Strange – is it not? – that of the myriads who
Before us passed the door of darkness through,
Not one returns to tell us of the road
Which to discover we must travel too.
Strange – is it not? – that of the myriads who
Before us passed the door of darkness through,
Not one returns to tell us of the road
Which to discover we must travel too.
art, Bharatnatyam, Cheruthuruthy, Chidambaram, culture, dance, dance festival, drama, flute, history, India, journey, kathak, knowledge, music, musical instrument, natya shastra, performance art, skill, song, Tanjore, travel
Augmenting our knowledge in various fields is arguably one of the major benefits of travelling, near or far. However it is also true, during our trips to different parts of the world we limit ourselves to more passive forms of learnings. For example, we trust mainly on our power of observation to gain vital information about the culture, tradition, habits of people etc. The benefits of this form of learning cannot or should not be dismissed. It is a lifelong process that aids in developing the person we wish to become. But there could be another form of learning, a more active education, that we can indulge in during our journeys across the globe. Today I intend to discuss about the opportunities of learning that present itself in sphere of music and dance. For this article, I will focus more on India and opportunities available there, for it is a country which boasts of formulating the most ancient form of treatise in dramatic arts (natya shastra) and music. There are many forms and expressions of this beautiful art practiced all over the country even today. But before we delve into this, let me share with you a story from my own experience.
Lord Krishna Playing Flute
About a year and a half ago, I met Thibault E at a small restaurant in a very busy city. He came to enjoy a cosy dinner with his wife. A light drizzle that started since late afternoon turned into a heavy and incessant downpour. As we were all stuck inside we thought it better to strike up a conversation rather staring at each other from the corner of our eyes. He narrated his tale over a cup of simmering hot coffee. Thibault always found himself mesmerised by the tune of flute. Since his early childhood, he yearned to have a flute for himself and learn it to play. But his parents did share his fancy and thought this to be a rather idle dream. In the face of their overwhelming practical concerns for him, he was forced to put his dream somewhere in the deep recess of his mind.
Thibault was a good student and did not find it difficult to secure a place in one of the country’s premier technological universities. He similarly excelled in his career too. To cut a long story short, he, by the age of 42, was already in a possession of so much money that he could have afforded to retire then and there if he wanted to. His private life was equally fulfilling with a lovely wife, who was and still is a renowned name in her own sphere, and two healthy children. He had nothing to complain about, or so it seemed, because the inner dissatisfaction that was gnawing at his heart was not apparent to anyone but himself.
Sarod, Musical Instrument
Increasingly, Thibault found himself lonely at his own home. He simply did not know how to fill his “free” hours meaningfully. But there was no one else to blame for this than himself. He never cultivated a serious hobby to fill his empty hours. He was only allowed an hour’s play every day. His parents were strict disciplinarians and he did not wish to mess with them. If there was nothing else to do, he simply locked himself at his study room and dozed away the time. In later years too, he hardly made an attempt to acquire some skills beyond his regular studies.
Thibault frequently needed to stay away from home for short periods of time on business trips. One such occasion landed him on a distant coast to India, in Cochin (Kochi) to be specific. Since the business engagement got delayed for some unforeseen reason, he got some time to experience an exotic place and its culture. While aimlessly travelling here and there he landed himself in a small village named Cheruthuruthi, by the river Nila. In the afternoon when he was enjoying a walk a soulful tune of flute caught his attention. After some search he found the player, a boy in his early teens. Seated on the sandy river bank he was completely engrossed in his practice.
Flowing Water, Kerala
For sure, the tune was not familiar to Thibault, but that did not matter. He leaned against a coconut tree a little distance away and closed his eyes. He felt a deep sense of peace. He could have stood there that way for hours. But the performance was interrupted all of a sudden. A man’s voice was heard from behind. It seemed an elderly gentleman came calling for the boy and the two were preparing to leave the place. Seeing Thibault in the audience the man turned towards him smiling. In a very sweet voice he enquired about his whereabouts. Thibault briefly described his purpose. The conversation was helped by the boy who was clearly knew better English. After a brief discussion about the place and its history, the kind hearted gentleman asked Thibault to come to a local school dedicated to performance art and music. It transpired that some kind of celebration was to take place there later in the evening. With child’s glee in the heart, Thibault promptly accepted the invitation. For Thibault, the evening and the rest of the days in Cheruthuruthi were spent as if in a dream.
Performance in Kalamandalam, Cheruthuruthy
When Thibault narrated the story about his boyhood childhood wish, senior members of the school encouraged him to pick up at least the basics of playing flute. Someone also handed his flute over to him to let Thibault have a feel of it. Touching it with his fingers, for the first time in his life, he felt an immediate sense of bonding. After some pondering and lenghty discussion with his wife, Thibault took a sabbatical from his work. Following the advice of the gurus of Chethuruthy, he enrolled himself to a school some distance away from this village. His teacher there also helped him to find a mentor in his home country. With much enthusiasm, he devoted himself to his learning. He segregated his time between his actual and adopted home. With hard work he rapidly advanced.
Modest as he is, when I met him at the restaurant, he could not be drawn into describing his achievements even after 15 years of continuous practice. The best compliment, perhaps, came from his wife. “Thibault is a different man,” said Erika his wife, “he is more relaxed, more engaged with life than ever before.” Like a magic wand, the charm of flute transformed Thibault and Erika’s lives.
Pose in Poise, Bharatnatyam
Time has changed. You do not need to come all the way to India to learn music and dance native to this country. You may enrol yourself to an institution nearby. Online learning opportunities are all available. But if you are musically inclined and journeying across India you may consider taking up courses in any of the reputed institutions of Chennai, Bangalore, Mysore, Coimbatore, Tanjore and beyond. All these places are also replete with schools teaching various dance disciplines including bharatnatyam, kuchipudi, kathak and so on.
It is also highly recommended that you set some time aside to visit Brihadeeswarar Temple of Tanjore. The outer wall of the temple bears all the elegant poses of bharatnatyam, a dance form that is no less than 2500 years old. The temple is a part of UNESCO World Heritage. Many of these places also turn themselves into virtual auditoriums and relive the past glory by organising annual dance festivals. Khajuraho, Modhera, Mukteswar and Mahabalipuram are some of the most prominent ones. Besides, major auditoriums across the country organise dance and music recitals for the benefits of art connoisseurs year long.
Temple Sculptures Depicting Dance Poses, Chidambaram
I sincerely hope that in your next journey you will get ample opportunities of exploring your talent in these fields and beyond. Moreover, these activities will also help you to get a closer view of the cultural treasures of any place that you choose to visit on your next trip.
A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened. ~ Albert Camus
Parallelly published in The Inked Expressions.
Alphonse Legros, art, bird, Ceramic, clay, drawing, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ink, Johannes Vermeer, journey, Juan Gris, life, Literature, mould, nature, painting, Paul Cezanne, philosophy, poetry, potter, relief, sculpture, tapestry, Theo van Rysselberghe, Vincent Van Gogh, wheel
Kéramos by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (27th February, 1807 – 24th March, 1882)
Turn, turn, my wheel! Turn round and round
Without a pause, without a sound:
So spins the flying world away!
This clay, well mixed with marl and sand,
Follows the motion of my hand;
Far some must follow, and some command,
Though all are made of clay!
Painting by Vlaho Bukovac
Thus sang the Potter at his task
Beneath the blossoming hawthorn–tree,
While o’er his features, like a mask,
The quilted sunshine and leaf–shade
Moved, as the boughs above him swayed,
And clothed him, till he seemed to be
A figure woven in tapestry,
So sumptuously was he arrayed
In that magnificent attire
Of sable tissue flaked with fire.
Like a magician he appeared,
A conjurer without book or beard;
And while he plied his magic art–
For it was magical to me–
I stood in silence and apart,
And wondered more and more to see
That shapeless, lifeless mass of clay
Rise up to meet the master’s hand,
And now contract and now expand,
And even his slightest touch obey;
While ever in a thoughtful mood
He sang his ditty, and at times
Whistled a tune between the rhymes,
As a melodious interlude.
Tapestry (The Months of the Year May, April, March) by Nicolas Karcher
Turn, turn, my wheel! All things must change
To something new, to something strange;
Nothing that is can pause or stay;
The moon will wax, the moon will wane,
The mist and cloud will turn to rain,
The rain to mist and cloud again,
To–morrow be to–day.
Painting by Johannes Vermeer
Thus still the Potter sang, and still,
By some unconscious act of will,
The melody and even the words
Were intermingled with my thought
As bits of colored thread are caught
And woven into nests of birds.
And thus to regions far remote,
Beyond the ocean’s vast expanse,
This wizard in the motley coat
Transported me on wings of song,
And by the northern shores of France
Bore me with restless speed along.
Painting by Paul Cézanne
What land is this that seems to be
A mingling of the land and sea?
This land of sluices, dikes, and dunes?
This water–net, that tessellates
The landscape? this unending maze
Of gardens, through whose latticed gates
The imprisoned pinks and tulips gaze;
Where in long summer afternoons
The sunshine, softened by the haze,
Comes streaming down as through a screen;
Where over fields and pastures green
The painted ships float high in air,
And over all and everywhere
The sails of windmills sink and soar
Like wings of sea–gulls on the shore?
Painting by Nicholas Roerich
What land is this? Yon pretty town
Is Delft, with all its wares displayed;
The pride, the market–place, the crown
And centre of the Potter’s trade.
See! every house and room is bright
With glimmers of reflected light
From plates that on the dresser shine;
Flagons to foam with Flemish beer,
Or sparkle with the Rhenish wine,
And pilgrim flasks with fleurs–de–lis,
And ships upon a rolling sea,
And tankards pewter topped, and queer
With comic mask and musketeer!
Each hospitable chimney smiles
A welcome from its painted tiles;
The parlor walls, the chamber floors,
The stairways and the corridors,
The borders of the garden walks,
Are beautiful with fadeless flowers,
That never droop in winds or showers,
And never wither on their stalks.
Painting by John Leslie
Turn, turn, my wheel! All life is brief;
What now is bud will soon be leaf,
What now is leaf will soon decay;
The wind blows east, the wind blows west;
The blue eggs in the robin’s nest
Will soon have wings and beak and breast,
And flutter and fly away.
Ink Drawing by Thomas Allom
Now southward through the air I glide,
The song my only pursuivant,
And see across the landscape wide
The blue Charente, upon whose tide
The belfries and the spires of Saintes
Ripple and rock from side to side,
As, when an earthquake rends its walls,
A crumbling city reels and falls.
Who is it in the suburbs here,
This Potter, working with such cheer,
In this mean house, this mean attire,
His manly features bronzed with fire,
Whose figulines and rustic wares
Scarce find him bread from day to day?
This madman, as the people say,
Who breaks his tables and his chairs
To feed his furnace fires, nor cares
Who goes unfed if they are fed,
Nor who may live if they are dead?
This alchemist with hollow cheeks
And sunken, searching eyes, who seeks,
By mingled earths and ores combined
With potency of fire, to find
Some new enamel, hard and bright,
His dream, his passion, his delight?
Painting by Alphonse Legros
O Palissy! within thy breast
Burned the hot fever of unrest;
Thine was the prophets vision, thine
The exultation, the divine
Insanity of noble minds,
That never falters nor abates,
But labors and endures and waits,
Till all that it foresees it finds,
Or what it cannot find creates!
Pottery of Bernard Palissy
Turn, turn, my wheel! This earthen jar
A touch can make, a touch can mar;
And shall it to the Potter say,
What makest thou? Thou hast no hand?
As men who think to understand
A world by their Creator planned,
Who wiser is than they.
Still guided by the dreamy song,
As in a trance I float along
Above the Pyrenean chain,
Above the fields and farms of Spain,
Above the bright Majorcan isle,
That lends its softened name to art,–
A spot, a dot upon the chart,
Whose little towns, red–roofed with tile,
Are ruby–lustred with the light
Of blazing furnaces by night,
And crowned by day with wreaths of smoke.
Then eastward, wafted in my flight
On my enchanter’s magic cloak,
I sail across the Tyrrhene Sea
Into the land of Italy,
And o’er the windy Apennines,
Mantled and musical with pines.
Painting by Juan Gris
The palaces, the princely halls,
The doors of houses and the walls
Of churches and of belfry towers,
Cloister and castle, street and mart,
Are garlanded and gay with flowers
That blossom in the fields of art.
Here Gubbio’s workshops gleam and glow
With brilliant, iridescent dyes,
The dazzling whiteness of the snow,
The cobalt blue of summer skies;
And vase and scutcheon, cup and plate,
In perfect finish emulate
Faenza, Florence, Pesaro.
Painting by Carlo Grubacs
Forth from Urbino’s gate there came
A youth with the angelic name
Of Raphael, in form and face
Himself angelic, and divine
In arts of color and design.
From him Francesco Xanto caught
Something of his transcendent grace,
And into fictile fabrics wrought
Suggestions of the master’s thought.
Nor less Maestro Giorgio shines
With madre–perl and golden lines
Of arabesques, and interweaves
His birds and fruits and flowers and leaves
About some landscape, shaded brown,
With olive tints on rock and town.
Ceramic Art by Francesco Xanto Avelli
Behold this cup within whose bowl,
Upon a ground of deepest blue
With yellow–lustred stars o’erlaid,
Colors of every tint and hue
Mingle in one harmonious whole!
With large blue eyes and steadfast gaze,
Her yellow hair in net and braid,
Necklace and ear–rings all ablaze
With golden lustre o’er the glaze,
A woman’s portrait; on the scroll,
Cana, the Beautiful! A name
Forgotten save for such brief fame
As this memorial can bestow,––
A gift some lover long ago
Gave with his heart to this fair dame.
Painting by Eugene de Blaas
A nobler title to renown
Is thine, O pleasant Tuscan town,
Seated beside the Arno’s stream;
For Lucca della Robbia there
Created forms so wondrous fair,
They made thy sovereignty supreme.
These choristers with lips of stone,
Whose music is not heard, but seen,
Still chant, as from their organ–screen,
Their Maker’s praise; nor these alone,
But the more fragile forms of clay,
Hardly less beautiful than they,
These saints and angels that adorn
The walls of hospitals, and tell
The story of good deeds so well
That poverty seems less forlorn,
And life more like a holiday.
Relief Sculpture by Lucca della Robbia
Here in this old neglected church,
That long eludes the traveller’s search,
Lies the dead bishop on his tomb;
Earth upon earth he slumbering lies,
Life–like and death–like in the gloom;
Garlands of fruit and flowers in bloom
And foliage deck his resting place;
A shadow in the sightless eyes,
A pallor on the patient face,
Made perfect by the furnace heat;
All earthly passions and desires
Burnt out by purgatorial fires;
Seeming to say, “Our years are fleet,
And to the weary death is sweet.”
Painting by Luigi Ademollo
But the most wonderful of all
The ornaments on tomb or wall
That grace the fair Ausonian shores
Are those the faithful earth restores,
Near some Apulian town concealed,
In vineyard or in harvest field,–
Vases and urns and bas–reliefs,
Memorials of forgotten griefs,
Or records of heroic deeds
Of demigods and mighty chiefs:
Figures that almost move and speak,
And, buried amid mould and weeds,
Still in their attitudes attest
The presence of the graceful Greek,–
Achilles in his armor dressed,
Alcides with the Cretan bull,
And Aphrodite with her boy,
Or lovely Helena of Troy,
Still living and still beautiful.
Painting by William Adolphe Bouguereau
Turn, turn, my wheel! ’T is nature’s plan
The child should grow into the man,
The man grow wrinkled, old, and gray;
In youth the heart exults and sings,
The pulses leap, the feet have wings;
In age the cricket chirps, and brings
The harvest–home of day.
Painting by Alessandro Allori
And now the winds that southward blow,
And cool the hot Sicilian isle,
Bear me away. I see below
The long line of the Libyan Nile,
Flooding and feeding the parched land
With annual ebb and overflow,
A fallen palm whose branches lie
Beneath the Abyssinian sky,
Whose roots are in Egyptian sands,
On either bank huge water–wheels,
Belted with jars and dripping weeds,
Send forth their melancholy moans,
As if, in their gray mantles hid,
Dead anchorites of the Thebaid
Knelt on the shore and told their beads,
Beating their breasts with loud appeals
And penitential tears and groans.
This city, walled and thickly set
With glittering mosque and minaret,
Is Cairo, in whose gay bazaars
The dreaming traveller first inhales
The perfume of Arabian gales,
And sees the fabulous earthen jars,
Huge as were those wherein the maid
Morgiana found the Forty Thieves
Concealed in midnight ambuscade;
And seeing, more than half believes
The fascinating tales that run
Through all the Thousand Nights and One,
Told by the fair Scheherezade.
More strange and wonderful than these
Are the Egyptian deities,
Ammonn, and Emeth, and the grand
Osiris, holding in his hand
The lotus; Isis, crowned and veiled;
The sacred Ibis, and the Sphinx;
Bracelets with blue enamelled links;
The Scarabee in emerald mailed,
Or spreading wide his funeral wings;
Lamps that perchance their night–watch kept
O’er Cleopatra while she slept,–
All plundered from the tombs of kings.
Turn, turn, my wheel! The human race,
Of every tongue, of every place,
Caucasian, Coptic, or Malay,
All that inhabit this great earth,
Whatever be their rank or worth,
Are kindred and allied by birth,
And made of the same clay.
Relief Sculpture by Bertel Thorbertsen
O’er desert sands, o’er gulf and bay,
O’er Ganges and o’er Himalay,
Bird–like I fly, and flying sing,
To flowery kingdoms of Cathay,
And bird–like poise on balanced wing
Above the town of King–te–tching,
A burning town, or seeming so,–
Three thousand furnaces that glow
Incessantly, and fill the air
With smoke uprising, gyre on gyre
And painted by the lurid glare,
Of jets and flashes of red fire.
As leaves that in the autumn fall,
Spotted and veined with various hues,
Are swept along the avenues,
And lie in heaps by hedge and wall,
So from this grove of chimneys whirled
To all the markets of the world,
These porcelain leaves are wafted on,
Light yellow leaves with spots and stains
Of violet and of crimson dye,
Or tender azure of a sky
Just washed by gentle April rains,
And beautiful with celadon.
Painting by Vincent van Gogh
Nor less the coarser household wares,
The willow pattern, that we knew
In childhood, with its bridge of blue
Leading to unknown thoroughfares;
The solitary man who stares
At the white river flowing through
Its arches, the fantastic trees
And wild perspective of the view;
And intermingled among these
The tiles that in our nurseries
Filled us with wonder and delight,
Or haunted us in dreams at night.
And yonder by Nankin, behold!
The Tower of Porcelain, strange and old,
Uplifting to the astonished skies
Its ninefold painted balconies,
With balustrades of twining leaves,
And roofs of tile, beneath whose eaves
Hang porcelain bells that all the time
Ring with a soft, melodious chime;
While the whole fabric is ablaze
With varied tints, all fused in one
Great mass of color, like a maze
Of flowers illumined by the sun.
Turn, turn, my wheel! What is begun
At daybreak must at dark be done,
To–morrow will be another day;
To–morrow the hot furnace flame
Will search the heart and try the frame,
And stamp with honor or with shame
These vessels made of clay.
Ceramic Art by Flaminio Fontana
Cradled and rocked in Eastern seas,
The islands of the Japanese
Beneath me lie; o’er lake and plain
The stork, the heron, and the crane
Through the clear realms of azure drift,
And on the hillside I can see
The villages of Imari,
Whose thronged and flaming workshops lift
Their twisted columns of smoke on high,
Cloud cloisters that in ruins lie,
With sunshine streaming through each rift,
And broken arches of blue sky.
Painting by Theo van Rysselbreghe
All the bright flowers that fill the land,
Ripple of waves on rock or sand,
The snow on Fusiyama’s cone,
The midnight heaven so thickly sown
With constellations of bright stars,
The leaves that rustle, the reeds that make
A whisper by each stream and lake,
The saffron dawn, the sunset red,
Are painted on these lovely jars;
Again the skylark sings, again
The stork, the heron, and the crane
Float through the azure overhead,
The counterfeit and counterpart
Of Nature reproduced in Art.
Painting by Gaganendranath Tagore
Art is the child of Nature; yes,
Her darling child, in whom we trace
The features of the mother’s face,
Her aspect and her attitude,
All her majestic loveliness
Chastened and softened and subdued
Into a more attractive grace,
And with a human sense imbued.
He is the greatest artist, then,
Whether of pencil or of pen,
Who follows Nature. Never man,
As artist or as artisan,
Pursuing his own fantasies,
Can touch the human heart, or please,
Or satisfy our nobler needs,
As he who sets his willing feet
In Nature’s footprints, light and fleet,
And follows fearless where she leads.
Painting by Albert Anker
Thus mused I on that morn in May,
Wrapped in my visions like the Seer,
Whose eyes behold not what is near,
But only what is far away,
When, suddenly sounding peal on peal,
The church–bell from the neighboring town
Proclaimed the welcome hour of noon.
The Potter heard, and stopped his wheel,
His apron on the grass threw down,
Whistled his quiet little tune,
Not overloud nor overlong,
And ended thus his simple song:
Stop, stop, my wheel! Too soon, too soon
The noon will be the afternoon,
Too soon to–day be yesterday;
Behind us in our path we cast
The broken potsherds of the past,
And all are ground to dust a last,
And trodden into clay!
Painting by Gustav Klimt
Path that Leads to Nowhere by Corinne Roosevelt Robinson (27th September, 1861 – 17th February, 1933)
There’s a path that leads to nowhere
In a meadow that I know,
Where an Indian river rises
And the stream is still and slow;
There it wanders under willows
And beneath the silvery moon
Of the birches silent shadows
Where the early violets bloom.
Other pathways lead to somewhere,
But the one I love so well
Had no end and no beginning,
Just the beauty of the dell;
There I find my fair oasis,
And with carefree feet I tread,
For the pathway leads to nowhere
And the blue is overhead!
All the ways that lead to somewhere
Echo with the hurrying feet
Of the struggling and the striving,
But the way I find so sweet
Bids me dream and bids me linger,
Joy and Beauty are its goal;
On the path that leads to nowhere
I have sometimes found my soul!
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.
Painting by Gaganendranath Tagore (1867 – 1938)
Listen, My Beloved by Henry van Dyke (10th November, 1852 – 10th April, 1933)
Listen, my beloved, while the silver morning, like a tranquil vision,
Fills the world around us and our hearts with peace;
Quiet is the close of Aristæus’ legend, happy is the ending–
Listen while I tell you how he found release.
Many months he wandered far away in sadness, desolately thinking
Only of the vanished joys he could not find;
Till the great Apollo, pitying his shepherd, loosed him from the burden
Of a dark, reluctant, backward–looking mind.
Then he saw around him all the changeful beauty of the changing seasons,
In the world–wide regions where his journey lay;
Birds that sang to cheer him, flowers that bloomed beside him, stars that
shone to guide him,–
Traveller’s joy was plenty all along the way!
Everywhere he journeyed strangers made him welcome, listened while he taught them
Secret lore of field and forest he had learned:
How to train the vines and make the olives fruitful; how to guard the sheepfolds;
How to stay the fever when the dog–star burned.
Friendliness and blessing followed in his footsteps; richer were the harvests,
Happier the dwellings, wheresoe’er he came;
Little children loved him, and he left behind him, in the hour of parting,
Memories of kindness and a god–like name.
So he travelled onward, desolate no longer, patient in his seeking,
Reaping all the wayside comfort of his quest;
Till at last in Thracia, high upon Mount Hæmus, far from human dwelling,
Weary Aristæus laid him down to rest.
Then the honey–makers, clad in downy whiteness, fluttered soft around him,
Wrapt him in a dreamful slumber pure and deep.
This is life, beloved: first a sheltered garden, then a troubled journey,
Joy and pain of seeking,–and at last we sleep!
The Violinist by Otto Scholderer (25th January, 1834 – 22nd January, 1902)
Ever in my life have I sought thee by Rabindranath Tagore (7th May, 1861 – 7th August, 1941)
Ever in my life have I sought thee with my songs. It was they who led me from door to door, and with them have I felt about me, searching and touching my world.
It was my songs that taught me all the lessons I ever learnt; they showed me secret paths, they brought before my sight many a star on the horizon of my heart.
They guided me all the day long to the mysteries of the country of pleasure and pain, and, at last, to what palace gate have the brought me in the evening at the end of my journey?
Praying Hands by Albrecht Durer (circa 1508)
Edna St Vincent Millay (22nd February, 1892 – 19th October, 1950)
Ah, could I lay me down in this long grass
And close my eyes, and let the quiet wind
Blow over me—I am so tired, so tired
Of passing pleasant places! All my life,
Following care along the dusty road,
Have I looked back at loveliness and sighed;
Yet at my hand an unrelenting hand
Tugged ever, and I passed. All my life long
Over my shoulder have I looked at peace;
And now I fain would lie in this long grass
And close my eyes.
Cat birds call
Through the long afternoon, and creeks at dusk
Are guttural. Whip–poor–wills wake and cry,
Drawing the twilight close about their throats.
Only my heart makes answer. Eager vines
Go up the rocks and wait; flushed apple-trees
Pause in their dance and break the ring for me;
And bayberry, that through sweet bevies thread
Of round–faced roses, pink and petulant,
Look back and beckon ere they disappear.
Only my heart, only my heart responds.
Yet, ah, my path is sweet on either side
All through the dragging day,—sharp underfoot
And hot, and like dead mist the dry dust hangs—
But far, oh, far as passionate eye can reach,
And long, ah, long as rapturous eye can cling,
The world is mine: blue hill, still silver lake,
Broad field, bright flower, and the long white road
A gateless garden, and an open path:
My feet to follow, and my heart to hold.
Ophelia by John William Waterhouse (1889)
Excerpt from Gitanjali
Rabindranath Tagore (7th May, 1861 – 7th August, 1941)
If the day is done, if birds sing no more,
If the wind has flagged tired, then draw the veil of darkness thick upon me,
Even as thou hast wrapt the earth with the coverlet of sleep
And tenderly closed the petals of the drooping lotus at dusk.
From the traveller, whose sack of provisions is empty before the voyage is ended,
Whose garment is torn and dust laden,
Whose strength is exhausted, remove shame and poverty,
And renew his life like a flower under the cover of thy kindly night.
Coloured ink on paper, a painting by Rabindranath Tagore