Banalata Sen

Here's an appraisal by author Amit Chaudhuri of poet Jibananda Das and his seminal Banalata Sen, one of the most famous poems in Bengali literature. The article includes two different translations of the opening stanza:

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 gray world of Asoka
And Bimbisara, pressed on through darkness to the city of Vidharbha.
I am a weary heart surrounded by life’s frothy ocean.
To me she gave me a moment’s peace -- Banalata Sen from Natore.


For thousands of years Earth’s path has been my path. I have passed
at dark of night the sea of Ceylon and the ocean of Malay;
the ashen worlds of Bimbisara and Asoka I’ve encompassed,
and Vidarbha town’s dark distance, in life’s far ocean-foam-play…
and a touch of peace came to me once, the tiredest of men --
there and gone, the gift to me of Natore’s Banalata Sen.

They're both wonderful but I think I lean towards the first version. It seems more accessible in its uncomplicated spareness and more in keeping with the intent of the original. That's a personal opinion of course. Regardless, the poem was written 75 years ago yet it still has the power to send chills down the spine.

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- June 29, 2008 9:55 PM // Bangla