by Rabindranath Tagore (1861 - 1941)
Translation by Rabindranath Tagore (1861 - 1941)

A wandering madman was seeking the...
Language: English  after the Bangla (Bengali) 
A wandering madman was seeking the touchstone, 
with matted locks tawny and dust-laden, 
and body worn to a shadow, his lips tight-pressed, 
like the shut-up doors of his heart, 
his burning eyes like the lamp of a glow-worm seeking its mate.

Before him the endless ocean roared.
The garrulous waves ceaselessly talked of hidden treasures,
mocking the ignorance that knew not their meaning.
Maybe he now had no hope remaining, yet he would not rest, 
for the search had become his life, --
Just as the ocean for ever lifts its arms to the sky 
for the unattainable --
Just as the stars go in circles, yet seeking a goal 
that can never be reached --
Even so on the lonely shore the madman 
with dusty tawny locks still roamed 
in search of the touchstone.

One day a village boy came up and asked, "Tell me, 
where did you come at this golden chain about your waist?"
The madman started--the chain that once was iron was verily gold;
it was not a dream, but he did not know when it had changed.
He struck his forehead wildly -- where, O where had he 
without knowing it achieved success?
It had grown into a habit, to pick up pebbles 
and touch the chain, and to throw them away 
without looking to see if a change had come; 
thus the madman found and lost the touchstone.

The sun was sinking low in the west, the sky was of gold.
The madman returned on his footsteps to seek anew 
the lost treasure, with his strength gone, his body bent, 
and his heart in the dust, like a tree uprooted.

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Based on

Musical settings (art songs, Lieder, mélodies, (etc.), choral pieces, and other vocal works set to this text), listed by composer (not necessarily exhaustive)

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Settings in other languages, adaptations, or excerpts:

  • Also set in Czech (Čeština), a translation by František Balej (1873 - 1918) ENG ; composed by Leoš Janáček.

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

Text added to the website: 2010-11-30 00:00:00
Last modified: 2014-06-16 10:04:09
Line count: 31
Word count: 272