Theme: Immortality


Translation from Bengali works of Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel Laureate of 1913
Read translator's note at the end of the poem.

The person whom you create
At your hands diversely ornate;
To me he is a stranger,
Neither befits my soul inner;
Stamped by your signature
My factitious replica stands at Creation’s border;
While God on His secret mission
Builds up forms beyond our vision –
On the shore of the sea of Time;
Behind is the flamboyant mystery sublime;
Where light and shade blend
To see this or that as one might mend
To harmonize one’s imagination,
Out of forms comprising shadow, void and illusion;
To weave one’s pattern of the familiar
On the canvas of the unknown there.

The doll, in the playroom of this Earth,
That the Creator composed in sheer mirth
With clay and light
With black and white,
Who doesn’t know that it is fragile,
To pound under Time’s wheel to beguile.
The gift that this doll has borne
Feigns immortality soon to be blown
Suddenly to befool
Leaving behind dust – a handful;
With eternal black left behind
Trace of the lost one nowhere to find.

The doll that is created by the mass,
Will the greedy dust it bypass
To remain ever resplendent in light
That Time will fail to blight?
While thus you ponder
Does in the eyes of my mysterious Creator
An amused smile flicker?
That is what to-day I wonder.

Translator’s note: The following are the quotes from Maitrayee Devi’s above mentioned book which is an English translation by herself of her book ‘Mangpute Rabindranath’ (=Rabindranath in Mangpu). I have restructured the poem in rhymed form while Maitrayee Devi’s was in blank verse, believing my effort might somehow better convey the import of the poem though Maitrayee’s is highly inspiring also. I am sure, her generous soul will excuse me from the heaven for my impertinent experiment.

“Next day, as soon as we sat down to our game of cards, the Poet said- ‘Why don’t you read that poem of yours to your friends?’ (Pointing out to Sudhakanta). ‘What is there to be ashamed of? Neither I nor Sudhakanta, neither of us, think it is a shame to write poetry’….So, very reluctantly I had to obey. After I had finished reading, the Poet, who was gazing out absentmindedly, said, ‘I have got an answer to this. Sudhakanta, please get that black note-book. I will read another answer, the one I wrote in Prabasi (a popular monthly Bengali magazine in Tagore’s time) on my birthday.”

(After the poem is read Maitrayee Devi’s diary continues)

“We sat in silence, all of us; probably it is true – that flimsy one will crumble under the wheels of Time, but mind refuses to accept it. Will everything be empty? Only a handful of dust will be left? We know this magnificent creation will lose form, will lose shape. Still, will nothing remain, escaping the greedy dust, resplendent in the everlasting light? We believe that the Poet will shine brightly, live truly in the life of posterity, But that is hardly enough. This person, reflecting a divine existence in a mortal body, a super excellent work of the Artist, where will he go? Immortality of his works cannot make good that loss. We could not realize that moment our experience of to-day. . And then suddenly it deceives and there remains a handful of dust”. 

Poem ‘Janmadin’ (=Birthday) from the book ‘Nabajatak’ (=Newborn) written on the seashore resort at Puri (Orissa) on the 79th birthday of the Poet (7/8th May 1939) 2 years before his death in 1941 found in Maitrayee Devi’s book ‘Tagore by Fireside’ when the Poet was her guest at Mangpu (near Darjeeling hill station) in 1940.


More By  :  Rajat Das Gupta

Views: 1461     Comments: 2

Comments on this Poem

Comment 10 Dec. 2011
TO: Mr. R. D. Ashby
Dear Mr. Ashby,
Your observation "but something is sustained independent of the individual's existence" is only a truth stated. You get its reflection in Tagore's poem "Adhunika" (uploaded in also) a small quote from which is -

Mind you, in life itself tributes to Death go
The lasting ones, and those not so,
Are all consigned to its flame,
Who can hold the elusive by mere speech game?
Whatever remnant after the burn,
Will speak for itself in the final turn.

Rajat Das Gupta

Rajat Das Gupta
10-Dec-2011 08:32 AM

Comment >The doll that is created by the mass,
Will the greedy dust it bypass
To remain ever resplendent in light
That Time will fail to blight?<

Of course, individual members of the mass pass away to
dust, too, but something is sustained independent of the individual's existence. A clue is given to a virtual state of mind in which the individual in the mass participates,who himself then turns to dust while the mind carries on as ciphered in another generation of the mass till the end of Time... and beyond? Ah, that would be storming heaven! Since the Creator has created all individuals of the mass in Time, it would be no surprise, but providence fulfilled.

09-Dec-2011 09:06 AM

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