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Broken Song - Poem by Rabindranath Tagore

Kasinath the new young singer fills the hall with sound:
The seven notes dance in his throat like seven tame birds.
His voice is a sharp sword slicing and thrusting everywhere,
It darts like lightening - no knowing where it will go when.
He sets deadly traps for himself, then cuts them away:
The courtiers listen in amazement, give frequent gasps of praise.
Only the old king Pratap Ray sits like wood, unmoved.
Haraj Lal is the only singer he likes, all others leave him cold.
From childhood he has spent so long listening to him sing -
Rag Kafi during holi, cloud-songs during the rains,
Songs for Durga at dawn in autumn, songs to bid her farewell -
His heart swelled when he heard them and his eyes swam with tears.
And on days when friends gathered and filled the hall
There were cowherds' songs of Krsna, in raags Bhupali and Multan.

So many nights of wedding-festivity have passed in that royal house:
Servants dressed in red, hundreds of lamps alight:
The bridegroom sitting shyly in his finery and jewels,
Young friends teasing him and whispering in his ear:
Before him, singing raag Sahana, sits Baraj Lal.
The king's heart is full of all those days and songs.
When he hears some other singer, he feels no chord inside,
No sudden magical awakening of memories of the past.
When Pratap Ray watches Kasinath he just sees his wagging head:
Tune after tune after tune, bu none with any echo in the heart.

Kasinath asks for a rest and the singing stops for a space.
Pratap Ray smilingly turns his eyes to Baraj Lal.
He puts his mouth to his ear and says, 'Dear ustad,
Give us a song as songs ought to be, this is no song at all.
It's all tricks and games, like a cat hunting a bird.
We used to hear songs in the old days, today they have no idea.'

Old Baraj Lal, white-haired, white turban on his head,
Bows to the assembled courtiers and slowly takes his seat.
He takes the tanpura in his wasted, heavily veined hand
And with lowered head and closed eyes begins raag Yaman-kalyap.
His quavering voice is swallowed by the enormous hall,
Is like a tiny bird in a storm, unable to fly for all it tries.
Pratap Ray, sitting to the left, encourages him again and again:
'Superb, bravo!' he says in his ear, 'sing out loud.'

The courtiers are inattentive, some whisper amongst themselves,
Some of them yawn, some doze, some go off to their rooms;
Some of them call to servants, 'Bring the bookah, bring some pan.'
Some fan themselves furiously and complain of the heat.
They cannot keep still for a minute, they shuffle or walk about -
The hall was quiet before, but every sort of noise has grown.
The old man's singing is swamped, like a frail boat in a typhoon:
Only his shaky fingering of the tanpura shows it is there.

Music that should rise on its own joy from the depths of the heart
Is crushed by heedless clamour, like a fountain under a stone.
The song and Baraj Lal's feelings go separate ways,
But he sings for all he is worth, to keep up the honour of his king.

One of the verses of the song has somehow slipped from his mind.
He quickly goes back, tries to get it right this time.
Again he forgets, it is lost, he shakes his head at the shame;
He starts the song at the beginning - again he has to stop.
His hand trembles doubly as he prays to his teachers name.
His voice quakes with distress, like a lamp guttering in a breeze.
He abandons the words of the song and tries to salvage the tune,
But suddenly his wide-mouthed singing breaks into loud cries.
The intricate melody goes to the winds, the rhythm is swept away -
Tears snap the thread of the song, cascade like pearls.
In shame he rests his head on the old tanpura in his lap -
He has failed to remember a song: he weeps as he did as a child.
With brimming eyes king Pratap Ray tenderly touches his friend:
'Come, let us go from here,' he says with kindness and love.
They leave that festive hall with its hundreds of blinding lights.
The two old friends go outside, holding each other's hands.

Baraj says with hands clasped, 'Master, our days are gone.
New men have come now, new styles and customs in the world.
The court we kept is deserted - only the two of us are left.
Don't ask anyone to listen to me now, I beg you at your feet, my lord.
The singer along does not make a song, there has to be someone who hears:
One man opens his throat to sing, the other sings in his mind.
Only when waves fall on the shore do they make a harmonious sound;
Only when breezes shake the woods do we hear a rustling in the leaves.
Only from a marriage of two forces does music arise in the world.
Where there is no love, where listeners are dumb, there never can be song.'


Comments about Broken Song by Rabindranath Tagore

  • Gold Star - 22,327 Points * Sunprincess * (6/8/2014 8:37:00 PM)

    ...........a wonderful poem.....very nice to read... (Report) Reply

    5 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • Rookie Salman Ahemad (7/29/2011 10:18:00 PM)

    ha, poems are too good... (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Smita Agrawal (5/8/2011 5:16:00 AM)

    true, beutifully written. (Report) Reply

Read all 3 comments »

Poems About Song

  1. 1. Broken Song , Rabindranath Tagore
  2. 2. My Lost Youth , Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  3. 3. My Song , Rabindranath Tagore
  4. 4. A Light Through Your Heart , Unwritten Soul
  5. 5. President Lincoln's Burial Hymn , Walt Whitman
  6. 6. Our Song , Scarlet .....
  7. 7. Prothalamion , Edmund Spenser
  8. 8. New Year's Chimes , Francis Thompson
  9. 9. Astrophel And Stella-First Song , Sir Philip Sidney
  10. 10. A Song..To Whom Does It Belong , Samanyan Lakshminarayanan
  11. 11. The Last Oracle , Algernon Charles Swinburne
  12. 12. Take Me Home , Udiah (witness to Yah)
  13. 13. Obiit Mdcccxxxiii (Entire) , Alfred Lord Tennyson
  14. 14. English Bards And Scotch Reviewers: A Sa.. , George Gordon Byron
  15. 15. As Good As New , Henry Lawson
  16. 16. Sing Me A Song , Jennifer Rondeau
  17. 17. Summer Song , Summer Song
  18. 18. A Song For All , M.D DINESH NAIR
  19. 19. Praise Of Ysolt , Ezra Pound
  20. 20. A Song , James Whitcomb Riley
  21. 21. The Fairy Bridal-Hymn , Vachel Lindsay
  22. 22. I Sing A Sad Song , Dorothy (Alves) Holmes
  23. 23. Our Song After There Is No More Us , Scarlet .....
  24. 24. Athens: An Ode , Algernon Charles Swinburne
  25. 25. The Merryman And His Maid , William Schwenck Gilbert
  26. 26. David , Thomas Parnell
  27. 27. Keep A Song Up On De Way , Paul Laurence Dunbar
  28. 28. Little Pierre's Song , William Topaz McGonagall
  29. 29. Proem. , Robert Crawford
  30. 30. How Shall He Sing Who Hath No Song? , George MacDonald
  31. 31. Liberated , Udiah (witness to Yah)
  32. 32. Fingal - Book Vi , James Macpherson
  33. 33. Amaranth , Victor James Daley
  34. 34. Whale Song , David Keig
  35. 35. Song Of The Soul , David Moe
  36. 36. A Song Of Honour , Ralph Hodgson
  37. 37. Come, Sail Away With Me , Meggie Gultiano
  38. 38. Temora - Book Ii , James Macpherson
  39. 39. ! Song Of April! , Rema Prasanaa
  40. 40. Ballad Of Joe And Satchong , Ency Bearis
  41. 41. Ullalim, The Epic Of Love Of The Maducayan , MELVIN BANGGOLLAY
  42. 42. Temora - Book Iii , James Macpherson
  43. 43. After My Death , Hayyim Nahman Bialik
  44. 44. Berrathah , James Macpherson
  45. 45. The Canterbury Tales; The Prioresses Tale , Geoffrey Chaucer
  46. 46. Boredom Song , Mr. Bean
  47. 47. Al3+ + So42- -> Al2(So4) 3 (I Wrote Yo.. , Lara W.A
  48. 48. My Song Of Love , Lora Colon
  49. 49. A Song , Mr. Bean
  50. 50. Carric-Thura , James Macpherson
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