The Traveller | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 30, 2016 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 30, 2016

The Traveller

Translated from the Bengali by SOFIUL AZAM

The traveller walks on, singing as if undone,

There's enough of pain in his life only to be shared with none;

His eyes full of tears only there's none to wipe off clear,

His heart full of twittering talks only there's none to hear.

The traveller walks on the desolate path as the noon so dire,

Continuously circling overhead, is playing a game of fire!

On both sides, fields in Boishakh month afloat on the sun's glare

Are gasping thirstily with their surfaces thoroughly cracked bare.

Down here, the gust of opened winds tearing the cloak of sand 

Is blowing puffs of air into the fire on mud slabs without an end.

Looking far into the distance, the traveller calls, “Come, come near,”

It only shudders the scorching midday's flaming fire. 

The stillness on both sides rhythmically trembles on and on, 

The blue bends low on the crooked shrubby forest in the horizon.

The traveller walks on the deserted path to the far distance in vain 

As if intent on tearing apart his heart to show his pain. 

On the horizon falls the noon, the night too, dark as unruly hair,

Garlanded with countless pearl-like stars twinkling fair.

Capturing the sun in clouds, it dances dangerously without a rest,

Clutching the cut head of the slaughtered day in the far west. 

The horizon's covered in crimson, and in her tongue's greediness,

The rapt witch laughs, splashing blood all around in drunkenness.

The traveller walks on – walking down his danger-infested way,

Pain goes on board Indra's chariot of melody with him still today.

In houses, evening lamps are lit, conch-whistles come from shrines,

Two ravens caw sitting on the village mosque lying in ruins. 

Who knows whose bereft mother cries, banging her head on a grave,

The traveller walks on, to himself no matter whatever he does rave.  

The traveller walks – walking on and on – how far, how far,

How far should he walk down to come across a friend dear?

Does anyone eagerly looking out on his way count months and years,

Does anyone spell-bounded by smoke wet his dress with tears? 

Did anyone show him a lamp coming from a village hut ever,

Or send a letter rounded with hair down the rushing Gongkini river? 

Reading what's written on his forehead, the traveller walks on,

Down the endless path, grabbing the edge of an illusion.

In every house, soft noises rise, every wife binding her partner

With vines of her arms sways in love's swing much longer. 

Flutes play on, spilling intoxicating smells of a happy night,

Which sees its face on a pond, under the lamp of moonlight!

Little children with their arms around their young mothers

Laugh as if spreading dust of gems and diamonds in their gestures.

The traveller walks on – too often painfully lets loose his screams, –

As if they were living protests of all of this earth's happy gleams. 


Whom do you want, who has perplexed you thus, O Traveller, say,

Who's made you cry like this, how does she remain at home today?  

Whom did you see in galaxies, on comets in the sky yet again,

What gem of talk did you get for selling yourself in vain?

In whose house's shade did you hear bangles' soft ringing,

Who came to your pond's steps alone to get her pot or something?

The traveller walks alone, not looking for any curious sight,

On far woodland paths nocturnal birds often sing in delight.

To the moon up on the sky's pathways, papiya birds sing in rapture,

That silent moon's still laughing, never said Ah in disgust ever. 

Bou Kotha Kou – Bou Kotha Kou – how long – how long,

O Indifferent, say, how long will you bird be weaving a net of a song?  

That traveller so unkind tells nothing, parting the curtain furtively,

Never has put a mark of love on anyone's forehead lovingly.

Towards the far distance, he walks on for no hope's sake,

On any bend of the path no one ever called him back. 

The traveller walks again in strides as slow as death,

As if living sighs were crying all around him without a breath.  

Horrible darkness from all around has swallowed him silently,

As if stillness got frozen up listening to his cries suddenly.   

Bou Kotha Kou, literally “Speak, Bride” in Bengali, is a bird found in the Indian sub-continent.  

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