This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales, and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new.
At the immortal touch of thy hands my little heart loses its limits in joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable.
Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine. Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill.
When thou commandest me to sing it seems that my heart would break with pride; and I look to thy face, and tears come to my eyes.
All that is harsh and dissonant in my life melts into one sweet harmony-and my adoration spreads wings like a glad bird on its flight across the sea.
I know thou takest pleasure in my singing. I know that only as a singer I come before thy presence.
STRAY birds of summer come to my window to sing and fly away.
And yellow leaves of autumn, which have no songs, flutter and fall there with a sigh.
O TROUPE of little vagrants of the world, leave your footprints in my words.
THE world puts off its mask of vastness to its lover.
It becomes small as one song, as one kiss of the eternal.
IT is the tears of the earth that keep her smiles in bloom.
THE mighty desert is burning for the love of a blade of grass who shakes her head and laughs and flies away.
IF you shed tears when you miss the sun, you also miss the stars.
HE sands in your way beg for your song and your movement, dancing water. Will you carry the burden of their lameness?
HER wistful face haunts my dreams like the rain at night.
ONCE we dreamt that we were strangers.
We wake up to find that we were dear to each other.
The daylight sank deeper and deeper into the darkness, and the widowed land, whose harvest had been reaped, lay silent.
Suddenly a boy's shrill voice rose into the sky. He traversed the dark unseen, leaving the track of his song across the hush of the evening.
His village home lay there at the end of the waste land, beyond the sugar-cane field, hidden among the shadows of the banana and the slender areca palm, the cocoa-nut and the dark green jack-fruit trees.
I stopped for a moment in my lonely way under the starlight, and saw spread before me the darkened earth surrounding with her arms countless homes furnished with cradles and beds, mothers' hearts and evening lamps, and young lives glad with a gladness that knows nothing of its value for the world.
One evening the stranger came down from the cloud-hidden peak; his locks were tangled like drowsy snakes. We asked in wonder, "Who are you?" He answered not but sat by the garrulous stream and silently gazed at the hut where she dwelt. Our hearts quaked in fear and we came back home when it was night.
Next morning when the women came to fetch water at the spring by the deodar trees, they found the doors open in her hut, but her voice was gone and where was her smiling face? The empty jar lay on the floor and her lamp had burnt itself out in the corner. No one knew where she had fled to before it was morning--and the stranger had gone.
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Madhav. What a state I am in! Before he came, nothing mattered; I felt so free. But now that he has come, goodness knows from where, my heart is filled with his dear self, and my home will be no home to me when he leaves. Doctor, do you think he--
Physician. If there's life in his fate, then he will live long. But what the medical scriptures say, it seems--
Madhav. Great heavens, what?
Physician. The scriptures have it: "Bile or palsey, cold or gout spring all alike."
Madhav. Oh, get along, don't fling your scriptures at me; you only make me more anxious; tell me what I can do.
Physician [Taking snuff] The patient needs the most scrupulous care.
Madhav. That's true; but tell me how.
Physician. I have already mentioned, on no account must he be let out of doors.
Madhav Poor child, it is very hard to keep him indoors all day long.
This inspiring collection of Tagore's poetry represent his "simple prayers of common life." Each of the seventy-seven prayers is an eloquent affirmation of the divine in the face of both joy and sorrow. Like the Psalms of David, they transcend time and speak directly to the human heart.
The spirit of this collection may be best symbolized by a single sentence by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the renowned philosopher and statesman who served as president of India: "Rabindranath Tagore was one of the few representatives of the universal person to whom the future of the world belongs."
For the first time in English, here is the sequence of poems Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941) worked on his entire life—the erotic and emotionally powerful dialogue about Lord Krishna and his young lover Radha.
These "song offerings" are the first poems Tagore ever published, though he passed them off as those of an unknown Bengali religious poet. As the first and last poems Tagore wrote and revised, they represent the entrance and exit to one of the most prolific literary lives of our contemporary world.
The translation rights to Tagore’s poetry were tightly guarded until 2001, when they entered the public domain, making publication of this book possible. These English versions are the result of a five-year collaboration between Bengali scholar Tony K. Stewart, who provided richly associative literal translations, and the celebrated poet Chase Twichell, who shaped the poems into English. This bilingual Bengali-English edition also includes the "biography" Tagore wrote of the unknown religious poet who supposedly authored these poems.
Rabindranath Tagore was born in Bengal, the youngest son of a religious reformer and scholar. He wrote successfully in all literary genres and is the author of the national anthems for both India and Bangladesh. In his mature years he managed the family estates, which brought him into close touch with common humanity and increased his interest in social reforms. He participated in the Indian nationalist movement, and was a devoted friend of Mahatma Gandhi. Tagore received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913; he was knighted in 1915 by the British Government, but later resigned the honor as a protest against British policies in India.
I. 13. mo ko kaha[n dhanro bande
O servant, where dost thou seek Me?
Lo! I am beside thee.
I am neither in temple nor in mosque: I am neither in Kaaba nor in Kailash:
Neither am I in rites and ceremonies, nor in Yoga and renunciation.
If thou art a true seeker, thou shalt at once see Me: thou shalt meet Me in a moment of time.
Kaba(R)r says, "O Sadhu! God is the breath of all breath."
I. 16. Santan ja[t na pacho nirguniya[n
It is needless to ask of a saint the caste to which he belongs;
For the priest, the warrior. the tradesman, and all the thirty-six castes, alike are seeking for God.
It is but folly to ask what the caste of a saint may be;
The barber has sought God, the washerwoman, and the carpenter-
Even Raidas was a seeker after God.
The Rishi Swapacha was a tanner by caste.
Hindus and Moslems alike have achieved that End, where remains no mark of distinction.
Tagore attempted to express in his poetry the divine spirit that he glimpsed in nature. W.B. Yeats noted that his poetry had “an innocence, a simplicity that one does not find elsewhere in nature.” It touches the soul with its serenity and lyrical quality. Gitanjali is truly a treasured companion on life’s long journey.
In 1913, Rabindranath Tagore became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, and he remains one of the most important voices of Bengali culture to this day. These short stories, written mostly in the 1890s, vividly portray Bengali life and culture. Tagore’s treatment of caste culture, bureaucracy and poverty paint a vivid portrait of nineteenth-century India, and all are interwoven with Tagore’s perceptive eye for detail, strong sense of humanity and deep affinity for the natural world. Tagore’s stories continue to rise above geographic and cultural boundaries to capture the imaginations of readers around the world.