Four words changed in a poem’s translation

1001 Tales told by the Master Discourses

Osho says, “A poet cannot be corrected by a grammarian, by a linguist or by a scholar.”

Gitanjali page

It is a known fact that great poets cannot explain why they are writing certain poetry. […]

It happened in one of the great Indian poets, Rabindranath Tagore’s life… He translated his own book, Gitanjali – offering of songs. For this book he received the Nobel Prize.

But before taking it to England, to show his poet friends, he showed it to one of the great Christian missionaries, C.F. Andrews – just a translation. He was a little suspicious whether he had been able to bring the quality of the original into the translation or not, and whether the language, the grammar, was correct or not.

C.F. Andrews suggested to change four words at four different points, because they were not linguistically right. C.F. Andrews was not a poet, but he was a great scholar. Rabindranath understood it, and he changed those four words.

In England, one of the great English poets, Yeats, called a meeting of all great poets to listen to Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali. While listening to it, Yeats himself said that at four points it seemed somebody else had interfered in the translation. Exactly those four points were the four words that C.F. Andrews had suggested.

Rabindranath was simply shocked. He could not believe it. He said, “These are the four words suggested by C.F. Andrews.”

Yeats said, “You drop those words. They may be linguistically right, but they have not the poetic quality. They are like blocking stones – they stop the current, the flow, the spontaneity. Please put your original words that you had before C.F. Andrews suggested these four words to you.”

Rabindranath put back his old words, and Yeats and the other poets said, “They are linguistically wrong, but they are far superior poetically. You leave what you had originally written. Don’t listen to anybody.”

A poet cannot be corrected by a grammarian, by a linguist, by a scholar – and another poet of the same depth can immediately see.

Osho, The Sword and the Lotus – Talks in the Himalayas, Ch 15, Q 1 (Excerpt)

Series compiled by Shanti
All excerpts of this series can be found in: 1001 Tales

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