I had once gone to Ujjaini
On the banks of the river Shipra
Far far away in that land of dreams
To seek the first love of my former life.
She had lodhra* powder on her face
A lotus she playfully held in her hand
She stuck buds of kunda in her ears
And kurubak flower in her hair
Her slim body she dressed in red
With a knot at her waist
Anklets gently jingled on her feet.
It was on a day in spring
To find my way I had to travel long
In that unknown land.
In the temple of Mahakal
The evening prayer bell rang
The crowded roads were now empty
The dusk was falling
And the rooftops were glowing
With the rays of setting sun.
My beloved's home
On a lonely narrow serpentine street
Was difficult to reach.
On the door was painted
A conchshell and a discus
On either side of its entrance
Grew two young mango trees
Like two beloved sons
On a white pillar at the gate
The statue of a lion stood.
Her pigeons had returned home
And on a golden bar
Her peacock had gone to sleep
With a lamp in her hand
My Malabika slowly came down.
She descended the stairs like a goddess
Holding an evening star in her hand.
The scent of flowers and her body
Fell on me like warm breaths
Her half-slipped dress
Revealed her left breast
Painted in chandan paste.
Seeing me my beloved
Put down the lamp on the stairs
And stood before me.
She held my hand
And silently asked with her anxious eyes,
'How are you, my friend?'
Looking at her I tried to reply
But no words came.
I had forgotten her language
Both of us tried hard
But failed to remember our names.
Only silent tears
Trickled down our eyes.
Sitting under the tree
We thought and thought
As a bird seeks its nest at the day's end
Her hands sought mine
Like a lotus bending on its stem
She slowly bent her head on my breast
And our warm eager breaths
In the darkness of night
Ujjaini was lost
At the gate
The lamp went out
In the temple
On the banks of Shipra
The prayers stopped.
*Lodhra is the name of a tree, the powder of its ground bark was used by women in poet Kalidasa's time for beautification. Kunda and Kurubak are names of flowers while Chandan is sandal wood.
Translation of the poem 'Swapna' from the collection Kalpana by Rabindranath Tagore. View the original in Bengali script at http://www.rabindra-rachanabali.nltr.org/node/11290.
Compare no. 62 of The Gardener.