This afternoon when I heard a cuckoo was singing
It seemed in this land of Bengal
Three hundred years ago I was living.
Dreaming of the village pathways of those days -
Deeply shaded and serene -
Today brings tears to my eyes.
The village was full of life
Full were its granaries too
On the bank of the pond could be heard
Sitting on the steps of the bathing stairs
The women were happily chatting.
On the roof of the house
The southern breeze used to blow
People used to tell stories of old times
Under the starlit skies.
From the hedges of the garden
Sweet scents of flowers came floating
From behind the branches of the trees
The moon used to rise
The maidens wove their hair into plaits
And with collyrium painted their eyes
Somewhere nearby the cuckoo used to sing.
Today I don’t understand
Where have those three hundred years gone!
The cuckoo still sings as of old
But the bathing stairs on the bank of the pond are broken
Broken is also the roof of the house
Who will now tell stories to the evening moon?
Today from the towns the bells are ringing
Nobody has any time
We are all plodding along -
Why are we so frustrated, who knows!
Do the maidens still string their garlands
And paint their eyes
Though the cuckoo still sings as of old?
Translation of the poem Kokil from the collection Kheya (The Ferry) by Rabindranath Tagore. The original is at http://www.rabindra-rachanabali.nltr.org/node/10736.