From my blog on Tagore and translations at animikha.wordpress.com, a set of poems that I translated:
Rabindranath Tagore lost his mother when very young and his writings reflected this pain throughout his life. These poems are quite poignant and reflect the love he felt for the missing maternal presence.
Mother, remembering you
I cannot remember my mother,
Only sometimes as I play
Out of nowhere and without reason
A tune comes across time
To tinkle in my ear
And I feel my mother must speak to me
As I sit and play.
I suppose my mother must have sung to me
As she rocked me in my cradle
But when she left on fading footsteps
She left her songs behind.
I cannot remember my mother
Only in the month of Ashwin
When from the shiuli groves at dawn,
The dew laden breeze brings
The scents of the flowers to me,
Why do I suddenly think
Of that loving long lost presence?
She must have once gathered blooms
As offerings in a little basket
That is why the festive season still smells
Like my mother once did.
I cannot remember my mother
But still when I sit alone
In the corner of my room
And I look through the window
At the blue skies far away
It seems I can sense my mother
Looking back at me in one unbroken gaze.
Perhaps once, in that distant past
She used to look at me in her lap
Today that same love surrounds me
As I look at the skies above.
24th September, 1921
To read the original, do visit the link:
The second poem, again about mothers:
If you were not my mother
But someone else’s instead
Do you think I would not know you still
And go straight to your lap?
It would have been so much more fun,
I would have two homes to call mine own,
I could stay on as I do now in this village,
And you would go away to live over there.
Here I would spend my waking hours all day
In fun and endless play.
But when the day was over
I would go across on a boat
To surprise you from behind
And ask you, ‘Do you know who this is?’
You would think, this is a voice I know so well
And yet he feels like a stranger.
I would then jump into your arms
And hug you tight as I say –
‘You must know me, you simply must,
For I am your very own Abu!’
When you go to the banks on the other side
To fetch the water daily –
Who do you think stands on the banks here
Tell me, let me hear you guess!
My folded paper boat I push
Into the currents towards you,
If it ever got to you
Would you know who its owner was?
I have not yet learned to swim you see
Or I would have gone to you myself,
From this side of the river,
I would have gone to wherever you are.
Between the two banks where we stand
There would be a distance which would keep
Each from the other,
And they would be kept apart.
All day we would wander about
Looking at each other from afar, –
Once evening fell we would come together
Abu and his dearest mother.
But if one day it should happen for some reason
That the boatman Bipin waiting at our shore
Refuses to do my bidding
And carry me across to you.
In your room you could light a lamp
And upon the terrace spread out a mat
As you sit, at your feet
Would wait with you the faithful old maid.
The seven brother sages would rise in the sky,
Jackals yelp where the crops shake their heads,
And bats cast their winged shadows
Before flying into the unknown.
Mother would you then look at the time
And tremble as moments passed without my return?
Certainly then you would have to come
To the land where your Abu waits.
Do you think you would be free to return?
Do you think I would let you go again?
You would have to give up that other house of yours
To please little Abu’s will.
To read the original, do visit the link below:
The third poem, again about a child’s games with his mother…
Hide and Seek
If ever a naughty game I wish to play,
I would hide as a flower in the champak tree
Early each morning, dear Mother, I would sway
On the branches, among every young green leaf.
Then you would surely have to yield defeat,
Would you still know me for your own?
You would call, “Little one, where are you?”
I would sit, smiling, quiet as quiet can be.
As you go about your daily chores,
I would sit watching with eyes open wide.
When you walk under the tree down the path,
I look and see your hair still damp from your bath.
You will go into your little shrine to pray,
The champak flowers fill the air with scent.
You will never know that was how,
Your little one, his love to you, has sent.
In the afternoons, with the Mahabharata you sit
Once you have given lunch to every one,
The tree by the window sends shadow imps
To tumble in your lap, and across your back.
I cast the restless little shadow that marks
The pages of the book you wish to read –
You would never know dear Mother,
That is only me gazing back at you.
As evening falls and the cows come home
You will be lighting the sacred lamp
As you walk past, I am done with playing
From the tree, I suddenly drop as a flower spent
Again, I will become your little one
The one who says, “Tell me a story.”
“Naughty boy, where were you all day?” you say,
I reply, “ Will not tell you, nay, nay, nay!”
Do visit the link below to read the original poem: