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Song Offerings
A collection of prose translations
made by the author from
the original Bengali
With an introduction by
A few days ago I said to a distinguished Bengali doctor of
medicine, 'I know no German, yet if a translation of a German
poet had moved me, I would go to the British Museum and find
books in English that would tell me something of his life, and of
the history of his thought. But though these prose translations
from Rabindranath Tagore have stirred my blood as nothing has for
years, I shall not know anything of his life, and of the
movements of thought that have made them possible, if some Indian
traveller will not tell me.' It seemed to him natural that I
should be moved, for he said, 'I read Rabindranath every day, to
read one line of his is to forget all the troubles of the world.'
I said, 'An Englishman living in London in the reign of Richard
the Second had he been shown translations from Petrarch or from
Dante, would have found no books to answer his questions, but
would have questioned some Florentine banker or Lombard merchant
as I question you. For all I know, so abundant and simple is
this poetry, the new renaissance has been born in your country
and I shall never know of it except by hearsay.' He answered,
'We have other poets, but none that are his equal; we call this
the epoch of Rabindranath. No poet seems to me as famous in
Europe as he is among us. He is as great in music as in poetry,
and his songs are sung from the west of India into Burma wherever
Bengali is spoken. He was already famous at nineteen when he
wrote his first novel; and plays when he was but little older,
are still played in Calcutta. I so much admire the completeness
of his life; when he was very young he wrote much of natural
objects, he would sit all day in his garden; from his twenty-fifth
year or so to his thirty-fifth perhaps, when he had a great
sorrow, he wrote the most beautiful love poetry in our language';
and then he said with deep emotion, 'words can never express what
I owed at seventeen to his love poetry. After that his art grew
deeper, it became religious and philosophical; all the
inspiration of mankind are in his hymns. He is the first among
our saints who has not refused to live, but has spoken out of
Life itself, and that is why we give him our love.' I may have
changed his well-chosen words in my memory but not his thought.
'A little while ago he was to read divine service in one of our
churches--we of the Brahma Samaj use your word 'church' in
English--it was the largest in Calcutta and not only was it
crowded, but the streets were all but impassable because of the
Other Indians came to see me and their reverence for this man
sounded strange in our world, where we hide great and little
things under the same veil of obvious comedy and half-serious
depreciation. When we were making the cathedrals had we a like
reverence for our great men? 'Every morning at three--I know,
for I have seen it'--one said to me, 'he sits immovable in
contemplation, and for two hours does not awake from his reverie
upon the nature of God. His father, the Maha Rishi, would
sometimes sit there all through the next day; once, upon a river,
he fell into contemplation because of the beauty of the
landscape, and the rowers waited for eight hours before they
could continue their journey.' He then told me of Mr. Tagore's
family and how for generations great men have come out of its
cradles. 'Today,' he said, 'there are Gogonendranath and
Abanindranath Tagore, who are artists; and Dwijendranath,
Rabindranath's brother, who is a great philosopher. The
squirrels come from the boughs and climb on to his knees and the
birds alight upon his hands.' I notice in these men's thought a
sense of visible beauty and meaning as though they held that
doctrine of Nietzsche that we must not believe in the moral or
intellectual beauty which does not sooner or later impress itself
upon physical things. I said, 'In the East you know how to keep
a family illustrious. The other day the curator of a museum
pointed out to me a little dark-skinned man who was arranging
their Chinese prints and said, ''That is the hereditary
connoisseur of the Mikado, he is the fourteenth of his family to
hold the post.'' 'He answered, 'When Rabindranath was a boy he
had all round him in his home literature and music.' I thought
of the abundance, of the simplicity of the poems, and said, 'In
your country is there much propagandist writing, much criticism?
We have to do so much, especially in my own country, that our
minds gradually cease to be creative, and yet we cannot help it.
If our life was not a continual warfare, we would not have taste,
we would not know what is good, we would not find hearers and
readers. Four-fifths of our energy is spent in the quarrel with
bad taste, whether in our own minds or in the minds of others.'
'I understand,' he replied, 'we too have our propagandist
writing. In the villages they recite long mythological poems
adapted from the Sanskrit in the Middle Ages, and they often
insert passages telling the people that they must do their
I have carried the manuscript of these translations about with me
for days, reading it in railway trains, or on the top of
omnibuses and in restaurants, and I have often had to close it
lest some stranger would see how much it moved me. These lyrics--
which are in the original, my Indians tell me, full of subtlety
of rhythm, of untranslatable delicacies of colour, of metrical
invention--display in their thought a world I have dreamed of all
my live long. The work of a supreme culture, they yet appear as
much the growth of the common soil as the grass and the rushes.
A tradition, where poetry and religion are the same thing, has
passed through the centuries, gathering from learned and
unlearned metaphor and emotion, and carried back again to the
multitude the thought of the scholar and of the noble. If the
civilization of Bengal remains unbroken, if that common mind
which--as one divines--runs through all, is not, as with us,
broken into a dozen minds that know nothing of each other,
something even of what is most subtle in these verses will have
come, in a few generations, to the beggar on the roads. When
there was but one mind in England, Chaucer wrote his _Troilus
and Cressida_, and thought he had written to be read, or to be
read out--for our time was coming on apace--he was sung by
minstrels for a while. Rabindranath Tagore, like Chaucer's
forerunners, writes music for his words, and one understands at
every moment that he is so abundant, so spontaneous, so daring in
his passion, so full of surprise, because he is doing something
which has never seemed strange, unnatural, or in need of defence.
These verses will not lie in little well-printed books upon
ladies' tables, who turn the pages with indolent hands that they
may sigh over a life without meaning, which is yet all they can
know of life, or be carried by students at the university to be
laid aside when the work of life begins, but, as the generations
pass, travellers will hum them on the highway and men rowing upon
the rivers. Lovers, while they await one another, shall find, in
murmuring them, this love of God a magic gulf wherein their own
more bitter passion may bathe and renew its youth. At every
moment the heart of this poet flows outward to these without
derogation or condescension, for it has known that they will
understand; and it has filled itself with the circumstance of
their lives. The traveller in the read-brown clothes that he
wears that dust may not show upon him, the girl searching in her
bed for the petals fallen from the wreath of her royal lover, the
servant or the bride awaiting the master's home-coming in the
empty house, are images of the heart turning to God. Flowers and
rivers, the blowing of conch shells, the heavy rain of the Indian
July, or the moods of that heart in union or in separation; and a
man sitting in a boat upon a river playing lute, like one of
those figures full of mysterious meaning in a Chinese picture, is
God Himself. A whole people, a whole civilization, immeasurably
strange to us, seems to have been taken up into this imagination;
and yet we are not moved because of its strangeness, but because
we have met our own image, as though we had walked in Rossetti's
willow wood, or heard, perhaps for the first time in literature,
our voice as in a dream.
Since the Renaissance the writing of European saints--however
familiar their metaphor and the general structure of their
thought--has ceased to hold our attention. We know that we must
at last forsake the world, and we are accustomed in moments of
weariness or exaltation to consider a voluntary forsaking; but
how can we, who have read so much poetry, seen so many paintings,
listened to so much music, where the cry of the flesh and the cry
of the soul seems one, forsake it harshly and rudely? What have
we in common with St. Bernard covering his eyes that they may
not dwell upon the beauty of the lakes of Switzerland, or with
the violent rhetoric of the Book of Revelations? We would, if we
might, find, as in this book, words full of courtesy. 'I have
got my leave. Bid me farewell, my brothers! I bow to you all
and take my departure. Here I give back the keys of my door--and
I give up all claims to my house. I only ask for last kind words
from you. We were neighbours for long, but I received more than
I could give. Now the day has dawned and the lamp that lit my
dark corner is out. A summons has come and I am ready for my
journey.' And it is our own mood, when it is furthest from 'a
Kempis or John of the Cross, that cries, 'And because I love this
life, I know I shall love death as well.' Yet it is not only in
our thoughts of the parting that this book fathoms all. We had
not known that we loved God, hardly it may be that we believed in
Him; yet looking backward upon our life we discover, in our
exploration of the pathways of woods, in our delight in the
lonely places of hills, in that mysterious claim that we have
made, unavailingly on the woman that we have loved, the emotion
that created this insidious sweetness. 'Entering my heart
unbidden even as one of the common crowd, unknown to me, my king,
thou didst press the signet of eternity upon many a fleeting
moment.' This is no longer the sanctity of the cell and of the
scourge; being but a lifting up, as it were, into a greater
intensity of the mood of the painter, painting the dust and the
sunlight, and we go for a like voice to St. Francis and to
William Blake who have seemed so alien in our violent history.
We write long books where no page perhaps has any quality to make
writing a pleasure, being confident in some general design, just
as we fight and make money and fill our heads with politics--all
dull things in the doing--while Mr. Tagore, like the Indian
civilization itself, has been content to discover the soul and
surrender himself to its spontaneity. He often seems to contrast
life with that of those who have loved more after our fashion,
and have more seeming weight in the world, and always humbly as
though he were only sure his way is best for him: 'Men going home
glance at me and smile and fill me with shame. I sit like a
beggar maid, drawing my skirt over my face, and when they ask me,
what it is I want, I drop my eyes and answer them not.' At
another time, remembering how his life had once a different
shape, he will say, 'Many an hour I have spent in the strife of
the good and the evil, but now it is the pleasure of my playmate
of the empty days to draw my heart on to him; and I know not why
this sudden call to what useless inconsequence.' An innocence, a
simplicity that one does not find elsewhere in literature makes
the birds and the leaves seem as near to him as they are near to
children, and the changes of the seasons great events as before
our thoughts had arisen between them and us. At times I wonder
if he has it from the literature of Bengal or from religion, and
at other times, remembering the birds alighting on his brother's
hands, I find pleasure in thinking it hereditary, a mystery that
was growing through the centuries like the courtesy of a Tristan
or a Pelanore. Indeed, when he is speaking of children, so much
a part of himself this quality seems, one is not certain that he
is not also speaking of the saints, 'They build their houses with
sand and they play with empty shells. With withered leaves they
weave their boats and smilingly float them on the vast deep.
Children have their play on the seashore of worlds. They know
not how to swim, they know not how to cast nets. Pearl fishers
dive for pearls, merchants sail in their ships, while children
gather pebbles and scatter them again. They seek not for hidden
treasures, they know not how to cast nets.'
W.B. YEATS _September 1912_
Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail
vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with
fresh life.
This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and
dales, and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new.
At the immortal touch of thy hands my little heart loses its
limits in joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable.
Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of
mine. Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room
to fill.
When thou commandest me to sing it seems that my heart would
break with pride; and I look to thy face, and tears come to my
All that is harsh and dissonant in my life melts into one sweet
harmony--and my adoration spreads wings like a glad bird on its
flight across the sea.
I know thou takest pleasure in my singing. I know that only as a
singer I come before thy presence.
I touch by the edge of the far-spreading wing of my song thy feet
which I could never aspire to reach.
Drunk with the joy of singing I forget myself and call thee
friend who art my lord.
I know not how thou singest, my master! I ever listen in silent
The light of thy music illumines the world. The life breath of
thy music runs from sky to sky. The holy stream of thy music
breaks through all stony obstacles and rushes on.
My heart longs to join in thy song, but vainly struggles for a
voice. I would speak, but speech breaks not into song, and I cry
out baffled. Ah, thou hast made my heart captive in the endless
meshes of thy music, my master!
Life of my life, I shall ever try to keep my body pure, knowing
that thy living touch is upon all my limbs.
I shall ever try to keep all untruths out from my thoughts,
knowing that thou art that truth which has kindled the light of
reason in my mind.
I shall ever try to drive all evils away from my heart and keep
my love in flower, knowing that thou hast thy seat in the inmost
shrine of my heart.
And it shall be my endeavour to reveal thee in my actions,
knowing it is thy power gives me strength to act.
I ask for a moment's indulgence to sit by thy side. The works
that I have in hand I will finish afterwards.
Away from the sight of thy face my heart knows no rest nor
respite, and my work becomes an endless toil in a shoreless sea
of toil.
Today the summer has come at my window with its sighs and
murmurs; and the bees are plying their minstrelsy at the court of
the flowering grove.
Now it is time to sit quite, face to face with thee, and to sing
dedication of life in this silent and overflowing leisure.
Pluck this little flower and take it, delay not! I fear lest it
droop and drop into the dust.
I may not find a place in thy garland, but honour it with a touch
of pain from thy hand and pluck it. I fear lest the day end
before I am aware, and the time of offering go by.
Though its colour be not deep and its smell be faint, use this
flower in thy service and pluck it while there is time.
My song has put off her adornments. She has no pride of dress
and decoration. Ornaments would mar our union; they would come
between thee and me; their jingling would drown thy whispers.
My poet's vanity dies in shame before thy sight. O master poet,
I have sat down at thy feet. Only let me make my life simple and
straight, like a flute of reed for thee to fill with music.
The child who is decked with prince's robes and who has jewelled
chains round his neck loses all pleasure in his play; his dress
hampers him at every step.
In fear that it may be frayed, or stained with dust he keeps
himself from the world, and is afraid even to move.
Mother, it is no gain, thy bondage of finery, if it keep one
shut off from the healthful dust of the earth, if it rob one of
the right of entrance to the great fair of common human life.
O Fool, try to carry thyself upon thy own shoulders! O beggar,
to come beg at thy own door!
Leave all thy burdens on his hands who can bear all, and never
look behind in regret.
Thy desire at once puts out the light from the lamp it touches
with its breath. It is unholy--take not thy gifts through its
unclean hands. Accept only what is offered by sacred love.
Here is thy footstool and there rest thy feet where live the
poorest, and lowliest, and lost.
When I try to bow to thee, my obeisance cannot reach down to the
depth where thy feet rest among the poorest, and lowliest, and
Pride can never approach to where thou walkest in the clothes of
the humble among the poorest, and lowliest, and lost.
My heart can never find its way to where thou keepest company
with the companionless among the poorest, the lowliest, and the
Leave this chanting and singing and telling of beads! Whom dost
thou worship in this lonely dark corner of a temple with doors
all shut? Open thine eyes and see thy God is not before thee!
He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground and where
the pathmaker is breaking stones. He is with them in sun and in
shower, and his garment is covered with dust. Put of thy holy
mantle and even like him come down on the dusty soil!
Deliverance? Where is this deliverance to be found? Our master
himself has joyfully taken upon him the bonds of creation; he is
bound with us all for ever.
Come out of thy meditations and leave aside thy flowers and
incense! What harm is there if thy clothes become tattered and
stained? Meet him and stand by him in toil and in sweat of thy
The time that my journey takes is long and the way of it long.
I came out on the chariot of the first gleam of light, and
pursued my voyage through the wildernesses of worlds leaving my
track on many a star and planet.
It is the most distant course that comes nearest to thyself, and
that training is the most intricate which leads to the utter
simplicity of a tune.
The traveller has to knock at every alien door to come to his
own, and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach
the innermost shrine at the end.
My eyes strayed far and wide before I shut them and said 'Here
art thou!'
The question and the cry 'Oh, where?' melt into tears of a
thousand streams and deluge the world with the flood of the
assurance 'I am!'
The song that I came to sing remains unsung to this day.
I have spent my days in stringing and in unstringing my
The time has not come true, the words have not been rightly set;
only there is the agony of wishing in my heart.
The blossom has not opened; only the wind is sighing by.
I have not seen his face, nor have I listened to his voice; only
I have heard his gentle footsteps from the road before my house.
The livelong day has passed in spreading his seat on the floor;
but the lamp has not been lit and I cannot ask him into my house.
I live in the hope of meeting with him; but this meeting is not
My desires are many and my cry is pitiful, but ever didst thou
save me by hard refusals; and this strong mercy has been wrought
into my life through and through.
Day by day thou art making me worthy of the simple, great gifts
that thou gavest to me unasked--this sky and the light, this body
and the life and the mind--saving me from perils of overmuch
There are times when I languidly linger and times when I awaken
and hurry in search of my goal; but cruelly thou hidest thyself
from before me.
Day by day thou art making me worthy of thy full acceptance by
refusing me ever and anon, saving me from perils of weak,
uncertain desire.
I am here to sing thee songs. In this hall of thine I have a
corner seat.
In thy world I have no work to do; my useless life can only break
out in tunes without a purpose.
When the hour strikes for thy silent worship at the dark temple
of midnight, command me, my master, to stand before thee to sing.
When in the morning air the golden harp is tuned, honour me,
commanding my presence.
I have had my invitation to this world's festival, and thus my
life has been blessed. My eyes have seen and my ears have heard.
It was my part at this feast to play upon my instrument, and I
have done all I could.
Now, I ask, has the time come at last when I may go in and see
thy face and offer thee my silent salutation?
I am only waiting for love to give myself up at last into his
hands. That is why it is so late and why I have been guilty of
such omissions.
They come with their laws and their codes to bind me fast; but I
evade them ever, for I am only waiting for love to give myself up
at last into his hands.
People blame me and call me heedless; I doubt not they are right
in their blame.
The market day is over and work is all done for the busy. Those
who came to call me in vain have gone back in anger. I am only
waiting for love to give myself up at last into his hands.
Clouds heap upon clouds and it darkens. Ah, love, why dost thou
let me wait outside at the door all alone?
In the busy moments of the noontide work I am with the crowd, but
on this dark lonely day it is only for thee that I hope.
If thou showest me not thy face, if thou leavest me wholly aside,
I know not how I am to pass these long, rainy hours.
I keep gazing on the far-away gloom of the sky, and my heart
wanders wailing with the restless wind.
If thou speakest not I will fill my heart with thy silence and
endure it. I will keep still and wait like the night with starry
vigil and its head bent low with patience.
The morning will surely come, the darkness will vanish, and thy
voice pour down in golden streams breaking through the sky.
Then thy words will take wing in songs from every one of my
birds' nests, and thy melodies will break forth in flowers in all
my forest groves.
On the day when the lotus bloomed, alas, my mind was straying,
and I knew it not. My basket was empty and the flower remained
Only now and again a sadness fell upon me, and I started up from
my dream and felt a sweet trace of a strange fragrance in the
south wind.
That vague sweetness made my heart ache with longing and it
seemed to me that is was the eager breath of the summer seeking
for its completion.
I knew not then that it was so near, that it was mine, and that
this perfect sweetness had blossomed in the depth of my own
I must launch out my boat. The languid hours pass by on the
shore--Alas for me!
The spring has done its flowering and taken leave. And now with
the burden of faded futile flowers I wait and linger.
The waves have become clamorous, and upon the bank in the shady
lane the yellow leaves flutter and fall.
What emptiness do you gaze upon! Do you not feel a thrill
passing through the air with the notes of the far-away song
floating from the other shore?
In the deep shadows of the rainy July, with secret steps, thou
walkest, silent as night, eluding all watchers.
Today the morning has closed its eyes, heedless of the insistent
calls of the loud east wind, and a thick veil has been drawn over
the ever-wakeful blue sky.
The woodlands have hushed their songs, and doors are all shut at
every house. Thou art the solitary wayfarer in this deserted
street. Oh my only friend, my best beloved, the gates are open
in my house--do not pass by like a dream.
Art thou abroad on this stormy night on thy journey of love, my
friend? The sky groans like one in despair.
I have no sleep tonight. Ever and again I open my door and look
out on the darkness, my friend!
I can see nothing before me. I wonder where lies thy path!
By what dim shore of the ink-black river, by what far edge of the
frowning forest, through what mazy depth of gloom art thou
threading thy course to come to me, my friend?
If the day is done, if birds sing no more, if the wind has
flagged tired, then draw the veil of darkness thick upon me, even
as thou hast wrapt the earth with the coverlet of sleep and
tenderly closed the petals of the drooping lotus at dusk.
From the traveller, whose sack of provisions is empty before the
voyage is ended, whose garment is torn and dustladen, whose
strength is exhausted, remove shame and poverty, and renew his
life like a flower under the cover of thy kindly night.
In the night of weariness let me give myself up to sleep without
struggle, resting my trust upon thee.
Let me not force my flagging spirit into a poor preparation for
thy worship.
It is thou who drawest the veil of night upon the tired eyes of
the day to renew its sight in a fresher gladness of awakening.
He came and sat by my side but I woke not. What a cursed sleep
it was, O miserable me!
He came when the night was still; he had his harp in his hands,
and my dreams became resonant with its melodies.
Alas, why are my nights all thus lost? Ah, why do I ever miss
his sight whose breath touches my sleep?
Light, oh where is the light? Kindle it with the burning fire of
There is the lamp but never a flicker of a flame--is such thy
fate, my heart? Ah, death were better by far for thee!
Misery knocks at thy door, and her message is that thy lord is
wakeful, and he calls thee to the love-tryst through the darkness
of night.
The sky is overcast with clouds and the rain is ceaseless. I
know not what this is that stirs in me--I know not its meaning.
A moment's flash of lightning drags down a deeper gloom on my
sight, and my heart gropes for the path to where the music of the
night calls me.
Light, oh where is the light! Kindle it with the burning fire of
desire! It thunders and the wind rushes screaming through the
void. The night is black as a black stone. Let not the hours
pass by in the dark. Kindle the lamp of love with thy life.
Obstinate are the trammels, but my heart aches when I try to
break them.
Freedom is all I want, but to hope for it I feel ashamed.
I am certain that priceless wealth is in thee, and that thou art
my best friend, but I have not the heart to sweep away the tinsel
that fills my room.
The shroud that covers me is a shroud of dust and death; I hate
it, yet hug it in love.
My debts are large, my failures great, my shame secret and heavy;
yet when I come to ask for my good, I quake in fear lest my
prayer be granted.
He whom I enclose with my name is weeping in this dungeon. I am
ever busy building this wall all around; and as this wall goes up
into the sky day by day I lose sight of my true being in its dark
I take pride in this great wall, and I plaster it with dust and
sand lest a least hole should be left in this name; and for all
the care I take I lose sight of my true being.
I came out alone on my way to my tryst. But who is this that
follows me in the silent dark?
I move aside to avoid his presence but I escape him not.
He makes the dust rise from the earth with his swagger; he adds
his loud voice to every word that I utter.
He is my own little self, my lord, he knows no shame; but I am
ashamed to come to thy door in his company.
'Prisoner, tell me, who was it that bound you?'
'It was my master,' said the prisoner. 'I thought I could outdo
everybody in the world in wealth and power, and I amassed in my
own treasure-house the money due to my king. When sleep overcame
me I lay upon the bed that was for my lord, and on waking up I
found I was a prisoner in my own treasure-house.'
'Prisoner, tell me, who was it that wrought this unbreakable
'It was I,' said the prisoner, 'who forged this chain very
carefully. I thought my invincible power would hold the world
captive leaving me in a freedom undisturbed. Thus night and day
I worked at the chain with huge fires and cruel hard strokes.
When at last the work was done and the links were complete and
unbreakable, I found that it held me in its grip.'
By all means they try to hold me secure who love me in this
world. But it is otherwise with thy love which is greater than
theirs, and thou keepest me free.
Lest I forget them they never venture to leave me alone. But day
passes by after day and thou art not seen.
If I call not thee in my prayers, if I keep not thee in my heart,
thy love for me still waits for my love.
When it was day they came into my house and said, 'We shall only
take the smallest room here.'
They said, 'We shall help you in the worship of your God and
humbly accept only our own share in his grace'; and then they
took their seat in a corner and they sat quiet and meek.
But in the darkness of night I find they break into my sacred
shrine, strong and turbulent, and snatch with unholy greed the
offerings from God's altar.
Let only that little be left of me whereby I may name thee my
Let only that little be left of my will whereby I may feel thee
on every side, and come to thee in everything, and offer to thee
my love every moment.
Let only that little be left of me whereby I may never hide thee.
Let only that little of my fetters be left whereby I am bound
with thy will, and thy purpose is carried out in my life--and
that is the fetter of thy love.
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow
domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the
dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought
and action--
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
This is my prayer to thee, my lord--strike, strike at the root of
penury in my heart.
Give me the strength lightly to bear my joys and sorrows.
Give me the strength to make my love fruitful in service.
Give me the strength never to disown the poor or bend my knees
before insolent might.
Give me the strength to raise my mind high above daily trifles.
And give me the strength to surrender my strength to thy will
with love.
I thought that my voyage had come to its end at the last limit of
my power,--that the path before me was closed, that provisions
were exhausted and the time come to take shelter in a silent
But I find that thy will knows no end in me. And when old words
die out on the tongue, new melodies break forth from the heart;
and where the old tracks are lost, new country is revealed with
its wonders.
That I want thee, only thee--let my heart repeat without end.
All desires that distract me, day and night, are false and empty
to the core.
As the night keeps hidden in its gloom the petition for light,
even thus in the depth of my unconsciousness rings the cry--'I
want thee, only thee'.
As the storm still seeks its end in peace when it strikes against
peace with all its might, even thus my rebellion strikes against
thy love and still its cry is--'I want thee, only thee'.
When the heart is hard and parched up, come upon me with a shower
of mercy.
When grace is lost from life, come with a burst of song.
When tumultuous work raises its din on all sides shutting me out
from beyond, come to me, my lord of silence, with thy peace and
When my beggarly heart sits crouched, shut up in a corner, break
open the door, my king, and come with the ceremony of a king.
When desire blinds the mind with delusion and dust, O thou holy
one, thou wakeful, come with thy light and thy thunder.
The rain has held back for days and days, my God, in my arid
heart. The horizon is fiercely naked--not the thinnest cover of
a soft cloud, not the vaguest hint of a distant cool shower.
Send thy angry storm, dark with death, if it is thy wish, and
with lashes of lightning startle the sky from end to end.
But call back, my lord, call back this pervading silent heat,
still and keen and cruel, burning the heart with dire despair.
Let the cloud of grace bend low from above like the tearful look
of the mother on the day of the father's wrath.
Where dost thou stand behind them all, my lover, hiding thyself
in the shadows? They push thee and pass thee by on the dusty
road, taking thee for naught. I wait here weary hours spreading
my offerings for thee, while passers-by come and take my flowers,
one by one, and my basket is nearly empty.
The morning time is past, and the noon. In the shade of evening
my eyes are drowsy with sleep. Men going home glance at me and
smile and fill me with shame. I sit like a beggar maid, drawing
my skirt over my face, and when they ask me, what it is I want, I
drop my eyes and answer them not.
Oh, how, indeed, could I tell them that for thee I wait, and that
thou hast promised to come. How could I utter for shame that I
keep for my dowry this poverty. Ah, I hug this pride in the
secret of my heart.
I sit on the grass and gaze upon the sky and dream of the sudden
splendour of thy coming--all the lights ablaze, golden pennons
flying over thy car, and they at the roadside standing agape,
when they see thee come down from thy seat to raise me from the
dust, and set at thy side this ragged beggar girl a-tremble with
shame and pride, like a creeper in a summer breeze.
But time glides on and still no sound of the wheels of thy
chariot. Many a procession passes by with noise and shouts and
glamour of glory. Is it only thou who wouldst stand in the
shadow silent and behind them all? And only I who would wait and
weep and wear out my heart in vain longing?
Early in the day it was whispered that we should sail in a boat,
only thou and I, and never a soul in the world would know of this
our pilgrimage to no country and to no end.
In that shoreless ocean, at thy silently listening smile my songs
would swell in melodies, free as waves, free from all bondage of
Is the time not come yet? Are there works still to do? Lo, the
evening has come down upon the shore and in the fading light the
seabirds come flying to their nests.
Who knows when the chains will be off, and the boat, like the
last glimmer of sunset, vanish into the night?
The day was when I did not keep myself in readiness for thee; and
entering my heart unbidden even as one of the common crowd,
unknown to me, my king, thou didst press the signet of eternity
upon many a fleeting moment of my life.
And today when by chance I light upon them and see thy signature,
I find they have lain scattered in the dust mixed with the memory
of joys and sorrows of my trivial days forgotten.
Thou didst not turn in contempt from my childish play among dust,
and the steps that I heard in my playroom are the same that are
echoing from star to star.
This is my delight, thus to wait and watch at the wayside where
shadow chases light and the rain comes in the wake of the summer.
Messengers, with tidings from unknown skies, greet me and speed
along the road. My heart is glad within, and the breath of the
passing breeze is sweet.
From dawn till dusk I sit here before my door, and I know that of
a sudden the happy moment will arrive when I shall see.
In the meanwhile I smile and I sing all alone. In the meanwhile
the air is filling with the perfume of promise.
Have you not heard his silent steps? He comes, comes, ever
Every moment and every age, every day and every night he comes,
comes, ever comes.
Many a song have I sung in many a mood of mind, but all their
notes have always proclaimed, 'He comes, comes, ever comes.'
In the fragrant days of sunny April through the forest path he
comes, comes, ever comes.
In the rainy gloom of July nights on the thundering chariot of
clouds he comes, comes, ever comes.
In sorrow after sorrow it is his steps that press upon my heart,
and it is the golden touch of his feet that makes my joy to
I know not from what distant time thou art ever coming nearer to
meet me. Thy sun and stars can never keep thee hidden from me
for aye.
In many a morning and eve thy footsteps have been heard and thy
messenger has come within my heart and called me in secret.
I know not only why today my life is all astir, and a feeling of
tremulous joy is passing through my heart.
It is as if the time were come to wind up my work, and I feel in
the air a faint smell of thy sweet presence.
The night is nearly spent waiting for him in vain. I fear lest
in the morning he suddenly come to my door when I have fallen
asleep wearied out. Oh friends, leave the way open to him--
forbid him not.
If the sounds of his steps does not wake me, do not try to rouse
me, I pray. I wish not to be called from my sleep by the
clamorous choir of birds, by the riot of wind at the festival of
morning light. Let me sleep undisturbed even if my lord comes of
a sudden to my door.
Ah, my sleep, precious sleep, which only waits for his touch to
vanish. Ah, my closed eyes that would open their lids only to
the light of his smile when he stands before me like a dream
emerging from darkness of sleep.
Let him appear before my sight as the first of all lights and all
forms. The first thrill of joy to my awakened soul let it come
from his glance. And let my return to myself be immediate return
to him.
The morning sea of silence broke into ripples of bird songs; and
the flowers were all merry by the roadside; and the wealth of
gold was scattered through the rift of the clouds while we busily
went on our way and paid no heed.
We sang no glad songs nor played; we went not to the village for
barter; we spoke not a word nor smiled; we lingered not on the
way. We quickened our pace more and more as the time sped by.
The sun rose to the mid sky and doves cooed in the shade.
Withered leaves danced and whirled in the hot air of noon. The
shepherd boy drowsed and dreamed in the shadow of the banyan
tree, and I laid myself down by the water and stretched my tired
limbs on the grass.
My companions laughed at me in scorn; they held their heads high
and hurried on; they never looked back nor rested; they vanished
in the distant blue haze. They crossed many meadows and hills,
and passed through strange, far-away countries. All honour to
you, heroic host of the interminable path! Mockery and reproach
pricked me to rise, but found no response in me. I gave myself
up for lost in the depth of a glad humiliation--in the shadow of
a dim delight.
The repose of the sun-embroidered green gloom slowly spread over
my heart. I forgot for what I had travelled, and I surrendered
my mind without struggle to the maze of shadows and songs.
At last, when I woke from my slumber and opened my eyes, I saw
thee standing by me, flooding my sleep with thy smile. How I had
feared that the path was long and wearisome, and the struggle to
reach thee was hard!
You came down from your throne and stood at my cottage door.
I was singing all alone in a corner, and the melody caught your
ear. You came down and stood at my cottage door.
Masters are many in your hall, and songs are sung there at all
hours. But the simple carol of this novice struck at your love.
One plaintive little strain mingled with the great music of the
world, and with a flower for a prize you came down and stopped at
my cottage door.
I had gone a-begging from door to door in the village path, when
thy golden chariot appeared in the distance like a gorgeous dream
and I wondered who was this King of all kings!
My hopes rose high and methought my evil days were at an end, and
I stood waiting for alms to be given unasked and for wealth
scattered on all sides in the dust.
The chariot stopped where I stood. Thy glance fell on me and
thou camest down with a smile. I felt that the luck of my life
had come at last. Then of a sudden thou didst hold out thy right
hand and say 'What hast thou to give to me?'
Ah, what a kingly jest was it to open thy palm to a beggar to
beg! I was confused and stood undecided, and then from my wallet
I slowly took out the least little grain of corn and gave it to
But how great my surprise when at the day's end I emptied my bag
on the floor to find a least little gram of gold among the poor
heap. I bitterly wept and wished that I had had the heart to
give thee my all.
The night darkened. Our day's works had been done. We thought
that the last guest had arrived for the night and the doors in
the village were all shut. Only some said the king was to come.
We laughed and said 'No, it cannot be!'
It seemed there were knocks at the door and we said it was
nothing but the wind. We put out the lamps and lay down to
sleep. Only some said, 'It is the messenger!' We laughed and
said 'No, it must be the wind!'
There came a sound in the dead of the night. We sleepily thought
it was the distant thunder. The earth shook, the walls rocked,
and it troubled us in our sleep. Only some said it was the sound
of wheels. We said in a drowsy murmur, 'No, it must be the
rumbling of clouds!'
The night was still dark when the drum sounded. The voice came
'Wake up! delay not!' We pressed our hands on our hearts and
shuddered with fear. Some said, 'Lo, there is the king's flag!'
We stood up on our feet and cried 'There is no time for delay!'
The king has come--but where are lights, where are wreaths?
Where is the throne to seat him? Oh, shame! Oh utter shame!
Where is the hall, the decorations? Someone has said, 'Vain is
this cry! Greet him with empty hands, lead him into thy rooms
all bare!'
Open the doors, let the conch-shells be sounded! in the depth of
the night has come the king of our dark, dreary house. The
thunder roars in the sky. The darkness shudders with lightning.
Bring out thy tattered piece of mat and spread it in the
courtyard. With the storm has come of a sudden our king of the
fearful night.
I thought I should ask of thee--but I dared not--the rose wreath
thou hadst on thy neck. Thus I waited for the morning, when thou
didst depart, to find a few fragments on the bed. And like a
beggar I searched in the dawn only for a stray petal or two.
Ah me, what is it I find? What token left of thy love? It is no
flower, no spices, no vase of perfumed water. It is thy mighty
sword, flashing as a flame, heavy as a bolt of thunder. The
young light of morning comes through the window and spreads itself
upon thy bed. The morning bird twitters and asks, 'Woman, what
hast thou got?' No, it is no flower, nor spices, nor vase of
perfumed water--it is thy dreadful sword.
I sit and muse in wonder, what gift is this of thine. I can find
no place to hide it. I am ashamed to wear it, frail as I am, and
it hurts me when I press it to my bosom. Yet shall I bear in my
heart this honour of the burden of pain, this gift of thine.
From now there shall be no fear left for me in this world, and
thou shalt be victorious in all my strife. Thou hast left death
for my companion and I shall crown him with my life. Thy sword
is with me to cut asunder my bonds, and there shall be no fear
left for me in the world.
From now I leave off all petty decorations. Lord of my heart, no
more shall there be for me waiting and weeping in corners, no
more coyness and sweetness of demeanour. Thou hast given me thy
sword for adornment. No more doll's decorations for me!
Beautiful is thy wristlet, decked with stars and cunningly
wrought in myriad-coloured jewels. But more beautiful to me thy
sword with its curve of lightning like the outspread wings of the
divine bird of Vishnu, perfectly poised in the angry red light of
the sunset.
It quivers like the one last response of life in ecstasy of pain
at the final stroke of death; it shines like the pure flame of
being burning up earthly sense with one fierce flash.
Beautiful is thy wristlet, decked with starry gems; but thy
sword, O lord of thunder, is wrought with uttermost beauty,
terrible to behold or think of.
I asked nothing from thee; I uttered not my name to thine ear.
When thou took'st thy leave I stood silent. I was alone by the
well where the shadow of the tree fell aslant, and the women had
gone home with their brown earthen pitchers full to the brim.
They called me and shouted, 'Come with us, the morning is wearing
on to noon.' But I languidly lingered awhile lost in the midst
of vague musings.
I heard not thy steps as thou camest. Thine eyes were sad when
they fell on me; thy voice was tired as thou spokest low--'Ah, I
am a thirsty traveller.' I started up from my day-dreams and
poured water from my jar on thy joined palms. The leaves rustled
overhead; the cuckoo sang from the unseen dark, and perfume of
_babla_ flowers came from the bend of the road.
I stood speechless with shame when my name thou didst ask.
Indeed, what had I done for thee to keep me in remembrance? But
the memory that I could give water to thee to allay thy thirst
will cling to my heart and enfold it in sweetness. The morning
hour is late, the bird sings in weary notes, _neem_ leaves
rustle overhead and I sit and think and think.
Languor is upon your heart and the slumber is still on your eyes.
Has not the word come to you that the flower is reigning in
splendour among thorns? Wake, oh awaken! let not the time pass
in vain!
At the end of the stony path, in the country of virgin solitude,
my friend is sitting all alone. Deceive him not. Wake, oh
What if the sky pants and trembles with the heat of the midday
sun--what if the burning sand spreads its mantle of thirst--
Is there no joy in the deep of your heart? At every footfall of
yours, will not the harp of the road break out in sweet music of
Thus it is that thy joy in me is so full. Thus it is that thou
hast come down to me. O thou lord of all heavens, where would be
thy love if I were not?
Thou hast taken me as thy partner of all this wealth. In my
heart is the endless play of thy delight. In my life thy will is
ever taking shape.
And for this, thou who art the King of kings hast decked thyself
in beauty to captivate my heart. And for this thy love loses
itself in the love of thy lover, and there art thou seen in the
perfect union of two.
Light, my light, the world-filling light, the eye-kissing light,
heart-sweetening light!
Ah, the light dances, my darling, at the centre of my life; the
light strikes, my darling, the chords of my love; the sky opens,
the wind runs wild, laughter passes over the earth.
The butterflies spread their sails on the sea of light. Lilies
and jasmines surge up on the crest of the waves of light.
The light is shattered into gold on every cloud, my darling, and
it scatters gems in profusion.
Mirth spreads from leaf to leaf, my darling, and gladness without
measure. The heaven's river has drowned its banks and the flood
of joy is abroad.
Let all the strains of joy mingle in my last song--the joy that
makes the earth flow over in the riotous excess of the grass, the
joy that sets the twin brothers, life and death, dancing over the
wide world, the joy that sweeps in with the tempest, shaking and
waking all life with laughter, the joy that sits still with its
tears on the open red lotus of pain, and the joy that throws
everything it has upon the dust, and knows not a word.
Yes, I know, this is nothing but thy love, O beloved of my heart--
this golden light that dances upon the leaves, these idle clouds
sailing across the sky, this passing breeze leaving its coolness
upon my forehead.
The morning light has flooded my eyes--this is thy message to my
heart. Thy face is bent from above, thy eyes look down on my
eyes, and my heart has touched thy feet.
On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. The infinite
sky is motionless overhead and the restless water is boisterous.
On the seashore of endless worlds the children meet with shouts
and dances.
They build their houses with sand and they play with empty
shells. With withered leaves they weave their boats and
smilingly float them on the vast deep. Children have their play
on the seashore of worlds.
They know not how to swim, they know not how to cast nets. Pearl
fishers dive for pearls, merchants sail in their ships, while
children gather pebbles and scatter them again. They seek not
for hidden treasures, they know not how to cast nets.
The sea surges up with laughter and pale gleams the smile of the
sea beach. Death-dealing waves sing meaningless ballads to the
children, even like a mother while rocking her baby's cradle.
The sea plays with children, and pale gleams the smile of the sea
On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. Tempest roams
in the pathless sky, ships get wrecked in the trackless water,
death is abroad and children play. On the seashore of endless
worlds is the great meeting of children.
The sleep that flits on baby's eyes--does anybody know from where
it comes? Yes, there is a rumour that it has its dwelling there,
in the fairy village among shadows of the forest dimly lit with
glow-worms, there hang two timid buds of enchantment. From there
it comes to kiss baby's eyes.
The smile that flickers on baby's lips when he sleeps--does
anybody know where it was born? Yes, there is a rumour that a
young pale beam of a crescent moon touched the edge of a
vanishing autumn cloud, and there the smile was first born in the
dream of a dew-washed morning--the smile that flickers on baby's
lips when he sleeps.
The sweet, soft freshness that blooms on baby's limbs--does
anybody know where it was hidden so long? Yes, when the mother
was a young girl it lay pervading her heart in tender and silent
mystery of love--the sweet, soft freshness that has bloomed on
baby's limbs.
When I bring to you coloured toys, my child, I understand why
there is such a play of colours on clouds, on water, and why
flowers are painted in tints--when I give coloured toys to you,
my child.
When I sing to make you dance I truly now why there is music in
leaves, and why waves send their chorus of voices to the heart of
the listening earth--when I sing to make you dance.
When I bring sweet things to your greedy hands I know why there
is honey in the cup of the flowers and why fruits are secretly
filled with sweet juice--when I bring sweet things to your greedy
When I kiss your face to make you smile, my darling, I surely
understand what pleasure streams from the sky in morning light,
and what delight that is that is which the summer breeze brings
to my body--when I kiss you to make you smile.
Thou hast made me known to friends whom I knew not. Thou hast
given me seats in homes not my own. Thou hast brought the
distant near and made a brother of the stranger.
I am uneasy at heart when I have to leave my accustomed shelter;
I forget that there abides the old in the new, and that there
also thou abidest.
Through birth and death, in this world or in others, wherever
thou leadest me it is thou, the same, the one companion of my
endless life who ever linkest my heart with bonds of joy to the
When one knows thee, then alien there is none, then no door is
shut. Oh, grant me my prayer that I may never lose the bliss of
the touch of the one in the play of many.
On the slope of the desolate river among tall grasses I asked
her, 'Maiden, where do you go shading your lamp with your mantle?
My house is all dark and lonesome--lend me your light!' she
raised her dark eyes for a moment and looked at my face through
the dusk. 'I have come to the river,' she said, 'to float my
lamp on the stream when the daylight wanes in the west.' I stood
alone among tall grasses and watched the timid flame of her lamp
uselessly drifting in the tide.
In the silence of gathering night I asked her, 'Maiden, your
lights are all lit--then where do you go with your lamp? My
house is all dark and lonesome--lend me your light.' She raised
her dark eyes on my face and stood for a moment doubtful. 'I
have come,' she said at last, 'to dedicate my lamp to the sky.'
I stood and watched her light uselessly burning in the void.
In the moonless gloom of midnight I ask her, 'Maiden, what is
your quest, holding the lamp near your heart? My house is all
dark and lonesome--lend me your light.' She stopped for a minute
and thought and gazed at my face in the dark. 'I have brought my
light,' she said, 'to join the carnival of lamps.' I stood and
watched her little lamp uselessly lost among lights.
What divine drink wouldst thou have, my God, from this
overflowing cup of my life?
My poet, is it thy delight to see thy creation through my eyes
and to stand at the portals of my ears silently to listen to
thine own eternal harmony?
Thy world is weaving words in my mind and thy joy is adding music
to them. Thou givest thyself to me in love and then feelest
thine own entire sweetness in me.
She who ever had remained in the depth of my being, in the
twilight of gleams and of glimpses; she who never opened her
veils in the morning light, will be my last gift to thee, my God,
folded in my final song.
Words have wooed yet failed to win her; persuasion has stretched
to her its eager arms in vain.
I have roamed from country to country keeping her in the core of
my heart, and around her have risen and fallen the growth and
decay of my life.
Over my thoughts and actions, my slumbers and dreams, she reigned
yet dwelled alone and apart.
Many a man knocked at my door and asked for her and turned away
in despair.
There was none in the world who ever saw her face to face, and
she remained in her loneliness waiting for thy recognition.
Thou art the sky and thou art the nest as well.
O thou beautiful, there in the nest is thy love that encloses the
soul with colours and sounds and odours.
There comes the morning with the golden basket in her right hand
bearing the wreath of beauty, silently to crown the earth.
And there comes the evening over the lonely meadows deserted by
herds, through trackless paths, carrying cool draughts of peace
in her golden pitcher from the western ocean of rest.
But there, where spreads the infinite sky for the soul to take
her flight in, reigns the stainless white radiance. There is no
day nor night, nor form nor colour, and never, never a word.
Thy sunbeam comes upon this earth of mine with arms outstretched
and stands at my door the livelong day to carry back to thy feet
clouds made of my tears and sighs and songs.
With fond delight thou wrappest about thy starry breast that
mantle of misty cloud, turning it into numberless shapes and
folds and colouring it with hues everchanging.
It is so light and so fleeting, tender and tearful and dark, that
is why thou lovest it, O thou spotless and serene. And that is
why it may cover thy awful white light with its pathetic shadows.
The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.
It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the
earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous
waves of leaves and flowers.
It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth
and of death, in ebb and in flow.
I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of
life. And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my
blood this moment.
Is it beyond thee to be glad with the gladness of this rhythm?
to be tossed and lost and broken in the whirl of this fearful
All things rush on, they stop not, they look not behind, no power
can hold them back, they rush on.
Keeping steps with that restless, rapid music, seasons come
dancing and pass away--colours, tunes, and perfumes pour in
endless cascades in the abounding joy that scatters and gives up
and dies every moment.
That I should make much of myself and turn it on all sides, thus
casting coloured shadows on thy radiance--such is thy _maya_.
Thou settest a barrier in thine own being and then callest thy
severed self in myriad notes. This thy self-separation has taken
body in me.
The poignant song is echoed through all the sky in many-coloured
tears and smiles, alarms and hopes; waves rise up and sink again,
dreams break and form. In me is thy own defeat of self.
This screen that thou hast raised is painted with innumerable
figures with the brush of the night and the day. Behind it thy
seat is woven in wondrous mysteries of curves, casting away all
barren lines of straightness.
The great pageant of thee and me has overspread the sky. With
the tune of thee and me all the air is vibrant, and all ages pass
with the hiding and seeking of thee and me.
He it is, the innermost one, who awakens my being with his deep
hidden touches.
He it is who puts his enchantment upon these eyes and joyfully
plays on the chords of my heart in varied cadence of pleasure and
He it is who weaves the web of this _maya_ in evanescent
hues of gold and silver, blue and green, and lets peep out
through the folds his feet, at whose touch I forget myself.
Days come and ages pass, and it is ever he who moves my heart in
many a name, in many a guise, in many a rapture of joy and of
Deliverance is not for me in renunciation. I feel the embrace of
freedom in a thousand bonds of delight.
Thou ever pourest for me the fresh draught of thy wine of various
colours and fragrance, filling this earthen vessel to the brim.
My world will light its hundred different lamps with thy flame
and place them before the altar of thy temple.
No, I will never shut the doors of my senses. The delights of
sight and hearing and touch will bear thy delight.
Yes, all my illusions will burn into illumination of joy, and all
my desires ripen into fruits of love.
The day is no more, the shadow is upon the earth. It is time
that I go to the stream to fill my pitcher.
The evening air is eager with the sad music of the water. Ah, it
calls me out into the dusk. In the lonely lane there is no
passer-by, the wind is up, the ripples are rampant in the river.
I know not if I shall come back home. I know not whom I shall
chance to meet. There at the fording in the little boat the
unknown man plays upon his lute.
Thy gifts to us mortals fulfil all our needs and yet run back to
thee undiminished.
The river has its everyday work to do and hastens through fields
and hamlets; yet its incessant stream winds towards the washing
of thy feet.
The flower sweetens the air with its perfume; yet its last
service is to offer itself to thee.
Thy worship does not impoverish the world.
From the words of the poet men take what meanings please them;
yet their last meaning points to thee.
Day after day, O lord of my life, shall I stand before thee face
to face. With folded hands, O lord of all worlds, shall I stand
before thee face to face.
Under thy great sky in solitude and silence, with humble heart
shall I stand before thee face to face.
In this laborious world of thine, tumultuous with toil and with
struggle, among hurrying crowds shall I stand before thee face to
And when my work shall be done in this world, O King of kings,
alone and speechless shall I stand before thee face to face.
I know thee as my God and stand apart--I do not know thee as my
own and come closer. I know thee as my father and bow before thy
feet--I do not grasp thy hand as my friend's.
I stand not where thou comest down and ownest thyself as mine,
there to clasp thee to my heart and take thee as my comrade.
Thou art the Brother amongst my brothers, but I heed them not, I
divide not my earnings with them, thus sharing my all with thee.
In pleasure and in pain I stand not by the side of men, and thus
stand by thee. I shrink to give up my life, and thus do not
plunge into the great waters of life.
When the creation was new and all the stars shone in their first
splendour, the gods held their assembly in the sky and sang 'Oh,
the picture of perfection! the joy unalloyed!'
But one cried of a sudden--'It seems that somewhere there is a
break in the chain of light and one of the stars has been lost.'
The golden string of their harp snapped, their song stopped, and
they cried in dismay--'Yes, that lost star was the best, she was
the glory of all heavens!'
From that day the search is unceasing for her, and the cry goes
on from one to the other that in her the world has lost its one
Only in the deepest silence of night the stars smile and whisper
among themselves--'Vain is this seeking! unbroken perfection is
over all!'
If it is not my portion to meet thee in this life then let me
ever feel that I have missed thy sight--let me not forget for a
moment, let me carry the pangs of this sorrow in my dreams and in
my wakeful hours.
As my days pass in the crowded market of this world and my hands
grow full with the daily profits, let me ever feel that I have
gained nothing--let me not forget for a moment, let me carry the
pangs of this sorrow in my dreams and in my wakeful hours.
When I sit by the roadside, tired and panting, when I spread my
bed low in the dust, let me ever feel that the long journey is
still before me--let me not forget a moment, let me carry the
pangs of this sorrow in my dreams and in my wakeful hours.
When my rooms have been decked out and the flutes sound and the
laughter there is loud, let me ever feel that I have not invited
thee to my house--let me not forget for a moment, let me carry
the pangs of this sorrow in my dreams and in my wakeful hours.
I am like a remnant of a cloud of autumn uselessly roaming in the
sky, O my sun ever-glorious! Thy touch has not yet melted my
vapour, making me one with thy light, and thus I count months and
years separated from thee.
If this be thy wish and if this be thy play, then take this
fleeting emptiness of mine, paint it with colours, gild it with
gold, float it on the wanton wind and spread it in varied
And again when it shall be thy wish to end this play at night, I
shall melt and vanish away in the dark, or it may be in a smile
of the white morning, in a coolness of purity transparent.
On many an idle day have I grieved over lost time. But it is
never lost, my lord. Thou hast taken every moment of my life in
thine own hands.
Hidden in the heart of things thou art nourishing seeds into
sprouts, buds into blossoms, and ripening flowers into fruitfulness.
I was tired and sleeping on my idle bed and imagined all work had
ceased. In the morning I woke up and found my garden full with
wonders of flowers.
Time is endless in thy hands, my lord. There is none to count
thy minutes.
Days and nights pass and ages bloom and fade like flowers. Thou
knowest how to wait.
Thy centuries follow each other perfecting a small wild flower.
We have no time to lose, and having no time we must scramble for
a chances. We are too poor to be late.
And thus it is that time goes by while I give it to every
querulous man who claims it, and thine altar is empty of all
offerings to the last.
At the end of the day I hasten in fear lest thy gate to be shut;
but I find that yet there is time.
Mother, I shall weave a chain of pearls for thy neck with my
tears of sorrow.
The stars have wrought their anklets of light to deck thy feet,
but mine will hang upon thy breast.
Wealth and fame come from thee and it is for thee to give or to
withhold them. But this my sorrow is absolutely mine own, and
when I bring it to thee as my offering thou rewardest me with thy
It is the pang of separation that spreads throughout the world
and gives birth to shapes innumerable in the infinite sky.
It is this sorrow of separation that gazes in silence all nights
from star to star and becomes lyric among rustling leaves in
rainy darkness of July.
It is this overspreading pain that deepens into loves and
desires, into sufferings and joy in human homes; and this it is
that ever melts and flows in songs through my poet's heart.
When the warriors came out first from their master's hall, where
had they hid their power? Where were their armour and their
They looked poor and helpless, and the arrows were showered upon
them on the day they came out from their master's hall.
When the warriors marched back again to their master's hall where
did they hide their power?
They had dropped the sword and dropped the bow and the arrow;
peace was on their foreheads, and they had left the fruits of
their life behind them on the day they marched back again to
their master's hall.
Death, thy servant, is at my door. He has crossed the unknown
sea and brought thy call to my home.
The night is dark and my heart is fearful--yet I will take up the
lamp, open my gates and bow to him my welcome. It is thy
messenger who stands at my door.
I will worship him placing at his feet the treasure of my heart.
He will go back with his errand done, leaving a dark shadow on my
morning; and in my desolate home only my forlorn self will remain
as my last offering to thee.
In desperate hope I go and search for her in all the corners of
my room; I find her not.
My house is small and what once has gone from it can never be
But infinite is thy mansion, my lord, and seeking her I have to
come to thy door.
I stand under the golden canopy of thine evening sky and I lift
my eager eyes to thy face.
I have come to the brink of eternity from which nothing can
vanish--no hope, no happiness, no vision of a face seen through
Oh, dip my emptied life into that ocean, plunge it into the
deepest fullness. Let me for once feel that lost sweet touch in
the allness of the universe.
Deity of the ruined temple! The broken strings of _Vina_
sing no more your praise. The bells in the evening proclaim not
your time of worship. The air is still and silent about you.
In your desolate dwelling comes the vagrant spring breeze. It
brings the tidings of flowers--the flowers that for your worship
are offered no more.
Your worshipper of old wanders ever longing for favour still
refused. In the eventide, when fires and shadows mingle with the
gloom of dust, he wearily comes back to the ruined temple with
hunger in his heart.
Many a festival day comes to you in silence, deity of the ruined
temple. Many a night of worship goes away with lamp unlit.
Many new images are built by masters of cunning art and carried
to the holy stream of oblivion when their time is come.
Only the deity of the ruined temple remains unworshipped in
deathless neglect.
No more noisy, loud words from me--such is my master's will.
Henceforth I deal in whispers. The speech of my heart will be
carried on in murmurings of a song.
Men hasten to the King's market. All the buyers and sellers are
there. But I have my untimely leave in the middle of the day, in
the thick of work.
Let then the flowers come out in my garden, though it is not
their time; and let the midday bees strike up their lazy hum.
Full many an hour have I spent in the strife of the good and the
evil, but now it is the pleasure of my playmate of the empty days
to draw my heart on to him; and I know not why is this sudden
call to what useless inconsequence!
On the day when death will knock at thy door what wilt thou offer
to him?
Oh, I will set before my guest the full vessel of my life--I will
never let him go with empty hands.
All the sweet vintage of all my autumn days and summer nights,
all the earnings and gleanings of my busy life will I place
before him at the close of my days when death will knock at my
O thou the last fulfilment of life, Death, my death, come and
whisper to me!
Day after day I have kept watch for thee; for thee have I borne
the joys and pangs of life.
All that I am, that I have, that I hope and all my love have ever
flowed towards thee in depth of secrecy. One final glance from
thine eyes and my life will be ever thine own.
The flowers have been woven and the garland is ready for the
bridegroom. After the wedding the bride shall leave her home and
meet her lord alone in the solitude of night.
I know that the day will come when my sight of this earth shall
be lost, and life will take its leave in silence, drawing the
last curtain over my eyes.
Yet stars will watch at night, and morning rise as before, and
hours heave like sea waves casting up pleasures and pains.
When I think of this end of my moments, the barrier of the
moments breaks and I see by the light of death thy world with its
careless treasures. Rare is its lowliest seat, rare is its
meanest of lives.
Things that I longed for in vain and things that I got--let them
pass. Let me but truly possess the things that I ever spurned
and overlooked.
I have got my leave. Bid me farewell, my brothers! I bow to you
all and take my departure.
Here I give back the keys of my door--and I give up all claims to
my house. I only ask for last kind words from you.
We were neighbours for long, but I received more than I could
give. Now the day has dawned and the lamp that lit my dark
corner is out. A summons has come and I am ready for my journey.
At this time of my parting, wish me good luck, my friends! The
sky is flushed with the dawn and my path lies beautiful.
Ask not what I have with me to take there. I start on my journey
with empty hands and expectant heart.
I shall put on my wedding garland. Mine is not the red-brown
dress of the traveller, and though there are dangers on the way I
have no fear in mind.
The evening star will come out when my voyage is done and the
plaintive notes of the twilight melodies be struck up from the
King's gateway.
I was not aware of the moment when I first crossed the threshold
of this life.
What was the power that made me open out into this vast mystery
like a bud in the forest at midnight!
When in the morning I looked upon the light I felt in a moment
that I was no stranger in this world, that the inscrutable
without name and form had taken me in its arms in the form of my
own mother.
Even so, in death the same unknown will appear as ever known to
me. And because I love this life, I know I shall love death as
The child cries out when from the right breast the mother takes
it away, in the very next moment to find in the left one its
When I go from hence let this be my parting word, that what I
have seen is unsurpassable.
I have tasted of the hidden honey of this lotus that expands on
the ocean of light, and thus am I blessed--let this be my parting
In this playhouse of infinite forms I have had my play and here
have I caught sight of him that is formless.
My whole body and my limbs have thrilled with his touch who is
beyond touch; and if the end comes here, let it come--let this be
my parting word.
When my play was with thee I never questioned who thou wert. I
knew nor shyness nor fear, my life was boisterous.
In the early morning thou wouldst call me from my sleep like my
own comrade and lead me running from glade to glade.
On those days I never cared to know the meaning of songs thou
sangest to me. Only my voice took up the tunes, and my heart
danced in their cadence.
Now, when the playtime is over, what is this sudden sight that is
come upon me? The world with eyes bent upon thy feet stands in
awe with all its silent stars.
I will deck thee with trophies, garlands of my defeat. It is
never in my power to escape unconquered.
I surely know my pride will go to the wall, my life will burst
its bonds in exceeding pain, and my empty heart will sob out in
music like a hollow reed, and the stone will melt in tears.
I surely know the hundred petals of a lotus will not remain
closed for ever and the secret recess of its honey will be bared.
From the blue sky an eye shall gaze upon me and summon me in
silence. Nothing will be left for me, nothing whatever, and
utter death shall I receive at thy feet.
When I give up the helm I know that the time has come for thee to
take it. What there is to do will be instantly done. Vain is
this struggle.
Then take away your hands and silently put up with your defeat,
my heart, and think it your good fortune to sit perfectly still
where you are placed.
These my lamps are blown out at every little puff of wind, and
trying to light them I forget all else again and again.
But I shall be wise this time and wait in the dark, spreading my
mat on the floor; and whenever it is thy pleasure, my lord, come
silently and take thy seat here.
I dive down into the depth of the ocean of forms, hoping to gain
the perfect pearl of the formless.
No more sailing from harbour to harbour with this my weather-beaten
boat. The days are long passed when my sport was to be tossed on
And now I am eager to die into the deathless.
Into the audience hall by the fathomless abyss where swells up
the music of toneless strings I shall take this harp of my life.
I shall tune it to the notes of forever, and when it has sobbed
out its last utterance, lay down my silent harp at the feet of
the silent.
Ever in my life have I sought thee with my songs. It was they
who led me from door to door, and with them have I felt about me,
searching and touching my world.
It was my songs that taught me all the lessons I ever learnt;
they showed me secret paths, they brought before my sight many a
star on the horizon of my heart.
They guided me all the day long to the mysteries of the country
of pleasure and pain, and, at last, to what palace gate have the
brought me in the evening at the end of my journey?
I boasted among men that I had known you. They see your pictures
in all works of mine. They come and ask me, 'Who is he?' I know
not how to answer them. I say, 'Indeed, I cannot tell.' They
blame me and they go away in scorn. And you sit there smiling.
I put my tales of you into lasting songs. The secret gushes out
from my heart. They come and ask me, 'Tell me all your
meanings.' I know not how to answer them. I say, 'Ah, who knows
what they mean!' They smile and go away in utter scorn. And you
sit there smiling.
In one salutation to thee, my God, let all my senses spread out
and touch this world at thy feet.
Like a rain-cloud of July hung low with its burden of unshed
showers let all my mind bend down at thy door in one salutation
to thee.
Let all my songs gather together their diverse strains into a
single current and flow to a sea of silence in one salutation to
Like a flock of homesick cranes flying night and day back to
their mountain nests let all my life take its voyage to its
eternal home in one salutation to thee.