Extracts from The Eclipsed Sun (tes) published in November 2013 Poems 49. Poem: ‘Ami’

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Extracts from The Eclipsed Sun (TES) published in November 2013

49. Poem: ‘Ami’ (=Myself) from the book ‘Shyamali’ written on 29 May, 1936 at Santiniketan (Birbhum Dist of West Bengal, where situates his University Visva Bharati (=World University).

[Translator’s note: Whether ‘mind’ is dependent on ‘matter’ or ‘matter’ is dependent on ‘mind’ or whether they are mutually dependent, will ever remain man’s enigma. Tagore’s inclination was on ‘mind’. His difference of opinion with Einstein on this question made history in metaphysics. However, Tagore had a conviction that the Creation comprises a ‘Universal Mind’ which manifests itself through every individual human being as his ‘ego’ with which we perceive Creation. That Creation would be inane without this ‘ego’, has been marvelously upheld in this poem.

The apprehension haunts the poet if this ‘ego’ will be wiped out one day by some stellar disaster. The following media (The Hindu) news on the 8 Aug. 2K was quite reassuring that this human ‘ego’ will have an escape route even if the Earth will go to hell –

[Nine new planets have been discovered orbiting a distant star, bringing the number of known planets outside our solar system to 51 and raising prospects that alien life may be found to exist.

The discovery, announced at a major astronomy conference in Manchester, England, includes only the second solar system to be found outside our own. Astronomers now believe that planetary systems may be relatively common throughout the galaxy, and that some might eventually be capable of supporting human colonists. The planets orbit a bright star, slightly smaller than the Sun which lies on the constellation Vela. The system was found by a team led by Prof. Michael Mayor, from the Geneva observatory, who studied ‘wobbles’ in the star caused by the planets’ gravitational pull. “We’re now at a stage where we are finding planets faster than we can investigate them and write up the results”, said Dr. Geoffrey Marcy of the Berkeley team, “Planet hunting has morphed from the marvelous to the mundane”.]

Before the ink on this gratifying news was dry, the following news in The Statesman of 6 September, 2K passed a shiver down the spine of Mankind – [Asteroid just misses the Earth: The Earth has had a cosmic near miss with an asteroid half a kilometer wide. Had it hit this planet, a fourth of human population could have been wiped out, say scientists.]

So, are we back to square one as regards the poet’s apprehension about the doom of human ‘ego’?

The latest breaking news in this subject is US President Obama’s exhortation in the White House in his ‘State of the Union’ address in February 2013– “As humans we can identify galaxies light-years away, study particles smaller than an atom but we still haven’t unlocked the mystery of the 3 lbs of matter that sits between our ears,..”. Consequently, he has unveiled a $100 million research initiative to map the neural structure of the mind a relatively neglected sphere of research despite the advances in bio-technology. (Source ‘The Statesman’ Editorial in 7 April 2013 edition- ‘Matter Between Ears’. So, is answer to the age-old enigma round the corner? Readers will surely tarry a bit here where object of anatomy is ‘mind’ itself with which we perceive results of anatomy of other biological organs. But to perceive ‘mind’ with ‘mind’ itself will go in a vicious circle never yielding us a final conclusion. Thus, it is by no means going to be a metaphysical breakthrough. So, again, we are back to square one! Yet, Obama’s said step will rank as an abiding contribution towards battle against some presently incurable brain disorder (like debilitating neurological condition as childhood autism to Alzheimer’s disease) which are elusive to the present day medical science. And that will be a big bonus for the posterity. .) ]

With my senses’ hues

Emerald as green I muse

And the ruby as red;

As my sight I spread

The sky is luminous

East to West with light glorious;

To rose I said, “Bonny is thee”

And so did she be!

Esoteric it is, you’d say;

Words of a poet nay.

I’d say, ‘tis truth and poetry so;

For the mankind, my ego;

On which canvas

The Creator’s artistry does pass.

The hermit breaths “no, no, no;

Mere myths are these that go;

No emerald, no ruby, no light, no rose,

Neither ‘you’ nor ‘me’ you should suppose.”

On the other hand, He the Infinite

Self divulges in His delight;

Within ‘I’, the Man’s confine

Light and shade combine –

To shape images there

Emotions to flare,

Beguiles ‘nay’

Unwittingly, into ‘yea’;

In colour and sketches

In emotional stretches

On weal and woe

As we go.

Call it not a conjecture;

My mind had the pleasure

To appear on the creative stage

Of the Universal ‘I’ of all age,

With brush in hand, colour in pot,

My freaks to jot.

Says the erudite,

That ancient Moon, don’t slight;

Sly is its smile

Cruelly to beguile;

A Death’s harbinger,

Stealing its crawl every hour

To the heart of this Earth

Since its birth;

For its final pull one day

To cast doomsday

To its oceans and mountains

And leave all lifeless remains.

In Eternity’s fresh book a zero to drop

Upon mortal world’s flop.

The debits and credits of days and nights

Man’s all euphoria and blights;

All its feats grand

To lose feigned immortality, nowhere to stand,

All these his history no more to smack

Blotted by an eternal black;

The departing human eye

On last glimpse of colour will sigh;

Will perceive his last emotion

While from this world passing on.

The cosmic energy’s play will not stint

Yet, a life’s spark never will hint;

The Artist’s finger will dance

No more a music to chance

In that court without a lute

A lone seat of the Absolute;

Without His poesy

Devoid of personality;

Left with the mathematics of Existence

Beauty nowhere to sense;

None to say, “Bonny is thee”

With admiration to see.

Will the Creator sit in meditation

Again over ages for incantation –

“Speak up, speak up, say thou art bonny

I love thee honey!”

* ** * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

4. Poem: The Artist- from the book ‘Charrar Chhabi’ (=Picture in rhymes) written in 1938

[Translator’s Note: The number of songs composed by Tagore is about 2500. I am not aware of such statistics as regards his poems, short stories, novels, essays, letters etc. which, however, far out-volume his songs. As regards the number of his sketches, I understand that it is also about 2500. The bulk of his sketches are preserved in the archives of his Viswa Bharati University (means- World University, which has been a pilgrim place for the academics and the aesthetes since Tagore’s days till now from various countries) at Santiniketan (means: Abode of Peace-4 hour train journey from Calcutta). But Tagore took to visual art with enthusiasm only in the last decade of his life which has possibly saved him from a reputation as a painter to his great relief. His ever mounting fame in literature which was his life long dedication was indeed a rod held at him, as he felt, to keep up his standard which left him ill at ease with his literary exercises. But it was not so with his painting, where he was a free bird to fly at his will. In his own words – “In defiance of that fame my brush is free to-day as Nature’s”. Let experts judge if Tagore was an authority or a quack in painting. But did anybody appreciate canvas better than Tagore? The following poem, which he wrote three years before his death, will possibly answer this question.

P.S. “Rabindra Chitravali” with Rabindranath’s paintings has very recently (August 2011) been published by Pratikshan Publishers in collaboration with Visva Bharati and the Ministry of Culture, reminding the following poem again.]

O Artist, for ever a traveler

Thou move on ceaseless, an astute observer;
Thine impressions in sketches
From far and wide the canvas fetches;
Countless trivia and momentous around
To thee blue blood and pariah are equally sound.

In the hovel there,

Only a few shanties bare;
Beyond, the arid land vast
Parched in the summer blast.
Do those ever entice a look humble
Or allure one to ramble?
Said thou, “By no means they’re low” –
This truth thine brush flashed aglow –
And we sit up and say, “Ah indeed,
These do deserve some heed”.
There they trot, some take rest,
Hardly they exist, their name none will quest;
Said thy brush, “They’re very much there” –
At once we say, “Ah yes, all beware.”

And only they are there,

Not the monarch of the empire;
To live in the dust of the earth
They are used to since their birth.
For his portrait the king spends a lot,
Alas, the maestro’s notice it draws not.
Its glamour dazzles the fools though,
Trite’s true self art heightens so.
O Artist, strange is thy bias,
To draw a banal goat slighting those uproarious;
The creature is not esteemed high
In its vegetables’ sneaky pry
So they chase it off
With due scoff.
But as thou exalt its goatish spree
I sit up to ask – “Who is he?”
There the goat-men wonder –
“Who is its owner?”
Yet, despite its claimant’s evasion
I know, it is thy heart’s creation.


65. Poem No: 10 of Patraput written at Santiniketan in 1935, 6 years before the Poet’s death.
[Translator’s note: Through his various dissertations Tagore lucidly explained different parts of Upanishad, the scripture for mankind left by the Indian sages nearly 5000 years back. Like me who do not have access to the original Upanishad for lack of command over Sanskrit, the language in which it was composed, may find Tagore’s essays/poems as the best guide to this great scripture. Thus is one of the numerous annotations on Upanishad by Tagore -]
“Those who are craven take this world as comprising impediments only which impair their vision and hope. So they know only the impediments as the truth, but not the real truth. But he who is great, sees the truth instantly beyond all impediments. That is why there is a gulf of difference between their thoughts. When everybody is in chorus that they see only darkness, he can assert- “Beyond all darkness I have seen Him who is great and luminous. (Upanishad)”
This annotation resounds in this poem also which helps us share the poet’s glimpse of the ultimate truth beyond the daily torments of this mortal world.
For long is carrying my body

Small moments’ rage, enmity and anxiety –

Overshadowing soul’s liberty

With his own ambiguity.

With Truth’s mask Truth he will conceal,

His doll with Death’s clay build he will;

Yet, Death will trace in it if,

It will be his grief.

His play is for self deception,

But that it is play is never his conviction.

Offerings to Death he will relentlessly pile,

Spin in rotations of tear and smile;

With the steam and bubbles of woos

And ignominies he boos.

Daily his ego shoots fiery missiles

Only ash from void piles.

In search of my inner self

Into the light I delve

That every morning will reveal,

In it, Creation’s serenity to feel.

I take apart my soul from this body

Out of all futile anxiety

Caught in the soiled trap of many an hour

There for ablution in heavenly shower;

Where rests the silent mail

Whose invitation never did I hail.

My innermost truth that was latent

In your vastness without an extent

Along with the un-devised earth

Is yours only, at your mirth.

At your splendor’s brim

Humans sighted their nobility supreme –

That from age to age you did compile

By the Persian Gulf, Himalayas or Nile.

Said they – “Sons of the Immortal we are –

Did vision that Superman

From beyond the darkness, blazing golden.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
66. Poem No: 39 of the book ‘Sesh Saptak’ written in 1933, about 8 years before his death in 1941 at the age of 80.
[Translator’s note: Tagore’s wonderful interpretation of Upanishad is found in a large number of his essays which helps us understand this oldest scripture of mankind in Sanskrit which founted from the profound spiritual inspiration of the sages of ancient India more than 4000 years back. The following quote from Tagore’s essay ‘Dukkha’ (=Woe) is a sample of such interpretation which also appears to me very relevant to this poem on Death, the extreme form of woe according to the limited perceptions of lesser mortals like us. Only a saintly frame of mind, as the poet had, can perceive Death in the vast canvas of Creation where Death’s severity is so diluted.

“Those who lack in spiritual and devotional power, want to perceive as total truth the manifestation of God only amidst happiness, pleasure and wealth. They say, wealth and fame are gift of God, beauty evinces Him and that worldly success is His blessing and reward for our virtuosity. Benevolence of God, to them, is tender and piteous. These infirm with their euphoric reveries take the mercy of God as an aid to their greed, delusion and cowardice with their fragmented fads. But O Awful, where do I confine Your mercy and joy? Only in my happiness, wealth and a panicles life? Shall I have to split woes, hazards, fear and death to juxtapose against You for my knowledge about You? Not so. O Lord, You are sorrow, hazard, fear and death. The blazing flames of Your face are gutting out the mortals, Your vigour is warming up the whole world. O Terrible, we can get rid of the illusion of grief and death only by sighting Your awful form. Else, in Your world we have to go around with a coward’s inhibition, failing to surrender totally to Truth. Then I address You as Benevolent and implore Your mercy and, on its denial, complain against You and lament for my protection from You. But O Terrible, I beg of You that strength which will enable me to deem Your mercy not for my self-comfort and narrow utilities to deprive myself with Your incomplete perception. Let me not deceive myself by approaching You with a trembling heart and a moistened eyes to earn Your compassion. From age to age You are rescuing Man from untruth to Truth, from darkness to illumination, from death to immortality, the journey for which is not one of comfort, but of the severest ordeal.”]

They came to me to say –

“O Poet, tell us about Death, pray”.

Said I, “Death is my very intimate,

Its rhythms my heart vibrate;

Entangled in my vein

Joy of its flow in my blood lain.

Says He – ‘Go ahead

With your burdens shed;

Go on dying every second,

At my pull, on my moment.”

Says, “if you sit static

Everything to grip –

In your world flowers will harsh

Rivers will marsh,

The stars will fade –

Stop not” – so He said;

“Don’t look back –

Get across the old, ruins weary that slack.

I’m the Death shepherd

Driving Creation’s herd

From age to age

Pasture to pasture to graze.

When Life’s stream flowed,

I followed.

Allowed it not to ditch,

Lured it past the guard of its beach;

Led it to the vast sea,

That is none but me.

The Present aims permanence,

Imposes on you hence

All its load; all your virtues

To this glutton you lose.

On its surfeit, this monster

Craves a stall in wake less slumber.

The Creation to rescue from the grip

Of this hibernate Present, is my severe sweep;

That eternal stumbling block

To smash with my disastrous shock,

To pave the way for the pageant perennial

Of the yet to appear, those newcomers to hail.”

* * * * * * * ** * ** * * ** ** * * ** ** ** * **

67. Poem” Punarabartan (Re-incarnation) from the book Geetali (Music) written in Buddha Gaya in 1914.
[Translator’s note: The Hindu belief in re-incarnation may conflict with the scientific mindset if we try to interpret it in a physical sense. But even scientists will never be able to explain the mystery behind the mortal life which apparently terminates while new life re-appears. Are these totally isolated phenomenon or linked up? The Poet is inclined to accept the latter. Incidentally, recital of this piece goes both as a poem as well as a song, the starting of which in Bengali is as follows –
Abar jadi ichcha karo abar ashi phire,

Dukkha sukhar dheu khelano ei sagarer tire….]
Here I revert to if you’ll wish so

This shore dashed by the waves of weal and woe.

Float my boat again,

On the dust play my game –

Run after the elusive golden deer

Only to flood in tear.

In the dark night, on the road thorny

Again I start my journey –

Either to succumb to my injury

Or survive its fury.

Again in disguise me to beguile

You play with me all in smile;

With my renewed mirth

Again I love this Earth.

* * * * * * ** * * * * * * * * * * * *

Poem: ‘Sagarika’ (the daughter of the sea) of the book ‘Mahua’.
[Translator’s note: Toward the close of 2000 A.D. the then President of the USA Bill Clinton visited India and while addressing a gathering in his honour, India’s the then President K. R. Narayanan had said that it was of late fashionable to call the world a ‘Small Village’, which is of course a fall out of the revolution in the communication system defeating space and time. But, Narayanan had pointed out to Clinton that in the mediaeval age the villages were ruled by the Morols (Village Chiefs) while the modern villages are ruled by the Panchayats (Village Associations) manned by the elected representatives of the people. He had thereby analogized the United Nations (UN) with the Indian Panchayats for the purpose of to-day’s ‘Small Village’ and had implied that its affairs should be overseen by the UN instead of the sole superpower now existing e.g. the USA. Of course he had meant the Big Brother role for which the USA had been aggressive from time to time often myopic to others’ causes besides her own.

History tells us about such aggressive role of some Western nations over several centuries past with their imperialist ambition. Whichever territory they had occupied, they had enslaved the local people there by brute force to enjoy their “Master” status. We ourselves had been victim of the British rule for about 2 centuries till 1947. This instinct of domination has not died even to-day and has rather been found infectious world over with the progressive perfection in genocide technology.

Indian history had been quite different. Indians had taken their voyage abroad in the past to export their humanistic ideas, religious values, music and culture along with their merchandise, but never with imperialist contemplation. The poem was written on the 1st October 1927, soon after which the Poet took his voyage to Bali island, now a part of Indonesia. India’s link with this island is age old. Stamps of Indian culture, religion, music, art etc. have survived time in this island. The Poet recalls all this past link with Bali which dates back to the glorious period of Indian history, but was particularly snapped since mid-eighteenth century when the dark period of our country was at the worst with the advent of the British rule, and the Poet was on voyage to Bali with a heavy mind while the freedom fighters’ suffering was at its peak in his own land. The Poet thus regrets his inability to offer anything precious new to Bali except his humble music.

The following quote from Tagore’s diary recording his thoughts at the time of his voyage to Java will more clarify his thoughts behind ‘Sagarika’.

The pure dedication that Science has ushered in is for all country, all time and all

men; so it has imbibed in man the power of God, to drive out all woe, penury and

ailment from human family with its weaponry. The Viswakarma (God of

Engineering) for creation of heaven for man is this Science. But when this very

Science laboured to shape up man’s desire for fruit to an enormity , it became the

Yama (God of Death). If man on this earth will annihilate, it will be for this reason –

he knew Truth but not its use. He achieved divine power, but not divinity. In

modern time that divine power is manifest in Europe. But has it been so for

genocide? In the last war this very question has emerged stark. Europe has become

a terror outside her boundaries, as evidenced throughout Asia and Africa. Europe

has not come to us with her Science, but with her greed. So the blockade for

manifestation of Europe within the heart of Asia. With impertinence of her Science,

hubris of her power and her greed for wealth, for long Europe has cultivated this

hassling of man all over the earth. When it boomeranged at her home she is anxious.

She put others’ pasture on fire which has now caught on her wood. She is now

wondering where to stop. Is it by halting her machinery? I don’t say so. But they

have to halt their greed. Will it be achieved by religious sermons? That won’t be

enough. Science also must complement it. The dedication which controls greed

inwardly is of religion, but that which removes the external causes of it is of Science.

These two combined, accomplish their dedications. Wisdom of science to-day awaits

union with religion’s.
But why all these debates are labouring my head on my way to Java? The reason is, India’s erudition once went abroad. But those aliens had regarded it favourably.

Tibet, Mongolia, Malayas, wherever India had preached her wisdom, had been

through genuine human relations. To-day my pilgrimage is to witness those

historical evidences of man’s holy access everywhere. Also to note is, that India of

yore did not preach some cut and dried sermons, but inaugurated the inner treasure

of man through architecture, sculpture, painting, music and literature, stamps of

which remain in the deserts, woods, rocks, isles, rugged terrain and difficult

resolves………”. [Java diary, July, 1927]
I am unaware of any poetry in any other language which better conveys one’s passion for the old link with a country through such a superb love allegory. I also think, evaluation of this poem in the context of goodwill that was in India’s political ethos in the past, as this poem reveals, but largely missing globally, is only relevant.]
Bathing in the deep blue sea,

On the pebbled beach sat thee;

Thy garments loose

Left scribbles on the shore profuse.

The affectionate Sun on thy body un-ornate

Left its golden paint.

With crown on my head,

In right hand archery held,

Stood in my royal attire –

Said, “I’ve come, O foreigner!”

Startled, from thy seat of rock,

Thou stood up with a shock –

Asked, “Why did you come?”

Said I, “Let thy mind calm,

Only I want to pluck flower

For God’s worship, in thy bower.”

Thou attended me with indulgent smile;

We plucked Juthi, (1) Jati (1) and Champa (1) to pile. (1)

To sort those in the basket sat together,

Worshipped Nataraj (2) with our earnest prayer. (2)

The mist was over, light flooded the sky,

Facing Shiva (2), Parbati’s (2) smile did lie. (2)

As rose the evening star

On the mountain top there,

Thou alone at home

On thy waist shone

Bright blue sapphire,

Round thy head, garland of flower.

Bangles in thy hands both –

On my way playing flute I quoth –

“Guest I’m at thy door.”

Scared, stretched thy lamp my face to explore;

Asked, “Why did you come?”

Said I, “Let thy mind calm,

Thy charming person I’ll adorn

With the decors I’ve borne.”

Flashed a beaming smile

On thy face, its beauty sparked awhile.

The gold necklace on thy chest

I suspended, the crown on thy head set at rest.

Lit up lights thy mates, their frolic sublime

Flooded the entire clime.

Thy ornate person did flitter

The charm of the night’s lunar glitter.

With my rhyme matched thy jingle,

Smiles at the sky the full moon single;

Light and shade to and fro

As the sea waves go.

Unwittingly, the day was over;

So, my ship raised its anchor.

Sudden was the wind adverse on my voyage,

Unleashed havoc, put the sea in rage;

Drowned my ship in the salt water

In the dark night with all my treasure.

With shattered fate, I’m again at thy door

Attired as destitute, my royal robes no more;

Saw at the temple of Nataraj (2) (2)

As before, was the decor of flowers;

While at night, the festive sea

Rhymes moonlight dance in wavy glee;

With thy silent face down in that fest

I stole a look at my garland round thy chest,

At my paints, listened rhythms of my song

Sway thee in ecstasy, all to me belong.

I implore thee; O bonny,

Once more hold thy lamp to me;

Now I’m no more crowned,

My archery no more to be found;

In the southern wind brought neither

My basket to fill in thy bower;

Only I’ve brought my lute;

Try please to make me out thou astute.

51. Poem: Ora Kaj Kare (=They Toil) written in 1941 a few months before the Poet’s death.
[Translator’s note: The Poet says that all extravaganzas in human history in the form of heroic feats of the royalties, in their greed for empire and thirst for human blood are really not the formative ingredients of civilization and have not stood the test of time. Man’s real excellence is shaped up on the silent hard toil of the common people. The Poet at the fag end of his life leaves his compliment for these mute workers in this superb poem.]
Along the indolent stream of time

My mind ferries to the void sublime;

On that vast canvas

Silhouettes pass;

They trampled ages

Those people countless,

Rushed since long past

Those triumphant robust.

Greedy of empire

Came Mughols and Pathans dire;

Their conquering chariot wheel

Stormed dust, flags hoisted in victorious zeal.

Now in the void there

I find not their traces bare.

In that blue serene

Age to age have been seen

Crimson sunrise and sunset,

Light and shade to alternate.

Under that azure again

They have hailed from Britain

In waves with their might

To assert their right,

Along the iron rail

On fire breathing vehicle.

By their path Time will flow

That too I know;

To wash away far

The network of their empire;

Their merchandise transporting army

Will lose all trace on their stellar journey.

As I look down to the Earth,

Where the vast populace berth,

Amidst din they move on

In many a band and direction;

From age to age to meet

Man’s myriad need,

That does goeth

In life and death.

For ever,

They row, hold the rudder.

In the fields they sow,

Ripe paddy they mow;

Their toil they put down

In many a hamlet and town.

Royal parasols crumb,

The war trumpet goes dumb

The tower of victory

In stupor forgets its own glory;

With blood stained sword in hand with their bloody look,

They hide face in the children’s lesson book.

They toil far and wide

At the river and sea side

Of Assam, Bengal, Orissa, Punjab

Bombay and Gujarat at civilization’s hub.

Day and night rumble and hum all over

Animate the earth with fervor –

To work up life’s supreme hymn –

They toil aside hundreds of empires’ ruin.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

  • * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

  1. these are Indian names of some flowers.

  2. Nataraj, the Lord of Dance, is the other name of Shiva and, according to the Hindu concept, his dance cycles Destruction after Creation. Parbati is the wife of Shiva.

Shesher Kabita (=The Last Poem) A novel by Rabindranath Tagore (1861 to 1913 AD, Nobel Laureate of 1913)

Courtesy: Dr. N. D. Batra, Professor of Communications, Norwich University, Vermont, USA vide website: http://www.corporatepower.blogspot.com published in January 2009
(Forwarding note and poems in Bengali by Tagore translated by RAJAT DAS GUPTA, KOLKATA, rajatdasgupta@yahoo.com & dasguptarajat@hotmail.com)
Tagore had no dearth of his critics who had to beat a retreat for the time being after the Poet had the accolade of Nobel Laureate. However, in the mid-twenties of the last century they surfaced again and some young scribes ‘revolted’ against Tagore’s hegemony in Bengali literature and tried a ‘coup’ to dislodge the Poet from his supreme position. They declared that Tagore’s time had ended and that it was their turn to hold the rein of the Bengali literature to re-vitalize it with their ‘new’ contributions. Tagore foiled their move simply with a big laughter and affection towards this young group through his brilliant novel ‘Shesher Kabita’ (=The Last Poem). I read this novel in early fifties in my college life as it became essential for a Bengali young man at that time to be ranked ‘intelligentsia’ which all of them aspired. Later I read its wonderful English translation by Krishna Kripalani captioned ‘Farewell my Friend’. I do not know if Kripalani’s book is still available in the market but, I believe, some translation of ‘Shesher Kabita’ must be available. I would suggest any Tagorephile not knowing Bengali to read translation of ‘Shesher Kabita’. Seemingly, it is a story of triangular love, the theme on which numerous novels/stories have been written all over the world in all major languages. However, I daresay, this is the only novel/story of its kind on earth which marvelously echoes the contrast between ‘Finite’ and ‘Infinite’ as conceptualized in Upanishad (nearly 4500 year old Indian scripture) The story may be outlined as – Amit Ray, an accomplished Barrister, met Labanya in Shillong (the hill station in the easternmost part of India with superb natural beauty) and amnesiac of his first love Ketaki, fell in love with Labanya. Eventually, Labanya opted out of Amit’s life and he gets married to Ketaki. Amit was an ardent ‘modernist’ and would never miss a chance to downplay Tagore in the literary gatherings. One such example, Amit trashed Tagore’s widely celebrated poem ‘Shah Jehan’ [of the book ‘Balaka’ (=Crane) written in Allahabad in 1914], where the Poet compared ‘Taj Mahal’ with a ‘Drop of tear- on the cheek of Time, bright white’- ‘as a memento for Shah Jehan’s pathos’ for his wife Mamataj. However, the long poem concludes with the perception that ‘Taj Mahal’ is only a museum piece and that the ‘traveler’ (i.e. Shah Jehan) who had conceptualized this, had transcended this mundane ‘Taj Mahal’ for his eternal journey free from any earthly bondage. Amit discards this view with his antithesis of ‘Shah Jehan’ by offering ‘Basarghar’ (=Bridal Chamber) which is eternally vibrant with the perpetual visits of the married couple, giving a truer view of life, as Amit upheld. The poem is as follows –

30. Poem: Basarghar (Bridal Chamber)- of Tagore’s book Mahua (name of a flower) written at Bangalore in 1928.excerpted in the novel ‘Shesher Kabita’

[Translator’s note: It is a universal ritual that the couple spend their nuptial night ceremoniously in their Bridal Chamber which is gorgeously decorated for that night. But the euphoria is momentary as soon the couple will have to vacate the Bridal Chamber for their journey on the rugged road of their life. Yet, the eternal function of Bridal Chamber remains which welcomes the new couples every day to baptize them for their life’s new journey.

Thou hast to be left behind

As the dawn’s chariot wheel will grind

The night’s slumber,

O Bridal Chamber!

There the vast external

Is a separating demon terrible!

Yet, more it’ll massacre,

The Exchange Garland (*) in pieces will tear, (*)

Thou art there without decay

Night and day;

Thy gift ever festive

Won’t mute or strip.

The couple, who said,

Have vacated Thy bed?

They haven’t, no they haven’t,

Amidst new passengers to Thee is their bent –

At Thy call,

To Thy noble gate, they return all.

O Bridal Chamber,

Love is immortal, so Thou art.

(*) In Indian marriages the couple exchange their garland.
It may be safely observed, Tagore’s rival Amit was only Tagore’s brainchild, which never achieved a separate flesh and blood entity in Bengal, nay, in the whole world ever. Several more poems transposed to the novel from the book ‘Mahua’ of the Poet to capture the passions/realizations of the concerned characters at different times are as follows.
31. Poem: Daymochan (Absolving from onus) of the book ‘Mahua’ written at Bangalore on 23 August 1928 excerpted in the novel ‘Shahser Kabita’

[Translator’s note: We should not scramble for whatever precious we pine for in our life as that only blights the sanctity of our claim. Our glory is more to find accomplishment in life’s rewards with which we are blest in due course rather than lament those which we miss.]

You’ll remain beggar

Of my love ‘for ever’,

If you’ll say so –

This small moment let go

As that ‘forever’,

If you forget thereafter,

I won’t remind your oath,

Entry and exit doors both

Will remain open,

So, as time will pass, go then

And if you crave, be back again,

But if you are dubious

It’s no harm enormous;

Love me if you will

If you so desire still.
Friend, I know your journey is ahead,

Behind I lag, but tears I won’t shed

Neither curse my fate

To block your way desperate.

Your life’s aim I’m not,

If so from your mind I’ll blot

Your gift will remain green

In my memoir of tears unseen.

And my gift too

In your amnesia will leave its clue.

On your way if you’ll sojourn

And your eyes backward turn,

You may find my lost vision –

My eyes, tears moisten.

If you pity

My tears will never empty.

Let remain with me

The bare truth only

Out of your gift –

But shame will leave me bereft

If you offer anything beyond –

As, if grief I’ll abscond,

Its price I’ll miss

Which might be my supreme bliss.

The feeble weakens own right

With the reception garland’s slight;

One who takes it at ease

One’s competence for it doesn’t cease;

To beg he’ll care not

His claim to blot.

I’ll not blend the counterfeit

Love’s shortfall to meet;

But my border

I’ll honour.

Whatever I got is my treasure

Without decay for ever;

To me is not great

Whatever I didn’t fate.

32. Poem: Achena (=Unknown) of the book Mahua (name of a flower) written at Bangalore in August 1928 excerpted in the novel ‘Shahser Kabita’

O Unknown, how Thou’ll elude me

Ere I’ve known Thee?

In which blind hour

Betwixt wake and slumber

As dawned the night

Thy face I did sight;

With my eyes on Thine

Asked, “What escape Thou pine

Amidst amnesia of self,

In the inane taking Thy delve?

Acquaintance with Thee

Will not be easy;

Not in Thy ear

By soft whisper;

But conquer Thee shall I

From Thy inhibition high

With all my vigour

From Thy shame, indecision and fear;

Lift Thee up into light merciless

Thy tears Thou to bless

To wake into self-knowledge

Thus to snap Thy bondage;

Liberation of Thine

Will be mine.
O Unknown,

Days pass, time will be flown;

A great mishap

Let all bondage snap;

Let that flamboyant be

For knowledge of Thee,

There my life to surrender

With perception of Thee serene for ever.

33. Poem: Asru (Tears) of the book ‘Mahua’ (name of a flower) written at Bangalore in July, 1929.

O Beautiful,

Thou appear with eyes tearful!

Convey in Thy heart flame fierce

Mine to pierce.

So is sorrow resplendent

Life’s charming spells snap blatant;

In the breathe of that fire

Blossoms the separating lotus dire.

34. Poem: Antardhan (=Disappearance) of the book ‘Mahua’ written at Santiniketan in July 1928 excerpted in the novel ‘Shesher Kabita’

On the canvas of your extinction

I see your eternal configuration.

Within my heart unseen

Your ultimate visit has been –

The un-decaying touchstone

As my gain I’ve known.

Your vacuum that I sense

You yourself recompense.
As darkened the life, in my heart’s temple I had the clue

The evening lamp there was gifted by you.

In its separating flame -

Grief’s brilliance that from it came,

Love shaped up into worship

With its solemnity deep.

Rather than an encounter with the enormity of Tagore, if not to excel him, Amit eventually had his accomplishment in deeper perceptions through his life’s experiences. He realized that his love both with Ketaki and Labanya were equally true. Love with Ketaki was like ‘water drawn in pitcher from the pond for daily use’ representing our mundane life. On the other hand his love with Labanya was like a vast ocean, akin to Infinity, where he will swim never to find its shore where to anchor.

So, all roads lead to Upanishad!

Rabindra Sangeet – Songs of Rabindranath Tagore:
Translator’s note: The songs of Rabindranath Tagore are known as Rabindrasangeet which number approx. 2500. It is no exaggeration to say that Rabindrasangeet has explored every corner of human emotion and perception to give them best possible expression. Their philosophical depth also is unparalleled in the music world. It may be claimed, Rabindrasangeet has climaxed wording of the ineffable in literature of all time. Anybody not knowing Bengali definitely miss this aesthetic treasure. A translation can at best explain the central idea of a song, but cannot surface the wonderful matching of music with the original poesy so intimate with its philosophical/spiritual canvas. Unfortunately, therefore, the best of Rabindrasangeet, with all its humanistic appeal of highest order, will remain confined within the Bengali circle. It may be possible, some highly talented musicians endowed with literary command also, will emerge with versions of Rabindrasangeet in other languages, equally appealing. Such experiment in Hindi has not been disappointing and has gained popularity. Hindi is of course quite close to Bengali which must have been a contributory factor to such success. But the Western languages are likely to pose insurmountable challenge to any such effort. While hoping that some highly talented musicians will some day perform this magic of perfect cloning of Rabindrasangeet even in the Western languages, a sensible suggestion in the meantime appears to be to keep its translation handy while the Westerners (and in general all not having access to Bengali) will give their ear to the original Bengali song and try to perceive its import. Those knowing Bengali can only sympathize those not so privileged for such a plight in their struggle to enjoy a song! Below appears translations of some Rabindrasangeets, with a few initial lines of the original Bengali given in Roman script to enable the listeners to relate the translation to the song.

  1. Likhon tomar dhulay hoyechhe dhuli

Hariye geche tar purano akhar guli



[Note: The anecdote that goes with this song is, one day the Poet saw a piece of paper with his writings blown away by the wind. This simple incident was enough for him at once to visualize the temporality of the finest aspects of life. Yet, the truth that he perceives is, the return of seemingly lost in its eternally new form and that God’s aesthetic scribbling all around us in Nature or life at large cycle into oblivion and re-appearance.]

In dust your writings wallow

Its letters obscure, no more aglow;

Alone I sit in the spring night,

Do I then again sight

In the woods your scribbling

There in the budding seedling

Your lost letters errant

Re-appear no less significant.

Abound the Mallikas (*) in the bower (*)

Their fragrance in the air to shower

At Your touch tender

Brings to mind from yonder

Your nostalgic script

That does the farewell pain depict.

There in the Madhabi (*) branch sway (*)

Your old scripts of the remote day.

(*) These are Indian flowers.
6) Tomay natun kore pabo bole

Harai kshne khan

O mor bhalabashar dhan



[Note: With our limited perceptions we lose sight of God in our daily life. However,

we do glimpse Him at times to realize that He is our dearest who had created

humans to whom He occasionally flashes the mysterious intent behind his

wonderful creation of life, but only to be left again to the mundane. Is this

hide and seek His mirth, never giving us the final answer to our eternal

quest of mystery behind our existence? I would also be inclined to invoke

the scientists’ Big Bang theory here behind God’s Creation for occurrence

of the lines “Endless Thou art / So delude as null to covert” if of course it

means that the debut of myriad proliferation in Nature, as we see, started

from explosion of a single atom and the Universe, now in an expansion

mode will start shrinking again when it will reach the maximum point of

inflation as its physical elasticity will permit and then will start its reverse

course to be again reduced to an atom. My earnest request to the readers is

they may please take my interpretation of the Big Bang theory with many a

pinch of salt, if not with a lot of laughter too. However, assuming I have

marginally grasped the Big Bang, are we not still dwelling on the mundane?

Where is the spiritual dimension? Hopefully, even an erudite will share a layman’s

perception that Big Bang has not transcended to metaphysical height with spiritual

factor a lot of which I got in an article of Dr. Jaba Chatterjee (Faculty in Bengali

literature at Rishi Bankim Chandra College at Naihati, not far away from Calcutta).

Her subject is influence of Vaishnava cult on Tagore. In her essay she has

mentioned the following song of Tagore and also another close to it ( No; 18- To

unite with me / Is Thy eternal journey) which appears in this volume. She also gives

example of a good number of songs of Tagore influenced by the Vaishnavite poets

(e.g. from Joydeb’s (12th Century) Geetagovina.(in Sanskrit)& Bidyapati of 15th

Century (who wrote in Maithili) and quoted them in their respective languages

in original, in vogue in those periods in Eastern India, including Bengal.

The crux of Dr. Chatterjee’s paper is, though human enigma about

evolution of life on this earth is primordial going with an awe, the devotional

blend in it assumed Tsunami height in Bengal, history of which is nearly a

millennium old whose impact deeply influenced Tagore literature since mid

19th Century onward which may be noted in a large number of his songs,

which, quite a few in this volume illustrate (besides the 2 nos. mentioned in this

passage) and the reader may hopefully relate this introduction to those. I am

thankful to Dr. Chatterjee for making available her erudite paper to me

without which my introduction in this re-publication of my book would

remain deficient as in my original publication in January 2002.
To get anew again

I lose Thee now and then;

O my precious love, Thy flight

Is only to be back to my sight.

Thou art not to remain,

Endlessly behind the curtain;

Mine Thou art for ever –

Drown in the temporal for frolic mere.

On Thy search trembles my mind,

Passion waves my love thou to find.

Endless Thou art

So delude as null to covert;

Such is Thy pleasure

To leave me in desolation tear.

15) He nutan dakha dik arbar

Janmero prathama subhakshan


[Note: There has been a boom of celebration of birthday parties of young and adults alike in the Western style even in our country with the trite song ‘Happy birthday to you …..etc.’ preceded by the ritual of cutting/eating of delicious birthday cakes to be followed by sumptuous dishes and, of course, the incumbents are flooded with costly gifts from their guests. Thus, the birthday parties do provide plenty of enjoyment. However, it may be interesting to compare this ethos with that which pervades the whole of Bengal during the Kabi Paksha (Poet’s fortnight) which starts on the 25th day of Baisakh (this month in the Bengali calendar synchronizes with the mid April to mid May period), the birthday of the Poet, when the entire clime here is inundated with Tagore’s songs/recitals etc. in various functions taking us deep into the perception of Creation’s mystery, which we badly miss in our said birthday rituals which, one may feel, are in utter mediocrity once one has experienced the ecstasy and philosophical height in Kabi Paksha. Out of many other recitals relevant to the profundity of ‘birthday’ the following song is sure to be heard on this occasion ]
O Ever New, may Thee reappear

Through Life’s holy primal hour;

With the mist torn

Like Sun be Thy manifestation.

From the midst of inane

Thy victory be over its bane.

Let be hailed by Thy glow

And my heart’s trumpet blow;

Music of Life’s marvel

Infinity’s eternal wonder to reveal;

The clarion call to the Ever New be sent

At the advent

Of Baisakh the twenty fifth

For its un-blighting gift.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

23. Amader Shantiniketan, Se je sabar hote apan,

Tar akash bhara kole, moder dole hriday dole


[Note: In various celebrations/functions of Santiniketan, the University of the Poet, this song is sung in chorus. Is there a better paean for any institution anywhere in the world?]
Our Santiniketan,

She is our very own;

Lapping our heart

Her sky rocks it to spurt

To see her novel again

In our renewed vein.

The rows of her trees

Our frolic in the field sprees;

Affection of the blue above

Dawn to dusk showers love.

In the shades of our Shawl trees

Music from the wood conveys the breeze.

The Amlaki (*) bowers gay *

With dancing leaves play.

Where we ramble for pleasure,

That never eludes from us far.

In our mind the Sitar (**) of love **

Is tuned to put us hand in glove

With my brothers

Who are one with me and others.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

(*) tree (**) musical instrument

32 Amra sabai raja amader eai rajar rajatwe

Naile moder rajar sane milbo ki swatte?



[Note: In God’s kingdom all his subjects are one with their King. While we are bound by His axioms, we never feel the bondage, while the human kings or even the rulers in a democracy tend to be tyrants, maybe with a difference in degree.]
We all are kings in our King’s kingdom

Else how we be one with Him on what other term?

We are arbitrary

Yet, His cravings carry,

Not bound in slave’s bondage

To fear His rage.

He gives honor to all

That bounces on Him to fall;

None is there us to stunt

With any untruth blunt;

We go on our own

To meet the path He had shown;

We won’t die

In the whirl futile.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

35. Amra dujana swarga khelana garibo na dharanite

Mugdho lalito asrugalito geete



[Notes: The song was composed in early thirties of 20th Century, presumably dedicated to the great revolutionary Jatindra Mohan Sengupta and his foreign (Irish, I guess) wife Nellie Sengupta, who had worked shoulder to shoulder with her husband in the freedom struggle for India. In 1932, on his return voyage from Europe, Jatindra was arrested by the British police near Bombay. He was since interned and eventually breathed his last on 22 July 1933 at Ranchi (in Eastern India). Many a couple dedicated to freedom struggle had similar plight at that time and, naturally we may assume, this song was directed to them all. Yet, its appeal extends universally, beyond a particular milieu, to all the couple whose objective is far beyond a mere happy family life to respond to the cause of service of the people at large.]
To compose the toy of heaven

Is not our aim craven –

In emotional songs occult

The nuptial night to exalt

In nostalgic charm

With a heart infirm

To beg at Fate’s feet

All our imploring to meet –

Is not for us intrepid

Both standing firm in our daring bid.

The banner of love we’ll hoist high

Along craggy path our perilous mission to vie;

The distress of the cruel day

Overwhelm us may;

Yet, for peace to languish

Or consolation we’ll not wish.

If the radar is broke, the sail torn,

To us this will be ever known,

That both of us are there

Even when Death at us will stare.

Both of us to vision the Earth there

And each other;

The desert heat to bear

Not to rush for the mirage mere

Evading truth to self beguile

This glory be ours all the while;

This message oh dearest

Be our heart’s closest –

Till we die

That you’re there; so am I.

  • * * * * * * * * * * **

Quotes from the chapter “A hindsight at Tagore translation”

B. Tagore deified

Also, the Bengali tendency to deify Tagore as infallible in all his feats, including translation of his own work, very much stood on the way of ‘Tagore literacy’ drive started by the modern translators. In the nineties of the 20th Century a good number of articles came out in the media, some of those arguing that Tagore’s own translations were ‘insipid’ etc. by which Tagore did injustice to himself. I fully agree with this view and feel that this has been the reason for the poor assessment of Tagore outside the Bengali circle. However, in all fairness, Tagore should be excused for this failure as he had to divert to translation amidst his enormous preoccupations, naturally at the cost of quality and quantity of his translations, while he could handle only a small fraction of his vast work. One may recall the episode of installing a bust of Tagore at Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon Avon, with Tagore’s poem ‘Shakespeare’ (from his book ‘Balaka’) inscribed on a plaque beneath it. It was a gift from the West Bwngal Govt. and the State’s the then Chief Minister Mr. Jyoti Basu inaugurated the bust towards the end of the last century. A few renowned translators offered their English version of the poem for this inscription but, eventually, Tagore’s own was chosen. It very much appeared to me that the choice was ‘political’ as the Chief Minister would not play with the Bengali sentiment by ascribing a secondary rank to Tagore below somebody else by any means and jeopardize his vote bank. However, out of all the translations of ‘Shakespeare’ offered for this purpose, I read Joe Winter’s which was published in The Statesman on the 27th November, 1996. It appeared to me superb and I pasted the newspaper cutting of this translation in my copy of ‘Shakespeare’s Complete Works’ (Publisher- English Language Book Society & Collins, London and Glasgow edition 1964). A few ‘Odes to Shakespeare’ appear at the preamble of this publication. So far as my copy is concerned, I think the said pasting is the best of all the ‘Odes’, very likely appearing in my copy alone, unfortunately. My suggestion is, henceforth the publishers of Shakespeare may consider inclusion of this Joe Winter’s translation of Tagore’s ‘Shakespeare’ (or anybody else’s if considered better) in their future publications. Thus, the Western literary circle may savor Tagore through Shakespeare which they keep at their elbow. The said publication of Joe Winter’s “Shakespeare” appears at the end of this ‘Hindsight’

Rabindranath Tagore’s poem ‘Shakespeare’ in his book ‘Balaka’ in Bengali – translated by Joe Winter, published in The Statesman in their Calcutta edition of 27 November, 1996.

You rose, world poet, on a shore for distant,

And England took you at that instant

Next to her heart, you were her treasure

It seemed, all hers, it was her pleasure

To kiss your forehead and to withhold you

In the forest’s arms, for a time; to enfold you

In mist’s shawl, in woodland flowers

A fairies’ field. The island bowers

Had not yet woken to sing the praises

Of the Sun-poet. But in slow phases

Of centuries, led on by Time’s singing

You rose to mid-heaven in your shining.

Taking your splendid seat in the centre

You lit up the world’s mind. See this new era

Branches of palm trees vibrating, thrill-singing,

By the Indian Ocean, your praises ringing.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


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