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(Song offerings)

by Rabindranath Tagore


Rabindranath Tagore (1861--1941), was an Indian who received Nobel prize (1913) for Literature. This collection of songs was first published in 1913 as a collection of prose translations made by the author from the original Bangla (a language of India) Poems.


This is one of my most favorite collections. I am presenting here some of the songs from the original book.


When thou commandest me to sing

it seems that my heart

 would break with pride;

and I look to thy face,

 and tears come to my eyes.

All that is harsh and dissonant in my life

 melts into one sweet harmony

and my adoration spreads wings

like a glad bird on its flight across the sea.

I know thou takest pleasure in my singing.

I know that only as a singer

I come before thy presence.

I touch by the edge

of the far-spreading wings of my song

thy feet

 which I could never aspire to reach.

Drunk with the joy of singing

 I forget myself

and call thee friend

who art my lord.


I know not how thou singest,

 my master!

I ever listen in silent amazement.

The light of thy music illumines the world.

 The life breath of thy music

 runs from sky to sky.


The holy stream of thy music

breaks through all stony obstacles

 and rushes on.

My heart longs

to join in thy song,

but vainly struggles for a voice.


I would speak,

but speech breaks not into song,

 and I cry out baffled.


Ah, thou hast made my heart

 captive in the endless meshes

 of thy music, my master!




Life of my life,

 I shall ever try to keep

 my body pure,

knowing that thy living touch

 is upon all my limbs.

I shall ever try

 to keep all untruths

 out from my thoughts,

 knowing that thou art that truth

 which has kindled

the light of reason in my mind.

I shall ever try

to drive all evils away

 from my heart and

keep my love in flower,

 knowing that thou hast thy seat

 in the inmost shrine

of my heart.

And it shall be my endeavour

 to reveal thee in my actions,

 knowing it is thy power

 gives me strength to act.




I ask for a moment's indulgence

 to sit by thy side.

 The works that I have in hand

 I will finish afterwards.

Away from the sight of thy face

 my heart knows no rest nor respite,

 and my work becomes

 an endless toil

 in a shoreless sea of toil.

Today the summer has come

 at my window

with its sighs and murmurs;

and the bees are plying their minstrelsy

 at the court of the flowering grove.

Now it is time to sit quite,

 face to face with thee,

 and to sing dedication of life

 in this silent and overflowing leisure.




Pluck this little flower and take it,

 delay not!

I fear lest it droop

and drop into the dust.


I may not find a place

 in thy garland,

 but honour it with a touch of pain

 from thy hand and pluck it.


 I fear lest the day end

 before I am aware,

 and the time of offering go by.


 Though its colour be not deep

 and its smell be faint,

 use this flower in thy service

 and pluck it while there is time.




My song has put off

 her adornments.

 She has no pride

of dress and decoration.


 Ornaments would mar our union;

 they would come

between thee and me;

their jingling would drown thy whispers.

My poet's vanity dies

 in shame before thy sight.

 O master poet,

 I have sat down at thy feet.


 Only let me make

 my life simple and straight,

 like a flute of reed

for thee to fill with music.




O Fool,

 try to carry thyself

 upon thy own shoulders!


 O beggar,

 to come beg at thy own door!

Leave all thy burdens

 on his hands who can bear all,

 and never look behind in regret.

Thy desire at once

 puts out the light

 from the lamp it touches with its breath.


 It is unholy

take not thy gifts

through its unclean hands.


 Accept only

what is offered by sacred love.




The time that my journey takes

 is long and the way of it long.

I came out on the chariot

 of the first gleam of light,

 and pursued my voyage

 through the wildernesses of worlds

 leaving my track

 on many a star and planet.

It is the most distant course

 that comes nearest to thyself,

 and that training is the most intricate

 which leads

to the utter simplicity of a tune.

The traveller has to knock

 at every alien door

 to come to his own,

 and one has to wander

 through all the outer worlds

 to reach

 the innermost shrine at the end.

My eyes strayed

 far and wide

 before I shut them

 and said `Here art thou!'

The question and the cry

 `Oh, where?'

melt into tears of a thousand streams

 and deluge the world

 with the flood of the assurance

 `I am!'




The song that I came to sing

 remains unsung to this day.

I have spent my days

 in stringing and in unstringing

 my instrument.

The time has not come true,

 the words have not been rightly said;

 only there is the agony

 of wishing in my heart.

The blossom has not opened;

 only the wind is sighing by.

I have not seen his face,

 nor have I listened to his voice;

 only I have heard

 his gentle footsteps

 from the road before my house.

The livelong day has passed

 in spreading his seat on the floor;

 but the lamp has not been lit

 and I cannot ask him

 into my house.

I live in the hope

 of meeting with him;

 but this meeting is not yet.




My desires are many

 and my cry is pitiful,

but ever didst thou save me

 by hard refusals;


 and this strong mercy

 has been wrought into my life

 through and through.

Day by day

 thou art making me

 worthy of the simple,

 great gifts

that thou gavest to me unasked

this sky and the light,

 this body and the life

 and the mind

saving me

from perils of overmuch desire.

There are times

when I languidly linger

 and times

 when I awaken and hurry

 in search of my goal;

 but cruelly thou hidest

 thyself from before me.

Day by day

 thou art making me

 worthy of thy full acceptance

 by refusing me ever and anon,

 saving me

from perils of weak,

 uncertain desire.




I am here

 to sing thee songs.

 In this hall of thine

 I have a corner seat.

In thy world

 I have no work to do;

 my useless life

 can only break out

 in tunes without a purpose.

When the hour strikes

 for thy silent worship

 at the dark temple of midnight,

 command me, my master,

 to stand before thee to sing.

When in the morning air

 the golden harp is tuned,

 honour me,

commanding my presence.




I have had my invitation

 to this world's festival,

 and thus my life

 has been blessed.


My eyes have seen

 and my ears have heard.

It was my part

 at this feast

 to play upon my instrument,

 and I have done all I could.

Now, I ask,

 has the time come at last

 when I may go in

 and see thy face

 and offer thee

 my silent salutation?



I am only waiting for love

 to give myself up

 at last into his hands.


That is why

 it is so late

 and why I have been guilty

 of such omissions.


They come with their laws

 and their codes

 to bind me fast;

 but I evade them ever,

 for I am only waiting for love

 to give myself up

 at last into his hands.

People blame me

 and call me heedless;

 I doubt not

they are right in their blame.

The market day is over

 and work is all done

 for the busy.

 Those who came

 to call me in vain

have gone back in anger.


 I am only waiting for love

 to give myself up

 at last into his hands.




If thou speakest not

 I will fill my heart

 with thy silence

 and endure it.


 I will keep still

 and wait like the night

 with starry vigil

 and its head bent

 low with patience.

The morning will surely come,

 the darkness will vanish,

 and thy voice pour down

 in golden streams

 breaking through the sky.

Then thy words

 will take wings

 in songs from every one

 of my birds' nests,

 and thy melodies

 will break forth in flowers

 in all my forest groves.




On the day

 when the lotus bloomed,


 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 fragrance

 in the south wind.

That vague sweetness

 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 that this perfect sweetness

 had blossomed

 in the depth of my own heart.



Art thou abroad

 on this stormy night

 on thy journey of love,

 my friend?

 The sky groans like one in despair.

I have no sleep tonight.

 Ever and again I open my door

 and look out on the darkness,

 my friend!

I can see nothing before me.

 I wonder where lies thy path!
By what dim shore

 of the ink-black river,

 by what far edge

 of the frowning forest,

 through what mazy depth of gloom

 art thou threading

 thy course to come to me,

 my friend?




If the day is done,

 if birds sing no more,

if the wind has flagged tired,

 then draw the veil of darkness

 thick upon me,

 even as thou hast wrapt

 the earth with the coverlet of sleep

 and tenderly closed the petals

 of the drooping lotus at dusk.

From the traveller,

 whose sack of provisions is empty

 before the voyage is ended,

 whose garment is torn and dust laden,

 whose strength is exhausted,

 remove shame and poverty,

 and renew his life

 like a flower under the cover

 of thy kindly night.




In the night of weariness

 let me give myself up

 to sleep without struggle,

 resting my trust upon thee.

Let me not force

 my flagging spirit

 into a poor preparation

 for thy worship.

It is thou who drawest

 the veil of night

 upon the tired eyes

 of the day

 to renew its sight

 in a fresher gladness of awakening.




Light, oh where is the light?

 Kindle it

 with the burning fire of desire!

There is the lamp

 but never a flicker of a flame

is such thy fate, my heart?


 Ah, death were better by far for thee!

Misery knocks at thy door,

 and her message is

 that thy lord is wakeful,

 and he calls thee

 to the love-tryst

 through the darkness of night.

The sky is overcast

 with clouds

 and the rain is ceaseless.

 I know not

 what this is that stirs in me

I know not its meaning.

A moment's flash

 of lightning drags down

 a deeper gloom on my sight,

and my heart gropes

 for the path

 to where the music

 of the night calls me.

Light, oh where is the light!

 Kindle it

 with the burning fire of desire!


 It thunders

 and the wind rushes

 screaming through the void.


 The night is black

 as a black stone.

 Let not the hours

 pass by in the dark.


 Kindle the lamp of love with thy life.



Obstinate are the trammels,

 but my heart aches

 when I try to break them.

Freedom is all I want,

 but to hope for it

 I feel ashamed.

I am certain

 that priceless wealth is in thee,

 and that thou art

 my best friend,

 but I have not

 the heart to sweep away

 the tinsel that fills my room

The shroud

 that covers me

 is a shroud of dust and death;

 I hate it, yet hug it in love.

My debts are large,

 my failures great,

 my shame secret and heavy;

 yet when I come

 to ask for my good,

 I quake in fear

lest my prayer be granted.




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 art 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.



Let only that little be left of me

 whereby I may name thee my all.

Let only that little be left

 of my will whereby

 I may feel thee on every side,

 and come to thee in everything,

 and offer to thee my love

 every moment.

Let only that little be left of me

 whereby I may never hide thee.

Let only that little

 of my fetters be left

 whereby I am bound

 with thy will,

 and thy purpose

 is carried out in my life

and that is the fetter of thy love.



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.




This is my prayer to thee, my lord

strike, strike at the root

 of penury in my heart.

Give me the strength

 lightly to bear

 my joys and sorrows.

Give me the strength

 to make my love

 fruitful in service.

Give me the strength

 never to disown the poor

 or bend my knees

 before insolent might.

Give me the strength

 to raise my mind high

 above daily trifles.

And give me the strength

 to surrender my strength

 to thy will with love.



That I want thee, only thee

let my heart repeat

 without end.


 All desires

that distract me,

 day and night,

 are false and empty to the core.

As the night keeps

 hidden in its gloom

 the petition for light,

 even thus in the depth

 of my unconsciousness rings the cry

`I want thee, only thee'.

As the storm

 still seeks its end in peace

 when it strikes

 against peace with all its might,

 even thus my rebellion

 strikes against thy love

 and still its cry is

`I want thee, only thee'.




When the heart is hard

 and parched up,

 come upon me

 with a shower of mercy.

When grace is lost from life,

 come with a burst of song.

When tumultuous work

 raises its din on all sides

 shutting me out from beyond,

 come to me,

 my lord of silence,

 with thy peace and rest.

When my beggarly heart

 sits crouched,

 shut up in a corner,

 break open the door,

 my king,

 and come with the ceremony of a king.

When desire blinds

 the mind with delusion and dust,

 O thou holy one,

 thou wakeful,

 come with thy light and thy thunder.



This is my delight,

 thus to wait and watch

 at the wayside

 where shadow chases light

 and the rain comes

 in the wake of the summer.


 with tidings from unknown skies,

 greet me

 and speed along the road.


 My heart is glad within,

 and the breath

 of the passing breeze is sweet.

From dawn till dusk

 I sit here before my door,

 and I know

 that of a sudden

 the happy moment

 will arrive when I shall see.

In the meanwhile

 I smile

 and I sing all alone.

 In the meanwhile

 the air is filling

 with the perfume of promise.




I know not

 from what distant time

 thou art ever coming

 nearer to meet me.


 Thy sun and stars

 can never keep thee

 hidden from me for aye.

In many a morning and eve

 thy footsteps have been heard

 and thy messenger has come

 within my heart

 and called me in secret.

I know not

 only why today

 my life is all astir,

 and a feeling

 of tremulous joy

 is passing through my heart.

It is as if the time

 were come

 to wind up my work,

 and I feel in the air

 a faint smell

 of thy sweet presence.




The night is nearly spent

 waiting for him in vain.


 I fear lest in the morning

 he suddenly come to my door

 when I have fallen asleep

 wearied out.


 Oh friends,

 leave the way open to him

forbid him not.

If the sounds of his steps

 does not wake me,

 do not try to rouse me,

 I pray.


 I wish not to be called

 from my sleep

 by the clamorous choir of birds,

 by the riot of wind

 at the festival of morning light.


 Let me sleep undisturbed

 even if my lord comes

 of a sudden to my door.

Ah, my sleep, precious sleep,

 which only waits

 for his touch to vanish.


 Ah, my closed eyes

 that would open their lids

 only to the light of his smile

 when he stands before me

 like a dream emerging

 from darkness of sleep.

Let him appear

 before my sight

 as the first of all lights and all forms.

 The first thrill of joy

 to my awakened soul

 let it come from his glance.


 And let my return to myself

 be immediate return to him.




I thought I should ask of thee

but I dared not

the rose wreath

 thou hadst on thy neck.


 Thus I waited for the morning,

 when thou didst depart,

 to find a few fragments

 on the bed.


 And like a beggar

 I searched in the dawn

 only for a stray petal or two.

Ah me, what is it I find?

 What token left of thy love?

 It is no flower, no spices,

 no vase of perfumed water.

 It is thy mighty sword,

 flashing as a flame,

 heavy as a bolt of thunder.


 The young light of morning

 comes through the window

 and spread itself upon thy bed.


 The morning bird twitters and asks,

 `Woman, what hast thou got?'

 No, it is no flower, nor spices,

 nor vase of perfumed water

it is thy dreadful sword.

I sit and muse in wonder,

 what gift is this of thine.

 I can find no place to hide it.

 I am ashamed to wear it,

 frail as I am,

 and it hurts me

 when press it to my bosom.


Yet shall I bear

 in my heart this honour

 of the burden of pain,

 this gift of thine.

From now there shall be

 no fear left for me

 in this world,

 and thou shalt be victorious

 in all my strife.


 Thou hast left death

 for my companion

 and I shall crown him

 with my life.


 Thy sword is with me

 to cut asunder my bonds,

 and there shall be

 no fear left for me in the world.

From now I leave off

 all petty decorations.

 Lord of my heart,

 no more shall there be

 for me waiting and weeping in corners,

 no more coyness

 and sweetness of demeanour.


 Thou hast given me

 thy sword for adornment.

 No more doll's decorations for me!




Let all the strains of joy

 mingle in my last song

the joy that makes the earth

 flow over

 in the riotous excess of the grass,

 the joy that sets the twin brothers,

 life and death,

 dancing over the wide world,

 the joy that sweeps in

 with the tempest,

 shaking and waking all life with laughter,

 the joy that sits still

 with its tears

 on the open red lotus of pain,

 and the joy

that throws everything

 it has upon the dust,

 and knows not a word.




Yes, I know,

 this is nothing but thy love,

 O beloved of my heart

this golden light

 that dances upon the leaves,

 these idle clouds

 sailing across the sky,

 this passing breeze

 leaving its coolness upon my forehead.

The morning light

 has flooded my eyes

this is thy message to my heart.


 Thy face is bent from above,

 thy eyes look down on my eyes,

 and my heart has touched thy feet.




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 forget 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 many.




She who ever had remained

 in the depth of my being,

 in the twilight

 of gleams and of glimpses;

 she who never opened

 her veils in the morning light,

 will be my last gift to thee,

 my God,

 folded in my final song.

Words have wooed

 yet failed to win her;

 persuasion has stretched to her

 its eager arms in vain.

I have roamed

 from country to country

 keeping her in the core of my heart,

 and around her

 have risen and fallen

 the growth and decay of my life.

Over my thoughts and actions,

 my slumbers and dreams,

 she reigned

 yet dwelled alone and apart.

many a man knocked

 at my door and asked for her

 and turned away in despair.

There was none in the world

 who ever saw her face to face,

 and she remained

 in her loneliness

 waiting for thy recognition.




Deliverance is

 not for me

 in renunciation.


 I feel the embrace

 of freedom

 in a thousand bonds of delight.

Thou ever pourest for me

 the fresh draught of thy wine

 of various colours and fragrance,

filling this earthen vessel to the brim.

My world will light

 its hundred different lamps

 with thy flame

 and place them

 before the altar of thy temple.

No, I will never shut

 the doors of my senses.

 The delights of sight and hearing

 and touch will bear thy delight.

Yes, all my illusions

 will burn into illumination of joy,

 and all my desires

 ripen into fruits of love.




If it is not my portion
to meet thee in this life
then let me ever feel
that I have missed thy sight.

let me not forget for a moment,
let me carry the pangs
of this sorrow in my dreams
and in my wakeful hours.

As my days pass
in the crowded market of this world
and my hands grow full
with the daily profits,
let me ever feel
that I have gained nothing
let me not forget for a moment,
let me carry the pangs
of this sorrow in my dreams
and in my wakeful hours.

When I sit by the roadside,
tired and panting,
when I spread my bed
low in the dust,
let me ever feel
that the long journey is still before me

let me not forget a moment,
let me carry the pangs
of this sorrow in my dreams
and in my wakeful hours.

When my rooms
have been decked out
and the flutes sound
and the laughter there is loud,
let me ever feel
that I have not invited thee to my house—
-let me not forget for a moment,
let me carry the pangs
of this sorrow in my dreams
and in my wakeful hours.




It is the pang of separation

 that spreads

 throughout the world

 and gives birth

 to shapes innumerable

 in the infinite sky.

It is this sorrow of separation

 that gazes in silence

 all nights from star to star

 and becomes lyric

 among rustling leaves

 in rainy darkness of July.

It is this overspreading pain

 that deepens into loves and desires,

 into sufferings and joy in human homes;

 and this it is

 that ever melts and flows

 in songs through my poet's heart.




In desperate hope

 I go and search for her

 in all the corners of my room;

 I find her not.

My house is small

 and what once has gone from it

 can never be regained.

But infinite is thy mansion, my lord,

 and seeking her

I have to come to thy door.

I stand under the golden canopy

 of thine evening sky

 and I lift my eager eyes to thy face.

I have come

 to the brink of eternity

 from which nothing can vanish

no hope, no happiness,

 no vision of a face seen through tears.

Oh, dip my emptied life

 into that ocean,

 plunge it into the deepest fullness.


 Let me for once

 feel that lost sweet touch

 in the allness of the universe.




On the day

 when death will knock at thy door

 what wilt thou offer to him?

Oh, I will set before my guest

 the full vessel of my life

I will never let him go

 with empty hands.

All the sweet vintage

 of all my autumn days and summer nights,

 all the earnings and gleanings

 of my busy life

 will I place before him

at the close of my days

 when death will knock at my door.




O thou the last fulfilment of life,

 Death, my death,

 come and whisper to me!

Day after day

I have kept watch for thee;

 for thee have I borne

 the joys and pangs of life.

All that I am,

 that I have, that I hope

 and all my love

 have ever flowed towards thee

 in depth of secrecy.


 One final glance

 from thine eyes

 and my life

 will be ever thine own.

The flowers have been woven

 and the garland is ready

 for the bridegroom.

 After the wedding

 the bride shall leave her home

 and meet her lord

 alone in the solitude of night.





I know

that the day will come

 when my sight of this earth

 shall be lost,

 and life will take

 its leave in silence,

 drawing the last curtain

 over my eyes.

Yet stars will watch at night,

 and morning rise as before,

 and hours heave like sea waves

 casting up pleasures and pains.

When I think

 of this end of my moments,

 the barrier of the moments breaks

 and I see

 by the light of death thy world

 with its careless treasures.


 Rare is its lowliest seat,

 rare is its meanest of lives.

Things that I longed

 for in vain and things that I got

let them pass.


 Let me

 but truly possess

 the things that I ever spurned

 and overlooked.





When my play was with thee

 I never questioned who thou wert.

 I knew nor shyness nor fear,

 my life was boisterous.

In the early morning

 thou wouldst call me from my sleep

 like my own comrade

 and lead me running

 from glade to glade.

On those days

 I never cared to know

 the meaning of songs

 thou sangest to me.

 Only my voice

 took up the tunes,

 and my heart danced in their cadence.

Now, when the playtime is over,

 what is this sudden sight

 that is come upon me?

 The world with eyes bent

 upon thy feet stands

 in awe with all its silent stars.




I dive down into the depth

 of the ocean of forms,

 hoping to gain

 the perfect pearl of the formless.

No more sailing

 from harbour to harbour

 with this my weather-beaten boat.


 The days are long passed

 when my sport

 was to be tossed on waves.

And now I am eager

 to die into the deathless.

Into the audience hall

 by the fathomless abyss

 where swells up the music

 of toneless strings

 I shall take this harp of my life.
I shall tune it

 to the notes of forever,

 and when it has sobbed out

 its last utterance,

 lay down my silent harp

 at the feet of the silent.


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