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Geetanjali -- Rabindranath Tagore

Guest poem submitted by Aseem Kaul, an excerpt from:
(Poem #1714) Geetanjali
  Obstinate are the trammels, but my heart aches when I try to break them.
  Freedom is all I want, but to hope for it I feel ashamed.
  I am certain that priceless wealth is in thee, and that thou art my best
friend, but I have not the heart to sweep away the tinsel that fills my room

  The shroud that covers me is a shroud of dust and death; I hate it, yet
hug it in love.
  My debts are large, my failures great, my shame secret and heavy; yet when
I come to ask for my good, I quake in fear lest my prayer be granted.
-- Rabindranath Tagore
It's been a while since we did a Tagore poem (the last one was in Jan 2004),
so figured would send in one of my personal favourites.

I'm not as a general rule a big Tagore fan. Maybe it's because as a true
city person I find all his bucolic charm difficult to relate to. Maybe it's
because I'm too cynical to approach simple beauty with anything but active
suspicion. Whatever the reason, I've always found him somewhat long-winded,
cloying and repetitive. I can open Geetanjali at random and read a poem or
two and be moved by them, but every time I've tried reading the whole thing
through I end up with a vaguely queasy feeling in my stomach - like eating
too many rosogullas.

This poem is the one exception - it's a poem that I'm haunted by, a poem
whose very words have become almost a habit of thought (if we were still
running the 'poems you remember' theme, this one would qualify). Part of why
I like it is the abruptness of it - the lines here are short, the rhythm a
brisk point-counterpoint. Tagore doesn't go on and on, he deals instead in a
desperate precision that pierces straight to the heart. There is a sense (as
in all of Tagore's best work) of every word being carefully selected. As a
result, it is an intensely honest and heartfelt poem. If the real beauty of
Tagore is in his simplicity, then I can think of few better examples.

But for all the simplicity of the language, it is also an extremely
difficult poem, because the mental state it describes - a sort of shrinking
away from hope and expectation - is a fundamentally complex, if a scarily
real one.  And that perhaps, is why it is my favourite Tagore poem - because
instead of expressing simple devotion or childish wonder (or muttering high
sounding platitudes - witness 'Where the mind is without fear', Poem #177),
Tagore gives us a portrait of a real state of mind, so that (for once) I
find myself truly able to relate to his work.


44 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Vidya said...

I have written an elaborate essay on Tagore's "Gitanjali" in my blog.
Kindly check out the URL below to read the same

[broken link]

Readers are most welcome to communicate their feedback!

Vidya Venkat.

Vidya said...

[broken link]

visit URL

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