This is written using verb conjugations and vocabulary that would now be considered archaic, but which were still in use in much of what we read when I was in elementary school in Bengal. I have provided, again, two Roman transcriptions. The first follows the current standard pronunciation and is summarized in the preface to the post at Bharot Xadhin (India Free).
I have inserted (in blue) after each stanza in that transcription, an approximation to a word-for-word translation into English. When a reader whose first language belongs to the European mainstream tries to decipher those inserts, she/he might note how weird the syntax of Bengali appears to someone encountering such a syntax for the first time.
The reader might then begin to appreciate how strange and difficult the syntax of an European language, such as English, seems to an Asian who is a native speaker of, say, Turkish, Hindi-Urdu, Bengali, Tamil, Mongolian, Korean or Japanese—unless that speaker has been exposed, from an early age, to either that European tongue or to a syntactically similar language.
The second transcription is the "machine transcription" obtained via http://google.com/translate, which I have lightly edited, in the way that I had described in earlier posts. Notes on that transcription scheme are at the very end of the post at Beside the Sea--Xagor Tire .
Finally, at the end of the current post, there is a translation into English, which is fairly literal.
প্রভাতের পাল প্রভাতে নদীর কিনারে দাঁড়াইয়া, দেখিলাম দূরে, পাল মেলিয়া চলিতেছে, হাওয়ার বাহনে, দূর দেশের সাম্পান৷
কোথা হইতে আসিয়াছে, ভাবিয়া ভাবিয়া, মনে মনে ভাসিয়া দূরে, আসিলাম বন্দরে৷ দেখিলাম, বিদেশি শহর৷ পাসে ক্ষেত৷ দূরে, বনে ঢাকা পর্বতমালা, কুয়াশা চুড়ায়৷ ঢেউয়ের উপর দুলিতেছে জাহাজ৷ দূরে ও নিকটে পাল৷ দূর থেকে দেখা, পিপড়ার মত, বিদেশী শ্রমিকের ঝাঁক৷ ‘ইহা কি বর্মা, নাকি মালয়, ছিয়াম, কাম্বোজ, ভিয়েত, চীন?’ স্বপ্নে যেন প্রশ্ন কাহার কানে আসিল ধীর৷
‘জানি না,’ কহিয়া দিলাম জবাব, ‘জানি না, কোন দেশ৷’ বলাতে, দেখিলাম দৃশ্য যেন নিমেষে হইল শেষ৷
ফিরিলাম নিজ দেশে, শীতল সকালে৷ দেখিলাম, দূরে, সেই পাল অদৃশ্য প্রায়৷ কোথা হইতে আসিয়াছিল সেই দূরে দেখা পাল, জানি না৷ জানি না, তাহা কোথাকার সাম্পান৷
If you are looking for an English translation that is more easily comprehensible than what is given, directly below (in the blue inserts after each stanza), please see the very end of this post.
Note that the blue inserts provide close to word-for-word translations from the Bengali, preserving the original word order. This is meant to help those who seek a better understanding of the words and syntax of the Bengali original.
For the Bengali postpositions -e and -te, I have uniformly used the (suffixed) English preposition "in", although -e and -te could also signify "at", "on", "into", etc., depending on the context.
Bengali has a principle of "least redundancy", "economy of endings", "least effort" or "laziness" -- call it what you will -- through which (among other things) plural endings are dispensed with when not required for clarity. So the word pal ("sail" or "flock/herd") could, depending on the context, mean either "sail" or "sails "(or "herd" or "herds"). I have translated pal in the blue inserts as "sail". In the more idiomatic translation, at the very end of the current post, I have written "sails" instead, envisioning a sampan (Chinese-style flat-bottomed boat or small ship) with more than one sail.
In Hindi-Urdu, tense, person, number and gender are all reflected in the verb declensions. The form of a Bengali verb changes with tense and person, but not with number or gender. The English verb form changes with tense, person and number, although for the last two the only form that still differs in standard modern English is the third person singular (in the present tense and, for the auxiliary verb, in the present perfect tense). I have, in the blue inserts, used the singular forms of the English verbs.
In Bengali, the verb "to be" is usually omitted in the present tense. I have followed this practice in the blue inserts. So be ready for some verb-less sentences in these inserts.
If the blue inserts are incomprehensible even after several readings, please take recourse to the translation at the very end of this post.
The following English translation is fairly literal. However, I have added, to this translation, an explanatory, somewhat repetitive, concluding stanza that is absent in the original.
-------------------------------------------------- The Distant Sails
From the river’s shore, I saw, this morning,
far away, with sails unfurled,
a sampan, from a distant land,
driven by the wind.
I wondered where it came from,
and wondering, I floated in my mind,
it seemed, until I saw,
across the waves, a busy port.
I saw a city, in a foreign land.
Nearby were fields and farms. Afar
were wooded mountains—and their peaks
were shrouded then in mist.
Ships were rolling on the waves.
Their sails were far and near.
And in the distance, I could see
the workers in the docks—like little ants.
“ Is this Burma? Or is it Malaya, Siam,
Cambodia, Vietnam—or China?”
I heard this question, spoken soft and slow,
within my dream.
“I do not know,” I answered,
“I do not know this land.”
And as I spoke, the vision
came to its end.
I was back in my land,
in the cool of the morning.
I saw, afar, those sails
about to disappear.
I do not know from where it came—
that ship I saw in the distance.
I do not know. I do not know
from where it came—
those sails of the morning,
of my dreams—I do not know
from where they came.
2015 June 13th Sat, 10:38 am (translated into English July 18th, Sat. with a final stanza added to the translation) Brooklyn, New York