'Prisoner, tell me, who was it that bound you?'
'It was my master,' said the prisoner.
'I thought I could outdo everybody in the world in wealth and power,
and I amassed in my own treasure-house the money due to my king.
When sleep overcame me I lay upon the bed that was for my lord,
and on waking up I found I was a prisoner in my own treasure-house.'
'Prisoner, tell me, who was it that wrought this unbreakable chain?'
It was I,' said the prisoner, who forged this chain very carefully.
I thought my invincible power would hold the world captive
leaving me in a freedom undisturbed.
Thus night and day I worked at the chain
with huge fires and cruel hard strokes.
When at last the work was done
and the links were complete and unbreakable,
I found that it held me in its grip.'
If the day is done,
if birds sing no more,
if the wind has flagged tired,
then draw the veil of darkness thick upon me,
even as thou hast wrapt the earth with the coverlet of sleep
and tenderly closed the petals of the drooping lotus at dusk.
From the traveler,
whose sack of provisions is empty before the voyage is ended,
whose garment is torn and dust-laden,
whose strength is exhausted,
remove shame and poverty,
and renew his life like a flower under the cover of thy kindly night
The song that I came to sing remains unsung to this day.
I have spent my days in stringing and in unstringing my instrument.
The time has not come true, the words have not been rightly set;
only there is the agony of wishing in my heart.
The blossom has not opened; only the wind is sighing by.
I have not seen his face, nor have I listened to his voice;
only I have heard his gentle footsteps from the road before my house.
The livelong day has passed in spreading his seat on the floor;
but the lamp has not been lit and I cannot ask him into my house.
I live in the hope of meeting with him; but this meeting is not yet.
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up
into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason
has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action -
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
O Fool, try to carry thyself upon thy own shoulders!
O beggar, to come beg at thy own door!
Leave all thy burdens on his hands who can bear all,
and never look behind in regret.
Thy desire at once puts out the light from the lamp it touches with its breath.
It is unholy - take not thy gifts through its unclean hands.
Accept only what is offered by sacred love.
Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail
vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life.
This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales,
and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new.
At the immortal touch of thy hands my little heart loses its limits in
joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable.
Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine.
Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill.
I must launch out my boat.
The languid hours pass by on the
shore - Alas for me!
The spring has done its flowering and taken leave.
And now with the burden of faded futile flowers I wait and linger.
The waves have become clamorous, and upon the bank in the shady lane
the yellow leaves flutter and fall.
What emptiness do you gaze upon!
Do you not feel a thrill passing through the air
with the notes of the far-away song
floating from the other shore?
Art thou abroad on this stormy night
on thy journey of love, my friend?
The sky groans like one in despair.
I have no sleep tonight.
Ever and again I open my door and look out on
the darkness, my friend!
I can see nothing before me.
I wonder where lies thy path!
By what dim shore of the ink-black river,
by what far edge of the frowning forest,
through what mazy depth of gloom art thou threading
thy course to come to me, my friend?
Pluck this little flower and take it, delay not! I fear lest it
droop and drop into the dust.
I may not find a place in thy garland, but honour it with a touch of
pain from thy hand and pluck it. I fear lest the day end before I am
aware, and the time of offering go by.
Though its colour be not deep and its smell be faint, use this flower
in thy service and pluck it while there is time.
The time that my journey takes is long and the way of it long.
I came out on the chariot of the first gleam of light, and pursued my
voyage through the wildernesses of worlds leaving my track on many a star and planet.
It is the most distant course that comes nearest to thyself,
and that training is the most intricate which leads to the utter simplicity of a tune.
The traveler has to knock at every alien door to come to his own,
and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end.
My eyes strayed far and wide before I shut them and said 'Here art thou!'
The question and the cry 'Oh, where?' melt into tears of a thousand
streams and deluge the world with the flood of the assurance 'I am!'
On the day when the lotus bloomed, alas, my mind was straying,
and I knew it not. My basket was empty and the flower remained unheeded.
Only now and again a sadness fell upon me, and I started up from my
dream and felt a sweet trace of a strange fragrance in the south wind.
That vague sweetness made my heart ache with longing and it seemed to
me that is was the eager breath of the summer seeking for its completion.
I knew not then that it was so near, that it was mine, and that this
perfect sweetness had blossomed in the depth of my own heart.
In the night of weariness
let me give myself up to sleep without struggle,
resting my trust upon thee.
Let me not force my flagging spirit into a poor preparation for thy worship.
It is thou who drawest the veil of night upon the tired eyes of the day
to renew its sight in a fresher gladness of awakening.
I came out alone on my way to my tryst.
But who is this that follows me in the silent dark?
I move aside to avoid his presence but I escape him not.
He makes the dust rise from the earth with his swagger;
he adds his loud voice to every word that I utter.
He is my own little self, my lord, he knows no shame;
but I am ashamed to come to thy door in his company.
Let only that little be left of me
whereby I may name thee my all.
Let only that little be left of my will
whereby I may feel thee on every side,
and come to thee in everything,
and offer to thee my love every moment.
Let only that little be left of me
whereby I may never hide thee.
Let only that little of my fetters be left
whereby I am bound with thy will,
and thy purpose is carried out in my life---and that is the fetter of thy love.
I thought that my voyage had come to its end
at the last limit of my power, - that the path before me was closed,
that provisions were exhausted
and the time come to take shelter in a silent obscurity.
But I find that thy will knows no end in me.
And when old words die out on the tongue,
new melodies break forth from the heart;
and where the old tracks are lost,
new country is revealed with its wonders.
When the heart is hard and parched up,
come upon me with a shower of mercy.
When grace is lost from life,
come with a burst of song.
When tumultuous work raises its din on all sides shutting me out from
beyond, come to me, my lord of silence, with thy peace and rest.
When my beggarly heart sits crouched, shut up in a corner,
break open the door, my king, and come with the ceremony of a king.
When desire blinds the mind with delusion and dust, O thou holy one,
thou wakeful, come with thy light and thy thunder.
Have you not heard his silent steps?
He comes, comes, ever comes.
Every moment and every age,
every day and every night he comes, comes, ever comes.
Many a song have I sung in many a mood of mind,
but all their notes have always proclaimed,
'He comes, comes, ever comes.'
In the fragrant days of sunny April through the forest path he comes,
comes, ever comes.
In the rainy gloom of July nights on the thundering chariot of clouds
he comes, comes, ever comes.
In sorrow after sorrow it is his steps that press upon my heart,
and it is the golden touch of his feet that makes my joy to shine.
Leave this chanting and singing and telling of beads!
Whom dost thou worship in this lonely dark corner of a temple with doors all shut?
Open thine eyes and see thy God is not before thee!
He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground
and where the pathmaker is breaking stones.
He is with them in sun and in shower,
and his garment is covered with dust.
Put off thy holy mantle and even like him come down on the dusty soil!
I boasted among men that I had known you.
They see your pictures in all works of mine.
They come and ask me, 'Who is he?'
I know not how to answer them. I say, 'Indeed, I cannot tell.'
They blame me and they go away in scorn.
And you sit there smiling.
I put my tales of you into lasting songs.
The secret gushes out from my heart.
They come and ask me, 'Tell me all your meanings.'
I know not how to answer them.
I say, 'Ah, who knows what they mean!'
They smile and go away in utter scorn.
And you sit there smiling.
I dive down into the depth of the ocean of forms,
hoping to gain the perfect pearl of the formless.
No more sailing from harbor to harbor with this my weather-beaten boat.
The days are long passed when my sport was to be tossed on waves.
And now I am eager to die into the deathless.
Into the audience hall by the fathomless abyss
where swells up the music of toneless strings
I shall take this harp of my life.
I shall tune it to the notes of forever,
and when it has sobbed out its last utterance,
lay down my silent harp at the feet of the silent.