In the Light

translated from the Bengali by Lilian M. Whitehouse

       We are indeed children of Light. What an endless mart goes on in the Light. In the Light is our sleeping and waking, the play of our life and death. 
       Beneath one great canopy, in the ray of one great sun, slowly, very slowly, burn the unnumbered lamps of life. 
       In the midst of this unending Light I lose myself; amidst this intolerable radiance I wander like one blind. 
       We are indeed children of Light. Why then do we fear when we see the Light? Come, let us look all around and see, here no man hath cause for any fear. 
       In this boundless ocean of Light, if a tiny lamp goes out, let it go; who can say that it will not burn again? 


This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on May 26, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“In the Light” appears in The Heritage of India: Poems by Indian Women (Association Press and Oxford University Press, 1923). According to scholar and historian Tapan Chattopadhyay, Kamini Roy “is one of the greatest poets of Bengali literature and her poems are now part of the school syllabus in both West Bengal and Bangladesh.” In the article “Nationalist Women Poets in Colonial Bengal,” Chattopadhyay goes on to stress the importance of Roy’s poetry on the anti-partition movement, affirming, “In 1921, she was one of the leaders, along with Kumudini Mitra (Basu) and Mrinalini Sen, of the Bangiya Nari Samaj, an organization founded to fight for women’s suffrage (The Bengal Legislative Council granted limited suffrage to women in 1925). […] Many of her poetic lines like ‘Sakoler tare sakale amra, / Protyeke amra parer tare’ (‘We are all for us, ourselves / Everyone is for everyone else’), ‘Parer karone swartha diya bali / E jiban mon sakali dao, / Tar moto sukh kothao ki achhe? / Apanar katha bhuliya jao’ (‘Sacrificing your self-interest for others’ cause / Give up everything, this life and your soul, / Is there any happiness comparable to this sacrifice? / Forget about yourself’) and ‘Pachhe loke kichhu bale’ (‘Lest people should say something’), etc. have become part of everyday vocabulary. It can indeed be said that no other poet in Bengal, whether male or female, has exhibited patriotic sentiments in poetry so forcefully and so touchingly like Kamini Roy. Bengal’s revolutionaries and other freedom-fighters were inspired by her poems.”