Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore wrote his poetry in Bengali. Fortunately for the international readership he self-translated a number of poems into English. Tagore once said, 'You will find me in my poems'. Poet-in-Residence humbly offers a selection of 3 poems from this great artist and founder of Visva-Bharati University for the Arts at Shantiniketon, West Bengal, for study and contemplation. The first poem (below) was written on recovering consciousness after a serious illness, the second poem as a reaction to the Munich Pact and the third as a poem to be sung after his death.
Behind an infinite secrecy
Behind an infinite secrecy of the dark from
which the world of prying lights
was shut out
there walked in the Destroyer,
and underneath the pall of an ominous hush
rehearsed reparation in the deep of my
At last the stage was made vacant
for the new act of life's play,
when a fiery finger from the sky touched
a fringe of the darkness
and a lightning thrill
piereced the immensity of sleep
breaking it to pieces.
A stream of awakening began to course
through the veins of a blind
as the first flood of the rainy June
pursues its branching path
amidst the emptiness of a dry river bed.
Big boulders of shadows barricaded
the passage of light
and created confusion -
till they were swept away,
and the spirit of new life unbared herself
in a luminous horizon of peace.
This body of mine -
the carrier of the burden of the past -
seemed to me like an exhausted cloud
slipping off from the listless arm
of the morning.
I felt freed from its clasp
in the heart of an incorporeal light
at the furthest shore
of evanescent things.
In the upper sky
In the upper sky, lamped by science,
the night forgets itself,
while in the underground gloom
lean hunger and bloated voracity
crash against each other
till the earth begins to tremble
and the pillars of triumph
are perilously cracked,
swaying on the brink of gaping gulfs.
Do not howl in fear
or angrily judge God,
let the swelling evil burst itself in pain
and vomit out its accumulated filth.
When the victims of a carnivorous rage
are dragged by the competition of
let the hideousness of the blood-soaked
arouse divine anger heralding a heroic
out of an awful retribution.
They throng in the church
in a primitive frenzy of faith made keen
which hopes to flatter their God
into a complacent mood
into a feebleness of leniency.
They feel half sure that peace will be
into this demented earth
by the mere volume of their wailing
uttered in sacred text.
They have confidence in their indulgent
who may send them timely wisdom
to divert all sacrifices needed for the
towards the less strong,
leaving their own soiled hoardings
But let us hope,
for the sake of the dignity of moral justice
in this world,
that God will never suffer to be cheated
of His due
by the miserly manipulation of a diplomatic
carefully avoiding all cost to itself,
that a terrible penance may have to be
to its ultimate end,
leaving no remnant of poison
in a treacherously healing scar.
In front lies the ocean
In front lies the ocean of peace.
Launch the boat, Helmsman.
You will be the comrade ever,
Take O take him in your lap.
In the path of the Infinite
will shine the Dhruva-tara.
Giver of freedom, your forgiveness,
will be wealth inexhaustible
in the eternal journey.
May the mortal bonds perish,
May the vast universe take him in its arms,
And may he know in his fearless heart
The Great Unknown
*Dhruva-tara - the bright Pole Star which provides steadfast and unfailing guidance