Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), l’un des plus grands écrivains indiens du xxe siècle, a reçu le prix Nobel de littérature en 1913. Poète, romancier, dramaturge, musicien, acteur, peintre a lutté pour l’indépendance de l’Inde, contre la partition du Bengale, et a soutenu le mouvement de Gandhi. Quatre chapitres est paru pour la première fois en français aux éditions Zulma en 2005.
SERVANT. Have mercy upon your servant, my queen!
QUEEN. The assembly is over and my servants are all gone. Why do you come at this late hour?
SERVANT. When you have finished with others, that is my time. I come to ask what remains for your last servant to do.
QUEEN. What can you expect when it is too late?
SERVANT. Make me the gardener of your flower garden.
QUEEN. What folly is this?
SERVANT. I will give up my other work.
I will throw my swords and lances down in the dust. Do not send me to distant courts; do not bid me undertake new conquests.
But make me the gardener of your flower garden.
QUEEN. What will your duties be?
SERVANT. The service of your idle days.
I will keep fresh the grassy path where you walk in the morning, where your feet will be greeted with praise at every step by the flowers eager for death.
I will swing you in a swing among the branches of the saptaparna, where the early evening moon will struggle to kiss your skirt through the leaves.
I will replenish with scented oil the lamp that burns by your bedside, and decorate your footstool with sandal and saffron paste in wondrous designs.
QUEEN. What will you have for your reward?
SERVANT. To be allowed to hold your little fists like tender lotus-buds and slip flower chains over your wrists; to tinge the soles of your feet with the red juice of ashoka petals and kiss away the speck of dust that may chance to linger there.
QUEEN. Your prayers are granted, my servant, you will be the gardener of my flower garden.
Thus, over Life's outward aspect passes the series of events, and within is being painted a set of pictures. The two correspond but are not one.
We do not get the leisure to view thoroughly this studio within us. Portions of it now and then catch our eye, but the greater part remains out of sight in the darkness. Why the ever-busy painter is painting; when he will have done; for what gallery his pictures are destined—who can tell?
Some years ago, on being questioned as to the events of my past life, I had occasion to pry into this picture-chamber. I had thought to be content with selecting some few materials for my Life's story. I then discovered, as I opened the door, that Life's memories are not Life's history, but the original work of an unseen Artist. The variegated colours scattered about are not reflections of outside lights, but belong to the painter himself, and come passion-tinged from his heart; thereby unfitting the record on the canvas for use as evidence in a court of law.
But though the attempt to gather precise history from memory's storehouse may be fruitless, there is a fascination in looking over the pictures, a fascination which cast its spell on me.
The road over which we journey, the wayside shelter in which we pause, are not pictures while yet we travel—they are too necessary, too obvious. When, however, before turning into the evening resthouse, we look back upon the cities, fields, rivers and hills which we have been through in Life's morning, then, in the light of the passing day, are they pictures indeed. Thus, when my opportunity came, did I look back, and was engrossed.
[A street. A few wayfarers, and a CITY GUARD]
First Man. Ho, Sir!
City Guard. What do you want?
Second Man. Which way should we go? We are strangers here. Please tell us which street we should take.
City Guard. Where do you want to go?
Third Man. To where those big festivities are going to be held, you know. Which way do we go?
City Guard. One street is quite as good as another here. Any street will lead you there. Go straight ahead, and you cannot miss the place. [Exit.]
First Man. Just hear what the fool says: "Any street will lead you there!" Where, then, would be the sense of having so many streets?
Second Man. You needn't be so awfully put out at that, my man. A country is free to arrange its affairs in its own way. As for roads in our country—well, they are as good as non-existent; narrow and crooked lanes, a labyrinth of ruts and tracks. Our King does not believe in open thoroughfares; he thinks that streets are just so many openings for his subjects to fly away from his kingdom. It is quite the contrary here; nobody stands in your way, nobody objects to your going elsewhere if you like to; and yet the people are far from deserting this kingdom. With such streets our country would certainly have been depopulated in no time.
First Man. My dear Janardan, I have always noticed that this is a great fault in your character.
Janardan. What is?
First Man. That you are always having a fling at your country. How can you think that open highways may be good for a country? Look here, Kaundilya; here is a man who actually believes that open highways are the salvation of a country.
Kaundilya. There is no need, Bhavadatta, of my pointing out afresh that Janardan is blessed with an intelligence which is remarkably crooked, which is sure to land him in danger some day. If the King comes to hear of our worthy friend, he will make it a pretty hard job for him to find any one to do him his funeral rites when he is dead.
Bhavadatta. One can't help feeling that life becomes a burden in this country; one misses the joys of privacy in these streets—this jostling and brushing shoulders with strange people day and night makes one long for a bath. And nobody can tell exactly what kind of people you are meeting with in these public roads—ugh!
Kaundilya. And it is Janardan who persuaded us to come to this precious country! We never had any second person like him in our family. You knew my father, of course; he was a great man, a pious man if ever there was one. He spent his whole life within a circle of a radius of 49 cubits drawn with a rigid adherence to the injunctions of the scriptures, and never for a single day did he cross this circle. After his death a serious difficulty arose—how cremate him within the limits of the 49 cubits and yet outside the house? At length the priests decided that though we could not go beyond the scriptural number, the only way out of the difficulty was to reverse the figure and make it 94 cubits; only thus could we cremate him outside the house without violating the sacred books. My word, that was strict observance! Ours is indeed no common country.
Darkly you sweep on, Eternal Fugitive, round whose bodiless rush stagnant space frets into eddying bubbles of light.
Is your heart lost to the Lover calling you across his immeasurable loneliness?
Is the aching urgency of your haste the sole reason why your tangled tresses break into stormy riot and pearls of fire roll along your path as from a broken necklace? Your fleeting steps kiss the dust of this world into sweetness, sweeping aside all waste; the storm centred with your dancing limbs shakes the sacred shower of death over life and freshens her growth.
Should you in sudden weariness stop for a moment, the world would rumble into a heap, an encumbrance, barring its own progress, and even the least speck of dust would pierce the sky throughout its infinity with an unbearable pressure. My thoughts are quickened by this rhythm of unseen feet round which the anklets of light are shaken.
They echo in the pulse of my heart, and through my blood surges the psalm of the ancient sea.
I hear the thundering flood tumbling my life from world to world and form to form, scattering my being in an endless spray of gifts, in sorrowings and songs. The tide runs high, the wind blows, the boat dances like thine own desire, my heart!
Leave the hoard on the shore and sail over the unfathomed dark towards limitless light.
We came hither together, friend, and now at the cross-roads I stop to bid you farewell.
Your path is wide and straight before you, but my call comes up by ways from the unknown.
I shall follow wind and cloud; I shall follow the stars to where day breaks behind the hills; I shall follow lovers who, as they walk, twine their days into a wreath on a single thread of song, "I love."
The Heralds of Spring are abroad. There are songs in the rustling bamboo leaves, in birds' nests, and in blossoming branches.
The purple secondary curtain1 goes up, disclosing the elevated rear stage with a skyey background of dark blue, on which appear the horn of the crescent moon and the silver points of stars. Trees in the foreground, with two rope swings entwined with garlands of flowers. Flowers everywhere in profusion. On the extreme left the mouth of a dark cavern dimly seen. Boys representing the "Bamboo" disclosed, swinging.
Song of the Bamboo
O South Wind, the Wanderer, come and rock me,
Rouse me into the rapture of new leaves.
I am the wayside bamboo tree, waiting for your breath
To tingle life into my branches.
O South Wind, the Wanderer, my dwelling is in the end of the lane.
I know your wayfaring, and the language of your footsteps.
Your least touch thrills me out of my slumber,
Your whisper gleans my secrets.
(Enter a troop of girls, dancing, representing birds.)
Song of the Bird
The sky pours its light into our hearts,
We fill the sky with songs in answer.
We pelt the air with our notes
When the air stirs our wings with its madness.
O Flame of the Forest,
All your flower-torches are ablaze;
You have kissed our songs red with the passion of your youth.
In the spring breeze the mango-blossoms launch their messages to the unknown
And the new leaves dream aloud all day.
O Sirish, you have cast your perfume-net round our hearts,
Drawing them out in songs.
(Disclosed among the branches of trees, suddenly lighted up, boys representing champak blossoms.)