Theme: Toil

They Toil

Along the indolent stream of time
My mind ferries to the void sublime;
On that vast canvas
Silhouettes pass;
They trampled ages
Those people countless,
Rushed since long past
Those triumphant robust.
Greedy of empire
Came Mughols and Pathans dire;
Their conquering chariot wheel
Stormed dust, flags hoisted in victorious zeal.
Now in the void there
I find not their traces bare.
In that blue serene
Age to age have been seen
Crimson sunrise and sunset,
Light and shade to alternate.

Under that azure again
They have hailed from Britain
In waves with their might
To assert their right,
Along the iron rail
On fire breathing vehicle.
By their path Time will flow
That too I know;
To wash away far
The network of their empire;
Their merchandise transporting army
Will lose all trace on their stellar journey.

As I look down to the Earth,
Where the vast populace berth,
Amidst din they move on
In many a band and direction;
From age to age to meet
Man’s myriad need,
That does goeth
In life and death.
For ever,
They row, hold the rudder.
In the fields they sow,
Ripe paddy they mow;
Their toil they put down
In many a hamlet and town.
Royal parasols crumb,
The war trumpet goes dumb
The tower of victory
In stupor forgets its own glory;
With blood stained sword in hand with their bloody look,
They hide face in the children’s lesson book.

They toil far and wide
At the river and seaside
Of Assam, Bengal, Orissa, Punjab
Bombay and Gujarat at civilization’s hub.
Day and night rumble and hum all over
Animate the earth with fervor –
To work up life’s supreme hymn –
They toil aside hundreds of empires’ ruin.

Original poem in Bengali by Rabindranath Tagore:
Ora Kaj Kare (=They Toil) written in 1941 a few months before the Poet’s death.

Translator’s note:
The Poet says that all extravaganzas in human history in the form of heroic feats of the royalties, in their greed for empire and thirst for human blood are really not the formative ingredients of civilization and have not stood the test of time. Man’s real excellence is shaped up on the silent hard toil of the common people. The Poet at the fag end of his life leaves his compliment for these mute workers in this superb poem. 


More By  :  Rajat Das Gupta

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