Poem by Rabindranath Tagore

This Dog

Every morning this dog, very attached to me,
Quietly keeps sitting near my seat
Till touching its head
I recognize its company.
This recognition gives it so much joy
Pure delight ripples through its entire body.
Among all dumb creatures
It is the only living being
That has seen the whole man
Beyond what is good or bad in him
It has seen
For his love, it can sacrifice its life
It can love him too for the sake of love alone
For it is he who shows the way
To the vast world pulsating with life.
When I see its deep devotion
The offer of its whole being
I fail to understand
By its sheer instinct
What truth it has discovered in man.
By its silent anxious piteous looks
It cannot communicate what it understands
But it has succeeded in conveying to me
Among the whole creation
What is the true status of man.

Maran-Milan (Death-Wedding)

Why do you speak so softly, Death, Death,
Creep upon me, watch me so stealthily?
This is not how a lover should behave.
When evening flowers droop upon their tired
Stems, when cattle are brought in from the fields
After a whole day’s grazing, you, Death,
Death, approach me with such gentle steps,
Settle yourself immovably by my side.
I cannot understand the things you say.

Alas, will this be how you will take me, Death,
Death? Like a thief, laying heavy sleep
On my eyes as you descend to my heart?
Will, you thus let your tread be a slow beat
In my sleep-numbed blood, your jingling ankle-bells
A drowsy rumble in my ear? Will you, Death,
Death, wrap me, finally, in your cold
Arms and carry me away while I dream?
I do not know why you thus come and go.

Tell me, is this the way you wed, Death,
Death? Unceremonially, with no
Weight of sacrament or blessing or prayer?
Will you come with your massy tawny hair
Unkempt, unbound into a bright coil-crown?
Will no one bears your victory-flag before
Or after, will no torches glow like red
Eyes along the river, Death, Death?
Will earth not quake in terror at your step?

When fierce-eyed Siva came to take his bride,
Remember all the pomp and trappings, Death,
Death: the flapping tiger-skins he wore;
His roaring bull; the serpents hissing round
His hair; the bom-bom sound as he slapped his cheeks;
The necklace of skulls swinging around his neck;
The sudden raucous music as he blew
His horn to announce his coming – was this not
A better way of wedding, Death, Death?

And as that deathly wedding-party’s din
Grew nearer, Death, Death, tears of joy
Filled Gauri’s eyes and the garments at her breast
Quivered; her left eye fluttered and her heart
Pounded; her body quailed with thrilled delight
And her mind ran away with itself, Death, Death;
Her mother wailed and smote her head at the thought
Of receiving so wild a groom; and in his mind
Her father agreed calamity had struck.

Why must you always come like a thief, Death,
Death, always silently, at night’s end,
Leaving only tears? Come to me festively,
Make the whole night ring with your triumph, blow
Your victory-conch, dress me in blood-red robes,
Grasp me by the hand and sweep me away!
Pay no heed to what others may think, Death,
Death, for I shall of my own free will
Resort to you if you but take me gloriously.

If I am immersed in work in my room
When you arrive, Death, Death, then break
My work thrust my unreadiness aside.
If I am sleeping, sinking all desires
In the dreamy pleasure of my bed, or I lie
With apathy gripping my heart and my eyes
Flickering between sleep and waking, fill
Your conch with your destructive breath and blow,
Death, Death and I shall run to you.

I shall go to where your boat is moored,
Death, Death, to the sea where the wind rolls
Darkness towards me from infinity.
I may see black clouds massing in the far
North-east corner of the sky; fiery snakes
Of lightning may rear up with their hoods raised,
But I shall not flinch in unfounded fear –
I shall pass silently, unswervingly
across that red storm-sea, Death, Death.

The Gardener Xxix: Speak To Me My Love

Speak to me, my love! Tell me in
words that you sang.
The night is dark. The stars are
lost in clouds. The wind is sighing
through the leaves.
I will let loose my hair. My blue
cloak will cling round me like night. I
will clasp your head to my bosom; and
there in the sweet loneliness murmur
on your heart. I will shut my eyes
and listen. I will not look in your face.
When your words are ended, we will
sit still and silent. Only the trees will
whisper in the dark.
The night will pale. The day will
dawn. We shall look at each other’s
eyes and go on our different paths.
Speak to me, my love! Tell me in
words that you sang.

Stray Birds 1 – 10

1

STRAY birds of summer come to my window
to sing and fly away.
And yellow leaves of autumn,
which have no songs,
flutter and fall there with a sigh.

2

O TROUPE of little vagrants of the world,
leave your footprints in my words.

3

THE world puts off its mask of vastness to its lover.
It becomes small as one song,
as one kiss of the eternal.

4

IT is the tears of the earth
that keep her smiles in bloom.

5

THE mighty desert is burning
for the love of a blade of grass
who shakes her head and laughs
and flies
away.

6

IF you shed tears when you miss the sun,
you also miss the stars.

7

THE sands in your way beg for your song
and your movement,
dancing water.
Will you carry the burden of their lameness?

8

HER wistful face haunts my dreams
like the rain at night.

9

Once we dreamt that we were strangers.
We wake up to find that we were dear to each other.

10

SORROW is hushed into peace in my heart
like the evening among the silent trees.

The Gardener Xliv: Reverend Sir, Forgive

Reverend sir, forgive this pair of
sinners. Spring winds to-day are
blowing in wild eddies, driving dust
and dead leaves away, and with them
your lessons are all lost.
Do not say, father, that life is a
vanity.
For we have made truce with death
for once, and only for a few fragrant
hours we two have been made immortal.
Even if the king’s army came and
fiercely fell upon us we should sadly
shake our heads and say, Brothers,
you are disturbing us. If you must
have this noisy game, go and clatter
your arms elsewhere. Since only for
a few fleeting moments we have been
made immortal.
If friendly people came and flocked
around us, we should humbly bow to
them and say, This extravagant good
fortune is an embarrassment to us.
Room is scarce in the infinite sky
where we dwell. For in the spring-
time flowers come in crowds, and the
busy wings of bees jostle each other.
Our little heaven, where dwell only
we two immortals, is too absurdly
narrow.

Share