This is a monumental four volume collection of the ballads of Bengal, arranged, translated and commented on with the untiring interest of the enthusiast and the skill of the expert scholar by the late Dr. Dineschandra Sen. The very seed from which modern Bengali has sprung, these rustic songs, permeated by high poetry display a natural freedom in their form and spirit, untrammelled by the rigid canons of Brahmanical revival. Coming as they do, fresh and straight from the unsophisticated people’s heart, they have a strength and directness which is hardly met with anywhere in the whole range of Bengali literature. They open up a world where emotions are deep and yet are as simple as nursery rhymes, where nature echoes the voice of the human heart and man is spontaneous in these songs one finds sketched with the unconscious, and for that matter perhaps an all the truer pen intimate portraits of the life of the people. The English version of the ballads contained in these volumes is not a close translation, but a free rendering which gives the matter and spirit of the original. Prefixed to the collection is a luminous and most instructive introduction by the editor, investigating the origin, variety, nature, recitation and value of the ballads. In addition, each ballad is discussed in a separate introduction prefacing it. The importance of these ballads as material for the history of the rise and development of modern Bengali needs no emphasis Apart from their intrinsic value as great literature, these ballads which cover a period of roughly three hundred years from the sixteenth century onwards throw a flood of light on the social, religious and political condition of the Bengal of those days. A great deal of Bengal’s forgotten and neglected history lies hidden in them. These splendid volumes which constitute the most copious collection of the ballads of Bengal should prove a mine of wealth alike to the philologist, and thehistorian and last, but not the least, to the administrator who seeks to penetrate the inner thought and feeling of the people.
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