Asia Online (TAO)
by Rabindranath Tagore
Tagore himself visited Japan several times, and Japanese haiku were translated into Bengali by Tagore early in the 20th century. However, Kalyan Dasgupta writes in 2001 that
[...] to this day, haiku as a literary expression does not seem to evoke much more than a queer reaction among the general reading public in either West Bengal or Bangladesh.
And so, when he published Jaapaani Haaiku (Calcutta: 2000)--a Bengali anthology of Japanese haiku--Dasgupta felt the need to describe for his readers "what the Japanese have sought from haiku," including "elegance" and "simplicity." Such information on how to receive haiku is essential if one wishes to import the form to a non-Japanese language and culture.
The title of this poem, Fireflies, comes from the first verse of the bilingual Lekhan (1926)My fancies are fireflies. . . It consists of 256 epigrams and short verses and shares structural similarity with Tagores other notable epigrammatic poem, Stray Birds. These poems resemble the sayings of a wise man rather than poetry. The possibility of the influence of Japanese Haiku can be suggested. The compact style conveys memorable poetic expressions with great force and intensity. The brevity and crispness of these verses combined with the wit and wisdom contained in them make these poems extremely delightful and reader friendly. The Bengali version of some these poems are also to be found in Sphulinga (1946) apart from Lekhan.
Tagore in Balatonfüred, Hungary
The beautiful promenade on the shore of lake Balaton was named after Rabindranath Tagore (it was called Kolos promenade, then Deák promenade previously). The world-famous Hindu poet heart disease was treated here in 1926. He completed the Fireflies during this stay in Balatonfüred. After his recovery he planted a lime-tree in the health-park. This act was motivated by an old Indian legend saying that if the tree takes root, its planter will live long so that he or she can see the new sprouts. "If I am not present in this world any more, oh my tree, let your new leaves rustle in spring above those who roam about; the poet loved you until his death." - wrote the poet. In fact, Tagore lived for another 17 years after having planted the tree. A Hindu grove has been created around the memorial tree and statue of the poet in the past decades. Several presidents of the Indian Republic including Indira Gandhi saluted the memory of Tagore by planting trees.
(Lekhan) printed in facsimile of the poets handwriting: PDF
in the following pages had
their origin in China and Japan where
the author was asked for his writings
on fans or pieces of silk.
Nov. 7. 1926
My fancies are fireflies,
Specks of living light
twinkling in the dark.
he voice of
that do not attract the careless glance,
murmurs in these desultory lines.
In the drowsy
dark caves of the mind
dreams build their nest with fragments
dropped from day's caravan.
the petals of flowers
that are not for the fruits of the future,
but for the moment's whim.
Joy freed from
the bond of earth's slumber
rushes into numberless leaves,
and dances in the air for a day.
My words that
my lightly dance upon time's waves
when my works heavy with import have gone down.
grow filmy wings
and take a farewell flight
in the sunset sky.
not months but moments,
and has time enough.
like sparks, ride on winged surprises,
carrying a single laughter.
The tree gazes in love at its own beautiful shadow
which yet it never can grasp.
Let my love,
like sunlight, surround you
and yet give you illumined freedom.
Days are coloured
that float upon the surface of fathomless night.
are too timid to claim your remembrance,
and therefore you may remember them.
Leave out my
name from the gift
if it be a burden,
but keep my song.
writes hieroglyphs on dust with flowers,
wipes them away and forgets.
kills the present
and offers its heart to the shrine of the dead past.
From the solemn
gloom of the temple
children run out to sit in the dust,
God watches them play
and forgets the priest.
My mind starts
up at some flash
on the flow of its thoughts
like a brook at a sudden liquid note of its own
that is never repeated.
In the mountain,
stillness surges up
to explore its own height;
in the lake, movement stands still
to contemplate its own depth.
night's one kiss
on the closed eyes of morning
glows in the star of dawn.
beauty is like a fruit
which is yet to mature,
tense with an unyielding secret.
has lost its memory
is like the dumb dark hours
that have no bird songs
but only the cricket's chirp.
to keep truth safe in its hand
with a grip that kills it.
Wishing to hearten a timid lamp
great night lights all her stars.
Though he holds
in his arms the earth-bride,
the sky is ever immensely away.
God seeks comrades
and claims love,
the Devil seeks slaves and claims obedience.
The soil in
return for her service
keeps the tree tied to her,
the sky asks nothing and leaves it free.
does not boast of its length of years
but of the scintillating point of its moment.
The child ever
dwells in the mystery of ageless time,
unobscured by the dust of history.
in the steps of creation
carries it swiftly across time.
One who was
distant came near to me in the morning,
and still nearer when taken away by night.
White and pink
and make merry in different dialects.
When peace is active swepping its dirt, it is storm.
The lake lies
low by the hill,
a tearful entreaty of love
at the foot of the inflexible.
the Divine Child
among his playthings of unmeaning clouds
and ephemeral lights and shadows.
The breeze whispers
to the lotus,
"What is thy secret?"
"It is myself," says the lotus,
"Steal it and I disappear!"
of the storm and the bondage of the stem
join hands in the dance of swaying branches.
The jasmine's lisping of love to the sun is her flowers.
The tyrant claims
freedom to kill freedom
and yet to keep it for himself.
Gods, tired of their paradise, envy man.
Clouds are hills
hills are clouds in stone,
a phantasy in time's dream.
While God waits
for His temple to be built of love,
men bring stones.
I touch God
in my song
as the hill touches the far-away sea
with its waterfall.
her treasure of colours
through the antagonism of clouds.
My heart to-day
smiles at its past night of tears
like a wet tree glistening in the sun
after the rain is over.
I have thanked
the trees that have made my life fruitflul,
but have failed to remember the grass
that has ever kept it green.
The one without
second is emptiness,
the other one makes it true.
cry for the merciful beauty
that can modulate their isolation
into a harmony with the whole.
thanks for the banished nest
because their cage is shapely and secure.
In love I pay
my endless debt to thee
for what thou art.
The pond sends
up its lyrics from its dark in lilies,
and the sun says, they are good.
against the great is impious,
it hurts yourself;
against the small it is mean,
for it hurts the victim.
The first flower
that blossomed on this earth
was an invitation to the unborn song.
and then the simple light-fruit,
the sun appears.
The muscle that
has a doubt if its wisdom
throttles the voice that would cry.
The wind tries
to take the flame by storm
only to blow it out.
Life's playthings fall behind one by one
and are forgotten.
My flower, seek
not thy paradise
in a fool's buttonhole.
Thou hast risen
late, my crescent moon,
but my night bird is still awake to greet thee.
the veiled bride
silently waiting for the errant light
to return to her bosom.
Trees are the
earth's endless effort to
speak to the listening heaven.
The burden of
self is lightened
when I laugh at myself.
The weak can
because they try furiously to appear strong.
The wind of
The anchor desperately clutches the mud,
and my boat is beating its breast against the chain.
The spirit of
death is one,
the spirit of life is many,
Whe God is dead religion becomes one.
The blue of
the sky longs for the earth's green,
the wind between them sighs, "Alas."
Day's pain muffled by its own glare,
burns among stars in the night.
The stars crowd
round the virgin night
in silent awe at her loneliness
that can never be touched.
The cloud gives
all its gold
to the departing sun
and greets the rising moon
with only a pale smile.
He who does
good comes to the temple gate,
he who loves reaches the shrine.
pity for the worm,
it is not a bee,
its love is a blunder and a burden.
With the ruins
of terror's triumph
children build their doll's house.
The lamp waits
through the long day of neglect
for the flame's kiss in the night.
the dust lying lazily content
have forgotten their sky.
which is single
need not envy the thorns
that are numerous.
The world suffers
most from the disinterested tyranny
of its well-wisher.
We gain freedom
when we have paid the full price
for our right to live.
gifts of a moment,
like the meteors of an autumn night,
catch fire in the depth of my being.
The faith waiting
in the heart of a seed
promises a miracle of life
which it cannot prove at once.
at winter's door,
but the mango blossom rashly runs out to him
before her time and meets her doom.
The world is
the ever-changing foam
thet floats on the surface of a sea of silence.
The two separated
shores mingle their voices
in a song of unfathomed tears.
As a river in
work finds its fulfilment
in the depth of leisure.
I lingered on
my way till thy cherry tree lost its bossom,
but the azalea brings to me, my love, thy forgiveness.
Thy shy little
blushing to-day behind her veil,
will burst into a passionate flower
to-morrow when I am away.
of power spoils the key,
and uses the pickaxe.
Birth is from
the mystery of night
into the greater mystery of day.
boats of mine are meant to dance
on the ripples of hours,
and not to reach any destination.
wing from my heart
and seek their nests in your voice of love.
The sea of danger,
doubt and denial
around man's little island of certainty
challenges him to dare the unknown.
when it forgives,
and injured beauty by its awful silence.
You live alone
because they are afraid of your great worth.
The same sun
is newly born in new lands
in a ring of endless dawns.
God is world
is ever renewed by death,
a Titan's ever crushed by its own existence.
while exploring the dust
never knows that stars are in the sky.
The tree is
of to-day, the flower is old,
it brings with it the message
of the immemorial seed.
Each rose that
comes brings me greetings
from the Rose of an eternal spring.
God honours me when I work,
He loves me when I sing.
My love of to-day
finds no home
in the nest deserted by yesterday's love.
The fire of
pain traces for my soul
a luminous path across her sorrow.
The grass survives
through its resurrections from countless deaths.
Thou hast vanished
from my reach
leaving an impalpable touch in the blue of the sky,
an invisible image in the wind moving
among the shadows.
In pity for
the desolate branch
spring leaves to it a kiss that fluttered in a lonely leaf.
The shy shadow
in the farden
loves the sun in silence,
Flowers guess the secret, and mile,
while the leaves whisper.
I leave no trace
of wings in the air,
but I am glad I have had my flight.
twinkling among leaves,
make the stars wonder.
at its seeming defeat by the mist.
While the rose
said to the sun,
"I shall ever remember thee,"
her petals fell to the dust.
Hills are the
earth's gesture of despair
for the unreachable.
Though the thorn
in thy flower pricked me,
I am grateful.
The world knows
that the few
are more than the many.
Let not my love
be a burden on you, my friend,
know that it pays itself.
Dawn plays her
lute before the gate of darkness,
and is content to vanish when the sun comes out.
Beauty is truth's
when she beholds her own face
in a perfect mirror.
knows the sun
only within its own tiny orb.
from the forsaken hives of all ages,
swarming in the air, hum round my heart
and seek my voice.
The desert is
imprisoned in the wall
of its unbounded barrenness.
In the thrill
of little leaves
I see the air's invisible dance,
and in their glimmering
the secret heart-beats of the sky.
You are like
a flowering tree,
amazed when I praise you for your gifts.
flames up in her trees,
scattering sparks in flowers.
clouds of earth,
hold up to the sky their silence,
and clouds from above come down
in resonant showers.
The world speaks
to me in pictures,
my soul answers in music.
The sky tells
its beads all night
on the countless stars
in memory of the sun.
of night, like pain, is dumb,
the darkness of dawn, like peace, is silent.
his frowns in stones,
loe offers her surrender in flowers.
brush curtails truth
in diference to the canvas which is narrow.
The hill in
its longing for the far-away sky
wishes to be like the cloud
with its endless urge of seeking.
To justify their
own spilling of ink
they spell the day as night.
when the good is profitable.
In its swelling
the bubble doubts the truth of the sea,
and laughs and bursts into emptiness.
Love is an endless
for it has nothing else to explain its.
My clouds, sorrowing
in the dark,
forget that they themselves
have hidden the sun.
his own wealth
when God comes to ask gifts of him.
You leave your
memory as a flame
to my lonely lamp of separation.
I came to offer
thee a flower,
but thou must have all my garden,
It is thine.
memory of light
treasured by the shadow.
It is easy to
make faces at the sun,
He is exposed by his own light in all
smothers its truth,
but hastily struggles to revive it
in the terrible penance of pain.
My work is rewarded
in daily wages,
I wait for my final value in love.
to say, "Enough,"
barbarism clamours for still more.
God loves to
see in me, not his servant,
but himself who serves all.
of night is in harmony with day,
the morning of mist is discordant.
In the bounteous
time of roses love is wine,
it is food in the famished hour
when their petals are shed.
An unknown flower
in a strange land
speaks to the poet:
"Are we not of the same soil, my lover?"
I am able to
love my God
because He gives me freedom to deny Him.
My untuned strings
beg for music
in their anguished cry of shame.
The worm thinks
it strange and foolish
that man does not eat his books.
sky to-day bears the visior
of the shadow of a divine sadness
on the forehead of brooding eternity.
The shade of
my tree is for passers-by,
its fruit for the one for whom I wait.
the glow of sunset
earth seems like a ripe fruit
ready to be harvested by night.
darkness for his spouse
for the sake of creation.
The reed waits
for his master's breath,
the Master goes seeking for his reed.
To the blind
pen the hand that writes is unreal,
its writing unmeaning.
The sea smites
his own barren breast
because he has no flowers to offer to the moon.
The greed for fruit misses the flower.
God in His temple
waits for man to bring him his lamp.
The fire restrained
in the tree fashions flowers.
Released from bonds, the shameless flame
dies in barren ashes.
The sky sets
no snare to capture the moon,
it is her own freedom which binds her.
The light that fills the sky
seeks its limit in a dew-drop on the grass.
Wealth is the
burden of bigness,
Welfare the fulness of being.
is proud of its keenness
when it sneers at the sun.
has leisure to love the lotus,
not the bee busily storing honey.
bringest to my heart
the babble of the wind and the water,
the flower's speechless secrets, the clouds' dreams,
the mute gaze of wonder of the morning sky.
among the clouds may be great
but the little butterfly among the bushes is greater.
The mist weaves
her net round the morning,
captivates him, and makes him blind.
Star whispers to Dawn,
"Tell me that you are only for me."
"Yes," she answers,
"And also only for that nameless flower."
The sky remains
for earth there to build its heaven with dreams.
crescent moon smiles in doubt
at being told that it is a fragment
Let the evening
forgive the mistakes of the day
and thus win peace for herself.
in the confinement of the bud,
in the heart of a sweet incompleteness.
love lightly brushed with its wings
and never asked if it was ready to surrender its honey.
Leaves are silences
around flowers which are their words.
The tree bears
its thousand years
as one large majestic moment.
are not for the temple at the end of the road,
but for the wayside shrines
that surprise me at every bend.
my love, like the smell of a strange flower,
is simple and inexplicable.
when the merit of the dead is exaggerated
for it swells his store with more than he can claim.
The sigh of
the shore follows in vain
the breeze that hastens the ship across the sea.
for there it meets the beautiful.
shores of Me and Thee
there is the loud ocean, my own surging self,
which I long to cross.
The right to
possess boasts foolishly
of its right to enjoy.
The rose is
a great deal more
than a blushing apology for the thorn.
Day offers to
the silence of stars
his golden lute to be tuned
for the endless life.
The wise know
how to teach,
the fool how to smite.
The centre is
still and silent in the heart
of an enternal dance of circles.
The judge thinks
that he is just when he compares
The oil of another's lamp
with the light of his own.
flower in the King's wreath
smiles bitterly when the meadow-flower envies her.
Its store of
snow is the hill's own burden,
its outpouring if streams is borne by all the world.
Listen to the
prayer of the forest
for its freedom in flowers.
Let your love
even through the barrier of nearness.
The spirit of
work in creation is there
to carry and help the spirit of play.
To carry the
burden of the insturment,
count the cost of its material,
and never to know that it is for music,
is the tragedy of deaf life.
Faith is the
bird that feels the light
and sings when the dawn is still dark.
I bring to thee,
night, my day's empty cup,
to be cleansed with thy cool darkness
for a new morning's festival.
fir, in its rustling,
modulates the memory of its fights with the storm
into a hymn of peace.
me with his fight
when I was rebellious,
He ignored me when I was languid.
that he has the sea
ladled into his private pond.
In the shady
depth of life
are the lonely nests of memories
that shrink from words.
Let my love
find its strength
in the service of day,
its peace in the union of night.
Life sends up
in blades of grass
its silent hymn of praise
to the unnamed Light.
The stars of
night are to me
the memorials of my day's faded flowers.
Open thy door
to that which must go,
for the loss becomes unseemly when obstructed.
True end is
not in the reaching of the limit,
but in a completion which is limitless.
The shore whispers
to the sea:
"Write to me what thy waves struggle to say."
The sea writes in foam again and again
and wipes off the lines in a boisterous despair.
Let the touch
of thy finger thrill my life's strings
and make the music thine and mine.
The inner world
rounded in my life like a fruit,
matured in joy and sorrow,
will drop into the darkness of the orogonal soil
for some further course of creation.
Form is in Matter,
rhythm in Force,
meaning in the Person.
There are seekers
of wisdom and seekers of wealth,
I seek thy company so that I may sing.
As the tree
its leaves, I shed my words on the earth,
let my thoughts unuttered flower in thy silence.
My faith in
truth, my vision of the perfect,
help thee, Master, in thy creation.
All the delights
that I have felt
in life's fruits and flowers
let me offer to thee at the end of the feast,
in a perfect union of love.
Some have thought
deeply and explored the
meaning of thy truth,
and they are great;
I have listened to catch the music of thy play,
and I am glad.
The tree is
a winged spirit
released from the bondage of seed,
pursuing its adventure of life
across the unknown.
The lotus offers
its beauty to the heaven,
the grass its service to the earth.
The sun's kiss
mellows into abandonment
the miserliness of the green fruit clinging to its stem.
The flame met
the earthen lamp in me,
and what a great marvel of light!
in the neighbourhood of truth
and therefore delude us.
The cloud laughed
at the rainbow
saying that is was an upstart
gaudy in its emptiness.
The rainbow calmly answered,
"I am as inevitably real as that sun himself."
Let me not grope
in vain in the dark
but keep my mind still in the faith
that the day will break
and truth will appear
in its simplicity.
I hear the returning vagrant hopes of the morning
knock at my heart.
My new love
bringing to me the eternal wealth of the old.
The earth gazes
at the moon and wonders
that she sould have all her music in her smile.
Day with its
glare of curiosity
puts the stars to flight.
My mind has
its true union with thee, O sky,
at the window which is mine own,
and not in the open
where thou hast thy sole kingdom.
Man claims God's
flowers as his own
when he weaves them in a garland.
The buried city,
laid bare to the sun of a new age,
is ashamed that is has lost all its song.
Like my heart's
pain that has long missed its meaning,
the sun's rays robed in dark
hide themselves under the ground.
Like my heart'spain at love's sudden touch,
they change their veil at the spring's call
and come out in the carnival of colours,
in flowers and leaves.
My life's empty
waits for its final music
like the primal darkness
before the stars came out.
from the bondage of the soil
is no freedom for the tree.
of life's story is woven
with the threads of life's ties
ever joining and breaking.
of mine that are never captured by words
perch upon my song and dance.
My soul to-night
in the silent heart of a tree
standing alone among the whispers of immensity.
cast up by the sea
on death's barren beach,
a magnificent wastefulness of creative life.
opens for me the word's gate,
love's light its terasure.
My life like
the reed with its stops,
has its play of colours
through the gaps in its hopes and gains.
Let not my thanks
rob my silence of its fuller homage.
in the guise of children.
The faded flower
that the spring has vanished for ever.
In my life's
my wealth has been of the shadows and lights
that are never gathered and stored.
The fruit that
I Have gained for ever
is that which thou hast accepted.
knows the sun to be her brother
in the heaven.
Light is young,
the ancient light;
shadows are of the moment, they are born old.
I feel that
the ferry of my songs at the day's end
will bring me across to the other shore
from where I shall see.
flitting from flower to flower
ever remains mine,
I lose the one that is netted by me.
free bird, reaches my sleeping nest,
and my drowsy wings dream
of a voyage to the light
above the clouds.
I miss the meaning
of my own part
in the play of life
because I know not of the parts
that others play.
The flower sheds
all its petals
and finds the fruit.
I leave my songs
to the bloom of the ever-returning honeysuckles
and the joy of the wind from the south.
when they lose themselves in soil
take part in the life of the forest.
The mind ever
seeks its words
from its sounds and silence
as the sky from its darkness and light.
The unseen dark
plays on his flute
and the rhythm of light
eddies into stars and suns,
into thoughts and reams.
My songs are
that I have loved Thy singing.
When the voice
of the Silent touches my words
I know him and therefore I know myself.
My last salutations
are to them
who knew me imperfect and loved me.
cannot be given,
it waits to be accepted.
When death comes
and whispers to me,
"Thy days are ended,"
let me say to him, "I have lived in love
and not in mere time."
He will ask, "Will thy songs remain?"
I shall say, "I know not, but this I know
that often when I sang I found my eternity."
light my lamp,"
say the star,
'and never debate
if it will help to remove the darkness."
Before the end
of my journey
may I reach within myself
the one which is the all,
leaving the outer shell
to float away with the drifting multitude
upon the current of chance and change.