For the first time was I fearful of my shadow,
Never before in such nakedness had it stood before me.
Only some poetry had I been reading then,
Repeating merely in my mind, the words of Kant and Keats,
Unaware all along that bond, inescapable, was hiding underneath.
As long as I existed, I saw, the sun would fall upon me;
And the ground below, be always there to receive it;
That I was mortal, I could not run away from;
That I was immortal, also I could see.
But how could I ignore it- that part ephemeral following me;
Hard as I tried not to pay heed, my eyes saw only it.
There it always was, from the corners of my eyes visible endlessly,
Relentlessly taunting, that never could I be free.
Such disconnection was not new, but such lack of sadness was;
I mused, and walked through, once more, those castles of vapour so familiar.
A class of students, by the pond, I saw approaching;
The teacher I was afraid of; afraid that in our crossing, words might be exchanged;
And the kids, grouped in pairs, their hands joined, I saw laughing.
Pain, ineffable, of a memory that would not reveal itself, seared through me.
Such happiness, I could not recall-
Perhaps never conscious enough had I been I thought.
And in that momentary attraction, that over-indulgence, and after it, I felt embarrassed;
As if, it was the simpler road that I was taking,
Longing to shift, because I had no spine, my yoke onto another.
The children passed. And I began my way back home.
And I saw it again, on the warm concrete:
My shadow, whose company I had by then accepted.
‘Whomsoever I would stand in front of’, it said to me, ‘of the sun I would deprive’;
And it mocked me, knowing that such humour to me was not natural.
I had envied those often to whom it was.
Too prudent I have been to want to end the obscuring, too proud still to let light though.
An inner wisdom standeth within me- a kingdom I never knew.
A still more glorious dawn awaiteth, and light spiritual it hath promised,
‘In renunciation lieth rejoicing’; to first renounce one’s self it hath demanded.
I have been that drunkard, who hath renounced his drink,
But who hath still, hidden away somewhere,
A bottle or two just in case.
This will not do, I now arrive at; not in compromise, in dissolution lieth truth.
‘Do not be afraid’, an inner voice sayeth, ‘do not fear delusion,
Do not doubt that intellect, thou wilt remain thyself even still.
Forget not what thou thyself hast found, that such problems as this,
Can only, when they are forgotten be said to be solved.
And see through thy window, either the scene outside, or thine own reflection,
Or neither or both,
But see what thou seest clearly, and call it what it is.’
And I do not fear- am able to for a moment;
And what joy it hath brought me, what incredible pleasure.
Not everything need have been written, not everything could have been written.
What had I been doing, who for?
And from a hundred years past, an answer from one of mine own appeared:
‘The traveller hath to knock at every alien door to come to his own,
And one hath 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!”’
To Philosophy I finally asked:
‘I think, therefore I am?
Or I feel, therefore I am?
I think I am, therefore I am?
Or only I think I am?’
And in its reluctant silence, only that same ancient voice I hear again;
And ‘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!”’
To not condemn, be an example is what must be done.
Analysis relieved, turning healthy and good, a peculiar happiness ariseth.
When all I see as brothers and sisters:
How beautiful, how happy my sisters appear,
How wise poetry my fathers write, how courageously my brothers fight.
Possession, the desire for it renounced,
Envy, competition, all are negated.
Whom I am scared of, are also me,
Who are scared of me, are also me.
Everything I already possess.
Where at average the scientist looketh, the religious poet looketh at ideals.
Might it not be that logic spiritual be different from that of the body.
Paradoxical it may be, because argument bodily still reigns;
Not until, can one see,
That sheets full of notes are not all that music can be.
A child, dancing, passeth by- what rhythm she hath, what grace;
A wagon passeth by, and the sun shineth, glittereth in the spokes of its wheels;
Birds sing, and dimly, insects.
And my heart breaketh, with happiness.
The complexity, the self-inflicted unfamiliarity, was it a gift, I wonder.
What had I been moaning about, I cannot remember.
Not sense but sensitivity was what was needed.
If every harshness was required to humiliate at once,
If all sorrow, all disappointment, to occur together,
If to be humbled I was, and broken, and forced onto my knees,
Crying for a solution, for reform, for relief, If thus had I to be led towards such an answer,
Indeed, it was all a present.
Truly do I feel today to share:
If a million pages of most hurtful analysis,
Of unrelenting deductions, and merciless probing,
Of every wound conceivable, Of all discussion, of all nature, of all self,
Of cold and hunger, and loneliness and tears,
Of madness and poverty, and distance and isolation-
If this, constituted my study, it was only, I confess,
For I was seeking, in the wilderness of my mind,
First-hand science I sought, first-hand art,
First-hand philosophy, first-hand poetry,
First-hand love, and first-hand God.
Pandora’s box as if lay open beside me,
And the whitest of white, blackest of black I saw.
If expected still I was then, to live ordinarily,
To engage in commerce, in usual conversation, I do not blame you.
But ye saw from far away windows,
But there too the fault was not yours;
For a hole I had dug in which I hid myself,
Because the noise was too loud,
The dissonance too shrill.
Covering my ears was not sufficient;
To think less of it, I was not capable;
And with madness was I threatened.
But like a humble glow-worm I was, I had not imagined,
In lighting, I feared explosion.
The tension, the tightness, was like that that of lightning,
The crackle, like most terrible of terrible wreckage.
With all my might, I avoided, ignored and fought
That perhaps violent reaction that was to ensue;
Alas, what was there beyond I could not then see,
That light sublime lay awaiting.
‘I’ now ‘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 knoweth no rest nor respite,
And my work becometh an endless toil in a shoreless sea of toil.
To-day the summer hath 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 quiet, face to face with thee,
And to sing dedication of life in this silent and overflowing leisure.’
Clarity remaineth ever out of grasp; like a breeze it floweth.
I am drunk with it for a moment, and it passeth.
Imprecise memories only it leaveth behind, a dusting of precious truth all over.
But so very healthful is this dust, so brilliant, I dare not bathe.
A solution I have felt, not deduced, which it is impossible to lay down with much rigour.
May I be pardoned then, that however faulty it may be, I still endeavour.
Many have perished in preaching and teaching; but how many have died in practice?
How many, I wonder, have in deed renounced, and not merely acted.
Those souls who seek neither fame nor fortune, who have renounced all want of followers;
Who look not to overthrow those who taught them,
To write more books, to produce more instruction;
Who seek not to establish new creeds, look not to satisfy hunger…
Not in slogans, in silence they make their eternal marks;
They long not for hasty wealth;
A humbleness they possess, of which they do not boast of,
No awareness of it, have they ever felt.
Tender is the line, tender it is on which I tread;
A trail of crimson I leave behind; unseen prods push me ahead.
Slightest winds push me into oblivion,
And years and ages pass by,
Until I can recall again that delicate equilibrium,
That once was safely and solely my.
Shorn of all finery, I come before thee and ask,
May I be granted that I sway no longer:
That affection not perturb me, nor pride nor anger,
That I sing unaware of applause.
That able to forget I am all byzantine strife,
Am able to walk without pause forever.
That for fear of failure my effort be not shortened,
For fear of shame my confession not silenced.
That greed and lust do not seduce me;
And to thy glory I write forever.
That I covet not in others wealth,
Am able to see mine all around,
That no untruth do I harbour within me,
To my neighbour benefit abound.
That I may cower no more, whimper no more,
Potent may I feel in my service,
May I look not for return of like kind,
Be content with whatever thou dost me furnish.
May I retain that reason which thou hast bestowed upon me,
May I reveal thee in my actions.
May I not float away in unexplainable misery again;
May I return always to thy peaceful bastions.
May I remember what I have seen,
May I remember what I have been,
May I make my life simple in truth,
Not merely in dream.
That I can write about suffering too I ought to be grateful for. A poem by a master tingeth my pain with wisdom, and alloweth me to return to thy sheltering embrace. That I not diffuse into frivolousness, or lose the sight I have gained, thou hast made adequate provision for I now see.
Though a million defects I must deal with, disappointments aplenty contend, I do not stray too far. I curse the darkness when it cometh and wail in defeat; but I am only to look above, and see the stars which in the day were hidden. I find my way back home by their light, and like the prodigal son, I return. It is my own lower self that I loathe. Darkness is precious; there are things that only in darkness can they be seen. Birds chirp around me this cold and silent dawn, and I cry, knowing that thou art here.
The end of the trail is upon me, and I must begin my day soon. A walker walketh by- she looketh at me and smileth- A smile that is sincere, and as much from thee as from her. Before I can answer she disappeareth, leaving behind only memories of similar beatific silences. Enquiry I abandon; and thee I see; and all worry I lose.
So long are these dark passages, in this mansion thou hast decreed me to survey, that I quite forget where I am at times. Dream and not-dream do not distinguish themselves in this darkness; nor what I hear and what I say.
A window I see- a narrow crevice amidst the pitch black. A garden is beyond; the gardener is not. I peer, and a draught of life whirreth through the crack, carrying upon it cheerful birdsong. The breeze hitteth my fevered face, and I drink the cold- swallow it without pause. As if gaining consciousness for the first time, I find my bearings. The sky is vast, and the sun, I see, shining brilliantly on the wind-stricken waters. The light burneth through the skin, and etcheth itself onto the backs of my eyes. The impression, though it will change with every step that I shall take I know, will let me walk.
Thus I dream.
What is, this fear? This nervous scalloping of myself, that leaveth me so concave to the world. Why must I rise every morning as if from death, having no memory of songs sung in days gone by? Why must my mind shatter myself to pieces and revolt itself into seclusion so often? Why must, every touch render me motionless? Perhaps I have not yet seen thee; perhaps, I have only heard thy footsteps before my house.
It is by singing to thee every morning that speech at all is possible. It is in these songs that I remember where I am, recall continuity. I wipe my eyes clean off deep sleep, and look for thee when I wake. And if I see then, only, that my room is in disrepair, that the sheets lie dishevelled, and the lights flicker- that it is quite unfit for thy welcome, as it is, must I be pronounced idle, good for nothing, for not, before I tidy, feeling able to attend to the day’s appointments?
Truth, yes, thee it is I seek. If only thou wilt let me find the grasp of thy hand, I may be.
Deep, deep in sleep on the sea-bed of night,
Tranced, I lay perspiring;
Unconscious of hour or company, I saw
My self tethered to a chair and writhing.
In a chamber with soot black walls,
Stood a man before me with sharpened knife.
Trepid murmurs of abandoned friends I heard;
Being blackmailed I was for my life.
Fearful of death I was, I at first imagined,
But oh the unmanliness was I afraid of more-
Of the unreadiness, calculating profit and pride,
To be killed in obscurity, no audience ashore.
Fetters of gold, fetters of blood, fetters of learning, fetters of mud,
Fetters of lies, fetters of bread, fetters of violence, fetters of dread-
All at once as if broken,
My cadaver buoyed up at great speed;
To glistening life and light I awoke,
My eyes trembling, screaming to breathe.
That deepest dye with which thou hadst dyed me, intimated,
Bled at once through out to the rind
Of my alerted mind; I could die again; the hour had struck
Once more, for me refined, to thee only go find.
Dear friend, farewell to thee have I been pouring,
From these violent seas that do not end;
Wrecked by tempest, thy vessel sinking,
Into calm- an error I cannot mend.
Of Truth only it was my intention to sing,
Knowing not such offence my song could cause;
What memories, oh, our meeting to me bring,
Searing in flashes within, without pause.
Such easy dismissal as thine, so without strain,
Which made of pestilence meagre sneeze-
I wonder were I chaff, without grain, no especial;
To be separated without care, by a passing breeze.
A wound thou hast left upon me, that ever bleeds,
That with all I own I cannot cover;
Waters of Marah this pouring feeds,
From clouds upon clouds that above me hover.
To new worlds have I been led,
Before which my wits can now bow;
New words have I heard said,
Which make me go mad I know not how.
Beautiful silences walk in thy stead;
Best of wishes to thee I shall ever send;
Deeper poetry can now be read,
Adieu, take care, farewell, my dear friend.
How crisp and sweet thou art tonight, o evening air; I walk in thee through the park. Verdant paths this full-moon night, lead me into thy fairy land of faraway hills. Vestiges of cerulean, bordered by amber, frame thy silent sight. I seat myself and listen, through the dark entangled trees, to thine un-singable divine song.
The pond by me, silvery, shimmereth pleasured by thy touch. So quiet is the quiet, my breath turneth it into ocean. Whispers thou bearest away from me, into the unknown, in search of which I look on high, and stare. And lost in reverie, ‘Where am I?’, I wonder. Thy vastness overwhelmeth. An ocean lieth below me; an ocean floateth above.
‘Whither!?’, I wake to, this thickly veiled morn,
‘Wherefore, solitary warbler, hast thou even been born?’;
‘To thee seek’ do I simply, and dishonestly respond,
‘That will not do!’; in silence, I gaze up, and fly ever beyond.
‘If tomorrow I shall die’, how many can they say,
‘A good life I have lived’, ‘have no desire to stay…’;
If trodden I have this most circuitous a way,
Frail and cowering at times, yet, if say so I may,
With passion invisible, singing of valour livelong day.
‘Tis only, for in Truth I cannot stray;
No, Clarity, rest assured, thou insistent voluptuous fay,
I cannot be defeated; thy fabric, never shall it fray.
And with these notes, hath struck that finest hour,
For me to read poetry, under sublimely woven bower.
Of that which hath broken through gloom, this golden shower.
Oh, were I a better poet, who with more precision could devour
This oneness before me, of every face, bird and flower,
This oneness within- this mighty mountain- on which ever thou dost tower.
I need only go to a meadow when sick; enter into it and smell the grass, quite forgetting all strife. Walking, seeing all life sobered, a peculiar mixture of feelings I feel: painful and admirable, and happy and healthy. ‘What is these people smile about?’ I wonder.
An otherwise ever present unrequitedness oscillateth and mergeth with bestowal without bounds. At welcome distance, an all knowing silence enwrappeth me; and I recall the requirement, and the rejoicing, that is in renunciation. And all is well again. I regain the calm required to write.
I strive to find the rightest of right words. I stand bare before the world, and receive all impression. I work hard every day, toil unseen every night. All for a singular moment, I wring out my soul.
And when wrung dry and wanting, lost and defeated I drop, thou liftest me up again, toward the sky. And I remember, and within, without tears, I cry. My best works, in silence have I writ.
All toil is futile, all progress irritating, all exhaustion suicidal, unless thy name is not attached to my works, unless thou lendest not they pristine silence to mine every word.
‘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.’
I had planned to wake up early, before sunrise, and write poetry first thing in the morning. Yet every time I opened my eyes, with every wink, the clock turned an hour ahead I found. My indolence, had marred, our union.
I had thought I was a sky-searching lark. Why hath thy song not filled me yet? Why doth it let me sleep at all? Why can I not wake from my dreams at once? Why must I writhe thus in heaviness?
I am in a deep, dark well, and thy whispers reverberate around the walls, quaking me out of slumber, but I cannot see thee through my drowsy eyes. As soon as thy voice dies, darkness at once overwhelmeth. And finding no ropes to the surface, In the momentary flash, I faint, in fear.
Calls of the passing world, ye are futile; I lie heavy in sleep. Though ye may rouse me, I will fall again; I will not be able to hear what you say; I will attend to your orders only half-consciously.
But, lo, I am, writing this poem, just woken up. Only it not quite what I had slept for. It is a different poem: one chosen by thee, and not me.
As day approacheth, I realise the well in which I lay was a tunnel. A way appeareth, and I run in panic lest it vanish before I reach. As if an animal, I run.
Some recent readings occur to me. Byron. ‘That the tragedy of human existence, is that it can perceive of a perfection that it cannot attain.’ And I reflect on my education, and on my childish mind, what hath been decreed upon us, and which we have readily accepted: That if we cannot attain it, it doth not exist.
And running, I become light itself, for those few moments.
Naught cometh to me but praise for thee. Those who have not had the pleasure of courting thee, will not know what it is to pine for thee. I shall pass the entire day today in gratitude.
Featured image: Renunciation by Arjun Jain
Quotations by Rabindranath Tagore
Medium: Graphite on Paper
Year(s): 2016 (March)
Size: 56×37.5 cm