November 2017        

Where would we be without political satire?

Gabriel Rosenstock introduces and translates another poem from the Indian subcontinent

Where would we be without political satire? Writing in Rajasthani, which has a literature stretching back 1,500 years or more, the author Rangrelo Bithu flourished in the sixteenth century. He enjoyed making fun of his king, Rawal Har of Jaisalmer, almost as much as the king enjoyed throwing the poet into prison.

Molaimis go hard na spéire Críocha Dhat

Rangrelo Bithu

Molaimis go hard na spéire Críocha DhatPraise galore to the Land of Dhat
Is garbh iad na cnoic ísle, donnrua agus lomThe low hills are stony, russet and bare,
Ní fhásann faic orthu ach cachtas cranda na ndealg.with no trees on them save the stunted thorny cactus.
Scréach péacóige ní chloisfeáYou wouldn’t hear the call of a peacock
Ó cheann ceann na tíre.in all the land.
Ní bhuailfeá go deo ann ach le hiéana,Hyenas, porcupines and monitor lizards
Torcán nó laghairt mhonatóra.are the only creatures that you’ come across.
Tá an pobal stiúgtha;The people are starved;
Cuireann an t-ocras i measc na ngort iadhunger drives them afield
Sa tóir ar an bhféar deilgneach:in search of the prickly grass
Chonac féin iad agus na síolta á n-ithe acu.whose seeds I have seen them eat.
Muintir Jadav cuir i gcás in Jaisalmer.Such as the Jadavs of Jaisalmer.
      
Comáineann an tseanbhanríon a cuid asalThe senior queen drives her donkeys
Go dtí lochán i gcéin, ag triall ar uisce;to a distant pond to fetch her water;
Téann ann ina haonar,alone she must go,
Suaitheann sí an t-uisceand bestirring with her hands
Lena lámhathe water
Chun an dromchla a ghlanadhto clear its surface
Den salachar go léir ar snámh ann.of the floating dirt and debris,
Líonann a cuid potaí;fill her pots;
Lódálann ar na frámaí adhmaid ansin iadand load them onto the wooden frames
A iompraíonn na hasail ar a ndroimon the donkey’s backs
Is abhaile leoand drive them home,
Go spadánta,trudging all the way,
Iad caite amach ar fad.tired and exhausted.
      
Is plobaire ceart é príomh-bhard an rí;The king’s chief bard is pot-bellied;
Caitheann sé a éadach íochtarachhe wears his lower garment
Ar bhealach scaoilte míchuibhiúil;in a loose unseemly manner;
Is bacach é, an dá chos gan mhaith;he is lame in both his legs;
Chloisfeá ag geonaíl é i mbun coisíochta.and groans at every step he walks.
Ídithe atá an cairpéad ar a suíonn cúirt RawalThe carpet on which the Rawal’s court assembles
Agus poill mhóra ann;is worn, with large holes in it;
Is dúr iad na filí atá aigehis poets are all stupid
Agus ní aithneoidísand cannot distinguish between
Buabhall ó eilifint,a buffalo and an elephant;
Olann gharbhto them coarse wool
Ó shíoda.and silk are just the same.
      
Sin iad críocha Dhat anois duit!Such is the land of Dhat!
Moladh go deo le críocha Dhat!Praises be to the land of Dhat!
      
Gabhann na mná gnaíúla go léirThe comely women all go
Ag triall ar uisce an chéad rud ar maidin;to fetch water at dawn;
Bíonn sé ina mheán oíche faoin am a dtagann siad abhaile,they return past midnight
Iad in aimhréidh agus trína chéile;dishevelled and distraught;
A gcuid páistí—gioblacháin—their dishevelled children
Ag caoineadh an lá ar fad.pine for them all day.
Sin anois iad críocha Dhat duit.Such, indeed, is the land of Dhat!
Molaimis go hard na spéire Críocha Dhat.Praises galore to the land of Dhat!
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