She was not quite fair
But she was bright
She wore a necklace of coral beads
In great astonishment I used to look at her
With her large black eyes
She looked straight
She was about my age
This adolescent maid.
Her image is still alive in my mind.
The southern gate of the room was open
Against the pale blue sky
The almond tree
With its newly sprouted leaves
Was gleaming in the morning light.
She was dressed in a white sari
Its black borders
Winding around her young tender body
Had fallen on her feet.
On her two lovely hands
Two gold bangles she had.
On holidays at noon
When I read books of stories
On their pages only her image I found.
She used to take me often to a mysterious land
Which an unknown deity creates
Beyond our reach
Beyond my childish dreams.
A fantasy embodied
She cast the tender touch of her invisible shadow
On my body and mind.
To talk to her I was not so bold.
I felt in my heart only a pain
Like a softly sung tune -
She was far, too far,
As far as the highest branches of the shirish
That sends a soft fragrance to the mind.
It was the wedding ceremony of her dolls
I was invited to attend
In great fun
The invitees made gleeful noises
In diffidence I remained at one end
I was tongue-tied and shy
That evening passed in vain
I don't remember what was served on my plate
But I remember to have seen
A pair of feet hurrying back and forth
Covered by the dancing border of a sari.
In a stolen glance I also saw
In her bangles were caught
The pure golden rays of the sun.
In her sweet voice
She made repeated requests
Back home half the night
They resonated in my mind.
Then by and by
We became known to each other more
Freely we began to mix.
I began to call her by her nickname.
I got over my shyness
We began to cut jokes.
Often for made-up mistakes
She was mad with me in a mocking rage.
Sometimes her rude words and cruel jokes
Gave me pain.
Sometimes she blamed me
For my carelessness.
Sometimes I saw her carelessly dressed '
She was busy in cooking
She didn't feel embarrassed.
For my idiocy which is natural in a male
She used to rebuke me severely
In her arrogance of womanly superior knowledge.
One day she told me,
'I know how to read palms.'
She took my hand in her hand
And read it with her head bent
She told me
'You are luckless in love.'
I gave no reply
The real proof, her loving touch,
Conclusively disproved my lucklessness in love.
Yet after all these I cannot forget the pain
I couldn't know her more!
One can hardly be nearest to what is beautiful
It ever remains far
When nearer it urges one ever
To know it ever more.
My days, filled with joys and sorrows,
Are ending in the western sky
The harshness of summer
Is mellowing in blue
The glow of autumn on golden corn
Is playing the holiday flute.
Laden with dreams
My boat is slowly sailing
To an unknown land.
Translation of the poem Shyama - (Ujjwal shyamal barna galay palar harkhani) - from the collection Akashpradip by Rabindranath Tagore. It was written at Santiniketan on 31st October, 1938. One of the most autobiographical poems, its theme is the poet's memories of his notunbouthan, Kadambaridevi. For the original please visit http://www.rabindra-rachanabali.nltr.org/node/12825.