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Sur’s Ocean

Classic Hindi Poetry in Translation

Surdas

Translated by John Stratton Hawley

ISBN 9780674290174

Publication date: 02/01/2023

“John Stratton Hawley miraculously manages to braid the charged erotic and divine qualities of Krishna, the many-named god, while introducing us—with subtle occasional rhyme—to a vividly particularized world of prayers and crocodile earrings, spiritual longing and love-struck bees.”
—Forrest Gander, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

An award-winning translation of Hindi verses composed by one of India’s treasured poets.

The blind poet Surdas has been regarded as the epitome of artistry in Hindi verse from the end of the sixteenth century, when he lived, to the present day. His fame rests upon his remarkable refashioning of the widely known narrative of the Hindu deity Krishna and his lover Radha into lyrics that are at once elegant and approachable. Surdas’s popularity led to the proliferation, through an energetic oral tradition, of poems ascribed to him, known collectively as the Sūrsāgar.

This award-winning translation reconstructs the early tradition of Surdas’s verse—the poems that were known to the singers of Surdas’s own time as his. Here Surdas stands out with a clarity never before achieved.

Praise

  • Surdas, the wildly popular sixteenth-century composer of these poems, reworked well-known stories of Krishna as a child, a butter thief, a cowherd, a heartbreaker, and a charismatic deity into a new oral literary tradition. Translated into a slightly antiquated but colloquial English that passes for contemporary speech while reminding us of the distance between our time and the time in which these poems were sung, John Stratton Hawley miraculously manages to braid the charged erotic and divine qualities of Krishna, the many-named god, while introducing us—with subtle occasional rhyme—to a vividly particularized world of prayers and crocodile earrings, spiritual longing and love-struck bees.

    —Forrest Gander, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Author

  • John Stratton Hawley is an award-winning translator and scholar of religious studies. He has written extensively on the bhakti movement and is the Claire Tow Professor of Religion at Barnard College, Columbia University.

Book Details

  • 208 pages
  • 5-1/4 x 8 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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