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  • Translation

Come As You Are by Rabindranath Tagore


Come as you are, forget appearances!

Is your hair untamable, your part uneven, your bodice unfastened? Never mind.

Come as you are, forget appearances!


Skip with quicksilver steps across the grass.

If your feet glisten with dew, if your anklets slip, if your beaded necklace slides off? Never mind.

Skip with quicksilver steps across the grass.


Do you see the clouds enveloping the sky?

Flocks of cranes erupt from the riverbank, fitful gusts ruffle the fields, anxious cattle tremble in their stalls.

Do you see the clouds enveloping the sky?


You loiter in vain over your toilet lamp; it flickers and dies in the wind.

Who will care that your eyelids have not been painted with lamp-black, when your pupils are darker than thunderstorms?

You loiter in vain over your toilet lamp; it flickers and dies in the wind.


Come as you are, forget appearances!

If the wreath lies unwoven, who cares? If the bracelet is unfastened, let it fall. The sky grows dark; it is late.

Come as you are, forget appearances!


loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

9 Comments


martinmccarthy1956
martinmccarthy1956
Sep 13, 2022

This is absolutely wonderful Michael! You have managed to preserve the poem's innate freshness and musicality. After the first verse, I had forgotten that it was a translation, which (in my view) says a lot about the skill and art of a good translator! In fact, your version is so musical and so alive, you had me thinking of Nirvana's song of the same name. So yes, 'Come as you are, forget appearances!', and go for it. Tagore would love it.

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martinmccarthy1956
martinmccarthy1956
Sep 16, 2022
Replying to

From the evidence I've seen both here in The Chained Muse and elsewhere, I totally agree with that.

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jm6783685
jm6783685
Sep 12, 2022

It's nice to see a poem by Tagore. But at what point does a translation become a poem of your own when it is translated loosely? Occasionally I adapt something written by somebody else to my own uses. Either through loose translation or by versification or addition or subtraction. But I do distinguish carefully between adaptations and translations. And regard the former as my own. Whereas the latter are not.

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Michael R. Burch
Michael R. Burch
Sep 13, 2022
Replying to

John's question is reasonable and valid. It's interesting that the question was raised in regard to my interpretation of a Tagore poem, since Tagore himself said that he needed leeway when translating his own poems into English. In order to create poetry in English, Tagore needed the leeway to change things slightly here and there. He acknowledged that because he was a poet. Someone with a lesser ear would settle for "almost poetry" as so many translators do. I am merely following in the footsteps of the master, and I hope he would like my interpretation of his poem and understand why I took a few liberties here and there, to avoid turning his fine poem into prose.

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Michael R. Burch
Michael R. Burch
Sep 12, 2022

Comments are always welcome and very much appreciated.

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