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By George Mclennan

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Commentary to Nala and Damayanti (1844) Translated by James McGavran ‘Nala and Damayanti’ is an episode from the enormous Indian epic The Mahabharata. This excerpt, which by itself represents a complete whole, has twice been translated into German; one translation, by [Franz] Bopp, is closer to the original; the other, by [Friedrich Rückert], has more poetic merit. I kept with the latter. Not knowing the original, I could not have had the intention of acquainting Russian readers with it; I simply wanted to retell in Russian the story which so captivated me in [Rückert’s] version; I wanted to take pleasure in poetic labour, trying to find in my language expressions for the virginal, prototypical beauty that fills the Indian story of Nala and Damayanti.

Scenes from Sakuntala, an Indian Drama (1792) Translated by James McGavran The creative spirit resides not only in Europe; it is a citizen of the universe. A man is everywhere a man; everywhere he possesses a sensitive heart and contains in the mirror of his imagination the heavens and the earth. Everywhere Nature is his mentor and his chief source of pleasure. I felt this very vividly reading Sakuntala, a drama written in the Indian language by the Asiatic poet Kalidasa over 1900 years ago.

In this way the French assimilated the alexandrine verse line as the one best-suited to and best aligned with the rules of its poetry. They say that as early as the 12th century a French poem was written under the title ‘Alexander the Great’ and that this is the origin of the name alexandrine. The alexandrine verse line is indeed entirely inadequate. Not only is its monotony onerous to the ear, but its dryness, brevity, and mandatory stress on the hemistich merit criticism from the French themselves.

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