Readings from Tagore and Neruda | Madhu Bazaz Wangu
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Readings from Tagore and Neruda

Readings from Tagore and Neruda

Tagore joyously sings about the inevitable but tender relationship of death with life.

God finds himself by creating (46)

The infant flower opens its bud and cries, "Dear World, please do not fade." (66)

The night kisses the fading day whispering to his ear, "I am death, your mother. I am to give you fresh birth." (119)

Death belongs to life as birth does. The walk is in the raising of the foot as in the laying of it down. (268)

(Stray Birds by Rabindranath Tagore. Translated from Bengali to English by the author, The Macmillan Company, 1916)

Neruda’s imagination transports an ordinary bed from a resting place of the newborn, the sick, the dead, to a bed of lovers and dreamers. His vision depicts the surface of a sea — "the intimidating bed" — which envelops all life in its great womb.

Ode to the Bed

We go from one bed to the next
In this journey,
life’s journey.
The newborn, the afflicted,
The dying,
The lover and the dreamer alike:
They arrive and they will depart by bed,
We have all arrived and we will all depart
On this train, on this boat, down this
River which is common
To all
Which is
shared by each and every death.
Love makes the earth
A bed for blooming, mired in blood.
The fullness of September, its clarity
shaken out
In sheets by the skyful,
The sea
by the
of the
surging in white clothes, and black.

O sea, intimidating bed,
death and life
writhing endlessly,
and savage air and spray:
fish sleep deep inside you,
and the night,
and whales.
In you rest
the celestial, centrifugal
ashes of dying meteros.
You throb, sea, with the life of everything
that sleeps within you,
you build up and tear down
the ever-renewed bride’s bed of dreams.

Lightning flashes suddenly
in two eyes of pure forget-me-not
and an ivory or apple profile.
It shows you the way
To soft sheets
Like bright banners, white lilies,
down which we roll
to the final embrace.
Then death
slips in to bed with us
With his spotted hands
and iodine tongue.
He raises a finger
as long as a long road
showing us the shore,
the gateway to our dying pain.

("Ode to the Bed" in Odes to Common Things, a collection of poems by Pablo Neruda selected and illustrated by Ferris Cook. Translated by Ken Krabbenhoft. Bulfinch Press, AOL Time Warner Book Group. 2002)

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