Published:  08:22 AM, 25 November 2023

Comparing Nazrul With Western Poets

Comparing Nazrul With Western Poets
Kazi Nazrul Islam, the rebel poet and the National Poet of our country, rocked the ground below the throne of British Empire with his revolutionary verses. His poetry, bolstered with fiery words and striking imagery, emboldened the general masses of Bengal to revolt against the British colonial forces which afterwards brought about the independence of the Indian subcontinent in 1947. The revolutionary spirit found in most of the poems by Kazi Nazrul Islam jingles with an urge for freedom and equity. His poetry about love and nature are equally fabulous with the power of spellbinding readers with the magical aura of his diction. Kazi Nazrul Islam’s poetry, with reflections of his love for nature, for humanity, his leaning towards social justice, gets him much closer to the romantic poets of England and America who thrived during 19th century. Several poems by Kazi Nazrul Islam can be compared with some of the poetic creations of P.B. Shelley, John Keats, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman.

To quote a few lines from Kazi Nazrul Islam’s best-known poem “Bidrohi” (The Rebel):

“I am the wild fire of the woods,
I am Hell's mad terrific sea of wrath!
I ride on the wings of lightning with joy and profundity,
I scatter misery and fear all around,
I bring earthquakes on this world!” (Translated by Kabir Chowdhury)
The above words illustrate the indomitable passion of the poet for revolting against all odds and an irrepressible desire to destroy all evil things around him to bring about a renovated genesis. A theme of resurrection can be traced in the above lines beside the motif of rebellion. Kazi Nazrul Islam’s frequent allusions to himself as “I” remind us of Walt Whitman’s most celebrated poem “Song of Myself”. To read a couple of lines from this poem:

“I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”
Like Kazi Nazrul Islam’s “I”, Whitman also points to himself in his poetic drive for self-adulation, for the eulogy of selfhood and for promoting the idea of rising higher than the rest in terms of thoughts and intellect. So, an identical approach to the value of self-esteem can be underlined in Whitman’s “Song of Myself” and Kazi Nazrul Islam’s “The Rebel”.
To look into Kazi Nazrul Islam’s love for nature, the following lines from his poem “Akashey Helan Diye” (Leaning against the Sky) may be paraphrased:

“There the hill sleeps leaning against the sky.
Never homebound, I am the spring on that hill,
and keep flowing at my will
The leopard is my comrade,
the cobra my playmate;
I cuddle happily the snake's basket
and pass the night on.
Catching the flight of the whirling wind
I hop and dance along.” (Translated by Mohammad Nurul Huda)

The poet, as comprehended from the lines extracted above, is not willing to go back home because he is too happy with the natural entities around him to look for any other resort. The words “I am the spring on that hill” recall the idealization of spring found in P.B. Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” in which Shelley asked “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” Spring is the season of verdure. Nature regains its resonance and glory when spring arrives victoriously vanquishing the aridness caused by winter. P.B. Shelley and Kazi Nazrul Islam stand on equal terms as far as their fascination for spring is concerned. Both these poets are devoted to the splendor of nature. Nature liberates us from all forms of myopia and broadens our vision and teaches us to uphold the words of love and fraternity.

Kazi Nazrul Islam’s poems on love are highly moving and poignant. His poem “Bhalo Lagar Smriti” translated as “Memories of Liking” by Mohammad Nurul Huda, an eminent scholar on Nazrul Islam’s literary creations, is one of the most melodious poems in Bengali literature. To have a glance over a few lines:

“Memories of liking cannot be forgotten,
so I visit your compound again and again,
The curved moon still rises in the sky,
the purple flower blooms in my garden;
The light that plays on its flute at radiant dawn,
now overflows my heart with endless joy.
O my sweet darling,
desert's desire still lingers in my heart.
and the body- Yamuna swells
in utmost affection.”
Kazi Nazrul Islam recollects the honey-coated memories of the time while he was accompanied by his beloved. The sweetness and sublimity of love get reflected profusely through the above words. With love as a glaring theme in poetry, a few lines may be recalled from John Keats:

“Closer of lovely eyes to lovely dreams,
Lover of loneliness, and wandering,
Of upcast eye, and tender pondering!
Thee must I praise above all other glories
That smile us on to tell delightful stories.”
John Keats, who was a leading poet during English Romantic period, depicted his devotion for the woman he loved in the above lines and it is also added that all verses of the poet become delightful with the remembrance of that special woman.
Kazi Nazrul Islam’s another highly esteemed poem “Chol, Chol, Chol,” which is the national marching song of Bangladesh, should be named with earnest applause and heartiest salutes in this piece of writing. This is one of the most inspirational and persuasive poems ever written in Bengali language. To read some of the translated lines from this poem:

“Through dawn's door, a shattering blow
We will bring daybreak, scarlet in glow;
We will destroy the gloom of the night
And hindering mountain height.” (Translated by Mohammad Nurul Huda)
The above poem by Kazi Nazrul Islam is thematically and rhetorically very close to Walt Whitman’s poem “Beat! Beat! Drums!” Let’s read a few lines from this poem by Whitman:
“Beat! beat! drums!—blow! bugles! blow!
Through the windows—through doors—burst like a ruthless force,
Into the solemn church, and scatter the congregation,
Into the school where the scholar is studying,
Leave not the bridegroom quiet—no happiness must he have now with his bride,
Nor the peaceful farmer any peace, ploughing his field or gathering his grain,
So fierce you whirr and pound you drums—so shrill you bugles blow.”

Both these poems by Kazi Nazrul Islam and Walt Whitman yell out a clarion call to the people from all walks of life from their respective nations to join the battle for equity, justice and brotherhood. What Kazi Nazrul Islam terms “a shattering blow” is named “a ruthless force” in the poem by Walt Whitman. The glaring themes of both these reinvigorating poems are all about calling upon their compatriots to strive for a classless society free of exploitations.

Kazi Nazrul Islam is inseparably bonded with the intellectual, literary and cultural resources of Bangladesh. His poems immensely inspired our freedom fighters during the glorious Liberation War of 1971. All deliberations about Bengali literature should include a tribute to the imperishable memory of this sublime poet.

Mahbubul Islam is a lawyer
and former Secretary of
World Peace Council.

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