Thursday, September 13, 2007

Sweet is the Earth's Dust

Thou Hast Made Me Endless- Part VI

Poem: “Madhumay Prithibir Dhuli” (Sweet is the Earth’s dust) of the book AROGYA (=Recovery) written on the 14th Feb. 1941, the year of the Poet’s death at the age of 80.

[Translator's (Rajat Das Gupta) note: In his various essays marvelously interpreting the perceptions of Upanishada (the oldest scripture written/compiled by the sages in India 4000 years back), Tagore illustrates us that everything from the dust of this earth to the stars and planets of the cosmos are imbued with Anandam (Divine Joy) and Amritam (Immortality). This poem conveys us the same message.]

Sweet is the Heaven; so the Earth’s dirt
That I’ve lifted close to my heart –
As my supreme hymn
Life’s ultimate to deem.
All gifts of Truth day by day
That I had, have no decay;
So at Death’s threshold
Resounds the Mantra (*) age old (*= religious hymns)
With the joy of eternity
Resplendent, defying all losses petty.
With Earth’s last touch
For final flight as I’ll perch –
“My forehead I’ve anointed” – I’ll declare
“With Your dust; seen the eternal glare
Beyond the havoc of the tempest
Deluding the Immortal’s joyous form truest;
In Your dust that is manifest –
So on it my head I rest.”

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

Poem No: 18 of the book Sesh Saptak, written in 1935.

[Translator’s note: The following quote from the Poet’s essay Dukkha (Sorrow) from his book Santiniketan will explain well the implication of this poem – “The hymns of our prayer include – ‘I bow down to the Euphoric and the Benevolent’. But, our homage is to the former and not always to the latter. Because, the Benevolent is not necessarily euphoric always, but also grievous. We accept only happiness as His gift and count our sorrows as the result of ill luck.

So, we, the grief fearing , like to hide in various shells of our creation to save ourselves. But, the result of it is, we deprive ourselves of a full exposure to Truth.

If we always coddle our mind from the blows of grief, our living on this earth is then incomplete which never nourishes our health and vigour. The man who on this earth never had a grief, has not received his total dues from God, and his subsistence for his journey remains deficient.

Our dues of grief is not necessarily justified always. We shall have to accept also whatever we call wrong or unjustified. Man cannot develop himself on a refined calculation of his legitimate due and even if one can, it is not to one’s ultimate welfare. We should be capable of gracefully accepting even wrongs and injustices.

But, are all the advantages that come to us are calculated ones? There are occasions when we get more than the price we pay. At that time we don’t think that we don’t deserve it, but usurp the undue advantage without hesitation. Only in case of sorrow we try to balance justice and injustice. The fact is, our recompense is never based on refined calculation.

Process of life is based on acceptance and rejection; centripetal and centrifugal, both the instincts are equally glorious to us. Our faculties of intellect, aesthetics, welfare and all that comprise human superiority, go on the maxim that we should accept as well as sacrifice…..Those who accept all injustices, pain and grief without hesitation, not only strengthen themselves but also become serene, fully exposed to the abrasions of this world, all unchaste in them wear out.

So, be prepared heart and soul – bow down to Him who causes sorrow; only then you will gain health and strength; that will mean bowing down to Shiva (Lord of Destruction) and the neo-Shiva.”

To strive for such a mental male up is the way out of the distress which we tend to cherish when we feel that we have been wronged.]

Do we desire our grief to terminate?
Is it our pride or hate?
But our pain most intense
Carries not Truth’s permanence –
Such a confession true though,
Only hurts our Grief’s ego.

Life scatters all its hoard
On Time’s charioting road
Under its ceaseless wheel
Faint out the severest woe or weal.
Death of our dearest,
Leaves only demand earnest –
“Forget me not” –
While passing into naught.

But countless are demands of life
Which put our minds in strife;
Amidst the present day babel,
That past appeal rings not a bell.

Though the words might remain,
Gone is the pain,
Yet, the pride of Grief
Denies Life its leave –
In its impertinent ardour
Bolts door to Life’s messenger;
In the sprouting soil of Life
Distressed Grief in its hype
To precinct the benefice will assert
To coddle its beloved desert.

With Death’s hoard piled,
His suit against Time filed;
Only to compound frustration
In this futile petition;
Burial in self dug sepulcher
Becomes its intense desire.

All ego is serfdom;
Grief’s is a hard one;
Society, wealth and fame,
In love of these is addiction same,
But it is deepest indeed
In our grief morbid.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Poem No: 10 of the book Prantik (At The Border) written on 8 December 1937

[Translator’s note: Following quote from the Poet’s book Santiniketan well explains the underlying philosophy of this poem –

“One day gods were terror to man. To please whom for a comfortable life or whose displeasure brings disaster, could not be decided by man. To please the power with which there is no spiritual link, humans gathered to worship it with animal sacrifice and such rituals. That worship out of fright is not a festivity. Just as when we are in the hands of the dacoits, we say, ‘we give you whatever I have, but please spare our life’; similarly, to keep pleased the invisible power, on earth man said that day, ‘We’ll give You everything, please don’t put us in crisis’. But that is not a gift of Joy. Once you perceive the God of Joy, there will be no fear. This God of Joy means ‘More’ – that surpasses all; whatever I had or understood, He is more than that; whatever I had not or had lost, He is more than that too. He is greater than wealth, honour and comfort. So, in the worship of ‘More’ man has joyously said, ‘take my wealth, life and honour’. To know this ‘More’ within one’s heart and outside, is not for mundane comfort. The day man has realized that he is not a beast neither his God is, that he is great and so is his God, he has accepted utmost sorrow. That day man became victorious, a hero and so it was celebrated. Just as a bird on the verge of darkness founts its song of joy at the very touch of the sunrays, so does man when divinity touches him; he declares, ‘I am the son of the Immortal’; says he, ‘I have got it!’, with the strength of which he perceives the Immortal within himself, fears no more, and death cannot daunt him; facing the danger he says, ‘my journey is ahead; stop I won’t; I have no defeat; O Terrible, Your grace is boundless’.”]

O Lord of disaster, from your court
The messenger of Death came all to abort.
Snatched me up to Your vast domain
Through dense dark, naught to remain.
In the folds of the dark deep
I noticed not the invisible lights peep,
That illumine awake all inborn
From the shade of Self’s blinding vision. (*)
The holy song of that light
From the depth of my being to radiate bright
I had my invitation
To resonate at the border of Creation.
In my strive to poetize the Ultimate,
My songs on the life’s stage could not vibrate
Creation’s music of dreadful pain, (**)
Thus I returned in vain.
But some distant day it may be so pliant,
The poet’s message will drop silent
As a ripe fruit in heavenly joy
In the basket of eternity free of his ploy;
As life’s last price for ultimate redemption
On final journey for final revelation.


(*) It seems to imply that Man’s ego obscures his vision of the total truth.
(**) It seems, the poet’s remorse is that he could not capture in his literature the
mysterious intent behind God’s creation to culminate into the animation
world through dreadful cosmic metamorphosis.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941 AD) the Nobel Laureate of 1913 was introduced to the West primarily through the collection of English translation of some of his poems/songs captioned as ‘Gitanjali’ (=Offering of Songs).More translations of his works followed by the poet himself and others after he had won the Nobel, including poems/songs, dramas, short stories etc. However, such efforts were sporadic and sluggish, mostly on individual initiative, which still remain so.As a result, a vast volume of the poet’s works remains un-translated while, it appears, it is an impossible proposition to translate even a substantial part of the poet’s total works to permit those, not privileged by the knowledge of Bengali language, a reasonably broad view of his myriad creations where unfathomable perceptional depth of top grade aesthetics runs through, literally true to his song “Thou hast made me endless / Such is Thy pleasure”.Notwithstanding this, an upsurge of Tagore translation took place in the last decade of the twentieth century by virtue of a good number of eminent poets/translators e.g.William Radice, Joe Winter, Ketaki Kushari Dyson, to name a few, all of whom left their valuable contribution to this oeuvre and my book THE ECLIPSED SUN is a modest addition to this. I have put stress on a few aspects of the poet’s works, particularly those in his twilight years, which seemed to me quite inadequately covered so far. The above are presented mostly based on this book. RAJAT DAS GUPTA: Calcutta: e-mail:

No comments:

Post a Comment