Jibanananda Das was possibly the greatest Bengali poet in the post-Tagore generation. Here is a poem that takes us to the deeper layers of human consciousness filled with inexplicable longing, memory and nostalgia.
Walking the Streets
Many a time as if recalling forgotten beckoning I have
walked alone the streets of this city: I have seen
trams and buses running on time:
then leaving the streets they depart peacefully
for their world of sleep.
All night long the gaslight, understanding its duty, burns well.
No one makes a mistake–bricks houses signboards windows
doors roofs all
feel the need to feel quietly asleep under the sky.
Walking alone in the streets I have felt their deep
peace in my heart:
then it was late at night–then many a star had quietly come
to surround the tips of the monuments and minarets;
I wonder, have I ever seen anything!
More simple, more plausible: a host of stars and
I lower my eyes–silently the cheroot burns–dust and straw
in the air:
I shut my eyes and move aside–many almond-brown
have flown away; in the same way, alone in Babylon I have
walked into the night
for some reason; after thousands of crowded years
I still do not know why.
Translated from Bengali by Tarun Gupta.