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1892

SHELIDAH,

9th January 1892.


For some days the weather here has been wavering between Winter and
Spring. In the morning, perhaps, shivers will run over both land and water
at the touch of the north wind; while the evening will thrill with the
south breeze coming through the moonlight.

There is no doubt that Spring is well on its way. After a long interval
the papiya once more calls out from the groves on the opposite
bank. The hearts of men too are stirred; and after evening falls, sounds
of singing are heard in the village, showing that they are no longer in
such a hurry to close doors and windows and cover themselves up snugly for
the night.

To-night the moon is at its full, and its large, round face peers at me
through the open window on my left, as if trying to make out whether I
have anything to say against it in my letter,--it suspects, maybe, that we
mortals concern ourselves more with its stains than its beams.

A bird is plaintively crying tee-tee on the sand-bank. The river seems not
to move. There are no boats. The motionless groves on the bank cast an
unquivering shadow on the waters. The haze over the sky makes the moon
look like a sleepy eye kept open.

Henceforward the evenings will grow darker and darker; and when,
to-morrow, I come over from the office, this moon, the favourite companion
of my exile, will already have drifted a little farther from me, doubting
whether she had been wise to lay her heart so completely bare last
evening, and so covering it up again little by little.

Nature becomes really and truly intimate in strange and lonely places. I
have been actually worrying myself for days at the thought that after the
moon is past her full I shall daily miss the moonlight more and more;
feeling further and further exiled when the beauty and peace which awaits
my return to the riverside will no longer be there, and I shall have to
come back through darkness.

Anyhow I put it on record that to-day is the full moon--the first full
moon of this year's springtime. In years to come I may perchance be
reminded of this night, with the tee-tee of the bird on the bank, the
glimmer of the distant light on the boat off the other shore, the shining
expanse of river, the blur of shade thrown by the dark fringe of trees
along its edge, and the white sky gleaming overhead in unconcerned
aloofness.


SHELIDAH,

7th April 1892.


The river is getting low, and the water in this arm of it is hardly more
than waist-deep anywhere. So it is not at all extraordinary that the boat
should be anchored in mid-stream. On the bank, to my right, the ryots are
ploughing and cows are now and then brought down to the water's edge for a
drink. To the left there are the mango and cocoanut trees of the old
Shelidah garden above, and on the bathing slope below there are village
women washing clothes, filling water jars, bathing, laughing and gossiping
in their provincial dialect.

The younger girls never seem to get through their sporting in the water;
it is a delight to hear their careless, merry laughter. The men gravely
take their regulation number of dips and go away, but girls are on much
more intimate terms with the water. Both alike babble and chatter and
ripple and sparkle in the same simple and natural manner; both may
languish and fade away under a scorching glare, yet both can take a blow
without hopelessly breaking under it. The hard world, which, but for them,
would be barren, cannot fathom the mystery of the soft embrace of their
arms.

Tennyson has it that woman to man is as water to wine. I feel to-day it
should be as water is to land. Woman is more at home with the water,
laving in it, playing with it, holding her gatherings beside it; and
while, for her, other burdens are not seemly, the carrying of water from
the spring, the well, the bank of river or pool, has ever been held to
become her.


BOLPUR,

2nd May 1892.


There are many paradoxes in the world and one of them is this, that
wherever the landscape is immense, the sky unlimited, clouds intimately
dense, feelings unfathomable--that is to say where infinitude is
manifest--its fit companion is one solitary person; a multitude there
seems so petty, so distracting.

An individual and the infinite are on equal terms, worthy to gaze on one
another, each from his own throne. But where many men are, how small both
humanity and infinitude become, how much they have to knock off each
other, in order to fit in together! Each soul wants so much room to expand
that in a crowd it needs must wait for gaps through which to thrust a
little craning piece of a head from time to time.

So the only result of our endeavour to assemble is that we become unable
to fill our joined hands, our outstretched arms, with this endless,
fathomless expanse.


BOLPUR,

8th Jaistha (May) 1892.


Women who try to be witty, but only succeed in being pert, are
insufferable; and as for attempts to be comic they are disgraceful in
women whether they succeed or fail. The comic is ungainly and exaggerated,
and so is in some sort related to the sublime. The elephant is comic, the
camel and the giraffe are comic, all overgrowth is comic.

It is rather keenness that is akin to beauty, as the thorn to the flower.
So sarcasm is not unbecoming in woman, though coming from her it hurts.
But ridicule which savours of bulkiness woman had better leave to our
sublime sex. The masculine Falstaff makes our sides split, but a feminine
Falstaff would only rack our nerves.


BOLPUR,

12th Jaistha (May) 1892.


I usually pace the roof-terrace, alone, of an evening. Yesterday afternoon
I felt it my duty to show my visitors the beauties of the local scenery,
so I strolled out with them, taking Aghore as a guide.

On the verge of the horizon, where the distant fringe of trees was blue, a
thin line of dark blue cloud had risen over them and was looking
particularly beautiful. I tried to be poetical and said it was like blue
collyrium on the fringe of lashes enhancing a beautiful blue eye. Of my
companions one did not hear the remark, another did not understand, while
the third dismissed it with the reply: "Yes, very pretty." I did not feel
encouraged to attempt a second poetical flight.

After walking about a mile we came to a dam, and along the pool of water
there was a row of tāl (fan palm) trees, under which was a natural
spring. While we stood there looking at this, we found that the line of
cloud which we had seen in the North was making for us, swollen and grown
darker, flashes of lightning gleaming the while.

We unanimously came to the conclusion that viewing the beauties of nature
could be better done from within the shelter of the house, but no sooner
had we turned homewards than a storm, making giant strides over the open
moorland, was on us with an angry roar. I had no idea, while I was
admiring the collyrium on the eyelashes of beauteous dame Nature, that she
would fly at us like an irate housewife, threatening so tremendous a slap!

It became so dark with the dust that we could not see beyond a few paces.
The fury of the storm increased, and flying stony particles of the rubbly
soil stung our bodies like shot, as the wind took us by the scruff of the
neck and thrust us along, to the whipping of drops of rain which had begun
to fall.

Run! Run! But the ground was not level, being deeply scarred with
watercourses, and not easy to cross at any time, much less in a storm. I
managed to get entangled in a thorny shrub, and was nearly thrown on my
face by the force of the wind as I stopped to free myself.

When we had almost reached the house, a host of servants came hurrying
towards us, shouting and gesticulating, and fell upon us like another
storm. Some took us by the arms, some bewailed our plight, some were eager
to show the way, others hung on our backs as if fearing that the storm
might carry us off altogether. We evaded their attentions with some
difficulty and managed at length to get into the house, panting, with wet
clothes, dusty bodies, and tumbled hair.

One thing I had learnt; and will never again write in novel or story the
lie that the hero with the picture of his lady-love in his mind can pass
unruffled through wind and rain. No one could keep any face in mind,
however lovely, in such a storm,--he has enough to do to keep the sand out
of his eyes!...

The Vaishnava-poets have sung ravishingly of Radha going to her tryst with
Krishna through a stormy night. Did they ever pause to consider, I wonder,
in what condition she must have reached him? The kind of tangle her hair
got into is easily imaginable, and also the state of the rest of her
toilet. When she arrived in her bower with the dust on her body soaked by
the rain into a coating of mud, she must have been a sight!

But when we read the Vaishnava poems, these thoughts do not occur. We only
see on the canvas of our mind the picture of a beautiful woman, passing
under the shelter of the flowering kadambas in the darkness of a stormy
Shravan[1] night, towards the bank of the Jumna, forgetful of wind
or rain, as in a dream, drawn by her surpassing love. She has tied up her
anklets lest they should tinkle; she is clad in dark blue raiment lest she
be discovered; but she holds no umbrella lest she get wet, carries no
lantern lest she fall!

[Footnote 1: July-August, the rainy season.]

Alas for useful things--how necessary in practical life, how neglected in
poetry! But poetry strives in vain to free us from their bondage--they
will be with us always; so much so, we are told, that with the march of
civilisation it is poetry that will become extinct, but patent after
patent will continue to be taken out for the improvement of shoes and
umbrellas.


BOLPUR,

16th Jaistha (May) 1892.


No church tower clock chimes here, and there being no other human
habitation near by, complete silence falls with the evening, as soon as
the birds have ceased their song. There is not much difference between
early night and midnight. A sleepless night in Calcutta flows like a huge,
slow river of darkness; one can count the varied sounds of its passing,
lying on one's back in bed. But here the night is like a vast, still lake,
placidly reposing, with no sign of movement. And as I tossed from side to
side last night I felt enveloped within a dense stagnation.

This morning I left my bed a little later than usual and, coming
downstairs to my room, leant back on a bolster, one leg resting over the
other knee. There, with a slate on my chest, I began to write a poem to
the accompaniment of the morning breeze and the singing birds. I was
getting along splendidly--a smile playing over my lips, my eyes half
closed, my head swaying to the rhythm, the thing I hummed gradually taking
shape--when the post arrived.

There was a letter, the last number of the Sadhana Magazine, one of
the Monist, and some proof-sheets. I read the letter, raced my eyes
over the uncut pages of the Sadhana, and then again fell to nodding
and humming through my poem. I did not do another thing till I had
finished it.

I wonder why the writing of pages of prose does not give one anything like
the joy of completing a single poem. One's emotions take on such
perfection of form in a poem; they can, as it were, be taken up by the
fingers. But prose is like a sackful of loose material, heavy and
unwieldy, incapable of being lifted as you please.

If I could finish writing one poem a day, my life would pass in a kind of
joy; but though I have been busy tending poetry for many a year it has not
been tamed yet, and is not the kind of winged steed to allow me to bridle
it whenever I like! The joy of art is in freedom to take a distant flight
as fancy will; then, even after return within the prison-world, an echo
lingers in the ear, an exaltation in the mind.

Short poems keep coming to me unsought, and so prevent my getting on with
the play. Had it not been for these, I could have let in ideas for two or
three plays which have been knocking at the door. I am afraid I must wait
for the cold weather. All my plays except "Chitra" were written in the
winter. In that season lyrical fervour is apt to grow cold, and one gets
the leisure to write drama.


BOLPUR,

31st May 1892.


It is not yet five o'clock, but the light has dawned, there is a
delightful breeze, and all the birds in the garden are awake and have
started singing. The koel seems beside itself. It is difficult to
understand why it should keep on cooing so untiringly. Certainly not to
entertain us, nor to distract the pining lover[1]--it must have some
personal purpose of its own. But, sadly enough, that purpose never seems
to get fulfilled. Yet it is not down-hearted, and its Coo-oo! Coo-oo!
keeps going, with now and then an ultra-fervent trill. What can it mean?

[Footnote 1: A favourite conceit of the old Sanskrit poets.]

And then in the distance there is some other bird with only a faint
chuck-chuck that has no energy or enthusiasm, as if all hope were lost;
none the less, from within some shady nook it cannot resist uttering this
little plaint: chuck, chuck, chuck.

How little we really know of the household affairs of these innocent
winged creatures, with their soft, breasts and necks and their
many-coloured feathers! Why on earth do they find it necessary to sing so
persistently?


SHELIDAH,

31st Jaistha (June) 1892.


I hate these polite formalities. Nowadays I keep repeating the line: "Much
rather would I be an Arab Bedouin!" A fine, healthy, strong, and free
barbarity.

I feel I want to quit this constant ageing of mind and body, with
incessant argument and nicety concerning ancient decaying things, and to
feel the joy of a free and vigorous life; to have,--be they good or
bad,--broad, unhesitating, unfettered ideas and aspirations, free from
everlasting friction between custom and sense, sense and desire, desire
and action.

If only I could set utterly and boundlessly free this hampered life of
mine, I would storm the four quarters and raise wave upon wave of tumult
all round; I would career away madly, like a wild horse, for very joy of
my own speed! But I am a Bengali, not a Bedouin! I go on sitting in my
corner, and mope and worry and argue. I turn my mind now this way up, now
the other--as a fish is fried--and the boiling oil blisters first this
side, then that.

Let it pass. Since I cannot be thoroughly wild, it is but proper that I
should make an endeavour to be thoroughly civil. Why foment a quarrel
between the two?


SHELIDAH,

16th June 1892.


The more one lives alone on the river or in the open country, the clearer
it becomes that nothing is more beautiful or great than to perform the
ordinary duties of one's daily life simply and naturally. From the grasses
in the field to the stars in the sky, each one is doing just that; and
there is such profound peace and surpassing beauty in nature because none
of these tries forcibly to transgress its limitations.

Yet what each one does is by no means of little moment. The grass has to
put forth all its energy to draw sustenance from the uttermost tips of its
rootlets simply to grow where it is as grass; it does not vainly strive to
become a banyan tree; and so the earth gains a lovely carpet of green.
And, indeed, what little of beauty and peace is to be found in the
societies of men is owing to the daily performance of small duties, not to
big doings and fine talk.

Perhaps because the whole of our life is not vividly present at each
moment, some imaginary hope may lure, some glowing picture of a future,
untrammelled with everyday burdens, may tempt us; but these are illusory.


SHELIDAH,

2nd Asarh (June) 1892.


Yesterday, the first day of Asarh,[1] the enthronement of the rainy
season was celebrated with due pomp and circumstance. It was very hot the
whole day, but in the afternoon dense clouds rolled up in stupendous
masses.

[Footnote 1: June-July, the commencement of the rainy season.]

I thought to myself, this first day of the rains, I would rather risk
getting wet than remain confined in my dungeon of a cabin.

The year 1293 [1] will not come again in my life, and,
for the matter of that, how many more even of these first days
of Asarh will come? My life would be sufficiently long could it
number thirty of these first days of Asarh to which the poet of the
Meghaduta[2] has, for me at least, given special distinction.

[Footnote 1: Of the Bengal era.]

[Footnote 2: In the Meghaduta (Cloud Messenger) of Kalidas a famous
description of the burst of the Monsoon begins with the words: On the
first day of Asarh
.]

It sometimes strikes me how immensely fortunate I am that each day should
take its place in my life, either reddened with the rising and setting
sun, or refreshingly cool with deep, dark clouds, or blooming like a white
flower in the moonlight. What untold wealth!

A thousand years ago Kalidas welcomed that first day of Asarh; and
once in every year of my life that same day of Asarh dawns in all
its glory--that self-same day of the poet of old Ujjain, which has brought
to countless men and women their joys of union, their pangs of separation.

Every year one such great, time-hallowed day drops out of my life; and the
time will come when this day of Kalidas, this day of the Meghaduta,
this eternal first day of the Rains in Hindustan, shall come no more for
me. When I realise this I feel I want to take a good look at nature, to
offer a conscious welcome to each day's sunrise, to say farewell to each
day's setting sun, as to an intimate friend.

What a grand festival, what a vast theatre of festivity! And we cannot
even fully respond to it, so far away do we live from the world! The light
of the stars travels millions of miles to reach the earth, but it cannot
reach our hearts--so many millions of miles further off are we!

The world into which I have tumbled is peopled with strange beings. They
are always busy erecting walls and rules round themselves, and how careful
they are with their curtains lest they should see! It is a wonder to me
they have not made drab covers for flowering plants and put up a canopy to
ward off the moon. If the next life is determined by the desires of this,
then I should be reborn from our enshrouded planet into some free and open
realm of joy.

Only those who cannot steep themselves in beauty to the full, despise it
as an object of the senses. But those who have tasted of its
inexpressibility know how far it is beyond the highest powers of mere eye
or ear--nay, even the heart is powerless to attain the end of its
yearning.

P.S.--I have left out the very thing I started to tell of. Don't be
afraid, it won't take four more sheets. It is this, that on the evening of
the first day of Asarh it came on to rain very heavily, in great
lance-like showers. That is all.


ON THE WAY TO GOALUNDA,

21st June 1892.

Pictures in an endless variety, of sand-banks, fields and their crops, and
villages, glide into view on either hand--of clouds floating in the sky,
of colours blossoming when day meets night. Boats steal by, fishermen
catch fish; the waters make liquid, caressing sounds throughout the
livelong day; their broad expanse calms down in the evening stillness,
like a child lulled to sleep, over whom all the stars in the boundless sky
keep watch--then, as I sit up on wakeful nights, with sleeping banks on
either side, the silence is broken only by an occasional cry of a jackal
in the woods near some village, or by fragments undermined by the keen
current of the Padma, that tumble from the high cliff-like bank into the
water.

Not that the prospect is always of particular interest--a yellowish
sandbank, innocent of grass or tree, stretches away; an empty boat is tied
to its edge; the bluish water, of the same shade as the hazy sky, flows
past; yet I cannot tell how it moves me. I suspect that the old desires
and longings of my servant-ridden childhood--when in the solitary
imprisonment of my room I pored over the Arabian Nights, and shared
with Sinbad the Sailor his adventures in many a strange land--are not yet
dead within me, but are roused at the sight of any empty boat tied to a
sand-bank.

If I had not heard fairy tales and read the Arabian Nights and
Robinson Crusoe in childhood, I am sure views of distant banks, or
the farther side of wide fields, would not have stirred me so--the whole
world, in fact, would have had for me a different appeal.

What a maze of fancy and fact becomes tangled up within the mind of man!
The different strands--petty and great--of story and event and picture,
how they get knotted together!


SHELIDAH,

22nd June 1892.


Early this morning, while still lying in bed, I heard the women at the
bathing-place sending forth joyous peals of Ulu! Ulu![1] The sound
moved me curiously, though it is difficult to say why.

[Footnote 1: A peculiar shrill cheer given by women on auspicious or
festive occasions.]

Perhaps such joyful outbursts put one in mind of the great stream of
festive activity which goes on in this world, with most of which the
individual man has no connection. The world is so immense, the concourse
of men so vast, yet with how few has one any tie! Distant sounds of life,
wafted near, bearing tidings from unknown homes, make the individual
realise that the greater part of the world of men does not, cannot own or
know him; then he feels deserted, loosely attached to the world, and a
vague sadness creeps over him.

Thus these cries of Ulu! Ulu! made my life, past and future, seem
like a long, long road, from the very ends of which they come to me. And
this feeling colours for me the beginning of my day.

As soon as the manager with his staff, and the ryots seeking audience,
come upon the scene, this faint vista of past and future will be promptly
elbowed out, and a very robust present will salute and stand before me.


SHAZADPUR,

25th June 1892.


In to-day's letters there was a touch about A---'s singing which made my
heart yearn with a nameless longing. Each of the little joys of life,
which remain unappreciated amid the hubbub of the town, send in their
claims to the heart when far from home. I love music, and there is no
dearth of voices and instruments in Calcutta, yet I turn a deaf ear to
them. But, though I may fail to realise it at the time, this needs must
leave the heart athirst.

As I read to-day's letters, I felt such a poignant desire to hear A---'s
sweet song, I was at once sure that one of the many suppressed longings of
creation which cry after fulfilment is for neglected joys within reach;
while we are busy pursuing chimerical impossibilities we famish our
lives....

The emptiness left by easy joys, untasted, is ever growing in my life. And
the day may come when I shall feel that, could I but have the past back, I
would strive no more after the unattainable, but drain to the full these
little, unsought, everyday joys which life offers.


SHAZADPUR,

27th June 1892.


Yesterday, in the afternoon, it clouded over so threateningly, I felt a
sense of dread. I do not remember ever to have seen before such
angry-looking clouds.

Swollen masses of the deepest indigo blue were piled, one on top of the
other, just above the horizon, looking like the puffed-out moustaches of
some raging demon.

Under the jagged lower edges of the clouds there shone forth a blood-red
glare, as through the eyes of a monstrous, sky-filling bison, with tossing
mane and with head lowered to strike the earth in fury.

The crops in the fields and the leaves of the trees trembled with fear of
the impending disaster; shudder after shudder ran across the waters; the
crows flew wildly about, distractedly cawing.


SHAZADPUR,

29th June 1892.


I wrote yesterday that I had an engagement with Kalidas, the poet, for
this evening. As I lit a candle, drew my chair up to the table, and made
ready, not Kalidas, but the postmaster, walked in. A live postmaster
cannot but claim precedence over a dead poet, so I could not very well
tell him to make way for Kalidas, who was due by appointment,--he would
not have understood me! Therefore I offered him a chair and gave old
Kalidas the go-by.

There is a kind of bond between this postmaster and me. When the post
office was in a part of this estate building, I used to meet him every
day. I wrote my story of "The Postmaster" one afternoon in this very room.
And when the story was out in the Hitabadi he came to me with a
succession of bashful smiles, as he deprecatingly touched on the subject.
Anyhow, I like the man. He has a fund of anecdote which I enjoy listening
to. He has also a sense of humour.

Though it was late when the postmaster left, I started at once on the
Raghuvansa[1], and read all about the swayamuara[2] of
Indumati.

[Footnote 1: Book of poems by Kalidas, who is perhaps best known to
European readers as the author of Sakuntala.]

[Footnote 2: An old Indian custom, according to which a princess chooses
among assembled rival suitors for her hand by placing a garland round the
neck of the one whose love she returns.]

The handsome, gaily adorned princes are seated on rows of thrones in the
assembly hall. Suddenly a blast of conch-shell and trumpet resounds, as
Indumati, in bridal robes, supported by Sunanda, is ushered in and stands
in the walk left between them. It was delightful to dwell on the picture.

Then as Sunanda introduces to her each one of the suitors, Indumati bows
low in loveless salutation, and passes on. How beautiful is this humble
courtesy! They are all princes. They are all her seniors. For she is a
mere girl. Had she not atoned for the inevitable rudeness of her rejection
by the grace of her humility, the scene would have lost its beauty.


SHELIDAH,

20th August 1892.


"If only I could live there!" is often thought when looking at a beautiful
landscape painting. That is the kind of longing which is satisfied here,
where one feels alive in a brilliantly coloured picture, with none of the
hardness of reality. When I was a child, illustrations of woodland and
sea, in Paul and Virginia, or Robinson Crusoe, would waft me
away from the everyday world; and the sunshine here brings back to my mind
the feeling with which I used to gaze on those pictures.

I cannot account for this exactly, or explain definitely what kind of
longing it is which is roused within me. It seems like the throb of some
current flowing through the artery connecting me with the larger world. I
feel as if dim, distant memories come to me of the time when I was one
with the rest of the earth; when on me grew the green grass, and on me
fell the autumn light; when a warm scent of youth would rise from every
pore of my vast, soft, green body at the touch of the rays of the mellow
sun, and a fresh life, a sweet joy, would be half-consciously secreted and
inarticulately poured forth from all the immensity of my being, as it lay
dumbly stretched, with its varied countries and seas and mountains, under
the bright blue sky.

My feelings seem to be those of our ancient earth in the daily ecstasy of
its sun-kissed life; my own consciousness seems to stream through each
blade of grass, each sucking root, to rise with the sap through the trees,
to break out with joyous thrills in the waving fields of corn, in the
rustling palm leaves.

I feel impelled to give expression to my blood-tie with the earth, my
kinsman's love for her; but I am afraid I shall not be understood.


BOALIA,

18th November 1892.


I am wondering where your train has got to by now. This is the time for
the sun to rise over the ups and downs of the treeless, rocky region near
Nawadih station. The scene around there must be brightened by the fresh
sunlight, through which distant, blue hills are beginning to be faintly
visible.

Cultivated fields are scarcely to be seen, except where the primitive
tribesmen have done a little ploughing with their buffaloes; on each side
of the railway cutting there are the heaped-up black rocks--the
boulder-marked footprints of dried-up streams--and the fidgety, black
wagtails, perched along the telegraph wires. A wild, seamed, and scarred
nature lies there in the sun, as though tamed at the touch of some soft,
bright, cherubic hand.

Do you know the picture which this calls up for me? In the Sakuntala of
Kalidas there is a scene where Bharat, the infant son of King Dushyanta,
is playing with a lion cub. The child is lovingly passing his delicate,
rosy fingers through the rough mane of the great beast, which lies quietly
stretched in trustful repose, now and then casting affectionate glances
out of the corner of its eyes at its little human friend.

And shall I tell you what those dry, boulder-strewn watercourses put me in
mind of? We read in the English fairy tale of the Babes in the Wood, how
the little brother and sister left a trace of their wanderings, through
the unknown forest into which their stepmother had turned them out, by
dropping pebbles as they went. These streamlets are like lost babes in the
great world into which they are sent adrift, and that is why they leave
stones, as they go forth, to mark their course, so as not to lose their
way when they may be returning. But for them there is no return journey!


NATORE,

2nd December 1892.


There is a depth of feeling and breadth of peace in a Bengal sunset behind
the trees which fringe the endless solitary fields, spreading away to the
horizon.

Lovingly, yet sadly withal, does our evening sky bend over and meet the
earth in the distance. It casts a mournful light on the earth it leaves
behind--a light which gives us a taste of the divine grief of the Eternal
Separation[1] and eloquent is the silence which then broods over earth,
sky, and waters.

[Footnote 1: i.e. between Purusha and Prakriti--God and Creation.]

As I gaze on in rapt motionlessness, I fall to wondering--If ever this
silence should fail to contain itself, if the expression for which this
hour has been seeking from the beginning of time should break forth, would
a profoundly solemn, poignantly moving music rise from earth to starland?

With a little steadfast concentration of effort we can, for ourselves,
translate the grand harmony of light and colour which permeates the
universe into music. We have only to close our eyes and receive with the
ear of the mind the vibration of this ever-flowing panorama.

But how often shall I write of these sunsets and sunrises? I feel their
renewed freshness every time; yet how am I to attain such renewed
freshness in my attempts at expression?


SHELIDAH,

9th December 1892.


I am feeling weak and relaxed after my painful illness, and in this state
the ministrations of nature are sweet indeed. I feel as if, like the rest,
I too am lazily glittering out my delight at the rays of the sun, and my
letter-writing progresses but absent-mindedly.

The world is ever new to me; like an old friend loved through this and
former lives, the acquaintance between us is both long and deep.

I can well realise how, in ages past, when the earth in her first youth
came forth from her sea-bath and saluted the sun in prayer, I must have
been one of the trees sprung from her new-formed soil, spreading my
foliage in all the freshness of a primal impulse.

The great sea was rocking and swaying and smothering, like a foolishly
fond mother, its first-born land with repeated caresses; while I was
drinking in the sunlight with the whole of my being, quivering under the
blue sky with the unreasoning rapture of the new-born, holding fast and
sucking away at my mother earth with all my roots. In blind joy my leaves
burst forth and my flowers bloomed; and when the dark clouds gathered,
their grateful shade would comfort me with a tender touch.

From age to age, thereafter, have I been diversely reborn on this earth.
So whenever we now sit face to face, alone together, various ancient
memories, gradually, one after another, come back to me.

My mother earth sits to-day in the cornfields by the river-side, in her
raiment of sunlit gold; and near her feet, her knees, her lap, I roll
about and play. Mother of a multitude of children, she attends but
absently to their constant calls on her, with an immense patience, but
also with a certain aloofness. She is seated there, with her far-away look
fastened on the verge of the afternoon sky, while I keep chattering on
untiringly.


Rabindranath Tagore

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