Guest poem sent in by Sameer Siruguri
(Poem #177) Where The Mind is Without Fear
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high; Where knowledge is free; Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls; Where words come out from the depth of truth; Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection; Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit; Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action-- Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
If you have been schooled in India, you couldn't possibly have not read this in some English textbook or the other. I have always been captivated by the simplicity and economy of this poem; how, through exquisite imagery, Tagore expresses such profound thoughts. If you find that it reads more like a prayer chant from a religious book, you won't be far from the truth: the original Bengali poem which Tagore himself translated as above, was titled "Prayer". Though this poem was chosen because today is the 52nd anniversary of India's independence, it is really a plea, not for the political independence that was being sought early this century when it was written, but for freedom from parochialness and dogma, a prayer that is perhaps as relevant today as it was then. Maybe human nature itself is such that it always turns once-refreshing paradigms into stale tradition, forcing a Tagore in every generation to thus complain. This poem is from Gitanjali, lit. Offering of Songs, published in English in 1910. Biography: Tagore, Rabindranath (1861-1941), Indian poet, philosopher, and Nobel laureate, was born in Calcutta, into a wealthy family. He began to write poetry as a child; his first book appeared when he was 17 years old. After a brief stay in England (1878) to study law, he returned to India, where he rapidly became the most important and popular author of the colonial era, writing poetry, short stories, novels, and plays. He composed several hundred popular songs and in 1929 also began painting. Tagore wrote primarily in Bengali, but translated many of his works into English himself. He was awarded the 1913 Nobel Prize in literature, and in 1915 he was knighted by the British king George V. Tagore renounced his knighthood in 1919 following the Amritsar massacre of 400 Indian demonstrators by British troops. Some of his more famous works are 'Balaka', 'Sonar Tari', 'Chitali', and 'Gitanjali'. His selected poems 'Sanchaita', and selected short stories 'Galpagucha' were published in India 1966. Two of his songs are national anthem of India and Bangladesh. In 1901 Rabindranath Tagore founded a school at Santiniketan, West Bengal, India, which later developed into an international institution called Visva Bharati, where he tried to revive the spirit of education of ancient India, the famed "Gurukula" system, when students spent their childhood at their teacher's house and studied there. More resources: 1. The poem in Bengali: [broken link] http://www.itihaas.com/wheremind.gif 2. A more detailed bio: [broken link] http://www.itihaas.com/modern/tagore-profile.html [broken link] http://www.pathfinder.com/asiaweek/96/0712/feat6.html