Poet, philosopher, author, painter, and singer — Rabindranath Tagore was creativity personified. In fact, his contributions to Indian literary culture is unforgettable. There has hardly ever been a poet in the history of India who has so beautifully and lyrically given words to those feelings which we often yearn to describe but fail miserably to explain. Even after his death, Tagore continues to inspire generations of writers, poets, and musicians. From Pablo Neruda to Gabriela Mistril, many have also been inspired after reading his works in translation.
On his 157th birthday, here are some couplets from the Nobel Laureate’s book, Fireflies. Inspired by the unique style of Japanese short poems called Haiku, Tagore wrote these poems. Hardly more than a sentence long, each couplet is a beautiful exposition of a different theme — be it nature, love or spirituality.
Here they are:
My fancies are fireflies,
Specks of living light
twinkling in the dark.
The worm thinks it is strange and foolish
that man does not eat his books.
The butterfly counts not months, but moments,
and has time enough.
I touch God in my song
as the hill touches the far-away sea
with its waterfall.
Love is an endless mystery
For it has nothing else to explain it.
History slowly smothers its truth
but hastily struggles to revive it
in the terrible penance of pain.
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.
The earth gazes at the moon and wonders
that she should have all her music in her smile.
Let me light my lamp’
says the star
‘And never debate
if it will help remove the darkness.
And here’s the last one:
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 eternity.’
(Fireflies was published by Nyogi Books in 2012. The book costs Rs 86 and is available online for purchase)