Where would we be without political satire?

Gabriel Rosenstock introduces and translates another poem from the Indian subcontinent

Where would we be without political satire? Writing in Rajasthani, which has a literature stretching back 1,500 years or more, the author Rangrelo Bithu flourished in the sixteenth century. He enjoyed making fun of his king, Rawal Har of Jaisalmer, almost as much as the king enjoyed throwing the poet into prison.

Molaimis go hard na spéire Críocha Dhat

Rangrelo Bithu

Molaimis go hard na spéire Críocha Dhat
Is garbh iad na cnoic ísle, donnrua agus lom
Ní fhásann faic orthu ach cachtas cranda na ndealg.
Scréach péacóige ní chloisfeá
Ó cheann ceann na tíre.
Ní bhuailfeá go deo ann ach le hiéana,
Torcán nó laghairt mhonatóra.
Tá an pobal stiúgtha;
Cuireann an t-ocras i measc na ngort iad
Sa tóir ar an bhféar deilgneach:
Chonac féin iad agus na síolta á n-ithe acu.
Muintir Jadav cuir i gcás in Jaisalmer.

Comáineann an tseanbhanríon a cuid asal
Go dtí lochán i gcéin, ag triall ar uisce;
Téann ann ina haonar,
Suaitheann sí an t-uisce
Lena lámha
Chun an dromchla a ghlanadh
Den salachar go léir ar snámh ann.
Líonann a cuid potaí;
Lódálann ar na frámaí adhmaid ansin iad
A iompraíonn na hasail ar a ndroim
Is abhaile leo
Go spadánta,
Iad caite amach ar fad.

Is plobaire ceart é príomh-bhard an rí;
Caitheann sé a éadach íochtarach
Ar bhealach scaoilte míchuibhiúil;
Is bacach é, an dá chos gan mhaith;
Chloisfeá ag geonaíl é i mbun coisíochta.
Ídithe atá an cairpéad ar a suíonn cúirt Rawal
Agus poill mhóra ann;
Is dúr iad na filí atá aige
Agus ní aithneoidís
Buabhall ó eilifint,
Olann gharbh
Ó shíoda.

Sin iad críocha Dhat anois duit!
Moladh go deo le críocha Dhat!

Gabhann na mná gnaíúla go léir
Ag triall ar uisce an chéad rud ar maidin;
Bíonn sé ina mheán oíche faoin am a dtagann siad abhaile,
Iad in aimhréidh agus trína chéile;
A gcuid páistí—gioblacháin—
Ag caoineadh an lá ar fad.
Sin anois iad críocha Dhat duit.
Molaimis go hard na spéire Críocha Dhat.

Praise galore to the Land of Dhat
The low hills are stony, russet and bare,
with no trees on them save the stunted thorny cactus.
You wouldn’t hear the call of a peacock
in all the land.
Hyenas, porcupines and monitor lizards
are the only creatures that you’ come across.
The people are starved;
hunger drives them afield
in search of the prickly grass
whose seeds I have seen them eat.
Such as the Jadavs of Jaisalmer.

The senior queen drives her donkeys
to a distant pond to fetch her water;
alone she must go,
and bestirring with her hands
the water
to clear its surface
of the floating dirt and debris,
fill her pots;
and load them onto the wooden frames
on the donkey’s backs
and drive them home,
trudging all the way,
tired and exhausted.

The king’s chief bard is pot-bellied;
he wears his lower garment
in a loose unseemly manner;
he is lame in both his legs;
and groans at every step he walks.
The carpet on which the Rawal’s court assembles
is worn, with large holes in it;
his poets are all stupid
and cannot distinguish between
a buffalo and an elephant;
to them coarse wool
and silk are just the same.

Such is the land of Dhat!
Praises be to the land of Dhat!

The comely women all go
to fetch water at dawn;
they return past midnight
dishevelled and distraught;
their dishevelled children
pine for them all day.
Such, indeed, is the land of Dhat!
Praises galore to the land of Dhat!