Call Me Back to Work

While the world was busy with a hundred chores,
you played O Poet upon your flute the livelong day
like a truant boy who has fled from home:
alone in the fields under the sad shade of trees,
the hot midday wind heavy with distant forest scents.

Shake off your sleep and rise,
There is fire around.
Who blows the conch to wake the people of the world?
Whence come the wails that resound in the sky?
From what dark dungeon do forsaken women cry for help?

Bloated insolence with million snouts
sucks the heart-blood of the weak.
Proud injustice mock[s] at pain.
The cringing slaves hide in borrowed robes.
They stand dumb with heads bent low.
On their face is writ the age-old tale of woe.
Toiling under mountain loads
they drag their steps and slowly march
till the last breath of life
and then hand down the burden to their heirs.
They do not revile their fate nor curse their God,
they blame no man, they know no pride,
they only seek to live their dreary life
by picking crumbs of food.
When these crumbs are snatched away,
when blind insolence strikes with cruel blows,
they know not where to seek redress.
One long sigh rises towards the poor man’s God
and then they die in silence.

We must bring speech to these dumb denuded lips.
We must light with hope these weary empty hearts,
we must call to them and say:
‘Hold your heads high and together stand.
The wrong-doer whom you fear is more afraid than you
and will flee in haste if you challenge him.
If you face him with dauntless heart
he will slink away in fear and shame
like a cringing cur.
Accursed of God and bereft of friends,
he brags loudly but in his heart of hearts
he knows his utter emptiness.’

Gather yourself, O Poet and arise.
If you have courage bring it as your gift.
There is so much sorrow and pain,
a world of suffering lies ahead,—
poor, empty, small, confined and dark.
We need food and life, light and air,
strength and health and spirit bright with joy
and wide bold hearts.
Into the misery of this world, O Poet,
bring once more from heaven the light of faith.[1]


[1] Rabindranath Tagore, sections I and II of ‘Call Me Back To Work’ (Ebar Phirao Morey from Chitra), March, 1894, trans. by Humayun Kabir, in One Hundred and One: Poems by Rabindranath Tagore, pp. 29-30.