The Song Celestial; or Bhagavad Gîtâ (1934)


Illustrated by Willy Pogány





On the left, we show a rare copy of the Willy Pogány illustrative interpretation of the The Song Celetial; or Bhagavad Gîtâ. The

1st Edition was published by David McKay Company (Philadelphia)

in 1934.


This example retains the original silver-stamped cover with the

applied illustrated paste-down.











The Song Celestial; or Bhagavad Gîtâ, as illustrated by Pogány, was a translation of the classic Sanskrit work undertaken

by Edwin Arnold.


Arnold's Preface provides a wonderful introduction to the work, thus:


This famous and marvellous Sanskirt poem occurs as an episode of the Mahâbhârata, in the sixth -

or "Bhishma" - Parva of the great Hindu epic. It enjoys immense popularity and authority in India,

where it is reckoned as one of the "Five Jewels", - pancharatnâni - of Davanâgiri literature. In plain

but noble language it unfolds a philosophical system which remains to this day the prevailing

Brahmanic belief, blending as it does the doctrines of Kapila, Patanjali, and the Vedas. So lofty are

many of its declarations, so sublime its aspirations, so pure and tender its piety, that Schlegel, after

his study of the poem, breaks forth into this outburst of delight and praise towards its unknown

author: "Magistrorum reverentia a Brachmanis inter sanctissima pietatus officia refertur. Ergo te

tandem inter mortales dictus tu fueris, carminis hujus auctor, cujus oraculis mens ad excelsa quaeque,

aeterna atque divina, cum inenerrabili quâdam delectatione rapiture - te primum, inquam, salvere

jubeo, et vestigia tua semper adoro". Lassen re-echoes this splendid tribute; and indeed, so striking

are some of the moralities here inculcated, and so close the parallelism - ofttimes actually verbal -

between its teachings and those of the New Testament, that a controversy has arisen between

Pandits and Missionaries on the point whether the author borrowed from Christian sources, or the

Evangelists and Apostles from him.


This raises the question of its date, which cannot be positively settled. It must have been inlaid into

the ancient epic at a period later than that of the original Mahâbhârata, but Mr Kasinath Telang

has offered some fair arguments to prove it anterior to the Christian era. The weight of evidence,

however, tends to place its composition at about the third century after Christ; and perhaps there

are really echoes in the Brahmanic poem of the lessons of Galilee, and of the Syrian incarnation.


Its scene is the level country between the Jumna and the Sarsooti rivers - now Kurnul and Jheend.

Its simple plot consists of a dialogue held by Prince Arjuna, the brother of King Yudhisthira, with

Krishna, the Supreme Deity, wearing the disguise of a charioteer. A great battle is impending

between the armies of the Kauravas and Pândavas, and the conversation is maintained in a

war-chariot drawn up between the opposing hosts.


The poem has been turned into French by Burnouf, into Latin by Lassen, into Italian by Stanislav

Gatti, into Green by Galanos, and into English by Mr Thomson and Mr Davies, the prose

transcript of the last-named being truly beyond praise for its fidelity and clearness. Mr Telang has

also published at Bombay a version in colloquial rhythm, eminently learned and intelligent, but

not conveying the dignity or grace of the original. If I venture to offer a translation of the

wonderful poem after so many superior scholars, it is in grateful recognition of the help derived

from their labours, and because English literature would certainly be incomplete without

possessing in popular form a poetical and philosophical work so dear to India.


There is little else to say which the Song Celestial does not explain for itself. The Sanskrit original

is written in the Anushtubh metre, which cannot be successfully reproduced for Western ears. I

have therefore cast it into our flexible blank verse, changing into lyrical measures where the text

itself similarly breaks. For the most past, I believe the sense to be faithfully preserved in the

following pages; but Schlegel himself had to say: "In reconditioribus me semper poetae mentem

rectè divinasse affirmare non ausim". Those who would read more upon the philosophy of the

poem may find an admirable introduction int he volume of Mr Davies.


Pogány's evocative monotone illustrations for The Song Celestial; or Bhagavad Gîtâ are magnificent - and much like

the translated Sanskrit poem they accompany, his images speak for themselves.



Our Greeting Cards and Reproduction Prints


For connoisseurs of Pogány's work, we have prepared sets of 18 Greeting Cards displaying each of Pogány's images for The Song Celestial; or Bhagavad Gîtâ and on the left, we show an example of how these Greeting Cards appear.







Code: WP SC MS(18)
Price: US$90.00


When presented on Greeting Cards, these images are prepared as tipped-on plates - in hommage to the hand-crafted

approach typical of prestige illustrated publications produced in the early decades of the 20th Century. Each card is

hand-finished, with the image presented on White card stock with an accompanying envelope. On the rear of each card

we also present some information about Willy Pogány and the profiled illustration. We have left the interior of the

cards blank so that you may write your own personal message.


Each of our large format reproductions are prepared with archival quality materials and processes to ensure many

years of enjoyment. In addition, our reproductions are accompanied by explanatory material relating to Willy Pogány

and the profiled illustration.


To purchase, simply click on the appropriate "Add to Cart" button and you will be taken through to our Shopping Cart

secured through PayPal. Multiple purchases will be consolidated by that feature and shipping and handling costs to any

destination in the world are accommodated by our flat-rate fee of US$20 for every US$200 worth of purchases.


Of course, should you wish to discuss some customised options, we welcome your contact on any matter through


In the meantime, enjoy perusing these wonderful examples of the art of Willy Pogány.



The illustrations


Plate 1

Arjuna sank upon his chariot-seat,

And let fall bow and arrows, sick at heart





Plate 2

Dwelling outside the stress

Of passion, fear, and anger; fixed in calms

Of lofty contemplation



Plate 3

Fight! vanquish foes and doubts, dear Hero! slay

What haunts thee in fond shapes, and would betray!



Plate 4

... with equal calm

Taking what may befall, by grief unmoved,

Unmoved by joy



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Plate 5

... The joys

Springing from sense-life are but quickening wombs

Which breed sure grief



Plate 6

... And what road goeth he who, having faith,

Fails Krishna! in the striving; falling back

From holiness

Plate 7

Four sorts of morals know me: he who weeps,

Arjuna! and the man who yearns to know;

And he who toils to help; and he who sits

Certain of me, enlightened



Plate 8

At hour of death, in putting off the flesh,

He goes to what he looked for



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Plate 9

At closing of each Kalpa, Indian Prince!

All things which be back of My Being come:

At the beginning of each Kalpa, all

Issue new-born from Me



Plate 10

How shall I learn, Supremest Mystery!

To know Thee, though I muse continually?

Plate 11

... Retake,

Dear Lord! or pity's sake

Thine earthly shape, which earthly eyes may bear!

Plate 12

But most of all I love

Those happy ones to whom 'tis life to live

In single fervid faith and love unseeing


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Plate 13

Yea! in its bodily prison! - Spirit pure,

Spirit supreme



Plate 14

... But Ignorance, begot

Of Darkness, blinding mortal men, binds down

Their souls to stupor, sloth, and drowsiness



Plate 15

For to Him come they

From passion and from dreams who break away;

Who part the bonds constraining them to flesh



Plate 16

The Doors of Hell

Are threefold, whereby men to ruin pass, -

The door of Lust, the door of Wrath, the door

Of Avarice



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Plate 17

Or come at power to hurt

Another, - 'tis of Tamas, dark and ill



Plate 18

... - when he dies

Surely shall his spirit rise

To those regions where the Blest,

Free of flesh, in joyance rest




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