Unworthy Gift – Rabindranath Tagore


Stanza 1

Far below flowed the Jumna, swift and clear,
Above frowned the jutting bank.
Hills dark with the woods and scarred
With the torrents were gathered around.
Meaning
  • Jumna – River Yamuna
  • Swift – Quick
  • Frowned – Show an angry face
  • Jutting bank – Bank of the river that extends to the water
  • Hills dark with the woods – The woods were so dense that the hill appeared dark.
  • Scarred with torrents – Rivers that flowed down the hills interrupted the dark green appearance of the hills.
Questions & Answers
  1. How did Jamna flow?
    Jumna flowed like a scary beast, very quick yet very clear.
  2. Why are the banks said to be ‘frowning’?
    The banks of the river Jumna are said to be frowning because the current of the river was alarmingly scary.
  3. What made the hills look dark?
    Dense foliage of of the trees that grew on the hills made the hills look dark.
  4. What scarred the hills?
    The torrential flow of several rivers scarred the dark hills with their white frothy lines.

Stanza 2

Govinda, the great Sikh teacher, sat on the rock
Reading scriptures, when Raghunath, his disciple, proud
of his wealth, came and bowed to him and said, I have
brought my poor present unworthy of your acceptance.’
Meaning
  • Sikh teacher – A teacher of the Sikh religion
  • Disciple – A follower; a student
  • Present – Gift
  • Unworthy of your acceptance – My present is not worthy of pleasing you.
Questions & Answers
  1. Who was Govinda? What did he do on the rock?
    Govinda was a great teacher of the Sikh religion. Seated on a rock by the riverside, alone, he was reading the holy scriptures.
  2. What did Ragunath mean when he said that his present was unworthy of Govinda’s acceptance?
    Ragunath thought that his expensive bangles could not be the right gift to a sage like Govinda. He had great regard for the sage so he was determined to please him with the most expensive 
  3. Did Ragunath really think that his present was a poor present?

Stanza 3

Thus saying he displayed before the teacher a pair of
Gold bangles wrought with costly stones.
The master took up one of them, twirling it round
His finger, and the diamonds darted shafts of light.
Meaning
  • Wrought – Studded; shaped; designed
  • Dart – Emit; spread; flash
  • Shafts of light – Ray of light
Questions & Answers
  1. What did Ragunath give the teacher as a present?
    Ragunath gave the teacher a pair of specially designed bangles as a present.
  2. How was the bangle made?
    he bangle was made with gold and studded with costly stones.
  3. What did the teacher do when he got the bangles?
    On being presented the pair of bangles, the teacher took up one of them and studying it by twirling in his hands.

Stanza 4

Suddenly it slipped from his hand and rolled down
the bank into the water.
‘Alas,’ screamed Raghunath and jumped into the stream.
The teacher set his eyes upon his book, and the water
held and hid what it stole and went its way.
Meaning
  • The bank – River bank
  • “Alas!” – A expression of shock.
  • Screamed – Cried very loudly
  • Stream – River.
Questions & Answers
  1. How did the bangle fall into the river?
  2. What did Ragunath and his teacher do when the expensive bangle fell into the river?
  3. Comment on the reactions of the teacher and the disciple upon the bangle’s falling into the river.
  4. What did the water steal?

Stanza 5

The daylight faded when Raghunath came back to
the teacher tired and dripping.
He panted and said, I can still get it back if you
Show me where it fell.’
The teacher took up the remaining bangle and throwing it
Into the water said, It is there.’
Meaning
Questions & Answers
  1. When did Ragunath return?
  2. What did the teacher want Ragunath learn by throwing the second bangle as well?
  3. Do you approve of the teacher’s throwing the second bangle into the river? Justify your answer.

Biju John is an educational writer, educator and the author of OM - The Otherwise Men. He gives live classes on Skype and Facebook. You can attend his 3 Day Classes (English & Business Studies) in Delhi, Bangalore, Qatar and Dubai. His Contact number is 91 9810740061.

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