O Poet, see the dusk does fall,
Your hairs are gray all;
Looking at the heaven
Are you crying craven
For the world spiritual,
Awaiting your final bell?
Says the Poet, “True abated I’m at dusk
Yet, from the village there one might ask
For an emotional music sweet
As the pair’s eyes will meet.-
Who their mute voice will spring
To resonate on my lute’s string,
If I’ll fade
With my unworldly good or bad?
When rises and sets the Evening star
The pyre doused by the side of the river,
In the dark of night, the moon yellow
On the border of the forest is aglow,
The jackals are in chorus
At the wrecked mansion, on the lawn’s grass;
If some homeless sage (*)
Will spend the night here to gauge
The ocean of its silent music
With folded hands its mystery to seek,
Looks up to the seven stars
Gently knocking the life’s borders,
Who the secret words
Of the Universe
In his mind will imbue
If I’ll only argue
At the corner of my room
On my own doom,
Or be it deliverance
Across my life’s fence?
True, gray has caught my hair
But why to that you stare?
Be sure, all around me,
Old or a lad, are my contemporary.
Some lip a smile innocent,
Some flash it at their eyes’ bent;
Someone’s tears overflow
Others dry up, their emotions lie low;
Some in their room are confined,
Chariots of some worldwide grind.
Grieved, in their room some sob
To find way in the wilderness, some lob;
All of them call me,
How can my heed for the unworldly be?
I’m everybody’s contemporary,
However gray my hairs you may see.
“Vain was the chief’s and sage’s pride;
They had no poet and they died!
In vain they schemed, in vain they bled;
They had no poet, and are dead!” - Alexander Pope
Original poem: Kabir Bayos (=The Poet’s age) of the book Kshanika (=Momentary) written in the year 1900 by Rabindranath Tagore
Translator’s Note: Maitrayee Devi’s book Tagore By Fireside, as the reader may note elsewhere in this book, has often been my guide to find out the various instincts of the Poet which played behind his different poems. For the present one I would quote the following from her book:
“He was a teacher of our country. He awoke us from our stupor into the realm of clear understanding, into a richness and joy of emotional and artistic expression. Bengal has grown much by his teachings, by the aroma of his thoughts, yet he never set himself up on a pedestal to shower down his sermons, but became a friend of a man and entered into the hearts of men, reaching sympathetically to the sorrows and pleasures, sobs and smiles of his entire environment. He would leave out nothing, discard nothing; he would accept with goodwill tasks which were quite beneath him. He allowed us to differ from him completely, just as if he was simply one of us. The more I think of it now, that I look back from a distance, the more I feel wonder of it all. So, I say, he was not only our revered teacher, not only a great talented writer, but he was also a great friend of man.”