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:

14
Stong.ldan. ha.lo’i. me.tog.
Mchod.b’i. rjas.la. pheb.na.
gyu.sbrang. gzhon.nu. nga.yang.
lha.khang. nang.la. 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 pheb.na. 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!

6 comments:

uwe said...

Ah, I haven't reread his poetry in a while...

stobs ldan ha lo'i me tog
mchod pa'i rdzas la phebs na
g.yu sbrang gzhon nu nga yang
lha khang nang la khrid dang

Incidentally, your translation matches the Russian translation (L. S. Savitsky, 1983) almost word for word.

I wish my Tibetan were better...

jhutok said...

I realize I am commenting way too late. Very very sorry. I think my second effort at translation is a bit more accurate.

The good thing about reading Tsangyang Gyatso, I am realizing, is your Tibetan need not be that good!

Julie said...

Hey, this is really beautiful translation. I taught an editing for translation course at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives for a couple of years, a couple of years ago, and would have LOVED to have someone like you in my class. Please keep up your exquisite translation and poetry. It is wonderful to hear a strong emerging Tibetan voice. I'm an Inji but my husband is Tibetan (and son half Tibetan) so I am close to the cause and feel what you write in my heart. Beautiful! If you are interested in doing some translation work through the Library I'm sure they would be happy to take you on. It shouldn't matter if you are not in Dharamsala. I can put you in touch if you like (julesmarron@gmail.com). Thanks for the wonderful words, Julie

Anonymous said...

Ohh, very nice. sixth Dalai Lama. Maybe this short poem can be read in different ways, no?

When you zip
to the empty flower-offering,
little bee,
lead me to the temple.

Sorry my english is not good enough, for such things.
But usually sixth dalai Lama wrote in first person, no? And why should the bee say anything?

Anonymous said...

ohh sorry,

maybe

when you zip
into the empty flower-offering
little bee
lead me to the temple.

is more exact?

Christophe said...

This is how Lhasang Tsering translated this poem in his book Ocean of Melody:

If bulky hollyhocks,
Can serve as offerings;
Take me, the youthful bee,
Along to the temple.