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The Golden Boat

Selected Poems

Rabindranath Tagore

Translated by Joe Winter

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Categories: 19th Century, BAME, Indian
Imprint: Anvil Press Poetry
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Available as:
Paperback (208 pages)
(Pub. Jul 2008)
£11.95 £10.75
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    The Golden Boat

    It’s deep monsoon. The thunder-sky-clouds call.
    I wait alone but with no hope at all.
         Now the paddy-harvest’s over,
         brimming baskets stretch forever …
    as the currents of the river cut and thrust and maul.
    In harvest-time the rain began to fall.

    On the bank in a small field I stay
    alone. Across the stream’s cross-purpose-play,
         I see the painting of a village
         in cloud-shadow. Trees and foliage
    cluster in a dark ink-collage. It’s early in the day.
    In the field alone I sit and stay.

    Who’s that bringing his boat in, singing a song?
    It seems as if I’ve known him all along.
         On the course back out he’s starting,
         looking nowhere, and departing
    in full sail. The waves break, parting, helpless in their throng.
    It seems as if I’ve known him all along.

    Friend, where are you off to, what far shore ?
    Turn and bring your boat in, just once more!
         Then go where you will, your bounty
         grant to whom you will in plenty –
    but smiling for an instant, even, only take before
    my golden paddy, coming to this shore.

    Take however much you want aboard.
    More yet? – No, I’ve given all my hoard.
         All that I was lost in, staying
         on the river’s bank, delaying
    long – all that in your boat laying, you have safely stored.
    Now in your kindness take me too aboard.

    No room, no room! The small boat, stacked today
    even with my paddy’s gold, is under way.
         In the Srabon sky forever
         clouds are darkly wheeling over
    an empty and deserted river where I sit and stay.
    The golden boat took all there was away.


    Translated by Joe Winter

    Bengali is the world’s seventh most popular language in terms of the number who use it, but few have made the journey from the West to its cultural or spiritual interior. Its intellectual tradition is without equal in present-day India. Rabindranath Tagore, a true Renaissance man, is its greatest writer.

    Joe Winter’s selection from Tagore’s more than 40 books of poetry gives a wonderful sense of his variety in lyrics, songs and narratives. It complements and extends the work he began with translating Song Offerings (2000).

    Rabindranath Tagore
    Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941) became the first non-Westerner to win the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, largely on the strength of his own prose versions of his poems, greatly admired by W.B. Yeats. He was a Renaissance man – poet and writer of fiction, composer and artist and playwright, educationalist and ... read more
    Joe Winter
    Joe Winter, born in London in 1943, taught English in secondary schools in London from 1967 to 1994. He lived in Calcutta from 1994 to 2006 before returning to England. His Bengali translations include Das’s Naked Lonely Hand and Bengal the Beautiful, and Tagore’s Song Offerings (Gitanjali), Lipika (stories) ... read more
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