7 JUNE 1913, Page 15


[To THE EDITOR OF THE " SPECTATOR."' SIR,—Many of your readers must be acquainted with Mr. Rabindranath Tagore's charming English version in prose of his " Gitanjali." That in itself is a remarkable feat—a rendering into adequate rhythmical prose of Hindu verse in such a fashion as to capture the admiration and sympathy of Western friends. Many of these must be wondering in what metrical dress the original poems are clothed. It is all but impossible to reproduce Bengali metres in English, for the same reason that makes it impossible to represent the metrical effect of French Alexandrines in English words, namely, because, in Bengali as in French, the dominant audible quality is not, as with us, a frequent recurrence of word-stresses, but phrase-accents separated by several clearly pronounced but atonic syllables. This phrase-accent in Bengali is initial, not final as in French. The metrical effect of the payar, the heroic verse of Bengali, may be crudely indicated by the following rude doggerel, in which I have tried to put stresses where the phrase-accents would fall in Bengali. (The verses are of thirteen or fourteen syllables, with an accent on the first, fifth, ninth, and thirteenth syllables. There should be, strictly, a caesura after the eighth syllable.) " This is the melodious, the delicately chiming Metre of Bengali, in its pauses and its rhyming, Tripping to the measure of a dance of little feet, Perilously simple, like the jingle of the sweet Bells upon the ankles of the dancers as they pose— Bells upon their ankles, yes, and rings upon their toes !"

The stresses of English do not produce quite the same musical effect as the tonic accents of Bengali, but these lines, especially if chanted or intoned, may give some rough idea of Bengali metre. What they do not show is the fact that Mr. Tagore has made innovations in much the same way as Victor Hugo made the traditional Alexandrine less monotonous by intro- ducing " ternary" and "quaternary " caesuras.—I am, Sir,