Today, as I sat reading poetry, I came across this sublime love poem by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. The beauty of “Leave off Your Works, Bride” is such that it took me back in time…in the days of our grandparents, when it was not easy for couples to meet or romance. There were customs, family traditions, disapproving elders and unwritten rules that were to be observed before the consummation of an arranged marriage. Love marriage was out of question!
The poem talks about the period of anticipation that precedes the onset of romance between newly weds in a traditional arranged marriage set up.
It is a part of ‘The Gardener’, a lesser known love poem collection than the spiritual ‘Gitanjali'(1913), for which Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. Both were published in the same year – 1913, but ‘Gitanjali’ received an overwhelming response and the latter got overshadowed. Nevertheless, ‘The Gardener’ is great in its own way. And “Leave off Your Works, Bride” underscores my observation.
The verses evoke gentle and deep romance of the yore. It takes us into one of those ancient Bengali households, where a bride awaits her guest ( husband). The poet is encouraging her to welcome the guest (husband) but the bride seems shy, reluctant and nervous. The poet gives well meaning advices to her, asking her to leave all work and win over him. He is trying to lessen the awkwardness of first meeting between husband and wife in their first meeting. The poem abounds in imagery. It is as if Tagore, the artist-poet, is painting with words.
What made me fall in love with this song is one particular imagery – a veiled beautiul bride, holding a lamp, consumed with contrasting emotions, getting ready to meet her unknown husband!
Enjoy the poem and interpret this classic in your own way!
Leave off your works, bride. Listen, the guest has come.
Do you hear, he is gently shaking the fastening chain of the door?
Let not your anklets be loud, and your steps be too hurried to meet him.
Leave off your works, bride, the guest has come, in the evening.
No, it is not the wind, bride. Do not be frightened.
It is the full-moon night of April, shadows are pale in the court-yard, the sky overhead is bright.
Draw your veil over your face if you must, take the lamp from your room if you fear.
No, it is not the wind, bride; do not be frightened.
Have no word with him if you are shy, stand aside by the door when you meet him.
If he asks you questions, lower your eyes in silence, if you wish.
Do not let your bracelets jingle, when, lamp in hand, you lead him in.
Have no word with him if you are shy.
Have you not finished your works yet, bride? Listen, the guest has come.
Have you not lit the lamp in the cowshed?
Have you not got ready the offering basket for the evening service?
Have you not put the auspicious red mark at the parting of your hair, and done your toilet for the night?
O bride, do you hear, the guest has come?
Have you not finished your works yet?
Images courtesy Google