(Original in Bengali by Tagore. Translated by Ashoka Sen.)
In the dark ages of pre-historic time,
when the creator, displeased with his own creation,
was smashing things down
and shaking his head in blind despair,
the angry ocean surged
and tore you away forcibly, Africa,
from the heart of Mother Asia.
You were kept imprisoned in the fortress
of dark forests, impenetrable by day lights
under a stringent vigilance.
There, at your lonely hours, you were
learning the secrets of the mystic world,
and deciphering its message,
delivered, to you, by water, earth and sky.
Nature invoked her mystifying power
and cast a spell upon your unconscious mind,
trying to initiate you in her doctrine
of catastrophic violence.
You outdid the horror of her savagery
by displaying the grandeur of your terrifying beauty
and danced with the drumbeats of chaos.
Alas shadowy Africa,
You were left hidden behind your black veil.
The aspect of your human nature remained unknown
to the vision of those distorted by marks of contempt.
They came with iron manacles in their hands.
With their talons, sharper than the claws of your wild wolves,
came the bands of slaughterers.
Darker and denser than your wild forest
was the blinding force of their arrogance.
With their unbridled greed they flaunted
the nakedness of their inhumanity
in the name of civilization.
You wept mutely.
Your forests were steamed up
with mists of your tears.
Your soil was defiled with marks of blood.
The hobnailed boots of your plunderers
kicked off clods of stinking mud at you
and stained your history with indelible inks of insult.
In the meantime across the ocean your perpetrators
were thanking god for his kindness.
Temple bells were ringing morning and evening
in the name of the benevolent god.
Babies were dancing on their mothers’ laps.
Poets were singing hymns in praise
of the sublime beauty of His divine power.
Today, as a storm is brewing up
in the evening sky of the West,
when the beastly animals are coming out
of their secret chambers and howling ominously,
declaring the death of our civilization,
Poet, you come and stand here,
in the dying light of the advancing night,
At the door of that woman,
humiliated and demonized over centuries.
And say ‘Forgive, Forgive me Africa’.
In the midst of all violence and flurry of abusive words
let this be the last virtuous message of our civilization