Rabindranath Tagore. Possibly Bangladesh’s most famous poet. I finally found a book of his poems in translation: ‘Gitimalya’. Reading this poem today reminded me so much of evening in the villages in Sylet.

February 27, 2010

See, they’ve come  and gathered together

in the courtyard,

They’ve taken the grazing cattle to pasture, and now they’re free.

The breeze swings in the limbs of the thin bamboo, in the spaces between the narrow leaves:

In the darkness

the evening star has blossomed out.

The boys and girls of the home

are sitting in groups,

In the midst of this You have taken Your seat,

They call on you repeatedly as a familiar person.

They call out your name when evening falls.

None of these are honoured by honoured people,

the doors of the king’s home

are closed to them.

In the dust

they spread out the edges of their threadbare clothes

for You and dance enthusiastically.

Their bodies are soiled,

but they hold Your feet in hope.

The night birds have started calling

on the riverside,

The outline of the waning moon

lies over the forest,

Fire-flies glow in the trees.

There is no one on the village path,

In the empty field

jackals call aloud in the darkness.

How often the sun blazes and dies out

in the whole universe,

In the king’s place

O how power and majesty wax and wane.

In the midst of all this,

during the darkness of the night,

in the courtyard of the village homes

Your name rises up from the voices of the poor,

filling the sky.


4 Responses to “Rabindranath Tagore. Possibly Bangladesh’s most famous poet. I finally found a book of his poems in translation: ‘Gitimalya’. Reading this poem today reminded me so much of evening in the villages in Sylet.”

  1. pozzo53 Says:

    Tagore had a huge respect for the bhakti tradition, the devotional strand that emerged in medieval India, and affected both Hindu and Muslim religious life, as well as providing the matrix from which Sikhism emerged. I have a little volume of his translations of poems or hymns by Kabir. The Gitanjali, the Kabir poems, his autobiography and quite a few other works are available in translation at Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/t. He was well able to translate his own work into English, of course, and he’s a significant figure in English literature as well as Bengali. I notice my copy of the Kabir poems also credits Evelyn Underhill, well-known mystical writer from Wolverhampton, while the Gitanjali translation is introduced by Yeats. Many people would consider the style of the translations a bit dated, though they have some great passages, but Tagore is also a fine prose writer.

  2. pozzo53 Says:

    Worth doing. He was an important figure in the Bengali renaissance, a great ferment in thought and art that really got going in the early to mid-19th century. Although Tagore knew people like Yeats, his religion and politics were very difference. He was very much a religious humanist and socialist, as the quote you have used demonstrates. I suppose the kinship with Yeats has to do with their respective roles as bards of the nationalist movements, but Tagore certainly doesn’t share the anti-humanist pessimism that grew stronger throughout Yeats’s life and is pretty strong among many poets of that generation.

  3. Gilberdyke Says:

    Tagore features obliquely as a figure in the Philip Glass opera Satyagraha currently being reprised in London (as one of three cultural figures, the other two being Tolstoy and Martin Luther King). Having seen it at the weekend, I then noticed that he wrote the Bangladesh national anthem (Amar Shonar Bangla) which I expect you heard plenty of at Ekushey.

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