2. Day’s End

Day’s end has come, the world is darkening –
It is too late for further sailing.
On the bank a girl, I ask her with a smile,
‘On whose foreign shore am I landing?’
She leaves without a word, her head bowed,
Her full water-jar overflowing.
These steps shall be my mooring.

On the forest’s thick canopy shade is falling,
I find the sight of this country pleasing.
Nothing stirs or moves, neither water nor leaves,
Birds throughout the forest are sleeping.
All I can hear is bracelet on jar
Down the empty path, sadly tinkling.
I find the gold-lit country pleasing.

A golden trident of Siva glitters,
A distant temple-lantern glimmers.
A marble road gleams in the shade,
It is sprinkled with fallen bakul-flowers.
Rows of roofs lurk amidst groves,
At the sight, my traveller’s heart quivers.
A distant temple-lantern glimmers.

From the king’s far palace, the breeze brings a melody,
It floats through the sky, a song in rag Purvi.
The fading scene draws me on –
I feel a strange detached melancholy.
Travel and exile lose their appeal,
Impossible hopes no longer call me.
The sky resounds with rag Purvi.

On the forest, on the palace, night is descending –
It is too late for further sailing.
All that I need is a place for my head,
And I’ll end this life of buying and selling.
As she winds her way she keeps her eyes low,
The girl with the jar at her hip, overflowing.
These steps shall be my mooring.

3.The Golden Boat

Clouds rumbling in the sky; teeming rain.
I sit on the river-bank, sad and alone.
The sheaves lie gathered, harvest has ended,
The river is swollen and fierce in its flow.
As we cut the paddy it starts to rain.

One small paddy-field , no one but me –
Flood waters twisting and swirling everywhere.
Trees on the far bank smear shadows like ink.
On a village painted on deep morning grey.
On this side a paddy-field, no one but me.

Who is this, steering close to the shore,
Singing? I feel that she is someone I know.
The sails are filled wide, she gazes ahead,
Waves break helplessly against the boat each side.
I watch and feel I have seen her face before.

Oh to what foreign land do you sail?
Come to the bank and moor your boat for a while.
Go where you want to, give where you care to,
But come to the bank a moment, show your smile –
Take away my golden paddy when you sail.

Take it, take as much as you can load.
Is there more? No, none, I have put it all aboard.
My intense labour here by the river –
I have parted with it all, layer upon layer:
Now take me as well, be kind, take me aboard.

No room, no room, the boat is too small.
Loaded with my gold paddy, the boat is full.
Across the rain-sky clouds heave to and fro,
On the bare river-bank, I remain alone –
What I had has gone: the golden boat took all.


Stipple engraving by James Denison-Pender on two sheets of optical crystal, each engraved on both sides, mounted in a stainless steel frame. Sandblasting has been used on the front surface to divide the four pictures.
Height 25cm, width 12cm, depth 2cm. The four pictures are based on some of William Radice' translations of the poems of Rabindranath Tagore.

1. New Rain

It dances today, my heart, like a peacock it dances, it dances.
It sports a mosaic of passions
Like a peacock’s tail,
It soars to the sky with delight, it quests, O wildly
It dances today, my heart, like a peacock it dances, it dances.

Storm-clouds roll through the sky, vaunting their thunder, their thunder.
Rice-plants bend and sway
As the water rushes,
Frogs croak, doves huddle and tremble in their nests, O proudly
Storm-clouds roll through the sky, vaunting their thunder.

Rain-clouds wet my eyes with their blue collyrium, collyrium.
I spread out my joy on the shaded
New woodland grass,
My soul and kadamba-trees blossom together, O coolly
Rain-clouds wet my eyes with their blue collyrium.
Who wanders high on the palace –tower, hair unravelled, unravelled –
Pulling her cloud-blue sari
Close to her breast?
Who gambols in the shock and flame of the lightning, O who is it
High on the tower today with hair unravelled?

4.Broken Song

Kasinath the new young singer fills the hall with sound:
The seven notes dance in his throat like seven tame birds.
His voice is a sharp sword slicing and thrusting everywhere,
It darts like lightening – no knowing where it will go when.
He sets deadly traps for himself, then cuts them away:
The courtiers listen in amazement, give frequent gasps of praise.
Only the old king Pratap Ray sits like wood, unmoved.
Baraj Lal is the only singer he likes, all others leave him cold.
From childhood he has spent so long listening to him sing –
Rag Kafi during holi, cloud-songs during the rains,
Songs for Durga at dawn in autumn, songs to bid her farewell –
His heart swelled when he heard them and his eyes swam with tears.
And on days when friends gathered and filled the hall
There were cowherds’ songs of Krsna, in rags Bupali and Multan.

So many nights of wedding-festivity have passed in that royal house:
Servants dressed in red, hundreds of lamps alight:
The bridegroom sits shyly in his finery and jewels,
Young friends teasing him and whispering in his ear:
Before him, singing rag Sahana, sits Baraj Lal.
The king’s heart is full of all those days and songs.
When he hears some other singer, he feels no chord inside,
No sudden magical awakening of memories of the past.
When Pratap Ray watches Kasinath he just sees his wagging head:
Tune after tune after tune, but none with any echo in his heart.

Kasinath asks for a rest and the singing stops for a space.
Pratap Ray smilingly turns his eyes to Baraj Lal.
He puts his mouth to his ear and says, ‘Dear ustad,
Give us a song as songs ought to be, this is no song at all.
It’s all tricks and games, like a cat hunting a bird,
We use to hear songs in the old days, today they have no idea.’

Old Baraj Lal, white-haired, white turban on his head,
Bows to the assembled courtiers and slowly takes his seat.
He takes the tanpura in his wasted, heavily veined hand
And with lowered head and closed eyes begins rag Yaman-kalyan.
His quavering voice is swallowed by the enormous hall,
It is like a tiny bird in a storm, unable to fly for all it tries.
Pratap Ray, sitting to the left, encourages him again and again:
‘Superb, bravo!’ he says in his ear, ‘sing out loud.’

The courtiers are inattentive, some whisper amongst themselves,
Some of them yawn, some doze, some go off to their rooms;
Some of them call to servants, ‘Bring the hookah, bring some pan.’
Some fan themselves furiously and complain of the heat.
They cannot keep still for a minute, they shuffle or walk about –
The hall was quiet before, but every sort of noise has grown.
The old man’s singing is swamped, like a frail boat in a typhoon:
Only his shaky fingering of the tanpura shows it is there,
Music that should rise on its own joy from the depths of the heart
Is crushed by heedless clamour, like a fountain under a stone.
The song and Baraj Lal’s feelings go separate ways,
But he sings for all he is worth, to keep up the honour of his king.

Who sits by the reeds in the river in pure green garments, green garments?
Her water-pot drifts from the bank
As she scans the horizon,
Longing, distractedly, chewing fresh jasmine, O who is it
Sitting in the reeds in the river in pure green garments?

Who swings on the bakul-tree branch today in the wilderness, wilderness-
Scattering clusters of blooms,
Sari-hem flying,
Hair unplaited and blown in her eyes? O to and fro
High and low swinging, who swings in that branch in the wilderness?

Who moors her boat where ketaki-trees are flowering?
She has gathered moss in the loose
Fold of her sari,
Her tearful rain-songs capture my heart, O who is it
Moored to the bank where ketaki-trees are flowering?

It dances today, my heart, like a peacock it dances, it dances.
The woods vibrate with cicadas,
Rain soaks leaves,
The river roars nearer the village, o wildly
It dances today, my heart, like a peacock it dances, it dances.

One of the verses of the song has somehow slipped from his mind.
He quickly goes back, tries to get it right this time.
Again he forgets, it gets lost, he shakes his head at the shame;
He starts the song at the beginning – again he has to stop.
His hand trembles doubly as he prays to his teacher’s name.
His voice quakes with distress, like a lamp guttering in a breeze.
He abandons the words of the song and tries to salvage the tune,
But suddenly his wide-mouthed singing breaks into loud cries.
The intricate melody goes to the winds, the rhythm is swept away –
Tears snap the thread of the song: he weeps as he did as a child.
With brimming eyes king Pratap Ray tenderly touches his friend:
‘Come, let us go from hear,’ he says with kindness and love.
They leave that festive hall with its hundreds of blinding lights.
The two friends go outside, holding each other’s hands.

Baraj says with hands clasped, ‘Master, our days are gone.
New men have come now, new styles and customs in the world.
The court we kept is deserted – only the two of us are left.
Don’t ask anyone to listen to me now, I beg you at your feet, my lord.
The singer alone does not make a song, there has to be someone who hears:
One man opens his throat to sing, the other sings in his mind.
Only when waves fall on the shore do they make a harmonious sound;
Only when breezes shake the woods do we hear a rustling in the leaves.
Only from a marriage of two forces doe music arise in the world.
Where there is no love, where listeners are dumb, there can never be song.’