Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Foreign lyrics


Who will teach me to understand? to recite
the poetry of languages I don’t know?
I feel the songs glowing in the darkness
the voice of raindrops falls into the night
a catch in my throat, and I can just guess
snatch at half meanings of what I can’t follow.


Someone plucks a tune from one single string
and softly croons as he goes by unseen
hidden by fuzzy lines of fields and slopes;
far away an urban amplifier is pulsing
a different message of loneliness and hope
and I’m caught, yanked baffled in between.


Tell me if you’ll come and ferry me there
across the hazy stone edge of those schisms
thick tree canopies meet raging dust storms
the wind whistles unconcerned, unaware
of flying sand patterns, seconds’ sculpted forms
flash out like lightning, forked but lissom.

Wish I'd learnt Punjabi while I had the chance.  And French. Spanish. Italian. And of course, Arabic.  A couple of numbers that I love but can't follow:

Another contemporary Arabic one



  1. Hey Nilanjana!
    this is a very beautiful and expressive poem penned by you.. but dear,learning has no age and i am sure if you have the will then you can learn the language you want to and enjoy the lyrics along with the music.
    Having said that, i also believe that music needs no language to reach your heart.the strings of a soulful music will touch your core if you listen to it with your heart.. so enjoy and stay blessed.. :)

    1. Thanks, Aparna.

      Music cuts across all language barriers, but poetry can't. One needs to know the language with a degree of proficiency to appreciate literature/poetry.

      Quite true also that learning can and does happen at all ages. However, learning ability diminishes markedly with age, expert theories argue that foreign languages are best acquired before adulthood. Anyways, I certainly am long past the age where I can learn a new language with sufficient depth of understanding to appreciate nuances of poetry. But that of course doesn't stop me from enjoying music from anywhere, and I enjoy the poetry in translation as far as I can manage :)

  2. I love the idea of trying to find poems in nature and other languages. You've captured some really nice images here. Poetry is often used as a tool when learning languages, songs, too.

    1. Some of the most beautiful poetry I have come across has been from languages I don't speak. Thanks for being here.

  3. So beautiful! You are amazing. I pitifully do not know or understand any other language, but I love the songs despite the language. Language doesn't matter when the music speaks to you!

    1. Yep, music being food for every emotion rather than just love.

  4. You speak the language of poetry, Nilanjana, and that makes all the difference. I've read some Rumi but in the translation of course. No doubt it loses a lot in the translation.

    1. Well, sometimes it 'gains' too! as in Edward Fitzgerald's translation of Khayyam's Rubaiyat. The thing with translation is that one never can be sure. But it's the only option for enjoying stuff from languages one doesn't know.