Kazi Nazrul Islam, the National Poet of Bangladesh, is known mostly for his revolutionary poetry and for speaking out against social injustices. He advocated for religious pluralism – raised as a Muslim, he married a Hindu woman whom he fell in love with to further solidify his fame as the rebel poet.

While also a writer of novels and short stories, as well as being a prolific musician, it is his poems that he is best known for. His poem ‘Notuner Gaan’ (the Song of he Youth) is the national marching song – a war song – of Bangladesh.

Chol Chol Chol
Urddho gogone baje madol
Nimne utola dhoroni tol
Orun prater torun dol
Cholre Cholre Chol

 

March, March, March
By a drum beat to a heavenly height
From earth beneath and soil’s blight
Youth rise in the dawn’s light,
Left, now, now, right!
March, March, March

Nazrul’s most famous work was a criticism of the British Empire – a poem titled ‘Bidrohi’ (the Rebel). While known largely in the context of revolution, social mobilization and remembered in times of war and nationalism, Nazrul’s romanticism is often overlooked. His poetic repertoire includes a vast oeuvre of poems on love and nature.  He wrote on subjects with a ferocity that is alive years after his death, yet at the same time his metaphors are poignantly romantic as ‘Bidrohi’ shows us.

In this song of revolution, you find the rebel rooting himself within nature, comparing his rise to a one from the womb of mother earth.

 

Bolo bir –
Bolo unnoto momo shir!
Shir nehari amari notoshir oi shikhor himadrir 
Bolo bir –
Bolo mahabishwer mahakash fadi,
Chandar surjo graha tara chhadi,
Bhulok dulok golok bhedia,
Khodar ashon ‘arosh’ chediya
Uthiachi chiro bisway ami bishwa-bidhatur!
 

Say, Valiant,
Say: High is my head!
Looking at my head
Is cast down the great Himalayan peak!
Say, Valiant,
Say: Ripping apart the wide sky of the universe,
Leaving behind the moon, the sun, the planets
and the stars
Piercing the earth and the heavens,
Pushing through Almighty’s sacred seat
Have I risen,
I, the perennial wonder of mother-earth!

Throughout the poem, one finds metaphors of love and love-making.

 

Ami bonchito batha, Pothobashi Chiro griho-hara joto pothiker,
Ami obomaniter morom bedona, bish-jala, Priyo lanchhito bukr goti fer,
Ami obhimani, chiro-khubdho hiyar katorota, batha sunibirh
Chito-chumbono-choro-kompono ami thor-thor-thor Prothom porosh kumarir.
Ami gopon priyar chokito chahoni, Chhol kore dekha onukhon
Ami chopol meyer bhalobasha, tar kakon churhir kon-kon.
Ami chiro-shishu, chiro-kishor,
Ami joubon-vitu polli balar achor kacholi nichor!

 

I am the unutterable grief,
I am the trembling first touch of the virgin,
I am the throbbing tenderness of her first stolen kiss.
I am the fleeting glace of the veiled beloved,
I am her constant surreptitious gaze.
I am the gay gripping young girl’s love,
I am the jingling music of her bangles!
I am the eternal-child, the adolescent of all times,
I am the shy village maiden frightened by her own budding youth.

And descriptions of the madness and wonder life brings us face to face with.

 

Bolo bir –
Chiro- unnoto momo shir!
Ami boncha, Ami ghurni,
Ami poth-somukhe jaha pai jai churni.
Ami mrittyo-pagol chondho,
Ami apnar tale necha jai, ami mukto jibonanondho.

Say, Valiant,
Ever high is my head!
I am the hurricane, I am the cyclone
I destroy all that I found in the path!
I am the dance-intoxicated rhythm,
I dance at my own pleasure,
I am the unfettered joy of life!

Not just love and nature, he also peppers his revolutionary poem with references to concepts from different religions, Gods and prophecies.

 

Ami bojro, ami eshan-bishana ugkar,
Ami Esrafilar shiggar moha-hugkar
Ami pinak-panir domru trisul, dhormo rajar dondho,
Ami chokro o moha shokkho, ami pronob-nad prochondho!

I am thunder,
I am Brahma’s sound in the sky and on the earth,
I am the mighty roar of Israfil’s bugle,
I am the great trident of Pinakpani,
I am the staff of the king of truth,
I am the Chakra and the great Shanka,
I am the mighty primordial shout!

 

Nazrul, unfortunately, lost his voice and memory at the age of 43 because of a neurodegenerative disease but not before he composed a body of work unparalleled in his depth and breadth. He died at the age of 77. You can read the full poem below and hear a recitation in the voice of his son here. The full Bengali text is available here.

 

The Rebel
Translation: Kabir Chowdhury

Say, Valiant,
Say: High is my head!
Looking at my head
Is cast down the great Himalayan peak!
Say, Valiant,
Say: Ripping apart the wide sky of the universe,
Leaving behind the moon, the sun, the planets
and the stars
Piercing the earth and the heavens,
Pushing through Almighty’s sacred seat
Have I risen,
I, the perennial wonder of mother-earth!
The angry God shines on my forehead
Like some royal victory’s gorgeous emblem.
Say, Valiant,
Ever high is my head!
I am irresponsible, cruel and arrogant,
I an the king of the great upheaval,
I am cyclone, I am destruction,
I am the great fear, the curse of the universe.
I have no mercy,
I grind all to pieces.
I am disorderly and lawless,
I trample under my feet all rules and discipline!
I am Durjati, I am the sudden tempest of ultimate summer,
I am the rebel, the rebel-son of mother-earth!
Say, Valiant,
Ever high is my head!
I am the hurricane, I am the cyclone
I destroy all that I found in the path!
I am the dance-intoxicated rhythm,
I dance at my own pleasure,
I am the unfettered joy of life!
I am Hambeer, I am Chhayanata, I am Hindole,
I am ever restless,
I caper and dance as I move!
I do whatever appeals to me, whenever I like,
I embrace the enemy and wrestle with death,
I am mad. I am the tornado!
I am pestilence, the great fear,
I am the death of all reigns of terror,
I am full of a warm restlessness for ever!
Say, Valiant,
Ever high is my head!
I am creation, I am destruction,
I am habitation, I am the grave-yard,
I am the end, the end of night!
I am the son of Indrani
With the moon in my head
And the sun on my temple
In one hand of mine is the tender flute
While in the other I hold the war bugle!
I am the Bedouin, I am the Chengis,
I salute none but me!
I am thunder,
I am Brahma’s sound in the sky and on the earth,
I am the mighty roar of Israfil’s bugle,
I am the great trident of Pinakpani,
I am the staff of the king of truth,
I am the Chakra and the great Shanka,
I am the mighty primordial shout!
I am Bishyamitra’s pupil, Durbasha the furious,
I am the fury of the wild fire,
I burn to ashes this universe!
I am the gay laughter of the generous heart,
I am the enemy of creation, the mighty terror!
I am the eclipse of the twelve suns,
I herald the final destruction!
Sometimes I am quiet and serene,
I am in a frenzy at other times,
I am the new youth of dawn,
I crush under my feet the vain glory of the Almighty!
I am the fury of typhoon,
I am the tumultuous roar of the ocean,
I am ever effluent and bright,
I trippingly flow like the gaily warbling brook.
I am the maiden’s dark glassy hair,
I am the spark of fire in her blazing eyes.
I am the tender love that lies
In the sixteen year old’s heart,
I am the happy beyond measure!
I am the pining soul of the lovesick,
I am the bitter tears in the widow’s heart,
i am the piteous sighs of the unlucky!
I am the pain and sorrow of all homeless sufferers,
i am the anguish of the insulted heart,
I am the burning pain and the madness of the jilted lover!
I am the unutterable grief,
I am the trembling first touch of the virgin,
I am the throbbing tenderness of her first stolen kiss.
I am the fleeting glace of the veiled beloved,
I am her constant surreptitious gaze.
I am the gay gripping young girl’s love,
I am the jingling music of her bangles!
I am the eternal-child, the adolescent of all times,
I am the shy village maiden frightened by her own budding youth.
I am the soothing breeze of the south,
I am the pensive gale of the east.
I am the deep solemn song sung by the wondering bard,
I am the soft music played on his lyre!
I am the harsh unquenched mid-day thirst,
I am the fierce blazing sun,
I am the softly trilling desert spring,
I am the cool shadowy greenery!
Maddened with an intense joy I rush onward,
I am insane! I am insane!
Suddenly I have come to know myself,
All the false barriers have crumbled today!
I am the rising, I am the fall,
I am consciousness in the unconscious soul,
I am the flag of triumph at the gate of the world,
I am the glorious sign of man’s victory,
Clapping my hands in exultation I rush like the hurricane,
Traversing the earth and the sky.
The mighty Borrak is the horse I ride.
It neighs impatiently, drunk with delight!
I am the burning volcano in the bosom of the earth,
I am the wild fire of the woods,
I am Hell’s mad terrific sea of wrath!
I ride on the wings of the lightning with joy and profound,
I scatter misery and fear all around,
I bring earth-quakes on this world!
I am Orpheus’s flute,
I bring sleep to the fevered world,
I make the heaving hells temple in fear and die.
I carry the message of revolt to the earth and the sky!
I am the mighty flood,
Sometimes I make the earth rich and fertile,
At another times I cause colossal damage.
I snatch from Bishnu’s bosom the two girls!
I am injustice, I am the shooting star,
I am Saturn, I am the fire of the comet,
I am the poisonous asp!
I am Chandi the headless, I am ruinous Warlord,
Sitting in the burning pit of Hell
I smile as the innocent flower!
I am the cruel axe of Parsurama,
I shall kill warriors
And bring peace and harmony in the universe!
I am the plough on the shoulders of Balarama,
I shall uproot this miserable earth effortlessly and with ease,
And create a new universe of joy and peace.
Weary of struggles, I, the great rebel,
Shall rest in quiet only when I find
The sky and the air free of the piteous groans of the oppressed.
Only when the battle fields are cleared of jingling bloody sabres
Shall I, weary of struggles, rest in quiet,
I the great rebel.
I am the rebel eternal,
I raise my head beyond this world,
High, ever erect and alone!

 

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