When the first rains of asaad
Downpour on the peaks of the Himalayas
The mighty Brahmaputra suddenly swells
And in an indomitable inner force
Like the god who wildly beats a drum
While destroying the worlds
It rumbles on in waves
And uproots the trees on its banks
Seeking its own limits;
In a similar way
Valmiki, the great sage and poet,
In great ecstasy and alone
Restlessly roams the shady groves
On the banks of the fast flowing Tamasa,
All his blood surging in his breast
Like a rumbling cloud
Again and again he recites the new poem
That took its birth in his mind
Deeply moved by compassion;
He thinks perplexed
What will he do with these musical words
What is their purpose?
Like the new born Garuda
What unearthly hunger
Oppresses his being?
Like that divine bird
Where will he build his vast nest? '
Those whom God blesses
With a gift of divine delight
Feel an endless urge like pain
They have to keep always awake
The divine gift
Always aflame in their mind
Consumes their being.
When the sun went down
And the evening came
Narad, the sage from heaven,
Came to the hermitage
The birds sleeping on the branches of trees
Woke up by the heavenly light
Shed by his divine form
And the bees now tired
Became alert in these unwonted hours
By the scent brought by the sage
From the nandan gardens.
After saluting him
The poet offered him a seat and asked,
'On what heavenly mission, divine sir,
Have you come to the earth?'
Smiling, Narad replied,
'Your rhymed song that sprung from pathos
Went up to the heaven
And was heard by God
He asked me to go to the banks of Tamasa
And enquire of you,
Now pierced by the Muse's arrow of rhyme,
'O you fortunate one
Whom will you give
This great gift of music
With this rhyme
What song will you compose
Whose glory will you sing
On the earth
Which god of heaven will you immortalize?'
Overwhelmed with emotion
The great sage nodded his head and said,
'The paean of the heaven is being sung
By all the world all the time
It has no words nor has it any meaning.
The fire, raising its fingers above,
Sings its hymn in signs
In thousand waves
What the sea sings
Only heaven knows
The forest with its innumerable branches
Murmurs and chants
The storms make rumbling sounds
And the music of them all -
From the stars numberless
To the insects of the wilderness -
Mingle in a single stream of harmony
That finally falls
Into the ocean of heavenly peace.
The language of man
Imprisoned in its senses
Always revolves around him.
Day and night
Serving his daily needs
It becomes feeble
Hobbled by hard facts
It cannot freely dance
It cannot take its flight
Beyond the dusts of his mundane world
As music does
On its many-splendored wings
Unburdened by meanings.
The dawn has its straight words
Not of sound but of light
That lays the heart of the world bare
And releases all its music;
In a moment the peace of night
By a nightly nocturne
Envelops the world
And as if by a spell
By an unspoken command
Puts an end to the endless clamor
The endless efforts and failures of men
Giving the world an intimation
Of the shadows of death;
The stars have their language of fire
That eternally burns in fathomless space
And engraves their presence;
The southern breeze
Has a language of its own
As it breathes
It fills the bower
With new hopes, new flowers
The impregnable forts of the forest
And enlivens its every nook and corner
With new leaves of youth and vigor;
Can man's language
So directly express?
Can it cross
The limits of its meanings
And reach great heights of melodies
And that which are enduring and deep?
My rhymes will give man's language,
Worn out by everyday use,
A new cadence, a new power
To move like a winged horse
Freely in the realm of imagination
And these possibilities
Gladden my whole being.
I shall give my rhyme to the naked word
And like the chariot of fire
That carries the sun across the skies
It will enable it to swim with ease
And cross the limits of this everyday world
It will uplift it above
To the world of imagination
And man will reach the abode of gods.
As the seas encircle the silent earth
In incessant music and dance
My rhymes will embrace our language
And sing forever everywhere
The glories of great human beings
It will glorify the transient existence of man.
O divine sage
Please ask God
Not to withhold this divine gift from us.
Glorification makes a god a man
Through my poems
My mission is to make men gods.
Divine sir, since everything is within your view
Please tell me of one
Whose virtues befit him to be immortal.
Who has immense power yet is merciful
One who is protected by religion
As a warrior is protected by his armor,
One who is humble in wealth
And poverty does not lay him low
Wary in prosperity
But in adversity remains steady
One who is gifted most
But has gifted much more
And great sorrows as crown he bore.
O great sage, please tell me his name.'
Narad said, 'His name is Ram,
The king of Ayodhya, chief of Raghu clan.'
'Yes I know, I have heard about his deeds',
Replied Valmiki, 'but I do not know all
How shall I tell his story
I am afraid what I'll say may not be true.'
Narad smilingly replied,
'Everything that happens is not always true,
But whatever you will compose will be true.
Know this my poet,
The Ayodhya of your poetic vision
Is more real than the birthplace of Ram.'
So saying the divine messenger
Left for the heaven like a dream
And Valmiki took his seat for meditation,
Tamasa became silent and the forest calm.
Translation of the poem ‘Bhasa O Chhanda’ from the collection Katha O Kahini by Rabindranath Tagore. The original is at http://www.rabindra-rachanabali.nltr.org/node/5599.
*According to Indian tradition Valmiki is the adikabi or the first poet and his first poem was a couplet '
Ma nishad pratistham twamagamah shaswatih samah
Jat krounchamithunadekambadhih kamamohitam.
which was spontaneously uttered by him in great compassion when he saw a fowler killing one of a pair of copulating herons.