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Rabindranath Tagore

(7 May 1861 – 7 August 1941 / Calcutta (Kolkata), Bengal Presidency / British India)

Lover's Gifts LXX: Take Back Your Coins


Take back your coins, King's Councillor. I am of those women you
sent to the forest shrine to decoy the young ascetic who had never
seen a women. I failed in your bidding.
Dimly day was breaking when the hermit boy came to bathe in
the stream, his tawny locks crowded on his shoulders, like a
cluster of morning clouds, and his limbs shining like a streak of
sunbeam. We laughed and sang as we rowed in our boat; we jumped
into the river in a mad frolic, and danced around him, when the sun
rose staring at us from the water's edge in a flush of divine
anger.
Like a child-god, the boy opened his eyes and watched our
movements, the wonder deepening till his eyes shone like morning
stars. He lifted his clasped hands and chanted a hymn of praise in
his bird-like young voice, thrilling every leaf of the forest.
Never such words were sung to a mortal woman before; they were like
the silent hymn to the dawn which rises from the hushed hills. THe
women hid their mouths with their hands, their bodies swaying with
laughter, and a spasm of doubt ran across his face. Quickly came
I to his side, sorely pained, and, bowing to his feet, I said,
"Lord, accept my service."
I led him to the grassy bank, wiped his body with the end of
my silken mantle, and, kneeling on the ground, I dried his feet
with my trailing hair. When I raised my face and looked into his
eyes, I thought I felt the world's first kiss to the first woman,
-Blessed am I, blessed is God, who made me a woman. I heard him say
to me, "What God unknown are you? YOur touch is the touch of the
Immortal, your eyes have the mystery of the midnight."
Ah, no, not that smile, King's Councillor, -the dust of
worldly wisdom has covered your sight, old man. But this boy's
innocence pierced the mist and saw the shining truth, the woman
divine....
The women clapped their hands, and laughed their obscene
laugh, and with veils dragged on the dust and hair hanging loose
they began to pelt him with flowers.
Alas, my spotless sun, could not my shame weave fiery mist to
cover you in its folds? I fell at his feet and cried, "Forgive me.
" I fled like a stricken deer through shade and sun, and cried as
I fled, " Forgive me. " The women's foul laughter pressed me like
a cracking fire, but the words ever rang in my ears, " What God
unknown are you?"

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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