Writing anything about Bengali literature makes it obligatory to cite allusions to Rabindranath Tagore, the most radiant name in the arena of our creative legacy and artistic discourses. Rabindranath Tagore introduced the luminosity of Bengali literature to the global communities and secured recognition for Bengali-speaking people's aptitude for aesthetics from all corners of the world.
Rabindranath Tagore's most esteemed literary creation is Gitanjali which contains his perennial verses touching upon all spectacles of life. Gitanjali, which was titled Song Offerings by Rabindranath Tagore, brought him Nobel Prize for literature in 1913. Gitanjali was originally written by Rabindranath Tagore in Bengali and it was later on translated by himself into English.
The poems in Song Offerings abound with devotional messages and ethereal delight and the ecstasy that vibrate through the poems in Song Offerings gushes out with a profound love for God, nature and mankind. All the poems of Song Offerings resonate with a celestial form of blitheness and have the power to usher the readers into a world of spiritual elevation. Spiritualism is a highly noteworthy feature in Song Offerings.
Questing for the presence of God in God's creations leads us to another philosophical arena-pantheism. Pantheism stands for believing in the presence of God in everything. Mysticism and pantheistic philosophy have been in practice by oriental as well as western authors and poets for hundreds of years. We find mystic thoughts in literary works by Jalal Uddin Rumi, Kahlil Gibran, John Donne, Walt Whitman and some more celebrated poets of the world belonging to different nations. So, the intermingling of spiritual philosophy with literature crosses all barriers of time and geography.
In one of the verses of Song Offerings, Rabindranath Tagore wrote: I shall ever try To drive all evils away from my heart And keep my love in flower, Knowing that thou Hast thy seat in the inmost shrine of my heart.
The above lines show the poet's utmost loyalty to God saying that he would eliminate all diabolic things from this heart to keep it as pure and sacred as a flower because God resides in the hearts of all humans. These lines remind us of Jalal Uddin Rumi, the best-known Persian mystic philosopher who exalted God in the following way:
"In your light I learn how to love; in your beauty, how to make poems. You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art." The words "You dance inside my chest" have a deep thematic affinity to Tagore's lines "Knowing that thou
Hast thy seat in the inmost shrine of my heart."
To quote some more lines from Song Offerings:
"Now it is time to sit quiet, face to face with thee, and to sing dedication of life in this silent and overflowing leisure."
By selecting words like "sit quiet" and "dedication of life in this silent and overflowing leisure" Tagore once again calls back to our minds another line from Jalal Uddin Rumi, "Silence is the language of God. Everything else is its poor translation." We search for God in silence, not in clamor. We look deeper into nature to trace the footprints of God while thinking over the meaning of nature's quietness.
Walt Whitman, the most adored American poet of all times, wrote in a poem: "A child said: What is the grass? Fetching it to me with full hands; How could I answer the child? I do not know what it is any more than he. I guess it must be the flag of my disposition, out of hopeful green stuff woven. Or I guess it is the handkerchief of the Lord, A scented gift and remembrancer designedly dropped, Bearing the owner's name someway in the corners, that we may see and remark, and say Whose?"
Whitman's vision of the handful of grass brought to him by a child is illustrated through a marvelous analogy, "the handkerchief of the Lord." God has created the world not merely out of a whim. Rather He has spread His marks all over the universe for humans to explore His magnificence by taking a closer look into His creations.
Coming back to Song Offerings, let's read some more lines: "Today the summer has come at my window with its sighs and murmurs; and the bees are plying their minstrelsy at the court of the flowering grove." These lines by Tagore from Song Offerings take us back to John Keats's rejoicing words about the affluence of autumn in the lines stated below: "To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees, And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, And still more, later flowers for the bees…."
Tagore in Song Offerings lyrically expressed his gladness at the arrival of summer at his homestead while John Keats, an eminent English romantic poet, ecstatically put forward the glamorous colorfulness autumn added to nature in the lines cited above.
The introduction to Song Offerings was written by William Butler Yeats, a prominent Irish poet of 20th century who was also awarded Nobel Prize for literature. He wrote about Rabindranath Tagore in the introduction, "No poet seems to me as famous in Europe as he is among us." The exposure of Bengali literature and Bengali music to the west mainly happened through the sublime literary resources penned by Rabindranath Tagore. He made the world familiar with our literary grandeur and our musical plenitude.
The writer is a literary analyst fo The Asian Age
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