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Tales of Darkness and Light

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Soso Tham

6. Pyrthei Mariang–The Natural World

Texte intégral

1The natural descriptions here are just as beautiful as in the preceding section but the poignancy is sharpened because they are set down in a mood of sad recollection. This is why the poet begins this section with a plea for inspiration as he seeks to fulfill his task of restoring the wonder and virtues of the past. This long look into the past from a present that is found to be wanting, creates a seam of tender pain which runs right though the composition springing from the tension that exists between what was, what is and what still might be. This in fact is a feature of a composition illustrating how the past, the present and the future coexist in a relationship of troubling unease. The poet goes in search of U Sohpet Beneng who represents the now severed umbilical cord that once linked Heaven and Earth and is “the He whom I love” now lost to humankind. U Sohpet Beneng is thus shown to be the mediator between God and Man.

The Natural World

  • 1 Khasi pronunciation of the word “diamond” which I have retained to sustain the rhythm.

Stars of truth once shone upon
The darkness of our midnight world
Oh
Da-ia-mon, Oh Pen of Gold1
Put down all that there is to know
Awaken and illuminate
Before the dying of the light

  • 2 From the point of view of those who retain the indigenous faith, this is a reference to a Saviour w (...)

O lift the gloom and lead me on
Away from shadows cast by trees,
Along the paths of silver streams
Draughts of wind-fresh I will drink
On cascade summit, abyss verge,
Oh where is He, He whom I love!
2

Gradual was the dawn of light
In that age of innocence
Truth seeped slowly through our ears
Those echo-chambers built of stone
Scenic splendour in the sky
We took our time to see the sun

Roused by gentle springtime winds
The sun begins her journey down
Footprints green she leaves behind
In open fields and hidden shade
Life was pure, we were held safe
As children in our parents’ laps

Just before the Autumn calls
Insects, birds break into song
Steeped in joy the land, the living
And tranquil rests the mind of man
Then surged that flow of gold-glint tears
Its headspring though… he could not find

  • 3 An approximate translation of the Khasi expression “ïaid kai”. The adverb “kai” suggests a mood tha (...)

Perhaps the Spirit Queen of Earth
Sees with vision bright and true
How stars from teardrops congregate
In waters of an endless ocean.
Into the Garden, God steps down
Beguiling time away with man
3

  • 4 A songbird in the Sohra region.
  • 5 See Chapter 3, pp. 19–20, when the Golden Ladder between heaven and earth was cut.

On distant peaks they linger
Those children of the gods
Their eyes rest soft on earth’s great rivers
As they listen to the
Riyar’s song4
Peace contentment reigned supreme
Before the Heavenly Cord was cleaved
5

Our streams and rivers flowed along
Well-traced paths on boulder rock
So too the Golden Ladder scaled
Movement safe from dawn to dusk
Night a time of sound repose
Day was mother to a virtuous race

  • 6 No matter that the Moon is male in Khasi, the beauty of this heavenly body is celebrated as in othe (...)

Under a roof soot-sodden thick
Night plucks the strings —
kynting-ting-ting
A blush burns deep on a girlish cheek
Intense the gaze of the perfect moon
6
Dried fish and rice my mother served
What joy replete in humble fare

Slander shunned, deceit abhorred
Truth in its prime stood resolute
The skies a clear cerulean blue,
Gently passed that time of gold
When those who trod the skin of earth
Were all held fast in God’s embrace

Then the land was free of taint
In sun-brief moments ripening swift,
And there amidst the blossom, fruit
The faces of young maidens, men;
If there be other wondrous lands
To them O then do let me fly !

Listen to an audio recording of the poem at
https://doi.org/​10.11647/​OBP. 0137.18

Notes

1 Khasi pronunciation of the word “diamond” which I have retained to sustain the rhythm.

2 From the point of view of those who retain the indigenous faith, this is a reference to a Saviour who will restore the Golden Ladder between Heaven and Earth. From the point of the Christian Khasi this is a reference to Christ. Soso Tham was a devout Christian.

3 An approximate translation of the Khasi expression “ïaid kai”. The adverb “kai” suggests a mood that has no single English word as an equivalent and yet is very much a part of Khasi identity, and it concerns me that in a world fixated on status and material success, we might be losing this trait. We have banished ourselves from Eden to enter the rat race whatever the cost. “Kai” possesses a sense of pleasurable purposelessness. “Ïaid kai” (rambling, strolling in the manner of a flaneur); “shongkai” (sit around), “peitkai” (just looking), “leitkai” (a leisurely outing) and so on. Perhaps “hanging out” or “chill” best approaches the feeling contained in the word although both these words indicate an attitude that involves premeditation or conscious choice and therefore do not possess the relaxed spontaneity of the easy going “kai” which has a connotation of freedom to roam, to look, to relax — “for free” — in a world that is not bound by the demands of time. Even the act of voicing the gliding diphthong “ai” is a long drawn out process expanding time and gently seductive. So the fact that God came down to “ïaid kai” in this plausible Eden in the Khasi hills underlines a sympathy for natural harmony that permeates our being and I hope will not be totally erased from our troubled state gripped by the tightening coils of corruption vividly described in Ki Sngi Barim for yes, as in the Biblical Eden, Tham’s Ka Persyntiew (The Flower Garden) also shelters a dangerous embodiment of evil — the serpent.

4 A songbird in the Sohra region.

5 See Chapter 3, pp. 19–20, when the Golden Ladder between heaven and earth was cut.

6 No matter that the Moon is male in Khasi, the beauty of this heavenly body is celebrated as in other cultures. A handsome young man is compared to a perfect moon who has bloomed for fourteen midnights.

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