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At the last watch -- Rabindranath Tagore

Guest poem sent in by Monica Bathija
(Poem #1417) At the last watch
 Pity, in place of love,
      That pettiest of gifts,
 Is but a sugar-coating over neglect.
      Any passerby can make a gift of it
          To a street beggar,
 Only to forget the moment the first corner is turned.
          I had not hoped for anything more that day.

 You left during the last watch of night.
      I had hoped you would say goodbye,
           Just say 'Adieu' before going away,
      What you had said another day,
               What I shall never hear again.
                  In their place, just that one word,
 Bound by the thin fabric of a little compassion
            Would even that have been too much for you to bear?

            When I first awoke from sleep
                     My heart fluttered with fear
              Lest the time had been over.
                I rushed out of bed.
        The distant church clock chimed half past twelve
                I sat waiting near the door of my room
                    Resting my head against it,
      Facing the porch through which you would come out.

 Even that tiniest of chances
    Was snatched away by fate from hapless me;
    I fell asleep
         Shortly before you left.
 Perhaps you cast a sidelong glance
             At my reclining body
      Like a broken boat left high and dry.
    Perhaps you walked away with care
              Lest you wake me up.
    Awaking with a start I knew at once
              That my vigil had been wasted
    I realised, what was to go went away in a moment,
         What was to stay behind stayed on
              For all time.

 Silence everywhere
    Like that of a birds' nest bereft of birds
         On the bough of a songless tree.
 With the lifeless light of the waning moon was now blended
         The pallor of dawn
    Spreading itself over the greyness of my empty life.
                   I walked towards your bedroom
                                      For no reason.
                       Outside the door
                Burnt a smoky lantern covered with soot,
             The porch smelt of the smouldering wick.
 Over the abandoned bed the flaps of the rolled-up mosquito-net
                     Fluttered a little in the breeze.
              Seen in the sky outside through the window
                          Was the morning star,
                     Witness of all sleepless people
                          Bereft of hope.

 Suddenly I found you had left behind by mistake
 Your gold-mounted ivory walking stick.
        If there were time, I thought,
        You might come back from the station to look for it,
        But not because
    You had not seen me before going away.
-- Rabindranath Tagore
           23 May 1936

I recently went to Calcutta and Santiniketan, one of the reasons for the
visit being Tagore. I found this poem in a volume called Syamali, which is
also the name of one of the houses in which the poet lived in Santiniketan.

Through and through Tagore. Simple and beautiful, I love the way it
effortlessly evokes imagery. And of course, on an evening in a tourist
lodge, it touched just the right chord. But that's what poetry is for,
isn't it?

Monica

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Anonymous said...

I was trying to find about this particular poem and i wanted to know when Tagore wrote the poem as i wanted to relate it to his life. Through the columns of this blog i came to know that it is from the volume of Syamali which really is informative. I guess many might have read the poem without even knowing that it is a part of Syamali. Thankyou for providing this information. do give some more information about this if possible.
Thankyou!

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