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The crescent moon : child-poems online

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roaring and struggling among the bamboo
branches like a wild beast tangled in a net.

38 The Crescent Moon


DAY by day I float my paper boats one
by one down the running stream.


In big black letters I write my name on
them and the name of the village wiiere I live.

I hope that someone in some strange land
will find them and know who I am.

I load my little boats with shiuli flowers
from our garden, and hope that these blooms
of the dawn will be carried safely to land in
the night.

I launch my paper boats and look up into
the sky and see the little clouds setting their
white bulging sails.

I know not what playmate of mine in the
sky sends them down the air to race with my
boats !

When night comes I bury my face in my



From a drawing by Surendranath Ganguh.

Child-Poems 39

arms and dream that my paper boats float on
and on under the midnight stars.

The fairies of sleep are sailing in them, and
the lading is their baskets full of dreams.

40 The Crescent Moon


THE boat of the boatman Madhu is
moored at the wharf of Rajgunj.

It is uselessly laden with jute, and has been
lying there idle for ever so long.

If he would only lend me his boat, I should
man her with a hundred oars, and hoist sails,
five or six or seven.

I should never steer her to stupid markets.

I should sail the seven seas and the thirteen
rivers of fairyland.

But, mother, you won't weep for me in a

I am not going into the forest like Rama-
chandra to come back only after fourteen

Child-Poems 41

I shall become the prince of the story, and
fill my boat with whatever I like.

I shall take my friend Ashu with me. We
shall sail merrily across the seven seas and
the thirteen rivers of fairyland.

We shall set sail in the early morning

When at noontide you are bathing at the
pond, we shall be in the land of a strange

We shall pass the ford of Tirpurni, and
leave behind us the desert of Tepantar.

When we come back it will be getting dark,
and I shall tell you of all that we have seen.

I shall cross the seven seas and the thirteen
rivers of fairyland.

42 The Crescent Moon


I LONG to go over there to the further
bank of the river,

Where those boats are tied to the bamboo
poles in a line ;

Where men cross over in their boats in the
morning with ploughs on their shoulders to
till their far-away fields ;

Where the cowherds make their lowing
cattle swim across to the riverside pasture;

Whence they all come back home in the
evening, leaving the jackals to howl in the
island overgrown with weeds.

Mother, if you don't mind, I should like to
become the boatman of the ferry when I am
grown up.

They say there are strange pools hidden
behind that high bank,

Child-Poems 43

Where flocks of wild ducks come when the
rains are over, and thick reeds grow round
the margins where waterbirds lay their

Where snipes with their dancing tails
stamp their tiny footprints upon the clean
soft mud;

Where in the evening the tall grasses crested
with white flowers invite the moonbeam to float
upon their waves.

Mother, if you don't mind, I should like to
become the boatman of the ferryboat when I
am grown up.

I shall cross and cross back from bank to
bank, and all the boys and girls of the village
will wonder at me while they are bathing.

When the sun climbs the mid sky and
morning wears on to noon, I shall come
running to you, saying, "Mother, I am

When the day is done and the shadows

The Crescent Moon

cower under the trees, I shall come back in
the dusk.

I shall never go away from you into the
town to work like father.

Mother, if you don't mind, I should like to
become the boatman of the ferryboat when I
am grown up.

Child-Poems 45


WHEN storm clouds rumble in the sky
and June showers come down,
The moist east wind comes marching over
the heath to blow its bagpipes among the

Then crow r ds of flo\vers come out of a sud-
den, from nobody knows where, and dance
upon the grass in wild glee.

Mother, I really think the flowers go to
school underground.

They do their lessons with doors shut, and
if they want to come out to play before it is
time, their master makes them stand in a

When the rains come they have their

46 The Crescent Moon

Branches clash together in the forest, and
the leaves rustle in the wild wind, the thunder-
clouds clap their giant hands and the flower
children rush out in dresses of pink and yellow
and white.

Do you know, mother, their home is in the
sky, where the stars are.

Haven't you seen how eager they are to
get there? Don't you know why they are in
such a hurry?

Of course, I can guess to whom they raise
their arms: they have their mother as I have
my own.


From a drawing' by Asit Kumar Haliiar.

Child-Poems 47


IMAGINE, mother, that you are to stay at
home and I am to travel into strange

Imagine that my boat is ready at the land-
ing fully laden.

Now think well, mother, before you say
what I shall bring for you when I come

Mother, do you want heaps and heaps of

There, by the banks of golden streams,
fields are full of golden harvest.

And in the shade of the forest path the
golden champ a flowers drop on the ground.

I will gather them all for you in many
hundred baskets.

48 The Crescent Moon

Mother, do you want pearls big as the rain-
drops of autumn?

I shall cross to the pearl island shore.

There in the early morning light pearls
tremble on the meadow flowers, pearls drop
on the grass, and pearls are scattered on the
sand in spray by the wild sea-waves.

My brother shall have a pair of horses with
wings to fly among the clouds.

For father I shall bring a magic pen that,
without his knowing, will write of itself.

For you, mother, I must have the casket
and jewel that cost seven kings their king-

Child-Poems 49


F I were only a little puppy, not your baby,

mother dear, would you say "No" to me
if I tried to eat from your dish?

Would you drive me off, saying to me, "Get
away, you naughty little puppy?"

Then go, mother, go! I will never come
to you when you call me, and never let you
feed me any more.


If I were only a little green parrot, and
not your baby, mother dear, would you keep
me chained lest I should fly away?

Would you shake your finger at me and
say, 'What an ungrateful wretch of a bird!
It is gnawing at its chain day and night?"

Then, go, mother, go! I will run away
into the woods; I will never let you take me
in your arms again.

50 The Crescent Moon


WHEN the gong sounds ten in the morn-
ing and I walk to school by our lane,

Everyday I meet the hawker crying,
"Bangles, crystal bangles 1"

There is nothing to hurry him on, there is
no road he must take, no place he must go
to, no time when he must come home.

I wish I were a hawker, spending my
day in the road, crying, * 'Bangles, crystal

When at four in the afternoon I come back
from the school.

I can see through the gate of that house
the gardener digging the ground.

He does what he likes with his spade, he
soils his clothes with dust, noboby takes him

Child-Poems 51

to task if he gets baked in the sun or gets

I wish I were a gardener digging away at
the garden with nobody to stop me from

Just as it gets dark in the evening and my
mother sends me to bed,

I can see through my open window the
watchman walking up and down.

The lane is dark and lonely and the street-
lamp stands like a giant with one red eye in
its head.

The watchman swings his lantern and
walks with his shadow at his side, and never
once goes to bed in his life.

I wish I were a watchman walking the
streets all night, chasing the shadows with my

52 The Crescent Moon


MOTHER, your baby is silly ! She is so
absurdly childish !

She does not know the difference between
the lights in the streets and the stars.

When we play at eating with pebbles, she
thinks they are real food, and tries to put
them into her mouth.

When I open a book before her and ask
her to learn her a, b, c, she tears the leaves
with her hands and roars for joy at noth-
ing; this is your baby's way of doing her

When I shake my head at her in anger and
scold her and call her naughty, she laughs and
thinks it great fun.

Everybody knows that father is away, but,
if in play I call aloud "Father," she looks

Child-Poems 53

about her in excitement and thinks that
father is near.

When I hold my class with the donkeys
that our washerman brings to carry away the
clothes and I warn her that I am the school-
master, she will scream for no reason and call
me dada. 1

Your baby wants to catch the moon. She
is so funny ; she calls Ganesh 2 Ganush.

Mother, your baby is silly, she is so
absurdly childish!

1 Elder brother.

2 Ganesh, a common name in India, also that of the god
with the elephant's head.

54 The Crescent Moon


I AM small because I am a little child. I
shall be big when I am as old as my
father is.

My teacher will come and say, "It is late,
bring your slate and your books."

I shall tell him, "Do you not know I am
as big as father? And I must not have
lessons any more."

My master will wonder and say, "He can
leave his books if he likes, for he is grown up."

I shall dress myself and walk to the fair
where the crowd is thick.

My uncle will come rushing up to me and
say, "You will get lost, my boy; let me carry

I shall answer, "Can't you see, uncle, I am

Child-Poems 55

as big as father? I must go to the fair

Uncle will say, "Yes, he can go wherever
he likes, for he is grown up."

Mother will come from her bath when I
am giving money to my nurse, for I
shall know how to open the box with my

Mother will say, "What are you about,
naughty child?"

I shall tell her, "Mother, don't you know,
I am as big as father, and I must give silver
to my nurse."

Mother will say to herself, "He can give
money to whom he likes, for he is grown

In the holiday time in October father will
come home and, thinking that I am still a
baby, will bring for me from the town little
shoes and small silken frocks.

56 The Crescent Moon

I shall say, "Father, give them to my
dada, 1 for I am as big as you are."

Father will think and say, "He can buy
his own clothes if he likes, for he is grown up."

1 Elder brother.

Child-Poems 57


OTHER, I do want to leave off my
lessons now. I have been at my book
all the morning.

You say it is only twelve o'clock. Sup-
pose it isn't any later; can't you ever think
it is afternoon when it is only twelve o'clock?

I can easily imagine now that the sun has
reached the edge of that rice-field, and the
old fisher-woman is gathering herbs for her
supper by the side of the pond.

I can just shut my eyes and think that the
shadows are growing darker under the madar
tree, and the water in the pond looks shiny

If twelve o'clock can come in the night,
why can't the night come when it is twelve

58 The Crescent Moon


YOU say that father writes a lot of
books, but what he writes I don't

He was reading to you all the evening, but
could you really make out what he meant?

What nice stories, mother, you can tell us!
Why can't father write like that, I wonder?

Did he never hear from his own mother
stories of giants and fairies and princesses?

Has he forgotten them all?

Often when he gets late for his bath you
have to go and call him an hundred times.

You wait and keep his dishes warm for
him, but he goes on writing and forgets.

Father always plays at making books.

Child-Poems 59

If ever I go to play in father's room, you
come and call me, "what a naughty child!"

If I make the slightest noise, you say,
"Don't you see that father's at his work?' 3

What's the fun of always writing and
writing ?

When I take up father's pen or pencil and
write upon his book just as he does, a, b, c,
d, e, f, g, h, i, why do you get cross with
me, then, mother ?

You never say a word when father writes.


When my father wastes such heaps of
paper, mother, you don't seem to mind at

But if I take only one sheet to make a boat
with, you say, "Child, how troublesome you
are !"

What do you think of father's spoiling
sheets and sheets of paper with black marks
all over on both sides?

60 The Crescent Moon


WHY do you sit there on the floor so
quiet and silent, tell me, mother dear?

The rain is coming in through the open win-
dow, making you all wet, and you don't
mind it.

Do you hear the gong striking four? It
is time for my brother to come home from

What has happened to you that you look
so strange ?

Haven't you got a letter from father

I saw the postman bringing letters in his
bag for almost everybody in the town.

Only, father's letters he keeps to read him-
self. I am sure the postman is a wicked

Child-Poems 61

But don't be unhappy about that, mother

To-morrow is market day in the next vil-
lage. You ask your maid to buy some pens
and papers.

I myself will write all father's letters; you
will not find a single mistake.

I shall write from A right up to K.

But, mother, why do you smile?

You don't believe that I can write as nicely
as father does!

But I shall rule my paper carefully, and
write all the letters beautifully big.

When I finish my writing, do you think I
shall be so foolish as father and drop it into
the horrid postman's bag?

I shall bring it to you myself without wait-
ing, and letter by letter help you to read my

I know the postman does not like to give
you the really nice letters.

62 The Crescent Moon


MOTHER, let us imagine we are travel-
ling and passing through a strange
and dangerous country.

You are riding in a palanquin and I am
trotting by you on a red horse.

It is evening and the sun goes down. The
waste of Joradighi lies wan and grey before
us. The land is desolate and barren.

You are frightened and thinking "I know
not where we have come to."

I say to you, "Mother, do not be afraid."

The meadow is prickly with spiky grass,
and through it runs a narrow broken path.

There are no cattle to be seen in the
wide field; they have gone to their village


From a drawing by Nandalall Base.

Child-Poems 68

It grows dark and dim on the land and sky,
and we cannot tell where we are going.

Suddenly you call me and ask me in
a whisper, "What light is that near the

Just then there bursts out a fearful yell,
and figures come running towards us.

You sit crouched in your palanquin and
repeat the names of the gods in prayer.

The bearers, shaking in terror, hide them-
selves in the thorny bush.

I shout to you, "Don't be afraid, mother,
I am here."

With long sticks in their hands and hair
all wild about their heads, they come nearer
and nearer.

I shout, "Have a care! you villains! One
step more and you are dead men."

They give another terrible yell and rush

64 The Crescent Moon

You clutch my hand and say, "Dear boy,
for heaven's sake, keep away from them."
I say, "Mother, just you watch me."

Then I spur my horse for a wild gallop, and
my sword and buckler clash against each

The fight becomes so fearful, mother, that
it would give you a cold shudder could you
see it from your palanquin.

Many of them fly, and a great number are
cut to pieces.

I know you are thinking, sitting all by
yourself, that your boy must be dead by this

But I come to you all stained with
blood, and say, "Mother, the fight is over


You come out and kiss me, pressing me to
your heart, and you say to yourself,

"I don't know what I should do if I hadn't
my boy to escort me."

Child-Poems 65

A thousand useless things happen day after
day, and why couldn't such a thing come true
by chance?

It would be like a story in a book.

My brother would say, "Is it possible? I
always thought he was so delicate!"

Our village people would all say in amaze-
ment, "Was it not lucky that the boy was with
his mother?"

66 The Crescent Moon


IT is time for me to go, mother ; I am going.
When in the paling darkness of the lonely
dawn you stretch out your arms for your baby
in the bed, I shall say, "Baby is not there!"
mother, I am going.

I shall become a delicate draught of air
and caress you; and I shall be ripples in the
water when you bathe, and kiss you and kiss
you again.

In the gusty night when the rain patters
on the leaves you will hear my whisper in
your bed, and my laughter will flash with the
lightning through the open window into your

If you lie awake, thinking of your baby till
late into the night, I shall sing to you from
the stars, "Sleep, mother, sleep/'

Child-Poems 671

On the straying moonbeams I shall steal
over your bed, and lie upon your bosom while
you sleep.

I shall become a dream, and through the
little opening of your eyelids I shall slip into
the depths of your sleep, and when you wake
up and look round startled, like a twinkling
firefly I shall flit out into the darkness.

When, on the great festival of puja f the
neighbours' children corne and play about the
house, I shall melt into the music of the flute
and throb in your heart all day.

Dear auntie will come with puja-pTesents
and will ask, "Where is our baby, sister?"
Mother, you will tell her softly, "He is in
the pupils of my eyes, he is in my body and
in my soul."

68 The Crescent Moon


THE night was dark when she went away,
and they slept.

The night is dark now, and I call for her,
"Come back, my darling; the world is asleep;
and no one would know, if you came for a
moment while stars are gazing at stars."

She went away when the trees were in bud
and the spring was young.

Now the flowers are in high bloom and I
call, "Come back, my darling. The children
gather and scatter flowers in reckless sport.
And if you come and take one little blossom
no one will miss it."

Those that used to play are playing still,
so spendthrift is life.

Child-Poems 69

I listen to their chatter and call, "Come
back, my darling, for mother's heart is full
to the brim with love, and if you come to
snatch only one little kiss from her no one will
grudge it."

70 The Crescent Moon


AH, these jasmines, these white jas-

I seem to remember the first day when I
filled my hands with these jasmines, these white

I have loved the sunlight, the sky and the
green earth ;

I have heard the liquid murmur of the river
through the darkness of midnight;

Autumn sunsets have come to me at the
bend of a road in the lonely waste, like a bride
raising her veil to accept her lover.

Yet my memory is still sweet with the first
white jasmines that I held in my hand when I
was a child.

Many a glad day has come in my life, and

Child-Poems 71

I have laughed with merrymakers on festival

On grey mornings of rain I have crooned
many an idle song.

I have worn round my neck the evening
wreath of bakulas woven by the hand of

Yet my heart is sweet with the memory
of the first fresh jasmines that filled my hands
when I was a child.

72 The Crescent Moon


OYOU shaggy-headed banyan tree
standing on the bank of the pond, have
you forgotten the little child, like the birds that
have nested in your branches and left you?

Do you not remember how he sat at the
window and wondered at the tangle of your
roots that plunged underground?

The women would come to fill their jars in
the pond, and your huge black shadow would
wriggle on the water like sleep struggling to
wake up.

Sunlight danced on the ripples like restless
tiny shuttles weaving golden tapestry.

Two ducks swam by the weedy margin
above their shadows, and the child would sit
still and think.

He longed to be the wind and blow

Child-Poems 73

through your rustling branches, to be your
shadow and lengthen with the day on the
water, to be a bird and perch on your topmost
twig, and to float like those ducks among the
weeds and shadows.

74 The Crescent Moon


LESS this little heart, this white soul
that has won the kiss of heaven for
our earth.

He loves the light of the sun, he loves the
sight of his mother's face.

He has not learned to despise the dust, and
to hanker after gold.

Clasp him to your heart and bless him.

He has come into this land of an hundred

I know not how he chose you from the
crowd, came to your door, and grasped your
hand to ask his way.

He will follow you, laughing and talking,
and not a doubt in his heart.

Keep his trust, lead him straight and
bless him.


From a drawing by Surendranath Ganguh.

Child-Poems 75

Lay your hand on his head, and pray that
though the waves underneath grow threaten-
ing, yet the breath from above may come and
fill his sails and waft him to the haven of

Forget him not in your hurry, let him come
to your heart and bless him.

76 The Crescent Moon


I WANT to give you something, my child,
for we are drifting in the stream of the

Our lives will be carried apart, and our
love forgotten.

But I am not so foolish as to hope that I
could buy your heart with my gifts.

Young is your life, your path long, and you
drink the love we bring you at one draught
and turn and run away from us.

You have your play and your playmates.
What harm is there if you have no time or
thought for us?

We, indeed, have leisure enough in old age
to count the days that are past, to cherish in
our hearts what our hands have lost for

Child-Poems 77

The river runs swift with a song, breaking
through all barriers. But the mountain stays
and remembers, and follows her with his love.

78 The Crescent Moon


fTT^HIS song of mine will wind its music
JL around you, my child, like the fond
arms of love.

This song of mine will touch your forehead
like a kiss of blessing.

When you are alone it will sit by your side
and whisper in your ear, when you are in the
crowd it will fence you about with aloofness.

My song will be like a pair of wings to your
dreams, it will transport your heart to the
verge of the unknown.

It will be like the faithful star overhead
when dark night is over your road.

My song will sit in the pupils of your eyes,
and will carry your sight into the heart of

And when my voice is silent in death, my
song will speak in your living heart.

Child-Poems 79


THEY clamour and fight, they doubt and
despair, they know no end to their

Let your life come amongst them like a
flame of light, my child, unflickering and
pure, and delight them into silence.

They are cruel in their greed and their envy,
their words are like hidden knives thirsting
for blood.

Go and stand amidst their scowling hearts,
my child, and let your gentle eyes fall upon
them like the forgiving peace of the evening
over the strife of the day.

Let them see your face, my child, and thus
know the meaning of all things ; let them love
you and thus love each other.

Come and take your seat in the bosom of

80 The Crescent Moon

the limitless, my child. At sunrise open and

raise your heart like a blossoming flower, and
at sunset bend your head and in silence com-
plete the worship of the day.

Child-Poems 81



OME and hire me," I cried, while in the
morning I was walking on the stone-
paved road.

Sword in hand, the King came in his

He held my hand and said, "I will hire you
with my power."

But his power counted for nought, and he
went away in his chariot.

In the heat of the midday the houses stood
. with shut doors,

I wandered along the crooked lane.

An old man came out with his bag of

He pondered and said, "I will hire you with
my money."

82 The Crescent Moon

He weighed his coins one by one, but I
turned away.

It was evening. The garden hedge was all

The fair maid came out and said, "I will
hire you with a smile."

Her smile paled and melted into tears, and
she went back alone into the dark.

The sun glistened on the sand, and the sea


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