Poetry Friday: Tagore's Old And New

It's impossible to understand modern Bengali culture without grasping the impact of the poetry and songs written by Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941). I hesitate to share English versions of his poems because you won't get the elegance of meter and rhyme and the nuance of image and metaphor. Nonetheless, I offer the poem recited by my sister during our wedding, "Old and New," a poem/prayer that my Grandfather gave as a gift to his "alien" American grandson-in-law (as translated by Tagore himself in Gitanjali):

Old and New

Thou hast made me known to friends whom I knew not.

Thou hast given me seats in homes not my own.

Thou hast brought the distant near and made a brother of the stranger.

I am uneasy at heart when I have to leave my accustomed shelter;

I forget that there abides the old in the new,

and that there also thou abidest.

Through birth and death, in this world or in others,

wherever thou leadest me it is thou, the same,

the one companion of my endless life

who ever linkest my heart with bonds of joy to the unfamiliar.

When one knows thee, then alien there is none, then no door is shut.

Oh, grant me my prayer that I may never lose

the bliss of the touch of the one

in the play of many.

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