From Janma-Dine

 

             On My Birthday ---20             Rabindranath Tagore

 

            Today I imagine the words of countless

            Languages to be suddenly fetterless

            After long incarceration

            In the fortress of grammar, suddenly up in rebellion.

            Maddened by the stamp-stamping

            Of unmitigated regimented drilling.

            They have jumped the constraints of sentence

            To seek free expression in a world rid of intelligence,

            Snapping the chains of sense in sarcasm

            And ridicule of literary decorum.

            Liberated thus, their queer

            Postures and cries appeal only to the ear.

            They say, ‘We who were born of the gusty tuning

            Of the earth’s first outbreathing

            Came into our own as soon as the blood’s beat

            Impelled man’s mindless vitality to break into dance in his throat.

            We swelled his infant voice with the babble

            Of the world’s first poem, the original prattle

            Of existence.  We are kin to the wild torrents

            That pour from the mountains to announce

            The month of Śrāban: we bring to human habitations

            Nature’s incantations---’

            The festive sound of leaves rustling in forests,

            The sound that measures the rhythm of approaching tempests,

            The great night-ending sound of day-break---

            From these sound-fields man has captured words, curbed then like a breakneck

            Stallion in complex webs of order

            To enable him to pass on his messages to the distant lands of the future.

            By riding words that are bridled and reined

            Man has quickened

            The pace of time’s slow clocks:

            The speed of his reason has cut through material blocks,

            Explored recalcitrant mysteries;

            With word-armies

            Drawn into battle-lines he resists the perpetual assault of imbecility.

            But sometimes they slip like robbers into realms of fantasy,

            Float on ebbing waters

            Of sleep, free of barriers,

            Lashing any sort of flotsam and jetsam into metre.

            From them, the free-roving mind fashions

            Artistic creations

            Of a kind that do not conform to an orderly

            Universe --- whose threads are tenuous, loose, arbitrary,

            Like a dozen puppies brawling,

            Scrambling at each other’s necks to no purpose or meaning:

            Each bites another---

            They squeal and yelp blue murder,

            But their bites and yelps carry no true import of enmity,

            Their violence is bombast, empty fury.

            In my mind I imagine words thus shot of their meaning,

            Hordes of them running amuck all day,

            As if in the sky there were nonsense nursery syllables booming ---

            Horselum, bridelum, ridelum, into the fray.