From ‘Recovery’ by Rabindranath Tagore

from Recovery – poem no.10 from arogya by Rabindranath Tagore (1941)

Lazily afloat on time’s stream,

My mind turns to the sky.

As I cross its empty expanses

Shadowy pictures form in my eyes

Of the many ages of the long past

And the many peoples

That have hurtled forward,

Confident of victory.

But the earth when I look at it

Makes me aware

Of the hubbub of a huge concourse

Of ordinary people

Led along many paths and in various groups

By man’s common urges,

From age to age, through life and death.

They work –

In cities and in fields.

Imperial canopies collapse,

Battle-drums stop,

Victory-pillars, like idiots, forget what their own words mean;

Battle-crazed eyes and blood-smeared weapons

Live on only in children’s stories,

Their menace veiled.

But people work –

Here and in other regions,

Filling the passage of their lives with a rumbling and thundering

Woven by day and by night –

The sonorous rhythm

Of Life’s liturgy in all its pain and elation,

Gloom and light.

Over the ruins of hundreds of empires,

The people work.

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)

Translated from the Bengali by William Radice (b. 1951)

The full poem and others available in Rabindranath Tagore Selected Poems, Penguin Classics (1985)


About Eddie Playfair

I am a Senior Policy Manager at the Association of Colleges (AoC) having previously been a college principal for 16 years and a teacher before that. I live in East London and I blog in a personal capacity about education and culture. I also tweet at @eddieplayfair
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