Gitanjali 83

- 1861-1941

Mother, I shall weave a chain of pearls for thy neck with my tears of sorrow.
       The stars have wrought their anklets of light to deck thy feet, but mine will hang upon thy breast.
       Wealth and fame come from thee and it is for thee to give or to withhold them. But this my sorrow is absolutely mine own, and when I bring it to thee as my offering thou rewardest me with thy grace.

Poems

I

Thou hast made me known to friends whom I knew not. Thou hast given me seats in homes not my own. Thou hast brought the distant near and made a brother of the stranger. I am uneasy at heart when I have to leave my accustomed shelter; I forgot that there abides the old in the new, and that there also thou abidest.

Through birth and death, in this world or in others, wherever thou leadest me it is thou, the same, the one companion of my endless life who ever linkest my heart with bonds of joy to the unfamiliar. When one knows thee, then alien there is none, then no door is shut. Oh, grant me my prayer that I may never lose the bliss of the touch of the One in the play of the many.

II

No more noisy, loud words from me, such is my master’s will. Henceforth I deal in whispers. The speech of my heart will be carried on in murmurings of a song.

Men hasten to the King’s market. All the buyers and sellers are there. But I have my untimely leave in the middle of the day, in the thick of work.

Let then the flowers come out in my garden, though it is not their time, and let the midday bees strike up their lazy hum.

Full many an hour have I spent in the strife of the good and the evil, but now it is the pleasure of my playmate of the empty days to draw my heart on to him, and I know not why is this sudden call to what useless inconsequence!

III

On the day when the lotus bloomed, alas, my mind was straying, and I knew it not. My basket was empty and the flower remained unheeded.

Only now and again a sadness fell upon me, and I started up from my dream and felt a sweet trace of a strange smell in the south wind.

That vague fragrance made my heart ache with longing, and it seemed to me that it was the eager breath of the summer seeking for its completion.

I knew not then that it was so near, that it was mine, and this perfect sweetness had blossomed in the depth of my own heart.

IV

By all means they try to hold me secure who love me in this world. But it is otherwise with thy love, which is greater than theirs, and thou keepest me free. Lest I forget them they never venture to leave me alone. But day passes by after day and thou are not seen.

If I call not thee in my prayers, if I keep not thee in my heart—thy love for me still waits for my love.

V

I was not aware of the moment when I first crossed the threshold of this life. What was the power that made me open out into this vast mystery like a bud in the forest at midnight? When in the morning I looked upon the light I felt in a moment that I was no stranger in this world, that the inscrutable without name and form had taken me in its arms in the form of my own mother. Even so, in death the same unknown will appear as ever known to me. And because I love this life, I know I shall love death as well. The child cries out when from the right breast the mother takes it away to find in the very next moment its consolation in the left one.

VI

Thou art the sky and thou art the nest as well. Oh, thou beautiful, there in the nest it is thy love that encloses the soul with colours and sounds and odours. There comes the morning with the golden basket in her right hand bearing the wreath of beauty, silently to crown the earth. And there comes the evening over the lonely meadows deserted by herds, through trackless paths, carrying cool draughts of peace in her golden pitcher from the western ocean of rest.

But there, where spreads the infinite sky for the soul to take her flight in, reigns the stainless white radiance. There is no day nor night, nor form nor colour, and never never a word.

Gitanjali 35

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
     Where knowledge is free;
     Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
     Where words come out from the depth of truth;
     Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
     Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
     Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action— 
     Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

from Stray Birds [233—237]

233

            In heart’s perspective the distance looms large.

234

            The moon has her light all over the sky, her dark spots to herself.

235

            Do not say, “It is morning,” and dismiss it with a name of yesterday. See it for the first time as a new-born child that has no name.

236

            Smoke boasts to the sky, and Ashes to the earth, that they are brothers to the fire.

237

            The raindrop whispered to the jasmine, “Keep me in your heart for ever.”
            The jasmine sighed, “Alas,” and dropped to the ground.

Related Poems

To My Mother

O thou whose care sustained my infant years,
     And taught my prattling lip each note of love;
Whose soothing voice breathed comfort to my fears,
     And round my brow hope’s brightest garland wove;

To thee my lay is due, the simple song,
     Which Nature gave me at life’s opening day;
To thee these rude, these untaught strains belong,
     Whose heart indulgent will not spurn my lay.

O say, amid this wilderness of life,
     What bosom would have throbbed like thine for me?
Who would have smiled responsive?—who in grief,
     Would e’er have felt, and, feeling, grieved like thee?

Who would have guarded, with a falcon-eye,
     Each trembling footstep or each sport of fear?
Who would have marked my bosom bounding high,
     And clasped me to her heart, with love’s bright tear?

Who would have hung around my sleepless couch,
     And fanned, with anxious hand, my burning brow?
Who would have fondly pressed my fevered lip,
     In all the agony of love and wo?

None but a mother—none but one like thee,
     Whose bloom has faded in the midnight watch;
Whose eye, for me, has lost its witchery,
     Whose form has felt disease’s mildew touch.

Yes, thou hast lighted me to health and life,
     By the bright lustre of thy youthful bloom—
Yes, thou hast wept so oft o’er every grief,
     That wo hath traced thy brow with marks of gloom.

O then, to thee, this rude and simple song,
     Which breathes of thankfulness and love for thee,
To thee, my mother, shall this lay belong,
     Whose life is spent in toil and care for me.
 

Mother

Your love was like moonlight
turning harsh things to beauty,
so that little wry souls
reflecting each other obliquely
as in cracked mirrors . . .
beheld in your luminous spirit
their own reflection,
transfigured as in a shining stream,
and loved you for what they are not.

You are less an image in my mind
than a luster
I see you in gleams
pale as star-light on a gray wall . . .
evanescent as the reflection of a white swan
shimmering in broken water.