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I Cannot Remember My Mother
by Rabindranath Tagore
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I cannot remember my mother,
yet sometimes in the middle of my playing
a melody seemed to hover over my playthings:
some forgotten tune she loved to sing
while rocking my cradle.

I cannot remember my mother,
yet sometimes on an early autumn morning
the smell of the shiuli flowers fills my room
as the scent of the temple’s morning service
wafts over me like my mother’s perfume.

I cannot remember my mother,
yet sometimes still, from my bedroom window,
when I lift my eyes to the heavens’ vast blue canopy
and sense on my face her serene gaze,
I feel her grace has encompassed the sky.

Keywords/Tags: Tagore, translation, Hindi, mother, cannot, remember, cradle, temple, sky, gaze, face, play, playing, playthings, toys, melody, song, tune, lullaby, singing, rocking, autumn, flowers, fragrance, odor, perfume, incense, blue, heaven, heavens, mrburdu
Death
by Rabindranath Tagore
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

You who are the final fulfillment of life,
Death, my Death, come and whisper to me!
Day after day I have kept watch for you;
for you I have borne the joys and the pangs of life.
All that I am, all that I have and hope, and all my love
have always flowed toward you in the depths of secrecy.
One final glance from your eyes and my life will be yours forever, your own.
The flowers have been woven and the garland prepared for the bridegroom.
After the wedding the bride must leave her home and meet her lord alone in the solitude of night.

Keywords/Tags: Tagore, translation, Hindi, death, final, fulfillment, life, come, whisper, joys, pangs, hope, love, secrets, secrecy, flowers, garland, bridegroom, wedding, bride, lord, night, mrburdu
Last Curtain
by Rabindranath Tagore
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I know the day comes when my eyes close,
when my sight fails,
when life takes its leave in silence
and the last curtain veils my vision.
Yet the stars will still watch by night;
the sun will still rise like before;
the hours will still heave like sea waves
casting up pleasures and pains.
When I consider this end of my earth-life,
the barrier of the moments breaks
and I see by the illumination of death
this world with its careless treasures.
Rare is its lowliest seat,
rare its meanest of lives.
Things I longed for in vain and those I received, let them pass.
Let me but truly possess the things I rejected and overlooked.

Keywords/Tags: Tagore, translation, Hindi, last, curtain, death, eyes, close, sight, vision, night, stars, sun, sea, waves, illumination, treasures, mrburdu
Gitanjali 11
by Rabindranath Tagore
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Leave this vain chanting and singing and counting of beads:
what Entity do you seek in this lonely dark temple with all the doors shut?
Open your eyes and see: God is not here!
He is out there, where the tiller tills the hard ground and the paver breaks stones.
He is with them in sun and shower; his garments are filthy with dust.
Shed your immaculate mantle and like him embrace the dust!
Deliverance? Where is this "deliverance" to be found
when our Master himself has joyfully embraced the bonds of creation; he is bound with us all forever!
Cease your meditations, abandon your petals and incense!
What is the harm if your clothes become stained rags?
Meet him in the toil and the sweat of his brow!

Keywords/Tags: Tagore, translation, Hindi, vain, worship, entity, God, temple, chanting, singing, counting, beads, petals, incense, meditations, tiller, paver, dust, rags, sweat, toil, mrburdu
Gitanjali 35
by Rabindranath Tagore
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been divided by narrow domestic walls;
Where words emerge from the depths of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not been lost amid the dreary desert sands of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward into ever-widening thought and action;
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Keywords/Tags: Tagore, translation, Hindi, mind, fear, head, held, high, knowledge, free, world, narrow, walls, words, depths, truth, perfection, reason, habit, thought, action, heaven, Father, awake, mrburdu
Patience
by Rabindranath Tagore
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

If you refuse to speak, I will fill my heart with your silence and endure it.
I will remain still and wait like the night through its starry vigil
with its head bent low in patience.

The morning will surely come, the darkness will vanish,
and your voice will pour down in golden streams breaking through the heavens.
Then your words will take wing in songs from every one of my birds' nests,
and your melodies will break forth in flowers in all my forest groves.

Keywords/Tags: Tagore, translation, Hindi, patience, heart, silence, night, vigil, morning, voice, golden, streams, heavens, songs, birds, melodies, songs, jubilation, flowers, forest groves, mrburdu
Unfit Gifts
by Rabindranath Tagore
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

At sunrise, I cast my nets into the sea,
dredging up the strangest and most beautiful objects from the depths ...
some radiant like smiles, some glittering like tears, others flushed like brides’ cheeks.
When I returned, staggering under their weight, my love was relaxing in her garden, idly tearing leaves from flowers.
Hesitant, I placed all I had produced at her feet, silently awaiting her verdict.
She glanced down disdainfully, then pouted: "What are these bizarre things? I have no use for them!"
I bowed my head, humiliated, and thought:
"Truly, I did not contend for them; I did not purchase them in the marketplace; they are unfit gifts for her!"
That night I flung them, one by one, into the street, like refuse.
The next morning travelers came, picked them up and carted them off to exotic countries.

Keywords/Tags: Tagore, translation, Hindi, unfit, gifts, sunrise, nets, sea, depths, objects, smiles, tears, cheeks, love, lover, mistress, flowers, verdict, bizarre, refuse, trash, garbage, travelers, exotic, mrburdu
Come As You Are
by Rabindranath Tagore
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Come as you are, forget appearances!
Is your hair untamable, your part uneven, your bodice unfastened? Never mind.
Come as you are, forget appearances!

Skip with quicksilver steps across the grass.
If your feet glisten with dew, if your anklets slip, if your beaded necklace slides off? Never mind.
Skip with quicksilver steps across the grass.

Do you see the clouds enveloping the sky?
Flocks of cranes erupt from the riverbank, fitful gusts ruffle the fields, anxious cattle tremble in their stalls.
Do you see the clouds enveloping the sky?

You loiter in vain over your toilet lamp; it flickers and dies in the wind.
Who will care that your eyelids have not been painted with lamp-black, when your pupils are darker than thunderstorms?
You loiter in vain over your toilet lamp; it flickers and dies in the wind.

Come as you are, forget appearances!
If the wreath lies unwoven, who cares? If the bracelet is unfastened, let it fall. The sky grows dark; it is late.
Come as you are, forget appearances!

Keywords/Tags: Tagore, translation, Hindi, come, forget appearances, hair, bodice, feet, anklet, bracelet, beads, necklace, sky, clouds, cranes, cattle, toilet, lamp, wind, mascara, eyeshadow, mrburdu
This Dog
by Rabindranath Tagore
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Each morning this dog,
who has become quite attached to me,
sits silently at my feet
until, gently caressing his head,
I acknowledge his company.

This simple recognition gives my companion such joy
he shudders with sheer delight.

Among all languageless creatures
he alone has seen through man entire—
has seen beyond what is good or bad in him
to such a depth he can lay down his life
for the sake of love alone.

Now it is he who shows me the way
through this unfathomable world throbbing with life.

When I see his deep devotion,
his offer of his whole being,
I fail to comprehend ...

How, through sheer instinct,
has he discovered whatever it is that he knows?

With his anxious piteous looks
he cannot communicate his understanding
and yet somehow has succeeded in conveying to me
out of the entire creation
the true loveworthiness of man.

“This Dog” appeared in the poetry collection Arogya by Rabindranath Tagore. Keywords: Tagore, translation, dog, feet, head, caress, caressing, joy, delight, devotion, friendship, companion, companionship, whole, being, entire, instinct, loveworthiness, mrburdu
city of flips Aug 2019
The raindrop whispered to the jasmine,
“Keep me in your heart for ever.”
The jasmine sighed, “Alas,” and dropped to the ground.*

(237 Stray Birds by Rabindranath Tagore.  Rabindranath Tagore was born in Calcutta, India, on May 7, 1861. He is the author of many poetry collections, including Gitanjali: Song Offerings (Macmillan, 1913), which received the Nobel Prize in Literature. He died on August 7, 1941.)

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Alas

some words of note get overlooked,
their usage to the wayside,
this is life, forever updating its profile

Alas!

none of us, do not lie,
issue this all encompassing sigh,
this shaded heart rendering, un cri du coeur

this, to remind us:

a single warring word,
falls wounded, forgotten,
telling of impossibilities
lost love, a broken conjunction,
what was that can never be,
what never was and yet not impossible
someday

Alas! Alas!

a single word poem,
that answers so many things,
and still in its regretting
is a niche of untold hopeful perhaps

write me a word like that
your fame, if that’s all you desire,
alas,
is assured...

Alas!
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