With Death's passport in hand
it has emerged from its dive into the chasm of nothingness
to breathe a while on the outskirts of existence.
From the worn-out chain have dropped the beads of the past years
and with this newest birthday
begins the counting of the days of a new-born life.
The welcome offered today to me,
who tries to con the signal of the morning of an unknown star
beckoning him towards an uncharted voyage,
is shared equally by his birthday
and the time of his death,
who mingle their lights like those of the morning star
and of the waning moon.
And I shall sing the same chant to both,
to death and to life.
Grant me. Mother Earth,
that my life's mirage born of burning thirst
may recede in the farthest horizon
and my unclean beggar's bowl empty into the dust
its accumulated defilements;
and as I start my crossing to the unrevealed shore
let me never look back with longing
on the last leavings of the feast of life.
Now when in this sleep-laden dusk of the day's end
the meaning is lost of the keen-bladed hunger
with which you had goaded me to drag life's chariot
you begin to withdraw your gifts from me one by one.
Slight has grown your need of me
and slight have you made my use
and set on my forehead the stamp of the discarded.
I feel it all and yet I know,
all this contumely of yours
will not reduce my worth to nought.
Cripple me, if you will,
shut out all light from my eyes,
shroud me in the shadow of infirmity,
yet in the dilapidated temple of my being
the ancient god will remain enthroned.
Work your havoc and pile up the wreck,
yet in the midst of this ruin
the luminous spot of inward joy
will burn bright as ever.
For it was fed day after day on the heavenly wine
which the gods pour on earth through every sight and sound.
I had loved them all
and sung of that love.
That love has lifted me above your bounds,
the love that shall abide, even though its words grow feeble,
defaced by constant use.
On this love of mine have traced their autographs
the pollen of the mango-blossom,
and the dew-cooled fragrance of the sephalika
the twitterings of the doels in early dawn
and the rapturous touch of the beloved.
When I take my leave of you, 0 Earth,
take back from me, carefully reckoning,
all that you had vouchsafed to me,
the outfit and provision for a life's sojourn.
Yet never think that I hold your gifts but slight.
Ever grateful I am to this clay-cast mould
through which I have had my introduction to the Formless.
Whenever I have approached your doors
with the mind free from all coveting,
I have been made welcome to your heart.
I know your gifts are not for the greedy,
that you withhold the nectar hidden in your earthen pot
from the ravenous lips of those that hunger obscenely.
You are waiting, O Earth, with your immortal gifts,
to welcome the wayfarer who treads the arduous path of detachment.
The gluttons who lust for flesh,
the traffickers in festering carrion,
have banded today in their orgies of violence, day and night.
Yet mockery tempts my smile, as of old,
at the pompous folly of the learned,
at the tyranny of the beggarly rich,
at the hideous make-up of the showy,
at the blasphemy that lampoons the divine in Man.
Enough of this. The bell tolls the last hour at your porch,
and my heart responds to the creaking of the opening gates of farewell.
In this deepening gloom of the twilight,
I will gather what flickering flames remain to light my fading
to offer my last worship to you, 0 Earth,
under the gaze of the Seven Rishis.
And the incense of my last silent song will float round you.
Behind me will remain the nagkeshar plant
that has yet to flower,
the anguished heart of this shore
yearning in vain for a ferry across,
and love's self-reproach at its tired memory
vanishing behind the screen of daily task.