The night comes to its gate
When the world is too tired to stir
And all its lights are gone
It is half blind and half dumb
In the workshop where ages end and ages begin
Vast and hazy it is a portrait half-done
An embodiment of incompletion
A mass under the spell of sleep
Yet to be weighed in an uncertain scale
And hallmarked as true or false,
Good or bad.
The cup of concupiscence concealed in the light of day
Is drawn out by darkness
Filling it up with wine
With senses dulled by crickets’ monotonous drone
And fragrance of flowers that bloom at night
It sees in glimpses.
Masked in hesitation the shadows move about
Dressed in purple
The black ignorance and fear come
They ridicule the man in meditation.
With a fence comes the old witch
When the bandit, coming out of its cave,
At twilight robs the day of its crown of light.
In the first act of its play
The creation tore apart all uncertainties
And all impediments to reason
It gave consciousness freedom
And enabled it to know itself.
But at times when we are not fully awake
The same cover comes down
The mind becomes confused
And the clear flow of reason becomes foamy
Induced by appetite and not by his skill
In an insane manner
The helmsman sails the boat as if in a sleep.
Indignant at myself I want to shout –
‘No, no, I am not that creature
Who is not completely formed
Like a blind, helpless and half-formed worm
I do not dwell in the seabed’s scum.
I am in full command, I am fully free
Initiated by the light of day
In my every step on the tough terrain
I conquer me.’
Translation of the poem Ratri
from the collection Nabajatak
by Rabindranath Tagore. It was written at Santiniketan on 26th
July, 1939, exactly two months before the Second World War formally began. At the time the poet was 78 years of age. The original poem is at http://www.rabindra-rachanabali.nltr.org/node/12703