Sur’s Ocean

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“What poet, hearing the poems Sur has made, would not nod his head in pleasure?” (Nabhadas).

Swim in the ocean of his words, or down-river from his source, in this stout annotated volume of just over 400 of the thousands of Old Hindi poems in this 16th century poet-priest’s tradition. Surdas’ songs are presented in Devanagari script and English translation. They tell the story of Krishna and Radha, his lover.

Sur’s Ocean is another scholarly and beautiful edition from the Murty Classical Library of India, translated by John Stratton Hawley of Columbia University.

The songs were meant to be sung: Kenneth Bryant had his work cut out to reconstruct and edit the text without recordings or score, a task he likens to trying to create Jurassic Park from dinosaur bones. The themes of love are universal and haunting, like this lament when Radha is separated from Krishna:

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But you have plenty of context too. The notes are excellent:

 

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You can read more extracts here, in English only. Better still, buy the book.

 

 

 

 

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Posted in books, faith, poetry, translation

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