Theme: Poetry


Under the vast sky the Padma flows on
I visualize it in my mind’s eye.
One of its banks is a stretch of sandy land
Here there is no fear
Because it is unattached and bare –
On its other bank
There are groves of bamboo and mango trees,
An ancient banyan, abandoned homesteads,
With a gnarled thick trunk
There is an aged jackfruit tree –
And fields of mustard by the side of the pond,
A roadside cane jungle,
The ruins of an indigo factory
One and a half century old
In its garden day and night
A long tamarisk tree sighs and moans,
Yonder is the neighbourhood of fishermen
Their goats graze on the parched fields,
And near the market
There are tin-roofed business houses–
In fear of the cruel river
Trembles the entire village.
Its name is famous in tradition and legend
The water of a heavenly river flows in its veins.
It has uniqueness.
The settlements it flows by
It tolerates but doesn’t accept.
Its rhythm is aristocratic –
At one end it bears the memory of the lonely mountains
At the other end it hears the call of the lonely seas.
Anchored near one of its sandy islands
In absolute privacy, far away from all
In a boat I lived once.
Waking up early I could see the morning star
Gazing at the constellation in the northern sky
At night I went to sleep on the boat’s deck.
By the flow of my lone thoughts
Flowed the indifferent river
Like a stranger passing by a house
Not knowing its inmates’ joys and sorrows.
Then at the end of my youth
I came to the end of these desolate meadows
Where trees are rare.
Not very far from here
I can see the green Santal villages.
Here my neighbour is the river Kopai.
It has no pride of pedigree.
Its non-Aryan name is from the patois
Spoken for ages by gay Santal girls.
It is very friendly with the villages
There is no antagonism between water and land.
Conversation is easy between its banks.
Right by its stream fields are in flowers
And on its banks sprout young paddy plants.
Across its cascading crystal clear waters
It gives easy right of way to the path that stops at its bank.
Nearby in the meadows stand the palmyras
In groves many fruit bearing trees
Also stand on its bank.
The language it speaks is not elegant
It is one that is spoken by common folks.
In its rhythm it has woven together
Its flowing water and the green fields.
It is very slim
Clapping in a simple dance
It meanders along in light and shade.
In the rainy season
Like the rustic dames maddened by mohua drinks
It becomes tipsy in its every limb
But nothing it breaks nothing it drowns
Only laughing aloud with its swirling eddies
Like the swirling skirts of dancing girls
It pushes its banks and runs along.
At the end of the autumn its waters become clear
Its flow becomes thin
The sands of its bed can be clearly seen
But its poverty cannot embarrass
Because it isn’t proud of its small possessions
It is beautiful both in its prosperity and penury –
It is like a dancing girl -
When she dances all her ornaments ring
But being tired when she stops
There is tiredness in her eyes
And a gentle smile
In the corner of her lips.
Today Kopai has made its rhythm the poet’s rhythm
Its compromise with water and land
Is like the poet’s compromise with his language and style
The high melody has become homely now
Keeping beats to its broken rhythm
The Santal boy will walk with his rustic bow;
The bullock cart with its modest load will easily cross;
Followed by the village dog
The potter will go to the market with his pots and pans;
The teacher of the village school
Who earns only three rupees a month
With his old umbrella full of holes
Will also go.
Translation of the poem Kopai – the first poem of the collection Punascha (Once More) - by Rabindranath Tagore. Padma is the famous East Bengal river which runs through the Tagore estates where from the age of 29/30 Rabindranath spent about 10 years of his life. Kopai is a small rivulet near Santiniketan where the poet lived from his middle age till his death in 1941. The original poem is at 
In fact this ‘prose’ poem is an introduction to the entire collection. The theme is the change of style Tagore introduced from now on in the composition of his poems. In the introduction he writes – ‘I translated the songs of Gitanjali in English prose. They have been accepted as poems. Since then the question which has engaged my mind is whether without the melody and rhymes of poetry it is possible to give the taste of poetry in Bengali prose like English’. Needless to say, there was a change also in the choice of subjects in many of his poems of this period.


More By  :  Kumud Biswas

Views: 1458     Comments: 2

Comments on this Poem

Comment Very apt analysis of one of the poetic devices, dear rdashby. Thank you very much.

24-Oct-2011 18:34 PM

Comment Once more, as in Padma, Tagore subjectivises the river - beautiful though the effect may be, it is surreal: a projection of his own mind. If one reads the poem and enjoys it, it is as something timeless, and owes to that. It is his Kopai, and we are permitted the glimpse.

John Ruskin (1819 - 1900) coined the term 'pathetic fallacy'; and though it might be increasingly judged in the light of scientific knowledge inappropriate as a device in literature, yet, if it worked in a poem, it was passable. In Kopai, even if we discern pathetic fallacy endowing the river with human qualities, it is employed as a simile: the poet's use of 'like' as in 'like a a dancing girl... like the rustic dames... ' emphasises this.

The trend these days is actual endowment of human qualities on animal subjects, whereby it is not 'pathetic fallacy' but 'pathetic equality' that is the vogue, especially in the animated cartoon mode to which we owe hours of enjoyment at some stage in our lives. Evolutionary science has actually raised animals to be considered equal to humans, nay, in the opinion of some, superior!

24-Oct-2011 17:37 PM

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