Poetry: The Gardener by Rabindranath Tagore

Tagore Fireflies Book Detail Tagore

From Mrs. Shalian’s shelf comes another poetry wonder, printed over a hundred years ago and yet whispered as though yesterday. In our search for the future, how can we move forward without knowing the past.

Tagore writes,

In the morning I cast my net into the sea.

I dragged up from the dark abyss things of strange aspect and strange beauty – some shone like a smile, some glistened like tears, and some were flushed like the cheeks of a bride.

When with the day’s burden I went home, my love was sitting in the garden idly tearing the leaves of a flower.

I hesitated for a moment, and then placed at her feet all that I had dragged up, and stood silent.

She glanced at them and said, “What strange things are these? I know not of what use they are!”

I bowed my head in shame and thought, “I have not fought for these, I did not buy them in the market: they are not fit gifts for her.”

Then the whole night through I lunged them one by one into the street.

In the morning travelers came; they picked them up and carried them into far countries.


I spent the day on the scorching hot dust of the road.

Now, in the cool of the evening, I knock at the door of the inn. It is deserted and in ruins.

A grim ashath tree spreads its hungry clutching roots through the gaping fissures of the walls.

Days have been when wayfarers came here to wash their weary feet.

They spread their mats in the courtyard in the dim light of the early moon, and sat and talk of strange lands.

They woke refreshed in the morning when birds made them glad, and friendly flowers nodded their heads at them from the wayside.

But no lighted lamp waited me when I came here.

The black smudges of smoke left by many a forgotten lamp stare, like blind eyes, from the wall.

Fireflies flit in the bush near the dried-up pond, and bamboo branches fling their shadows on the grass grown path.

I am the guest of no one at the end of my day.

The long night is before me, and I am tired.

And, the reason why we read today,

Who are you, reader, reading my poems an hundred years hence?

I cannot send you one single flower from this wealth of the spring, one single streak of gold from yonder clouds.

Open your doors and look abroad.

From your blossoming garden gather fragrant memories of the vanished flowers of an hundred years before.

In the joy of your heart may you feel the living joy that sang one spring morning, sending its glad voice across an hundred years.

Tagore, an acclaimed Bengali poet, received the Nobel Prize in Literature one hundred years ago.

By Keri Douglas, writer/photographers, Washington, D.C. (Please follow 9 Muses News copyright use policy.)

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