Rabindranath Tagore, timeless poetic meanderings after my own restless heart (forsooth)
“Where roads are made I lose my way.
In the wide water, in the blue sky there is no line of a track.
The pathway is hidden by the birds’ wings, by the star-fires, by the flowers of the wayfaring seasons.
And I ask my heart if its blood carries the wisdom of the unseen way…
Be ready to launch forth, my heart! and let those linger who must.
For your name has been called in the morning sky.
Wait for none!
The desire of the bud is for the night and dew, but the blown flower cries for the freedom of light.
Burst your sheath, my heart, and come forth!
When I lingered among my hoarded treasure I felt like a worm that feeds in the dark upon the fruit where it was born.
I leave this prison of decay.
I care not to haunt the mouldy stillness, for I go in search of everlasting youth; I throw away all that is not one with my life nor as light as my laughter.
I run through time and, O my heart, in your chariot dances the poet who sings while he wanders…
You took my hand and drew me to your side, made me sit on the high seat before all men, till I became timid, unable to stir and walk my own way; doubting and debating at every step lest I should tread upon any thorn of their disfavour.
I am freed at last!
The blow has come, the drum of insult sounded, my seat is laid low in the dust.
My paths are open before me.
My wings are full of the desire of the sky.
I go to join the shooting stars of midnight, to plunge into the profound shadow.
I am like the storm-driven cloud of summer that, having cast off its crown of gold, hangs as a sword the thunderbolt upon a chain of lightning.
In desperate joy I run upon the dusty path of the despised; I draw near to your final welcome.
The child finds its mother when it leaves her womb.
When I am parted from you, thrown out from your household, I am free to see your face.
To move is to meet you every moment, Fellow-traveller!
It is to sing to the falling of your feet.
He whom your breath touches does not glide by the shelter of the bank.
He spreads a reckless sail to the wind and rides the turbulent water.
He who throws his doors open and steps onward receives your greeting.
He does not stay to count his gain or to mourn his loss; his heart beats the drum for his march, for that is to march with you every step,
No: it is not yours to open buds into blossoms.
Shake the bud, strike it; it is beyond your power to make it blossom.
Your touch soils it, you tear its petals to pieces and strew them in the dust.
But no colours appear, and no perfume.
Ah! it is not for you to open the bud into a blossom.
He who can open the bud does it so simply.
He gives it a glance, and the life-sap stirs through its veins.
At his breath the flower spreads its wings and flutters in the wind.
Colours flush out like heart-longings, the perfume betrays a sweet secret.
He who can open the bud does it so simply.
I will meet one day the Life within me, the joy that hides in my life, though the days perplex my path with their idle dust.
I have known it in glimpses, and its fitful breath has come upon me, making my thoughts fragrant for a while.
I will meet one day the Joy without me that dwells behind the screen of light–and will stand in the overflowing solitude where all things are seen as by their creator.
The bird of the morning sings.
Whence has he word of the morning before the morning breaks, and when the dragon night still holds the sky in its cold black coils?
Tell me, bird of the morning, how, through the twofold night of the sky and the leaves, he found his way into your dream, the messenger out of the east?
The world did not believe you when you cried, “The sun is on his way, the night is no more.”
O sleeper, awake!
Bare your forehead, waiting for the first blessing of light, and sing with the bird of the morning in glad faith.
You have set me among those who are defeated.
I know it is not for me to win, nor to leave the game.
I shall plunge into the pool although but to sink to the bottom.
I shall play the game of my undoing.
I shall stake all I have and when I lose my last penny I shall stake myself, and then I think I shall have won through my utter defeat.
This is no mere dallying of love between us, my lover.
Again and again have swooped down upon me the screaming nights of storm, blowing out my lamp: dark doubts have gathered, blotting out all stars from my sky.
Again and again the banks have burst, letting the flood sweep away my harvest, and wailing and despair have rent my sky from end to end.
This have I learnt that there are blows of pain in your love, never the cold apathy of death.
Timidly I cowered in the shadow of safety, but now, when the surge of joy carries my heart upon its crest, my heart clings to the cruel rock of its trouble.
I sat alone in a corner of my house thinking it too narrow for any guest, but now when its door is flung open by an unbidden joy I find there is room for thee and for all the world.
I walked upon tiptoe, careful of my person, perfumed, and adorned–but now when a glad whirlwind has overthrown me in the dust I laugh and roll on the earth at thy feet like a child.
The world is yours at once and for ever.
And because you have no want, my king, you have no pleasure in your wealth.
It is as though it were naught. Therefore through slow time you give me what is yours, and ceaselessly win your kingdom in me.
Day after day you buy your sunrise from my heart, and you find your love carven into the image of my life.
To the birds you gave songs, the birds gave you songs in return.
You gave me only voice, yet asked for more, and I sing.
You made your winds light and they are fleet in their service. You burdened my hands that I myself may lighten them, and at last, gain unburdened freedom for your service.
You created your Earth filling its shadows with fragments of light.
There you paused; you left me empty-handed in the dust to create your heaven.
To all things else you give; from me you ask.
The harvest of my life ripens in the sun and the shower till I reap more than you sowed, gladdening your heart, O Master of the golden granary.
Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless in facing them.
Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain but for the heart to conquer it.
Let me not look for allies in life’s battlefield but to my own strength.
Let me not crave in anxious fear to be saved but hope for the patience to win my freedom.
Grant me that I may not be a coward, feeling your mercy in my success alone; but let me find the grasp of your hand in my failure.
THE SONG OF THE DEFEATED
My Master has bid me while I stand at the roadside, to sing the song of Defeat, for that is the bride whom He woos in secret.
She has put on the dark veil, hiding her face from the crowd, but the jewel glows on her breast in the dark.
She is forsaken of the day, and God’s night is waiting for her with its lamps lighted and flowers wet with dew.
She is silent with her eyes downcast; she has left her home behind her, from her home has come that wailing in the wind.
But the stars are singing the love-song of the eternal to a face sweet with shame and suffering.
The door has been opened in the lonely chamber, the call has sounded, and the heart of the darkness throbs with awe because of the coming tryst.
by Rabindranath Tagore (1913 Nobel Prize for Literature)
[Translated from Bengali to English by the author]
New York: The Macmillan Company, 1916
or from the original transcription at sacred-texts.com