Sword of Damocles

16. Poem: Keno (Why) of the book ‘Nabajatak’ written on 12 Oct. m1938, 3 years before the Poet’s death.

Translator’s note: As per media report of February 2000 A.D., Peter Ward and Donald Brownlee (Professors of Geology, Paleontology and Astronomy at the University of Washington in Seattle) in their research worked out that for 90% of the age of our planet, life was slime at the bottom of the oceans and that slime was commonplace in the Universe but few planets and maybe only one (e.g. Earth), provided the right conditions over the right span of time, to allow that slime to become something grander. Their research data reveal that it took about 2 billion years for enough oxygen to be produced to supply all animals on Earth. Also, in our solar system, the habitable zone stretches from 5% closer to the Sun than the Earth actually is, to 15% further away, a narrow region which, perforce, we must occupy. But, again, the chances of any planet remaining long enough in this habitable zone for animal life to evolve, as Earth has done, are small. Some time in next 3 billion years our luck will run out as the power of the Sun drives the habitable zone outwards beyond Earth’s orbit and life will end in slow sizzle.

This is only an addition to the series of scientific supports over the few centuries last to the truth perceived by the philosophers and scientists as well over ages that a sword of Damocles hangs over the human existence to terminate it at any time. Similar cosmic perception abounds vast Tagore literature including the following poem, yet with a difference. In general, temporal nature of life in our planet or elsewhere has been the stress/obsession of the scientists and philosophers. Tagore has tried to perceive beyond the impendent effacement of life, a spiritual entity and its intent behind the obvious cycles of creation and destruction, while others, unable to transcend their human ego that conceits the ultimate truth, short sight it at the mere awe of Man’s biological extinction.

As goes the astronomers’ dissertation
The bonfire for Sun’s self-immolation
Emitting enormous flames though,
Only its infinitesimal part or so
Showers on this clayware
Called the Earth “ our very dear.
The rest blindly out of proportion “
Released from the primordial horizon
Rushes aimless not weary
Though lost its way dreary.
Along with rain the stars
Down the darkness enormous
Their rays ceaseless
In utter extravagance
Creator’s cruel in-equation
With His own creation.
Or could it be within Time infinite
Like the succession of day and night “
An Ages charity in turn
Is the other’s earn?
Between preserve and squander
Why this age to age asunder?

Turning to human consciousness
Where float weal and woe in diverse ways
Somewhere wells up a brio
Elsewhere civilization’s relic lies low
With bankruptcy imposed upon,
As extinguishes the fire of its cremation.
From land to land overflows life’s fountain
Only its aimless rush to maintain
Into the abyss of Death “ with it to convey
Countless bubbles of longing and dismay “
Who will account for those
As the colossal homicide goes
Daily it puts motion
To cycle the next generation?
In such forfeiture and recompense
Is there any great sense?
But why with human heart, day and night
The great Age plays chess with hands left and right?

At the prime of my life
Welled up this very strife “
In this Universe anywhere do concentre
The woods’ and mountains’ murmur
The oceans’ uproarious might
The tempest’s turbulence day and night?
The twang in the lute of pain
Strikes up melody time and again
To fulfill the season’s gaiety
Death’s gloom and life’s vivacity.
The silent steps of light
Throb Creation’s endless night “
Deep at the heart of the Universe
I clairvoyance its responding spheres
Where take shelter from all around
Various animations to resound.

Yet, blowing up their attachment old
Poised for a return flight bold
They load on their wings that primordial
Seeds with Creation’s flowering potential
Right then I could smack
Of a stream of consciousness from the ages back,
Bounced from planets and stars
Lost its way in utter farce
At last settled in Man’s sense
To divulge its significance.
But the doubt does drop “
Will it abort again to flop
To rush wayward into the ghastly domain
Of formlessness for ages uncertain?
In pain will empty its travel bowl
Wonder its short span without a goal
Discarded as after feast waste
But why in such a haste?