Guest poem sent in by Sandhya Gopal
(Poem #1094) On the Nature of Love
The night is black and the forest has no end; a million people thread it in a million ways. We have trysts to keep in the darkness, but where or with whom -- of that we are unaware. But we have this faith -- that a lifetime's bliss will appear any minute, with a smile upon its lips. Scents, touches, sounds, snatches of songs brush us, pass us, give us delightful shocks. Then peradventure there's a flash of lightning: whomever I see that instant I fall in love with. I call that person and cry: 'This life is blest! For your sake such miles have I traversed!' All those others who came close and moved off in the darkness -- I don't know if they exist or not.
(From Chaitali (1896), Translated from Bengali by Ketaki Kushari Dyson) This poem is about the quest for a life partner every individual goes through in his or her life. The curiosity to know the Indian perspective on love first induced me to reading this poem. And I must say, till today, this is one of my favorite poems. What I really like about the poem is that it metaphorically portrays the reason for living through the eyes of a romantic. The speaker of the poem is the poet himself. The subject is the physical search for a life partner or a companion - or, on a deeper level, the search for a 'soulmate', the main theme being that the choice of a life partner is predestined. Examining the imagery, we see how Tagore uses the vehicle, a physical search, to represent the tenor, an emotional search. The search through a forest represents the search for true love; the lightning represents destiny, which the poem sees as the final end of the search ("whomever I see that moment, I fall in love with"). The internal structure of the poem is chronological. The lines 1-4 gives the setting, the lines 5-11 tells us why that setting was chosen and lines 12-14 explain to us the aftermath of the occurrence of the search. The external choice is free verse, but the poem is in a logical and chronological sequence. The choice of free verse is appropriate since the search for true love is not confined to a set of rules. The logical chronological sequence of the lines portrays the reasoning sequence of the mind. As time passes and as our interactions with others increase, our criteria for true love are refined. In synopsis, the poem says that life is mysterious and that the quest for a soulmate seems to be never-ending. The millions of people, living on the face of the earth, search for their soulmates in a million different ways. There is interaction between the various travelers along their journey of life. The meetings take place with the fervent wish that one of them will lead to a soulmate. The driving force, for pursuing the search, is the belief that it would bring eternal happiness on its completion. -Sandhya [Martin adds] This poem is not quite 'free'; despite the lack of rhymes and metre (which may, indeed, be an artefact of the translation - has anyone read this in the original?), it follows the 4-4-4-2 structure of a Shakespearean sonnet. Or seems to follow it, at any rate - again, I can't tell from a translation. Either way, as Sandhya has noted, the poem follows a strict logical progression, building up to a final 'couplet' fully as satisfying as anything Shakespeare concluded a sonnet with. [Biographical Note] Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) Rabindranath Tagore was born on 7 May 1861 in Calcutta. He was India's greatest modern poet and the most creative genius of the Indian Renaissance. Besides poetry, Tagore wrote songs (both the words and the melodies), short stories, novels, plays (in both prose and verse), essays on a wide range of topics including literary criticism, polemical writing, travelogues, memoirs and books for children. Apart from a few books containing lectures given abroad and personal letters to friends who did not read Bengali, the bulk of his voluminous literary output is in Bengali. Gitanjali(1912), Tagore's own transalation of the poetic prose from the Bengali Gitanjali (1910) won him the Nobel prize for Literature in 1913. Tagore died on 7 August 1941 in the family house in Calcutta where he was born.