Sir Rabindranath Tagore, Fruit-gathering (London: Macmillan, 1916): 50-52. PR 6039 A2F7 Robarts Library
2Lamps were all out, doors were all shut, and stars were all hidden by the murky sky of August.
3Whose feet were those tinkling with anklets, touching his breast of a sudden?
4He woke up startled, and the light from a woman's lamp struck his forgiving eyes.
5It was the dancing girl, starred with jewels, clouded with a pale-blue mantle, drunk with the wine of her youth.
6She lowered her lamp and saw the young face, austerely beautiful.
7"Forgive me, young ascetic," said the woman; "graciously come to my house. The dusty earth is not a fit bed for you."
8The ascetic answered, "Woman, go on your way; when the time is ripe I will come to you."
9Suddenly the black night showed its teeth in a flash of lightning.
10The storm growled from the corner of the sky, and the woman trembled in fear.
11The branches of the wayside trees were aching with blossom.
12Gay notes of the flute came floating in the warm spring air from afar.
13The citizens had gone to the woods, to the festival of flowers.
14From the mid-sky gazed the full moon on the shadows of the silent town.
15The young ascetic was walking in the lonely street, while overhead the lovesick koels urged from the mango branches their sleepless plaint.
16Upagupta passed through the city gates, and stood at the base of the rampart.
17What woman lay in the shadow of the wall at his feet, struck with the black pestilence, her body spotted with sores, hurriedly driven away from the town?
18The ascetic sat by her side, taking her head on his knees, and moistened her lips with water and smeared her body with balm.
19"Who are you, merciful one?" asked the woman.
20"The time, at last, has come to visit you, and I am here," replied the young ascetic.
1] Upagupta: a Buddhist monk who taught meditation in Northwest India and who is the centre of a cult today. See John Strong's The Legend and Cult of Upagupta: Sanskrit Buddhism in North India and Southeast Asia (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992). Buddha: "the enlightened," a title given to Siddartha (5th cent. B.C.), the founder of Buddhism, a faith that identifies desire with evil, and evil with suffering, and that aspires to nirvana, the extinction of the individual in God. Mathura: an ancient city in India on the Yamuna river, not far from Dehli, well-known for being the birthplace of Krishna. Back to Line
15] koels: a cuckoo, the E. honorata of India, and sometimes termed the "nightingale" of India (OED). Back to Line
Publication Start Year:
RPO poem Editors: