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Banalata Sen -- Jibanananda Das

Guest poem submitted by Ravi Mundoli:
(Poem #446) Banalata Sen
 For thousands of years I roamed the paths of this earth,
 From waters round Ceylon in dead of night to Malayan seas.
 Much have I wandered. I was there in the grey world of Asoka
 And Bimbisara, pressed on through darkness to the city of Vidarbha.
 I am a weary heart surrounded by life's frothy ocean.
 To me she gave a moment's peace -- Banalata Sen from Natore.

 Her hair was like an ancient darkling night in Vidisa,
 Her face, the craftsmanship of Sravasti. As the helmsman,
 His rudder broken, far out upon the sea adrift,
 Sees the grass-green land of a cinnamon isle, just so
 Through darkness I saw her. Said she, "Where have you been so long?"
 And raised her bird's nest-like eyes -- Banalata Sen from Natore.

 At day's end, like hush of dew
 Comes evening. A hawk wipes the scent of sunlight fom its wings.
 When earth's colors fade and some pale design is sketched,
 Then glimmering fireflies paint in the story.
 All birds come home, all rivers, all of this life's tasks finished.
 Only darkness remains, as I sit there face to face with Banalata Sen.
-- Jibanananda Das
Translated by Clinton B. Seely.

[About Jibanananda Das]

An enigmatic poet, Jibanananda was born on 18th February, 1899 in Barishal, now in
Bangladesh. He started late as a poet for his genre. His short creative life was
cut even shorter in a fatal streetcar accident in an October evening in

Between 1925, when his first poem appeared, and 1954, this shy professor of
English literature who hardly ever traveled out of Bengal (except for a few
months' stint of teaching at Ramjas College in Delhi), penned some of the  most
powerful verses in Bengali. Nearly half a century after his death, his poems,
with their magical lyrics and tapestry of rich imagery, continue to haunt us.

Jibanananda was a very private person; only one book of his verses was published
in his lifetime, and  there were no translations of his works for many years
after his death. The beauty and magic of Jibanananda's poetry has largely been
confined to the original Bengali.

Clinton B. Seely at the University of Chicago described Das as "the acknowledged
successor to Rabindranath as Bengal's poet laureate", in his biography titled 'A
Poet Apart'.

[About the poem]

Banalata Sen was a recurrent theme in Jibanananda's creation with its rich
tapestry of imagery. Was there a Banalata Sen? There is no documentation that
there was indeed someone by that name in his real life. Expressions suggesting
the end of time, and the use of words like "darkness remains" suggest end of
life themes, that were common in Jibanananda's works related to Banalata Sen,
but nothing beyond this is hinted at in these works.


A more complete article on Das can be found at

More poems:
[broken link]

Ravi Mundoli.

[thomas adds]

'A hawk wipes the scent of sunlight fom its wings' - oooh.

8 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Ravi_Mundoli said...

While Thomas was kind enough to accept blame for the mess-up with J. (how
much cleverer can I get) Das's name, I must own up. Sorry for the mistake
etc. Next time, I'll contribute with my eyes open.


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