while retreating, is intrigued.

There is not much of Nature in this song except for the metaphor of a slithering snake in the thicket in the setting sun – which is quite out of place in English. All the cues are interpersonal: it is about the inner conflicts of the woman flowing into her expressions and actions.

The language is everyday and casual, of a conversation between equals.

What’s distinct is the rhythm. The opening and the refrain are on a trot, and the stanzas are drawn in entreaty.

The title, meaning trot-trot, is used in the song for the woman’s gait.


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Mid-April night, that moon above
And you with me, enchanting love

Quiet, the peace, soft light of stars
The shadows, silhouettes of evening hours
That bower of jasmine is still the same
The same the fragrances still that flow
And you with me, enchanting love

Though all is the same, that thrill is gone
In you and me the love that shone
The dream we had I see no more
I feel no more that yearning glow
Yet you are still enchanting, love

The signs of love that spring at first
I search in vain, for a trace a-thirst
Our song, its tune subdued and gone
Its words and notes no more I know
I’m lost, but you enchant, my love

(2) Counterpoint
The night in spring, the floating moon,
The jasmine scent, are still the same;
Our fleeting years have rolled so soon,
The peace we had we now reclaim.

The rapid stream that was our life
Has deepened now and gently flows,
The dream we shared was won with strife:
Contentment reigns where passion rose.

The scent of jasmine, a gathering peace,
The night in spring, the moon yet floats —
The orchards fruit when flowers cease,
The tense has changed, not song nor notes.

Through ups and downs our life has ranged,
The past has held a joy and love;
Though I have changed and you have changed,
We feel them still and hold above.


तोच चंद्रमा नभात तीच चैत्र यामिनी
एकांती मज समीप तीच तूहि कामिनी

नीरवता ती तशीच धुंद तेच चांदणे
छायांनी रेखियले चित्र तेच देखणे
जाईचा कुंज तोच तीच गंधमोहिनी

सारे जरी ते तसेच धुंदी आज ती कुठे
मीहि तोच, तीच तूही, प्रीति आज ती कुठे
ती न आर्तता उरात स्वप्‍न ते न लोचनी

त्या पहिल्या प्रीतीच्या आज लोपल्या खुणा
वाळल्या फुलांत व्यर्थ गंध शोधतो पुन्हा
गीत ये न ते जुळून भंगल्या सुरांतुनी

शांता शेळ्के

Literal Translation

That-only moon in the sky
That-only March-April night
In privacy near me
That-only you-also desirable [desire-fulfilling] woman

Quietness like that-only
Soft that-only moonlight
Drawn by shadows a picture that-only engaging
The arbor of jasmine that-only
That-only scent enchanting

All even if like that-only
Today where is that desire [intoxication]
I-also that-only, that-only you-also
Today where is that endearment
That yearning in the chest is not
That dream in the eye is not

Of that first love
Today ceased [were cut] the signs
In the dried flowers vainly
Scent [I] search again
That song comes together not
From the disturbed notes

Shanta Shelke


This song presents three categories of difficulty: the language, the sense or emotion, and the rhythm.

The language is refined, classical, and erudite. For example, the cessation of the signs of new love is indicated by a word used in grammar for elision.

Many words end in the modifier -ch which is untranslatable. It signifies “unique and identical”, and is the foundation of the poem. In the literal translation, it is indicated by the suffix “-only”. The other modifier used in the poem is -hi which is indicated by the suffix “-also”.

The word dhund is repeated. It means diminution of consciousness through reduced sense perception. In the first instance it applies to the dimness of the moonlight, and in the second to the intoxicating desire of new love.

The poem is about the reduction or loss of love. But the exact sense of this loss must be identified. It is sung by a man and addressed to his beloved woman. He says, the scenery is the same and “you” or his lover is the same, but the signs of new love have now ceased.

How long did the new love last, and why did its signs cease? That is not said. So let’s take a few sample epochs. If it was just a few days or weeks, such pathos is not justified. If it was a year or two, such a sensitive and erudite man could have used the time to build a foundation for a lasting love. If it has been several years, say five or seven, I’d say the man is unwilling to step up to the responsibilities of adulthood and a mature relationship. If it has been ten or twenty years, that’s a pretty good run for signs of new love, and there is nothing to lament about; he should work on mending it instead of giving it all up in such hopelessness.

Though none of the epochs fit well, something like one or two years is likely the best fit. One can’t but consider the man, especially one so sensitive as to sing such a song, to be somewhat peevish and unable to evolve the relationship into a balanced aspect of life with new discoveries and joys waiting at every turn, renewing the feelings of new love in new ways.

The change appears to be abrupt, both in the nature of the love (from signs of new love to scentless, dried flowers and a broken song) and the timing of the change (“today”). But the specific incident triggering the change is not mentioned. If the “today” is to be interpreted as the more gradual “now”, and if the gradations of the changing love are to be read between the lines, then one can consider this a song of the end of love between the couple after trying to salvage and mend the relationship. The latter is the likely setting, especially given the terminal sadness of the song.

Nothing is mentioned about the frame of mind or state of emotion of the woman, who is likely to be more sensitive and insightful about the change in the relationship, whether gradual or abrupt, except that she remains desirable to the man, who thus seems narcissistic. Since she is the meaningful constant in the poem, I have titled this translation teecha, “she-only”, and I have varied the refrain to indicate that the man has changed (even though he professess to be the same).

The rhythm of the original is twelve beats per line set to the six-beat dadra taal. We can attempt to recreate this waltz-like rhythm in English.

Rhythm is indicated by adding the beat number after the vowel for a few lines. The short vowels are one beat and the long vowels are two beats, with some variations, and the accent is mostly on the (2) beat, with exceptions like “silhouettes”.

Mid- (1) A (2,3) | pril (1) night (2,3),
that(1) moon (2,3) | a (1) bove (2,3)
And (1) you (2,3) | with (1) me (2,3),
en (1) chan (2,3) | ting (1) love (2,3)

What would the song be if the couple make a successful go of it and look back in time? The counterpoint is loosely hung on the same images and the same rhythm, but with this positive sense.


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With a lonely love
    That lasts to the end
        I loved,

And a wordless song
    In the wounded heart
        hidden kept;

Unheeding, the river
    To the sea or death
        Has flowed,

The fragrance of love
    Aloof, thorn-guarded,
        Has slept;

Never will murmur
    The notes of my song
        In your skies,

And yet my love
    Secretly lights
        Your pellucid eyes


अखेरचे येतिल माझ्या हेच शब्द ओठी
लाख चुका असतिल केल्या, केली पण प्रीती

इथे सुरू होण्याआधी संपते कहाणी
साक्षीला केवळ उरते डोळ्यांतिल पाणी
जखम उरी होते ज्यांच्या तेच गीत गाती

सर्व बंध तोडुनि जेव्हा नदी धुंद धावे
मीलन वा मरण पुढे हे तिला नसे ठावे
एकदाच आभाळाला अशी भिडे माती

गंध दूर ज्याचा आणिक जवळ मात्र काटे
असे फूल प्रीती म्हणजे कधी हाय वाटे
तरी गंध धुंडित धावे जीव तुझ्यासाठी

आर्त गीत आले जर हे कधी तुझ्या कानी
गूज अंतरीचे कथिले तुला या स्वरांनी
डोळ्यांतुन माझ्यासाठी लाव दोन ज्योती

मंगेश पाडगांवकर

Literal Translation

Finally only these words will come to my lips
A hundred thousand mistakes I may have made, but I loved

Here before it starts the story ends
As witness only remain tears in the eyes
Those who are wounded in the heart, only they sing a song

Breaking all bounds when the river intoxicated runs
Whether union or death lies ahead she does not know
Only once the sky thus meets earth

That whose scent is far and thorns but near
Such a flower is love which sometimes feels like a loss
Yet life runs searching fragrance for you

If this yearnful song ever comes to your ears
An inner secret is narrated to you by these notes
In your eyes for me light two flames

Mangesh Padgaokar


This is a song of unrequited love. The opening is as if the poet is singing from a deathbed, which is not relevant to the emotion. Earth meeting the sky, even if only once, is counter to the unrequited nature of this love. Asking the loved one to light up her (equally, his) eyes on hearing this song is rather demanding.


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I am going back to the home of my youth
Where snowflakes press into a brilliant way,
I am going back to my home, sweet home,
Where call of blue streams takes my breath away.

I am going back to my lovelong home
Where Gods live in heaven’s immensity,
I am going back to my home, sweet home,
Where yearning is cooled by immortality.

I am going back to my home, my home
Where my eyes will search for the mother’s grace,
I am going back to my home, my home,
Where my heart will feel her soft blue embrace.

I will recount each mood, ripple and image
Of this rare and fortuitous pilgrimage.


जातो माहेरी माहेरी
शुभ्र स्फटिकांची वाट
जातो माहेरी माहेरी
निळ्या नदीची ही हाक

जातो माहेरी माहेरी
येथे देवांचा निवास
जातो माहेरी माहेरी
गार अमृताची आस

जातो माहेरी माहेरी
मन शोधेल माउली
जातो माहेरी माहेरी
डोळां तिची निळी सावली

अशा ह्या माहेरी
माझी अवचित वारी
परतून आलो कि मी
सांगीन तिच्या एकेक लहरी

नितीन अंतुर्कर

Literal Translation

Going to the maternal house the maternal house
White crystals’ way
Going to the maternal house the maternal house
Blue river’s this call

Going to the maternal house the maternal house
Here Gods’ residence
Going to the maternal house the maternal house
Intense thirst for the cool elixir

Going to the maternal house the maternal house
Mind will search for the mother
Going to the maternal house the maternal house
In my eyes her blue shadow

In such a maternal house as this
My unexpected [rare] turn [pilgrimage]
After I return I will
Tell you her waves [moods] one by one

Nitin Anturkar


A friend from undergraduate college and teammate in the athletic and mountaineering clubs, wrote this poem. He was going back to the Himalayan mountains after thirty years for a winter trek. The poem captures his eager anticipation of a sense of reconnecting, of fulfillment, bordering on the religious.

The poem is difficult to translate into English. About a third of it is the word maher for which there is no English or Western equivalent in word or concept. It translates as “maternal house”, typically of a married woman, and connotes the loving, safe, innocent, carefree environment of childhood under the parents’ indulgent protection. In Marathi consciousness, the famous song Maze maher Pandhari connects the maternal house to the city (house) of the Lord. In English, the word and concept of “home” (as opposed to “house”) comes closest to signifying love, comfort, and acceptance. I have used “my home”, also close in sound to maher, in the translation.

The Himalayas (literally, house or place of snow) are revered as the abode of the Gods, again a sense difficult to translate into English. The pilgrimage aspect of this visit is expressed by the word wari which literally means “turn”, but is used for specific pilgrimages in Marathi, for example, of the Warkari Panth—folks who go annually to Pandhari.


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शंकराचा रूद्रावतार नव्हता तो
कि पेटून निघालेला वडवानल नव्हता तो
जोराने, सोसाट्याने, हादरवून टाकणारा
अफाट वाहणारा, तुफान वारा होता तो ।।

थांबत नव्हती, पण आनंदित होती
अलंकार नव्हते, पण सुशोभित होती
स्त्री नव्हती, पण सुंदर अशी
नदी वाहत होती ती ।।

नव्हते नर्तन ते नृत्याचे
नव्हता नाद तो मधुर पैंजणांचा
लहरी लहरी, लाटा लाटा
हा छंद त्या शांत सागराचा ।।

सुनीती देशपांडे

Literal and Poetic Translation

Willful Play

It was not the terrible descent of Shankara
Nor the burning, wandering wildfire in the forest;
Forceful, sweeping, dislocatingly powerful,
It was the vast-blowing circling of a tempest.

She wasn’t stopping, but she was happy;
She wasn’t ornamented, but she was splendid;
She wasn’t a woman, but a beautiful,
Flowing, meandering river wended.

It was not the gesture of a dance
Nor the ring of the sweet ankle-bells:
Wave after wave, breaking and breaking,
The play of the calm sea with shells.

Suniti Deshpande


This is a poem by my mother from the collection Nadichi Wat (River’s Way). It is about three vignettes from nature. There is a suggestion of a deeper meaning: in the 11th line there’s a sudden deepening of the rhythm.

From the point of view of translation, the two main difficulties, and hence attractions, were the title, repeated as an attribute of the sea in the 12th line, chhanda, which literally means rhythm or hobby, but more is implied here, and the 11th line with its change of pace and repetition of two different words for waves, suggesting great peace and depth.


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A peacock feather,
    softly my mind took wing,
Rising in the wind,
    began a new-journeying.

All my dreams descended
    here into this world,
Left a trail of memories
    that are still unfurled.

Lightening my journey
    and easing my road,
Happiness filled my life
    and it overflowed.

With a new fragrance
    the night mesmerizes,
The day with a dawn
    of new feelings rises.

My co-traveler is unique,
    midst all, the one,
My fulfilling life’s
    invaluable companion

    became so light, so light,
And vaulted on the brow
    of yonder hill’s height

Whatever I saw and felt
    on that high hill
Is beyond ken,
    by words indescribable.


मन मोरपीस

मन माझे आज
मोरपीस झाले
स्वार वार्यावर होऊनी
नवप्रवासी झाले
होते मनी मी
जे जे रेखिले
ते देखील माझ्या
जीवनात उतरले
अलगद झाला
प्रवास माझा
अनुभव त्याचा
आजही ताजा
जीवनात माझ्या
आनंद भरला
भरूनी सारे
तरीही उरला
नवीन रात्र
सुगंध पसरीते
पहाट रोज
नवीनच येते
सहप्रवासी माझा
असे अनोखा
जीवनातला माझ्या
अनमोल सखा
मन मोरपीस
हलके, हलके झाले
उंचावरती डोंगर
माथ्यावर झेपले
उंचावरती जे अनुभवले
वर्णन शब्दांच्या पलिकडले

सुनीती देशपांडे

Literal Translation

Mind Peacock Feather

My mind today
A peacock feather became
Mounting the wind
A new-traveler became
In my mind
Whatever I had sketched
Even that in my
Life descended
Light became
My journey
Its experience
Even today is fresh
In my life
Happiness filled
Filling everything
Still it remained
New night
Spreads a fragrance
Dawn everyday
New-only arrives
My co-traveler
Is unique
In my life
A priceless companion
Mind peacock feather
Light, light became
Up on a high hill-
Brow it leaped
On the height what I experienced
Its description is beyond words

Suniti Deshpande


This is a poem by my mother from the collection Nadichi Wat (River’s Way). It captures a woman’s passage from the second stage of a fulfilling life into the initial inklings of the third. It has extreme lightness and delicacy, and its form is free and gently flowing.

Translating this poem, trouble starts from the title. “Mind peacock feather” is not evocative in English of a mind richly colored by life’s experiences but still light and able to fly, evoked in Marathi.

The word pravas for travel occurs thrice, and words relating to lightness and ease attach to travel and the feather.

The poem turns on three main lines or ideas: of the mind becoming a peacock feather, of happiness and fulfillment in life, and of a new night spreading a fragrance and waking into dawn, signifying new possibilities.

The style has a loose structure in terms of meter and rhyme, and the poem is held together by assonance.


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Created Bliss

Closing their eyes
    the florets and petals
        converse freely with me

The mute aboli
    speaks the wonder
Like hands the jaswandi spreads
      and there madhumalati sweetly blooms —
O the scents, the hues

The aristocracy of the rose
Different the mogara’s pomp
Blossoms delicate of jai-jui
Everloving of sadafuli
Mysterious the blue lotus dark on the vine

Flowers in bliss
    hallowed in happiness
        creations of joy
              unfathomable Nature secretly fulfills

Like flowers may I walk through life
  my life become created bliss


मूककळ्या पाकळ्या

मिटुनी नयने
    कळ्या पाकळ्या
हितगुज करिती
अबोलातूनी बोल
किमया जणु ही
गंध वेगवेगळे
    कळ्या फुलांचे
तर्हेतर्हेचे रंग
    त्यांचे रंग तयांचे
जास्वंदी निज
    कर पसरिते
मधुमालती तेथे फुलते
रुबाब वेगळा
मोगर्याची ती
ऐट निराळी
    जाई जुई
सदाफुली फुलते
नील कमल ते
रंग निळा सावळा
    फुलण्याचा नो आनंद
निराळा आनंद वेगळा

निसर्ग फुलतो
कळ्या कळ्यातुनी
पसरवितो आनंद
सर्व फुले ती
    पावन होती
जीवनात आनंद
मजला गुढ न
    उकले पण अजुनी
कां मूक कळ्या
    पाकळ्या मिटुनी
फुलांसारखा मज
    छंद जडू दे
जीवन माझे आनंदी
    बनू दे
जीवन माझे आनंदी
    घडू दे

सुनीती देशपांडे

Literal Translation

Mute Buds Petals

Closing eyes
buds petals
make conversation
with me
From Mute (Aboli) sounds
As if miracle
of theirs
Scents different different
of buds and flowers
of style and style
their colors their colors
Jaswandi daily
spreads hands
madhumalati there blooms
Royalty different
of rose
Mogara’s तहात
pomp different
sadafuli blossoms
with love
That blue lotus
on the vine
color blue swarthy
Of blooming that joy
different joy different

Nature blooms
from bud and bud
Spreads happiness
through flowers
All those flowers
become holy
in life joy
Yet still I cannot
unravel the secret
why mute buds
and petals closed
Flower-like to me
may rhythm join
my life of happiness
my life of happiness
be created

Suniti Deshpande


The original is free verse in terms of rhythm and rhyme, and its rich-tropical imagery is subdued in English rendering.


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On wings they come
   On wings depart
     And leave their memories

A day of joy
   With friends and kin
     A day of reveries

The tender moon
   Behind the tree
     Brightening the night

The flower in bloom
   Measuring death
     Forever scents the site

A shaking hand
   Unsure at first
     Closely held with love

Candles burning
   In the sanctum
     Towards God above

Unseen, unknown
   Our paths have crossed
     A song is sung unheard

The ballad of hearts
   Joined in love
     Is sung by bird and bird

On wings they come
   On wings depart
     And leave their memories

A day of joy
   With friends and kin
     A day of reveries


अशी पाखरे येती आणिक स्मृती ठेवुनी जाती
दोन दिसांची रंगत संगत दोन दिसांची नाती

चंद्र कोवळा पहिलावहिला
झाडामागे उभा राहिला
जरा लाजुनी जाय उजळुनी काळोखाच्या राती

फुलून येता फूल बोलले
मी मरणावर हृदय तोलले
नव्हते नंतर परि निरंतर गंधित झाली माती

हात एक तो हळु थरथरला
पाठीवर मायेने फिरला
देवघरातिल समईमधुनी अजून जळती वाती

कुठे कुणाच्या घडल्या भेटी
गीत एक मोहरले ओठी
त्या जुळल्या हृदयांची गाथा सूर अजुनही गाती

Literal Translation

Thus birds arrive and leaving memories go
Of two days color and companionship, of two days relationships

The first-ever tender moon
Stood behind the tree
A little bit shy, brightening in the night of darkness

On blooming the flower said
I have on death balanced my heart (alt measured death with my heart)
There wasn’t hereafter but forever scented became earth

The lone hand slowly shook
On the back lovingly moved
In the lamp in the god-house still burn wicks

Where, whose happened meetings
One song budded on lips
The story of those united hearts notes even now sing


This is a delicate song that communicates nostalgia by presenting a series of remembered vignettes, each slightly abstracted from its specific memory. There is the colorful companionship of friends and relatives, the blushing brightness of the new-crescent moon, the fragrance of a transient flower perfuming the soil, the loving hand of a mother or a grandmother, the burning wicks keeping vigil at the altar, and the notes of a love song.


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Dnyaneshwar is recognized as having laid the foundation of Marathi literature towards the end of the 13th century. He died at the age of twenty one. He willed a conscious withdrawal from the world at that young age because he considered his life’s mission accomplished.

It is rare to have a mission for one’s life, rarer still to know it by twenty one years of age, unique to have accomplished it by then, and incomprehensible to have acted with a supreme sacrifice that comes from the freedom of that accomplishment.

What was his life’s mission? He would say it was to make spiritual knowledge accessible to the commoner through the new path of devotion. He translated the Gita from Sanskrit to the Marathi vernacular in the familiar and melodious ovi meter. This in itself qualifies as the fulfillment of this mission, and that too when he was merely a teenager. Beyond that, he wrote of his spiritual realizations in yet another book of immortal experiences and in numerous abhanga.

But his mission was much larger. Society then was crusted into formulaic patterns with little scope for personal adaptation, and he showed that this can be changed from within the system.

He and his siblings were orphaned at a young age. They were ostracized by their community for no fault of their own but because their father had progressed through the stages of life in a non-standard sequence. He went from the second stage of a married householder to the fourth stage of a renunciate and back to the second householder stage, after which he had four children. Both of these transitions were made in accordance with established authority, the first with the permission of his wife, and the second upon a command from his guru. Yet the family was ostracized. The father asked the elders for forgiveness and for the acceptance of his children into the community. He was given the option of death as a penance, which he and his wife accepted.

Despite this harsh penance, the children continued to be shunned. They survived on alms. They made arduous journeys to nearby towns to petition the priests of their community to accept them, but were denied since the formulaic society had no formula for violators of the form.

Under these trying circumstances Dnyaneshwar’s genius brought forth remarkable works which led to his acceptance by the wider society. Throughout, there is the interpretive current, made poignant in the popular vernacular medium, of an intimate oneness underlying phenomena, a nondualism or adwaita, that can be experienced through devotion.

We end by adapting the poem Hari and dedicating it to Dnyaneshwar’s willed withdrawal from the world, samadhi, in which every part of the being is gathered into a one-pointed concentration towards enlightenment.

Dnyaneshwar’s Samadhi

The mind ascends to greatness of golden light,
Life is a throb in the pulse of creative sound,
The body seized in a storm of immortality,
Heart one with the peace of the spirit all around.

In a blank of self, plunged in a mystic blaze,
Revealed is Form in a vest of identity:
It’s him I see everywhere. He am I. He am I.
Everywhere him, it’s only him I see.

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Other Translations


A song of love
    A flow of joy
        The tale of you and me

Something lost yet something gained
    Moments that hold

The river’s rush
    Embraced in banks —
        It’s only me and you

Gleaming hopes
    That fill our eyes
        Blaze in expectant hue

The passing clouds
    That storm awhile
        Clear in joyful light

Shadows dapple
    In the garden,
        Indications of delight

This translation is based loosely on an old Hindi song. You can hear it here: Link to the original blog post.


A gentle drench, the saawan rim-zim falls
And raindrops ring like rhythmic ankle bells
Inside a nascent fire softly calls
And restlessly an unknown longing wells

This year the tempest season strangely flows
The breeze intoxicated wildly runs
A half-hearted struggle unavailing goes
Our vests are wet, inside the fire burns

How shall sleepless eyes of youth ever perceive
The signs of a dream of nameless happiness
The names of hearts as one that feel and heave
How shall hesitating wordless lips confess

The rim-zim rim-zim saawan gently falls
And raindrops ring like rhythmic ankle bells
Inside the fire wisps and softly calls
And endlessly the longing wells and wells

This is a loose translation of a Hindi movie song in two parts sung by the male and female protagonists. You can hear the originals here and here Link to the original blog post.

Above All

Beauty of heaven
    Soft as the starlight
Brighter than sunshine
    Deep as the midnight

Our likeness is hid in
    Flower and stone
Bringing together
    Hearts that were lone

Bestirred by magic
    A wave from beyond
Our lives are now joined in
    An eternal bond

Heavenly beauty
    Softer than starlight
Bright as the sunshine
    Deeper than midnight

This translation has deviated substantially from the original, which you can hear here: Link to the original blog post.

Novajo Hunting Song

Comes the deer to my singing
Comes the deer to my song

He the blackbird he am I
Bird beloved sing my song

Down the mountain from the summit
In the blossoms through the snow

Running softly on his feet
My quarry’s coming, coming now

He’s the blessing of the chase
I thank the Spirit for my song

Comes the deer to my singing
Comes the deer to my song

This beautiful song evokes through its rhythm the ritual prayer-dance before the hunt. You can read it here: Link to the original blog post.

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Poem, Chant, Song

Halfway through these translations, I noticed that each original poem is also a beautiful song, but only some of the translated English poems can be sung — most of them are not naturally singable.

So I started wondering, “What is a song? What makes a poem singable? How to figure out the answers to these questions?”, and pertinent to the translations, “How to make them song-poems?”

Let’s take a few reasonably diverse English songs and find out what makes them tick. The answer may well be applicable to songs in general, independent of their genre or even of their language.

What Makes Songs Tick

Let’s look at “You Got it All” by Jets, the hymn “Silent Night”, “Fernando” by ABBA, and “Come Away with Me” by Norah Jones. Excerpts are analyzed here; the full lyrics are given in the Appendix at the end of this page.

You Got it All

You can listen to it here:

I was a game he would play
He brought the clouds to my day
Then like a ray of light
You came my way one night
Just one look and I knew
You would make everything clear
Make all the clouds disappear
Put all your fears to rest
Who do I love the best
Don’t you know, don’t you know

Let’s take these first few lines and scan them metrically as a poem. By way of notation, a ‘^’ after a vowel indicates stress and a ‘_’ after a vowel indicates lack of stress, and the feet are lined up to make it easier to detect a pattern, should one exist.

I^ wa_s      | a_ ga^me      | he_ wou_ld play^   
He_ brou^ght | the_ clou^ds  | to my day^         
The^n li_ke  | a_ ray^       | o_f li^ght         
You^ ca_me   | my_ way^      | o_ne ni^ght        
Ju_st o^ne loo_k     |         a_nd I^ knew_      
You_ wou^ld  | ma_ke e^v     | ‘ry_thi_ng clea^r  
Ma_ke a^ll   | the_ clou^ds  | di_sa_ppea^r       
Pu_t a^ll    | you_r fea^rs  | to_ re^st          
Who^ do_     | I_ lo^ve      | the_ be^st         
Do^n't you_ know^,   |         do^n't you_ know^  
You^ go^t    | i_t a^ll      | o^ve_r hi^m        

Immediately one can observe that the “Just …” and the “Don’t …” lines, while scanning well in two feet, don’t follow the three-foot pattern of the rest of the lines.

The rhythm of the song for the lines as they appear in the lyrics is laid out in beats below. The notation ‘~’ represents a vowel elongation or a pause.

1     2       3     4      5     6     7      8       9  10  11  12
I     ~       ~     ~      ~     ~     ~      ~     
I     was     a     game   ~     he    would  play  
~     ~       ~     ~      ~     ~     ~      ~     
He    brought the   clouds ~     to    my     day     ~  ~   ~   ~ 
Then  like    a     ray    ~     of    light  ~     
You   came    my    way    ~     one   night  ~       ~  ~   ~   ~ 
~     Ju      st    one   look   and   I      knew  
~     ~       ~     ~      ~     ~     ~      ~     
You   would   make  ev     ~     ‘ry   thing  clear 
~     ~       ~     ~      ~     ~     ~      ~     
Make  all     the   clouds ~     dis   ap     pear    ~  ~   ~   ~ 
Put   all     your  fears  ~     to    rest   ~     
Who   do      I     love   ~     the   best   ~       ~  ~   ~   ~ 
~     Don’t you     know   don’t you   know   ~     

A pattern starts to emerge, with the rhymes “play”-“day” and “clear”-“pear” on the eighth beat, and “light”-“night” and “rest”-“best” on the seventh. But, as laid out, some lines have eight beats and others have twelve. Perhaps it is a twelve-beat song? Rearranging:

1    2       3     4      5     6   7     8      9   10   11   12
I    ~       ~     ~      ~     ~   ~     ~      I   was  a    game  
~    he      would play   ~     ~   ~     ~      ~   ~    ~    ~     
He   brought the   clouds ~     to  my    day    ~   ~    ~    ~     
Then like    a     ray    ~     of  light ~      You came my   way   
~    one     night ~      ~     ~   ~     ~      ~   Ju   st   one   
look and     I     knew   ~     ~   ~     ~      ~   ~    ~    ~     
You  would   make  ev     ~     ‘ry thing clear  ~   ~    ~    ~     
~    ~       ~     ~      Make  all the   clouds ~   dis  ap   pear  
~    ~       ~     ~      Put   all your  fears  ~   to   rest ~     
Who  do      I     love   ~     the best  ~      ~   ~    ~    ~     
~    Don’t   you   know   don’t you know  ~      You got  it   all   

Here we confirm that the “Just …” line breaks at “one”, suggesting that that line in the lyrics should be scanned:

Ju_st o^ne  | loo_k a_nd  | I^ knew_ |

The pattern is not so clear in twelve beats. The rhythm underlying the song repeats in four beats, which looks like so:

1     2       3     4      
I     ~       ~     ~      
~     ~       ~     ~      
I     was     a     game  
~     he      would play   
~     ~       ~     ~      
~     ~       ~     ~     
He    brought the   clouds 
~     to      my    day    
~     ~       ~     ~     
Then  like    a     ray    
~     of      light ~      
You   came    my    way   
~     one     night ~      
~     ~       ~     ~      
~     Ju      st    one   
look  and     I     knew   
~     ~       ~     ~      
~     ~       ~     ~     
You   would   make  ev     
~     ‘ry     thing clear  
~     ~       ~     ~     
~     ~       ~     ~      
Make  all     the   clouds 
~     dis     ap    pear  
~     ~       ~     ~      
Put   all     your  fears  
~     to      rest  ~     
Who   do      I     love   
~     the     best  ~      
~     ~       ~     ~     
~     Don’t   you   know   
don’t you    know  ~      
You   got    it    all   

This arrangement brings out the repeating rhymes and also helps us discover the “ray”-“way” internal rhyme. It also indicates that “Don’t …” line scans so:

Do^n't you_ | know^ | do^n't you_ | know^

Now we can form a few hypotheses and test or modify them using the other songs.

  • A song is a rhythmically recurring sound structure, the structure being characterized by rhyme, assonance, stress, or some significant voiced characteristic

How does the meter of the poetic scansion relate to the measures of the rhythmic beat? In this case, some feet are one measure (four beats), while other feet are two or even three measures (eight beats or twelve beats), while still others are half a measure (two beats). Perhaps we can hypothesize that

  • There is a rational relationship between feet in the metrical scansion and measures in the musical rhythm

Here, by rational we mean n feet correspond to m measures, where n and m are integers. For example, one foot is one measure, or one foot is two measures, or one foot is half a measure, etc.

Silent Night

You can listen to this song here:

Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace!

This first stanza scans so:

Si^le_nt ni^ght! | Ho^ly_ ni^ght!
A^ll i_s ca^lm   | a^ll i_s bri^ght
Rou^nd yo_n | vi^rgi_n | mo^the_r     | a_nd chi^ld
Ho^ly_      | i^nfa_nt | so_ te^nde_r | a_nd mi^ld
Slee^p i_n  | hea^ve_n | ly_ pea^ce!
Slee^p i_n  | hea^ve_n | ly_ pea^ce!

Notice the irregularity in the number of feet per line. May be the rhythm will indicate how the ratios of feet to measures work out. You will hear two different rhythms for this song in the recording, some singers singing it in repetitions of eight beats and others in six beats. Notice that the two rhythms differ only in the elongations or pauses given to various vowels.

Eight beat rhythm:

1       2       3       4       5       6       7       8
Si      ~       ~       lent    ni      ~       ~       ght
Ho      ~       ~       ly      ni      ~       ~       ght
A       ~       ll      is      ca      ~       ~       lm
A       ~       ll      is      bri     ~       ~       ght
Rou     ~       nd      yon     vi      ~       r       gin
mo      ~       ther    and     chi     ~       ~       ld
Ho      ~       ~       ly      in      ~       fant    so
ten     ~       der     and     mi      ~       ~       ld
Slee    ~       ~       p in    hea     ~       ven     ly
pea     ~       ~       ce      ~       ~       ~       ~
Slee    ~       ~       p in    hea     ~       ven     ly
pea     ~       ~       ce      ~       ~       ~       ~

Six beat rhythm:

1       2       3       4       5       6
Si      ~       lent    ni      ~       ght
Ho      ~       ly      ni      ~       ght
A       ll      is      ca      ~       lm
A       ll      is      bri     ~       ght
Rou     nd      yon     vi      r       gin
mo      ther    and     chi     ~       ld
Ho      ~       ly      in      fant    so
ten     der     and     mi      ~       ld
Slee    ~       p in    hea     ven     ly
pea     ~       ce      ~       ~       ~
Slee    ~       p in    hea     ven     ly
pea     ~       ce      ~       ~       ~

The rhythm indicates that the scansion must be changed to be so:

Si^le_nt      | ni^gt!       
Ho^ly_        | ni^ght!      
A^ll i_s      | ca^lm        
a^ll i_s      | bri^ght       
Rou^nd yo_n   | vi^rgi_n     
mo^the_r a_nd | chi^ld       
Ho^ly_        | i^nfa_nt so_ 
te^nde_r a_nd | mi^ld        
Slee^p i_n    | hea^ve_nly_
Slee^p i_n    | hea^ve_nly_

With this scansion, each foot is one measure (three or four beats, depending on how it’s sung), except for “peace” which is two measures. Further, it alters the scan of some feet such as:

i^nfa_nt so_ | te^nde_r a_nd
hea^ve_nly_  | pea^ce!


You can listen to this song here:

There was something in the air that night
The stars were bright, Fernando
They were shining there for you and me
For liberty, Fernando
Though we never thought that we could lose
There’s no regret
If I had to do the same again
I would, my friend, Fernando

This refrain scans so:

The^re wa_s  | so^methi_ng      | i_n the_ ai^r | tha_t ni^ght
The_ sta^rs  | we_re bri^ght,   | Fe_rna^ndo_
The^y we_re  | shi^ni_ng the^re | fo_r you^     | a_nd me^
Fo_r li^     | be_rty_,         | Fe_rna^ndo_
Thou^gh we_  | ne^ve_r thou^ght | tha_t we^     | cou_ld lo^se
The_re's no^ | re_gre^t
I_f I^       | ha^d to_ do^     | the_ sa^me    | a_gai^n
I_ wou^ld,   | my_ frie^nd,     | Fe_rna^ndo_

A minimalist rhythmic rendering (compressing each elongation or pause into one beat, except for “Fernando” which serves like a refrain within the refrain) gives us:

1       2       3       4       5       6       7       8
There   was     some    thing   in      the     air     ~
that    night   ~       the     stars   ~       were    bright
~       Fer     nan     ~       do      ~       ~       ~
They    were    shi     ning    there   for     you     ~
and     me      ~       for     li      ~       ber     ty
~       Fer     nan     ~       do      ~       ~       ~
Though  we      ne      ver     thought that    we      could
~       lose    ~       there’s no      re      gret    ~
If      I       had     to      do      the     same    ~
a       gain    ~       I       would   ~       my      friend
~       Fer     nan     ~       do      ~       ~       ~

The corresponding scansion, rearranging the lines, is:

The^re wa_s  | so^methi_ng      | i_n the_ ai^r  |
tha_t ni^ght | The_ sta^rs      | we_re bri^ght, |
The^y we_re  | shi^ni_ng the^re | fo_r you^      |
a_nd me^     | Fo_r li^         | be_rty_,       |
Thou^gh we_  | ne^ve_r thou^ght | tha_t we^      | cou_ld
lo^se        | The_re's no^     | re_gre^t       |
I_f I^       | ha^d to_ do^     | the_ sa^me     |
a_gai^n      | I_ wou^ld,       | my_ frie^nd,   |

This is so close: only the “could” hangs at the end of a line and its corresponding “lose” at the beginning of the next. Note, however, that in the song the elongations are variable, and the lines start off-measure, thus:

1       2       3       4       5       6       7       8       
                                                There   was     
some    thing   in      the     air     ~       that    night   
~       ~       the     stars   ~       ~       were    bright  
~       ~       Fer     nan     ~       ~       do      ~       
~       ~       They    were    shi     ning    there   for     
you     ~       and     me      ~       ~       for     li      
~       ~       ber     ty      ~       ~       Fer     nan     
~       ~       do      ~       ~       ~       Though  we      
ne      ver     thought that    we      could   ~       lose    
~       ~       there’s no      re      gret    ~       ~       
~       ~       ~       ~       If      I       had     to      
do      the     same    ~       a       gain    ~       ~       
I       would   ~       my      friend  ~       Fer     nan     
~       ~       do      ~       ~       ~       

The rhythmic recurrence can be seen with “night”-“bright” and “me”-“ty” repeating on the fourth note of the measure, and “Fer” repeating on the third. “There was” and “something” take up half measures, “in the air” takes up one measure, and “Fernando” takes up two.

Some scansions need to be updated, such as:

shi^ni_ng | the^re fo_r | you^ a_nd me^
ne^ve_r | thou^ght tha_t | we^ cou_ld lo^se 
ha^d to_ | do^ the_ sa^me

The final scansion is:

The^re wa_s  | so^methi_ng      | i_n the_ ai^r  | tha_t ni^ght 
The_ sta^rs  | we_re bri^ght,   | Fe_rna^ndo_
The^y we_re  | shi^ni_ng        | the^re fo_r    | you^ a_nd me^   
Fo_r li^     | be_rty_,         | Fe_rna^ndo_
Thou^gh we_  | ne^ve_r          | thou^ght tha_t | we^ cou_ld lo^se        
The_re's no^ | re_gre^t       
I_f I^       | ha^d to_         | do^ the_ sa^me | a_gai^n      
I_ wou^ld,   | my_ frie^nd,     | Fe_rna^ndo_

Come Away with Me

You can listen to this song here:

Come away with me in the night
Come away with me
And I will write you a song

Come away with me on a bus
Come away where they can’t tempt us
With their lies

These first few lines scan so:

Co_me a^way_       | wi_th me^           | i_n the_ ni^ght
Co_me a^way_       | wi_th me^
A_nd I^            | wi_ll wri^te        | you^ a_ so^ng
Co_me a^way_       | wi_th me^           | o_n a_ bu^s
Co_me a^way_       | whe_re they_ ca^n't | te^mpt u^s
Wi_th thei_r lie^s

The song is rendered in six beats thus (eliding some full measure pauses):

1       2       3       4       5       6
Come    aw      ay      with    me      ~
~       in      the     night   ~       ~
Come    aw      ay      with    me      ~
And     I       ~       will    wri     te
you     ~       ~       a       so      ng
Come    aw      ay      with    me      ~
~       on      a       bus     ~       ~
Come    aw      ay      where   they    ~
can't   te      mpt     us      ~       ~
With    their   lies    ~       ~       ~

Rearranging the scansion, we get:

Co_me a^way_       | wi_th me^           
i_n the_ ni^ght    
Co_me a^way_       | wi_th me^           
A_nd I^            | wi_ll wri^te        
you^ a_ so^ng      
Co_me a^way_       | wi_th me^           
o_n a_ bu^s        
Co_me a^way_       | whe_re they_        
ca^n't te^mpt      | u^s 
Wi_th thei_r lie^s  

Notes on Theory

This study confirms what we know intuitively, that a song is a rhythmically recurring sound structure, the structure being characterized by rhyme, assonance, stress, or some significant voiced characteristic.

It also confirms that the feet in a poem’s metrical structure and measures in the song’s rhythmic structure correspond with a rational relationship. Furthermore, each foot can have a different rational relationship with the measure, thereby regulating the pace of the rendering.

There is no discernible relationship between natural stress and the sung rendering. Perhaps this enters into qualitative differences between songs – making some better than others depending on how stress falls on up- or down-beats of rhythm.

The two different aspects of a song can be separated: the rhythmic structure and the tonal variation. When a poem is recited with just the rhythmic structure and minimal tonal variation, we get chanting. Chanting is the heightened recitation of a poem for rendering it’s scansion into a rhythmic structure. Hence, stress, length, and other characteristics of speech are important to and must be natural and present in chanting. When tonal variation is added, and some of the speech characteristics such as stress possibly removed, the vocalization becomes a song.

This last point corresponds to Bernstein’s insight (see references in the Media section) that [western] music is characterized by chromatic freedom (in our case the tonal variation of singing) contained in a diatonic framework (in our case the meter-measure relationship).


Chanting of poetry is an ancient tradition and art. How does our study help with chanting of English poetry?


Chanting of high spiritual or mantric poetry is especially of interest. This first example is taken from the canto “Heavens of the Ideal”.

Always the Ideal beckoned from afar.
Awakened by the touch of the Unseen,
Deserting the boundary of things achieved,
Aspired the strong discoverer, tireless Thought,
Revealing at each step a luminous world.

This breaks into measures for chanting as:

A^lway_s       the_ I_dea^l       be^cko_ned          fro_m a_fa^r.
A_wa^ke_ned    by_ the_ tou^ch    o_f the_ U_nsee^n,  ~
De_se^rti_ng   the_ bou^nda_ry_   o_f thi^ngs         a_chie^ved,
A_spi^red      the_ stro^ng di_s  co^ve_re_r,         ti^rele_ss Thou^ght,
Re_vea^li_ng   a_t ea_ch ste^p    a_ lu^mi_nou_s      wo^rld.

This falls naturally into a sixteen beat rhythm with four beats per measure. It is shown here with eight beats for compactness, but it should be read as a cycle of sixteen beats.

1       2        3       4       5        6          7          8       
A^l     way_s    ~       ~       the_     I_         de^        a_l
be^ck   o_ned    ~       ~       fro_m    a_         fa^r       ~
A_      wa^k     e_ned   ~       by_      the_       tou^ch     ~
o_f     the_     U_n     see^n   ~        ~          ~          ~
De_     se^r     ti_ng   ~       the_     bou^n      da_        ry_
o_f     thi^ngs  ~       ~       a_       chie^ved,  ~          ~
A_s     pi^      red     ~       ~        the_       stro^ng    di_s
co^     ve_      re_r,   ~       ti^re    le_ss      Thou^ght,  ~
Re_     vea^     li_ng   ~       a_t      ea_ch      ste^p      ~
a_      lu^      ~       mi_     nou_s    wo^rld.    ~          ~   

Here’s another example, the first few lines of Savitri:

It was the hour before the Gods awake.
Across the path of the divine Event
The huge foreboding mind of Night, alone
In her unlit temple of eternity,
Lay stretched immobile upon Silence’ marge.

This chants naturally in a cycle of twelve beats. It is shown here with six beats for compactness, but it should be read as a cycle of twelve beats. As we saw with Silent Night, this chant can be extended to sixteen beats with elongation without affecting the metrical structure.

1        2           3        4          5        6              
I_t      wa_s        the_     hou^r      ~        be_      
fo^re    the_        Go^ds    a_         wa^ke.   ~
A_c      ro^ss       the_     pa^th      ~        o_f      
the_     di_         vi^ne    ~          E_       ve^nt
The_     hu^ge       ~        fo_re      bo^      di_ng    
mi^nd    o_f         Ni^ght   ~          a_       lo^ne
I_n      he_r        u^n      li_t       te^m     ple_     
~        o_f         e_t      e^r        ni_      ty_
La_y     stre^tched  ~        I^m        mo_      bi^le    
~        u_p         o^n      Si^        le_nce'  ma^rge.

The relationship between the meter and measure is trickier here. The immediate scansion is:

I_t wa_s        | the_ hou^r  | be_fo^re    | the_ Go^ds | a_wa^ke.
A_cro^ss        | the_ pa^th  | o_f the_    | di_vi^ne   | E_ve^nt
The_ hu^ge      | fo_rebo^    | di_ng mi^nd | o_f Ni^ght | a_lo^ne
I_n he_r        | u^nli_t     | te^mple_    | o_f e_te^r | ni_ty_
La_y stre^tched | I^mmo_bi^le | u_po^n      | Si^le_nce' | ma^rge.

For the first line, the first foot has two beats, the second foot has three beats, and so on. It progresses as:

2 3 2 2 3
2 3 2 3 2
3 2 2 3 2
2 2 3 3 2
3 4 2 2 1

We can augment our notation to incorporate scansion, rhythm, and stress in a single format by annotating the feet divisions with the number of beats in the corresponding feet.

I_t wa_s        |2  the_ hou^r  |3  be_fo^re    |2  the_ Go^ds |2  a_wa^ke. |3
A_cro^ss        |2  the_ pa^th  |3  o_f the_    |2  di_vi^ne   |3  E_ve^nt  |2
The_ hu^ge      |3  fo_rebo^    |2  di_ng mi^nd |2  o_f Ni^ght |3  a_lo^ne  |2
I_n he_r        |2  u^nli_t     |2  te^mple_    |3  o_f e_te^r |3  ni_ty_   |2
La_y stre^tched |3  I^mmo_bi^le |4  u_po^n      |2  Si^le_nce' |2  ma^rge.  |1

Here’s another example from Savitri:

She is the golden bridge, the wonderful fire.
The luminous heart of the Unknown is she,
A power of silence in the depths of God;
She is the Force, the inevitable Word,

This also chants in a cycle of twelve beats, shown compactly in six columns.

1        2           3        4          5        6              
She^     i_s         the_     go^l       de_n     bri^dge,
the_     wo^n        de_r     fu_l       fi^      re.
The_     lu^         mi_      nou_s      hea^rt   ~
o_f      the_        U_n      know^n     i_s      She^,
A_       po^         we_r     o_f        si^      le_nce
i_n      the_        de^pths  o_f        Go^d;    ~
She^     ~           i_s      the_       Fo^rce,  ~
the_     'ne^        vi_      ta_        ble_     Wo^rd,

Using our notation:

She^ i_s the_ |3 go^lde_n      |2 bri^dge, the_    |2 wo^nde_r       |2 fu_l fi^re. |3
The_ lu^      |2 mi_nou_s      |2 hea^rt o_f the_  |4 U_nknow^n      |2 i_s She^,   |2
A_ po^we_r    |3 o_f si^le_nce |3 i_n the_ de^pths |3 o_f Go^d;      |3
She^ i_s      |3 the_ Fo^rce,  |3 the_ ine^vi_     |3 ta_ble_ Wo^rd, |3

Shakespeare, Whitman

Here are a few lines from Shakespeare’s Hamlet soliloquy.

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,

They scan in sixteen beats so:

1       2        3       4       5        6          7          8       
To_     be^,     ~       o_r     no^t     to_        be^,       ~
~       tha^t    i_s     the_    que^s    tio_n:     ~          ~
Whe^    the_r    ~       'ti_s   No^      ~          ble_r      ~
i_n     the_     mi^nd   ~       to_      su^f       fe_r       ~
The_    Sli^ngs  ~       a_nd    A^r      row_s      ~          ~
o-f     ou_t     ra^ge   ~       ou_s     Fo^r       tu_ne,     ~
O_r     to_      ta^ke   A^rms   ~        ~          a_         gai^nst
a_      Sea^     ~       o_f     trou^    ble_s,     ~          ~

With this rhythm, the scansion can be fixed as:

To_ be^,     |3  o_r no^t      |2  to_ be^,   |4  tha^t i_s  |2  the_ que^stio_n: |5
Whe^the_r    |3  'ti_s No^     |3  ble_r i_n  |3  the_ mi^nd |3  to_ su^ffe_r     |4
The_ Sli^ngs |3  a_nd A^rrow_s |5  o-f ou_t   |2  ra^geou_s  |3  Fo^rtu_ne,       |3
O_r to_      |2  ta^ke A^rms   |4  a_gai^nst  |2  a_ Sea^    |3  o_f trou^ble_s,  |5

Here are a couple of extracts from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself.

There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.
Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.

This one chants in sixteen beats so. Notice the rhythmically recurrent sound structures “any more” and “than there is now”, the rhythmic symmetry to symmetrical concepts such as “youth”-“age”, “heaven”-“hell”, and equal elongation of “urge”.

1       2        3       4       5        6          7          8       
The^re  wa_s     ne^     ve_r    ~        a^         ny_        mo^re
i_n     ce^p     tio_n   tha_n   the_re   i_s        now^,      ~
No_r    a^       ny_     mo^re   you^th   ~          ~          o_r
a^ge    ~        ~       tha_n   the_re   i_s        now^,      ~
A_nd    wi_ll    ne^     ve_r    be_      a^         ny_        mo^re
pe_r    fe^c     tio_n   tha_n   the_re   i_s        now^,      ~
No_r    a^       ny_     mo^re   hea^     ve_n       ~          o_r
he^ll   ~        ~       tha_n   the_re   i_s        now^.      ~ 
U^rge   ~        ~       a_nd    u^rge    ~          ~          a_nd
u^rge,  ~        ~       ~       ~        ~          ~          ~ 
~       ~        ~       ~       ~        ~          ~          ~ 
A^l     way_s    ~       ~       the_     pro^       crea_nt    ~
u^rge   ~        ~       ~       o_f      the_       wo^rld.    ~ 

Who goes there? hankering, gross, mystical, nude;
How is it I extract strength from the beef I eat?
What is a man anyhow? what am I? what are you?

This also chants in sixteen beats:

1          2       3        4       5       6          7          8       
Who^       goe^    the_re?  ~       ha^n    ke_r       i_ng       ~         
gro^ss     ~       my^s     ti_     ca_l    ~          nu^de      ~
How^       i_s     i_t      ~       I^      e_x        tra^ct     ~
stre^ngth  ~       fro_m    the_    bee^f   I^         ea^t       ~
Wha^t      i_s     a_       ma^n    a^      ny_        how^?      ~
wha^t      a_m     I^?      ~       wha^t   a_re       you^?      ~

Songs Again

Coming back to the initial topic, some of the translated poems can be sung or transformed into songs rather readily. The first two given here, Ketaki and Ruperi, are already songs, while the third, Shyam, needs to be transformed into one.


The Ketaki song sings in four-beat measures.

1        2        3       4
The_     fra^g    ra_nt   bloo^m
The_     co^      lo_red  plu^me
The_     gen^     tle_    rai^n
tha_t    mi^sts   the_    ai^r
The_     me^m     'ry_    o_f
Ou_r     so^ng    so_     so^ft
I_s      hu^m     mi_ng   sti^ll
bu_t     you^’re  no_t    the^re
~        ~        ~       ~
~        ~        ~       ~
I_       thou^ght I_      hea^rd
To_      day^     a_      wo^rd
A_       sto^     le_n    loo^k
bu_t     I^       wa_s    wro^ng
The_     moo^n    i_s     bri^ght
I_n the_ sou^l    o_f     ni^ght
The_     ni^gh    ti_n    ga^le
ca_n     si^ng    no^     so_ng
~        ~        ~       ~
~        ~        ~       ~
The_     ra^in    bow_    drea^m
The_     li^      ly_     strea^m
The_     lo^ve    lo^rn   no^tes
i_n      drea^m   de_s    pai^r
The_     me^m     'ry_    o_f
Ou_r     so^ng    so_     so^ft
I_s      hu^m     mi_ng   sti^ll
bu_t     you^’re  no_t    the^re
~        ~        ~       ~
~        ~        ~       ~

Notice the quickening of “In the” before “soul of night” and the subtle variation in stress such as “memory of”, “sing no song”, and “lovelorn notes”.


The Ruperi song has two rhythmic patterns, one for the initial couplets in four-beat measures, and another for the refrain stanzas in six-beat measures.

1        2        3       4
O_n      the_     shi^    ni_ng
si_l     ve_r     bea^    che_s
Whe_re   the_     moo^n   li^ght
so_ft    ly_      rea^    che_s
1        2        3       4       5       6 
~        The_     co^     co_     nu_ts   gro^ve
~        i_n      pa^lm   tree^   row_s   ~
~        ~        ~       ~       ~       ~
Co^me    i_n      to_     lo^ve   ~       ~
Co^me    i_n      to_     lo^ve   ~       a_nd
ta^ke    me_      clo^se  ~       ~       ~
~        ~        ~       ~       ~       ~
1        2        3       4
In       di       ca      tion
fills    in       my      heart
On       my       bo      dy
lit      tle      quakes  start
1        2        3       4       5       6 
~        Drunk    the     sky      a      bove
and      the      mad     wind     blows  ~
~        ~        ~       ~       ~       ~
Co^me    i_n      to_     lo^ve   ~       ~
Co^me    i_n      to_     lo^ve   ~       a_nd
ta^ke    me_      clo^se  ~       ~       ~
~        ~        ~       ~       ~       ~
1        2        3       4
Flo      wers     glow    in
shy      sur      ren     der
Cheeks   are      fresh   with
a love   song     ten     der
1        2        3       4       5       6 
~        Night    bec     kons    and     now
in       your     arms    I       re      pose
~        ~        ~       ~       ~       ~
Co^me    i_n      to_     lo^ve   ~       ~
Co^me    i_n      to_     lo^ve   ~       a_nd
ta^ke    me_      clo^se  ~       ~       ~
~        ~        ~       ~       ~       ~

Variation in stress is provided by “moonlight”, “palm tree rows”, “my heart”, and “quakes start”. “Love song tender” could be shortened to “Love so tender” for better flow. Notice the extended “repose” sub-line.


This poem scans so:

No^t a_ pe^   | nny_ wa_s spe^nt, |
no_ pri^ce    | wa_s pai^d,       |
My_ Shya^m    | I_ po_sse^ss      |
O^ the_ sa^le | wa_s ma^de.       |

And chants so:

1       2       3       4       5       6       7       8
Not     a       pe      nny     was     spent,  ~       ~
no      pri     ce      was     pai     ~       ~       d,
My      Shya    ~       m       I       po      ssess   ~
O,      ~       the     sale    was     ma      ~       de.

The language of this poem is just a tad heavy and needs to be simplified for easy, colloquial singing. The song version scans so (first stanza):

No_ mo^ney_ | wa_s spe^nt
No_ pri^ce  | wa_s pai^d
Shya^m i_n  | my_ hea^rt
The_ sa^le  | wa_s ma^de
The_ sa^le  | wa_s ma^de

And sings so:

1       2       3       4       5       6       7       8
No      mo      ~       ney     was     spe     ~       nt
No      pri     ~       ce      was     pai     ~       d
Shya    ~       m       in      my      hea     ~       rt
The     sa      ~       le      was     ma      ~       de
O       ~       ~       ~       ~       ~       ~       ~
The     sa      ~       le      was     ma      ~       de
You     say     ~       I       bor     ~       rowed   ~
You     say     ~       I       lured   ~       ~       ~
You     know    ~       in      each    ~       breath  ~
His     name    ~       en      dured   ~       ~       ~
O       ~       ~       ~       ~       ~       ~       ~
His     name    ~       en      dured   ~       ~       ~
Cow     herd    ~       on      the     ri      ver     ~
Slave   ~       ~       of      the     saint   ~       ~
His     names   ~       are     ma      ny      ~       ~
His     names   ~       are     feigned ~       ~       ~
O       ~       ~       ~       ~       ~       ~       ~
His     names   ~       are     feigned ~       ~       ~
He      is      called  ~       by      his     ow      ners
Their   hearts  ~       are     his     homes   ~       ~
He      is      name    less    and     meek    ~       ~
In      cog     ni      to      he      roams   ~       ~
O       ~       ~       ~       ~       ~       ~       ~
In      cog     ni      to      he      roams   ~       ~

Song Lyrics

You Got it All

I was a game he would play
He brought the clouds to my day
Then like a ray of light
You came my way one night
Just one look and I knew
You would make everything clear
Make all the clouds disappear
Put all your fears to rest
Who do I love the best
Don’t you know, don’t you know

You got it all over him
You got me over him
Honey it’s true
There’s just you
You must have been heaven sent
Hearing me call you went
Out on a limb
And you’re all that he’s not
Just look what I got
Cause you got it all
Over him

No, don’t let him worry you so
Once I met you I let go
Oh you can surely see
You’re so much more to me
Just one look and I knew
You would make everything clear
Make all the clouds disappear
You’re better than all the rest
Who do I love the best
Don’t you know, don’t you know

You got it all over him
You got me over him
Honey it’s true
There’s just you
You must have been heaven sent
Hearing me call you went
Out on a limb
And you’re all that he’s not
Just look what I got
Cause you got it all
All over him
(You got it all over him, You got me over him)
Honey it’s true there’s just you
You must have been heaven sent
Hearing me call you went
Out on a limb
And you’re all that he’s not
Just look what I got
Cause you got it all
All over him

Silent Night

Silent night! Holy night!
All is calm all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace!
Sleep in heavenly peace!

Silent night! Holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Hallelujah
Christ the Saviour is born!
Christ the Saviour is born!

Silent night! Holy night!
Son of God love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.


Can you hear the drums Fernando?
I remember long ago another starry night like this
In the firelight Fernando
You were humming to yourself and softly strumming your guitar
I could hear the distant drums
And sounds of bugle calls were coming from afar

They were closer now Fernando
Every hour every minute seemed to last eternally
I was so afraid Fernando
We were young and full of life and none of us prepared to die
And I’m not ashamed to say
The roar of guns and cannons almost made me cry

There was something in the air that night
The stars were bright, Fernando
They were shining there for you and me
For liberty, Fernando
Though we never thought that we could lose
There’s no regret
If I had to do the same again
I would, my friend, Fernando

Now we’re old and grey Fernando
And since many years I haven’t seen a rifle in your hand
Can you hear the drums Fernando?
Do you still recall the fateful night we crossed the Rio Grande?
I can see it in your eyes
How proud you were to fight for freedom in this land

There was something in the air that night
The stars were bright, Fernando
They were shining there for you and me
For liberty, Fernando
Though we never thought that we could lose
There’s no regret
If I had to do the same again
I would, my friend, Fernando

There was something in the air that night
The stars were bright, Fernando
They were shining there for you and me
For liberty, Fernando
Though we never thought that we could lose
There’s no regret
If I had to do the same again
I would, my friend, Fernando
Yes, if I had to do the same again
I would, my friend, Fernando…

Come Away with Me

Come away with me in the night
Come away with me
And I will write you a song

Come away with me on a bus
Come away where they can’t tempt us
With their lies

And I wanna walk with you
On a cloudy day
In fields where the yellow grass grows knee-high
So won’t you try to come

Come away with me and we’ll kiss
On a mountain top
Come away with me
And I’ll never stop loving you

I wanna wake up with the rain
Falling on a tin roof
While I’m safe there in your arms
So all I ask is for you
To come away with me in the night
Come away with me


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One thought on “

  1. i recd. this from my mam who was teaching us german translation. this is a nice gift to me fr her. There are many old song like एक वार पंखावरूनी, संधीकालि या अशा and many. if u have done more trans. pl send me d links.
    this is a grand exercise .
    thank u.


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