Poetry of Tagore

It is no hyperbole to say that very few poets in the world had or have as free an access to the inner realms of Poetry as Tagore.  

“The poetry of Tagore owes its sudden and universal success to this advantage that he gives us more of this discovery and fusion for which the mind of our age is in quest than any other creative writer of the time. His work is a constant music of the overpassing of the borders, a chant-filled realm in which the subtle sounds and lights of the truth of the spirit give new meanings to the finer subtleties of life.”

- Sri Aurobindo           

(From The Golden Book of Tagore)

In this connection let me cite Amal Kiran, the beautiful name given by Sri Aurobindo to his poet-disciple who has had the rare good fortune to discuss with his Master matters of high poetry through series of correspondence.      

“In the East two names have stood high in our own day, one in Urdu and Persian by a dynamic colourful passion of religious thought, the other in Bengali by a deeply and exquisitely imaged devotionalism, and both by an intonation inspired and measured: Iqbal and Tagore.”    

There are critics who say that Tagore cannot be classed with the poets of the highest magnitude, for he did not try an epic. O wiseacre! his lyrics have sufficient power to lift you up into the realm of poetic delight where his pen reigns supreme over almost all branches of Art.     

To many of us it is but an insoluble mystery whether Tagore moulded his life according to the growth of his poetical works or whether it was his gradual poetical flow that brought about successive vicissitudes in his outer life. However, his poetical genius and his life marched side by side in a perfect harmony.         

It was his wonderful Nirjharer Swapnabhanga, (The Awakening of the Fountain) that took him for the first time into the realm of Intuition. A new life dawned within him, and he looked at the creation with a new vision.      

I shall rush from peak to peak,
I shall sweep from mount to mount,
With peals of laughter and songs of murmur
I shall clap to tune and rhythm.

Sonar Tari (The Golden Boat): this unique poem was mercilessly criticised by many uncomprehending critics. Some called it sheer mysticism, others claimed that the poem was nothing but barren mist. To me at least, it is nothing inferior to a lucid touch of Revelation, however small in quantity it might be. Here the finite wants to taste the infinite; further, the finite wants to be one with the all-pervading infinite.

Who comes singing to the shore as he rows?  
It seems to be an old familiar face.    
He moves with full sail on;       
Looks neither right nor left.    
The helpless waves break on either side.       
It seems to be an old familiar face.    

The birth of the philosopher we notice in Rabindranath the day he brought to light one of his earliest works, Sandhya Sangit (Evening Songs). And this philosopher expressed himself through Tagore’s innumerable writings, until the latter breathed his last.     

In Naivedya (Offering) we find the poet Rabindranath declaring that he does not belong to the school of Renunciation. The world is not illusionary. Its joy and sorrow, its beauty and ugliness have a veritable value. He wanted to view and acquire Truth and Beauty in and from all the objects of the world. He sings:   

“Mine is not the seat of Yoga    
Behind the doors of senses shut.”   

In height and depth, in grandeur and sublimity, no other poem of Tagore’s can equal Balaka. Here the doors of the world beyond are, as it were, thrown wide open to him. Not only did he bring down the truths of that world, but also he bestowed these achievements on all Bengali literature. Ceaselessly and dauntlessly the world shall march towards its final goal. The surge of beauty that pervades the earth is never a chimera’s mist. This beauty is a self-fulfilling truth.   

I hear the wild restless flutterings of wings  
In the depth of silence, in the air, on land and sea.   
Herbs and shrubs flap their wings over the earthy sky.
Who can say, what is there in the tenebrous womb of the earth?  
Millions of seeds open out their wings   
Even like flights of cranes.
I see ranges of those hillocks, those forests
Moving with outspread wings from isle to isle,
From the unknown to the unknown.
With the flutter of starry wings
Darkness glimmers in the weeping night.  

To be sure, Urvasie (The Celestial Nymph) is the wonder of wonders produced in the field of Tagore’s poetry. It is here that he reaches the acme of beauty filled with delight. Verily, according to Tagore, Urvasie is at once an eternally self-revealing and self-fulfilling goddess.          

O Urvasie swaying soft and sweet,  
When thou dancest before the assembly of the gods,         
Thrills of delight course through thy limbs,  
Waves upon waves swirl rhythmically in the  
bosom of the ocean,
The undulating tips of the shivering corn  
Appear like the fluttering skirt of mother earth.  
From the necklace hung upon thy breast   
Drop down the stars on the floor of the sky.  
And all at once man loses his masculine heart     
in sheer rapture.           

Silence, silence, in a pin-drop silence Puravi sings so sweetly in the core of the poet’s heart his songs of Farewell. No more does the poet care for the hustle-bustle of broad daylight. Self-sufficient in peace, he no longer permits the reminiscences of the past, however sweet, to jog his mind.            

From his exquisite poem, Swarga Hate Viday (To Bid Adieu to Heaven), we can easily grasp the idea that earthly love and beauty are more intense and delightful than those of Heaven precisely because they are transient. For love and beauty exist in Heaven for good.  

It is said that the poet’s poem and the prophet’s word fly higher than a high-pinioned bird. No wonder, then, that Tagore became at once a poet and a prophet of the highest magnitude when his pen produced Namaskar (Salutation).     

“Rabindranath, O Aurobindo, bows to thee!  
O Friend, my country’s friend,            
O voice incarnate, free,
Of India’s soul!…”            

Finally we are not to forget what relation Tagore actually had with his poetry. In one of his letters he writes: “Consciously or unconsciously, I may have done many things that were untrue, but I have never uttered anything false in my poetry: that is the sanctuary where the deepest truth of my life finds refuge.”            

Sri Chinmoy   

Excerpt from Mother India’s Lighthouse by Sri Chinmoy.

Original source : Sri Chinmoy Library