Thursday, August 19, 2010

Songs of the Sixth Dalai Lama: Redux

 So I was quite quite wrong. I had misread the first two lines and mistranslated the last. (To be fair to me, these poems, our Shakespeare’s sonnets, do lend themselves to rich and varied interpretation. But ok, perhaps not this one. I was basically just wrong.) This is the corrected effort. I feel that the “thousand” must echo the thousand arms and eyes of Avalokiteshvara so I prefer “thousand-armed” to “thousand-petaled.” Maybe this is not right. Also I don’t know if a ha.lo’i me.tok is a hollyhock flower. Where is a horticulturalist when you need one? I also ended up changing “chapel” to temple. I still have misgivings; the word lha.khang does not translate perfectly. Both “chapel” and “temple” have too many overtones seeping in from different cultures and ages. But needs must.

If the thousand-armed hollyhock flower
Leaves as material for offering,
Please take me, the young turquoise bee,
Into the temple as well.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Songs of the Sixth Dalai Lama

I have been making stabs at reading this tiny book that I “borrowed” from my father’s bookcase: Songs of the Sixth Dalai Lama. It was first printed by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in 1981. K Dhondup translated. His short biography of the Sixth Dalai Lama is very good. There are 59 poems or songs- and of course I haven’t read all of them, but of the ones I have read, my favorite so far is this:

Stong.ldan. ha.lo’i. me.tog.
gyu.sbrang. nga.yang.
lha.khang. khrid.dang.*

K Dhondup translates this as:
If the blossoming hollyhock flower is leaving
As an offering to the altar,
Leave not the young turquoise bee behind:
“Take me with you,
To the altar.”

Ok first, the poem is lovely. Second, I think I am really just utterly charmed that the speaker is a bee. It’s unexpected. The speaker begins quite loftily with stong.ldan. ha.lo’i. me.tog. and reaffirms this with the honorific but the last line is almost petulant and definitely pleading. I am just… very taken with this.

Actually I tried my hand at translation because I didn’t think K Dhondup’s translation was entirely faithful and this is my effort, based of course on K Dhondup’s:
If the blossoming hollyhock flower
Follows the offerings to the altar,
Take me also, the young turquoise bee,
Into the chapel.

*This may be a feeble attempt at transliteration. Anyone is welcome to correct me!