Narsinh Mehta Poem No 4: Translation

There is a long tradition in Hindu literature of giving the Divine hundreds of names. I believe that at the core of this practice is the logic that one cannot describe That which is the source of Life, so all one can do is talk about what He/She/It does for us in terms of functions or roles. Krishna for example is called Govind, Madhav, Nath, Swami, Hari, and so on. Each of these have meaning and describe an attribute. That Krishna is an avatar of Vishnu adds a huge variety.

Let’s talk about Narsinh Mehta’s name. He is also known as “Narsi,” “Narsi Bhagat,” “Narasinha,” “Narasimha,” and “Narasaiyo.”  Sachin Ketkar in his dissertation of ~1999 uses this spelling that I am using. Nilima Shukla-Bhatt uses “Narasinha” in her doctoral study of 2003. The other spellings and more possible variations appear all across the literature about this poet both in Gujarati and English. The source of the name is one of the avatars of Vishnu, meanig man Nara – lion sinh. To save his devotee prince Prahalad, from him own demon father who had a boon to be killed neither by man or animal, not in the day or night, not outside or inside, Vishnu appeared precisely when twilight fell, emerging from a pillar which supported the entrance to the palace with a lion’s face and claws on a human body. He held the king on his thigh at the entrance and tore open his chest.

Back to the name, its spelling and meaning. In modern colloquial usage, the poet is often called “Narasaiyo” (Guj. નરસૈયો), meaning Nara man – saiyo lover, one who loves man (generically humans), that is, God. Most modernized texts transcribe the poems with this term. Going with the scholarly research text on which my source is based, I transliterated the word as “naarasahinyo” (Guj. નારસહિંયો). The term Naara specifically means “woman” and sahin means “women’s friendship or women friends.”

With this background, I’d like to propose that we can validly speak of the poet being a friend of women and speaking about their beloved Lord, that is Krishna, in his poems. All of this becomes particularly significant in Poem number 4.

4 Last Night

Last night my lord arrived, his eyes wandered, his feet swayed,
Two lovelies draped arms on his neck, none equals the unmatched palace. Last. . . 1

I came face to face, my anger melted away, standing stunned, I beheld this love,
Seeing the Lord with his beloveds, at the women’s fortune I was overjoyed.  Last . . .2

My rivals’ four feet with his head my lord lovingly placed abed.
More satisfying than being in his embrace was to see thus my lord’s loving face.  Last.  .3

Says Naarasahinyo: such love is forever new, where all merge in Govind’s good graces.
What does Brahma know of a love tale? Only the half ache of a heart fulfilled.

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About semiophile2010

word lover, meaning maniac, bilingual with metalingual interests, sometimes potter, poet, playwright, writer, mover to music, always a pontificator.
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