Jun 22 2012

Rabindranath Tagore – Listen, can you hear it?

Published by at 9:43 am under Poetry

Listen, can you hear it? (from The Lover of God)
by Rabindranath Tagore

English version by Tony Stewart and Chase Twitchell

Listen, can you hear it?
His bamboo flute speaks
the pure language of love.
The moon enlightens the trees,
the path, the sinuous Yamuna.
Oblivious of the jasmine’s scent
I stagger around,
disheveled heart bereft of modesty,
eyes wet with nerves and delight.
Tell me, dear friend, say it aloud:
is he not my own Dark Lord Syama?
Is it not my name his flute pours
into the empty evening?

For eons I longed for God,
I yearned to know him.
That’s why he has come to me now,
deep emerald Lord of my breath.
O Syama, whenever your faraway flute thrills
through the dark, I say your name,
only your name, and will my body to dissolve
in the luminous Yamuna.

Go to her, Lord, go now.
What’s stopping you?
The earth drowns in sleep.
Let’s go. I’ll walk with you.

— from The Lover of God, by Rabindranath Tagore / Translated by Tony Stewart

/ Photo by Diganta Talukdar /

There is a fascinating story behind this poem and the other poems of Tagore’s The Lover of God… In the late 19th century, a previously unknown collection poems by the 18th century poet, Bhanusimha, was published. The critics celebrated these “newly discovered” bhakti masterpieces.

The problem was, they were a hoax. The poems were not by Bhanusimha. They were actually composed by a brilliant 14-year-old boy — the young Rabindranath Tagore.

He of course matured into one of the greatest poets of modern India.

Just a few notes about the poem itself:

As with many bhakti poems, this is, on the surface, a poem of love and longing. Radha pines for her beloved, Krishna. But these are usually understood to reflect deeper truths. Radha is the soul, the spiritual seeker. Krishna is God, the Beloved.

Krishna plays a flute, an enchanting melody that calls all souls to himself. The sound of his flute is the hum that underlies all creation, the soft sound heard in the silence of meditation.

His beauty is often compared with the moon. This moon is also the luminescence of enlightenment.

The Yamuna is one of the great rivers of India, but she is also a goddess who fell in love with Krishna. So the reference to the sinuous Yamuna is meant to evoke both an erotic femininity and also emphasize that love for Krishna. To dissolve in the Yamuna is to disappear into eternal love for God/Krisnha.

The final verse switches from Radha’s voice to the poets, encouraging Krishna to respond to the longing of the soul. Something quite playful in that…

Go to her, Lord, go now.
What’s stopping you?
The earth drowns in sleep.
Let’s go. I’ll walk with you.

Rabindranath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore poetry, Yoga / Hindu poetry Rabindranath Tagore

India (1861 – 1941) Timeline
Yoga / Hindu

More poetry by Rabindranath Tagore

8 responses so far

8 Responses to “Rabindranath Tagore – Listen, can you hear it?”

  1. Peter Mountainon 22 Jun 2012 at 11:30 am

    Listen, can you hear it?

    “Ye blessed Creatures, I have heard the call….”

    Much Thanks Ivan!

  2. Fahmidaon 22 Jun 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Love tagores work, he is my inspiration, he can write in different perspectives, man, woman, lover, bride, pious spiritual seeker, just love his works

  3. qahiraon 22 Jun 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Stunningly beautiful teaching on the poem itself and great illumination on the goddess aspect in this great work. Will sit with it for days. Finally ordered your book and look forward to receiving that as it is such an incredible service to all the travelers you serve with the Chaikhana mailouts.
    We hold you always in our hearts for good health and prosperity of body mind and spirit.

    loving you and yours

  4. maria robsonon 23 Jun 2012 at 4:53 am

    At first I didn’t quite get it, although I loved the words because Tagore
    is ………well. Tagore.

    But after reading further the explanation and commentary I
    appreciate how delightfully mischievous, lighthearted, and funny the yearning and search for the Beloved can be and am enjoying the words even more. Not quite
    getting the meaning is really a gift!

    Gratefully chuckling , I remain..

  5. Jay Landaron 23 Jun 2012 at 11:34 am

    So beautiful – I love Tagore.
    I have many sacred and spiritual poems on my site if you would care to look.

  6. Bob Corbinon 24 Jun 2012 at 1:37 pm

    I first heard a reading of Tagore 63 years ago and i can still recall the occasion. This poem sent me immediately to the other Tagore poems you have posted. Beautiful!!
    Such treasures!! Has there ever been a family of such achievement as the Tagore’s–and Rabindranath was their crown?

  7. A.B.M. Shamsud Doulahon 29 Jun 2012 at 8:53 pm


    I published some observations in several blogs as to the popularity of Rabindranath Tagore. We the Bengalis deeply respect him for his beautiful writings and songs.

    A few words about the Nobel Prize for Rabindranath Tagore:

    1. Tagore was presented as an Anglo-Indian before the Nobel Committee. This was never disclosed by Visva Bharati;

    2. Ignoring Americans, it was for the first time that the Nobel Prize for literature was awarded to a non-European;

    3. Interestingly, Tagore never visited the Swedish Academy for about 7 years even after the award (when he was awarded the Nobel Prize he was in England and not in Calcutta);

    4. Tagore never made any contact or speech marking the Nobel Prize (he just made a two-line acknowledgement only);

    5. The British Ambassador received Tagore’s Nobel prize in person;

    6. The prize medal was home delivered at Jorasanko in Calcutta (or in London?);

    7. None of the Nobel Committee members either knew Bengali or ever read Tagore’s writings; and

    8. The library of the Swedish Academy had no book by Tagore accessioned in its record at that time. What do these points signify?

    I do not want to interrupt any body. I understand that Rabindranath Tagore is sacrilege to many of his fans. But the truth should not be suppressed by way of propaganda.

    I cordially welcome the objectively substantiated replies to my above points. In fact, if can get such satisfactory replies then I shall surely stop my project on the subject towards publication of a book. Even Swedish Academy confirmed some of the above points.

    By my survey results it appears that 80% of popularity of Rabindranath Tagore is due to his getting the Nobel Prize. At least the facts reveal it. I take this opportunity to say that no book on the history of Bengali Literature ever mentioned even the name of Rabindranath Tagore until 1912 when the poet was about 52 years of age.

    My above observations are not based on the figments of imagination but available facts.

    Looking forward to objectively substantiated replies with good references, if any.

    A.B.M. Shamsud Doulah
    G.P.O. Box 351, Dhaka-1000

  8. Lakshmion 16 Jul 2012 at 8:06 pm

    The Bhakti, love,all is so beautifull expressed.

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