Rabindranath Tagore as a Poet

Rabindranath Tagore as a Poet

Rabindranath Tagore as a Poet

There are many analysts who object to the inclusion of Tagore’s name among Indo-English poets on the ground that he seldom wrote poetry directly in English. We have only one poem, a long one ‘The Child which was written directly in English by Tagore. The rest of his English work is the grain gleaned by the poet himself out of his Bengali works, turned into English by him. But these analysts should bear in mind the fact it was not the Bengali ‘Gatanjali’ but the English ‘Gitanjali‘ (a collection of hundred and odd poems and songs from his Bengali works mainly ‘Gitanjali, kheya and Gitimalya translated or better trans created by the poet himself) that thrilled the whole world and won him the coveted Noble prize. An Oxford Professor, Edward Thompson has very aptly remarked “The book has had such a rebirth into our Western tongue that a considerable literature has gathered round it” Robert Frost the American Nobel-Laureate professed, “Fortunately Tagore’s poetry overflowed national boundaries to reach us in his own English. He belongs little less to us than to his own country.” Tagore is well acknowledged today as an irresistible force in the world of letters. He is matchless as a prose poet and needs no defense.

  1. His Universality—

    Tagore was a great Indian who embodies in himself the image of a universal man and the ideas and thoughts projected by him through his works have definite touch of universality about them Richard Church thus writes of Tagore “He was unified man, a whole man and as such was an example to his country and a missionary to the West, who still points the way to the final harmonizing of our differences and therefore towards our mutual strength though this coming phase of the struggle of the human race to understand itself, and to make a clear, reflection of that godhead out of which it has evolved toward a purpose greater than we known” Dr. Radhakrishna rightly remarks, “When our lords and leaders pass into oblivion, Tagore will continue to enchant us by his music and poetry; for though he is an Indian, the value of his work lies not in any tribal or national characteristics, but in those elements of universality which appeal to the whole world. He has added to the sweetness of life, to the stature of civilization.”

  2. Poet of Love-

    Love to Tagore is not merely an emotional outburst and it is also not an outflow of libido. To him it is an irresistible spiritual urge. It is the call of the soul which can not be denied. Love constitutes a major theme in his poetry. His love poems display a great depth of feeling and variety of form which rank them with the finest love poetry of the world. His love Poetry reveals the pangs and frustrations trials and tribulations sorrows and joys of love.

Love flows from Tagore’s heart, mind and soul in continuous stream assuming all different forms in its winding course from the finite to the infinite. He interprets the love of mother of father, of son, of husband of wife, of lover, of beloved and of friend, “Each and everyone of these he portrays with his characteristic softness of touch that recalls the lyrics of Theiophile, Gautier and with the exquisite felicity of Shelley and Keats.” (Dr. Satish Kumar) Tagore categorically rejects the old view of love and introduces his readers to a new concept according to which love becomes a pious a spiritual infatuation hardly needing an object of adoration. His love is that of a man who loves but does not reason why and what he loves.

Tagore’s love-poetry shows the influence of Vaishnava love-poetry which centres round the love of Radha and Krishna. The love songs of Tagore, “bring forth an eternal sense of sense of serenity and poignance. They inhale the spirit of spontaneity and freshness of vision. They expose the inherent sense of joy and sorrow, laughter and tears, pleasure and pain happiness and languishment” (Mohit Chakraborty)

  1. Nature-

    Poet- Since his childhood, Rabindranath always felt inspired by the varied and myriad forms of natural beauty. He himself professed. “I have thought many a time that the mysterious and profound joy we get in nature is due to intimate relationship with her. In our blood we feel a relationship with the ever-new green juicy grass creepers trees bush stream wind light and shade the cycle of the seasons, the eternal movement in the sky of planets and stars the varied earthly life. We are in tune with matter and life in the universe. Our soul responds to the stops and reverberations in the music of the spheres.” Gifted with the acute power of observation Tagore produced a large number of poems in which he has described different objects of nature. His attitude is nearest to Wordsworth as a poet of nature. Wordsworth believed that there was a natural sympathy between man and nature. The philosophical background of the theory, is that both nature and man being manifestations of God, are capable of finding themselves in a union of joy. But unlike Wordsworth Tagore is a poet both of the pleasanter and softer in nature and also of nature in its harsh unpleasant and ugly moods. He is also a great myth maker and in this respect is equaled perhaps only by Shelley. In his poetry the objects and phenomena of nature are constantly spoken of as human beings and given human attributes. Amiya Kumar Sen has surveyed the whole field of Tagore’s poetry to study the poet’s attitude to nature.

  2. His Lyricism-

    Tagore is one of the supreme lyric poets of the world. Sincerity of feeling and vividness of imagery combine with the music of his verse to give us poems that haunt the reader long after the actual words are forgotten. The basis of his work is essentially lyrical. His poems are offerings expressed in sweet and unique melodies, dazzling and imperishable in beauty. Music and melody, cadence and rhythm spontaneity and brevity are excellently bended together in his lyrics. He composed lyrics on God, love nature, children, love of the world and humanity. His English lyrics are mainly prose poems in which he uses musical language and incantatory rhythm. C. Paul Verghese says, “His greatest contribution is the importance of an incantatory rhythmic prose which he almost perfected as a medium for the rendering of his own poetry into English by which though not consciously and deliberately, he demonstrated that the English language could be a suitable vehicle of Indian sentiment, thought and imagery

  3. Mysticism-

    L.H. Tengshe says, English readers of Tagore were puzzled because they had no poet of their own to compare with him Shakespeare, the greatest English poet, is a mundane artist, The English mystic Poets-Blake George Herbert, Henry Vaughan-are poets for anthologies. The very best of George Herbert’s poems are hardly a dozen and there is nothing distinctly mystical about them ……….” Tagore was basically a poet and not a philosopher but he was a profound thinker and had firm views on mystical subjects. These views do not make any coherent system but are potent enough to attach the adjective ‘Mystical’ with the name of Tagore. His mysticism issued from a variety of sources the Upanishads the Vaishnava poetry, Sufism, Sufism and the works of Kalidas. “Tagore, like Dante, inherited a rich and vast tradition where mythology, theology and philosophy blended easily-a tradition that was in his blood, and that he drank deep into since childhood the Upanishads.” (S.B. Mukherji) Tagore has expressed the great Indian tradition of spirituality in his own vivid phrases and homely metaphors and has emphasized their relevance to the modern life. Dr. Radha Krishna says “Scepticism and agnosticism have become attractive to the modern mind. In the struggle between the sceptics and agnostics who doubt whether there is anything behind the universe and the spiritual positivists who affirm that the most vital reality is behind the universe. Rabindranath is with the latter.” S.B. Mukherji has defined Tagore’s mysticism in the following words. It is a mysticism of limpid clarity a vision made concreate, even sensuous. Nature’s mystery, the mystery of the primordial unison of the soul with her, the joy and wonder of it all are woven into the texture of the poems and vivified with an imagination that can externalize an intuitive vision with symbols and images staringly new.”

  4. Imagery, Symbolism and Myth Making Power-

    Tagore’s mysticism has found its expression through a number of symbols and images. Usually this expression through a number of symbols and images. Usually these symbols are culled from daily life and common place objects of nature-such as rivers, the sky, stars etc. assume a rich and deep symbolic significance in his poems. Usually these objects of nature are spoken of as human beings and said to perform functions peculiar to human beings. His mythopoeia imagination draws not only on the world of nature but also on ancient tales, legends, cults, myths, etc. He takes old myths and legends, modifies and alters, them and invests them with a universal significance transforming them in such a manner that ultimately they become vehicles of his ideas of peace, joy, beauty, truth, love and harmony. The myths connected with Lord Shiva, the Radha-Krishna myth, the Ahilya myth, the Urvashi myth have all being modified by him to suit his purpose. The images of a boatman and a traveler, of a master and a servant of the sea in tempest and many more are abundantly present in his poetry. Actually symbols and images come from Tagore’s pen as do the sparks out of flames of fire. But noteworthy thing about these images is that they are of things which all men in all ages have seen and known and that is the reason why his poetry despite the presence of the mystical images and myths remains easily comprehensible.

  5. Simplicity of Diction-

    One salient feature of Tagore’s poetry is its utter simplicity. This simplicity is discernible more in his later poetry than in his earlier one. In the poems that the wrote in the last stage of his poetic career, he has used the simplest of human situations to reveal his experience of the divinity. His diction also takes on the directness and simplicity of common speech. He had absolute command over English but he acquired this command only gradually. Edward Thompson remarks, “Examination of Rabindranath’s English soon shows that it is by no means perfect grammatically. It contains sentences which no educated Englishman would have written, sentences marked by little subtle errors.” Edward Thompson has the following objections against Tagore’s English “First he is not quite at home with the articles. Secondly, he does not use prepositions as an Englishman would. Thirdly he sometimes has an unnecessary word where clauses meet, which makes the rhythm sag, like cloth with a stone in it.” But the reality was that Tagore’s diction under went a gradual process of evolution and gradually he came to acquire almost Shakespearean simplicity, felicity of expression and austerity which makes for loveliness and imposing majesty. His poetry achieves a rare union of simplicity and sublimity. So much so that Edward Thompson who criticizes him for grammatical errors has to admit “It is one of the most surprising things in the world’s literature that such a mastery over an alien language ever came to any man.”

  6. Versification-

    Tagore experimented with the verse-forms tirelessly and excelled in the writing of “prose-poems.” He himself compared the movement of his prose-poems to “the steps of a young woman controlled by the natural desire for balance.” He professes, “I can say this much that I have written a number of prose-poems the subject-matter of which could not be expressed in any other way than in that form. There is an easy everyday manner about them. Perhaps they do not have the usual trappings of poetry, they nevertheless have their beauty. For this reason I consider them as rightfully belonging to the family of poetry It may be asked- What is a prose poem? I will say-“I don’t known what it is nor how it if formed. I know this much that it has beauty which can not be demonstrated by argument.” Ezra Pound called free verse’ “Chantable prose” the rhythm of which is a “subtle underflow” This underflow is “an impeccable metrical achievement” in Tagore’s poetry says Verghese.

Tagore’s influence on the Indo-English poetry has been a lasting one. His style has been imitated by a host of Indo-Anglian poets Anand Acharya, Puran Singh, P.R. Kaikini, Purohit Swamy, Mrs. Budhey, Subho Tagore, K.S. Venkatraramani and L.S.C. Ramsamuj. Rabindranath is to live in our hearts forever for the spirituality of his poetry and nobility of his utterance. These have been detractors too of Tagore. He has been criticized by many for an unsubstantial philosophizing for going away form the broad, vital actualities of existence for an unsubstantial philosophizing for going away from the broad vital actualities of existence for a lack of actuality and of reality of reality of touch and touch and force of vital insistence. But no one can gainsay the fact that. Tagore is a poet of national and international status. In his poetry we find a combination of many diverse strands and themes that give to his poetry its resilience universality and infinite appeal. He is and will always be one of world’s greatest poetic geniuses.

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