Today's Beautiful Gem: `The Cedars of Lebanon'
by Alphonse Marie Louis
de Lamartine; translated from the original French by Toru Dutt.
"Eagles, that wheel above our crests, / Say to the storms that round us blow,
They cannot harm our gnarled breasts, / Firm-rooted as we are below.
Their utmost efforts we defy. / They lift the sea-waves to the sky;
But when they wrestle with our arms / Nervous and gaunt, or lift our hair,
Balanced within its cradle fair / The tiniest bird has no alarms.
"Sons of the rock, no mortal hand / Here planted us: God-sown we grew.
We are the diadem green and grand / On Eden's summit that He threw.
When waters in a deluge rose, / Our hollow flanks could well enclose
Awhile the whole of Adam's race; / And children of the Patriarch
Within our forest built the Ark / Of Covenant, foreshadowing grace.
"We saw the Tribes as captives led. / We saw them back return anon;
As rafters have our branches dead / Cover'd the porch of Solomon;
And later, when the Word, made man, / Came down in God's salvation plan
To pay for sin the ransom-price, / The beams that form'd the Cross we gave;
These, red in blood of power to save, / Were altars of that Sacrifice.
"In memory of such great events, / Men come to worship our remains;
Kneel down in prayer within our tents, / And kiss our old trunks'
The saint, the poet, and the sage, / Hear and shall hear from age to age /
Sounds in our foliage like the voice / Of many waters; in these shades
Their burning words are forged like blades, / While their uplifted souls
Note: Toru Dutt, who lived a century ago, may perhaps be considered as the
first Indian woman poet of modern times who wrote in a foreing tongue,
sorry, two foreign tongues. She was proficient both in French and English
and chiselled poetic gems in both the languages. Her sister Aru Dutt also
wrote poetry. If only God had granted her longer life! She died of
consumption even before she reached twenty. One particular poem by Toru
Dutt, `Our casuarina tree', (topical to immigrants like us) deals with
memories of her native land, India, while she was residing abroad.
om s'aantih: Peace! - J. K. Mohana Rao