Poems Translated by National Prof. Kabir Chowdhury

Flowers and the state

Mahbub ul Alam Chowdhury --

I am come to speak of the greatest Bangali of all time,

one whose heart harboured boundless love for man.

I have come to speak of a fearless sailor

who could steer his ship through mighty waves

of the sea in the warm heat of summer,

splintering rains and thick winter mist,

and take the ship safely ashore.

I have come to speak of a murdered Julius Caesar of our time

who had brought for his country many honours from abroad,

had again and again refused the crown

offered to him by his enemies;

Caesar had done so only thrice.

I have come to speak of that lover of language

who had addressed the UN assembly in Bangla

adding new lustre to the national visage

and took Tagore’s expectation

to its highest pitch.

I have come to speak of a lover of flowers

who had planted a bokul seedling

in the precincts of a prison

and given birth to language based country.

I have come to speak of that lover

who had brought flowers and the state together.

The branches of his bokul tree

now glow with blossoming flowers

while the arms and branches of his state

lie prostrate on the earth

brought low by the lashing of a furious storm

and the game of dice played by evil men.

Wake up, Militant breakers of window bars

Mahbub ul Alam Chowdhury --

The world is now running a temperature of 210 degrees.

There is no one to soothe its burning

forehead with a piece of wet cloth.

Singed by the civilized fire of George Bush the world

is screaming in pain.

Israel has crushed the strength of its knees.

Its chest-ribs have been broken by

the torture of Guantanamo.

Iraq has stolen the light of its eyes.

The massacre of students

at Virginia Tech has pierced its heart.

The blood and tears of Palestinians have

destroyed the firmness of its arms.

The world is now running a temperature of 210 degrees.

There is no one to soothe its burning

forehead with a piece of wet cloth.

Romain Rolland, Einstein, Aragon, Robert Frost,

Rabindranath─ please come out of

Heaven’s precincts, please come down to

the soil of this mortal earth.

The world is now running a temperature of 210 degrees.

There is no one to soothe its burning

forehead with a piece of wet cloth.

Einstein, snatch away your scientific

formula from the hands of the demons.

Romain Rolland, raise your voice and cry

once again, I will not rest.

Let firce protest ring out again from Aragon’s lips.

Robert Frost, say once again, I am

not asleep yet.

Rabindranath, once again

give the call to all to get ready

everywhere to fight the demons of this world.

Let us all listen to Schiller’s

poem “Embrace Mankind”. Let a million

pianos and violins chant the tune of

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.

Wake up, militant breakers of window bars.

Rise again, liberator Lenin.

The world is now running a temperature of 210 degrees.

There is no one to soothe its burning

forehead with a piece of wet cloth.

Walt Whitman, won’t you sing again

the Song of Humanism? Pablo Neruda, let us

hear again your inspiring poetry; please urge

Peace to descend again like drops of

winter dew on the green leaves of grass.

Let Peace descend on the graves of the

thirty young men and young women of

Virginia Tech. Let Peace reign in every home

of this world.

The world is now running a temperature of 210 degrees.

There is no one to soothe its burning

forehead with a piece of wet cloth.

Come, Lord Sri Krishna, Counsellor in a just war.

Come, Lord Tathagato,

the preacher of nonviolence’s immortal message.

Come, noble Jesus, lighting the lamp of

Life with the celestial fire.

Come, Desert Sun, beloved Muhammad,

come with the banner of Peace and Equality.

Come, Mahatma Gandhi, spread once again

throughout the world the message of

ahimsa and satyagraha.

Come, Abraham Lincoln,

honoured all over the world,

come with the flag of Democracy

held aloft in your hand.

Arise, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,

the greatest Bengalee in a thousand years,

come out of your grave in

Tungipara, take your stand at the

Suhrawardy Garden and cry once again

in your thundering voice, The struggle

this time is the struggle for freedom,

the struggle this time is the struggle

for independence.

The world is now running a temperature of 210 degrees.

There is no one to soothe its burning

forehead with a piece of wet cloth.

Will the world die like this,

singed by intolerable flames?

O, noble men of humanity, arise

again, build the world in its own grandeur

with its dignity of centuries of

old civilizations.

O, inheritors of the ancient

civilization of Mohenjedaro, China, Greece,

Rome, Egypt, Persia and Babylon─


Wake up, militant breakers of window bars.

Like Goetthe I give the call :

Build a new world with the graciousness

of your heart, a world nobler than the earlier one.

Wake up, militant breakers of window bars.

Translated by Kabir Chowdhury

I Have Not Come to Shed Tears Where They

Laid Down Their Livesrs

Mahbub ul Alam Chowdhury --

I have not come, where they laid down their lives

under the upward looking Krishnachura trees,

to shed tears.

I have not come, where endless patches of blood

glow like so many fiery flowers, to weep.

Today I an not overwhelmed by grief,

Today I am not maddened with anger,

Today I am only unflinching

in my determination.

The child who will never more get a chance

to rush into his father’s arms,

the housewife who, shielding the lamp

with her sari, will never more wait

by the door for her husband,

the mother who will never more draw

to her breast with boundless joy

her returning son,

the young man who, before collapsing

on the earth, tried again and again

to conjure before his eyes the vision

of his beloved,

in their name,

in the name of those brothers and sisters,

in the name of my language,

nourished by the heritage of a thousand years,

in the name of the language in which

I am accustomed to addressing my mother,

in the name of my native land,

I say, I have come today,

here on the open grounds of the university,

to demand their death by hanging,

the death of those who killed

my brothers and sisters indiscriminately.

I have not come here to weep for them

who gave their lives under Ramna’s

sun-scorched krishnachura treses

for their language,

Those forty or more who laid down their lives

for Bangla, their mother tongue,

for the dignity of a country’s great culture,

for the literary heritage of Alaol,

Rabindranath, Kaikobad and Nazrul,

for keeping alive the bhatiali, baul,

kirtan and the ghazal,

those who laid down their lives

for Nazrul’s unforgettable lines:

“The soil of my native land

is purer than the purest gold.”

Forty blooming lives fell

like innumerable Krishnachura petals

on Ramna’s soil.

In the husks of the seeds

sprouting therefrom I can see

endless drops of blood,

the blood of young Rameswar and Abdus Salam,

the blood of the most brilliant boys of the university.

I can see each drop of blood

shining on Ramna’s green grass like burning flames,

each boy a piece of diamond,

forty jewels of the university,

who, had they lived, would have become

the most precious wealth of the country, in whom

Lincoln, Rolland, Aragon and Einstein had found refuge,

in whom had flourished some of the

most progressive ideals of this century’s civilization.

We have not come here to shed tears

where forty jewels sacrificed their lives.

We have not come, either, to plead

for our language to the killers

who had arrived with their rifles loaded,

with orders to shoot our brothers and sisters.

We have come to demand the hanging

of the tyrants and the murderers.

We know that our brothers and sisters were killed,

that they were mercilessly shot,

that one of them was perhaps called ‘Osman’

just like you,

that perhaps one of them had a clerk for his father

just like you, or that one’s father was growing

golden crops in some remote village of East Bengal,

or was a government functionary.

Today those boys could be living just like you or me.

Perhaps one of them had his wedding day fixed

just like me.

Perhaps one of them had left on his table,

just like you, his mother’s letter

received a moment ago,

hoping to read it when he got back

from the procession he went out to join.

Those boys had harboured concrete dreams

in their breasts,

and they were killed by the bullets

of the cruel tyrants.

In the name of those who wanted

to banish our mother tongue be hanged.

I demand that those who ordered

the killing be hanged.

I demand that the traitors

who climbed to the seats of power

over the dead bodies of my brothers and

sisters be hanged.

I want to see them tried and shot

as convicted criminals

on that very spot in this open field.

Those first martyrs of the country,

those forty brilliant boys of the university,

each of them had dreams of building

a quiet home in the bosom of this earth

with his wife, children and parents.

They dreamed of analysing

the scientific theories of Einstein with greater depth,

they dreamed of finding ways

to put atomic power to man’s service

in the cause of peace.

They dreamed of writing a poem

more beautiful than Tagore’s “The Flute Players”.

O, my martyred brothers,

the spot where you laid down your lives

will continue to glow

even after a thousand years.

No footprints of civilization can wipe out

the marks of your blood from that soil,

although procession after procession

will one day converge here

and shatter its vague silence.

The tolling of the university bells

will daily announce the historic hour of your deaths,

even if one day a violent storm

erupts and shakes the building’s very foundation.

Whatever comes to pass

the brightness of your names as hallowed martyrs

will never grow dim.

The cruel hands of the murderers

can never throttle your long cherished hopes.

Some day we shall surely win

and hail the advent of justice and fair play.

O, my dead brothers,

on that day, your voices,

the strong voice of freedom,

will soar from the depths of silence.

The people of my country, on that day,

will surely hang from the gallows

those tyrants and murderers.

On that day, your hopes will shine like flames

in the joy of victory and sweet vengeance.