Wheeling Past The Stars
Song Cycle of settings of poems by Rabindranath Tagore (trans. William Radice)
(Three out of Four Songs on this recording.)
Suzanne Fischer - Soprano
Jessica Kuhn - Cello
Palm tree: single-legged giant,
topping the other trees,
peering at the firmament –
It longs to pierce the black cloud-ceiling
and fly away, away,
if only it had wings.
The tree seems to express its wish
in the tossing of its head:
its fronds heave and swish –
It thinks, Maybe my leaves are feathers,
and nothing stops me now
from rising on their flutter.
All day the fronds on the windblown tree
soar and flap and shudder
as though it thinks it can fly,
As though it wanders in the skies,
travelling who knows where,
wheeling past the stars –
And then as soon as the wind dies down,
the fronds subside, subside:
the mind of the tree returns
To earth, recalls that earth is its mother:
and then it likes once more
its earthly corner.
III. Grandfather’s Holiday
Blue sky, paddy fields, grandchild’s play,
Deep ponds, diving-stage, child’s holiday;
Tree shade, barn corners, catch-me-if-you-dare,
Undergrowth, pârul-bushes, life without care.
Green paddy all a-quiver, hopeful as a child,
Child prancing, river dancing, waves running wild.
Bespectacled grandfather old man am I,
Trapped in my work like a spiderwebbed fly,
Your games are my games, my proxy holiday,
Your laugh the sweetest music I shall ever play.
Your joy is mine, my mischief in your eyes,
Your delight the country where my freedom lies.
Autumn sailing in, now, steered by your play,
Bringing white siuli-flowers to grace your holiday.
Pleasure of the chilly air tingling me at night,
Blown from Himâlaya on the breeze of your delight.
Dawn in Âsvin, flower-forcing roseate sun,
Dressed in the colours of a grandchild’s fun.
Flood my study with your leaps and your capers,
Work gone, books flying, avalanche of papers.
Arms round my neck, in my lap bounce thump –
Hurricane of freedom in my heart as you jump.
Who has taught you, how he does it, I shall never know –
You’re the one who teaches me to let myself go.
IV. New Birth
New deliverer –
The new age eagerly looks
To the path of your coming.
What message have you brought
To the world? In the mortal arena
What seat has been prepared for you?
What new form of address
Have you brought to be used
In the quest for the sacred in humankind?
What song of heaven
Have you heard before coming?
What great weapon for the fighting of evil
Have you placed in the quiver, bound to the waist
Of the young warrior?
Will you, perhaps, where a tide of blood besmirches your path,
Where there is malice and discord,
Construct a dam of peace,
A place of meeting and pilgrimage?
Who can say if etched on your forehead
Is the secret mark
Of the triumph of some great striving?
Today we search for your unwritten name:
You seem to be just off the stage,
Like an imminent star of morning.
Infants bring again and again
A message of reassurance –
They seem to promise deliverance, light, dawn.
[From RABINDRANATH TAGORE: SELECTED POEMS, translated by William Radice (Penguin, 1985) Copyright © William Radice, 1985. Used by permission of Penguin Books Ltd.]
(Video file: Wheeling WEB H264)