Saturday, August 10, 2013

Won't let you go!

(August sunset in Gurgaon)

I have felt what it is to part.
I know it still: a dark, invincible
cruel something, which reveals again
the depth of our bond, and tears it in two.

How unguarded I was as I faced it.
I felt you pulling me and letting me go,
while staying behind, merging with all women,
becoming nothing more than this:

a waving hand, no longer intended for me alone;
a waving that continues and grows indistinct.
Perhaps a blossoming plum tree
from which a bird has just taken flight.

(New Poems, Rainer Maria Rilke)

I came across some astonishingly haunting poems of Rilke in this blog, A Year With Rilke, and I felt an instant connect with the mysticism which is familiar to the many admirers of Tagore's poetry. Rabindranath Tagore was not just a poet, he was a multifaceted genius and truly a world poet. There was a poem called Jete Nahi Dibo, "Wont let you go" which I read ages ago, and tonight, as I punch this keyboard, listening to some of my favourite Tagore songs, I still remember the burst of emotion which I felt when I read the poem for the first time. 

An English translation would never be able to communicate the intensity of those feelings but I came across an excellent translation by Fakhrul Alam which appears in a collection called The Essential Tagore, by Harvard University Press, which appeared in their blog and can be accessed here - 

Someone trying to snatch from darkness
The flame of a dying lamp exclaims
A hundred times, “I won’t let you go!”
It’s the oldest cry resounding from earth to heaven
The solemnest lament, “I won’t let you go!”
And yet, alas, we have to let go; and yet,
Of course, we must go. And this is how it has been,
From time immemorial. Since creation’s currents
Began streaming relentlessly towards extinction’s sea
With burning eyes and outstretched arms
We’ve all been crying out in vain endlessly,
“Won’t let go, won’t let you go!”
Filling earth’s shores with laments
As everything ebbs inexorably away.
The waves up front cry out to the ones in the rear,
“Won’t let go, won’t let you go!”— But no one listens. . . .

Everywhere around me this day I hear
My daughter’s plaintive voice; it keeps ringing
In my ears and piercing the heart of the universe.
Earth resounds with a child’s unreasonable cry.
Forever it loses what it gets and yet it won’t
Slacken its grip; forever it calls us
With unending love like my four-year-old daughter:
“Won’t let you go!” Though sad-faced and in tears,
Its pride shattered at every step,
Love refuses to accept defeat and cries out
In desperation, “Won’t let you go!”
Defeated each time it blurts out,
“Can the one I love stay away?
Can anything in the universe compare
In strength or be as boundless as my desire?”

These are excerpts from the poem, and the translation is really outstanding. Parting, is a recurrent theme with not only Tagore but all mystic poets, I suppose.

Part, we must.  

It is inevitable and sometimes, quite sudden and we all know it but keep hoping against hope, trying not to think about it and often actively working on mechanisms to postpone the inevitable. 

Is parting  a loss?  I don't really think so, for the loss is not of the one who goes away, and the one who goes away merely appears in another stage, another set. Maybe in another space - time.

All of us have seen dead leaves slowly drifting down, with effortless detachment. So why do we feel the terrible sense of loss at the time of parting with our beloved ones! Perhaps it is because we are human beings after all, and no amount of lectures in detachment can deaden the sharp jabs of pain which we must feel if we have loved with complete abandon. Else, there would not have been such wonderful poetry that tug at your heartstrings!

1 comment:

  1. Oh such a glorious post! A veritable feast of words that go straight to the heart, yours no less than those of Rilke and Tagore, my friend. My life has been a series of losses and partings and it still continues - yet when I look back, it is at the banquet of experiencing all those places, people, creatures that fills my heart, not their losses. I loved this. So nice to see you writing, fellow poet! Would love to see your poem on this topic!!