Jibanananda Das is the most heterodox, not to say eccentric, among the poets of the new school and he is no doubt the most original. Das was brought up in Barisal where he had his school and early college education, and he finished his University education in Calcutta. His first efforts in versification were along the traditional path and his early poems follow the pattern of Satyendranath Datta and Kazi Nazrul Islam. His early poems were published in different periodicals, were collected in a volume entitled Jhara Palak (A Cast-off Feather, 1928).
His poems, often violently new and raw, were ridiculed and caricatured by the opposite camp. This had a very adverse effect on the sensitive mind of the poet who was temperamentally introspective, shy and solitary. Many of the seventeen poems of his first significant book Dhusar Pandulipi (The faded Manuscript, 1936) were first published in Pragati (1927-30); the rest in Kollol and other periodicals. His other books of poetry are : Banalata Sen (1942, enlarged 1952), Mahaprithibi (The Great earth, 1944)and Satti Tarar Timir (Darkness from the Seven Stars, 1948). His Srestha kavita (The Best Poems, 1954) is a collection that contains also some poems not included in the other volumes.
Long I have been a wanderer of this world,
Many a night,
My route lay across the sea of Ceylon somewhat winding to
The seas of Malaya.
I was in the dim world of Bimbisar and Asok, and further off
In the mistiness of Vidarbha.
At moments when life was too much a sea of sounds,
I had Banalata Sen of Natore and her wisdom.
I remember her hair dark as night at Vidisha,
Her face an image of Sravasti as the pilot,
Undone in the blue milieu of the sea,
Never twice saw the earth of grass before him,
I have seen her, Banalata Sen of Natore.
When day is done, no fall somewhere but of dews
Dips into the dusk; the smell of the sun is gone
off the Kestrel’s wings. Light is your wit now,
Fanning fireflies that pitch the wide things around.
For Banalata Sen of Natore.
(Trans. by the poet)
For thousands of years I roamed the paths of this earth,
From waters round Ceylon in dead of night to Malayan seas.
Much have I wandered. I was there in the gray world of Asoka
And Bimbisara, pressed on through darkness to the city of Vidarbha.
I am a weary heart surrounded by life’s frothy ocean.
To me she gave a moment’s peace-Banalata Sen from Natore.
Her hair was like an ancient darkling night in Vidisa,
Her face, the craftsmanship of Sravasti. As the helmsman,
His rudder broken, far out upon the sea adrift,
Sees the grass-green land of a cinnamon isle, just so
Through darkness I saw her. Said she, “Where have you been so long?”
And raised her bird’s-nest-like eyes-Banalata Sen from Natore.
At day’s end, like hush of dew
Comes evening. A hawk wipes the scent of sunlight from its wings.
When earth’s colors fade and some pale design is sketched,
Then glimmering fireflies paint in the story.
All birds come home, all rivers, all of this life’s tasks finished.
only darkness remains, as I sit there face to face with Banalata Sen.
Das latterly attempted to write prose also, but with the exception of one or two, his literary and critical essays were left as drafts and the author did not get time to give them a final shape. These are now published in book form : Kobitar Kotha (Discourse on Poetry, 1956). In these essays Das tried to defend the New Bengali Poetry. Assessing the new school of poets vis-a-vis Tagore, Das opines: “The post-Tagore period started from the publication of Kollol…. Here there is no single Rabindranath but there are some poets present here who do away with the necessity of a second Rabindranath.”