Sunday, November 19, 2017 | ePaper

Michael Madhusudan Dutta and his creative life

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M Nurul Haque :
Michael Madhusudan Dutta was the first modern poet of Bengali literature. His revolutionary steps had given new life in Bengali language and literature. He introduced rhymeless verse (Omitrakkhor Chhondo) and Sonnets (fourteen line poem) in Bengali language. He was the first modern poet in our literature.
At the age of thirteen years he was admitted in Hindu College. While he was reading there he was biased toward English literature and had started to write English poems at the age of seventeen years. He was very ambitious and his ambition had no bounds. He was desirous to be a renowned poet in English Literature. It was a great blunder of his life for which he repented later on.
Michael Madhusudan was born on the 25th January 1824 in village Sagardari on the bank of river Kopotakkho in Jessore. His father Rajnarayan Dutta was a renowned lawyer and his mother Jahnabi Devi was daughter of Gouricharan, then Jamindar of Satkhira. Forefathers of Madhusudan had come from Bali of Haora district.
From school life Madhusudan was attracted to English literature and culture. He was very eager to go to England and had written the under-mentioned poem at the age of seventeen years which bears the identity of his passion for going there.
"I sigh for Albion's distant shore,
Its villages .green, its mountains high;
Tho' friends, relations I have none
In that fair clime, yet oh 'I sigh
To cross the vast Atlantic wave
For glory or a nameless grave.
Michael's ambition had no bounds. He had started to send English poems in Blackwoods Magazine and Bentley's Miscelleney. At that time Byron was his favourite poet. Gradually he was attracted to other poets. Madhusudan was born with extraordinary merit. While he was reading in college he learnt twelve languages. When he was grown up his mother had chosen a beautiful girl for his marriage but he was not agreed to marry her. He said if I marry, I will marry a girl of English family."
Madhusudan went to Madras in 1848 and stayed there for eight years. After going there he married an English lady named Rebecca. Their marriage was dissolved and Rebecca left him in 1855. Shortly he married a French lady named Henrieta who was his life-partner upto last day of her life. His first book of English poem 'Captive Lady' was published in 1849, but in comparison to the books of renowned English poets· it was assumed as a book of below standard. Madhusudan was deeply frustrated as his book could not occupy a good position in English Literature.
Madhusudan was connected to Bengali literature accidentally. A Bengali drama named 'Ratnabali' was staged in Belgasia. Madhusudan was advised to translate that drama into English to distribute it to invited English guests. Translation of the drama was published in time.
Madhusudan had witnessed the drama and later on 'he desired to write Bengali drama.' His first drama 'Sharmista' was published in 1858 and it was staged in Belgasia by the next year. Later on he had written five dramas continuously. He introduced the rhymeless verse in his drama 'Padmabati' for the first time. Madhusudan's best performance of his life was the 'Meghnadbadh Kabya' in 1861 which was composed in Greek ideology and was completed in nine chapters. The book was reputable in whole Bengal and outside.
One day Madhusudan was walking in a street of Calcutta. He was in dress alike European wearing coat, tie and hat. He noticed that a grocer was reading his Meghnadbadh Kabya "attentively sitting in his shop. Madhusudan asked him "What are you reading?" "I am reading 'Meghnadbadh Kabya' written by Madhusudan Dutta." said the grocer. Madhusudan asked "How is the book?"
"It is a wonderful book; such book was not written in Bengali literature earlier. But Sir, you wtll not understand it". "Why?" asked Madhusudan. "It is written in strong language: It will require vast knowledge and erudition in Bengali literature to understand this book," said the grocer.
Later on Madhusudan was given felicitation in a big hall in Cakutta for writing the immortal book 'Meghnadbadh Kabya.' In such respectful reception he said "Today you are felicitating me, but I got a greater felicitation earlier." Saying so he narrated the fact of the grocer who read his book. He further said "I am unable to express the pleasure I got when the grocer said that I would not understand the book as it would require 'vast knowledge and erudition in Bengali literature to understand this book. It was a greatre felicitation for me."
His book 'Birarigaria Kabya' was published in 1862. In the meantime his father expired and he was owner of vast properties and resources. He could live an easy life and engage himself in culture of Bengali literature. But he had passion for going to England to be highly established in his life. So he left India on the 9th June 1862 to go there. He was admitted in Graze Inn University to study Bar-At-Law and completed the course.
In 1865, he went to France and stayed in Versailles. He paid close attention to compose sonnets (fourteen line poems. He composed more than hundred sonnets and sent to Calcutta for publication which was published in 1866. These Sonnets were the last poems of his life. Whilp he was staying in Versailles he remembered his motherland, rivers, banyan treps, birds, etc. from core of his heart which he expressed in sonnets. A small river named Kapotakkho passes beside his village.
In sonnet named 'River Kapotakko' he said:
"Oh river, you are always in my memory,
I always think of you in my seclusion.
So many rivers I saw in different countries,
But whose water can satisfy the thirst of affection;
You are alike fountain of milk
In breast of my motherland." In another poem 'To Motherland' (Janmabhumir Proti) the poet said
"Mother mine, remember your slave
It's my humble prayer to you;
If in foreign country my life star drops accidentally
From the sky of body, I don't lament for that,
Whoever is born must die. Who will stay immortal anywhere?
Does water remain ever constant
Alack in life-river!
In 1867, Madhusudan had come to Calcutta and started to practice in Court as Barrister but he was ultimately failure in law business. The money he earned in practice was spent in drink and misuse. Day by day he was indebted which he could not repay. His health was deteriorated due to financial problem and frustration. Henrieta stayed with him in weal and woe like shadow. Madhusudan used to say-Henrieta my darling, you are suffering much as my life-partner. But she never blamed her husband, rather tried to console him. Such respect to husband of a foreign wife was a rare example!
Before one week of his death Madhusudan had written the under-mentioned poem on a piece of paper and kept it on the table. "Stand a while passers-by beside the grave
If you are born in Bengal.
Poet Sree Madhusudan is in eternal sleep
On the lap of Earth as a child
Takes rest on lap of mother.  
He is from Dutta family of Sagardari Jessore
Beside the river Kapotakko.
His father is Rajnarayan the high-minded
And mother is Jannabi "Henrieta saw the paper on the table and read the poem from first to last. While she was reading the poem Madhusudan was looking at her fixedly. After reading she handed over the poem to her husband and Madhusudan read it loudly. Henrieta, realised that the life of her husband was coming to an end. He had written the last poem of his life to be displayed on his tomb.
His wife Henrieta was suddenly attacked by severe fever and died on the 26th June 1873. Physical condition of Madhusudan was being deteriorated day by day and he was transferred to Alipore General Hospital, Calcutta. Madhusudan breathed his I last on the 29th June 1873 in liver cirrhosis, throat ulcer and heart disease. At the time of death he had no house, money, resource or any support. He had brightened the sky of Bengali literature by his great contribution. He is alive in heart of the Bengali people and will stay forever.

(The Author is Essayist, Story Writer and Life Member, Bangla Academy.)

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