On Translation of Poetry: Foreword to the English translation of 'Madhushala'

Foreword to the English translation of Harivansh Rai Bachchan’s Madhushala. The English rendering was done by Maijorie Boulton and Ramswaroop Vyas jointly. 

I am a writer of sorts, and I am a lover of poetry. But I must confess that I have never written a line of verse. Because of this I hesitate always to criticize poetry, as I doubt my own competence to do so. I like it or I dislike it or it leaves me just cold.

When the request came to me to write a foreword to this translation of Shri Bachchan's Hindi poems, I hesitated. This was not in my line at all. Then it struck me that this was something rather unusual—an English translation of modern Hindi poems. Tulsi Das has been translated and perhaps some other of the older Hindi classics, but I am not aware of any attempt to translate modern Hindi poetry. Hindi is obviously coming into its own in India and more and more modern Hindi literature will grow and will represent the thoughts and urges of the Indian people. It is desirable therefore that people, even outside India, should know something of modern Hindi, and I am glad to commend this translation.

Bachchan is a well-known Hindi poet and I like this Madhushala of his. Marjorie Boulton’s translation appears to be accurate and good and does somewhat convey the essence of the original. Nothing is more difficult than to translate the poetry of one language into another. Indeed, success comes so seldom that I discourage these attempts. Nevertheless, it is necessary that the good poetry in one language should be translated into another and thus other countries and other people might be made to have a glimpse of the spirit of a nation. So I welcome this translation.


Source: SWJN, S2, V10, pp. 99-100

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