Tagore on Death



52. Poem No: 5 of the book Janmadine (On My Birthday) written in April 1940, shortly before the Poet’s death in 1941

[Translator’s note: The two visions of the Poet that may be noted in this poem are, the cosmic origin of man’s existence and his progress for a supreme goal as part of an international community, both being the intent of the Creator and both of which we miss in our mundane life. He never lost sight of this panorama even amidst his severe ailments for quite long before his demise when he wrote this poem. He reveals this broadness of vision in his book Viswa Bharati (=World University) while explaining his objective of education in his University (chapter 6 of the book)as follows I know, to work up such an attitude in our students’ mind is a great object. Thatman has been born in a vast family in this earth with such a great heritage“orientation toward this perception should be firm. In these miserable days ofour country, object of education to many is a job. This deprives us of thetreasures of the world, stifling the link of Anandam (=Heavenly joy) withmankind as a whole. But man must know where is his right. Just as he has toharmonize his mind with nature, so he should for a union with the entiremankind.
that is why in their search for knowledgehumans are rushing to the North Pole, to the interior of Africa acceptingunbearable pain and even risking life. In search ofwork, wisdom and idea, they have taken ruggedpaths. They have known ‘Bhumeba Sukham’ [i.e. Man’s happiness lies on the pathsof pain- Upanishad (ancient Indian scripture in Sanskrit language)]. We, in ourcountry, have forgotten this and so we have crippled our soul within our narrowobjectives for a limited living.
While establishing this University, at the outset I thought ofliberating our students from their narrow outlook and cowardice. The Ganges,that has originated at the mountain top, flows through various lands and its watermay be put to small and big purposes. Similarly, the knowledge that springsfrom the heights of human perceptions, directed towards the infinite alongvarious directions perennially, should not be confined within narrow limits ofour personal interests but we should take dip in it for our ablution where itis boundless in its universal dimension.
‘satapohatapyata sa tapostapta idam sarbamasrijita yadidam kincha’ i.e. ‘theCreator is on meditation to create everything’ (Upanishad). His meditation is inherentin every atom and molecule and so there is continuous friction, rush of energyand ceaseless orbiting among those. Man’s meditation too flows along with theCreator’s and he is not a mere onlooker. Because, Man is also a creator and hismain mission is creation. That he piles up is not his best revelation, which isin his sacrifice and there is his true self. That is why God’s universal seatof meditation is also his. Man is a sage which he is to appreciate and mustperceiveas truth all the dedications ofeverybody of every time and of every country.”]

As the eightieth year I enter
Of my life, it is my wonder“
The silent millions of stars“
Their ceaseless showers
Rush in bewildering speed
The infinite space, aimlessly to feed.

Within that boundless dark
My existence abruptly did spark
Amidst the eternal bonfire
In the chain of centuries never to tire.
In that earth I did appear, where
At the seabed from the swamps mere
On the vast lap of the inanimate
Life in slimes did vibrate
In its myriad branches to flower
To divulge its profound wonder.
The dusk of inchoate existence held firm
A stupor for ages on the animaldom
On whose meditation
At countless days’ and nights’ completion
Appeared in slow pace
Man in life’s stage with his grace?
Lamps lit up there one by one
Newer significance to earn
Amidst vast illumination
Man observes his future in brilliantrevelation.

On this earth’s stage
To evince from age to age
Act by act, Man’s wisdom
There I too did come
As that drama’s performer
Along with many a other.
I too had my role
That curtain to up roll
That is my marvel utmost-
Mother Earth that does host
The heavenly soul
For what goal-
In her sky, light, air,
Soil, seas and mounts bear
What deep resolve
Around the Sun to revolve?
Stitched in that mysterious string
On this Earth I did spring
Eighty years ago,
A few more to go.


53. Poem: KANKAL (Skeleton) of the book Purabi: on board Chapad Malal in December 1924.

[Translator’s note: SaintAurobindo said that the biological evolution in the animal world , which hadstarted with amoeba, dinosaur etc ages back, has ended with Man after which nobetter species has evolved. According to Aurobindo, now the objective of theCreator is to raise Man to the level of divinity (in spite of the massacre inthe animal world by the genetic engineering?). We get an echo of this theory inthis poem. The Poet refuses to accept that Man has appeared only to be turnedinto a carcass. As in his numerous poems/songs and other dissertations, herealso he reiterates Upanishad that humans are sons of the Immortal and that theyare pacing towards a glorious spiritual objective in association with theiruntiring advancement in science and other areas of wisdom to explore themysteries of Creation.]

The carcass lays aside
On the grass there wayside
The grass that once nourished it
Gave repose too after its feast“
Only a few pale bones left there
To hint Time’s silent laughter
Towards Death to direct,
Allusive of my same fate
Where with animal I don’t differ“
And that too will end there
That, as will end my life’s nectar
In dust will be left the broken clayware.

Said I, O Death, I believe not
In Thy mock of naught.
Mine is not the life to terminate
Bankrupt of all treasures in the ultimate
At the end of the day
The debt of my meal and sleep to re-pay.
Whatever I’ve thought, told or heard,
Or sang in my music abrupt“
Could not be seized by Death,
Measureless are what I’ve got or willbequeath.

Dance of my mind excelled
Life and Death, and traveled
To the land of music
Its eternal beauty to seek
A countless times
Merely to belie all its sublimes
At the skeleton’s threshold
In mere flesh is my true self to be told?
No, my moments didn’t torment me to tire,
Bereft, to cast me at the wayside dustthere.

From the lotus of form on the earth here
I’ve drunk that formless nectar,
Amidst sorrow to glimpse joy
Has been my ploy
In my heart to have the signal
Of the message of the silent Eternal
I’ve seen light’s passage
At the brink of darkness

I’m not mere
The Creator’s satire
With boundless treasure
Is composed my noble disaster.

54. Poem: Janmadin (Birthday) from the book ‘Senjuti’ written at Kalingpong (nearDarjeeling), on 8th May 1938, his 77th birthday, 3 yearsbefore the death of the Poet.

[Translator’s note:Tagore wrote this poem when the Second World war was looming large over Europe.He had witnessed the First World War and visualized the carnage that was goingto follow again to expose the worst of European civilization. Notwithstandingthis, he had a great regard for the West though, at the same time he neverhesitated to highlight its failures. Way back in 1925 he wrote -]

“It cannot be denied that Europe has spreadits influence all over the world in modern time. Its reason is neitheraccidental, nor external. Because, the barbarism that concentrates only on itsown need and exhausts all its energy on that, Europe has far surpassed that. Europehas reached such a truth which is universal and eternal, which standsun-decayed even after fulfilling its own need. That is its science. Byunfettering this science Europe has secured its right over the world. If forany reason Europe will be physically lost, its place in history will stand onthe truth of science. Europe has enriched mankind forever and here is itsbiggest glory and immortality. Yet, when this very Europe has placed its greed overman’s welfare, it has dwarfed itself to expose its barbarity. Only reason forthis, human truth is not confined in one’s self isolation, which is caused bybrutish spirit. A beast has no other life beyond its mortal one basing on itsperishable flesh and blood. The great men kindle that light which helps manperceive himself among all.

The West has alienated the rest of theworld by its politics, whereas science has invited the bigger world. From thelong-term historical perspective, self-centered politics is Europe’sdegradation in darkness emission of its light is from science which is itstrue manifestation, because science is truth and truth gives immortality. Inmodern time science has given Europe its accomplishment as science evinces theUniverse. On the other hand, its all devouring politics is digging its owngrave, as in the boiling blood of politics its vision for everything but itselfis obscure and narrow. By fragmenting truth, it works up self-immolation in thewhirlpool of vehemence. It will be our great mistake if we think that Europehas become great by its boundless ego and apartheid. This would be a mereimpossibility. Europe’s march for victory is on the strength of truth, whereasits downfall has been the result of its carnal impulses, which aims allself-satiety at the cost of all else.”

In 1940, when the world situation worsened,Tagore wrote“

” Human history is replete with many adisaster, yet man’s energy has not exhausted, capitalizing which we must try tosalvage the sinking ship and set it sail navigated by a new wind..We,travelers on that path of optimism, are preparing for the inauguration hymn ofthe new dawn with reverence, with an invincible strength, vision of which willnot be lost in negativism, but will declare“

‘I have known that Great Man, goldenbright, from beyond the shore of darkness“’- (Upanishad)

With this life-long contemplation thePoet kept up his faith even at the fag end of his life that man’s divinitycannot be eclipsed for ever by the occasional eruption of the satanic forces inman’s history.

T0-day my birthday, just had a dip
Into the dark obliteration deep“
With the passport of Death it does emerge
Atlife’s verge.
Thestring of old age it does seem
Stitching parched flowers dim,
Issnapped there,
Takes over a new thread bare
Tolink the new birthdays
Forits celebration the seat lays
Where I, a passenger, will stint
Toawait a new hint
Forthe obscure voyage ahead,
Anointed on the forehead
Atdawn from Death’s right hand
Upon Sun’s signal crimson bland.
Close have come to-day,
Birthday and Death day“
Both on the same seat
Thetwo rays meet
While I’m soon fated to hide
Asnight’s moon and morning star coincide
Life and Death in accord seem,
Reception of both with the same hymn.
Unload your offerings, O Yore,
From the zenith shine the primal rays pure
Ofthe life formless
Letdisappear, so you bless,
Thedeceptive mirage at the horizon,
Parched by my pursuits brazen
Asa beggar I filled
Mybowls of greed
That unholy let be emptied at last,
Myalms be redeemed to your dust.
Onmy voyage last
Maynot my eyes cast
Apitiable look at the refuse
OfLife’s feast“ ceaseless it is to muse.

OEarth vast,
Daily you bring home, my thirst and lust
That tied me to your chariot
With thousands and many a compatriot,
Topull its strings thick and fine
Tovarious goals on many a line“
Lose significance to-day
Inmy leave’s twilight gray.
Soyou take back my might,
OMiser! Hide out clear light
Frommy senses who drives me oh!
Behind the scenes obscure so.
Dilutednow is your need for me,
Sodevalued and put aside I be
Stamp my forehead
YetI know, your demeanor
Can’t fling me far
Theman excelling all mundane,
Notfrom him you’ll refrain“
Tohim your final salutation will be
Acknowledging his invincibility.
Ifyou turn me infirm and blind
Impair me at dusk to put behind,
Yetamidst the ruin of the precinct
Theicon will stand distinct
Onthe altar in full glory
Evading your fury.

Oh!Pull down the premises,
Aswreckage rises
Iknow still, behind the ruin
Isresplendent my joy serene.
Inthe shower of elixir all around
Theheavenly music does sound“
Oflove in many a cadence
Lifting me close to the supreme sense
From your dominance to liberate
Love to be my recompense ultimate.
That remnant mere
After all its wear and tear
Might lose all its spark
Bearingand abated mark
Yet, beyond death will accompany me
Forintuition of its immortality.
Inthe grove I touched the pollen
Ofthe flowers wet with dews fallen
Onbeloved’s company
Romance held me
Allthese are in mysterious custody
Of thismortal body.
Through your workshop’s window
Whogarlanded me I don’t know,
Toflash a streak
Ofthe eluding bliss in my sense
That’s not a vassal’s recompense
Tohint that I’m akin
With the boundless unseen
Thefleeing messenger in silent diction varied
Theineffable imparted to the man who excels all need.

That man“O Earth
While will vacate your berth,
Strip off his performer’s décor
Andhis journey’s store“
That he will not chary
Benot indignant or dreary“
Yet, the soil’s gift I didn’t devalue,
Toit is my gratitude due“
Time and again I told,
Hadthe glimpse of eternal from its fold
Thecurtain of the inanimate
Dissolved as opened the light’s floodgate.
Inflowers and grass, the deluge of beauty
Breathed deep mystery“
To-day from Earth’s brink
Iturn face on its final import to think.

AsI went without temptation
Onyour final invitation“
With all my calm,
Graceful was your welcome
Open was your heaven’s door
That is closed for the greedy poor.
Thenectar stored in your earthen pot,
Forvoracious beggars it is not.
OEarth, with your treasure great
Therecluse you meditate
Foryour honor“
Tohost the traveler,
Whom the craggy roads entice,
Forcoronation on the throne of sacrifice.
Those who growl and salivate
Their carnal lust to satiate
Lost sight of the supreme soul
Roaming around the garbage mole
Ofthe cremation ground foul
Dayand night with horrid howl,
Intheir outrage ignoble
Goes on their scramble.
Sois the uproar of the human beast
Allround rampant the cannibals’ feast.
Yet, may I laugh it out
AsI always did about
Theerudite crass
Therich insolvent brass
Thecosmetics’ mock of beauty
Insult to man’s divinity
Grimace of the fetish“
Pronounce ephemeral all these blemish
Endof this farce abrupt will be
Thegrave’s tranquility
Tofollow the nightmare
Destiny’s signal to declare“
Andyet, the all monsters’ extravaganza
Can’t be history’s eternal stanza.

Letalone verbiage futile
Nowto listen awhile
Outthere tolls the bell
Mine last hour to spell
Within my weary heart
Listen doors open apart
Formy farewell“ Purabi’s (*) melody (*) aRaga
Graces sunset’s crimson ecstasy.
Those nobles I recollect still,
Myjourney ahead illuminate they will
Atyour final homage with their gift
Myworship lamp I’ll lift.
Before the gaze of the Milky Way
Atthe final hour of the day
Mysilent lute“ its faint choir
AtYour feet will surrender.

Andbehind remaining
Myun-flowered Nagkeshar seedling
Andthe love at this shore
Myferry to link no more.
Onmy nostalgic departure
MayI look back at my memoir
Atthe end of my weary night
While on eternal flight.

55. Poem No.2 of the book ‘Seshlekha'(Last writings) written on 7 may, 1940, a yearbefore the death of the Poet at the age of 80.

[Translator’s note: Tagore’s philosophy of Death abounds his literature. The notes onPoem Mo. 39 of the book ‘Sesh Saptak’ (=Last Seven) Sl. 62 of this book mayappear relevant to this poem also. Further, he rejects the doctrine of Mayapropounded by the Indian and other philosophies, dismissing Creation’s marvelsin the form of life, beauty etc. as mere illusion.]

Death merely portends its shadow
Heavenly nectar of life it can’t swallow
Yetunto the grip of matter insensate“
This conviction is beyond debate.

Love’s treasure in Universe immense
Will forfeit it in totality thence,
Such a pirate omnipotent,
InCreation’s nook and corner is non-existent.

Theutmost truth I perceive,
Latent therein the utmost falsity to deceive
ForExistence, this extreme ignominy
I’msure, tunes not with Creator’s harmony.

Forchange, everything rushes hence,
Andthat is Time’s essence
SoDeath’s appearance all else will outlast
Surely, in this Universe be a falsity must.

Theperception that realized Creation as true,
I,its spawn , witness it too
Myprimordial self sanctioned it so,
Which I ratify as its part though.

56. Poem No: 16 of the book ‘Arogya’ (Cure) written on 13 Feb. 1941, a few months beforethe death of the Poet at the age of 80

[Translator’s note: While at the brink of death, the Poet looks back to the past toassess his own lapses. But how those close to him assessed him? The followingquote from Maitrayee Devi’s ‘Tagore by Fireside’ may answer ‘We believe thatthe great Poet will shine brightly, live truly in the life of the posterity.But that is hardly enough. This person, reflecting a divine existence in amortal body, a super excellent work of the Artist, where will he go? Immortalityof his works can hardly make good that loss¦’
Maitrayee Devi wrote her book based onthe notes she used to keep daily when the Poet was intermittently her guest atthe hill station Mangpu (near Darjeeling) from 1938 to 1940.]

Days follow days,
Reticent, my time I laze
Allgifts of life I reckon
Recompensed how much of my loan?
Mypreserve and squander
Howmuch they differ?
What eroded out of neglect
Howmuch dues did I get
Orpaid that I did owe,
What remnants I’ve for my last go?
Those who came close and eluded,
Inwhich melody is their touch laid?
Unmindful, whom did I slight,
Mylapses, some pardoned might
Behind my back, without a word
Invain their departing steps sound in my heart.
IfI have mistaken, its trial
When I’m no more, will persist for vial?
Many a thread snapped of life’s garment,
Nomore time remains those to mend.
Mylove continuum at life’s brink
Ifany disgrace will sore it to stink,
Hands of Death, I wonder
Will remedy it for ever?

57. Poem No: 8 of the book Janmadine (On my birthday) written on Poet’s 80thbirthday at Mangpu, a hill station near Darjeeling.

[Translator’s note: On his80th and last birthday in 1940 the Poet happened to be at Mangpu asa guest of Maitrayee Devi. I would give as follows the context of this poemwhich, hopefully, will help the readers better understand its message. It isonly a quote from the book ‘Tagore By Fireside’ by Maitrayee Devi“
“The twenty-fifth Baisakh (this month on the Bengali calendarsynchronizes with the mid-April to mid-May period of the Gregorian calendar)“the Poet’s birthday“ was near. It was our good fortune that he would be at ourhome that day. Yet, this was a small village, consisting mostly of illiteratepeople. We rocked our brains about how to celebrate this day properly. Finallywe decided that the labourers should be invited- all illiterate hill-folk andwe would have same kind of festival that they have. Amiya-babu said, ‘I know hewill like it. There have been enough functions with high-brow, there will be acharm in this festival with the simple people.’ The Poet was waiting eagerlyfor the function. He was never too old for any new experience..The grand oldman of the village, a Buddhist, squatted in front of him, burnt incense andsang a hymn to Buddha. The Poet answered him by reading from Upanishada (morethan 4000 year old Indian scripture), which of course the Buddhist did notunderstand. That afternoon the Poet wrote three poems, all were titled’Janmadin’ (Birthday). He mentioned the old Buddhist in one of them. In theevening people streamed in“ poor hill folks, our neighbours. Sanai (a type offlute) was played and everyone stood silent, as the Poet was wheeled in hischair among them clad in yellow garments, garlanded and bedecked in sandalpaste, he looked a heavenly figure. The chair was pushed slowly along thegarden walk, the hill folk came one by one, bowed and offered him flowers. TheTibetans offered Kharda (a scarf meant for high Lamas) instead of garlands. Inthe end he was almost hidden behind the mass of flowers. Afterwards he washelped to sit under the chestnut tree and the Bhutanese people started a vigourousdevil dance. Hundreds of people sat in rows- food was served to them on leaf plates. The Poet said to me- ‘Youserve them yourselves’. After the function was over, he said“
‘How do you feel, tired?’
‘Why should I feel tired?’
‘Shouldn’t you? You started from before daylight- now go and have a goodsleep.’
‘We could never imagine that you would be among us on this day.’
‘That is called lack of imagination.’
Next day we all sat around him. He wasto read the poems that had been written the day before. But Sudhakanta-babu hadcome to tell him the unhappy news the Poet would have to be told about thedeath of his dearest nephew. ‘Listen to the poems- here is a memoir of Mangpu“’…”
He then read out two of the poems he had written the previous day. Alittle after the reading was over, Sudhakanta-babu said“ ‘here is a bad news’.’Bad news? What bad news? Is Suren’s (the Poet’s dearest nephew) conditionworse?’ ‘He is no more. The news came yesterday, but I did not tell you among thecrowd of people.’ ‘If you had done, I shouldn’t have been able to hold up myhead’.
We left him to himself. He sat quietly- with his eyes closed. I watchedhim from behind, silently disciplining his emotion. The whole day he did notspeak, though he went on doing his work as usual. In the evening he wrote apoem and called it ‘Death’. Giving it to me he said,- ‘Let this one also gowith the ‘Birthday’ poems to Prabasi (a renowned monthly literary Bengalimagazine of that time).’
He was sitting in the balcony in the darkness. I felt the acuteness ofthe pain he was bearing with patience. Once he said,-
‘No one will ever know what an extraordinary man he was. One so great,one so good, one the very best among men, was hidden from people’s eyes andwent away unknown. Only those who knew him, know how rare it is to find a manlike him.”

To-day, on my birthday,
Piercing through it ceremonial gay,
Has reached the death news,
Of my dear one , with grief profuse
Its smoldering fire
My spirit does inspire
As in the dusk the setting Sun
Anoints the forehead with its burn,
On the evening sky,
With crimson, it to glorify“
The face of the coming night
Turns golden bright
So does its burning passion
To my life’s western horizon.

In its light
Perennial life came to my sight
That with death is integral
Its glory divulged in brilliant dazzle
Eclipsed so long by my fate miser
Now to reveal its divinity for ever.

58. Poem No: 22 of the book Rogsajjay (In Sick Bed)

[Translator’s note: Tagore’s conviction was that human life is only a part of hisendless journey which is consistent with the Hindu belief in re-incarnation.Maitrayee Devi’s depiction of the Poet’s séances in her book ‘MangputeRabindranath’ (Translated version“ ‘Tagore By Fireside’) as she heard directlyfrom the Poet, makes interesting reading. Amazingly, manners of the replies bythe respondent souls (at least so believed) over the planchetté to the queriesput to them matched with their wont as noticed in their lifetime, as the Poetexemplified. He is thus inclined to believe that there is a link between thepre and post-mortem stages of mortals and it might be that the latter is for amuch wider fulfillment, though not evident in earthly life, as he holds in thiswonderful poem. The poem was written only a month before his death in 1941]

At midday, while somnolent,
Maybe I just dreamt,
That the shell of my existence
Shed off as redundant
Into a river stream- I know not its name,
Along with all its celebrity and fame
Whatever wealth of the miser
All ignominy’s memoir.
Records of all gratification,
Glory or humiliation,
Swept along the billows“
Icouldn’t reverse its course.
Reasons my selfless self,
As into my losses I delve
Which one struck me severest?
No, not in my past was my best“
With which my days and nights
Passed in euphoria and blights
That is in my future
Which I could never capture“
In which is my desire latent
As the seed underground dreamt
Through the long night
For the arrival of the light.

59. Poem “Punarabartan” (Re-incarnation) from the book Geetali (Music) written in BuddhaGaya in 1914.

Translator’s note: The Hindu belief in re-incarnation may conflict with the scientific mindset ifwe try to interpret it in a physical sense. But even scientists will never beable to explain the mystery behind the mortal life which apparently terminateswhile new life re-appears. Are these totally isolated phenomenon or linked up?The Poet is inclined to accept the latter. Incidentally, recital of this piecegoes both as a poem as well as a song, the starting of which in Bengali is asfollows“

Abar jadi ichcha karo abar ashi phire,
Dukkha sukhar dheu khelano ei sagarertire

Here I revert to if you’ll wish so
This shore dashed by the waves of weal and woe.
Float my boat again,
On the dust play my game“
Run after the elusive golden deer
Only to flood in tear.
In the dark night, on the road thorny
Again I start my journey“
Either to succumb to my injury
Or survive its fury.
Again in disguise me to beguile
You play with me all in smile
With my renewed mirth
Again I love this Earth.

60. Poem no: 18 of the book ‘Patraput’ (Folded leaf) written in 1937.

[Translator’s note: Tagore left for us a ocean of literature in which the highestaesthetic qualities and deepest philosophical/spiritual/emotional perceptionsrun through. His songs, possibly more endowed with such qualities numberingabout 2500, though only a small fraction of his vast work, is unparallel-ed inthe history of literature and music. Like me, who are not voracious readers,neither have time for such hobby amidst their daily chores, or so they think,can at best pick up pebbles at the shore of this ocean. Yet, that alone canexalt them to a great height of these perceptions where volumes of otherleading literatures fail. To audience a Rabindrasangeet (Tagore’s song) and/orhis poem at once makes us conscious about our awful limitations in these toplevel faculties while gaining a momentary passage to these during theirrecitals. One may appreciate the claim that only Tagore could pen the followingpoem of all the scribes in the literary history.]

OPoet! Words upon words you pile,
Dayand night, now stop awhile
Toponder“ as you heighten your verbiage
Towering without bondage“
Inendless structural craze
Nonstop its audacity all to amaze.
Oblivious you are of halt’s finality
That there is your art’s liberty
That only in the temple of speech
Will take seat the non-vocal deity
Thefinal message in heavenly tranquility
Will dawn as you beseech.
Keep room for silence enormous
Asyour store you amass
Tobuild your inane Himalayan tower
Ablockade to heaven’s nectarous shower.
Toheaping insanity if you will stick,
Theyield is a burden without frolic.
Whendue, if it declines to pause
Building nests ceaseless will be the cause
Tocripple the might
Ofthe bird’s wings for his final flight.
So stop
Asthe dusk does fall
Inthe shade less luminous hall
Forday’s verbosity
Signaling peace of eternity
Arrives the time for utter drain out
Fornight’s deepest joy after long bout.
Your lute with hundred string
Dance of delight it brings
Inceaseless stir“
Letbehind the curtain it pass far
There for the solitude
With music absolute.
Streams of utter emotion
Belost in un-divulged ocean.

61. Poem No: 10 of Patraput written at Santiniketan in 1935, 6 years before the Poet’s death.

[Translator’s note: Through his various dissertations Tagore lucidly explained different parts ofUpanishad, the scripture for mankind left by the Indian sages nearly 5000 yearsback. Like me who do not have access to the original Upanishad for lack ofcommand over Sanskrit, the language in which it was composed, may find Tagore’sessays/poems as the best guide to this great scripture. Thus is one of thenumerous annotations on Upanishad by Tagore -]

“Those who are craven take this world ascomprising impediments only which impair their vision and hope. So they knowonly the impediments as the truth, but not the real truth. But he who is great,sees the truth instantly beyond all impediments. That is why there is a gulf ofdifference between their thoughts. When everybody is in chorus that they seeonly darkness, he can assert- “Beyond all darkness I have seen Him who is greatand luminous. (Upanishad)”

This annotation resounds in this poem alsowhich helps us share the poet’s glimpse of the ultimate truth beyond the dailytorments of this mortal world.

For long is carrying my body
Small moments’ rage, enmity and anxiety“
Overshadowing soul’s liberty
With his own ambiguity.

With Truth’s mask Truth he will conceal,
His doll with Death’s clay build he will
Yet, Death will trace in it if,
It will be his grief.
His play is for self deception,
But that it is play is never his conviction.
Offerings to Death he will relentlessly pile,
Spin in rotations of tear and smile
With the steam and bubbles of woos
And ignominies he boos.
Daily his ego shoots fiery missiles
Only ash from void piles.

In search of my inner self
Into the light I delve
That every morning will reveal,
In it, Creation’s serenity to feel.
I take apart my soul from this body
Out of all futile anxiety
Caught in the soiled trap of many an hour
There for ablution in heavenly shower
Where rests the silent mail
Whose invitation never did I hail.
Then I recall“ O Sun,
The saints’ prayer ages back done“
“O Luminous, shrouds your golden bowl
Truth, our final goal
Unfold it O Gracious!”
Of which I be conscious“
To extend my awakening
Along His rays from horizon every morning.
I pray- O Sun, lift this lid, my body
Comprising atoms and molecules shoddy
Of your radiating mass
That hide the Ultimate enormous“
Be that mystery revealed in my vision clear
Your holiest exuberance may I peer.
My innermost truth that was latent
In your vastness without an extent
Along with the un-devised earth
Is yours only, at your mirth.
At your splendor’s brim
Humans sighted their nobility supreme“
That from age to age you did compile
By the Persian Gulf, Himalayas or Nile.
Said they“ “Sons of the Immortal we are“
Did vision that Superman
From beyond the darkness, blazing golden.”

62. Poem No: 39 of the book ‘SeshSaptak’ written in 1933, about 8 years beforehis death in 1941 at the age of 80.

[Translator’s note: Tagore’s wonderfulinterpretation of Upanishad is found in a large number of his essays whichhelps us understand this oldest scripture of mankind in Sanskrit which fountedfrom the profound spiritual inspiration of the sages of ancient India more than4000 years back. The following quote from Tagore’s essay ‘Dukkha’ (=Woe) is asample of such interpretation which also appears to me very relevant to thispoem on Death, the extreme form of woe according to the limited perceptions oflesser mortals like us. Only a saintly frame of mind, as the poet had, canperceive Death in the vast canvas of Creation where Death’s severity is sodiluted.
“Those who lack in spiritual and devotional power, want to perceive astotal truth the manifestation of God only amidst happiness, pleasure andwealth. They say, wealth and fame are gift of God, beauty evinces Him and thatworldly success is His blessing and reward for our virtuosity. Benevolence ofGod, to them, is tender and piteous. These infirm with their euphoric reveriestake the mercy of God as an aid to their greed, delusion and cowardice withtheir fragmented fads. But O Awful, where do I confine Your mercy and joy? Onlyin my happiness, wealth and a panicles life? Shall I have to split woes,hazards, fear and death to juxtapose against You for my knowledge about You?Not so. O Lord, You are sorrow, hazard, fear and death. The blazing flames ofYour face are gutting out the mortals, Your vigour is warming up the wholeworld. O Terrible, we can get rid of the illusion of grief and death only bysighting Your awful for. Else, in Your world we have to go around with acoward’s inhibition, failing to surrender totally to Truth. Then I address Youas Benevolent and implore Your mercy and, on its denial, complain against Youand lament for my protection from You. But O Terrible, I beg of You thatstrength which will enable me to deem Your mercy not for my self-comfort andnarrow utilities to deprive myself with Your incomplete perception. Let me notdeceive myself by approaching You with a trembling heart and a moistened eyesto earn Your compassion. From age to age You are rescuing Man from untruth toTruth, from darkness to illumination, from death to immortality, the journeyfor which is not one of comfort, but of the severest ordeal.”]

They came to me to say“
“O Poet, tell us about Death, pray”.
Said I, “Death is my very intimate,
Its rhythms my heart vibrate
Entangled in my vein
Joy of its flow in my blood lain.

Says He“ ‘Go ahead
With your burdens shed
Go on dying every second,
At my pull, on my moment.”

Says, “if you sit static
Everything to grip“
In your world flowers will harsh
Rivers will marsh,
The stars will fade“
Stop not”“ so He said
“Don’t look back“
Get across the old, ruins weary that slack.
I’m the Death shepherd
Driving Creation’s herd
From age to age
Pasture to pasture to graze.

When Life’s stream flowed,
Allowed it not to ditch,
Lured it past the guard of its beach
Led it to the vast sea,
That is none but me.

The Present aims permanence,
Imposes on you hence
All its load all your virtues
To this glutton you lose.
On its surfeit, this monster
Craves a stall in wake less slumber.

The Creation to rescue from the grip
Of this hibernate Present, is my severe sweep
That eternal stumbling block
To smash with my disastrous shock,
To pave the way for the pageant perennial
Of the yet to appear, those newcomers to hail.”