Kabir (Selected Couplets from the Sakhi in Transversion)

Kabir (Selected Couplets from the Sakhi in Transversion)

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Item Code: IDK219
Author: Mohan Singh Karki
Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 8120817885
Pages: 178
Other Details 8.5" X 5.5"
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Kabir's Greatness as poet-saint or saint-poet is unparalleled in the whole range of Hindi literature. In the history of Hindi literature of some 1200 years no others poet, excepting Tulsidas, equals the genius of Kabir nor does equal the greatness of Kabir. For Hindus he is a vaishnav and for Muslims he is a Pir (Muslim saint). The followers of Kabir regard him as an incarnation of divinity. Modern nationalists regard him as an incarnation of divinity. Modern nationalists regard him the pioneer of Hindu-Muslim unity. For neo-vedantists he s a philanthropist. For progressive thinkers Kabir is a social-reformer. He is a heretic, and, at the same time, a liberal thinker. In terms of religious philosophy he is a monotheist-the devotee of the Unconditioned or the absolute. In leading a domestic life he was a yogi, and, in his vocation of weaving he was a philosopher who, like Wordsworth's skylark, was 'true to the kindred points of heaven and home'. Western thinkers call him an Indian Martin Luther. In his multisided genius Kabir is unparalleled.

In taking up the work of transversion of Kabir's Dohas (Hindi couplets) from the Sakhi I was primarily inspired by Fitzgerald's work Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. I felt oriental wisdom should be made available to English-speaking readers who want to enjoy verse with the message of Kabir. When the work was midway I came across the Gita's blank verse translation by Sir Edwin Arnold, and much later, I came across the free verse translation of Kabir's one hundred poems (songs) by Rabindranath Tagore.

Some three years ago when I made my initial attempt at rendering a Kabir couplet into an English iambic pentameter couplet I could the task unmanageable. Then I realized that a few couplets could be transversed into an English iambic pentameter couplet but others seemed totally unmanageable. I made my next attempt with an octosyllabic line. I felt the task was manageable. Thus, the stanza-form adopted is of four lines-second line rhyming with the fourth line and each line having four iambic feet. There are some exceptions when the line is not iambic but becomes trochaic. In this respect, my doctoral studies on Robert Frost helped me a lot. Frost in theory advocated and in his practice demonstrated that loose iambic lines have colloquial rhythm. Strict iambic becomes a sing-song which may be metrically correct but its touch with speech is lost. Kabir's couplets in the Sakhi have a colloquial rhythm. In regard to the stanza-form, I verified from the practice of other poets. I found that keats in his "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" has similar form except that the last line is only of four syllables. Robert Frost in "A Record Stride" is of the same pattern:

I touch my tongue to the shoes now,
And unless my sense is at fault,
One one I can taste Atlantic,
On the other Pacific, salt.

In William Butler Yeast's poem "The Fiddler of Dooney" the same kind of stanza is used with extra unstressed syllable at the end of the first and third lines:

When I play my fiddle at Dooney,
Folk dance like a wave of the sea,
My cousin is priest at Kilvarnet,
My brother in Mocharabuiee

I felt a couplet of Kabir finds its equivalent in the stanza-form adopted here.

In regard to rhyme as well the practice of English and American poets was kept in mind. In many stanzas the rhyme words are not phonetically exact. This kind of variation is justified by such critical as 'eye rhyme' 'slant rhyme' and so on.

It has to be frankly acknowledged that all the qualities of the original cannot be transversed. Alliteration, assonance, and pun in the original become the first casualties in translation. Meaning has been the main consideration so the best possible attempt is made to keep the meaning faithfully conveyed. A limited free play becomes unavoidable. In this connection, it is pertinent to quote Prakash Chander, the translator of Flute and Bugle. "The difficulty of rendering Urdu into English is sought usually to be neutralized by limited free play with words and meanings even while staying anchored to the sense of original" (Underlines mine) (Quoted from Hindustan Times, July 23,1998).

From the Jacket

The book opens a new vista in the sphere of verses translation in India. In the introductory part there is a departure from a mass of Hindi criticism. The bases of selection of Dohas from the Sakhi are: (1) Kabir's proverbial and worldly wisdom, (2) Analogy-findings gift, (3) richness and variety of imagery, (4) Recurrent theme of death, (5) Gift for satire, and (6) Rhetorical powers. This introductory part primarily focuses on Kabir as poet, which is his 'real estimate'. Thus, the introductory part is a piece of scholarly criticism judging and appreciating Kabir's Sakhi on the canons of English literary criticism.

The versification (four-line stanza form in loose iambic tetrameter lines) has an easy flow and almost parallels the flow of Kabir's Dohas. With the Hindi version and notes, the book will be a valuable reading especially for the English-speaking readers.

About the Author

The Author-translator, M.S. Karki, (born in 1940) taught English language and literature at different colleges. His published doctoral dissertation Robert Frost: Theory and Practice of the Colloquial and Sound of Sense enjoyed the reputation of being an outstanding work. Besides this, the author edited with copious scholarly notes. The Golden Treasure (an anthology of English poems) and The Facets of English Prose (an anthology comprising parable, fable, allegory, irony, diary letter, biography and autobiography). His latest publication is A Miscellany of Poems.

Back of the Book

Linda Hess and Shukdev Singh

Kabir was an extraordinary oral poet whose works have been sung and recited by millions throughout North India. He preached an abrasive, sometimes shocking, always uncompromising message exhorting his audience to shed their delusions, pretensions, and empty orthodoxies in favour of an intense, direct, personal confrontation with truth.

The Bijak is the sacred book of the Kabir Panth and the main representative of the Eastern traditions of Kabir's verses. Shukhdev Singh and Linda Hess have accomplished a translation of real grace and remarkable accuracy. The introduction and notes explore Kabir's work, place if in its initial context, and explore its meaning for time.

G.N. Das

The fifteenth century saint-poet Kabir's extempore outpourings of songs and couplets numbering thousands have been hailed widely for their deep spiritual fervour and poetic quality. They are widely read with rapture and regard by old and young alike in India.

Kabir's couplets which are considered as rich gems for their spiritual message and worldly wisdom are rhymed English verse translation of three hundred of them from a wide cross-section of the multifaceted genius utterances. Under each verse has been given a few lines in prose to help the reader grasp the underlying import of the message of the Saint-poet.

Muhammad Hedayetullah

This book discusses the place occupied by Kabir among the Bhakta-mystics of medieval India. The author depicts him as an apostle of Hindu-Muslim unity, the mediator, the harmonizer of Hindu and Muslim ways of life. He shows that the efforts made by Kabir found its fruitful expression in rise of Indo-Islamic culture and civilization.


Preface v
Acknowledgment ix
A Brief Biographical Sketch of Kabir xv
Introduction to Kabir: The Saint-Poet 1
The Sakhi: Corpus (characteristics) 20
1.Of Guru the Deity 21
2.Of Remembering God 23
3.Of Pain of Separation 25
4.Of Pain in Preceptive Enlightenment 27
5.Of Communion (with God) 29
6.Of Classic Ancient 31
7.Of Loyal Wife Sans Desire of Fruit 31
8.Of Portent 33
9.Of Heart (Full of Desires) 39
10.Of Subtle Ways 41
11.Of Subtle Birth 41
12.Of Maya 41
13.Of the Shrewd (Brahmin) 45
14.Of Deeds Sans Words 49
15.Of Words Sans Deeds 49
16.Of Lusty Man and Of Lust 49
17.Of Truth 51
18.Of End of Fallacy 53
19.Of (Simulative) Guise 57
20.Of Bad Company 59
21.Of Company 61
22.Of the Unrighteous 61
23.Of the Righteous 63
24.Of the Righteous in Transcendental State 65
25.Of Magnitude of Righteousness 65
26.Of One Who Takes the Substance 67
27.Of One Who takes the Insubstantial 67
28.Of Exhortations 69
29.Of Faith 71
30.Of Identifying the Lover (God) 71
31.Of Reclusion 71
32.Of Potence 73
33.Of the Foul Word 75
34.Of the Word 75
35.Of Life-in-Death 75
36.Of the Perfidious 77
37.Of Guru-Disciple Search 77
38.Of Love and Affection 79
39.Of Bravery 79
40.Of Time/Death 81
41.Of Elixir 87
42.Of the Non-Assayer 87
43.Of the Assayer 89
44.Of Origin of Devotion 89
45.Of the Musk Deer 91
46.Of Vituperation 91
47.Of the Virtueless 95
48.Of Entreaty 95
49.Of the Creeper 95
50.Of the Indivisible 97
51.Of a Man Sans Guru 107
52.Of Selfishness 107
53.Of Philanthropy 107
54.Of Love 109
55.Of the Loyal wife 109
56.Of Alien God 111
57.Of Peace 111
58.Of Vainglory 111
59.Of Contentment 113
60.Of Pardon 113
61.Of Hearsay 113
62.Of the Middle 113
63.Of Thinking 115
64.Of Equivocal Mind 115
65.Of Oneness 115
66.Of Repentance 117
67.Of the Universal 117
68.Of the Non-Vegetarian 117
69.Of Non-Vituperation 119
70.Of the Non-Gourmet 119
71.The Miscellaneous 121
Notes 129
Glossary (of Hindi Words) 135
Selected Bibliography 147
Index of First Half-lines in Hindi and Corresponding First-lines in English 149
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