Rabindranath Tagore.

The Gardener online

. (page 1 of 4)
Online LibraryRabindranath TagoreThe Gardener → online text (page 1 of 4)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


Produced by Chetan Jain






THE GARDENER

By Rabindranath Tagore

Translated by the author from the original Bengali

1915


[Frontispiece: Rabindranath Tagore. Age 16 - see tagore.jpg]


To W. B. Yeats



Thanks are due to the editor of _Poetry, a Magazine of Verse_, for
permission to reprint eight poems in this volume.




Preface


Most of the lyrics of love and life, the translations of which from
Bengali are published in this book, were written much earlier than the
series of religious poems contained in the book named _Gitanjali_. The
translations are not always literal - the originals being sometimes
abridged and sometimes paraphrased.

Rabindranath Tagore.



1


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.



2


"Ah, poet, the evening draws near; your hair is turning grey.
"Do you in your lonely musing hear the message of the hereafter?"

"It is evening," the poet said, "and I am listening because some
one may call from the village, late though it be.
"I watch if young straying hearts meet together, and two pairs of
eager eyes beg for music to break their silence and speak for
them.
"Who is there to weave their passionate songs, if I sit on the
shore of life and contemplate death and the beyond?

"The early evening star disappears.
"The glow of a funeral pyre slowly dies by the silent river.
"Jackals cry in chorus from the courtyard of the deserted house
in the light of the worn-out moon.
"If some wanderer, leaving home, come here to watch the night and
with bowed head listen to the murmur of the darkness, who is
there to whisper the secrets of life into his ears if I,
shutting my doors, should try to free myself from mortal bonds?

"It is a trifle that my hair is turning grey.
"I am ever as young or as old as the youngest and the oldest of
this village.
"Some have smiles, sweet and simple, and some a sly twinkle in
their eyes.
"Some have tears that well up in the daylight, and others tears
that are hidden in the gloom.
They all have need for me, and I have no time to brood over the
afterlife.
"I am of an age with each, what matter if my hair turns grey?"



3


In the morning I cast my net into the sea.
I dragged up from the dark abyss things of strange aspect and
strange beauty - some shone like a smile, some glistened like
tears, and some were flushed like the cheeks of a bride.
When with the day's burden I went home, my love was sitting in
the garden idly tearing the leaves of a flower.
I hesitated for a moment, and then placed at her feet all that I
had dragged up, and stood silent.
She glanced at them and said, "What strange things are these? I
know not of what use they are!"
I bowed my head in shame and thought, "I have not fought for
these, I did not buy them in the market; they are not fit gifts
for her."
Then the whole night through I flung them one by one into the
street.
In the morning travellers came; they picked them up and carried
them into far countries.



4


Ah me, why did they build my house by the road to the market
town?
They moor their laden boats near my trees.
They come and go and wander at their will.
I sit and watch them; my time wears on.
Turn them away I cannot. And thus my days pass by.

Night and day their steps sound by my door.
Vainly I cry, "I do not know you."
Some of them are known to my fingers, some to my nostrils, the
blood in my veins seems to know them, and some are known to my
dreams.
Turn them away I cannot. I call them and say, "Come to my house
whoever chooses. Yes, come."

In the morning the bell rings in the temple.
They come with their baskets in their hands.
Their feet are rosy red. The early light of dawn is on their
faces.
Turn them away I cannot. I call them and I say, "Come to my
garden to gather flowers. Come hither."

In the mid-day the gong sounds at the palace gate.
I know not why they leave their work and linger near my hedge.
The flowers in their hair are pale and faded; the notes are
languid in their flutes.
Turn them away I cannot. I call them and say, "The shade is cool
under my trees. Come, friends."

At night the crickets chirp in the woods.
Who is it that comes slowly to my door and gently knocks?
I vaguely see the face, not a word is spoken, the stillness of
the sky is all around.
Turn away my silent guest I cannot. I look at the face through
the dark, and hours of dreams pass by.



5


I am restless. I am athirst for far-away things.
My soul goes out in a longing to touch the skirt of the dim
distance.
O Great Beyond, O the keen call of thy flute!
I forget, I ever forget, that I have no wings to fly, that I am
bound in this spot evermore.

I am eager and wakeful, I am a stranger in a strange land.
Thy breath comes to me whispering an impossible hope.
Thy tongue is known to my heart as its very own.
O Far-to-seek, O the keen call of thy flute!
I forget, I ever forget, that I know not the way, that I have not
the winged horse.

I am listless, I am a wanderer in my heart.
In the sunny haze of the languid hours, what vast vision of thine
takes shape in the blue of the sky!
O Farthest end, O the keen call of thy flute!
I forget, I ever forget, that the gates are shut everywhere in
the house where I dwell alone!



6


The tame bird was in a cage, the free bird was in the forest.
They met when the time came, it was a decree of fate.
The free bird cries, "O my love, let us fly to wood."
The cage bird whispers, "Come hither, let us both live in the
cage."
Says the free bird, "Among bars, where is there room to spread
one's wings?"
"Alas," cries the cage bird, "I should not know where to sit
perched in the sky."

The free bird cries, "My darling, sing the songs of the
woodlands."
The cage bird says, "Sit by my side, I'll teach you the speech of
the learned."
The forest bird cries, "No, ah no! songs can never be taught."
The cage bird says, "Alas for me, I know not the songs of the
woodlands."

Their love is intense with longing, but they never can fly wing
to wing.
Through the bars of the cage they look, and vain is their wish to
know each other.
They flutter their wings in yearning, and sing, "Come closer, my
love!"
The free bird cries, "It cannot be, I fear the closed doors of
the cage."
The cage bird whispers, "Alas, my wings are powerless and dead."



7


O mother, the young Prince is to pass by our door, - how can I
attend to my work this morning?
Show me how to braid up my hair; tell me what garment to put on.
Why do you look at me amazed, mother?
I know well he will not glance up once at my window; I know he
will pass out of my sight in the twinkling of an eye; only the
vanishing strain of the flute will come sobbing to me from
afar.
But the young Prince will pass by our door, and I will put on my
best for the moment.

O mother, the young Prince did pass by our door, and the morning
sun flashed from his chariot.
I swept aside the veil from my face, I tore the ruby chain from
my neck and flung it in his path.
Why do you look at me amazed, mother?
I know well he did not pick up my chain; I know it was crushed
under his wheels leaving a red stain upon the dust, and no one
knows what my gift was nor to whom.
But the young Prince did pass by our door, and I flung the jewel
from my breast before his path.



8


When the lamp went out by my bed I woke up with the early birds.
I sat at my open window with a fresh wreath on my loose hair.
The young traveller came along the road in the rosy mist of the
morning.
A pearl chain was on his neck, and the sun's rays fell on his
crown. He stopped before my door and asked me with an eager
cry, "Where is she?"
For very shame I could not say, "She is I, young traveller, she
is I."

It was dusk and the lamp was not lit.
I was listlessly braiding my hair.
The young traveller came on his chariot in the glow of the
setting sun.
His horses were foaming at the mouth, and there was dust on his
garment.
He alighted at my door and asked in a tired voice, "Where is
she?"
For very shame I could not say, "She is I, weary traveller, she
is I."

It is an April night. The lamp is burning in my room.
The breeze of the south comes gently. The noisy parrot sleeps in
its cage.
My bodice is of the colour of the peacock's throat, and my mantle
is green as young grass.
I sit upon the floor at the window watching the deserted street.
Through the dark night I keep humming, "She is I, despairing
traveller, she is I."



9


When I go alone at night to my love-tryst, birds do not sing, the
wind does not stir, the houses on both sides of the street
stand silent.
It is my own anklets that grow loud at every step and I am
ashamed.

When I sit on my balcony and listen for his footsteps, leaves do
not rustle on the trees, and the water is still in the river
like the sword on the knees of a sentry fallen asleep.
It is my own heart that beats wildly - I do not know how to quiet
it.

When my love comes and sits by my side, when my body trembles and
my eyelids droop, the night darkens, the wind blows out the
lamp, and the clouds draw veils over the stars.
It is the jewel at my own breast that shines and gives light. I
do not know how to hide it.



10


Let your work be, bride. Listen, the guest has come.
Do you hear, he is gently shaking the chain which fastens the
door?
See that your anklets make no loud noise, and that your step is
not over-hurried at meeting him.
Let your work be, bride, the guest has come in the evening.

No, it is not the ghostly wind, bride, do not be frightened.
It is the full moon on a night of April; shadows are pale in the
courtyard; the sky overhead is bright.
Draw your veil over your face if you must, carry the lamp to the
door if you fear.
No, it is not the ghostly wind, bride, do not be frightened.

Have no word with him if you are shy; stand aside by the door
when you meet him.
If he asks you questions, and if you wish to, you can lower your
eyes in silence.
Do not let your bracelets jingle when, lamp in hand, you lead him
in.
Have no word with him if you are shy.

Have you not finished your work yet, bride? Listen, the guest
has come.
Have you not lit the lamp in the cowshed?
Have you not got ready the offering basket for the evening
service?
Have you not put the red lucky mark at the parting of your hair,
and done your toilet for the night?
O bride, do you hear, the guest has come?
Let your work be!



11


Come as you are; do not loiter over your toilet.
If your braided hair has loosened, if the parting of your hair be
not straight, if the ribbons of your bodice be not fastened, do
not mind.
Come as you are; do not loiter over your toilet.

Come, with quick steps over the grass.
If the raddle come from your feet because of the dew, if the
rings of bells upon your feet slacken, if pearls drop out of
your chain, do not mind.
Come with quick steps over the grass.

Do you see the clouds wrapping the sky?
Flocks of cranes fly up from the further river-bank and fitful
gusts of wind rush over the heath.
The anxious cattle run to their stalls in the village.
Do you see the clouds wrapping the sky?

In vain you light your toilet lamp - it flickers and goes out in
the wind.
Who can know that your eyelids have not been touched with lamp-
black? For your eyes are darker than rain-clouds.
In vain you light your toilet lamp - it goes out.

Come as you are; do not loiter over your toilet.
If the wreath is not woven, who cares; if the wrist-chain has not
been linked, let it be.
The sky is overcast with clouds - it is late.
Come as you are; do not loiter over your toilet.



12


If you would be busy and fill your pitcher, come, O come to my
lake.
The water will cling round your feet and babble its secret.
The shadow of the coming rain is on the sands, and the clouds
hang low upon the blue lines of the trees like the heavy hair
above your eyebrows.
I know well the rhythm of your steps, they are beating in my
heart.
Come, O come to my lake, if you must fill your pitcher.

If you would be idle and sit listless and let your pitcher float
on the water, come, O come to my lake.
The grassy slope is green, and the wild flowers beyond number.
Your thoughts will stray out of your dark eyes like birds from
their nests.
Your veil will drop to your feet.
Come, O come to my lake if you must sit idle.

If you would leave off your play and dive in the water, come, O
come to my lake.
Let your blue mantle lie on the shore; the blue water will cover
you and hide you.
The waves will stand a-tiptoe to kiss your neck and whisper in
your ears.
Come, O come to my lake, if you would dive in the water.

If you must be mad and leap to your death, come, O come to my
lake.
It is cool and fathomlessly deep.
It is dark like a sleep that is dreamless.
There in its depths nights and days are one, and songs are
silence.
Come, O come to my lake, if you would plunge to your death.



13


I asked nothing, only stood at the edge of the wood behind the
tree.
Languor was still upon the eyes of the dawn, and the dew in the
air.
The lazy smell of the damp grass hung in the thin mist above the
earth.
Under the banyan tree you were milking the cow with your hands,
tender and fresh as butter.
And I was standing still.

I did not say a word. It was the bird that sang unseen from the
thicket.
The mango tree was shedding its flowers upon the village road,
and the bees came humming one by one.
On the side of the pond the gate of _Shiva's_ temple was
opened and the worshipper had begun his chants.
With the vessel on your lap you were milking the cow.
I stood with my empty can.

I did not come near you.
The sky woke with the sound of the gong at the temple.
The dust was raised in the road from the hoofs of the driven
cattle.
With the gurgling pitchers at their hips, women came from the
river.
Your bracelets were jingling, and foam brimming over the jar.
The morning wore on and I did not come near you.



14


I was walking by the road, I do not know why, when the noonday
was past and bamboo branches rustled in the wind.
The prone shadows with their out-stretched arms clung to the feet
of the hurrying light.
The _koels_ were weary of their songs.
I was walking by the road, I do not know why.

The hut by the side of the water is shaded by an overhanging
tree.
Some one was busy with her work, and her bangles made music in
the corner.
I stood before this hut, I know not why.

The narrow winding road crosses many a mustard field, and many a
mango forest.
It passes by the temple of the village and the market at the
river landing place.
I stopped by this hut, I do not know why.

Years ago it was a day of breezy March when the murmur of the
spring was languorous, and mango blossoms were dropping on the
dust.
The rippling water leapt and licked the brass vessel that stood
on the landing step.
I think of that day of breezy March, I do not know why.

Shadows are deepening and cattle returning to their folds.
The light is grey upon the lonely meadows, and the villagers are
waiting for the ferry at the bank.
I slowly return upon my steps, I do not know why.



15


I run as a musk-deer runs in the shadow of the forest mad with
his own perfume.
The night is the night of mid-May, the breeze is the breeze of
the south.
I lose my way and I wander, I seek what I cannot get, I get what
I do not seek.

From my heart comes out and dances the image of my own desire.
The gleaming vision flits on.
I try to clasp it firmly, it eludes me and leads me astray.
I seek what I cannot get, I get what I do not seek.



16


Hands cling to hands and eyes linger on eyes: thus begins the
record of our hearts.
It is the moonlit night of March; the sweet smell of _henna_
is in the air; my flute lies on the earth neglected and your
garland of flowers in unfinished.
This love between you and me is simple as a song.

Your veil of the saffron colour makes my eyes drunk.
The jasmine wreath that you wove me thrills to my heart like
praise.
It is a game of giving and withholding, revealing and screening
again; some smiles and some little shyness, and some sweet
useless struggles.
This love between you and me is simple as a song.

No mystery beyond the present; no striving for the impossible; no
shadow behind the charm; no groping in the depth of the dark.
This love between you and me is simple as a song.

We do not stray out of all words into the ever silent; we do not
raise our hands to the void for things beyond hope.
It is enough what we give and we get.
We have not crushed the joy to the utmost to wring from it the
wine of pain.
This love between you and me is simple as a song.



17


The yellow bird sings in their tree and makes my heart dance with
gladness.
We both live in the same village, and that is our one piece of
joy.
Her pair of pet lambs come to graze in the shade of our garden
trees.
If they stray into our barley field, I take them up in my arms.
The name of our village is Khanjan, and Anjan they call our
river.
My name is known to all the village, and her name is Ranjan.

Only one field lies between us.
Bees that have hived in our grove go to seek honey in theirs.
Flowers launched from their landing-stairs come floating by the
stream where we bathe.
Baskets of dried _kusm_ flowers come from their fields to
our market.
The name of our village is Khanjan, and Anjan they call our
river.
My name is known to all the village, and her name is Ranjan.

The lane that winds to their house is fragrant in the spring with
mango flowers.
When their linseed is ripe for harvest the hemp is in bloom in
our field.
The stars that smile on their cottage send us the same twinkling
look.
The rain that floods their tank makes glad our _kadam_
forest.
The name of our village is Khanjan, and Anjan they call our
river.
My name is known to all the village, and her name is Ranjan.



18


When the two sisters go to fetch water, they come to this spot
and they smile.
They must be aware of somebody who stands behind the trees
whenever they go to fetch water.

The two sisters whisper to each other when they pass this spot.
They must have guessed the secret of that somebody who stands
behind the trees whenever they go to fetch water.

Their pitchers lurch suddenly, and water spills when they reach
this spot.
They must have found out that somebody's heart is beating who
stands behind the trees whenever they go to fetch water.

The two sisters glance at each other when they come to this spot,
and they smile.
There is a laughter in their swift-stepping feet, which makes
confusion in somebody's mind who stands behind the trees
whenever they go to fetch water.



19


You walked by the riverside path with the full pitcher upon your
hip.
Why did you swiftly turn your face and peep at me through your
fluttering veil?
That gleaming look from the dark came upon me like a breeze that
sends a shiver through the rippling water and sweeps away to
the shadowy shore.
It came to me like the bird of the evening that hurriedly flies
across the lampless room from the one open window to the other,
and disappears in the night.
You are hidden as a star behind the hills, and I am a passer-by
upon the road.
But why did you stop for a moment and glance at my face through
your veil while you walked by the riverside path with the full
pitcher upon your hip?



20


Day after day he comes and goes away.
Go, and give him a flower from my hair, my friend.
If he asks who was it that sent it, I entreat you do not tell him
my name - for he only comes and goes away.

He sits on the dust under the tree.
Spread there a seat with flowers and leaves, my friend.
His eyes are sad, and they bring sadness to my heart.
He does not speak what he has in mind; he only comes and goes
away.



21


Why did he choose to come to my door, the wandering youth, when
the day dawned?
As I come in and out I pass by him every time, and my eyes are
caught by his face.
I know not if I should speak to him or keep silent. Why did he
choose to come to my door?

The cloudy nights in July are dark; the sky is soft blue in the
autumn; the spring days are restless with the south wind.
He weaves his songs with fresh tunes every time.
I turn from my work and my eyes fill with the mist. Why did he
choose to come to my door?



22


When she passed by me with quick steps, the end of her skirt
touched me.
From the unknown island of a heart came a sudden warm breath of
spring.
A flutter of a flitting touch brushed me and vanished in a
moment, like a torn flower petal blown in the breeze.
It fell upon my heart like a sigh of her body and whisper of her
heart.



23


Why do you sit there and jingle your bracelets in mere idle
sport?
Fill your pitcher. It is time for you to come home.

Why do you stir the water with your hands and fitfully glance at
the road for some one in mere idle sport?
Fill your pitcher and come home.

The morning hours pass by - the dark water flows on.
The waves are laughing and whispering to each other in mere idle
sport.

The wandering clouds have gathered at the edge of the sky on
yonder rise of the land.
They linger and look at your face and smile in mere idle sport.
Fill your pitcher and come home.



24


Do not keep to yourself the secret of your heart, my friend!
Say it to me, only to me, in secret.
You who smile so gently, softly whisper, my heart will hear it,
not my ears.

The night is deep, the house is silent, the birds' nests are
shrouded with sleep.
Speak to me through hesitating tears, through faltering smiles,
through sweet shame and pain, the secret of your heart!



25


"Come to us, youth, tell us truly why there is madness in your
eyes?"
"I know not what wine of wild poppy I have drunk, that there is
this madness in my eyes."
"Ah, shame!"
"Well, some are wise and some foolish, some are watchful and some
careless. There are eyes that smile and eyes that weep - and
madness is in my eyes."

"Youth, why do you stand so still under the shadow of the tree?"


1 3 4

Online LibraryRabindranath TagoreThe Gardener → online text (page 1 of 4)