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Shesher Kabita
by Rajat Das Gupta
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Translation from Bengali works of Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel Laureate of 1913. Adopted from his book of Tagore translation “The Eclipsed Sun” – published in January 2002.

Shesher Kabita ( = The Last Poem)
A novel by Rabindranath Tagore (1861 to 1913 AD, Nobel Laureate of 1913) Courtesy: Dr. N. D. Batra, Professor of Communications, Norwich University, Vermont, USA vide website: published in January 2009

Tagore had no dearth of his critics who had to beat a retreat for the time being after the Poet had the accolade of Nobel Laureate. However, in the mid-twenties of the last century they surfaced again and some young scribes ‘revolted’ against Tagore’s hegemony in Bengali literature and tried a ‘coup’ to dislodge the Poet from his supreme position. They declared that Tagore’s time had ended and that it was their turn to hold the rein of the Bengali literature to re-vitalize it with their ‘new’ contributions. Tagore foiled their move simply with a big laughter and affection towards this young group through his brilliant novel ‘Shesher Kabita (=The Last Poem).

I read this novel in early fifties in my college life as it became essential for a Bengali young man at that time to be ranked ‘intelligentsia’ which all of them aspired. Later I read its wonderful English translation by Krishna Kripalani captioned ‘Farewell my Friend’. I do not know if Kripalani’s book is still available in the market but, I believe, some translation of ‘Shesher Kabita’ must be available. I would suggest any Tagorephile not knowing Bengali to read translation of ‘Shesher Kabita’. Seemingly, it is a story of triangular love, the theme on which numerous novels/stories have been written all over the world in all major languages.

However, I daresay, this is the only novel/story of its kind on earth which marvelously echoes the contrast between ‘Finite’ and ‘Infinite’ as conceptualized in Upanishad (nearly 4500 year old Indian scripture) The story may be outlined as – Amit Ray, an accomplished Barrister, met Labanya in Shillong (the hill station in the easternmost part of India with superb natural beauty) and amnesiac of his first love Ketaki, fell in love with Labanya. Eventually, Labanya opted out of Amit’s life and he gets married to Ketaki. Amit was an ardent ‘modernist’ and would never miss a chance to downplay Tagore in the literary gatherings. One such example, Amit trashed Tagore’s widely celebrated poem ‘Shah Jehan’ [of the book ‘Balaka’ (Crane) written in Allahabad in 1914], where the Poet compared ‘Taj Mahal’ with a ‘Drop of tear- on the cheek of Time, bright white’- ‘as a memento for Shah Jehan’s pathos’ for his wife Mamataj. However, the long poem concludes with the perception that ‘Taj Mahal’ is only a museum piece and that the ‘traveler’ (i.e. Shah Jehan) who had conceptualized this, had transcended this mundane ‘Taj Mahal’ for his eternal journey free from any earthly bondage. Amit discards this view with his antithesis of ‘Shah Jehan’ by offering ‘Basarghar’ (Bridal Chamber) which is eternally vibrant with the perpetual visits of the married couple, giving a truer view of life, as Amit upheld. The poem is as follows –

29.  Poem:
Basarghar (Bridal Chamber) - of Tagore’s book Mahua (name of a flower) written at Bangalore in 1928.excerpted in the novel
‘Shesher Kabita’

[Translator’s note: It is a universal ritual that the couple spend their nuptial night ceremoniously in their Bridal Chamber which is gorgeously decorated for that night. But the euphoria is momentary as soon the couple will have to vacate the Bridal Chamber for their journey on the rugged road of their life. Yet, the eternal function of Bridal Chamber remains which welcomes the new couples every day to baptize them for their life’s new journey.

  Thou hast to be left behind
  As the dawn’s chariot wheel will grind
  The night’s slumber,
  O Bridal Chamber!
  There the vast external
  Is a separating demon terrible!
  Yet, more it’ll massacre,
  The Exchange Garland (*) in pieces will tear,    (*)
  Thou art there without decay
  Night and day;
  Thy gift ever festive
  Won’t mute or strip.
  The couple, who said,
  Have vacated Thy bed?
  They haven’t, no they haven’t,
  Amidst new passengers to Thee is their bent –
  At Thy call,
  To Thy noble gate, they return all.
  O Bridal Chamber,
  Love is immortal, so Thou art

(*) In Indian marriages the couple exchange their garland.

It may be safely observed, Tagore’s rival Amit was only Tagore’s brainchild, which never achieved a separate flesh and blood entity in Bengal, nay, in the whole world ever. Several more poems transposed to the novel from the book ‘Mahua’ of the Poet to capture the passions/realizations of the concerned characters at different times are as follows.

30. Poem:
Daymochan (Absolving from onus) of the book ‘Mahua’ written at Bangalore on 23 August 1928 excerpted in the novel ‘
Shahser Kabita’

[Translator’s note: We should not scramble for whatever precious we pine for in our life as that only blights the sanctity of our claim. Our glory is more to find accomplishment in life’s rewards with which we are blest in due course rather than lament those which we miss.]

   You’ll remain beggar
   Of my love ‘for ever’,
   If you’ll say so –
   This small moment let go
   As that ‘forever’,
   If you forget thereafter,
   I won’t remind your oath,
   Entry and exit doors both
   Will remain open,
   So, as time will pass, go then
   And if you crave, be back again,
   But if you are dubious
   It’s no harm enormous;
   Love me if you will
   If you so desire still.

   Friend, I know your journey is ahead,
   Behind I lag, but tears I won’t shed
   Neither curse my fate
   To block your way desperate.
   Your life’s aim I’m not,
   If so from your mind I’ll blot
   Your gift will remain green
   In my memoir of tears unseen.
   And my gift too
   In your amnesia will leave its clue.

   On your way if you’ll sojourn
   And your eyes backward turn,
   You may find my lost vision –
   My eyes, tears moisten.
   If you pity
   My tears will never empty.

   Let remain with me
   The bare truth only
   Out of your gift –
   But shame will leave me bereft
   If you offer anything beyond –
   As, if grief I’ll abscond,
   Its price I’ll miss
   Which might be my supreme bliss.

   The feeble weakens own right
   With the reception garland’s slight;
   One who takes it at ease
   One’s competence for it doesn’t cease;
   To beg he’ll care not
   His claim to blot.
   I’ll not blend the counterfeit
   Love’s shortfall to meet;
   But my border
   I’ll honour.
   Whatever I got is my treasure
   Without decay for ever;
   To me is not great
   Whatever I didn’t fate.

31. Poem:
Achena (= Unknown) of the book Mahua (name of a flower) written at Bangalore in August 1928 excerpted in the novel ‘
Shahser Kabita’

   O Unknown, how Thou’ll elude me
   Ere I’ve known Thee?
   In which blind hour
   Betwixt wake and slumber
   As dawned the night
   Thy face I did sight;
   With my eyes on Thine
   Asked, “What escape Thou pine
   Amidst amnesia of self,
   In the inane taking Thy delve?
   Acquaintance with Thee
   Will not be easy;
   Not in Thy ear
   By soft whisper;
   But conquer Thee shall I
   From Thy inhibition high
   With all my vigour
   From Thy shame, indecision and fear;
   Lift Thee up into light merciless
   Thy tears Thou to bless
   To wake into self-knowledge
   Thus to snap Thy bondage;
   Liberation of Thine
   Will be mine.

   O Unknown,
   Days pass, time will be flown;
   A great mishap
   Let all bondage snap;
   Let that flamboyant be
   For knowledge of Thee,
   There my life to surrender
   With perception of Thee serene for ever.

32. Poem:
Asru (Tears) of the book ‘Mahua’ (name of a flower) written at Bangalore in July, 1929.

   O Beautiful,
   Thou appear with eyes tearful!
   Convey in Thy heart flame fierce
   Mine to pierce.
   So is sorrow resplendent
   Life’s charming spells snap blatant;
   In the breathe of that fire
   Blossoms the separating lotus dire.

33. Poem:
Antardhan (Disappearance) of the book ‘Mahua’ written at Santiniketan in July 1928 excerpted in the novel ‘Shesher Kabita

   On the canvas of your extinction
   I see your eternal configuration.
   Within my heart unseen
   Your ultimate visit has been –
   The un-decaying touchstone
   As my gain I’ve known.
   Your vacuum that I sense
   You yourself recompense.

   As darkened the life, in my heart’s temple I had the clue
   The evening lamp there was gifted by you.
   In its separating flame -   
   Grief’s brilliance that from it came,
   Love shaped up into worship
   With its solemnity deep.

Rather than an encounter with the enormity of Tagore, if not to excel him, Amit eventually had his accomplishment in deeper perceptions through his life’s experiences. He realized that his love both with Ketaki and Labanya were equally true. Love with Ketaki was like ‘water drawn in pitcher from the pond for daily use’ representing our mundane life. On the other hand his love with Labanya was like a vast ocean, akin to Infinity, where he will swim never to find its shore where to anchor.

So, all roads lead to Upanishad!  

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October 01, 2011
More By: Rajat Das Gupta
Views: 1911      Comments: 5

Comments on this Poem

Comment Thanks a lot, Rajenderji.

TagoreBlog
10/06/2011 00:22 AM

Comment http://www.boloji.com/index.cfm?md=Content&sd=Writers&WriterID=3

The above is the correct ID for Mr. Kumud Biswas.

Raj
10/05/2011 23:49 PM

Comment My profile page is at http://www.boloji.com/index.cfm?md=Members&sd=Blogger. My name is Kumud Biswas. I have posted more than 200 Tagore poems and songs in my translation in boloji. I have also posted translations of some Tagore essays in addition to articles on the poet. You are welcome to peruse them.

TagoreBlog
10/05/2011 12:56 PM

Comment 4 October
Dear Translator,
My only regret is, I miss your name for this beautiful translation of the literally 'Last Poem' of 'Shesher Kabiya', on which I had never tried my pen. Hopefully, you'll oblige me by disclosing your identity.
Rajat Das Gupta
Kolkata

Rajat Das Gupta
10/04/2011 08:21 AM

Comment Here is my translation of Tagore's Shesher kabita -

The Last Poem

Can you hear the sounds of the journey of time?
Its chariot always in a flight
Raises heartbeats in the skies
And birth-pangs of stars
In the darkness of space
Crushed by its wheels.
My friend!
I have been caught in the net
Cast by that flying time
It has made me its mate
In its intrepid journey
And taken me in its speeding chariot
Far away from you.
To reach the summit of this morning
I seem to have left behind many deaths
My past names seem to stream
In the strong wind
Born of the chariot's speed.
There is no way to turn back;
If you see me from afar
You will not recognize me my friend,
Farewell!

If in your lazy hours without any work
The winds of springtime
Brings back the sighs from the past
As the cries of shedding spring flowers
Fill the skies
Please see and search
If in a corner of your heart
You can find any remnants of my past;
In the evening hours of fading memories
It may shed some light
Or take some nameless form
As if in a dream.
Yet it is not a dream
It is my truth of truths
It is deathless
It is my love.
Changeless and eternal
I leave it as my offering to you
In the ever changing flow of time
Let me drift.
My friend, farewell!

You have not sustained any loss.
If you have created an immortal image
Out of my mortal frame
May you devote your self
In the worship of that idol
As the recreation of your remaining days
Let your offerings not be mired
By the touch of my earthly passion.
The plate that you will arrange with utmost care
For the feast of your mind
I will not mix it with anything
That does not endure
And is wet with my tears.
Now you will perhaps create
Some dreamy creation out of my memories
Neither shall I feel its weight
Nor will you feel obliged.
My friend, farewell!

Do not mourn for me,
You have your work, I have my world.
My vessel has not become empty
To fill it is my mission.
I shall be pleased
If anybody keeps waiting
Anxiously for me.
But now I shall offer myself to him
Who can brighten the darkness with light
And see me as I am
Transcending what is good or bad.
Whatever I gave you
It is now your absolute possession.
What I have to give now
Are the hourly offerings from my heart.
You are incomparable, you are rich!
Whatever I gave you
It was but your gift
You made me so much indebted
As much as you took.
My friend, farewell!

TagoreBlog
10/04/2011 00:44 AM




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