every path seems to swerve and lead away
though I try still to hold my head high
can eyes be dried, just like that, tears put away
jerked on puppet strings of love, helplessly high?
can happy love ever walk straight and fearless?
it’s a long road from here, the sun’s fiercely high
no use hoping the timid heart will be fearless
when the teeth of love and loss both gnaw it away
Never fearless, no; but fear still swatted away; and love’s banner held high.
Of course, the inspiration for this is Tagore’s famous poem, his dream of an independent, new India waking up free from intellectual or political suppression and fear. It is still quoted and read widely not just in Bengal but in all free-thinking societies. His own translation doesn’t do the original justice. Rhymed poetry can’t really be translated unrhymed and still retain the flavour of the original. Also his Bengali version is more robustly violent, the last line in Bengali reads “strike my country awake” rather than the tamer “let”, but the English was probably watered down for audiences abroad in pre-independence India. Here it is again:
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up
into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason
has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action-
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
I wrote this post sometime ago, and my verse is really about the personal fear that stems from vulnerability - the fear of losing loved ones, of changes, of the lack of control over our own fates.
Shared with poets at dVerse where the prompt today is "fear"