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Full text of "Sir Rabindranath Tagore : his life, personality and genius"

sir 

Rabindranath 
Tagore - 



and Genius 



BY 

K. 5, RAMASWAMi SA5T 



PUBLISHERS 

GANESH & CO,, MADRAS 




THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 

OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 



RABINDRANATH TAQORE 



All Rights Reserved. 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAQORE 

HIS LIFE, PERSONALITY AND GENIUS 



BY 
K- S. RAMASWAMI SASTRI. B.A., B-L- 



GANESH & CO., PUBLISHERS, MADRAS 



Printed by Thompson & Co., at the " Minerva " Press, 
B3, Broadway, Madras, 





PK 




CONTENTS 








. — « — > 




PagEo. 


The Foreword 






i' 


Author's Introduction 






iil 


Chapter I— Introductory 






1 


Chapter II — Gifanjali 






IG.'S- 


Chapter III— The Gardener 






205- 


Chapter IV — The Crescent Moon 






244 


Chapter V— Chitra ... 






266 


Chapter VI— The King of the Dark Chamber. 


286 


Chapter VII— The Post Office ... 






325 


Chapter VIII — Kabir's Poems ... 






356 


Chapter IX — Fiction 






375 


Chapter X — Sadhana 






398 


Chapter XI — Miscellaneous Writings 






428- 


Chapter XII — Conclusion 






509 


Bibliography .•• ••• 






52 f 


Index. 








164:iO,'59 









FOREWORD. 

Mr. Ramaswami Sastri's book meets a need 
so general that there is little need of a " fore- 
word." Upon the publication of Giianjali, 
Rabindranath was immediately acclaimed in 
England, and The Gardener,' with its more 
secular loveliness, probably won a wider public. 
But the tone of the one as of the other was 
strange to English readers, and few even of 
those most deeply moved by this poetry did not 
desire an interpreter. For the full under- 
standing of Rabindranath's work, very much 
more is needed than the poems themselves. 
Such biographical information as has already 
been given in part by Mr. Ernest Rhys is quite 
necessary ; but the great need is that we should 
be enabled to identify ourselves with the poet 
and cease to find strangeness in his ways of 
emotion and of speech and particularly in his 
symbolism. This is not easy for the average 
reader, whether he be westerner or Indian. 
We need the service of one whose mind bears 
kinship with that of the poet, and who can inter- 
pret his works from within. One doubts whether 



ii FOREWORD. 

it is possible for an English critic to perform this 
service. The consciously nurtured spirituality 
and the peculiar symbolism (to name two 
matters only) of the lyrics are foreign to our 
own poetry. The plays can scarcely be said 
to belong to drama as we conceive it. Their 
symbolism, besides distracting attention from 
concrete character and action, produces, in The 
King of the Dark Chamber particularly, an 
obscurity that might seem fatal to drama. 
Already, in several published articles, 
Mr. Ramaswami Sastri has given vital help 
towards the understanding of Rabindranath 
and his religious, lyrical and dramatic concep- 
tions, and now he has given us a comprehensive 
study that is likely to be invaluable. For, this 
poet is undoubtedly the noblest of those who, 
in our time, have found utterance in English — 
the clearest of vision, the most sublime in 
thought and in speech, while at the same time 
rooted and grounded in the love of all the 
loveliness of earth. 

M^Tofs 1 J- C- ROLLO. 

May 1916. f ■' 



AUTHOR'S INTRODUCTION. 

I am sending this book into the wide world fully 
alive to its many imperfections. To interpret to the 
world, Sir Rabindranath Tagore's genius adequately 
we must have a critic who is at the same time a great 
poet, a passionate lover of India and India's immemo- 
rial spiritual ideals, a practical humanitarian whose 
interests are as varied as life and in whose heart love 
for humanity forms with love of motherland and love 
of God the holy trinity — which at the same time is a 
unity— of his heart's adoration, and a saint who has 
soared on the wings of love and wisdom to the very 
Throne of Grace. 

I have further laboured under the great disadvantage 
of not knowing the great Bengali language in which 
Tagore's greatest works are written. I have resolved 
to learn it at least for having the joy of reading 
his works in the original. I have, however, laboured 
hard to collect and group and systematise all the 
numerous translations of his songs, poems, stories, and 
essays that have appeared in various magazines and 
reviews from time to time. I shall feel obliged and 
grateful to any one who vouchsafes supplementary 
information to me on this matter. I have appended a 

• • • 



AUTHOR'S INTRODUCTION 

of this work. I thank also the editors of the Vedanta 
Kesari^ the Madras Fortnightly, and the Literary Journal 
for allowing me to use my articles on Tagore published 
in these journals, though as a matter of fact this book 
proceeds on new and original lines altogether. 

India is yet the true home of beauty and romance, 
and the infinite artistic and spiritual riches lying 
neglected in our books and folklore and life require the 
work of many men of genius of the type of Tagore to 
reveal them in the fulness of their radiance to the world. 
I shall deem it the highest reward for my work if I 
get the blessings of my countrymen and of all lovers of 
India to enable me to take a part, however humble it 
may be, in the great and holy work of revealing the 
Soul of India to the world. 



VI 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE : 
HIS LIFE, PERSONALITY AND GENIUS. 

CHAPTER I. 

INTRODUCTORY. 

I. Proem. 

Miss Evelyn Underbill says in her admirable Introduc- 
tion to the Autobiography of Sir Rabindranaih Tagore s 
father Maharshi Devendranath Tagore: '' As the poems 
of Rabindranath Tagore are examples unique in our time, 
rare in any time, of this synthetic mysticism, a whole 
and balanced attitude to the infinite and intimate, trans- 
cendent and immanent, reality of God, as they speak to 
us out of life itself, yet not out of the thin and restless 
plane of existence which we call by that august name ; 
so that same depth and richness of view, which escapes 
alike extreme absolutism and extreme immanentism, 
which embraces the universal without ever losing touch 
with the personal, is found to be the governing intui- 
tion of his father's life." In his recent book on Rabindra- 
nath Tagore, Mr. Ernest Rhys says : "On one occasion 
in London, after the reading of the poet's play Chitra, 
Mr. Montagu, the Under Secretary of State for India, 
described how, when riding through an Indian forest 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

at night, he came upon a clearing where two or three 
men sat round a fire. Not being certain of his road, he 
was glad to dismount and rest his tired horse. Shortly 

. after he had joined the group, a poor-looking, ill-clothed 

lad came out of the forest and sat down also at the fire. 
First one of the men sang a song and then another. 
The boy's turn came, and he sang a song more beautiful 
both in words and music than the rest. When asked 
who had made the song, he said that he did not know ; 
' they were singing these songs everywhere.' A while 
after, Mr. Montagu heard the words and music again, 
this time in a very different place, and when he asked 

^ for the name of the maker of the song he heard for the 
first time the name of Rabindranath Tagore." 

II. Father and Son. 

I have given these two quotations as an introduction 
to this study, because they show the unique qualities of 
Tagore's genius and reveal further the source of some 
of the highest spiritual elements of his art. No sketch 
of his life and works can be complete without a preh- 
minary study of the life and spiritual attainment of his 
father, the renowned Maharshi Devendranath Tagore. 
It was from his father that the poet got his unique 
spiritual vision, his sympathetic outlook on life, his love 
for the poor, his burning patriotism, his love of solitude 
and meditation, his quiet humour, his knowledge of men 
and things, and his fine artistic sense and vigilance — 

1 



INTRODUCTORY 

though in the purely poetic qualities he outshines his 
father in the splendour of his gifts. Evelyn Underhill 
well points out in her admirable Introduction to the 
Maharshi's Autobiography the spotless purity and 
spiritual intuitions of the Maharshi's nature— his mysti- 
cal genius, his flaming vision, his enraptured heart, his 
passion for poverty, his hatred of possessions and all 
unreal objects of desire, " the perpetual effort to actua- 
lise the infinite within the finite, to make of life a valid 
sacrament in which, so far as human nature may accom- 
plish it, a perpetually developing outward sign shall go 
step by step with the perpetually developing inward 
grace." His " first fine careless rapture " of mystical 
vision was accompanied by mental searchings and 
travail and ''rigorous moral efforts and re-adjustments." 
" It is the rhythm of detachment, says Kabir, which 
beats time to the music of love." The wlaharshi's in- 
spiration came from the Upanishads which, in the words 
of Evelyn Underhill, " crystallising intuitions long 
growing beneath the surface, resolving the disharmonies 
of his thought and feeling, and pointing the way to 
peace, seemed to him " like a divine voice descending 
from heaven." We see in him " that tendency to in- 
voluntary dramatisation frequently present in genius of 
this kind, which so commonly presents its intuitions to 
the surface mind in a pictorial, musical, or allegorical 
form." (Evelyn Underbill's Introduction to the Autobio- 
graphy of Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, page xxvi). 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Evelyn Underbill says in regard to his love of seclusion 
and solitary meditation : " At some period of their lives- 
the great contemplatives seem always to need such a 
time of ' lonely dwelling ' with its wide spaces of silence^ 
its direct communion with Nature and God. Then as 
Rolie the Hermit has it: 'In the wilderness the Be- 
loved may speak to the heart of the lover, as it were a 
bashful lover that his sweetheart before men entreats 
nof 

Thus I have laid stress Hrst on this aspect of the 

Maharshi's genius, as we find in the poet this synthetic 

mysticism and this " supreme unitive vision of God, as 

at once transcendent and immanent, personal and cosmic, 

the Inward, the Outward, the First and the Last," 

in combination with high poetic qualities. Devendra- 

nath Tagore himself describes in many places in his 

Autobiography his unique spiritual experiences. He 

describes thus his first experience : " I was as if no 

longer the same man. A strong aversion to wealth 

arose within me. The coarse bamboo-mat on which I 

sat seemed to be my fitting seat, carpets and costly 

spreadings seemed hateful, in my mind was awakened 

a joy unfelt before. I was then eighteen years old." 

(Page 38 of his Auiobiograpliy). He records also a 

unique experience of his later hfe : " With thriUing 

heart I saw the eyes of God within that forest. Those 

eyes were my guide in this difficult path ^ 

This gaze of His has become rooted indelibly in my heart. 

4 



INTRODUCTORY 

Whenever I fall into trouble, I see those eyes of His" 
(Page 260). 

The Maharshi had an apostolic nature and a genius 
for organisation and preaching. In his son these moods 
have been softened by golden moods of poetic reverie 
full of delicate charm. We see in him, however, all the 
^reat spiritual qualities of his father — his mystic vision, 
his sympathetic and loving outlook on life, his tender- 
ness to the poor, his love of solitude and meditation, his 
distaste for riches, and his high moral sense and sweet- 
ness of ethical nature. 

We must remember also the Maharshi's burning 
patriotism when we come to study and realise Sir 
Rabindranath Tagore's intense and glowing love of 
this holy land. The Maharshi records in burning words 
in his Autobiography how on hearing of the conversion to 
Christianity of some Zenana ladies he began to organise 
the forces of Hinduism. He says : " I went about in 
a carriage every day from morning till evening to all 
the leading and distinguished men in Calcutta, and 
entreated them to adopt measures by which Hindu 
children would no longer have to attend missionary 
schools and might be educated in schools of our own." 
(Page 100). Again, he says : " If I could preach the 
Brahma Dharma as based upon the Vedanta, then all 
India would have one religion, all dissensions would 
come to an end, all would be united in a common 
brotherhood, her former valour and power would be 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

revived, and finally she would regain her freedom. 
Such were the lofty aspirations which my mind thea 
entertained." (Page 102). 

The Maharshi had the same quiet humour and irony 
that we see also in the son. He says : " The Burmese 
eat crocodiles. The Buddhist doctrine of Ahiinsa (non- 
killing) is on their lips ; but crocodiles are inside their 
stomachs." (Page 186). Again, he describes how the 
temple pandas pursued him once for presents even after 
he had left the temple. He describes in another place 
the Prayag Pandas. " As soon as my boat touched the 
shore, there was a regular invasion of pandas, who 
boarded it." In another place in his Autohiography\. 
we see his irony full of love and pity. 

" Then again Akshaykumar Datta started a Friends* 
Society, in which the nature of God was decided 
upon by show of hands. For instance somebody 
asked, ' Is God the personification of bliss or 
not ? ' Those who believed in his blissfulness held 
up their hatids. Thus the truth or otherwise of 
God's attributes was decided by a majority of 
votes ! Amongst many of those who surrounded 
me, who were as my very limbs, I could no 
longer see any signs of religious feeling or piety ; 
each only pitted his own intellect and power 
against the others." (Pages 203-4). 
We see in Maharshi the power of artistic presenta- 
tion, the grace of style, the eye for beauty, and the 



INTRODUCTORY 

ear for harmony that we see in a perfect form in the 
poet. I shall give here a few examples from his Auto- 
biography to show this. 

•' This Taj is the taj (crown) of the world. Ascend- 
ing a minaret, I saw the sun setting in the 
western horizon, making it one mass of red. 
Beneath was the blue Jumna. The pure white 
Taj in the midst, with its halo of beauty, seemed 
to have dropped on the earth from the moon," 
(Page 211). " On a cloudy evening I saw the pea- 
cocks dancing,with wings raised above their heads. 
What a wonderful sight ! if I could play the 
Vina I would have done so, in tune to their 
dancing." (Pages 219-220). '' I had never seen 
such a beautiful flowering creeper before ; My 
eyes were opened, and my heart expanded ; I 
saw the universal Mother's hand resting on those 
small white blossoms. Who was there in this 
forest to inhale the scent of these flowers or see 
their beauty ? Yet with what loving care had 
she endowed them with sweet scent and love- 
liness, moistened them with dew, and set them 
upon the creeper ! Her mercy and tenderness 
became manifest to me. Lord ! When such is 
Thy compassion for these little flowers, what 
must be the extent of Thy mercy for us ? " 
(Page 240). " The mighty current of this stream 
(Nagari) dashing against the huge elephantine 



SIR RABINDKANATH TAGORE 

rocks contained in its bosom, becomes fierce and 
foaming, and with a thundering sound rolls on 
to meet the sea, by command of the Almighty. 
From both its banks two mountains rise up 
straight to a great height like immense walls, 
and then incline backwards. The rays of the 
sun do not find room enough to remain here long 

....Only one man was living there with 

his family in one room, which was not a room, 

but a cave in the rocks. Here they cooked and 

here they slept. I saw his wife dancing joyfully 

with a baby on her back, and another child of 

hers nmning about on a dangerous part of the 

hill, and his father sowing potatoes in a small 

field. God had provided everything necessary 

for their happiness here. Kings sitting on their 

thrones rarc^ly found such peace and happiness 

as this." (Pages 243-244). 

" In the evening I was walking alone on the 

banks of this river, charmed with its beauty, 

when I looked up suddenly, and found the hill was 

lighted up with flames. As the evening wore 

on and night advanced, the fires also began 

to spread. Like arrows of fire, a hundred 

thousand sparks fell swift as stars, and attacked 

the trees below, down to the banks of the river. 

By degrees every tree cast off its own form and 

assumed the form of fire, and blind darkness 



8 



INTRODUCTORY 

fled afar from the spot. As I looked upon this 
wonderful form of fire, I felt the glory of 
that Divinity who dwells in fire. Before this, 
in many a wood, I had seen charred trees that 
bore witness to forest fires, and in the night I 
had seen the beauty of fires burning on the 
distant hills; but here I was delighted to see for 
myself the origin, spread, growth^ and arrest of a 
forest fire. It went on burning all night ; when- 
ever I woke up during the night, I saw its light. 
When I got up in the morning I saw many 
charred trees still smoking, and here and there 
the all-devouring ravenous fire burning in a dim 
and exhausted manner, like the lamps remaining in 
the morning after a festive night." (Pages244-245). 
We have thus been privileged to see the uncommon 
possession of great and similar talents in the great father 
and his greater son. Such instances have been seen 
though rarely in life. The instances of Dumas pere 
and Dumas fih^ and of Chatham and Pitt will occur 
to the minds of all. We are thus able to realise from 
the Maharshi's Aiilobiography whence were derived the 
unique qualities of Sir Rabindranath Tagore's splendid 
poetic genius. 

III. Tagore's Artistic and Spiritual Ancestry. 

It is a remarkable phenomenon that in India the 
greatest poets have also been the greatest saints and 

9 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

religious teachers of the land. If spirituality is the 
dominant note in our life, it can be expected to be, and 
is, the dominant note in our art which is only the 
expression of the intenser, purer, and happier moments 
of our life. The greatest architects, sculptors, painters^ 
poets, and singers of the Hindu race have been pro- 
foundly spiritual and some of them are the greatest 
sages, seers, and saints of India. 

It is not my purpose here to trace the growth of art 
and religion in India and to show their mutual influence 
and interaction. That is a great task by itself, and will 
have to be taken up separately, if it is to be properly 
performed. The great Bhakti movement, which was 
the most potent inspiring force in life and in art in 
ancient and mediaeval India, which is active — if only 
fitfully and sporadically — even now, and by the luminous 
rejuvenescence of v/hich alone our national rebirth can 
be accomplished, was neither new, nor due to outside 
influences, in our land. It is as old as the Hindu race 
itself, and there are in the Upanishadsnot merely modes 
of worship and hymns of adoration of God but passages 
full of the rapture of love and devotion bearing the soul 
to His lotus feet in an ecstasy of happiness. Having re- 
gard to the purpose of this work, I shall consider here 
briefly only the great spiritual ideas of a few devotional 
poets and singers of genius in mediaeval and modern 
India to show how the art of Tagore has been influ- 
enced and inspired by them. If his father helped ta. 

1.0 



INTRODUCTORY 

mould his inner nature by the force of his personality^ 
they have been in an even larger measure responsible 
for the beautiful manifestation and development of his- 
supreme poetical development. To understand Tagore 
without understanding them and their inspiring, purify-^ 
ing, and uphfting influence is an impossible task. He 
has already translated one hundred poems of Kabir and 
vi^e learn that he has further finished the English trans- 
lation of the vi^orks of Vidyapathi and Chandidas. 
Dr. A. K. Coomaraswami says : " Vaishnava art is 
correspondingly humanistic, and it is from this school of 
thought that the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore deri- 
ves. In it are echoed the teaching of such prophets 
as Sri Chaitanya nnd poets such as Jayadev and Chandi- 
das, who sung of the religion of love." {Art ana 
Swadesi\ p. 116). 

The rehgion of Pre ma Bliakti (ecstasy of love) that 
these great saints and poets taught centres mostly round 
the divine personality of Krishna, though in some 
locahties it centres round Rama and in Southern India 
round Siva as well as Vishnu. Those who have heard 
the inspiring and uplifting songs contained in the 
Thevaram, Thirnvachagam, and Tiritvoimozhi in Southern 
sindia will reahse that this religion of love has overflowed 
the whole of India like a swelling tide from the ocean of 
divine bliss and has inspired art and sweetened life in 
this lovely and holy land. The spirit of ecstatic love 
that breathes through the songs of saint Andal is the 

11 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

•same as that which has inspired Mira Bai, Chandidas, 
and Chaitanya. The love of theGopis and especially of 
Radha — a miserably misunderstood episode in the life of 
Sri Krishna — has kindled in them an endless ecstasy of 
adoration. God is the Eternal Bridegroom and each 
human soul is His bride. The spiritual union of God 
and the soul solemnised before the Agni (Fire) of devo- 
tion is the consummation and highest bliss of life. When 
Mira Bai renounced her position as queen and went to 
Brindavan to worship and meditate on Krishna, a great 
devotee and ascetic, Rup Goswami, refused to see her 
as she was a woman. She sent word to him : " Mira 
knows that in Brindavan there is but one man Sri 
Krishna. Many others live here, it is true, but as they 
all dwell in His love they are all but the maids of Gokula. 
If, therefore, by some mischance Rup Goswami, being a 
man, has entered the abode of the maids of our Lord — 
he should fly, for if found out he will be chastised." Then 
he was surprised at her wisdom and devotion and 
agreed to see her. It is said of Shri Krishna that he 
showed his attribute of beauty and love at Brindavan, 
his attribute of wisdom at Mathura, and his attributes 
•of universal sovereignty, compassion, and service at 
Dwaraka. To the lovers and devotees of Krishna, he 
appears sweetest as Krishna of Brindavana. The songs 
of Chandidas describe such love of God in rapturous 
terms This heaven of love has been so near the earth 
in India for many centuries, and it is no wonder that 

12 






INTRODUCTORY 

life and art in India have been transfigured by the play 
of the light of divine love. It was in India that God's._^ o 
love for man and man's love for God were realised in a ^ 
' vivid, intense, and passionate form. God was recognised 
and loved not merely as Father but as Mother, Child, 
Friend, Lord, and Lover. To realise the beauty of this. 
a vividness of inner vision and a mystical sense of the 
divine presence brooding over everything are required. 
God is the Father of the world in a mystical sense as 
he is not the direct physical progenitor of any created 
being. The Hindu mind has recognised that we have 
to rise from plane to plane of love, relate each lower 
form of love to the divine, and extend the boundaries 
and deepen the depth of each form of love till we rise 
to a practical realisation of the beauty and sweetness of 
God and rise to the highest raptures of the love of God. 
How difficult it is for an outsider to enter into this 
paradise of the religion of love is apparent from the 
recent book of Mr. Ernest Rhys on Tagore. He says : 
*' To be sure, in the Indian mythology, Siva appears to 
lie beyond the sphere of pleasure and pain ; the im- 
movable amid the flux of things, eternity in the midst of 
time . . . . ' Siva has a wife, Uma, but he is no 
provident mate ; he is old and rascally, and so poor 
that he is unable even to find a pair of shell-biacelets 
for his bride, though she is the daughter of a King, and 

that King is mount Himavathi Among the 

true followers of Siva the form of Uma represents the 

13 



SIK RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

lineness and delicacy of earthly life, and that of Siva the 
lerror and grimness of death." If he had known the 
supreme beauty and sweetness of the Siva leelas ?is read 
and loved in Southern India— which rival the Rama 
leelas and Krishna leelas in point of their overflowing 
divine tenderness and their emotional appeal— and if he 
had known the descriptions of Siva's beauty and bounty 
and love in that perfect gem of devotional poetry— the 
Tiruvachagam — and in the sweet Thevarams, he would 
not have fallen into such a phenomenal error. 

I vi^ish to deal here a little elaborately with Shri 
Krishna Chaitanya, because his influence on the religion 
of love, devotion, and mystical emotion, and on the 
musical art of Bengal, has been of a unique character. 
It is a pecuhar and even significant fact that Chandidas 
and Chaitanya lived for sometime in villages near Bolpur. 
Chaitanya was called Nimai in eariy life. His boyhood 
was full of fun and frolic and gave little indication of 
his coming greatness. But even then his beauty, 
gentleness, sweetness, and love of Hari were remark- 
able. Babu Shishir Kumar Ghose's Lord GauranPa and 
Professor Jadunath Sircar's Chaitanya's Pilgrimages and 
Teachings give us some of the idea of the artistic and 
spiritual wealth lying in Chaitanya-Charitamrifa, Chai- 
tanya Bhagavala^ Chaitanya Mangala^ and Chaitanya- 
Chandroday a. NimM then became a great grammarian and 
logician and was accepted as a Pandit of genius even 
in intellectual Naddea (Nawadwipa). The illumination 

1-i 



INTRODUCTORY 

of love filling him with an infinite gentleness and 
tenderness and overthrowing all his assertive pride of 
intellect came to him when he saw the foot-print of Shri 
Krishna at Gaya. " The attention of everybody engaged 
in the worship of the foot-print was directed on him. 
They saw a young man of twenty -three, of herculean 
proportions, graceful beyond comparison, with a skin 
as fair as molten gold, and eyes luminous and soft as the 
petals of the lotus flower, with which he looked on 
the foot-print with a steadfast gaze, unconscious of the 
presence of those who were watching him with such 
intense interest." (Shishir Kumar Ghose's Lord Gau- 
ranga, Vol. I, page 68). 

From this time forward he was under divine influence 
and Shri Krishna manifested himself in him, Chaitanya- 
Bhagavata says : 

'* A form, brighter than a thousand moons, 
And fairer far than a thousand gods of love ; 
The lord and his worshippers wrapped in light, 
And everything besides." 

The book referred to above says : " Nimai some- 
times represented Shri Krishna and sometimes Radha. 
When he sits on the sacred dais, he is Shri Krishna ; 
when he weeps for Shri Krishna he is Radha. So 
Lord Nimai had not only Radha's love for Shri Krishna, 
but also Radha's love for human creatures." (Page 
219). His Kirtanas and dancing won the hearts of 
human beings and uplifted them into the heaven of 

15 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Krishna's love. The Vaishnava songs of love are things 
of beauty and kindle love and joy in our hearts. Here 
is one of them quoted in the above said book. 

" Ferry us over to the other bank, O beautiful Pilot ! 
We have come to your Ghat for that purpose. 
We are poor and therefore cannot pay the ferry-toll. 
And wherefore do we come to your ghat ? 
Because we have been assured, you are merciful." 

The following stanza from Prabhodananda's Chat- 
tanya Chandramrita shows well what Chaitanya did for 
the world. 

(I adore as far as is possible to one of my limited 
powers Lord Gauranga who made people mad with 
the nectar of Hari's love and made them dance, sing, 
and even roll on the ground in ecstasy, though 
they had never had the sanctifying touch of Dharma 
but lived in sin and had never been looked at by a 
saint's compassionate eyes or lived in a holy place). 

Tagore owes a great deal by way of inspiration to 
Chandidas, Vidyapathi,Chaitanya,GarudaDas, Mukunda- 
rama, Tulsidas, Hafichand, Mehr Das, Sur Das, Mira 
Bai, Tukaram, and other poets and saints. Of course 
no great poet ever borrows ideas or words from other 



INTRODUCTORY 

poets ; but the divine atmosphere that he breathes with 
their aid makes their joys and ideals his own. I must 
further point out that through Kabir and Nanak the 
spirit of Sutiism also influenced him a great deal. Sufi- i 
ism is the mystical blossoming of Islam under the ' 
transforming touch of the higher Hinduism, just as in 
mediaeval India the influence of Islam led to certain 
developments in Hinduism. The Sufis regarded the 
existence of the soul as pre-natal and held that the full 
perception of earthly beauty was the remembrance of 
Supreme Beauty in the spiritual world and that in spite 
of the veil of the body the soul could behold the Divine 
Mysteries through love and ecstasy {Hal). Sufiism 
regarded creation as a manifestation of Eternal Beauty. 
Jami says in his poem Yusuf-u-Zulaykha : 

" His beauty everywhere doth show itself, 

And through the forms of earthly beauties shines 

Obscured as through a veil 

Where'er thou seest a veil. 
Beneath that veil he hides. Whatever heart 
Doth yield to love, He charms it. In His love 
The heart hath life. Longing for Him, the soul 
Hath victory." 

Man was a divine emanation, and the Sufis held that 
man's supreme desire was to be reunited with the Be- 
loved. Jami, the great Sufi poet, says : 

" Gaze, till Gazing out of Gazing 
Grew to Being Her I Gaze on, 

17 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

She and I no more, but in One 
Undivided being blended. 
All that is not One must ever 
Suffer with the woimd of Absence ; 
And whoever in Love's City 
Enters, finds but Room for One, 
And but in "Oneness Union." 

Mr. Hadland Davis says : "We follow that invisible 
figure from land to land, from heart to heart, from 
death into life, on and on. When Love loves Love for 
its own sake, we shall meet Him. We shall find the 
Beloved to be the Perfection, the realisation of that 
strong desire that made us lose ourselves in others. 
The more we lose ourselves in God, the more we find 
Him .... Love God's light in men and women 
and not the lanterns through which It shines, for human 
bodies must turn to dust ; human memories, human 
desires, fade away. But the love of the All-Good, All- 
Beautiful remains, and when such is found in earthly 
love it is God finding Himself in you, and you in Him. 
That is the supreme teaching of Sufiism, the religion of 
Love." (Introduction to Jalaluddin Rumi, Wisdom of 
the East Series). Abu Hashim, Rabia, Attar, Bayazid, 
Al-Hallaj, Hafiz, Sadi, Jami, Rumi, and others made 
Sufiism a powerful spiritual force. Mr. Davis says in 
his introduction to Jami : " It is in silence, in the quiet 
places of our hearts, rather than on the housetops of 
much controversy, that we can hear the sweet call of 
the Beloved and forget the clanging of the world in the 

18 



INTRODUCTORY 

•Great Peace which He alone can give." In Kabir, , 
Nanak and others both streams of mystical emotion — 
Indian and Sufi — ^met and mmgled into a mightier 
stream. Tagore has recently translated one hundred 
poems of Kabir and has been profoundly influenced by 
him. 

It must be further remembered that Tagore belongs 
to the Brahmo Samaj, which has been influenced ia no 
small measure by Christianity. Hence his mind bears - 
traces of dislike of idolatry and of some of the social 
ideals of Hinduism. But as his mind has ud intellectual 
narrowness and as his heart is full of love, he has been 
able to rise above all petty man-made barriers between 
religion and religion. His mystical vision has enabled 
him to see the inner spiritual signilicance of mach that 
a hard-headed and hard-hearted man might brush aside 
as idolatry or theology or metaphysics. In him it is 
the Hindu gemus that is predominant and irradiates 
everything else. 

IV. THE INDIAN RENAISSANCE. 

We can never understand Tagore aright if we do 
not realise the new Indian Renaissance now going on 
before our eyes. The movement is now as wide as life 
and as deep as love and as high as heaven. Its manifest- 
ations must be sought not in this sphere of activity or 
that but everywhere. Of course in the lower forms of 
activity it will be difficult to say whether what we see 

19 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

is a growth from within or an ornamental and some- 
times tawdry addition from without. But in the case of 
literature, art, and religion which are securely rooted in 
the race consciousness and are the finest flowers of 
racial life, we see unmistakable signs of an overflowing 
vitality that is bringing about a healthy growth and 
expansion from within. 

There is a vital point of difference between the Indian: 
Renaissance and the movement known as the Renais- 
sance in Europe. There the inspiration came from a 
different land and a dead literature. Here it has come 
from a living land and a living literature — and these 
our own. The India of to — day is like the Phoenix 
emerging bright from its own ashes after it becomes 
old and desires to be born again. If the Renaissance in 
Europe was a liberation of the human spirit per se, the 
Indian Renaissance is a liberation of the human spirit 
'\ ^that is in harmony with the divine. J. A. Symonds said 
'v«y 1 in regard to the Renaissance in the west : " The history 
of the Renissance is the history of the attainment of the 
self-conscious freedom by the human spirit manifested 
in the European races. What the word really means is 
new birth to liberty, the spirit of mankind recovering, 
consciousness and the spirit of self-determination, re- 
cognising the beauty of the outer world and of the body 
through art, liberating the reason in science, and the con- 
science in religion, restoring culture to the intelligence 
and establishing the principle of political freedom."' 

20 



INTRODUCTORY 

All these great traits are seen to be integral manifesta- 
'tions of the spirit of the Indian Renaissance also. 

What shall we say about the blessed part that Eng- 
land has been taking in the awakening? When the 
humanity of the future records its impartial ideas as to 
the unfolding of the human spirit, she will bless 
England for the liberation of the human spirit that she 
is achieving in India. No contemporary misrepresen- 
tations, hatreds, or passions, will obscure the clarity of 
her vision. Though the Indian Renaissance owes its 
ultimate inspiration to India and her ever— living ideals, 
the warm breath of spring that loosens the grip of the 
dead hand of winter over the heart has come from 

" That other Eden, semi-paradise, 
That precious stone set in the silver sea." 
England has been freeing the national spirit from its 
ifetters in India ; but the unconquerable spirit was there 
already and has been shining forth in the quenchless 
fire of her eyes and the quenchless love in her heart 
which made her 

" To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite ; 
To forgive wrongs darker than death or night ; 
To defy Power, which seems Omnipotent ; 
To love, and bear ; to hope till Hope creates 
From its own wreck the thing it contemplates ; 
Neither to change, nor flatter, nor repent." 
The two great divisions of the Aryan race have now 
anet in this holy land for mutual uplift and inspiration 

21 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

England — the champion of freedom, the emancipator of 
slaves, the protector of small states and treaty obligations 
— has brought to us the gift of a rational study of nature 
and its problems, the historical method, national 
spirit, lofty ideals of citizenship and patriotism, 
constitutional government, and political geniuS; 
India's power of imagination, emotional refine- 
ment, spiritual insight and rapture, and meditative 
passion is alive and in vigorous life, and England will 
receive from her elder sister, her message of the unity 
and divine purpose of life, of divine immanence, of the 
sovereignty of love, of the spiritual kinship of all, of 
ahinisa, of sanihi^ of universal toleration, and of the love 
of God being the crowning glory of life. England will 
teach India the art of citizenship ; India will convey 
to her the art of life. England will instruct India in 
the arts of outer peace in the realms of social and 
political life ; India will convey to her the art of inner 
peace in the heaven of the soul. The world waits in 
expectation and eager longing for the time 

"When East and West without a breath 
Mix their dim lights like life and death 
And broaden into boundless day. 
Some people are of opinion that India's message was 
one of quietism and that a life of activity has come into 
existence here only after we heard the call of the East. 
A more erroneous notion than this cannot be imagined. 
To say this of a race that has given the Giia to the 

22 



INTRODUCTORY 

world, that has lived a strenuous life, that has achieved 
social peace and co-ordination and spiritual progress, 
th.U has been pre-eminent in the fine arts and the indus- 
trial arts, that has reverenced womanhood and vi^hose 
women have been mothers of heroes, that spread over 
the Eastern world in the course of its self-development, 
that was supreme in commerce and was the richest 
country in the world, and that was the mother of 
philosophy and religion — a race that, in spite of fierce 
assaults from without and dissensions within, has 
been true to its Hght and has outlived other civilisations 
and is now living "not in decay, not a mere antique, but 
full of life and youthful vigour — '' is a gross libel and 
argues an utter want of vision. 

Yet we must recognise with gratitude and love, as 
I have already stated, the liberation of the spirit that is 
being achieved by England in India. It will be beyond 
the scope of this book to describe this great task and 
the adequate manner in which England is performing 
it in India. The English language— that noble and 
highly-evolved organ of thought — has become a portion 
of our life and is the chief instrument of national up- 
lift, though it is now being degraded to the position of 
a fetish and once more illustrates the supreme truth of 
Tennyson's warning to beware 

" Lest one good custom should corrupt the world." 
England is fostering a spirit of scientific investigation 
and research, and reviving the desire for interrogating 

23 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

nature, the fruits of which once went through Arabia 
from India into Europe and gave an impetus to scientific 
development there. She has given us great ideals of civic 
^ responsibility and civic freedom, which will in course of 
time unify the warring sections of humanity in this land. 
Some sceptics within and without have doubted 
whether national life ever existed, or can exist in India. 
But their scepticism is due to their inability to look 
deep enough. They would deny unity even to the 
human personality, because they find in it various ele- 
ments — senses, intellect, emotion, and will. Sister 
Nivedita says in her Revival ox Reform: " So far from 
there being any color of truth in the statement that she 
has been hopelessly divided and sub-divided for thousands 
of years, the very reverse is the case. We do not 
regard the garden as divided against itself, because the 
flowers in it are of many different hues. Nor is India 
divided ? She has, on the contrary, unfathomed depths 
of potentiality for civic organization, for united corpo- 
rate action." (Page 149, Select Essays^ published by 
Messrs. Ganesh and Co.,). As has been well said, the 
people of this sacred land find " in essentials unity, in 
non-essentials liberty, and in all things charity." In his 
valuable book on the Fundamental Unity of India Radha- 
kumud Mookerji says: "The primary requisite! for the 
birth and growth of a nation is the certainty, fixity, and 
permanence of place, and when that is assured the 
other formative forces will appear and make themselves 

24 



INTKODUCTORY 

ielt in due course. A common fatherland is prelimi- 
nary to all national development ; round that living 
nucleus will naturally gather all those feelings, associa- 
tions, traditions and other elements which go to make 
up a people's language and literature, religion and 
culture, and establish its separate existence 
and individuality, , demanding its preserva- 

tion and independent development as a valuable 
cultural unit. The unifying influence of a common 
country, of common natural surroundings, is indeed 
irresistible, and the assertion may be safely made that 
it will be effectively operative against other disintegra- 
ting, disruptive forces and tendencies such as differences 
in manners and customs, language and religion " (pages 
5-4). The unity was recognised by the masterspirits of 
the past who gave the whole land a single name, Bha- 
ratavarsha. The popular phrase is Himavatsefuparyantam 
A Sanscrit verse says : ^T^^^T^f^^ ^nt^f^ ^t^T^ ' 
(The mother and the motherland are more adorable 
than heaven). The holy hills, streams, and shrines of 
India make the entire land sacred and dear beyond ex- 
pression. Kasi, Mathura, Dwaraka, Ayodhya, Kanchi ; 
Himalayas, Vindhya, Satya, Malaya ; Sindhu, Ganga, 
Yamuna, Saraswathi, Narmada, Godavari, Kaveri ; 
Dandakaranya, Naimisaranya, etc.; the shrines of 
Viswanatha, Jagannatha, Venkatesa, Ranganatha, and 
Ramalinga: — what blessed, purifying, upHfting names are 
here ! From Badari to Kanyakumari is holy land in the 

25 



SIR KABINDRANATH TAGORE 

eyes of all. The conception of a Sarvahhama king was 
a familiar one. It seems to me that this sacramental 
conception of the country is at the root of the whole 
matter. If the sceptic has a luminious vision of the soul of 
India,his scepticism will vanish altogether. Vincent Smith 
says in his Early History of India : " India, encircled 
as she is by seas and mountains, is indisputably a geo- 
graphical unit, and, as such is rightly designated by one 
name. Her type of civilisation, too, has many features 
which differentiate it from that of all other regions of 
the world; while they are common to the whole country, 
or rather continent, in a degree sufficient to justify its 
treatment as a unit in the history of human, social, and 
intellectual development." (Page 5.) 

In the same manner we should rise to the conception 
of the unity of the Hindu race. Whatever may have 
been the elements that went into the melting pot, the 
race had emerged into being long before historic time. 
The man that goes about moping in the museums of the 
mind and comes out and shouts at the top of his voice 
about Aryans and Dravidians, Bactrians and Mongols, 
and what not, is an enemy of India and a dangerous 
lunatic at large. The great significance of race is being 
more and more recognised all over the world. The 
divergence of racial types ought not to be a source of 
discord, but should be a source of harmony. 

" Shall ihe rose 

Cry to the lotus ' No flower thou,' the palm 

Call to the cypress ' 1 alone am fair ?'' 

(Tennyson's Akbar's Dream.jf 

26 



INTRODUCTORY 

Lord Beaconsfield says: "Race is everything; there is 
no other truth. And every race must fall which 
carelessly suffers its blood to become mixed." Mr. 
H. S. Chamberlain says in his great book on " The- 
Foundations of the Nineteenth Century ." " Nothing is 
so convincing as the consciousness of the possession of 
race. The man who belongs to a distinct, pure race, 
never loses the sense of it. ..Race lifts a man above ( 
himself." The distinctive traits of the Hindu race are / 
its spirit of inwardness, its orderly social evolution, its 
acceptance of the principle of co-ordination as the basis ( 
of social action, its power of realising divine immanence, ' 
its love of the spiritual aspects of beauty, its passion for ' 
peace, its emotional refinement, its spirit of unbounded 
toleration and self-sacrifice, its reverence for life, its 
longing for divine communion, and its luminous self- 
poised rapture of contemplation and meditation and 
devotion. We must beware of any individual or 
national acts that will taint inner life of the race. 
Mr. C. W. Saleeby says : '* There is no pubHc nor 
private deed that may not affect, in ways unseen or 
seen, the quality of a people — so sensitive and impres- 
sionable is the life of a community, so great the conse- 
quences which may flow from the smallest cause." 
{The Methods of Race— Regeneration.) Sister Nivedita and 
Dr. A.K. Coomaraswami say in a recent book: "A single 
generation enamoured of foreign ways is almost enough 
in history to risk the whole continuity of civilisation and 

27 .  , 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

learning Ages of accumulation are entrusted to 

Ihe frail bark of each passing epoch by the hand of the 
past, desiring to make over its treasures to the use of 
the future. It takes a certain stubbornness, a doggedness 
of loyalty, even a modicum of unreasonable conserva- 
tism may be, to lose nothing in the long march of 
the ages and even when confronted with great empires, 
with a sudden extension of the idea of culture or with 
1:he supreme temptation of a new religion, to hold fast 
what we have, adding to it only as much as we can 
healthfully and manfully carry". 

Especially is the warning necessary in the case of 
literature and art. The writer of an excellent article in 
The Centemporary Review. (May, 1914) says: "An author 
must reveal not only a living creation, must not only 
make that creation instinct with his own personality, 
but must also inspire it with his own national life. 
There is no internationalism in literature, though the 
interchange of literature is one of the best solvents of 
national differences '. Dr. Coomaraswami, who is the 
greatest champion of national art in modern India, says: 
"There is no more searching test of the vitahty of a 
people than the revelation in art— plastic, literary, 
musical— of their inward being". Again, he says: "Have 
you ever thought that India, politically and econo- 
mically free, but subdued by Europe in her inmost soul, 
is scarcely an ideal to be dreamt of, or to live or die 
for ?" Again ; "But let us not love art because it will 

28 



INTRODUCTORY 

bring to us prosperity ; rather because it is a high 
function of our being, a door for thoughts to pass from 
the unseen to the seen, the source of those high dreams 
and the embodiment of that enduring vision that is to 
be the Indian nation; not less, but more strong and 
more beautiful than ever before, and the gracious 
giver of beauty to all the nations of the earth." 
Indian art is, as can well be expected from the genius 
of the race, idealistic and religious. Mr. Havell says : 
*'The inspiration of Vedic thought, which still 
permeates the whole atmosphere of Indian life, as the 
originating impulse of Indian art, and the influence 
which links together all its historic phases .... 
Throughout Indian art, and throughout the Christian 
art of the middle ages, we find the same central idea 

— that beauty is inherent in spirit, not in matter 

It is bhakthi which now keeps Indian art alive ; it is the 
lack of it which makes modern western art so lifeless.'^ 
{The Ideals of Indian Art.) Dr. Coomaraswami says in 
his Essays in National IdeaUsm. " India is wont to 
suggest the eternal and inexpressible infinities in terms 

of sensuous beauty Life is not to be represented 

for its own sake, but for the sake of the divine 
expressed in and through it." (page 31.) 

I have quoted freely above to bear out , the truth of 
the view pleaded for here. The artistic and literary 
awakening in Bengal and the artistic work of Ravi 
Varma in South India show that India is beginning ta 

29 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Tecognise the truth of this view vividly and passionately. 
■It is in the intensification and practical unfoldment of 
this new-born spirit that the salvation of India lies. 
Sister Nivedita says: "Not only to utter India to the 
world, but also, to voice India to herself, — this is the 
mission of art, divine mother of the ideal, when it 
descends to clothe itself in the forms of realism." 

I must here say a few words on the vexed question 
about the vernaculars. There are two kinds of faddists 
who are both bent on kilHng them. One says that they 
must all go and make room for the English language. 
Another says that they are even now in a flourishing 
condition and need no looking after. One wonders 
whether they have any eyes that enable them to see 
what is going on around us. If any one thinks that a 
great and vital and enduring Hteratare can be built up 
by Indians in the EngUsh tongue, he is a hopeless 
dreamer. The uniform testimony of history is against 
any such possibility. The English language has its 
due place in our life to express the new-born forces in 
the Indian world and to interpret India to England. 
But the highest heaven of literature and art can be 
reached by us only through the medium of 
Sanscrit and the Vernaculars. The soul of a race 
is in intimate and vital touch with the language or 
languages of the race. If you kill the one, you kill 
the other also. Victor Hugo says : " One idea 
has never more than one form peculiarly its own. 

30 



INTRODUCTORY 

Kill the form and you nearly always kill the ideal.* 
As a matter of fact the elevation of English to the rank 
of a fetish has killed the divine Sanscrit tongue and 
the beautiful vernaculars to a large extent. English 
should never be the medium of instruction till at least 
the fourth form is reached in the school classes. I 
should be glad to see it learnt as a second language up 
to the entrance class. Further, the Sanscrit, a verna- 
cular, and the Hindi tongue or the Bengali should be 
learnt throughout the course. We shall then be in 
touch with the past, handle our mother tongue with 
power, know one language that will keep us in touch 
with the whole India, and be able with the help of 
English to enter the shrine of political growth, civic 
progress, scientific and historical study, and rationalistic 
attitude which England has thrown open to us. If, as 
the present moment the vernaculars live, it is because of 
the inherent vitality of the race. But systematic 
.poisoning of the springs of life may kill even the 
irrepressible vitality of the Hindu race. That vernaculars 
have great potentialities and possibilities as vehicles of 
progressive thought has been demonstrated to the whole 
world by Bengal. A great and holy succession of poets 
in mediaeval and modern India have demonstrated their 
power as vehicles of religious emotion and artistic pre- 
sentation of life. If our leaders through their love for 
sonorous thunderings in English sacrifice the best inter- 
ests of their land in their blindness of vision, the malady 

31 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

will soon pass beyond the stage of cure and a great type 
will disappear for ever. We must give up our insane 
habit of speaking and writing in English except in the 
case of subjects in regard to which the vernaculars are 
not as yet sufficiently developed to express them well or 
where we have to address mixed audiences. We must give 
up our suicidal habit of writing letters — even marriage 
invitation letters — in English, and diluting and even 
adulterating our spoken language with EngUsh words. 
Tagore's best work is in BengaU and he addresses Ben- 
gali audiences only in the Bengali tongue. The modern 
system of education is costly and examination-ridden 
while the task of learning everything in English from 
boyhood crushes all energy and originality out of 
existence; it is rigid, there being no attempt to develop 
individual aptitudes ; it does not train the mind of 
young India in the fields of science and technical skill 
properly ; it is regarded in a purely commercial spirit ^ 
it is divorced from religion, morality, and Indian culture 
and art ; and it is not calculated to kindle in our hearts, 
love for the past or enthusiasm for the future,love of India, 
love of man, or love of God. Shall we be wise in time ? 
The Bengali Renaissance is only a phase of the 
general Renaissance in India. In literature and art 
Bengal has produced great personalities, and the 
achievements of Madhusudan Dutt, Toru Dutt, Bankim 
Chunder Chatterjea, Swami Vivekananda, Tarak Nath 
Ganguli,R.C.Dutt, Rabindranath Tagore,Abanindranath 

32 



INTRODUCTORY 

Tagore, and other great men show how Bengal 
has a conspicuous record of work to its credit. 
Mr Rhys says of the Bengali language : " We have to 
talk with one whose mother-tongue it is to appreciate 
its full resource, and those elements and qualities in it 
which have made it pliant under the lyric spell. We 
test a language by its elasticity, its response to rhythm, 
by the kindness with which it looks upon the figurative 
desires of the child and the poet. In these essentials 
Bengali proves its right to a place among the regene- 
rative tongues of the world." In art as well as in litera- 
ture, modern Bengal has been original as well as national 
and has accomplished a great deal of admirable work. 

In this renaissance Tagore has played a great part. 
He has not merely interpreted the East to the West. 
The Da?7;v 67xro«jc/<? said of him: "Others have been 
dazzled by the mystery, the brightness, the immensity 
of India; we have drunk deep of its colour. But Mr. 
Tagore brings us its mind." He has done more than 
this. He is the greatest modern national poet of 
India. 

Mr. S. K. Ratcliffe well says. "The life of India is 
still favourable to the development of the poet who is 
also thinker and man of affairs — although, we may be 
quite sure, it will not prove to be so for the creative 
genius of to-morrow. For Rabindranath Tagore, at any 
rate, the lines have been laid in the pleasantest of 
places. His songs are part of the popular culture o£ 

33 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Bengal. He has been a force in the Hterary renaissance 
•of Modem India. Inheriting a fine intellectual tradi- 
tion, he has been honoured as priest and teacher in 
his own religious community, and as an intellectual 
leader among the aspiring young adherents of Indian 
Nationalism". 

The Rev. Mr. C. F. Andrews said of him in his great 
address at the Viceregal Lodge, at Simla in 1913 : 
*' He is to day the national poet of Bengal in a sense 
that Shakespeare was the national poet of England in 
the days of Queen Elizabeth. Of all the poets Hving 
in the world to-day there is none, as far as I am able 
to judge, except Rabindranath, who holds this unique 
position with regard to his own people, and it is this 
which gives a freshness, a spontaneity, a width of 
humanity to his work, which is altogether refreshing in 
our own somewhat artificial age.'' The Viceroy whose 
sympathy, insight, and. love in regard to the Indians is 
well known described Tagore in his closing address as 
"the Poet Laureate of Asia". Tagore has expressed in 
the thirty-fifth poem in the Gitanjali which I have quo- 
ted elsewhere his ideal of national patriotism. Not 
only has he expressed a lofty ideal of patriotism ; not 
only did he preside over the Provincial Conference at 
Pabna in 1908; not only has he served India nobly and 
well by songs and poems: but he has dedicated his life 
to her; he is seeking by his Bolpur School and his 
industrial and art school to uplift his countrymen into 

34 



INTRODUCTORY 

fthat region of self-sacrificing service for the motherland 

iin which he has achieved such great results; and the 

master-passion of his life is this supreme desire to serve 

India. His patriotic hymns deserve a more than passing 

mention in this connection. He is India's greatest 

^singer of national songs. One of them has been trans- 

Jated thus : 

Blessed is my birth, because I was born ia the 
country, blessed is my life, mother, because I 
have loved thee. 
I do not know if thou hast wealth and riches like a 
Queen. I know this much that my limbs are 
cooled as soon as 1 stand in thy shade. 
I know not in what grove blossom flowers that 
madden the soul with such scents — I know not 
the sky where the moon rises with such sweet 
smiles. 
My eyes were first opened in thy light, and they 
will be closed, finally, upon that very light. 
His Sonar Bangala is sung by even the most illiterate 
•classes in Bengal. Thus his part in the Indian Renais- 
sance is unique, and his greatness as a national poet of 
India has not been equalled by any other poet in recent 

•times. 

V. His Life, 

He was born in Calcutta in 1861. The Tagore 

family is one of the most ancient and distinguished 

ifamilies in Bengal. I have already referred to his father 

35 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Maharshi Devendra Nath Tagore. The poet lost Hisi 
mother early in his life. The child was early led to* 
seek sympathy and love in the company of Mother 
Nature. Mr. C. F. Andrews says in the lecture that I 
have already referred to: "He told me first of all about* 
his father, the great Mahnrshi, the reverence and awe 
that he had for him in his childhood ; how all the 
household became hushed and still, when he was 
present in the house, anxious not to disturb his spiritual 
meditations. He told me also how his mother died 
when he was quite young, and as he saw her face, calm' 
and peaceful in death, it awakened in him no childish: 
terror or mysterious sorrow. It was only as he grew 
older that he learnt death's meaning". The poet told 
him about his early life as follows: — 

*4 was very lovely — that was the chief feature of 
my childhood — I was very, very lovely. I saw 
my father but seldom, but his presence pervaded 
the whole house, and was one of the deepest 
unseen influences all through my life. I was 
kept, almost like a prisoner, all day long, in^ 
charge of the servants, and I used to sit day after 
day, in front of the window and picture to myself 
what was going on in the outer world. Promt 
the very first time I can remember I was pas- 
sionately fond of Nature. Oh ! it used to make 
me mad with joy when I saw the clouds come up' 
in the sky one by one. I felt even in those very, 

36 



INTRODUCTORY 

* 

childish days that I was surrounded with a friend, 
a companionship, very intense and very inti- 
mate, though I did not know how to name it. 
1 had such an exceeding love for nature, 1 cannot 
find words to describe it to you ; nature was 
a kind of companion, always with me, and 
always revealing to me some fresh beauty." 
Tagore's Jivan-smriihi (Autobiography) appeared in 
tthe Prabasi. The Bengal Administration Report for 
11912- 19i;-{ said of it : " The chief literary event of the 
year was the appearance of the autobiography of the 
(famous poet Rabindranath Tagore.'' It is not available 
in English so far as I know. It and the book by 
Tagore called Chinna-Palra (Torn Letters) are 
very important works to understand the early unfolding 
'Of Tagore's unique poetic genius. The following 
ftranslation of a passage from Jivan-smrithi^ given in 
-Mr. Andrew's lecture on Tagore, is beautiful. 

'' In the morning of autumn I would run into the 
garden the moment I got up from sleep. A scent 
of leaves and grass, wet with dew, seemed to 
embrace me, and the dawn, all tender and fresh 
with the new-awakened rays of the sun, held 
out her face to me to greet me beneath the tremble 
ing vesture of palm leaves. Nature shut her 
hands and laughingly asked every day, "what 
have I got inside ? ' and nothing seemed impos- 
^sible." 

37 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

The members of the Maharshi's family are all dis- 
tinguished persons. The eldest son Dwijendranath 
Tagore is a great philosopher who is so full of gentle- 
ness and love, " that the squirrels come from the boughs, 
and climb on to his knees and the birds alight upon 
his hands." The second son was the first Indian to- 
enter the Indian Civil Service. The poet's cousins 
Gaganendranath Tagore and Abanindranath Tagore 
are great artists. One of the Maharshi's daughters con- 
ducts the Bharafhi magazine. 

His schooldays were not happy and he always used* 
to recall them with aversion. He used to speak of one 
schoolmaster who treated him cruelly and made him. 
stand bareheaded in the sun for hours. It is said that 
in his boyhood owing to his dread of school life and its 
rigid, unimaginative, loveless, and cruel ways he used to 
soak his boots with water in order that he might 
fall ill and be excused from going to school. His 
father came to know of the unhappiness of 
his school life and then put him in the charge of 
private tutors. From these and from his brothers, 
Tagore picked up knowledge with phenomenal quick- 
ness. His natural passion for poetry, music, acting, 
and art led him to master all that was connected with 
them. Sweet Indian songs and beautiful Indian poetry 
used to move him profoundly, and kindle poetical and: 
musical expression in him very early in life. The 
Daily News says : " There is one striking fact about the 

88 



INTRODUCTORY 

award of the Nobel prize for literature to Mr. Rabindra- 
nath Tagore. He is a unique example of an Indian 
who has had nothing to do with a University. And he 
is not a product of Lord Macaulay and British Govern- 
ment education. This has already been dwelt on, 
but if he had been to the University, the odds are 
that he would have been steam-rollered by the curri- 
culum of that institution into the semblance of a 
pedagogue. A poet, we know, is born and not made, 
but few poets have got over a University career. The 
important thing, however, for India is to see that it is 
possible to achieve something — for it is an achievement 
to have obtained this award — without the imprimatur of 
a B. A. People have always suspected this, now they 
know it. Lord Stanhope used to say that ' education is 
all paint, it does not alter the nature of the wood 
underneath, but only improves its appearance,' and by 
education he meant pedagogy and Directors of Public 
Instruction." 

Tagore's literary career began very early, his genius 
having been kindled by the songs of Chandidas 
and Vidyapathi. About the time of his real birth as a 
poet Tagore himserlf related the following to Mr. 
Andrews : — 

" It was morning. I was watching the sunrise 
in Free School Lane. A view was suddenly 
drawn and everything I saw became glorious. 
The whole world was one glorious music, one 

39 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

wonderful rhythm. The houses in the street, 
the men moving, the children playing, all 
seemed parts of one glorious whole — inex- 
pressibly glorious. The vision went on for seven 
or eight days. Everyone — even those who 
annoyed me — seemed to lose their outer barrier 
of personality ; and I was full of gladness, full of 
love, for every person and every tiniest thing. 
Then I went to the Himalayas and looked for it 
there and I lost it. That was one of the first 
things which gave me the inner vision, and I 
have tried to explain it in all my poems. I have 
felt ever since that this was my goal, to express 
the fulness of life, in its beauty, as perfection, — if 
only the veil were withdrawn." 
We have only to compare thia with the vision that 
came to his father early in life — at the age of eighteen — 
as narrated in his Autobiography. Tagore's vision 
was of the beauty, love, and sweetness of the universe, 
while his father's vision was of the unsubstantiality of 
the world and the reality of God. The vision of each 
was conditioned by the peculiar bent of his genius as 
pointed out by me already. 

Tagore accompanied his father when the latter 
travelled in Northern India and went to the Himalayas. 
He says in the javan-smrilhi : " When I reached the 
Himalayas I thought I would have a fuller vision of 
that which I had witnessed of the glory of nature in the 

40 



INTRODUCTORY 

•crowded street. But that was my great mistake. Up 
there the vision all departed. I thought I could get 
at truth from the outside. But, however lofty and 
imposing the Himalayas might be, they could not in that 
way put anything ready into my hands, but God, the 
great Giver of Himself, can open out the whole universe^ 
to our gaze in the narrow spice of a single hand." 
The tour intensified in him the strong and ardent love 
for nature that he had already in his heart. 

Thus Nature, his father, and the Vaishnava poets 
Vidyapathi and Chandidas led to an early blossoming 
of his powers. His early poems written by him under 
the name of Bhanu Simha were imitative and related to 
conventional themes. But in Sandhya San^il (Songs 
of Sunset) and Praval San^it (Songs of Sunrise) be 
wrote original and romantic poems. Dr. Seal says : 
"In these songs Bengali poetry rises to the height of 
neo-romanticism." They are intensely subjective. 
The following are the titles of some of the poems in 
Sandhya Sangit — "Despair in Hope," "Suicide of a 
Star," " Invocation to Sorrow," " The woman without 
a Heart," " Hearts ' Monody," etc. The names of the 
poems in Praval Sangit are " The Dream of the 
Universe," The Eternity of Life," "Reunion with 
Nature," " Desideria," " The Fountain awakened from 
its Dream," etc. These poems effected a revolution in 
Bengali poetry by their individual note and by bringing 
into existence a greater suppleness and expressiveness 

41 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

and a freer cadence and sweeter harmony in Bengali 
verse. At the age of fourteen he produced a musical 
opera called The Genius of Valmiki. I need not dwell 
further on these early productions of Tagore's genius 
here, as I am dealing with them in some detail in my 
•eleventh Chapter. 

At the age of seventeen he was sent to England and 
there joined the University College, where he is said to 
have studied English Literature for a time under Mr. 
John (now Viscount) Morley. He returned to India after 
a year, and subsequently went to England a second 
time. The Daily Chronicle says : " In his early man- 
hood he came to England to study law, but, finding 
that that took him out of his element, he returned to 
India to write those lyrics and verses which have made 
his name known and loved throughout the length and 
breadth of his native land.'* 

The next stage of his literary career was from his 
twenty-third year— the time of his marriage. The Maha- 
rishi asked him to go down and manage the Shilaida 
estate. Though Tagore did not like this enforced 
seclusion at first, his art owes its highest and deepest 
message to this portion of his life. He came to know 
the peasant life intimately and became conversant with 
the universal elements of joy and sorrow, longing and 
emotion, in the human heart. A Bengali Doctor of 
Medicine is quoted in Mr. Yeats' introduction to the 
Gitanjali as having said : " From his twenty-fifth year 

42 



INTRODUCTORY 

or so to his thirty-fifth perhaps, when he had a great 
sorrow, he wrote the most beautiful love-poetry in our 
language, words can never express what I owed at 
seventeen to his love-poetry. After that his art grew 
deeper, it became religious and philosophical ; all the 
aspirations of mankind are in his hymns. He is the 
first among our saints who has not refused to live, but 
has spoken out of life itself, and that is why we give 
him our love.'' He often lived a life of utter seclusion 
and meditation during this period. He says: " Some- 
times I would pass many months without speaking, 
till even my own voice grew weak through lack of use." 
He used to write from this period onwards stories of 
the village Hfe that he had seen. This was his " Short 
Story" period. Mr. Andrews says in his lecture above 
referred to : " His unshaken faith in the genius of his 
own country, its glorious past, and its still more glorious 
future,received his strongest confirmation from what he 
saw in the villages of Bengal. He spoke to me with 
the greatest possible warmth and affection of his loved' 
Bengali village people and of the many lessons he 
owed to them, patience, simplicity, and human 
sympathy." 

' Then came what he called his Varsha sJiesha — the 
close of a period. He apprehended some great change 
in his life and desired to serve his Motherland even 
more devotedly than before. Mr. Andrews says : "He 
■Went to Calcutta to start a school. His own school life- 

43 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

'had been, as he told me, an unhappy one— too wooden 
and conventional. He longed to work out a new 
■educational model which should bring the young into 
closer touch with Nature and inspire them with nobler 
ideals. This he accomplished later in his great school 
at ' Shanti Niketan,' Bolpur." He was further in 
(financial trouble then. He said to Mr. Andrews. 

" I sold my books, my copyrights, everything I 
had, in order to carry on the school. I cannot 
tell you what struggle it was and what difficulties 
I went through. At first my object was purely 
patriotic, but later on it grew more and more 
spiritual. Then in the midst of those outer diffi- 
culties and trials an inner change came in my 
own life." 
He lost first his beloved wife; a few months after his 
daughter died of consumption ; and then his youngest 
son died of cholera. Mr. Andrews speaks reverently 
about what the poet told him in regard to these 
sorrows. Tagore told him : 

" You know this death was a great blessing to me. 
I had such a sense of fulness, as if nothing 
were lost. I felt that even if an atom 'seemed' lost, 
it ' could ' not be lost. It was not mere resig- 
nation that came, but sense of a fuller life. I 
know now, at last, what death was. It was per- 
fection — nothing lost, nothing lost.'* 
It was during this period that the Giianjdli was 

44 



INTRODUCTORY 

written. The English translation contains a few 
poems from other works written a little earlier —  
Naivedya Sishu and Kheya. Mr. Andrews says in his 
great lecture which must continue to be the source 
of information and inspiration to all students and 
lovers of the poet : "They mark the period of transi- 
tion in his own life, during which the poet's national 
and social longing became more and more spiritual and 
merged in the universal, just as in the earlier periods 
his passion for physical beauty and nature had become 
more purely spiritual as life advanced. It is this 
realization of the spiritual in and through the material — 
the material, as it were, becoming refined and luminous 
through life's experience — that appears to me the glory 
and the wonder of the poet." 

He then went to England both for his health and to 
be with his son during his University career. He wrote 
to Mr. Andrews: " As I crossed the Atlantic I realised 
that a new stage in my life had begun, the stage of a 
voyager. To the open road : To the emancipation of 
self: To the realisation in love." 

After going to England he has translated some of his 
poems in the books so well-known to all : — Gitanjali, 
the Gardener^ and the Crescent Moon. His English lectures 
delivered in America and in England have been 
collected under the name Sadhana. He says that in 
the process of translation he had to strip his poems of 
their glory of decoration. *' I found that I had to strip 

45 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

them of all their gaudy ornaments and clothe them in 
the simplest dress. " Mr. Andrews says : ' That 
' simplest dress' has now been seen to represent a most 
beautiful and rhythmic prose, which has actually 
enriched and enlarged the bounds of English literature. 
The triumph has been won (a triumph never before 
achieved in literary history), of a poet transcribing his 
• own work into a wholly new medium, and giving his 
•own poetic message in perfect poetic form, as it 
were, to two peoples speaking two different 
tongues. Of the effect of the little book Gitanjali on 
the mind of the thinking west it would be 
difficult to speak in strong enough terms. It 
has already been confidently declared by men of the 
highest literary reputation that the event of its publica- 
tion is likely to mark a new epoch in English litera- 
ture." Mr. Yeats says in his beautiful Introduction to the 
■Gitanjali: ''I have carried the manuscript of these trans- 
lations about with me for days, reading it in railway 
trains, or on the top of omnibuses and in restaurants, 
and I have often had to close it, lest some stranger 
would see how much it moved me. ..The work of a 
supreme culture, they yet appear as much the growth 

of the common soil as the grass and the rushes A 

whole people, a whole civilization, immeasurably 
strange to us, seems to have been taken up into this 
imagination." Tagore's English admirers said in their 
.address : " You have dedicated your genius, the gift 

46 



INTRODUCTORY 

of God, to the purest ends, you have brought joy to the 
heart, serenity to the mind, music to the ears, images 
of beauty to the eyes, and to the soul the remembrance 
of its divine origin." 

The award of the Nobel Prize to Tagore is well- 
known. It is awarded to the '' most distinguished 
work of an ideaUstic tendency in the field of literature," 
and we know how worthy he is of the high honour. 
The award " was due to a distinguished Swedish 
orientahst who had read the poems in Bengali before 
they appeared in English." The Stockholm corres- 
pondent to the r/wes wrote on the 14th November 1913: 
" The Swedish poets Karfelt and Heidenstein and 
the writer Hallstrom, who are all members of 
the Academy (the Swedish Academy) have 
expressed their satisfaction with the award, and 
state that the Indian poet's works, although they 
have only recently become known in the 
western world, show an original poetic vein of 
great depth and undoubted Hterary merit " 
The Statesman said. " The honour now conferred 
upon him sets the seal of international recognition 
upon his poetic genius'' The Hindu stated . "The 
award of the Nobel prize for literature to Rabindranath 
Tagore is an honour so unique that it marks the ulti- 
mate height of appreciation". The Englishman said : 
"This is the first time that the Alfred Nobel prize has 
come to the East, and a reference to the list of previous 

47 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

winners is inspiring, for the Bengali muse is now to- 
India what Maurice Maeterlinck is to Belgium, Paul 
Heyse to Maunchen, Rudolf Eucken to Jena, or, to 
come nearer home what Rudyard Kipling is to English 
literature generally "' Tagore has devoted the entire 
prize amount of .^8,000 to the Bolpur school, a step that 
is in keeping with his deep patriotism, self-sacritice, 
and unselfishness. The Calcutta University has con- 
ferred the degree of Doctor of Literature on him 
recently/, e. in December 1913. The full blossoming of 
his genius was about his fortieth year, and since then 
poems, songs, dramas, novels, stories, essays have been 
coming from the pure Himalaya of his mind in a divine 
Gangetic flood, 1 shall deal presently with his Bolpur 
School. He sent a Sanskrit poem recently through the 
Rev. C. F. Andrews to hearten the Indian heroes in 
South Africa. A few months ago he has started under 
the name of "Art House" a school for teaching arts and 
industries. "He has given a building (a part of his 
Calcutta residence) for the institution which has already 
started work with a dozen students and nine teachers. 
The school is open to both boys and girls, and the 
students include some girls, both married and un- 
married. Small cottage industries, useful arts of every 
kind, and handicrafts of various descriptions are to form 
the subject of teaching. The curriculum is to include 
typewriting as well as shorthand. Sir Rabindranath 
Tagore's eldest brother, Babu Dwijendranath Tagore» 

48 



INTKODUCTOKY 

has brought out a system of BengaH shorthand which 
will be a subject of study at the institution." 
Thus his life has been one of practical achievement and 
spiritual rapture, of activity and meditation, and he 
has been a shining example of what the higher mind 
of India can do to lift her up to her predestined place 
among the nations of the world and to carry her 
message of light and love to the ends of the earth. 

VI. Tagore's Personality. 

Tagore is a man of striking personal appearance. He 
is described as having been a very handsome man in his 
youth, and as having been a leader of fashion. A 
correspondent to the Englishvuin wrote in 191^: 
"Mr. Tagore looks a poet and is acknowledged to be a 
handsome man. Although lie is now past his prime, 
he is still a fit subject for the brush of any painter. In 
his youth he was a leader of fashion in Bengal. He 
introduced among the educated Bengalis the fashion 
of keeping long wavy hair and what is known as the 
Napoleon beard. One afternoon Mr. Tagore went to 
lecture at a meeting, dressed all in white, that is, with 
his coat, dhoti, ' chader,' shoes, and socks all white, 
and carrying his manuscript (which was, of course, 
white) with a white cloth cover. The following day 
dressing in white became the craze among educated 
Bengalis." Another observer has said : "His is an 
aspect that fixes itself deeply in that uncertain medium, 

49 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

the retina of the memory. It is easy to call up 
at any moment a mental picture of that tall 
and graceful form in the long loose coat of grey- 
brown ; the white sensitive hands, large serenely-ht 
eyes, noble features, and curling hair and beard, 
dark and lightly touched with grey. Above all, the 
stately simplicity of his bearing struck me, for it implied 
a spiritual quality that diffused itself about his presence. 
The same thing helped to make him the kindest of 
hosts and gentlest of guests. Add to these qualities a 
certain incalculable gaiety ; and you will still fail to 
understand his immense personal influence with his 
own people." It is said : " He has the high forehead 
of a thinker, a flowing beard, flashing eyes, and a dis- 
tinguished appearance." 

We have a number of personal touches in regard to 
him that show the sweetness and unselfish charm of his 
nature. His purity and deeply religious nature are well 
known. Even his great domestic sorrows never soared 
bis nature, but made his heart full of love and sympathy 
for all. Whenever he falls ill, he bears his ailments with 
great patience and uncomplainingly. He is of a very 
obliging disposition. He is very regular in his corres- 
pondence and replies to all his correspondents in his 
own handwriting. An admirer of Tagore says: "It 
is doubtful, however, in view of the recent increase in 
correspondence on account of his sudden rise to fame 
in Europe, whether the poet will be able to continue 

50 



INTRODUCTORY 

'this practice, though greater and busier men, notably 
Mr. Gladstone, carried it on to the very close of life." 
He is an ideal landlord and his practical love for them 
is one of the most fascinating traits of his life. The 
work of the estate agents is strictly supervised and 
unpopularity and harsh treatment of the ryots are visited 
with dismissal. Remissions of rent are ungrudgingly 
given when inability to pay rent is shown. Rs. 57,595 
^vere remitted in fasli 1312. There are several primary 
schools, one secondary English school, and a charitable 
dispensary in the estate. There is also an agricultural 
ibank. The Settlement Officer of Naogaon says : "' A 
very favourable example of Estate Government is shown 
in the property of the poet Dr. Rabindranath Tagore." 

He is fond of swimming and rowing. But his chief 
recreation is singing. It is said that though he is not an 
>expert in music even musical experts recognise and 
admit his instinct and genius for absolute music. It is 
said: "Often he has been heard singing from early morn- 
ing till late at night, with only a break ot an hour or so 
for noonday meal." He has taken part as actor in the 
staging of his dramas by his Shantiniketan boys. He is 
a beloved and popular speaker. It is a rapture to hear 
him read his own poetry. A correspondent wrote to 
the Nation in June 1913: " I lately had the extreme 
pleasure (if pleasure be the right word) of hearing Mr. 
Tagore, the Bengali Poet and Teacher, read one of his 

. * 51 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

dramas to a small company. I hardly knew what as- 
tonished and moved me most— the beauty, gentleness, 
and gravity of the reader's face, and his complete- 
unconsciousness of his audience,, or the character of 
what he read. I was prepared to find that this was 
poetry of the highest order, and of a singular power to 
kindle the imagination and to hold it by the charm of 
expression and the sense of atmosphere. But it was 
more than this. One could not but feel that here was 
the voice of the East, after a silence of centuries, again^ 
speaking in parables and spiritual songs to tfie hard 
and coarsened ear of the West." 

But the chief joy of his life is his love of nature. In a. 
letter to a friend he says : " I am writing to you sitting 
in my room on the second floor of this house ; a swelling 
sea of foliage is seen through the open doors all around' 
me, quivering at the touch of the early winter's breath 
and glistening in the sunshine." To him nature was a 
fond mother gladdening the eyes of his soul with the 
bright blossoms of beauty and nourishing his spirit with 
the manna of sympathy and love. We may say of him 
what Morley says of Wordsworth : "Wordsworth's 
claim, his special gift, his lasting contribution, lies in the 
extraordinary strenuousness, sincerity, and insight with 
which he idealises and glorifies the vast universe 
around us, and then makes of it, not a theatre on which 
men play their parts, but an animate presence, inter- 
mingling with our works, pouring its companionable: 

52 * # 



INTRODUCTORY 

-spirit above us, and breathing grandeur upon the 
very humblest face of human hfe " 

His modesty is also very well-known and is a pleasing 
trait in his nature. We know how he received the 
deputation that waited on him at Shantinibetan to 
express the reverence and love of India for him, 
■headed by such great and distinguished men as 
Mr. Justice Chaudhuri, Dr. J. C. Bose, and Dr. 
Indumadhab Mullick. The deputation went by special 
train. It is said : " The poet had arranged a reception 
to the members of the deputation in a poetical manner. 
He had the Rev. Mr. C. F. Andrews, a member of the 
professoriate attached to the College at the *'Shanti- 
niketcin, " in Bengali dress, dhoti and chadar, and a 
number of young students belonging to the school, in 
yellow garments waiting to receive the deputation at 
the Railway Station. The road from the station to 
Peace Cottage, a distance of more than a mile, was 
beautifully decorated, mango leaves, lotus leaves, 
'festoons, and flowers figuring largely in the decorative 
scheme. The preponderance of mango leaves was 
signihcant in view of the Hindu belief that of all ever- 
greens, the leaves of the mango tree are propitious. 
The way was strewn at intervals with cowries, coins, 
garlands of flowers, and paddy grain." The further 
details given are equally beautiful and win our hearts 
by the love of Indian customs and the passionate love 
'Of India that lie beneath it. " Some girls from the 

53 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

poet's family sang a welcome song in Bengali, and blew 
conch shells. A number of students of the Shanti- 
niketan painted the foreheads of the guests, each and 
all, with sandal paste." Babu Hirendra Nath Dutt's short 
address on the occasion in Bengali is very sweet : " He 
whose poetic flute, from the inarticulate music of the 
infant heart in the dawn of life to the evening tune 
brightened with the glow of spirituality, is playing, and 
the rays of whose ever-growing genius have made the- 
lives of Bengal's men and women so bright to-day ; who' 
though particularly a Bengali poet has been installed on' 
the sublime throne of honour among the poets of the 
world by the cosmopolitan appraisers of quality; a 
monarch of the kingdom, of thought and knowledge, the 
mystic poet of the land, Srijut Rabindranath Tagore ! 
young and old and the women of Bengal welcome you' 
with the sandal paste of love and regard." The Rev.. 
Mr. Milburn spoke in English praising the poet and 
expressing love and regard on behalf of the Christian) 
and European communities in India, and said that 
some portions of '' Gitanjali " formed a part of the daily 
prayer offered by Christian students in Bishop's 
College. On behalf of the Muhammadan community 
Moulvi Abdul Kasim spoke in praise of the poet. Maha- 
mahopadhyaya Doctor Satis Chandra Vidyabhushaa 
congratulated Tagore. Rai Bahadur Doctor ChunilaL 
Bose praised him on behalf of " The Banjiya Sahityaa 
Parishad", the great Literary Association of Bengal. Mr... 

54 



INTRODUCTORY 

Holland said that the poet had demonstrated the un- 
truth of the lines of Mr. Rudyard Kipling that 

"East is east and West is west 
And never the twain shall meet". 

and remarked: "The meeting place is in the spirit 
and in the temple of God, not made with hands.'* 
Mr. Tagore was then presented with a beautiful painting 
of the sun by Mr. S. Bhattacharya on behalf of the 
artists of Bengal. Never before was there such a great 
and historic occasion in the annals of poesy since the 
crowning of Petrarch with the laurel leaf. What was 
Tagore's reply ? I shall not mar it by any comment 
and shall not stand between it and the reader. " He 
was not worthy of the welcome they were according to 
him on the occasion. He had never longed for fame. 
His claim is to the heart. In olden times when honour- 
ing a poet, a glass of wine used to be offered him and 
the poet would touch the glass with his lips and not 
drink the contents. He would also accept the cup of 
honour they had offered by touching it with his lips 
and would not let it spoil his heart." 

His love of seclusion and meditation is also well- 
known. It is by this constant retirement into the temple 
of his heart in a spirit of prayerfulness, purity, and 
ecstacy of love and surrender that he has been able to 
keep up the sweetness of his nature and his unclouded 
radiance of vision. He lives mostly at Shanti Niketan, 
Bolpur. An admirer of his says . " Every morning at 

55 



SIR R^BINDKANATH TAGORK 

three — I know, for I have seen it — he sits immoveable 
in contemplation, and for two hours does not awake 
from his reverie upon the nature of God. His father, 
the Maharishi, would sometimes sit there all through 
the next day; once, upon a river he fell into contem- 
plation because of the beauty of the lanscape and the 
rowers waited for eight hours before they could con- 
tinue their journey." (Mr. Yeats Introduction to 
Gitanjali.) 

It is this contemplation of the beauty of nature 
in her most glorious manifestations and this retirement 
into the inner heaven that kindle poetic emotion. The 
modern hurry and p re-occupation with life's care and 
pleasure so characteristic of city life, have been fatal 
to poetic inspiration and are the real reasons of modern 
artistic sterility. Tagore's habits have been most help- 
ful to him to keep in undimmed radiance the light of 
poesy given to him by God. 

VVe know how Tagore composes his verses. "He 
hums his verses over to himself before setting them 
down in black and white. He takes considerable 
pains over composing the first line of a poem and the 
rest seems to flow without any effort. He has no fixed 
hours for composing verses. During the rainy season, 
however, he finds his work more congenial than at 
any other time of the year. Mr. Tagore writes a very 
good hand and seldom corrects what he has once 
written. When he cannot help making some correction, 



INTRODUCTORY 

he usually cuts the wrong word or sentence very 
hghtly with a pencil or pen. Mr. Tagore is a most 
prolific writer, and if all his manuscripts were put 
together they would fill a small bookshelf." (A corres- 
pondent to the Englishman). 

I have already referred to his burning patriotism. In 
his heart love of God and love of the motherland have 
fed each other's flame till we see the splendour of his 
love touching the night of our hearts with the glow of 
unselfishness and love and service as the eastern sky is 
touched with the crimson glories of the rising sun. 
It has been well said of him : " Here is a saint who 
is not afraid to be a saint, who dares to mingle with the 
commonest things of the world, and a poet the very 
closeness of whose contact with earth lifts him ever 
nearer to heaven." 

It is interesting to know his impressions of the West. 
He was very much touched by the warmth of the 
reception that he had there. He has made many ardent 
and lasting friendships there. What impressed him most 
both in England and America was the spirit of social 
service. He said when interviewed by the Associated 
Press : "It was an inspiration to me." He was, however, 
pained to note that the English people knew very little 
about India and her hopes and aspirations. He pointed 
out how the devastating floods in Burdwan were hardly 
referred to in the EngUsh papers. He was also dis- 
satisfied with, and even felt repelled by, " the love of 

57 






SIR KABINDRANATH TAGORE 

luxury, the need of sensation, and craving for excite- 
ment,'' the mad scramble for the good things of hfe, the 
lack of repose, the glaring inequalities of wealth, and? 
other evils afflicting the rich and progressive communi- 
ties of the West. Mr. Rhys says: "When he spoke of the 
forces in the v^^estern world which he thought must be- 
come disruptive and lead to trouble, and stretched out 
his hands, it might have been the moral map of Europe,, 
with its teeming incontinent and restless atoms, that 
lay spread out before him. The major energies, as he 
viewed them, were not constructive; they did not make for 
the world's commonwealth, and by their nature they 
must come into conflict sooner or later. Now, as I recall 
that afternoon not much more than a twelve-months ago 
— it is impossible not to see in the present war the grim 
realisation of those misgivings." It is the mission of 
great souls like Tagore to spread the empire of God's 
love and make us feel our common humanity and divi- 
nity. Mr. Rhys says: " A poet like Rabindranath Tagore 
is more powerful by his songs to-day than any would-be 
world dictator in strengthening the intercourse between' 
east and west and giving to India her part and her 
voice in the commonality of nations." We may say to 
this child of God what he has said to the child in The 
Crescent Moon. 

" They clamour and fight, they doubt and despair^ 
they know no end to their wranglings. 

58 



^ 



INTRODUCTORY 

Let your life come amongst them like a flame of 
light, my child, unflickering and pure, and 
delight them into silence. 

They are cruel in their greed and envy, their 
words are like hidden knives thirsting for blood. 

Go and stand amidst their scowling hearts, my 
child, and let your gentle eyes fall upon them 
like the forgiving peace of the evening over the 
strife of the day. 

Let them see your face, my child, and thus know 
the meaning of all things; let them love you and' 
thus love each other." 

VII. Shantiniketan. 

What shall we say of Shantiniketan where the great 
poet-saint dreams his dearest, truest, and sweetest 
dreams and serves his motherland in ways full of practi- 
cal wisdom, insight, and love I The following song by 
Tagore is sung in chorus in Bengali by the boys of the 
Santiniketan school. 

" Oh, The Shantiniketan, the darling of our hearts! 
Our dreams are rocked in her arms, 
Her face is fresh and fair to us for ever. 

In the peace of her silent shadows we dwell, in the green 
of her fields. 

Her mornings come and her evenings bringing down the - 
caress of the sky; 

59 



SIR RABINDRANATH T^GORE 

The stillness of her shady paths is thrilled by the whisper 
of the wood! 

Heramalaki groves tremble with the rapture of rustling 
leaves. 

She is within us and around, however far we wander. 
The strings of our love are strung in her own deep tunes. 
She weaves our hearts in a song making us one in music.'' 

Shantiniketan is full of peace and loveliness and it 
is said that "crowded with sal wood and far from the 
maddening crowd as it is, Bolpur is pre-eminently a 
poet's abode and a place of contemplation." The Rev_ 
Mr. C. F. Andrews's poem on The Palms at Shantini' 
ketan contained in his small volume of Poems entitled The 
Motherland and other Poems breathes the ver}' spirit of 
the place. 

" But when the low moon's rosy splendour 

Rises along the darkling earth, 
They wake to feel her lovelight tender 

Stirring their leaves to new-born mirth. 
Through the rapt hours they turn to greet her, 

Queen of purple night above, 
Straining their passionate arms to meet her 

With the full ecstasy of love. 
Faint, cold, and grey the lawn creeps o'er them. 

Bathing with dew their fondage bare; 
A white fog shrouds the land before them, 

Ghost-like they stand in the still air 
Sentinels set to watch the dawning 

Silent and black against the sky. 

60 



INTRODUCTORY 

Till the full blaze of golden morning 

Circles with fire their foreheads high. 
Now all on flame with arms up-lifted, 
Surging above tbe sleeping world, 
Proudly wave, through the night-clouds rifted. 

Banners of dazzling light unfurled. 
Then while the moon's enchantment holds them, 

Hushed, and the morning breezes cease, 
A glory of azure haze enfolds them 

Veiled in a dream of endless peace. 
Peace in the deep mid-air surrounding, 
Peace in the sky from pole to pole. 
Peace to the far horizon bounding, 

Peace in the universal soul. 
And peace at last to the restless longing, 

Which swept my life with tumult vain, 
And stirred each gust of memory thronging 

Avenues dear of byegone pain. 
Tossed to and fro I had sorely striven, 

Seeking, and finding no release; 
Here by the palm trees came God-given 
Utter ineffable boundless peace." 
But even more than its supreme outer loveliness, is 
the intellectual, moral and spiritual beauty of the fair 
fabric raised there by the loving hands of genius and 
patriotism. Tagore's idealism is happily combined with a 
keen vision for India's present and future needs and her 
coming glorious destiny. His love — deep and spiritual 
as it is — is made dynamic, focussed, and effective by 
his wisdom and insight. His father used to meditate 
under tvi^o chatim trees in Shantiniketan, and over 

61 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

the Maharshi's seat of meditation are lines in Bengali 

meaning: 

" He is 
The comfort of my life, 
The joy of my heait, 
The peace of my soul." 

His son has combined meditation and practical, 
patriotic work there. The Maharshi created a lovely 
garden there and built a house and a temple of coloured 
glass, open to the light and air on all sides and paved 
with white marble, and also a school called the "Brahma- 
Vidyalaya." He directed that no image was to be 
worshipped there, and that no religion was to be decried. 
He gave it away as an endowment to all who desired to 
live there for meditation and communion with God. No 
animal food or spirituous liquors were to be taken in 
the Asram. The Maharshi was overjoyed to learn that 
Rabindranath Tagore was going to start a school at 
Bolpur. 

The school is a noble one and is the pioneer of the 
schools which alone regenerated India is going to allow 
mould the minds of her children in the near future. 
There is a good deal of vain glory due to ignorance in 
the way in which modern university education is vaunted 
as a new and original thing in "India. Ancient India 
knew much more about real university education, and 
used to make it a real instrument of culture of the soul, 
better than all the modern universities put together. 

^2 



INTRODUCTORY 

It knew how to make nature co-operate with books and 
teaching in the blossoming of the young and pure 
human soul. It knew how to co-ordinate the courses of 
•study so that the senses, the mind, the heart, the will, 
and the spirit were efficiently and harmoniously trained. 
The individual appeal in education was much more in 
it than in the juvenile barracks of modern times. Love 
played a greater and sweeter part in the relations bet- 
ween teachers and students than in modern times. The 
■element purely intellectual did not obtain the same pre- 
jionderance that it has in these vain glorious days. The 
forest universities (asramas) of the golden age of India, 
the universities of Nalanda and Taxila in the Buddhist 
age, the universities of Benares and Nuddea in the neo- 
Hindu age, and others fulfilled the highest aims of 
universities. Hioun Tsang thus describes the university 
'Of Nalanda; 

'' All around, pools of translucent water shone with 
the open petal of blue lotus flowers. Here and 
there the lovely Kanaka trees hung down their 
red blossoms, and woods of dark mango trees, 
spread their shade between them. In the different 
courts the houses of the monks were each four 
storeys in height. The pavilions had pillars orna- 
mented with dragons and beams resplendant 
with all the colours of the rainbow, rafters 
richly carved, columns ornamented with jade, 
painted red and richly chiselled, and balustrades 

63 



SIR RABIN DRANATH TAGORE 

of carved open work. The towers and buildings 
were built by six successive sovereigns. Through 
the windows of the tower one could see the 
waters of the Ganges. There were ten thousand 
students and fifteen hundred and ten professors 
at this university, receiving education, boarding, 
and medicines gratis. There were rich endow- 
ments to carry on this stupendous task. Arts 
and religion, philosophy and logic, grammar and 
literature, astronomy and medicine, and a host of 
other sciences were taught at this university." 

Tagore has said in a recent article in Bengali : " We 
do not want nowadays temples of worship and outward 
rites and ceremonies, what we really want is an asram. 
We want a place where the beauty of nature and the 
noblest pursuits of man are in a Svveet harmony. Our 
temple of worship is there, where outward nature and 
the human soul meet in union. Our only rites and cere- 
monies are self-sacrificing good works." The divine 
gift of educition has been all along prized in this 
country. 

(The gift of food is a supreme form of charity. 
But the gift of knowledge is even higher. The 
solace that food brings is fleeting : but the joy 
of learning lasts through life). 

64 



INTRODUCTOKY 

In some quarters a wrong view is held that in the 
old asrams education was divorced from life. Mr. Rhys 
whose recent book on Tagore shows an imperfect 
sympathy with Indian ideals of art and life in many 
places and misses the ultimate beauties of Tagore's art, 
says : " Unlike the traditional guru or master of India's 
earlier days, while he believes in aspiration, he believes 
also that the will, purified in aspiring, should translate 
its faculty into the material and actual." To make this 
insinuation against those who watched the flame of 
learning with a jealous love through the disturbed 
centuries, who fostered and perfected the various arts 
and sciences and philosophies of India, whose forest- 
schools were not very far away from villages and 
towns where the hrahniacharis had to beg for food, who 
devised a rational scheme of life in their varnashrama 
dharma by which the soul was slowly guided up the 
golden ladder of self-evolution by student life, by a life 
of social service as house- holder, by a life of self-disci- 
pline, and by a life of renunciation and love of God- 
argues an utter want of vision. No doubt the! methods 
of education have to be altered from time to time con- 
sistently with the course of human evolution. But any 
one can see that the ideals of university education were 
lofty and noble in India, that we in spite of our vaunted 
greatness in these days have much to learn from it, and 
that the India of the future will not tolerate the present 
system — one-sided, inartistic, unhealthy, mercenary, 
loveless, and irreligious, 

65 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Tagore's own school lite was unhappy as pointed 
out already. He has been working for a higher type 
of teaching and a happier type of studentship. It 
is said in tlie EiiglisJiman : " His object iu found- 
ing the school at Bolpur was to educate children in as 
agreeable a manner as possible." He desired that teach- 
ers should recognise that the boy is an imaginative 
being and had a soul. Mr. Havell says : " Perhaps the 
greatest fault to be found with our educational 
methods in India is in their lack of imagination. Fol- 
lowing the traditions of the EngUsh public school, we 
have always regarded the schoolboy as an animal in 
which the imaginative faculties should be sternly 
repressed. Build a barrack in the heart of a dirty, 
overcrowded city, pack it with students, that is a col- 
lege." {Essays on Indian Art^ Industry^ and Education). 
He says again : " I'here is no precedent in Europe for 
the squalid environment, the absence of all stimulus for 
the spiritual side of human nature, and the neglect of 
all that conduces to the brightness of school or col- 
lege life such as we usually find about all Indian 
universities." Tagore has abolished the barbarous 
punishments of the older type of indigenous schools 
in modern India and the unimaginativeness, rigidity, 
irreligiousness, onesidedness, and lovelessness of the 
newer type of schools in modern India. It has been 
well said: ''While he is inspired by Nationalism, 
he has not hesitated to turn to his purpose what he 

66 



INTRODUCTORY 

regards the best in English methods of instruction, and 
to profit by the experience of the West." Mr. S. K. 
RatcHffe calls the Bolpur School " an example of 
modern methods united with the ancient Indian spirit 
of discipline and culture." 

Tagore opened his School at Bolpur in 1901 with 
two or three boys onl3^ In two years' time he had 
eighteen boys, and in four years he had sixty boys. 
There are now nearly two hundred boys at Shanti 
Niketan. ' Trust the boy and let him grow' which is 
the secret of the greatest of modern systems of edu- 
cation — Montessori's and others — and which was the 
secret of education in ancient India is Tagore's motto. 
The Medium of instruction is Bengali. The school 
routine is very interesting to learn. At 4-30 a.M' 
"a choir of boys go round the school singing songs 
and rouse the sleepers up into the beauty and calm 
of early dawn." The boys then cl-ean their room 
and are thus initiated early in life and in a practical 
manner into the idea that manual work is in no way 
undignified and that service is the sweetest thing in life, 
if done in a spirit of renunciation and love of God. 
They then go through physical exercises in the open 
air, bathe, and meditate for a quarter of an hour. Then 
the gong sounds, and the boys " go reverently in pro- 
■cession into the school temple." The boys have classes 
from 7 to 10 in the morning after breakfast, and 2 to 5 
in the afternoon, and not during the unsuitable noon 

67 



SIK RABINDRANATH TAGORE • 

hours as in modern schools. All classes are held under 
the shade of trees when the weather is fine. The class 
is generally limited to fifteen boys. The boys have 
their dinner at 12 o'clock. The boys have games after 
lunch. The time between the end of games and the 
hour of evening meal is used to tell stories to boys 
and to initiate them in acting and music. The elder 
boys go to the neighbouring villages and hold evening, 
classes there to teach the village lads. They do practi- 
cal social service while in other places the students 
hear lectures on social service by glib speakers with 
cheap eloquence and form social service brotherhoods 
and go to sleep over them. " After the day's work 
they retire to bed at half-past nine, and a choir of 
boys again goes round the school singing evening songSi 
They begin their days with songs and they end them 
with songs." It has been well said: " It is a Sight for 
the gods to see how the teachers and the boys get 
into ecstatic raptures when they repeat the songs of 
the greatest of the Indian poets in praise of the mother- 
land and the Shantiniketan." 

I shall quote here ;_below the mantras that the 
boys chant in unison in the morning and the even- 
ing. 

THE MANTRAS OF THE MORNING. 

I. Thou art our Father. May we know Thee as our 
Father. Strike us not. May we truly bow to 
Thee. 

68 



INTRODUCTORY 

II. O Lord ! O Father ! Take away all our sins 
and give us that which is good. 

We bow to Him in whom is the happiness. 

We bow to Him in whom is the good. 

We bow to Him from whom comes the happiness. 

We bow to Him from whom comes the good. 

We bow to Him who is the good. 

We bow to Him who is the highest good. 

Shantih ! Shantih ! Shantih ! Hari om. 

THE MANTRA OF THE EVENING. 

The God who is in fire, who is in water, 
Who interpenetrates the whole world, 
Who is in herbs, who is in trees, to that God 
I bow down again and again. 

The teachers are quite happy. There is no head- 
master ; the teachers are placed on an equal footing and 
divide the work among themselves. They elect a head 
master once a year. They are on intimate and loving 
■terms with the pupils. There is divine service twice a 
week at the Mandir, and it is conducted by Tagore 
when he is there and by the teachers in his absence. 
Corporal punishment of any description is absolutely 
forbidden. Discipline is enforced and punishment 
meted out by captains and courts of school justice elected 
and constituted every month by the boys. Further, in 
this republic of boys there are no rewards or prizes. 
During the holidays the teachers and the boys arrange 
and go on excursions to various places. Tagore is 

69 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

very fond of the boys. He says : " I am far happier 
with them than anywhere else." It is said : " The 
boys call him Gurudu, which means the revered 
master. He takes no active part in the daily 
routine of the school, although sometimes he takes 
classes in literature and singing, and encourages 
the boys to bring him their efforts at original work 
in painting, drawing, and poetry. He often spoke to 
them with enthusiasm and hopefulness of their original 
work and of the pleasure he felt when they carried 
their first-fruits to him. In every branch of art he is 
their inspirer ; at the end of each term the boys in gene- 
ral produce and act one of his plays. He himself joms 
them and takes a part in the play, whatever it may be. 
When lately the King of the Dark Cluunber was produced 
by the school, he took the part of the king, and 
his superb rendering of it will long be remembered by 
those who acted with him and by those who witnessed 
it." Mr. Bose says : " His great personality silently 
permeates the whole atmosphere of the school and 
inspires every member of the institution with the 
divinity and nobility of his character." Again, besides 
telling them the highest ideals of life and conduct once 
a week in the Mandir, he holds special celebrations 
there on the anniversary of the founding of the school,. 
the New year's day, and the various Jayanthis 
(anniversaries) in connection with the great spiritual 
teachers of mankind. He called himself " a humble 

70 



INTRODUCTORY 

schoolmaster " when the Calcutta citizens met to give 
him a grand reception after his tour in the West. 

The following description taken from the Jaina 
Gazette for 1915 is valuable as dispelling some possible 
doubts. " The cooks are all brahmins, the diet is 
purely vegetarian, or lacto-vegetarian, as it may more 
accurately speaking be called, and the meals are served 
out in separate rows. Brahmoism is never preached 
among the boys. The principles of religion acknow- 
ledged by all sections of the Hindu community are 
taught to the boys. Some of the sermons delivered by 
Rabindranath Tagore have been collected together in 
fourteen small volumes under the title of Shahtinike- 
tan." Again, the boys are taught Sanscrit, Bengali, 
English, Mathematics, Science, History, Geography, 
and Nature study and may be prepared for the Matricu- 
lation Examination. Classes in agriculture and manual 
work, such as carpentry, etc., are to be opened soon 
there. 

I cannot conclude this description of Shantiniketan 
and the new formative forces working there for India's 
uplift better than by quoting two passages from Mr. J. 
Ramsay MacDodanald's description of the school 
contributed to the Daily Chronicle. 

" It is difficult to explain the feelings which possess 
one who goes to such institutions. They have 
nothing to do with Government ; their staff is 
not official ; their system is not an enforced 

71 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

mechanical routine. At the Shantiniketan they 
complained that when their boys reached the 
University Matriculation Standard, educational 
methods had to be adopted which the teachers 
regretted. These schools are native to the soil 
like the trees which grow out of it. They are 
therefore not incongruous, and a lack of incon- 
gruity must surely be a test imposed upon every 
national system of education. Here India leans 
upon herself and issues from herself. There is 
no attempt made to impose something foreign, to 
uproot or to force, no necessity to guard alien 
methods by alien instructors. The teachers are 
Indian, Indian in their habits, in their sympathies, 
in their dress. Government aid has been refus- 
ed, because the conditions under which it would 
be given could not be acceptable. ' They would 
have made my boys sit on benches ' said 
Mr. Tagore with a quiet smile, ' whereas, I think 
it far better that they should sit on mats under 
the trees.'. ..It (the school) has been kept at the 
cost of much sacrifice. Into its exchequer 
Mr. Tagore has put not only the Nobel prize, but 
the royalties on his books." 
" Moreover, the Shantiniketan is no mere seminary 
for the education of boys. It is alive with the 
life of India. It is aware of what is going on 
outside. It shares in the larger Indian life. The 

72 



INTRODUCTORY 

particular interest of the school at the moment is 
the enlightenment of the masses. They asked 
me to speak to the boys, and I inquired as to the 
subjects. * Tell us ' they said, ' how the masses 
maybe instructed.' They had really been answer- 
ing me that question themselves and showing me 
in practice how to do it. For under the trees 
I had seen an interesting sight. The villages 
around are inhabited by the original Santals and 
the boys of the school go out sometimes with 
football or bat and begin a game. When a 
crowd has gathered the game is stopped and the 
players talk of knowledge to the villagers. From 
this an evening class is formed and the Shantini- 
ketan boys go out and teach in it. The day I 
was there about a dozen of these children had 

' come in and were being taught under a tree. 
They were lively imps with wide interested eyes 
and so full of life that they could not keep still. 
They were being shown the delights of the 
stereoscope and were being taught to describe 
accurately what they saw. Two boys were look- 
ing after them. It was their tribute to India and 
their services to the reincarnated motherland to 
which all their youthful enthusiasm was devoted. 

I left them sitting class by class on their little mats 
under the 'chatim' trees, their books by Iheir 
side, and their teachers in their midst. They 

73 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

smiled and chatted as I passed. Everything 
was peaceful, natural, happy. And I went 
into another world where worthy and well-mean- 
ing graduates from Oxford and Cambridge are 
toiling and perspiring like blacksmiths with 
heavy hammers to beat and bend the Indian 
mind into strange forms on strange anvils, and 
where there is unhappiness and sadness of heart, 
timorous whispers instead of laughter, doubt 
instead of hope". 

VIII. Tagore's Insight into Indian Ideals. 

I have said enough above to show what real and deep 
insight Tagore has got into Indian ideals of the life of 
art and the art of life. I shall deal more fully hereafter 
with the fundamental traits of Tagore's art and shall 
hence attempt here only to show how his highest ideas 
are in harmony with the higliest Indian ideals. His 
articles on My Interpretation of Indian History^ translated 
from his Bengali articles and published in the August 
and September issues of the Modern Review in 1913, 
show how thoroughly he has realised India's funda- 
mental ideal. He says there: "India always seeks for the 
one amidst many; her endeavour is to concentrate the 
diverse and scattered in one and not to diffuse herself 
over many." He recognised how this deep spiritual 
truth has been the inspiration of Indian life, poetry, and 
art. The beautiful universe that we see is only an 

74 



INTRODUCTORY 

imperfect manifestation of Him who is infinite beauty 
and love. The search for the unity through the gates 
of love and wisdom is the only true joy and duty of 
each human soul. Tagore realised this great truth 
which is the basis of all his other ideas. Art and litera- 
ture should seek to symbolise and express this infinity' 
and unity. The artist should portray the ideal world 
of true and higher reality. Such are the leadings Indian 
ideas in the realm of art. Burne- Jones has expressed 
well his ideal of art and his words beautifully describe 
the Indian ideals of art. "Reahsm ? Direct transcript 
from Nature? I suppose by the time the 'photographic 
artist' can give us all the colours as correctly as the 
shapes, people will begin to find out that the realism 
they talk about isn't art at all, but science; interesting, 
no doubt, as a scientific achievement, but nothing more 

Transcripts from Nature ? what do I want with 

transcripts? I prefer her own signature; I don't want 

forgeries more or less skilful It is the message, 

the 'burden' of a picture that makes its real value." He 
says again: ''You see, it is these things of the soul that 

are real the only real things in the universe". 

This is the reason why the greatest rhetorician of 
India, Mammata, has said : 

(The poet's speech creates a world which is not 

75 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

fettered by the laws of destiny and which need not be a 
mere counterpart or imitation of the created world, 
which is of the very essence of joy, which is self-exis- 
tent and not dependent on anything else, and which is 
made beautiful by the nine rasas or emotions). 

He then describes the pleasure produced by art in 
•these eloquent terms : 

(Pleasure, which is the crown and glory of life's 
purposes, which is produced by the immediate enjoy- 
ment of rasa, and which so fills the mind that for the 
time being one is aware of nothing else). 

The peculiar glory of India's thought is her combi- 
nation of the doctrine of the Infinite Absolute 
Godhead and that of Divine Incarnation, thus Unking 
in one golden chain the Infinite and the Finite, God 
and the Universe, — and her combination of the doctrines 
of Karma and that of Moksha (liberation) thus linking 
the past, present, and future and showing their inter- 
dependence, while making us realise how the human 
soul free in its nature can soar above all limitations and 
dwell in the inner heaven of bliss for ever. Hence it is 
that in Indian literature and art we see infinite re- 
presentations of God in innumerable finite forms. In 
Tagore's beautiful words : " The breach between the 
finite and the infinite fills with love and overflows" — 

76 



INTRODUCTORY 

(Tagore's Sadhana^ page 48). Okakura says : '' Any 
Indian man or woman will worship at the feet of some 
inspired wayfarer who tells them that there can be no 
image of God, that the world itself is a limitation, and 
go straightway, as the natural consequence, to pour 
water ou the head of the Sivalingam." (Ideals of the 
East, page 651). Image worship is recognised as a 
golden ladder by which alone we can, and should, 
ascend to the empyrean of Love. Hence in India art 
suggests ideal forms in terms of the appearances of the 
phenomenal word. It adopts symbolism to suggest the 
inexpressible in terms of visible beauty in nature and in 
the human form. Dr. A. K. Coomaraswamy says : 
" India is wont to suggest the eternal and inexpressible 
in terms of sensuous beauty. The love of man for 
woman or for nature is one with his love of God. 
Nothing is common or unclean. All life is a sacra- 
ment, no part of it more so than another , and there 
is no part of it that may not symbolise eternal and 
infinite things. In this great same-sightedness the 
opportunity for art is great. But in this religious art it 
must not be forgotten that life is not to be represented 
for its own sake but for the sake of theDivine expressed 
in and through it." Again, Indian art is not sombre 
or pessimistic. It is essentially joyous. No fears of an 
eternal hell or extinction or annihilation have tortured 
the Indian mind and embittered the life of the soul. 
Dispassion, detachment, wisdom, love, and union are 

77 



SIK RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

the steps by which the Indian mind rose into the 
raptures of the infinite love and beauty, 

"The Light whose smile kindles the universe, 

The Beauty in which all things live and move." 
But Indian art, though it is essentially joyous, does not 
lack seriousness. 

" She comes like the hushed beatity of the night 
That looks too deep for laughter ; 

Her eyes are a reverberation and a light 

From worlds before and after." 
The literature and art that have lovingly portrayed 
Krishna are perfect illustrations of what I have said 
above. They depend for their appeal to the suggestions 
of His infinite beauty and love ; they are essentially 
joyous ; and they are serious in tone and treatment. 
The medium of sex-love is adopted as a prism through 
which the white light of God's love is refracted into 
many-tinted glowing colours. Love is the divinest 
thing in this imperfect hfe. Hence it is taken to 
symbolise God's love. In the worship of Devi the 
mother's love is taken as the symbol. Artistic imagina- 
nation and spiritual rapture have always gone hand in 
hand in India like lover and beloved united in a holy 
wedlock to lay the offering of the flowers of the heart 
before the holy shrine of God's love. 

I have shown above the relation between India's 
spiritual ideals and the arts of poetry, painting, and 
sculpture. In the realm of the arts of architecture and 

78 



INTRODUCTORY 

■music and dancing the same relation is visible equally 
well. The gopurams of South India broad-based on the 
earth and soaring into the sky in a passion of longing 
and aspiration show this in a manner that does not 
admit of doubt or dispute. The art of music is in 
India in close relation to emotional states. Being free 
from the trammels of canvas or marble or words and 
having as its medium the wonderful human voice which 
is capable of infinite modulations, it is the most 
perfect instrument of self-expression. All the cha- 
racteristics of Indian art in general are to be found 
in it. Mrs. Mann says : " I am often told that all Indian 
music is melancholy. How can I convey to you that 
spirit which is sad yet without pain ? That is the 
delicious melancholy of Indian music. Can a lover be 
joyful away from his beloved ? Can a musician sing 
joyfully, ' really ' joyfully, whilst he wanders on this 
earth ? Would it not be sorrow if he forgot his 
exile ? Is not the remembrance of the face of the 
beloved more dear, though fraught with the pain of 
separation ?' 

The great Indian poet quoted by Srimathi Indira 
Devi is said to have remarked : 

" The world by day is like European Music, — a 
flowing concourse of vast harmony, composed of 
concord and discord, and many disconnected 
fragments. And the night world is our Indian 
music — one pure, deep, and tender " ragini" 

79 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORli: 

They both stir us, yet the two are contrary in 
spirit. But that cannot be helped. At the root ^ 
nature is divided into day and night, unity 
and variety, finite and infinite. We men of India 
live in the realm of night - we are overpowered 
by the sense of the One and Infinite. Our music 
^^ ;, ^' ' / draws the listener away beyond the limits of 
everyday human joys and sorrows, and takes us 
to that lonely region of the soul which lies be- 
yond the phenomenal universe, while European 
music leads us a variegated dance through 
the endless rise and fall of human grief and 

• joy." 

In the case of the much misunderstood and much 
abused art of dancing also the same fundamental art- 
ideas of India are clearly seen. Dancing is not mere 
refined and graceful gesture or * the passionate postur- 
ing born of a passing mood.' It is the idealisation of 
love to express God's love, and it uses as instrument 
not merely the hand or the voice or the mind of the 
artist but all of them and also the human body which 
becomes so expressive as to seem that it itself thinks 
and feels and rejoices. The modern dislike of the art 
being in the hands of dancing girls has been extended 
to the art itself. But as a matter of fact it is the art 
that has undergone a kind of vicarious punishment, 
because the dancing girls are very much in evidence, 
only dancing being dead. Thus every art in India 

80 



INTRODUCTORY 

is permeated and transfigured and sublimated by the 
highest spiritual conceptions of the Indian mind. 

I siiall show below — and specially when dealing with 
Giianjali, Gardener, and Sadhana how admirably Tagore 
has realised and expressed the highest Indian ideals of 
art as transtigured by the fundamental conception of 
unity and infinity proclaimed by India to the world. 

Tagore's insight mto Indian ideals of life and love is 
no less deep than his insight into the Indian ideals of 
art. Life is conceived of as a sacrament in India, ; life 
should be praised and adored, not ^espised, because it 
is through life that we can rise to God ; and the gift 
of life by God to the souls waiting to reach His lotus 
feet is regarded as an act of mercy to souls that other- 
wise would remain in the hell of separation from Him,, 
for what hell is deeper or more fearful than banish- 
ment from the beauty of His face ? The seeming 
pessimism in India is only an expression of impati- 
ence at the slowness of the arrival of the dawn, 
of God's love in our hearts and at the innumer- 
able obstacles to its coming placed by our own innu- 
merable evil acts in innumerable past lives. The 
belief in the soul's infinite energies and in the infinite- 
ness of God's mercy and love is shining like a rainbow 
on the cloud of human sorrow^ — ^lit up in its magnifi- 
cent opulence of colour and glory by the unseen sun o£ 
God's grace, reaching down almost to the earth of our 
ordinary life, and looking like a heavenly bridge over 

81 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGOKE 

which we can pass away into the beyond, into peace, 
into love, into joy. 

The Indian ideal of love also is spiritualised by the 
fundamental conception of the Indian mind. The 
Indian poets describe not merely the early blossoming 
of love in youth when love comes like a prince to his 
throne in the human heart, but also the infinite tender- 
ness and spirit of self-sacrifice that animates the human 
soul and leads it even to lay down life if only it can win 
for the beloved a moment's joy or save the beloved 
from a moment's pain. The stories of Savitri, Sita, 
Damayanthi, Droupadi, Radha, and others show this in 
an immistakable manner, and have influenced art and 
life in India in such a way that grace would depart from 
life if we banish them from our hearts— nay, our exist- 
ence as a great race would become impossible if they 
do not act as a daily inspiration in our lives. 

Tagore has shown his realisation of these ideals in 
many of his works — especially in the Chitra, and the 
Kin^ of the Dark Chamber. I shall deal with these later 
on.. I shall quote here only one passage from his article 
on Kalidasa the Moralist. 

" The love that is self-controlled and friendly to 
general society, which does not ignore any one, 
great or small, kindred or stranger, around itself 
— the love which, while placing the loved one in 
its centre, diffuses its sweet graciousness within 
the circle of the entire universe — has a permanence 

^2 



INTRODUCTORY 

unassailable hy God or man. But the passioa 
which asserts itself as the disturber of a hermit's 
meditations, as the enemy of a householder's 
■social duties, — such a passion always destroys 
others like a whirlwind, but it also carries within 

itself the seeds of its own destruction 

Where two hearts are made one by virtue, there 
love is not antagonistic to anything in the universe. 
It is only when Cupid stirs up a revolt against 
virtue that tumult begins , then love loses 
constancy, and beauty loses peace. When love 
occupies its proper place in subordination to 
virtue, it contributes its special element towards 
perfection, it does not destroy symmetry ; be- 
cause virtue is nothing but harmony — it preserves 
"beauty, it preserves goodness, and by wedding 
the two together it gives a delicious completeness 
to both." 

IX. Tagoke's Conception of Art. 

I have discussed this subject with considerable fulness 
when deahng below with three of Tagore's greatest 
works— Gitanjali, Gardener, and Sadhana. I shall hence 
make here only a few introductory observations to show 
what have been Tagore's leading conceptions as to art, 
its place in hfe, its dignity, and its relation to God. 

According to him love for God is the real glory of 
life, and art is valuable as the gate of beauty, through 

83 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

which we can enter the innermost shrine of the Infinite. 
He says: 

" My song has put off her adornments, she has no- 
pride of dress or decoration. Ornaments would 
mar our union ; they would come between thee 
and me ; their jingling would drown thy 
whispers.'' 

{Gitanjali^ page 6). 
He is full of humility but yet he realises the greatness 
and dignity of a poet's function in Ufe. He says : 

" I touch by the edge of the far-spreading wing of 
my song thy feet which I could never aspire to 
reach.'' 

{Gitaujali, page 2). 
At the same time, he says that a poet's dedicated life 
is great, because it is acceptable to God and God's 
grace is upon it. 

" Thus, my songs share their seats in the heart of 
the world with the music of the cloud and^ 
forests. 
But, you man of riches, your wealth has no part in 
the simple grandeur of the sun's glad gold and 
the mellow gleam of the musing moon. 
The blessing of the all-embracing sky is not shed 

upon it. 
And when death appears, it pales and withers and. 
crumbles into dust." 

(Gar^^n^r, page 129). 

84 



INTRODUCTORY 

Tagore has realised and said that art is the speaking 
joi God's voice through our soul. 

•' Thy word is weaving words in my mind and 
Thy joy is adding music to them. Thou givest 
Thyself to me in love and then feelest thine own 
entire sweetness in me ." 

{Gitanjaliy page 61). 
Tagore's views on the dramatic art are well-known. 
He is no admirer of the modern attempt at making 
scenic representation usurp the place of imagination. Sir 
Sidney Lee has said : "The deliberate pursuit of scenic 
realism is antagonistic to the ultimate law of dramatic 
art... .Dramatic illusion must ultimately spring from the 
active and unrestricted exercise of the imaginative 
faculty by author, actor, and audience in joint partner- 
ship." {Shakesfearc and the Modern Stage.). Tagore 
also says in his article on The Stage : " Any one of the 
arts is only to be seen in her full glory when she is 

-sole mistress We all act to ourselves as we read a 

play, and the play which cannot be sufficiently inter- 
preted by such invisible acting has never yet gained the 
laurel for its author." The same idea is seen also in the 
the footnote appearing in his ' Chitra.' He did not 
like any art being corrupted by constantly trying to bor- 
row unborrowable effects from otlier arts. Music over- 
weighted with words, poetry merely melodious, over- 
symbolical painting, and sculpture seeking to express 
^movement, miss their true purpose and glory. He has 

85 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

said in another place: " If the Hindu spectator has- 
not been too far infected with the greed for realism 
and the Hindu artist still has any respect for his craft 
and his skill, the best thing they can do for themselves is 
to regain their freedom by making a clean sweep of 
the costly rubbish thut has accumulated round about 
and is clogging the stage." 

Tagore's views on music are equally beautiful. His- 
passionate love of music is clear from Gitanjali and 
Gardener. In the Chitra he says : 

" A limitless life of glory can bloom and spend itself in a. 
morning, 

Like an endless meaning in the narrow span of a song.*' 



Pandit Sita Nath Tatwabhushan says that Tagore " may \ 
be said to be the leading musical composer of the day" ""ii 
{History of Brahmoism). That music is "a world ~ 
language" is clear to us when we see how four ot 
Tagore's songs in Gitanjali have been set to music by 
Landon Ronald, one of the foremost musicians of 
England and Principal of the Guildhall School of music; 
The four songs above said are the sixth, twenty-sixth, 
thirty-eighth, and fifty-seventh songs in Gitanjali. We 
learn also that selections from Gitanjali are to be found 
in a book of songs composed by Mr. John Aldea 
Carpenter. 
\ Tagore points out how Indian music has the charm, 
\ arestfulness, and peace of Infinity^ and is in intimate 

86 



INTRODUCTORY 

alliance with religion and expresses the deepest aspira- 
tions, longings, and raptures of the heart. 

" European music is, so to speak, mixed with the 

actualities of life. Our music, as it were, moves 

- above the incidents of daily life, and because of 

^. it is so full of detachment and tenderness — as if 

jt^i it were appointed to reveal the beauty of the 

I innermost and unutterable mystery of the human 

heart and of the world." 

Tagore's Music of East and West. 
Again, ' Our songs speak of the early dawn and the 
starry midnight sky of India. Our music breathes of 
dripping rain, and the wordless ecstasy of the new 
spring as it reaches the utmost depths of the forests." 

He points out how European music is romantic and 
says that " the European wants his truth concrete." 
" The romantic tendencies are those of variety and 
superfluity, the billows of the ocean of life, the 
reflection of the conflict of light and shade over 
restless movement, though in another direction 
there is a broad expanse which has all the still- 
ness of the blue of the sky, and is an intimation 

of the infinite upon the far horizon It 

(European music), translates the multifariousness 
of human life into the sounds of music." 

Tagore's Music of East and West 
Tagore points out that the essential sweetness of a 
song is in its evolution of sound and not in its words. 

87 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

*' The art of music has its own nature and special 
function. Though there are words in a song, 
still they ought not to count for more than the 
song itself ; they are only its vehicle. Song is 
glorious in its own right ; why should it accept 
the slavery of words ? Song begins where words 
end. The inexplicable is the domain of music. 
It can say what words cannot, so that the less 
the words of the song disturb the song, the 
better." 

Tagore's Music of East and West 

X. LEADING TRAITS OF TAGORE'S ART. 

I am considering in the succeeding chapters at great 
length and in considerable detail the traits of Tagore's 
art as revealed in each of his works. I shall deal 
here only with the general aspects of his art. 

The first thing that we must bear in mind in regard 
to Tagore's art is that he voices the East in a new, 
powerful, and fascinating manner. The significance of 
liis unparalleled reception in the West is unmistakable. 
Mr. L. March Phillips said in the Morning Post in 1913 : 
" The significance of this reception which an Eastern 
mystic has received at our hands is that it shows, as so 
many signs now-a days show, that the mind of Europe is 
in touch with the mind of the East. Whenever that has 
liappened before, the effect on Western thought has 



INTRODUCTORY 

always been considerable. In particular one effect which 
this contact has always had has been to spiritualise, 
so to speak, the Western consciousness and to render 
susceptible to an order of ideas more abstract and 
emotional than the matter of fact Western intelH- 
,gence is usually willing to entertain." The Western 
mind has been more practical and rationalistic than the 
mind of the East, and it has elaborated a rationalistic 
interpretation of the universe. Mr. March Phillips 
says : " We cannot look to intellect to save us from 
the tyranny of intellect. It is a question rather of 
bringing another faculty into play, a faculty having for 
its subject-matter that very order of ideas which intel- 
lect is incapable of grappling with." Though he has 
failed to understand how far Tagore is a faithful inter- 
preter of the mind of India, he has well said : " Many 
long centuries ago there woke in the heart of India the 
thought she has been dreaming over ever since, the 
thought that the spiritual being in a man, his soul as 
we say, was no mere precious cargo to be safely 
conveyed across the engulfing waves of time to the 
harbour of eternity, but an inward source of perception 
and knowledge, an active illuminating agent bringing 
light and certitude into the mind, just as in Western 
philosophy the reason brings light and certitude into 
the mind. Hindu thought, in a word, sets up another 
faculty against reason, a faculty whose function it is to 
deal with spiritual things just as it is the function of 

89 



SIR RABINDKANATH TAGORE 

intellect to deal with material things." I shall discuss 
this matter more fully below when dealing withTagore's 
mysticism. 

As I intend to deal in the next section at some 
length with Tagore's style, I shall state here only the 
leading traits of the matter of Tagore's art. The first 
trait that we must never fail to realise and remember is 
the fact that Tagore's poems have a conspicuous note 
of individualism, idealism, and romanticism. The 
expression of subjective moods in obedience to the 
laws of poetic beauty and in a romantic spirits, is 
the greatest and most abiding charm of his poems. 
The words 'classical' and 'romantic' are often used 
without their full import being known. ' Classic ' 
implies moderation, measure, balance, proportion,, 
emotion used as means to an end, expression 
of emotion according to fixed canons of art ' Romantic' 
implies a divine unrest seeking a higher and heavenlier 
peace, measureless aspiration, profusion of adornment 
even at the risk of disobeying the laws of balance and 
proportion, emotion being an end in itself, expression- 
of emotion according to the laws of the soul as opposed 
to outer canons of art. The peculiarities of the classical 
spirit were partly due to the peculiar elements of the 
Greek polity which regarded citizenship as the highest 
function of life and laid no stress on the immense and 
eternal value and destiny of each individual as soul. A* 
regulated and self-controlled life in service of the state 

90 



INTRODl'CTORY 

Cj was the Greek ideal. Cliristianity gave a wonderful exten- 
\ sion and beauty to pre-existing conceptions of theindivi- 
( dual soul by showing its divine origin and destiny and. 
its immortality. Monsieur Royer-Coliard says : " Human, 
societies are born, live and die, on the earth ; it is there 
that their destinies are accomplished. . . • . . But 
they contain not the whole man. After he has engaged 
himself to society there remains to him the noblest part 
of himself, those high faculties by which he elevates . 
himself to God, to a future life, to unknown felicity in 
an invisible v^orld. We, persons individual and identical, , 
veritable beings endowed with immortality, we have ai 
different destiny from that of states." This ditTerence 
of ideal resulted in a difference in the expression of the 
ideal in art. Tiie Parthenon is as different from a. 
Gothic Cathedral as the one ideal is from the other. The 
regularity of design, the proportion of parts, and the 
moderation of ornamentation in the one are as remark- 
able as the sky-piercing spires, the stained-glass 
windows, and the profusion of adornment in the other. 
The Indian ideal has struck an even higher note of 
^ individualism, ideaUsm, and romanticism. Tagore is  
J one of its greatest voices for all times, and is certainly 
' its greatest voice in this age. His immense popularity 
in the west is due in a large measure to the fact that, in 
a reahstic, prosaic, and critical age, his idealistic, poetic, 
and creative note has come almost like a new revelation. 
In the wonderful work of Tagore, tliere is anothet 

91 



SIR RABINDKANATH TAGORE 

great trait to be noted. His epoch corresponds in a 
measure to the period of what has been called The 
Renaiscence of wonder in England when Rossetti, Burne- 
Jones, and others led the revolt against formalism and 
went back to the age of beauty by jumping over what 
they regarded as the dark ages in the history of art. In 
India also the rules of art that were framed to direct and 
regulate the flow of the stream of inspiration with true 
fertilising power and effect eventually dammed up the 
flow altogether. The canons that were meant to be the 
guides of the spirit of Art became its gaolers. The great 
Vaishnava saints and poets and musicians effected a 
deliverance of the human spirit both in the religious and 
artistic spheres. With the decay of the religion of love, 
the reassertion of the reign of rules began. Tagore has 
gone back to the age of the great Vaishnava movement 
and has effected a revolution in the realm of taste by 
so going back to the age of l">eauty, freedom, love, and 
rapture. He has revived and re-kindled our sense of 
the wonder of things, our perception of the beauty and 
grace and love of God. We can have a full and adequate 
conception of the great transformation only when the 
work of the poets, singers, artists, philosophers, sages, 
and saints of this era of the Renaiscence of wonder is 
summed up once for all in luminous words by an 
Indian Ruskin whose heart is full of purity and peace, 
whose soul is full of love for his motherland and for 
God, and whose lips have been touched by heavenly 

92 



INTRODUCTORY 

fire and hence utter the highest truths in a golden 
style for the greater joy of man and the greater glory 
of God. 

A third feature to be noticed in regard to Tagore's 
Art is that it is thoroughly national. Literature and art 
are the revelation and self-expression of the highest and 
most distinctive elements of the genius of a race. 
Dr. A. K. Cooniaraswami says : "There is no more 
searching test of the vitaHty of a people than the reve- 
lation in art— plastic, literary, musical, — of their inward 
being. A national art is a self-revelation where no 
concealment is possible." Posnett says in his valuable 
book on Comparative Literature : '' National literature is 
an outcome of national life, a spiritual bond of national 
unity, such as no amount of eclectic study or cosmo- 
politan science can supply. National literatures, then, 
require a vigorous and continuous national life." Not 
all paper imitations of all the most beautiful flowers 
of the world can compare for a moment with a single 
beautiful blossom rooted in the soil, lifting its fair face to 
the sky, and sending the fragrance of its soul far and 
wide. If there is one fact that is perfectly well de- 
monstrated in the history of art, it is the failure of all 
adapted styles. This is a truth which many of our 
countrymen have not yet learnt. Their modern novels 
and adaptations of western plays show in many cases 
an utter lack of vision for the national genius. Time 
with its relentless hand will sweep away all this rub- 

93 



SIR RABINDKANATH TAGORE 

bish as so much waste paper. To modify a great 
passage of poetry, 

" The sword of Time is not in haste to smite 
Nor yet doth linger." 

Mr. K. C. Chatterji says about Modern Bengali Fiction : 
" The recent Bengali fiction has been more realistic 
than romantic in its structure. But,.. .though the 
possibilities of romance have increased, the Bengali 
stand-point has changed, and the market is being daily 

'flooded with fourth and tifth rate realistic novels." 
In South India also the plays and poems and novels 
published recently are either divorced from real hfe 
altogether and have a thin emasculated existence, or 
are crude adaptations of western works, or display a 
hideous realism, or are written not to interpret hfe 

• creatively but as a literary aid to the various platform 
agitators who seek to change Hindu Society out of 
shape. In Bengal the reaction from formalism was 
Brahmoism which neither understood nor cared to 
understand Hindu ideals of life and Hindu ideals of 
art. Mr. Ajit Kumar Chakrabarti says: "But in its 
extreme zeal, it cut itself away from the traditions and 
culture of the Hindu race. Hence, its deprivation of 
Hindu art and symbolism, Hindu catholicity and 

■comprehension, was a serious loss." He says in regard 
to both the old formalism and the new protestantism : 

■" Both fail to give the fullest scope to the vital energies 
of the soul. In the shade of their chilling and 

94 



INTRODUCTORY 

cramping atmosphere, one cannot think that the flower 
of an opening life, the Hfe of the child of the nation, 
will expand. Its sunshine is robbed, its joy is robbed, 
its very honey is robbed, and everywhere surrounding 
its life there is the gloom of overhanging conventions, 
which dictate, thou shalt do this and thou shalt not do 
that. Soul-growth is impossible in such an environment 
-of unnatural restraint." In South India also, the horrors 
of the protestant movement in Bengal are being repeated 
in the sphere of life and the sphere of art. The social 
agitator holds the reins and society is invited to sit in 
tiis car of foreign make and be whirled away God knows 
■where. Literature and art are sought to be seduced by 
him, and must necessarily soon lament their exile in the 
Sahara of the new inner life. The greatness of Tagore 
lies in the fact that his richly endowed mind so full of 
love for the past, so full of practical wisdom in the 
present, and so full of indomitable hopes for the 
future, has effected a reconciliation between the great 
creative and devotional age in the past and the critical 
and lovelesss present age. He has avoided the Scylla 
and the Charybdis of formalism and protestantism and 
has emerged into the ocean of true national life 
over which the sun of glory and the moon of 
love shed their radiance and the balmy airs of 
artistic inspiration blow bearing coolness and fra- 
grance to the weary world. India has ever been famous 
for her combination of idealism of vision and practi- 

95 



SIR KABINDRANATH TAGORE 

cal energy, Tagore has effected such a combination 
in his life and his art. His style and art are a natural 
development out of India's literary past, and this har- 
mony is only a part of the unique harmony of the soul 
and its faculties that is Tagore's most unique and admi- 
rable inner endowment. 

One of the chief and most charming traits of Tagores 
art is his simplicity and spontaneity. There is a pecu- 
liar bird-like quality in his music and a child-like 
sweetness in his outlook upon life. Mr. Yeats says 
in his introduction to Gilanjalt : '' An innocence, a 
simplicity that one does not find elsewhere in literature 
makes the birds and the leaves seem as near to him as 
they are near to children, and the changes of the 
seasons great events as before our thoughts had arisen 
between them and us". It is in The Crescent Moon even 
more than in his other poems that this rare quality 
is seen in the fulness of its heavenly charm. The 
Rev. Mr. Andrews says : "There is nothing probably 
in the whole range of literature which tests more 
searchingly the pure spontaneity of the poet than the 

writing of the poetry of child-hood It must, 

indeed, possess to the full this joyous rhythm of the 
visible world with all its play of colour and light, of 
music and dance and song. But it must also soar beyond 
into the unseen silent abode of the spirit's birth. It 
must be fresh with the dews of the first child-hood of 
the world, but it must also be old with the mystery of 

96 



INTRODUCTORY 

life itself and tenderly touched by the passing shadow 
of death." The poetry must express the deep wonder 
that shines in the child's eyes, the dazzling play of 
colour that it hkes, the realm of imagination where it 
lives in endless delight, and the heaven of purity,, 
innocence, trustfulness and love in its heart. As the 
Rev. Mr. Andrews says : " Like a rainbow of many 
colours the book shines. The dark purple of death is 
blended with the golden beams of life. The playful 
lisping of the child at school is made one with the silent 
glory of the stars." 

Another great trait of Tagore's poetry is his expres- 
sion of the universal elements of life — life, child-hood,, 
the raptures of love, death, the joy of nature, the destiny 
of man, love of God — themes that are as old as the 
world and as new as each day's golden dawn. The 
Rev. Mr. C. F. Andrews says in his article on " With 
Rabindra in England. " . " Just as the play of dazzhng 
sunlight was a joy to him which he was never tired of 
watching, so the dazzling variety of the play of human 

life was to him an unending wonder and delight 

Rabindra appears to arrive at the universal, 

not like Shakespeare by many different roads, but al- 
ways by the one pathway of simplicity. The simplest 
human affections, the child-heart of the young and 
innocent, the simplest domestic joys and sorrows, the 
purest and simplest yearnings of the soul for god, — 
these go to form the unity towards which Rabin- 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

dra's poetic utterance is striving." The dawn time 
radiance of the child-nature is to be seen in the 
Crescent Moon ; the noontide splendour of love in the 
human heart u'ith its revelation of rapture and radiance 
and its fruitful power is seen in the Gardener ; and "the 
hues and harmonies of evening " and the overwhelming 
solemnity and mystery of the night with God's gospel 
writ in stars in the sapphire sky are seen in the Gitanjali. 
The primary affections and emotions and joys and sor- 
rows are depicted in the Short Stories. His plays suggest 
divinely beautiful solutions of the problem of the soul 
its nature, and its destiny. 

We must note also another beautiful characteristic 
of Tagore, his being a poet of the people. He has a 
thinly veiled contempt for all pomp of authority and 
glitter of power, as lohich deeply religious nature has not- 
knowing as it all does that it rests in the Almighty, and 
knowing also that. 

" Man, proud man 

Drest in a little brief authority, — 

Most ignorant of what he's most assured, 

His glassy essence, — like an angry ape, 

Plays such fantastic tricks before high Heaven, 

As make the angels weep." 

(Shakespeare's Measure for Measure.) 
Tagore knows that there is more . love, tenderness, 
humanity, heroism, and piety in the so-called lower 

9$ 



INTRODUCTORY 

classes than the so-called higher classes. He makes us 
realise how 

"The mind's internal heaven will diffuse 
The dews of inspiration on the humblest lay." 
In his Short Stories the heroes and heroines are drawn 
from humble life and their simple joys and griefs and 
longings and ideals are presented to us with insight and 
Jove. The same sweet note is heard in his poems also. 
He sees the gracious presence of God amidst the toiling 
millions who in their unknown heroism build up this 
fair fabric of love that is known as human society. The 
great cities and works of art that we see and admire are 
not so much built of stones and wood as of life and love. 
They represent so much expenditure of soul-force in a 
passion of glad^giving for the sake of God. Communal 
life is not mere juxtaposition of individuals for mutual 
-convenience but is due to the unifying power of love. 
Tagore says in Gitanjali: " Here is thy foot-stool and 
there rest thy feet where live the poorest and lowliest 
and lost. When I try to bow to thee, my obeisance can- 
not reach down to the depth where thy feet rest among 
the poorest, and lowliest, and lost. Pride can never 
approach to where thou walkest in the clothes of the 
humble among the poorest and lowliest, and lost. My 
heart can never find its way to where thou keepest 
company with the companionless among the poorest 
the lowliest, and the lost." I have already referred to 
the social service work of the Shantineketan boys. 

99 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

It is said that in the enveloping and embosoming; 
atmosphere of love at Shantiniketan even the so-called 
*' impossible and hopeless " children grow into normal 
human beings as they are found to do in Montessori's- 
institution. It is the want of love and of realisation of 
the divinity of life that wrecks all social service schemes 
devised by the boastful social workers who launcb 
such schemes having one eye on the leading newspapers^ 
of the day. Tagore's deep love of the poor, toihng, 
dumb millions has achieved the double glory of the 
sweetest artistic expression and practical fruitfulness^ 
and in this respect even more than in anything else he 
is the king of the Indian Renaissance. 

Tagore's combination of intense patriotism with his^ 
universal love is one of the most noteworthy traits in his- 
genius. The patriotism that like the pseudo-patriotism 
now prevalent in some western countries seeks to 
advance the interests of the country any by means 
fair or foul even if thereby other lands are ruined, 
is a grave menace to refinement and true civilisation y. 
while the '^ universal " love that talks glibly of 
universal brotherhood while having no real feeUng, 
that ignores the fact that different races have 
peculiar gifts and functions, that seeks to reduce 
all to one dull level of uniformity, and that dwells in a 
fool's paradise of its own is an index of utter weak- 
ness and imbecility. The fruits of each civilisation 
and type of culture may be enjoyed by the- 

100 



INTRODUCTORY 

whole world ; but the most fragrant native blossoni^ 
"of any type of culture cannot bear a moment's trans- 
plantation and will die if we handle it roughly or re- 
move it from the plant that gives it life. I have already 
shown how Tagore has been one of the greatest form ative 
influences of the new era, how he is the greatest singer 
of India's national songs, how he is the greatest leader 
and poet of the Indian Renaissance, how his potriotism 
is bent on combining the glories of the past with the new' 
-scientific and political ideals of the West, how he has 
"given practical proofs of his patriotism and how at the 
same time he feels and expresses the Indian's sense of 
the spiritual significance of things, is full of universal love, 
\ Hdealises and spiritualises and shows the divineness of 
the ordinary phenomena and relations of life, and takes 
i' '\%\s through the gate of beauty into the very shrine of 
f ijLove where angels stand with praying lips and adoring 
eyes before the Divine Presence. 

We must pay special attention to Tagore's Nature- 
poetry if we desire to know the full measure of his 
genius. In the case of all poets the first sweet call of 
Beauty to a higher life in her sweet service comes from 
the sight of the beauty and sublimity of Nature, In 
English literature nature poetry went through every 
stages. At first nature was used as a background for 
the expression of human emotions or as a thing which 
was full of beauty though it had no spiritual message to 
ithe soul. It was in the nineteenth century that love of 

101 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Nature reached its most various and beautiful develop- 
ments in English poetry. Nature has risen to as high a 
position as humanity as a subject of art. The subbine- 
poetry of Wordsworth and Shelley, and the golden 
prose of Ruskin have achieved this great result. This- 
transformation was due as much to the ideas of unity 
and divine immanence that travelled westward after the 
great Oriental scholars revealed the glories of Sanskrit 
literature to the wondering world as to t'lie God-given 
spiritual perception of the above said great souls. It 
was Wordsworth that lifted this love of Nature for her 
own sake into a worship, and taught in immortal: verse 
that both Nature and man are alike from God and 
exist together in God — a doctrine quite like the 
Vaishnava doctrine that chil (conscious souls) and 
achtt (Nature) are the body of Iswara (the Lord)^ 
While Wordsworth taught that the principle of thought 
animated Nature, Shelley sang that the spirit of Love 
animated it. His Prometheus Unbound is a marriage 
hymn of the wedding of the spirit of love in Man and 
the spirit of love in Nature. Ruskin says of Words- 
worth : " His distinctive mark was a war with pomp' 
and pretence, and a display of the majesty of simple 
feelings and humble hearts, together with high reflec- 
tive truth in his analysis of the courses of politics and' 
ways of men ; without these his love of nature would 
have been comparatively worthless." Tagore was- 
naturally led by the genius of his race to realise botlb 

102 



INTRODUCTORY 

Nature and Man as manifestations of Infinite Love and 
Beauty and Wisdom, and his nature-poetry has all the 
sublimity of Wordsworth's nature-poetry and sweetness 
of Shelley's poetry together with a special spiritual and 
emotional appeal due to his own mystical genius and the 
genius of his race. We do not see in his poetry minute 
observation of nature or portrait-painting of single 
aspects of nature in leaf or bud or bloom or fruit 
or hill or lake or stream or sea or sky, but we have 
luminous descriptions of the spiritual appeal of nature,^ 
of her greater and more glorious manifestations, 
and of the manner in which they cheer, inspire, uplift, 
and gladden us and take us to the very presence o£ 
God. They fill our hearts with ineffable peace, 

" Not Peace that grows by Lethe, scentless flower, 
There in white langours to decline and ease, 

But Peace whose names are also rapture, power. 

Clear sight, and love ; tor these are parts of Peace." 

(William Watson), 
I am dealing with his nature-poetry in detail when 
discussing his works. I shall quote here only a few 
examples of his manner and his message. 

" The repose of the sun-embroidered green gloom 
slowly spread over my heart." 

(Gilanjali^ page 41.) 

"The light is shattered into gold on every cloud, 

my darling, and it scatters gems in profusion. 

Mirth spreads from leaf to leaf, my darling, and 

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SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

gladness without measure. The heaven's river 
has drowned its banks and the flood of joy is 
abroad." (Gitanjati^ pages 52-53.) 

*• There comes the morning with the golden basket 
in her right hand bearing the wreath of beauty, 
silently to crown the earth. And there comes 
the evening over the lonely meadows deserted by 
herds, through trackless paths, carrying cool 
draughts of peace in her golden pitcher from the 
western ocean of rest. But there, where spreads 
the infinite sky for the soul to take her flight in, 
reigns the stainless white radiance. There is no 
day nor night nor form nor colour, and never, 
never a word." {Gitanjali^ page 68.) 

Tagore is further a master of the difficult art of 
•commingling love of nature and human emotion, 

" If you would be busy and fill your pitcher, come, 
O come to my lake. The water will cling round 

your feet and babble its secret The shadow 

of the coming rain is on the sand and the clouds 
hang low upon the blue lines of the trees like the 
heavy hair above your eyebrows." 

{Gardener^ page 27.) 

*' It was mid-day when you went away. The dust 
of the road was hot and the fields panting. 
The doves cooed among the dense leaves. I 
was alone in my balcony when you went away." 

{Gardener^ page 95.) 

104 



INTRODUCTORY 

In short, Tagore has, to use the words of Coleridge, 
" the original gift of spreading the atmosphere of the 
ideal world over familiar forms and incidents," and re- 
veals to us the deep and sweet affinities of things and 
their infinite suggestion of divine immanence. In him 
the senses are spiritualised; love is wedded to reason ; 
knowledge is touched by emotion; and over all broods 
a pure and spiritual imagination. We may well say of 
him as Matthew Arnold said of Wordsworth: 
" He found us when the age had bound 
Our souls in its benumbing round : 
He spoke, and loosed our heart in tears. 
He laid us as we lay at birth, 
On the cool flowery lap of earth, 
Smiles broke from us, and we had ease. 
The hills were round us. and the breeze, 
Went o'er the sunlit fields again ; 
Our foreheads felt the wind and rain ; 
Our youth returned : for there was shed, 
On spirits that had long been dead, 
Spirits dried up and closely furled, 
The freshness of the early world." 
Tagore's love poetry is of wonderful charm and 
attractiveness. I have considered it in all its fulness and 
variety of charm when dealing with the Gardener. He 
has depicted the morning radiance of love, its unselfish- 
ness, its delight in self-sacrifice, its deathlessness in spite 
of adverse influences, and its divineness. The idyll of 
love in Chitra is as full of meaning as it is full of charm. 
It shows that love is " a marriage of minds," that unions 
based on a mere basis of physical attractions cloy at 

105 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

the close, and that the unselfish and pure love born of 
affinity of soul is the sweetest and most lasting thing in- 
the world. In The King of the Dark Chamber the soul is 
shown in the course of purification to attain to the 
highest raptures of love. Love attains to the highest 
altitudes of rapture only when in alliance with law. 
Tagore shows also that in every human love the real 
quest of the soul is supernal beauty and divine love. 

Tagore's prevailing mood is the lyric mood, and his 
genius is essentially lyrical. This is partly due to the 
subjective temper of the age and partly to his own 
pecuHar poetical temperament. F. T. Palgrave says : 
" A decided preference for lyrical poetry, — to which in- 
all ages the perplexed or overburdened heart has fled 
for relief and confession, has shown itself for sixty years 
or more ; an impulse traceable in a large measure to 
the increasingly subjective temper of the age, and indeed 
already in different phases foreshown by Shelley and 
by Wordsworth." Tagore's partiality for the lyric is 
due in a large measure to his love of music and his 
being a musician of genius. Mr. Yeats says : " Rabin- 
dranath Tagore writes music for his words, and one 
understands that he is so abundant, so spontaneous, so- 
daring in his passion, so full of surprise, because he is 
doing something which never seems strange, unnatural 
or in need of defence." We must however remember 
that though lyric poetry is intensely subjective, it is not 
wanting in universal elements. The greatest lyric poets 

106 



INTRODUCTORY 

in seeking full self-expression voice forth the most: 
powerful and passionate feelings of the human heart. 
They are Hfted by the power of song into the heaven of the 
universal human heart. The lyrical expression becomes 
perfect only when in the intensity of subjective self- 
expression the self is forgotten in the expression. 
Hence the universality of Tagore's lyric appeal. I have 
already referred to Tagore's nature-lyrics and love- 
lyrics. They are perfect in motive, in expression, in 
suggestion. He has further perfected the religious 
lyric. The beauty of his devotional lyrics deserves 
special mention because India is a land in which in 
both Sanscrit and the Vernaculars there is a large body 
of the most moving devotional poetry and hence it is 
next to impossible for any subsequent poet to achieve 
signal praise for devotional poesy. Yet Tagore has 
achieved the impossible. As has been well said, all the 
aspirations of mankind are in his hymns. I have dis- 
cussed his devotional poetry at great length in the 
succeeding pages. He prays in Gitanjali ; " Let all my 
songs gather together their diverse strains into a single 
current and flow to a sea of silence in one salutation to 
Thee." The lyrics of childhood in The Crescent Moon, the 
lyrics of life and love in T/;^ Gardener, the lyrics of heaven- 
ly beauty and heavenly love in Gilan']ali, and the inex- 
pressibly beautiful lyrics scattered in his dramatic works 
show how full of variety and beauty is Tagore's lyrical i 
genius and how wonderful is his lyric achievement. 

107 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Tagore's dramas also have this undercurrent of lyric 
•clement in them. In fact in Indian dramas generally 
there is more lyric element than in Western dramas. 
So far as the popular stage is concerned the lyric ele- 
ments have overshadowed the purely dramatic ele- 
ments. This is partly due to the fact that the plays acted 
were composed by men without dramatic genius and 
partly to the fact that the actors were often drawn from 
the lowest classes of society and were often men with- 
out any real culture and could not properly express 
emotion by words, tone, and gesture. It was due also 
to the decline of taste in the dark ages of Indian history. 
Some measure of the blame is attributable also to an 
old inherent mental tendency by which verse overshad- 
owed prose and music overshadowed verse. Prose has 
its own cadences and harmonies ; and so has poetry 
Neither need be ashamed of its sweet unborrowed 
beauty. Music, " heavenly maid," being of perfect 
attractiveness, prose and verse often chose to be her 
slaves forgetting their own dignity and charm and love- 
lines. In classical drama the lyric element enhances the 
beauty without spoiling the purely dramatic elements. 
In Tagore it must be said that in spite of the surpassing 
'beauty of the plays the lyric and mystical elements are 
not fully subordinated to the dramatic elements. In the 
Indian classical drama the evolution of the dramatic 
incidents without undue obtrusion of the lyric, musical, 
and mystical elements has been achieved. Characteris- 

108 



INTRODUCTORY 

ation, dialogue, progress of the narrative in a natural i 
manner, and wealth of incident — which are all necessary- 
elements for stage effect and lasting emotional appeal — 
are well attended to by the great dramatists of India. 
In Tagore's plays though characterisation and dialogue 
are very good, there is no attempt at wealth of incident 
or display of character in action or clash of personali- 
ties or working towards a denouemeiil while keeping the 
audience in suspense and breathless expectation. B(it 
their naturalness, simplicity, lyric beauty, musical charm, 
and subtle spiritual suggestion are remarkable, and we 
owe to him a new and original dramatic format great 
poetic beauty and spiritual elevation. 

Those who have had the rare privilege and happiness 
of hearing Tagore's songs especially as sung by him speak 
in rapturous terms about them. Such musical perfec- 
tion can be born only in a country where there is a great 
musical tradition, a plastic and susceptible language,, 
and a deep and widespread love of song in the people. 
All these requirements are satisfied all over India and 
especially in Bengal. The Harikatha and Sankirthana- 
movements are still full of vitality and are making for 
unity, purity, and piety among Indian humanity. 
Human love and love of nature catch a new radiance 
from God-love and shine with a deathless and heavenly, 
glow which is not theirs in other lands, and musical emo- 
tion kindled by them everywhere gets a new quickening, 
and heightening by alliance with spiritual rapture. Even 

109 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

■in the most passionate songs of human love, the song of 
nature's beauty and the song of love of God interblend 
in some subtle manner strangely sweet. Mr. Rhys 
says : " So it is with the music of these songs : there is 
a sighing cadence in some of the most passionate 
stanzas, as if the music turned to the wind and the 
streams to find an accompaniment for the rhythms of the 
words, born of the desire of young lovers." One cannot 

• emphasize too strongly this musical approach of Tagore's 

•mind into the heart of things, for the blending of music, 
mystery, and mental graces is the greatest charm and 
most distinctive trait of his genuis. 

Tagore's novels are discussed by me separately. In 
them also the lyrical element and spiritual suggestive- 
ness that we found m his plays are seen. They have 
the magic of style, the naturalness and beauty of 
dialogue, and the power of vivid character-painting in 
a few strokes that his dramas have. They combine 
reaUty and romance, truth to nature and suggestion of 
the supernatural. But he seems to lose his foothold 
when the lyric mood passes, and his long novels — e.g., 
Gora — are not said to be a success. 

His miscellaneous prose writings- except Sadhana-hawe 
not been collected. His sermons called " Shantiniketan'^ 
published in fourteen volumes are said to contain some of 
his most beautiful thoughts. But Sadhana as well as the 
miscellaneous prose writings translated in the pages of 

-the Modern Review reveal his possession of a wonderful 

110 



INTRODUCTORY 

prose style in which the graces of poetry adorn without 
■weakening the simpHcity and directness of the prose. I 
liave discussed his Sadhana in a later chapter and his 
miscellaneous prose writings in the penultimate chapter. 
They show how well he has understood Indian ideals, 
how true is his vision as to the duty of Indians and the 
destiny of India now and hereafter, how well he has 
entered into the spirit of the greatest poets of our nation 
—especially Kalidasa — and how Tagore is not only our 
greatest poet but also the most far-sighted, patriotic, 
and true-hearted lover and servant of India. 

We may well- ask why Tagore has not excelled in 
writing long narrative or epic poems. The glory of the 
lyric art carries with it its own limitation. One pas- 
sionate soaring into the highest empyrean of thought and 
emotion, and then a quick descent — such is the nature 
of the lyric mood. The narrative and epic poets do not 
soar very high but 

'• Sail with supreme dominion 

Through the azure deep of air '' 

and maintain their flight for a long time. Tagore has — 
and cannot help having — the special merits and limita- 
tions of his unique and wonderful poetic genius. 

His art passed through three stages of development — 
the first deaUng with the raptures of life and love ; the 
second dealing with his motherland's duties, greatness, 
mission, and destiny ; and the third dealing with the 
highest longings and aspirations of mankind yearning 

111 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

to see the Infinite Beauty and win His love as the 
heart's highest and holiest dower. 

After all the most beautiful and permanently valuable 
trait of his genius is his mystical sense and his- 
power of realising and making us realise the spiritual 
significance of things. I am dealing with this trait at 
some length in a later portion of this chapter. It is 
this great power that has enabled him to bring healing 
balm to the inner ailments of the time and to take the 
purified and happy soul to the very Throne of Grace in 
an attitude of glad and perfect love and adoration. 
XI. Tagore's Style. 
His Bengali style is recognised and admitted by all 
to be perfect in beauty and power, to be "full of subtlety 
of rhythm, of untranslateable delicacies of colour, of 
metrical invention." The Bengali tongue possesses 
great elasticity, rhythmic power and grace, and force of 
figurative expression. Being a descendant of the 
divine Sanscrit, it has the graces and stateliness of the 
Sanscrit together with a suppleness and plastic power 
born of manipulation by great literary and musical 
geniuses in the middleages. 

Tagore's English style is remarkable not only for its 
beauty but also for the fact that it has discovered even 
to the English genius new possibilities in the English 
language. -The Rev. Mr. C. F. Andrews says : " The 
English of to-day has filtered into literature from journa- 
lism, advertisements, and popularised slang, and has 

112 



INTRODUCTORY 

debased the King's coinage." Love of phrasing has be- 
come a craze, and the search for the effective and jewell- 
ed phrase has become such a preoccupation with Mr. 
Chesterton and other leading prosewriters of to-day that 
the older prose style — pure, lucid, full of sweet cadences 
and harmonies — has almost disappeared. Tagore's 
English is pure and simple and harmonious. As the 
reviewer of Tagore's poems in the Quarterly Reviem 
says, we see in them "an English style which combines 
at once the feminine grace of poetry with the virile 
power of prose." He well calls the Gitanjali "this 
flower of English prose." 

But the great significance of Tagore's works is of 
course their being masterpieces of literature in the 
Bengali language. I have already shown how 
the existence of a number of great languages in 
India — each with a great literature and great hterary 
traditions — is no real menace to national unity. Even 
they have innumerable beauties in common and have a 
further bond of union in the common allegiance and 
love they have for the divine Sanscrit. The modern 
agitators who set up the English tongue against the 
vernaculars and the Sanscrit, the Sanscrit against 
the vernaculars, or the vernaculars against the 
Sanscrit are traitors to the national cause, and they 
are responsible for a great deal of the intellectual sterility 
and social disunion that now disfigure this fair and 
sacred land of ours. They are more in evidence in the 

113 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Madras Presidency than elsewhere; but the nuisance is 
a more or less general phenomenon in India. Rev. A.F. 
Gardiner in his recent Conovcation address said: " The 
enlistment of the vernaculars is an indispensable 
element in national enlightenment. For, while on the 
one hand, the function of English is to unite in one 
•enhghtened body all those who participate directly in 
the learning of the west, on the other hand, the 
national assimilation of that more accurate information 
and wider culture can be effected only by calling in 
the aid of the vernaculars. ..It would be difficult to 
determine how far the education of an Indian could be 
<:onsidered in any sense complete without an adequate 
acquaintance with one or other of the languages and 
literatures which have sprung up in his native land or 
Tiave become acclimatized to it." It is a pity that many 
among us have not even this amount of perception as 
to the national needs of India. Even if Tagore had 
done nothing else, his having chosen his vernacular 
as the vehicle of expression and having brought it to 
a high state of perfection would by itself justify Indians 
in offering him their tribute of admiration and love. 

I must in this connection refer to the battle of styles 
which has not yet ended in regard to the proper form 
of the vernacular style. Some writers stand up for 
the old classical style and others are for making the ' 
style of literature an echo of the spoken tongue. Both 
are wrong and as visual in India, in social and other 

114 



INTRODUCTOKY 

spheres of activity, empty discussions as to how to 
begin take the place of loyal work. Educate the 
people and place all your styles before them. We shall 
then see the survival of the best and fittest style. Every 
language grows with the growth of the race, and it is 
absurd to decree that it shall not grow and change. 
But to rush to the other extreme and discard all the 
beautiful traditions of literature and art that have grown 
and gathered during the ages, and to make the new 
literary style an echo of the spoken tongue which has 
become debased by literature having had no popular 
appeal in the middle ages and having been in the hands 
of literary coteries is an unpatriotic, shortsighted, and 
suicidal act. 

There is a complaint even in Bengal that though 
Tagore's poetic genius and artistic vigilance have 
enabled him, while handling the Bengali tongue in a 
new manner and freeing it from its classical fetters, not 
to cross the line that separates the laws of poetic 
expression from license and slang, others who have 
been his followers and imitators have crossed the line 
and are murdering the language. There have been great 
masters of the vernaculars in India till within a few^ 
decades ago, and our duty, while trying to achieve 
directness and terseness of expression which is one of 
the chief glories of the English language, is to study 
the masterpieces of vernacular literature and follow not 
in a spirit of slavish homage but in a spirit of love the 

]15 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

laws that have been discoverd in India by great rhetori- 
cians and poets in regard to poetic 'truth and poetic 
beauty. 

Tagore's views on Bengali prosody are valuable. Her 
says : " In Bengali, on the other hand, one strong 
syllable is followed by a whole series of atonic syllables 
which glide over the ear so fast that it is difficult tO' 
grasp their intonation. Is it not the image of one of our 
joint Hindu families ? The head of the household is 
easily recognised, but behind him is an undistinguish- 
able and undistinguished crowd ! " (From a letter bj' 
him to Mr. J. D. Anderson published in the Journal of 
The Royal Asiatic Society). He decries the excessive use 
of assonance and alliteration which take away the 
attention of the poet and the reader from sense to sound 
to an improper extent. He points out that in old 
Bengali poetry there are not proper and harmonious 
ascents and descents of accent, each akshara (letter,) 
being counted as a separate matra, and that this defici- 
ency was not felt as verse was chanted and not recited. 
He says : " On the other hand, I firmly believe there 
is an audible, a metrical, difference between syllables, 
containing simple and compound consonants, respec- 
tively. So convinced was I of this that, some years, 
ago, I composed a book of verses entitled Manasi, which, 
contains examples of metres in which syllables contain- 
ing compound consonants do the work of two matras.. 
This device has now become a current usage." He 

116 



INTRODUCTORY 

says again : " In the verses composed in my later 
years I have striven to introduce the music of current 
speech, simply because popular language runs freely 
and gladly like a sparkling brook. Its wavelets dance 
and babble naturally. The lines you quoted from my 
Gitanjali are written to evoke the clash of consonants 

in collision The tears in the eyes and the 

smile on the lips of our own native muse have been 
hidden behind the meretricious tinsel of a veil borrowed 
from Sanskrit. We have forgotten how piercing and 
significant is the glance of her dark eyes ! I have done 
what I can to pull aside the encumbering garment. 
Followers of convention may blame ; 1 care not a 
whit. Let them, if they will, appraise the workmanship 
of the veil and the price of its glistening embroidery. 
What I want to see is the bright eyes behind it. In 
them you will find a wealth of beauty not quoted in the 
market rates of the bazaar's pedantry." 

One of the beautiful traits of Tagore's style is its 
simplicity, spontaneity, and freshness. It flows in its 
limpid grace like a mountain brook beneath golden 
sunshine. It is a real joy to watch this combination of 
perfect grace of form and perfect simplicity. Further, 
his instinct for the right word is also admirable. The 
definition that prose is words in their best order and 
that poetry is the best words in their best order seems 
to be peculiarly applicable to Tagore's work. Again, 
his sense of decoration and ornamentation is per feet. 

117 



S(R RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

The art of poetics has been cultivated in India to aa 
extent and to a height of perfection unattained any- 
where else in the world. The Indian's subtle sense of 
variations of literary decoration is as remarkable as his 
subtle sense of poetic harmony. Tagore himself regretted 
that he could not reveal in his English translation all 
those decorative graces that his mother tongue enabled 
him to give to his original compositions as a fitting and 
royal apparel. We must further remember that the pecu- 
liar charm of Tagore's poetic work is in a large measure 
due to its musical inspiration. He himself describes this- 
process in his inimitable manner; "I have felt this 
again and again when composing songs. When I 
began to write a line, humming — 

Do not hide in your heart, O Sakhi, your secret word, — 
then I saw that wherever the tune flew away with the 
words, the words could not follow on foot. Then it 
seemed to me as if the hidden word that I prayed to- 
hear was lost in the gloom of the forest, it melted into the 
still whiteness of the full moonlight, it was veiled in the 
blue distance of the horizon — as if it were the innermost 
secret word of the whole land and sea and sky. I heard 
when I was very young the song ' Who dressed like a 
foreigner ?' and that one line of the song painted such- 
a strange picture in my mind .... I once tried to com- 
pose a song myself under the spell of that line 

my heart began to say, 'there is a stranger going to- 
and fro in this world of ours — her house is on the fur- 

118 



INTRODUCTORY 

ther shores of an ocean of mystery — Sometimes she is- 
to be seen in the autumn morning, sometimes in the 
flowery midnight, sometimes we receive an intimation- 
of her in the depths of our heart — Sometimes I hear her 
voice when I turn my ear to the sky.' The tune of my 
song led me to the very door of that stranger who- 
ensnares the universe and appears in it, and I said : 

" Wandering over the world. 

I come to thy land, 

I am a guest at thy door, O stranger." 

I give below a few salient examples of Tagore's goldea 
felicities of style, though I know full well that to do the 
work adequately within this limited compass is an^ 
impossibility. To appreciate his style fully the reader 
must read Tagore often and realise his literary graces 
with the aid of imagination and love. 

Tagore has further a quiet humour of his own — in 
which the element of irony is softened by love and by 
sadness at the oddities and contradictions of human life 
which is meant for better things but is allowed by us to 
be soiled by the mire of sins and sorrows and hates 
and lies. 

'' Oh the vow of a man ! Surely thou knowest, thou 
god of love, that unnumbered saints and sages 
have surrendered the merits of their life-long 
penance at the feet of a woman. " 

{Chitra^ page 5). 
119 



SIR RABINPRANATH TAGORE 

" Just fancy ! any one libelling me c^ be punish- 
ed, while nobody can stop the mouth of any 
rascal who chooses to slander the King. " 
{The King of the Dark Chamber page 15). 

" When people sought grants and presents from 
him, he could not somehow discover an 
auspicious day in the calendar ; though all days 
were red-letter days when we had to pay our 
taxes ! " 

(Do. page 25). 

'' When I had a meagre retinue at first every one 
regarded me with suspicion, but now with the 
increasing crowd, their doubts are waning and 
dissolving. The crowd is being hypnotised 
by its own magnitude." 

o. P.vge 09?. 
His plays and poems abound in those golden felicities 
of style, that instinct for the right word, the eye for 
beauty and the ear for melody and the readiness to 
realise the suggestive associations brought by words in 
their long travel down the centuries, the combination 
of terseness and vividness — which mark the true poet 
and artist, about whom Tennyson says : 

"All the charm of all the muses often flowering in a 
lonely word.'' and 

" Jewels five words long, That on the stretched 
forefinger of all time Sparkle for ever." 

120 



INTRODUCTORY 

"I bind in bonds of pain and bliss the lives of 
men and women." 

^ (Chitra, page 1). 

"*' Instantly he leapt up with straight tall Umbs, like 
a sudden tongue of fire from a heap of ashes." 

(Do. page 4). 
" It seemed to me that the heart of the earth must 
heave in joy under her bare white feet." 

(Do. page 11). 
•" She bared her bosom and looked at her arms, so 
flawlessly modelled, and instinct with an 
exquisite caress." 

(Do. page 12). 
"*' You alone are perfect ; you are the wealth of the 
world, the end of all poverty, the goal of all 
efforts, the one woman ! " 

(Do. page 18). 
*' A limitless life of glory can bloom and pend itself 
in a morning : Like an endless meaning in the 
narrow span of a song." 

(Do. pages 20, 21). 
*' Shame slipped to my feet like loosened clothes." 

{Chitra, page 24). 
" Come in the lisping leaves, in the youthful sur- 
render of flowers ; 
•Come in the flute songs and the wistful signs of the 
the woodlands !" 

{The King of the Dark Chamber page 7). 

121 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGOKK 

" The ferry of the light from the dawn to the dark 

is done for the day, 
The evening star is up. 

Have you gathered your flowers, braided your hair, 
And donned your white robe for the night ?" 

(Do. page 49). 
" The white, silver light of the full moon is flood- 
ing the heavens and brimming over on every 
side like the bubbling foam of wine". 

(Do. page 81). 
" The fairy mistress of dreams is coming towards 
you, flying through the twilight sky." 

{The Crescent Moon, page 10). 
" I shall melt into the music of the flute and throb 
in your heart all day ". 

(Do. page 67). 
" Let your gentle eyes fall upon them like the 
forgiving peace of evening over the strife of the 
day." 

(Do. page 79) 
I shall give below a few admirable illustrations of 
Tagore's powers of vivid description in general : — 

" I paced alone on the road across the field while 
. the sunset was hiding its last gold like a miser. 
The day light sank deeper and deeper into the 
darkness, and the widowed land, whose harvest 
had been reaped, lay silent. 

122 



INTRODUCTORY 

Suddenly a boy's shrill voice rose into the sky. He 
traversed the dark unseen, leaving the track of; 
his song across the hush of the evening." 

{The Crescent Moon^ page 1). 
" The sea surges up with laughter, and pale gleams • 

the smile of the sea-beach ...Tempest roams 

in the pathless sky, ships are wrecked in the 
trackless water, death is abroad and children • 
play." 

{The Crescent Moon, page 4). 
" Out of the blank darkness cf our lampless meet- 
ing-place used to stream forth strains and songs and 
melodies, dancing and vibrating in endless succession 
and overflowing profusion, like the passionate exuber- 
ance cf a ceaseless fountain !" {The King of the Dark 
Chamber, pages 144-145). 

He has a wonderful faculty of giving faithful and. 
beautiful descriptions of nature and life in India. His 
love of natural beauty and his intimate realisation of 
the joys and sorrows of men and women in our land 
have given him a unique power of delineation of the 
glories of earth and sea and sky in India and of the 
lives of men and women. Only a few examples are 
given below here, as I shall make an attempt in the 
later portion of this book to interpret fully each great' 
work of Tagore s genius. 

•' His village home lay there at the end of the waste 
land, beyond the sugar-cane field^ hidden among •; 

123 



SIR RABINDRAN'ATH TAGORE 

the shadows of the banana and the slender areca 
palm, the cocoa-nut and the dark green jack- 
fruit trees." (The Crescent Moon^ page !)• 

'' The shepherd boy has gone home early from the 
pasture, and men have left their fields to sit on 
mats under the eaves of their huts, watching the 
scowling clouds." (Do. page 35). 

■" The palm trees in a row by the lake are smiting 
their heads against the dismal sky ; the crows 
with their draggled wings are silent on the 
tamarind branches, and the eastern bank of the 
river is haunted by a deepening gloom .... 
The sky seems to ride fast upon the madly-rushing 
rain ; the water in the river is loud and impatient; 
women have hastened home early from the 

Ganges with their filled pitchers 

The road to the market is desolate, the lane to 
the river is slippery. The wind is roaring and 
struggling among the bamboo branches like a 
wild beast tangled in a net." 

(Do. pages 86-7). 

" They say there are strange pools hidden behind 
that high bank. 

Where flocks of wild ducks come when the rains 
are over, and thick reeds grow round the margins 
where water-birds lay their eggs ; 

Where snipes with their dancing tails stamp their 
tiny footprints upon the clean soft mud ; 

124 



INTRODUCTORY 

Where in the evening the tall grassess crested with ^ 
white flowers invite the moonbeam to float upori 
their waves." 

{The Crescent Moon, pages 42-48). 
" I have heard the liquid murmur of the river 
through the darkness of midnight." 

(Do. page 70). 
" Autumn sunsets have come to me at the bend of a 
road in the lonely waste, like a bride raising her 
veil to accept her lover." 

(Do. page 70). 
"Sunlight danced on the ripples like restless tiny 
shuttles weaving golden tapestry." 

(Do. page 72). 
"See, there where Auntie grinds lentils in the quirn, 
the squirrel is sitting with his tail up and with 
his wee hands he is picking up the broken grains 
of lentils and crunching them." 

{The Post Office, pages 10-11). 
" Indeed, they (the parrots) live among the green 
hills ; and in the time of the sunset when there is 
a red glow on the hillside, all the birds with their 
green wings go flocking to their nests !" 

{The Crescent Moon, pages 62-63). 
" Oh it (the waterfall) is like molten diamonds ; 
and my dear ! what dances they have ! Don't 
they make the pebbles sing as they rush over 
them to the sea?" (Do. page 63). 

125 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

A few examples may be given here of Tagore's 
^/profound reflections on life here and hereafter, 
earthly and divine — containing as they do the quintes- 
sence of his philosophy of life which is both lofty and 
"deep. 

" Illusion is the first appearance of Truth. She 
advances towards her lover in disguise. But a 
time comes when she throws off her ornaments 
and veils, and stands clothed in naked dignity. 
I grope for that ultimate you, that bare simpli- 
city of truth." 

{Chitra page 52). 
*' No littleness can keep us shut up in its walls of 
untruth for aye. Were it not so, how could we 
hope in our heart to meet him ? " 
{The King of the Dark Chamber, pages 14-15) 
*' Desire can never attain its object — it need never 
attain it.'' 

(Do. page 83). 
" M istakes are but the preludes to their own des- 
truction." 

(Do. page 154). 
■" Do not grow impatient, King of Kanchi, sweet are 
the fruits of delay." 

{Chitra, page 158). 
■" He only may chastise who loves." 

{The CY£scent Movn, page 22.) 

1^6 



INTRODUCTORY 

XII. Tagore's Mysticism. 
In her admirable Introduction to the Translation of 
^ne Hundred Poems by Kahir^ to which I have made 
frequent reference in these pages, Evelyn Underhill 
says : " The poetry of mysticism might be defined on 
the one hand as a temperamental reaction to the vision 
of Reality : on the other as a form of prophecy. As it is 
the special vocation of the mystical consciousness to 
mediate between the two orders, going out in loving 
adoration towai-ds God and coming home to tell the 
secrets of eternity to other men ; so the artistic self- 
expression of this consciousness has also a double 
character. It is love-poetry, but love -poetry which is 

often written with a missionary intention This 

willing acceptance of the here-and-now as a means of 
representing supernal realities is a trait common to the 
greatest mystics." She says again : " It is a marked 
characteristic of mystical literature that the great 
contemplatives, in their effort to convey to us the nature 
of their communion with the supersensuous, are inevit- 
ably driven to employ some form of sensuous imagery, 
coarse and inaccurate as they know such imagery to be, 
even at the best. Our normal human consciousness 
is so completely committed to dependence on the 
senses, that the fruits of intuition itself are instinctively 
referred to them. In that intuition it seems to the 
mystics that all the dim cravings and partial apprehen- 
sions of sense find perfect fulfilment. Hence their 



127 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

constant declaration that they see the uncreated light,, 
they hear the celestial melody, they taste the sweetness- 
of the Lord, they know an ineffable fragrance, they 

feel the very contact of love These are excessive 

dramatizations of the symbolism under which the 
mystic tends instinctively to represent his spiritual' 
intuition to the surface consciousness. Here, in the 
special sense-perception which he feels to be most 
expressive of Reahty, his pecuHar idiosyncrasies come- 
out." 

These two passages show in an admirable manner 
what is the true glory of the mystical consciousness. 
It is the function of poetry and music to reveal as far as 
is possible for them the messages from the mystical 
consciousness to man. As Shelley says : " Poetry is 
the record of the best and happiest moments of the 
best and happiest minds. It is, as it were, the interpret- 
ation of a diviner nature through our own. It redeems 
from decay the visitations of the divinity in man." The 
dictionary meaning of a mystic as '' one who believes in 
spiritual apprehension of truths beyond the understand- 
ing" is followed by a remark; " whence mysticism 
(often contempt)." Dr. Max Nordau goes the length 
of regarding mysticism as a form of mental de- 
generation. Others think that it has some alliance with 
black magic and the realm of darkness. But a certain 
amount of detachment, purity, and personal realisation 
is necessary before one can know the truth about 

128 



INTRODUCTORY 

mysticism. As Franz Hartmann says : " If our whole 
time and attention be taken up by the illusions of sense, 
we will lose the power to perceive that which is super- 
sensuous ; the more we look at the surface, the less will 
we know of the kernel ; the more we sink mto matter, 
the more will we become unconscious of the spirit 

which is tbe life of all things The eyes of a world 

that stepped out from a night of bigotry into the light 
of day, were dazzled and blinded for a while by the 
vain glitter of a pile of rubbish and broken pots that 
had been collected by the advocates of material science, 
who palmed it off for diamonds and precious stones ; 
but the world has recovered from the effect of the 
glare, and realized the worthlessness of the rubbish, 
and it again seeks for the less dazzHng but priceless light 
of the truth." Indeed, as he says : '^ A person who 
peremptorily denies the existence of anything which is 
beyond the horizon of his understanding, because he 
cannot make it harmonize with his accepted opinions, 
is as credulous as he who beheves everything without 

discrimination This power of spiritual perception, 

potentially contained in every man, but developed in a 
few, is almost unknown to the guardians of science in 
modern civihzation, because learning is often separated 
from wisdom, and the calculating intellect seeking for 
worms in the dark caverns of the earth cannot see the 
genius that floats towards the light and it cannot realize 
his existence." (Introduction to Paracelsus). Not 

129 



/ 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

only are detachment and purity necessary for mystical 
perception, but strenuous inner effort storing up mysti- 
cal experience is required to make the mystic vision 
sure, wide, and deep. Further, a great mystic's ex- 
perience can become real for us only when we have a 
similar experience in our souls, though the heart can 
apprehend in a slight degree the mystical radiance that 
lights up dim-lit depths of soul in us. As Morley says 
in his essay on Dante : " We accept a truth of science 
so soon as it is demonstrated, are perfectly willing to 
take it on authority, can appropriate whatever use there 
may be in it without the least understanding of its 
processes, as men send messages by the electric tele- 
graph, but every truth of morals must be re-demons- 
trated in the experience of the individual man before 
he is capable of utilizing it as a constituent of character 
or a guide in action." 

Caroline F. E. Spurgeon says in her valuable book on 
Mysticism in English Literature : " If a man has this 
particular temperament, his mysticism is the very centre 
of his being : it is the flame which feeds his whole 
life ; and he is intensely and supremely happy just so 
far as he',is steeped in it. Mysticism is, in-truth, a temper 
rather than a doctrine, an atmosphere rather than a 
system of philosophy." The reviewer of Tagore's works 
in the Quarterly Review well says : " For the mystic the 
note of the lute is the eternal lure of God's voice lead- 
ing us cin to ever-new adventures in experience without 

130 



INTRODUCTORY 

a thought of fear or regret for what we leave behind." 
The mystic has a vivid and rapturous spiritual 
perception of the unity that underlies all diversity. 
Spiritual things have to be spiritually discerned, and to 
scorn the aid of the mystical preception in the case of 
the spiritual realm is like scorning the aid of eyes in try- 
ing to realise the beauty of the sky. The mystic realises 
'God not as an metaphysical abstraction, but as the 
Divine Lover and Bridegroom, as the Infinite Beauty 
that shines in the universe and yet transcends it. "The 
mystic is somewhat in the position of a man who, 
in a world of blind men, has suddenly been granted 
sight, and who, gazing at the sunrise, and overwhelmed 
by the glory of it, tries, however falteringly, to convey 
to his fellows what he sees." 

What is the nature of this spiritual faculty ? It has 
the same revealing power as imagination has in regard 
to the material and mental realms. Imagination is a 
unifying force and reveals affinities, similarities, and 
correspondences among things. The function of the in- 
tellect is to apprehend, separate, and classify while that 
-of the senses is to take cognizance of things in separation 
bit by bit. Hence the mind has a higher unifying 
power than the senses, and the imagination (not the wild 
fancy that disports itself amidst the shows of things but 
the serious faculty that sees into the heart of things) has 
.a higher unifying power than the mind, fmagination is 
.a far and swift traveller and is ever full of radiant sur- 

131 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

prises for the mind. Shakespeare has well exclaimed: — 

The poet's eye in a fire frenzy rolling 

Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven. 
When the poet gazes on the beloved's face and calls 
it the full moon shining in the sky of his soul, we feel at 
once how two beautiful things are brought together and 
shown as one in joy. The picture calls into being in 
our mind a number of accessory pictures. We imagine 
the night of the heart where everything was dark and 
dreary, the first red glow of the moonrise of love blush- 
ing at its venturesomeness and coming hesitatingly- 
above the horizon, and finally the calm silver radiance 
of wedded love flooding the earth of our ordinary life 
with its gentle and piarifying beams and leading our 
minds gently and irresistibly (*l^dl<:iWcId"4(T as the 
beautiful and terse Sanscrit word says) to the ever-full 
Moon of Divine Love. Mysticism and spiritual vision go 
even deeper than imagination, and reveal to us the Over- 
soul and the deep spiritual affinities of things. This 
supreme faculty of the soul has been called by various 
names : " Transcendental feeling", " Mystic reason", 
"cosmic consciousness", '' ecstacy", "vision ", etc. It 
has been well described by Wordsworth thus : 

" That serene and blessed mood 

In which the breath of this corporeal frame, 

And even the motion of our human blood, 

Almost suspended, we are laid asleep 

In body, aift become a living soul: 

Whil« with an eye made quiet by the power 

132 



INTRODUCTORY 

Of harmony, and the deep power of joy, 
We see into the life of things." Tint em Abbey. 

This faculty is no chance gift but is the result of 
purity of life, search for wisdom, and Godward love in 
ihis birth or in previous births. The mystic having to 
express the truths realised by him in terms of the mind 
and the senses, for he has touch with the outer world 
only through them, earthly relations and unions are 
adopted as symbols of vividly-reaHsed spiritual unions. 
It is only in this mystical sense that God is our Father, 
The mystical Indian mind has reahsed God as Mother, 
Beloved, Friend, and Child as well. The expression of 
divine love in terms of human love is further possible 
because there is on human love the shadow of the light 
of divine joy cast by the tree of life. Nature becomes a 
living Presence to the mystic, and no portion of it is 
lower or higher than other portions in his eyes. The fall 
of a yellow and sere leaf is as much an illustration of the 
flux of things as the disappearance of a human life. It 
has well been said : " In order to be a true symbol, a 
thing must be partly the same as that which it symbo- 
lises." Hence mystic symbolism is more than a figare 
of speech ; it is the passionate expression of a really 
and vividly felt fact of inner experience. Blake well 

-describes this feeling thus : 

" To see a world in a grain of sand 

And a Heaven in a wild flower, 
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand 

And eternity in an hour." 

133 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

I shall quote here only one perfect passage from Plato. 
" He who under the influence of true love rising upward 
from these begins to see that beauty, is not far from the 
end. And the true order of going or being led by an- 
other to the things of love, is to use the beauties of the 
earth as steps along which he mounts upwards for the 
sake of that other beauty, going from one to two, and 
from two to all fair forms, and from fair forms to fair 
practices, and from fair practices to fair notions, until 
from fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute 
beauty, and at last knows what the essence of beauty is 

This ... is that life above all others 

which man should live, in the contemplation of beauty 
absolute." 

[Syuiposiuin). 
It is because the true mystics dwell habitually in the 
inner realm where perfect Harmony, Beauty, Love and 
Joy reign that even their physical sheaths become bright, 
their utterance melodious, their minds clear and power- 
ful, their moral sense keen and potent, and their heart 
full of love. As Emerson says : " Only by the vision of 
that wisdom can the horoscope of the ages be read, and. 
by falling back on our better thoughts, by yielding tO' 
the spirit of prophecy which is innate in every man, we 

can know what it saith only itself can 

inspire whom it will and behold ! their speech shall be 
lyrical and sweet and universal as the rising of the 
wind . . . When it breathes through his intellect 

334 



INTRODUCTORY 

it is genius ; when it breathes through his will it is will, 
it is virtue ; when it flows through his affection, it is 
love." 

{The Over soul). 
Hence it is that the great mystics of the world become 
great poets, musicians, prophets, geniuses, and leaders 
of humanity without aiming at such a consummation. 
All the evils of the world — lust, avarice, anger, ignorance 
vanity, and hate — arise from our blindness of vision. By, 
imagination we realise our vmity in a common humanity 
and our brotherhood. By mystic vision we realise our 
unity in God. All the wars of the world are due to the 
tyranny of the senses and the mind. The senses crave 
satisfaction and are separating forces. The good things 
of life must be for me alone ; let me kill that man and 
take his good things for my use, — that is the whisper of 
the senses. If one heeds their siren voice he is spiritual- 
ly lost. The mind is ever a vain thing. It says to the 
soul : — -That is a barbarian, a man of low mind ; for 
the sake of the mental uplift of the world let that 1o\t 
type disappear; let me bear the burden ; kill off that 
savage and let me, the civilised one capable of high men- 
tation, live in proud glory under the sky without my eye 
being vexed by the sight of that savage, This is the 
whisper of the mind. If one heeds its siren voice he is 
spiritually lost. Alas ! what has not the tyranny of the 
mind and the senses to answer for at the bar of Love ! 
What unhappiness, deep agony, shattered homes and 

135 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

bleeding hearts^ are due to hate — and to war, the worst 
manifestation of hate. Can all the crowns of the world 
soothe the cry of a single orphan or the mute agony of 
a widow ? Imagination goes a small way towards unifi- 
cation and brotherhood but not far. Hence it is that 
western nations in spite of culture and imagination 
have not freed themselves from the tyranny of the 
senses and the mind. Coleridge has shown that not even 
thousand French Revolutions can bring about true 
freedom. 

" The sensual and the dark rebel in vain, 

Slaves by their own compulsion ! In mad game 
They burst their manacles, and wear the name 
Of freedom graven on a heavier chain !" 

It is only when the mystical faculty is in " in widest 
commonalty spread " that the higher state of human 
enlightenment will dawn upon the suffering earth. 

Christ was a great mystic and his use of nature — 
symbolism is a remarkable fact. Oscar Wilde — after 
the chastening of his wild spirit in the baptism of 
suffering — says of Him : " One always thinks of him as 
a young bridegroom with his companion as indeed he 
somewhere describes himself ; as a shepherd straying 
through a valley in search of green meadow or cool 
stream ; as a singer trying to build out of music the 
walls of the City of God ; or as a lover for whose love 
the whole world was too small". In English Literature 
also we have had great mystics. Caroline Spurgeon says 

136 



INTRODUCTORY 

iruly that the great mystical writers in English can be 
grouped according to the five main pathways by which 
they have seen the vision — Love, Beauty, Nature, 
Wisdom, Devotion. It is not possible to do more than 
mention here a few great names. — Shelley, Words- 
worth, Browning, Blake, Vaughan, Donne, Richard 
Rolle and others have made us realise " discord 
blending into harmony, difference merging into unity." 
The most glorious and perfect manifestations of 
the mystical vision are to be found in India. The 
wonderful beauty and sublimity of Nature in India, the 
existence of a race dowered with a rare faculty of in- 
sight, and other favourable circumstances are responsible 
for this wonderful and unique phenomenon. Ernest 
Horrwitz says in his Short History of Indian Literature: 
'' The ancients meant by theosophy intuitive wisdom 
which shines in pure and selfless hearts. But the 
modern teachings which are labelled theosophical, 
though they have appropriated the venerable name and 
the occult phraseology which has gathered round it, 
have caught little of the hidden spirit, the soul's truest 
and best. Far sounder is the teaching supplied by 
Master Eckhart (1.300 A. D.) and Jacob Boehme (1600 
A. D.) two German theosophists ; but what is the pale 
light of their veiled utterances compared to the vivid 
realisation and fearless language of the golden Upa- 

nishads ?" 

Tagore is a great mystic, poet, and saint. His is the 

137 



SIR KABINDRANATH TAGOKE 

rare dower of mystical and spiritual vision. I have 
already shown how in a large measure he is the spiritual 
descendant of the Vaishnava and Sufi mystics. I shall 
show in a later chapter the deep correspondences 
between him and Kabir. But his spiritual vision has 
got a beauty, power, and sweetness of its own — unique, 
unequalled, original. To appreciate it to the full, one 
must read him again and again with a devout, dedi- 
cated, and pure heart, and in a spirit of deep thankful- 
ness to God who in his love for this holy land is sending 
great souls again and again to us, so that we may reach 
the heaven of His Love. His mysticism is in alliance with 
the true love of country, the true joys of love, the true 
raptures of service, and the highest moral life. He 
preaches not asceticism but renunciation of selfishness, 
t y I not quiescence but radiant activity in the service of 
^''■' '-^ ' love. He has made life heavenlier and sweeter and purer 
by letting the light of love play on it, and he is one 
of the greatest forces making for the reign of light and 
love in the world. 

It is very difficult to select illustrations of his wonder- 
ful mystical genius when we see in his works an in- 
exhaustible affluence of mystic thought and emotion ia 
almost every page. The following are a few examples. 
"He who plays his music to the stars is standing at 

your window with his flute," 

{The Crescent Moon, page 11). 

138 



INTRODUCTORY 

"When in girlhood my heart was opening its petals,, 
you hovered as a fragrance about it." 

( Do. page 16). 
"At sunrise open and raise your heart like a 
blossoming flower, and at sunset bend your head 
and in silence complete the worship of the day." 

( Do. page 80). 
" My beloved is ever in my heart 
That is why I see him everywhere 



Come (o my heart and see his face in the tears of 

my eyes !" 

{The King of the Dark Chauibic, page 21). 
"But me the wild winds of unscalable heights have 

touched and kissed — Oh, I know not when or 

where!" ( Do. page 38). 

" The music of enchantment will pursue them and 

pierce their hearts." ( Do. page 58). 

" My sorrow is sweet to me in this spring night. 
My pain smites at the chords of my love and. 

softly sings. 
Visions take birth from my yearning eyes and flit • 

in the moonht sky. 
The smells from the depths of the woodlands have 

lost their way in my dreams. 
Words come in whispers to my ears, I know not 

from where, 
And bells in my anklets tremble and jingle in tune 

139 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

with my heart thrills." ( Do. page 82). 
^' Let each separate moment of beauty come to me 
like a bird of mystery from its unseen nest in the 
dark bearing a message of music." 

{Chilra^ page 53). 
" Oh, how I wish — -I wish that I could wander rapt 
and lovely in the thick woodland arbours of the 
heart ?" 

( The King of the Dark Chamber^ page 83). 
**' It is thy love that feigns this neglect — thy caress- 
ing arms are pushing me away — to draw me 
back to thy arms again 1 

( Do. pages 116-117). 
" I am waiting with my all in the hope of losing 

everything." ( Do. page 184). 

^' My song will sit in the pupils of your eyes, and 
will carry your sight into the heart of things." 
(The Crescent Moon page 78). 
*'Your feet are rosy-red with the glow of my heart's 
desire, gleaner of my sunset songs." 

{The Gardener^ page 58). 
^' He came when the night was still ... he had 
his harp in his hands, and my dreams became 
resonant with its melodies." 

{Gitanjali, page ^0). 
'' Entering my heart unbidden even as one of the 
common crowd, my king, thou didst press the 
signet of eternity upon many a fleeting moment 



INTRODUCTORY 

of my life." {Gitanjali, page 35). 

" What divine drink woulds't thou have, my God^. 
from this overflowing cup of my life ?" 

{Gitanjali, page 61). 
Tagore has a rare and wonderful faculty of realising 
and expressing the spiritual significance of things. 
This faculty is overwhelmed in us by the surging tides 
of worldliness, strife, and desire. But those who have 
attained the inner heights of peace and love and 
renunciation see things in the light of the soul 
and realise the right relations of things. In trying. 
to understand his style, we must bear this aspect in our 
minds prominently. I give below a few examples of 
this great faculty. 

" It seems to me because the earth can't speak, it 
raises its hands into the sky and beckons. And 
those who live far off, and sit alone by their 
windows can see the signal." 

{The Post Office, pages 14-15). 
" Mirth spreads from leaf to leaf, my darling, and 
gladness without measure. The heaven's river 
has drowned its banks and the flood of joy is 
abroad." {Gitanjali, page 53). 

XIII. Tagore's Religious Ideas. 
Carlyle has called religion "the chief fact with 
regard to man ;" and it is very interesting to know 
Tagore's religious ideas, both because religion is the 
most important element of a man's life, and because in 

141 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

the case of such a deeply spiritual mind as Tagore's, 
the world may well expect a gospel of true wisdom 
and real profundity of thought illumined by a vivid 
inner realisation and experience. His ancestry, the 
special bent of his genius, his habits of life, his tempera- 
ment, and his studies have fitted him to be a spiriti&al 
leader while being a poet and a practical patriot. It 
is this combination of great gifts that more than any- 
thing else that has endeared him to India and won for 
him the reverence and love of the whole world. 

Tagore's loftiest religious message is contained in his 
Sadhana and his Gitanjali. I am dealing with these 
.great works at length in later chapters. It is said that 
his sermons called Shantinikelan contain some of his 
loftiest and greatest religious thoughts. To express 
Tagore's religious message adequately, one must have 
something of the " vision and faculty divine," which he 
possesses in such an ample measure. What I seek to 
do here is merely to make a few remarks by way of 
suggestions and hints, as I do not feel worthy to do 
more. This vvork will have to be taken up for fuller 
exposition by some one far fitter than myself or by 
me when I become fitter to do it. 

Tagore's great spiritual^gospel is the gospel that India 
has been giving to the world during the immemorial 
ages: — the gospel of spiritual unity and divine 
I immanence. 

" The same stream of life, that runs through my 

142 



INTRODUCTORY 

veins night and day, runs through the world and 
dances in rhythmic measures. 
It is the same life that shoots in joy through the 
dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass 
and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and 
flowers. 
It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean- 
cradle of birth and of death, in ebb and inflow." 
{Gitatijali, pages G4 and 65.) 
He cries out exultingly: — 
"In this play-house of infinite forms I have had my 
play and here have I caught sight of him that is 
formless." {Gitanjali, page 8^.) 

Tagore teaches again and again in a convincing 
■manner the immortality of the soul and its ascent 
through many births to the lotus feet of God. 

" Thou hast made me endless, such is thy plea- 
sure. This frail vessel thou emptiest again and 
again, and fillest it ever with fresh life." 

{Gitanjaliy page 1). 
" The time that my journey takes is long and the 

way of it long. 
I came out on the chariot of the first gleam of 
light, and pursued my voyage through the wild- 
ernesses of worlds, leaving my track on many a 
star and planet. 
It is the most distant course that comes nearest to 
thyself, and that training is the most intricate 
which leads to the utter simplicity, of a tune." 

143 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

{Giianjah\ page 10). 
" Day by day thou art making me worthy of thy 
full acceptance by refusing me ever and anon, 
saving me from perils of weak, uncertain desire." 

(Do. page 12). 
Tagore's poems on death reveal the above ideal 
vividly. Death is merely the preparation for a higher 
and fuller life, if this life has been lived in love of 
man and God and has been full of high purpose and 
achievement. 

" It is thou who drawest the veil of night upon the 
tired eyes of the day to renew its sight in a 
fresher gladness of awakening. 

{Gitanjali, page 20), 
" And because I love this life, I know that I shall 
love death as well. The child cries out when 
from the right breast the mother takes it away,^ 
in the very next moment to find in the left one 
its consolation." 

Gitanjali, page 87). 
Tagore teaches that the real treasure of the soul is 
God and that the highest joy of life is the attainment of 
divine union. The soul is the bride that awaits the 
consummation of her existence by meeting and loving, 
the Eternal Bridegroom. 

" She who ever had remained in the depth of my 
being, in the twilight of gleams and of glimpses ;. 
she who never opened her veils in the morning. 

144 



INTRODUCTORY 

light, will be my last gift to thee, my God 

folded in my final song 

There was none in the world who ever saw her 
face to face, and she remained in her loneliness 
waiting for thy recognition." 

{Gilanjali, pages 61, and 62). 
" The flowers have been woven and the garland is 
ready for the bridegroom. After the wedding 
the bride shall leave her home and meet her 
lord alone in the solitude of night." 

(Gitanjali^ page 84). 
Tagore teaches that the raptures of divine union caa 
be attained only by love, renunciation, and utmost 
simplicity and self-surrender. 

" My song has put off her adornment. She has- 
no pride of dress and decoration. Ornaments 
would mar our union ; they would come between 
thee and me ; their jingling would drown thy 
whispers. 
" My poet's vanity dies in shame before thy 
sight. O master poet, I have sat down at thy 
teet. Only let me make my hfe simple and 
straight, like a flute of reed for thee to fill with, 
music." 

{Gitanjali^ page 6). 
The highest teaching of Hindu thought is that it is- 
by this Alma Nivedana (surrender of our self to Him 
and substituting His will in the place of our will on the 

145 

10 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

throne of our heart) that the highest heaven of self- 
reaHsation is attained. 

Tagore teaches also that we have to rise to the heaven 
of His love by loving and serving His creatures ; that 
he who seeks realisation by abandoning the path of 
unselfish work and limitless love is like one that longs 
to fly in the air without wings ; and that what we 
should aim at is not freedom /ro;;z action but freedom 
in action. There are some critics in India who in their 
excess of irrational love for everything foreign, have 
gone the length of saying that Tagore is a mystic who 
preaches the philosophy of quiescence. Tagore 
says : 

"O giver of thyself ! at the vision of thee as joy 
let our souls flame up to thee as the fire, flow on 
to thee as the river, permeate thy being as the 
fragrance of the flower. Give us strength to love, 
to love fully, our life in its joys and sorrows, in 
its gains and losses, in its rise and fall. Let us 
have strength enough fully to see and hear thy 
universe, and to work with full vigour therein." 
{Sadhana, pages 133, and 134). 
Much more could be said about Tagore's great spirit- 
ual teachings. But for reasons already given I content 
myself now with the above exposition, hoping that I 
have said enough to show how Tagore has thrown the 
light of his pure soul on the ultimate problems of life 
and the destiny of the human soul. 

146 



INTRODUCTORY 

XIV. Tagore's Conception of Womanhood. 
A great poet's conception of womanhood is always a 
treal and sure test ot his art. If art is the revelation of 
ibeauty and love, it must find the heaven of a woman's 
heart to be its fittest shrine. There is sure to be some- 
thing shallow and unworthy about the art which has 
glitter and even power, but which takes a low view of 
womanhood. Woman is the guardian of the emotional 
and spiritual elements of the race ; she has the divine 
^ifts of sympathy and intuition , and her heart soars on 
ihe wings of sympathy and intuition over seemingly 
insurmountable barriers separating man from man and 
man from God. Women have not often been great spiri- 
tual thinkers or leaders, but they have often lived lives 
of perfect peace, love, and intuitive devotion to God. 
Man owes to them the heaven of love, the sweet joys of 
home, and the graces and charities and refinements of 
life. It is said that women alone can describe women 
adequately, and that a man's conception of womanhood 
must ever be inadequate. But woman, in herself, is not 
more important than woman in relation to man. The 
flower that blossoms on the tree " enjoys the air it 
breathes," and if its tongue were unloosened, can tell 
us its life in words full of truth and beauty. But only 
■the human soul can describe what the flower means to 
it. As Tagore says: "In the sphere of nature the 
€ower carries with it a certificate which recommends 
iit as having immense capacity for doing useful work, 

147 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORL 

but it brings an altogether different lettei^ of introduc- 
tion when it knocks at the door of our hearts.'^' Beauty- 
becomes its own qualification. At one place it comes- 
as a slave, and at another as a free thing." 

{Sadhana^ page 101). 

I have said that the greatest poets have interpreted- 
the true graces of v^^omanhood with reverence and love 
and in a spirit of gratitude to God for having given a 
glimpse of His heaven in the heart of a woman. Shakes- 
peare's gallery of portraits of women is famous for its- 
tenderness and its true perception of the real glories of 
womanhood. In Indian literature we have a wonderful 
gallery of portraits of women in the great epics and in 
Kalidasa. In regard to Kalidasa, Mr. A. W. Ryder has- 
well said : " Kalidasa's women appeal more to the 

moderns than his men The man is the more 

variable phenomenon But the true woman is- 

timeless, universal. I know of no poet, unless it be 
Shakespeare, who has given the world a group of 
heroines so individual yet universal, heroines as true, 
as tender, as brave as are Indumati, Sita, Parvati, the 
Yaksha's bride, and Sakuntala." 

Hindu thinkers, who are supposed to be thorough- 
going misogynists, have really taken a high and noble 
view of womanhood. They attack the sex-love that keeps 
man in the petty circuit of mere animal passion. The 
passages so often culled by our revilers and exhibited; 
with a smack of the hps to show that the Hindu 

148 



INTRODUCTORY 

Ihas been a hater of woman, are of no force or real value 
when taken out of their context. Indeed the flourishing 
of isolated texts and passages taken out of context is 
the favourite weapon of national enemies within and 
abroad. Mr. Philip Gibbs says in his Fads and Ideas : 
*' It (the worship of the female force) teaches them (the 
Hindus) a reverence for womanhood, and, above all, 
motherhood." The Hindu religion has taught that man 
and woman form but one being and that both together 
must engage in religious acts for the propitiation of 
ancestors and for the worship of God, though it has not 
shrunk from soaring above sex-love into the heaven of 
God-love and proclaiming that in the attamment of the 
final beatitude the human soul disciplined by dharma (per- 
formance of duty), Upasana (devotion), Yoga (contempla- 
tion), and Gnatia (wisdom) — must seek self-realisation and 
attainment of the Supreme as a bride seeking the Eternal 
Bridegroom — ' the Alone in search of the Alone ' as has 
been beautifully said by a great mystical thinker. 

Tagore's conception of womanhood is of wonderful 
beauty. It is essentially Indian but over it he has shed 
tlhe magical light of hi? mind, I have dealt at length 
with his love-poetry in a later chapter. He shows love 
in all its aspects — in its radiant dawn full of sweet 
surprise, its rapture in selfless service, its strength to 
save from sin, and its uplifting and purifying power. 

Tagore shows how man finds the first sweet sugges- 
tion of the divine on the brow of a woman and how she 
ds to him a godward-leading angel. 

149 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

" Is it then true that the mystery of the Infinite is- 
written on this little forehead of mine ?" 

(The Gardener^ page 62). 
He teaches also that love is no accident, but is the- 
fruition of ante-natal affinity and passion. 

*' Is it true, Is it true, that your love has travelled 
alone through ages i and worlds in search ot me? 
That when you found me at last, your age-long: 
desire found utter peace in my gentle speech 
and my eyes and lips and flowing hair ?" 

(The Gardener, page 61-62). 
Lifejgets a new and diviner radiance from love and; 
its meaning becomes clearer to our minds. 

" Does the earth, like a harp, shiver into songs» 

with the touch of my feet ? 
Is it then true that the dew-drops fall from the- 
eyes of night when I am seen, and the morning- 
light is glad when it wraps my body round ? 
Tagore shows also how a portion of the radiance 
that surrounds a woman in the eyes of a man is the 
light of his ov/n soul, and how the sex-division is a 
divine dispensation for better realising the heaven ofc 
love. 

/"" O woman, you are not merely the handiwork ofe 
God, but also of men ; these are ever endowing, 
you with beauty from their hearts . . . . ^ 
The desire of men's hearts has shed its glory over 
your youth. 

150 



I. 

I 



INTRODUCTORY 

You are one half woman and one half dream." 

(The Gardener, page 100). 
As Mr. Chunilal Mukerji well says : " Woman has a 
future of limitless possibilities and as the ideal of beauty 
is speeding on in quest of an unattainable goal. Rabin- 
dranath's ideal of womanhood shall ever like the blue 
beautiful girdle of horizon lure us on into the endless 
region where finitude is shut up and lost in an over- 
whelming infinity." 

Tagore is not content with merely suggesting the 
mystery of woman's beauty and the mystery of love. 
He shows in what manner love fulfils itself in her heart 
and uplifts her and man through her into a higher state 
of being. Tagore shows that love is not passion, but 
the very soul of goodness. He gives his own dearest 
ideal in thus describing Kalidasa's ideal of womanhood. 
*' This ancient poet of India refuses to acknowledge 
passion as the supreme glory of love, he pro- 
claims goodness as the goal of love." 

{Kalidasa, the Moralist). 
" He (Kalidasa) shows Cupid vanquished and 
burnt to ashes, and in Cupid's place he makes 
triumphant a power that has no decoration, no 
helper— a power thin with austerities, darkened 
by sorrow." ( Do. ) 

Tagore shows how India has effected a holy har- 
mony and reconciliation between a life in the world 
and a life in search of God. 

151 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

*' The two peculiar principles of India are the 
beneficent tie of home life on the one hand and 
the liberty of the soul abstracted from the world 
on the other... ..Kalidasa has shown both in 
Saknntala and Kumara Sambhava that there is a 
harmony between these two principles, an easy 
transition from the one to the other . . . . • 
he has rescued the relation of the sexes from 
the sway of lust and enthroned it on the holy 
and pure seat of asceticism. In the sacred 
books of the Hindus, the ordered relation of 
the sexes has been defined by strict injunctions 
and laws. Kalidasa has demonstrated that rela- 
tion by means of the elements of beauty. The 
Beauty that he adores is lit up by grace, modesty, 
and goodness ; in its intensity it is true to me for 
ever; in its range, it embraces the entire universe. 
It is fulfilled by renunciation, gratified by sorrow, 
and rendered eternal by religion. In the rriidst 
of this beauty, the impetuous unruly love of man 
and woman has restrained itself and attained to 
a prefound peace, like a wild torrent merged in 
the ocean of goodness. Therefore is such love 
higher and more wonderful than wild and un- 
restrained passion." 

(Sakuntala . Its Inner Meaning). 
Mr. Mukerji points out that Tagore's poem Manashi 
(the mind-born) shows how the light of man's soul has 

152 



INTRODUCTORY 

-contributed to the transfiguration of womanhood ; that 
the poem on Vijayini (the victress) shows how the sweet 
beauty of woman is more potent than all the flowery 
darts of love ; that the poem on Priya (the wife) shows 
how the light shed from the woman's heart on man's 
soul saves it from darkness and degradation ; and that 
the poem on Patita (the fallen woman) is full of 
an infinite tenderness, and shows how when fallen 
she is like an angel fallen, full of recollections of 
heaven, and how by an inner effort she regains the 
receding heaven. 

Tagore teaches that love is really a spiritual attrac- 
tion and that a man can never know it by merely seek- 
ing the enjoyment of physical beauty. 

" I hold her hands and press her to my breast. 
I try to fill my arms with her loveUness, to plunder 
her sweet smile with kisses, to drink her dark 
glances with my eyes. 
Ah, but, where is it ? Who can strain the blue 

from the sky ? 
I try to grasp the beauty ; it eludes me, leaving 
only the body in my hands. 

Baffled and weary I come back. 
How can the body touch the flower which only the 
spirit may touch ? 

{The Gardener^ page 86). 
Tagore shows that true love can never be in anta- 
-gonism to true manhood and its duties in life. 

153 



SIR RABINDKANATH TAGORE 

" Free me from the bonds of your sweetness, my 

love 1 No more of this wine of kisses. 
This mist of heavy incense stifles my heart. 
Open the doors, make room for the morning light. 
I am lost in you, wrapped in the folds of your 

caresses. 
Free me from your spells, and give me back the 
manhood to offer you my freed heart. 

{The Gardener, page 85). 
Tagore's plays and stories depict his ideals of woman- 
hood in a wonderful manner. In Chitra he shows how 
the radiance of the body is a fleeting thing, how the 
light of the soul is eternal, and how the true beauty of 
womanhood is the light of the woman's soul — " the 
Goddess hidden within a golden image." Arjuna 
cries out to Chitra : 

" Illusion is the first appearance of truth. She 
advances towards her lover in disguise. But a 
time comes when she throws off her ornaments 
and veils and stands clothed in naked dignity. 
I grope for that ultimate you, that bare simplicity 
of truth." 
In the King of the Dark Chamber Queen Sudarshana 
learns how she can look on the face of her Lover 
and Lord only when she reaches the peaks of 
humility, self-surrender, and measureless love and 
devotion. In his stories Tagore brings love into rela- 
tion with every-day life as apart from the realm o£ 

154 



INTRODUCTORY 

romance, and shows how it illumines life and makes it 
pure and divine by self-sacrifice. The manner in 
which woman — as girl, as sister, as bride, as wife, as 
mother — makes a heaven of this earth of ours is most 
beautifully described in Tagore's stories. 

In this manner Tagore leads us from life to love and 
from love to Love Infinite and Divine and leaves us 
face to face with the Divine Beauty and Love. 

"For love is the ultimate meaning of everything 
around us. It is not a mere sentiment ; it is 
truth; it is joy that is at the root of all creation." 

(Tagore's Sadhana, page 107.) 
XV. Tagore's Social Gospel. 

Though Tagore being busy with higher and holier 
things has not sailed often in the turbid waters of social, 
progress, it is easy to see that such a patriot and true 
lover of Indian humanity must have a great social 
gospel. His message is one of unity and love. This is 
the message that India has been teaching all along, 
though some critics have been proclaiming that even the 
true caste system is opposed to unity. Tagore's message 
of love for India and work for her uplift deprecates all 
internal dissensions and has in it no element of dislike 
or hatred for any other race or country. 

Tagore dislikes and dreads the modern theorists 
who dig into origins and talk learnedly about non- 
Aryans and Aryans and seek, while lost in wandering, 
mazes of theories, to stir fresh forms of hatred and 

155 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

disunion in the land. He shows that both Aryan and 
non-Aryan elements are indistinguishable in the modern 
Hindu race, and that to seek to separate them is as 
futile as to seek to separate the waters of the Ganges and 
the Jumna below Prayag. He says : 

" Let none, however, imagine that the non-Aryans 
have contributed nothing of value to Indian hfe. 
The ancient Dravidians were, indeed, not defi- 
cient in civilisation. Contact with them made 
Hindu civilisation varied in aspect and deeper 
in spirit. The Dravidian was no theologian, but 
an expert in imagination, music, and construc- 
tion. He excelled in the fine arts. The pure 
spiritual knowledge of the Aryans, mingling with 
the Dravidians ' emotional nature and power of 
aesthetic creation, formed a marvellous com- 
pound, which is neither entirely Aryan nor 
entirely non-Aryan, but Hindu. The eternal 
 quest for the harmonising of these two opposite 
elements has given to India a wondrous power. 
She has learnt to perceive the eternal amidst the 
temporal, to behold the great whole amidst all 
the petty things of daily life. And wherever in 
in India these two opposite elements are not 
fully reconciled, there is no end to our ignorance 
and superstition...wherever the opposite genuises 
of the Aryan and the Dravidian have been har- 
monised, beauty has leaped into life ; wherever 

156 



INTRODUCTORY 

such union has failed, the moral ugliness is 
repulsive." 
Tagore's "My Interpretation of Indian History." 
Tagore shows how while we must assimilate fruitful 
ideas from other races we should never lose our in- 
dividuality. 

" We feel that India is eager to get back to her 
Truth, her One, her Harmony, The stream of her 
life had been dammed up ages ago ; its waters 
had become stagnant ; but to-day the dam has 
been breached somewhere ; we feel that our still 
waters have again become connected with the 
mighty ocean ; the tides of the free wide uni- 
verse have begun to make themselves felt in our 

midst At one impulse cosmopolitanism is 

leading us out of home ; at the next, the sense of 
nationality is bringing us back to our own commu- 
nity, ..Thus placed between two contending forces, 
we shall mark out the middle path in our national 
life ; we shall realise that only through the deve- 
lopment of racial individuality can we truly attain 
to universality, and only in the light of the spirit 
of universality can we perfect individuality ; we 
shall know of a verity that it is idle mendicancy 
to discard our own and beg for the foreign, and 
at the same time we shall feel that it is the extreme 
abjectness of poverty to dwarf ourselves by reject- 
ing the foreign." 

157 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Tagore is never weary of repeating that India should 
never fail to cling to the higher things of the spirit. 
He says : 

"The strength of a race is limited. It we nourish 
the ignoble, we are bound to starve the noble." 

If only our noisy social agitators remember these 
wise words, how much unhappiness and wrong effort 
would be saved ! 

Tagore has shown by precept and example that our 
main work now is educational and industrial,^ and he 
has no patience with the noisy few who believe that 
the social millennium will be inaugurated by resolutions., 
at conferences. He says of these people : " All went 
on well as long as its promoters sat in committee, but as 
soon as they came down to the field of actual work it 
became all confusion." If we bear Tagore's social mes- 
sage in our heart and strive for unity in spirit and 
endeavour and work with all our might for the spread 
of enlightenment and prosperity in our land while 
clinging passionately to our immemorial spiritual ideals, 
then shall we be true children of Bharata Mata and win 
the reverence and love of the whole world. 

XVI. Tagore's Message : Conclusion. 
Tagore has thus touched life at many points and is a 
world-force while being Indian to the inmost core of 



his being"." I have tried in the above pages to give a 
brief review of his teachings and the great traits of his 
art and shall try in the ensuing pages to deal at some 

158 



INTRODUCTORY 

length with his best-known works. In this interpreta- 
tion of Ta gore's mind and art the hmits of space as well 
as the limitations of the interpreter are responsible 
for whatever deficiencies may be found. Tagore's 
genius is so many-sided and his achievement so cons- 
picuous and multiform that a life-long study by many 
loving scholars who will form a Tagore society is 
necessary before results of lasting value and beauty can 
be presented to the public. 

I desire in this concluding portion of the introductory 
chapter to lay stress once again on Tagore's great mes- 
sage to the Indian mind to be itself and to be proud of 
being itself, while assimilating all the highest elements 
oTWestern culture. The worst foes of India have been 
those who have imperfectly assimilated Western culture. 
As Dr. A. K. Coomaraswami says : " The work of 
Rabindranath is essentially Indian in sentiment and 
form. It is at the same time modern. The literary revival 
in Bengal, like the similar movement in Ireland, is 
national, and therefore creative ; it is a reaction from 
the barren eclecticism of the Universities. This reaction 
is voiced, not by those who ignore or despise, but by 
those who have most fully understood and assimilated 
foreign influences. For it is not deep acquaintance 
with European culture that denationahses men 
in Asia, but an imperfect and servile apprehension 
of it. Those who understand the culture of others 
find in it a stimulus not to imitation but to creation. 

159 



SIK KABINDKANATH TAGORE 

Those who do not understand become intellectuail 
parasites." 

Tagore's influence is bound to be permanent not only 
over man in general, but over poets. He is indeed a 
poet's poet. He dwells habitually in the heaven of 
beauty and love, and his words have a wonderful grace 
and charm. Each word has a paradise of beautifully 
associated meanings and suggestions, and we shall soon 
see how a new school of poets springs into existence 
deriving inspiration from the genius of Tagore. 

I have stated above that Tagore's great and supreme 
teaching addressed to Indians as individuals and social 
units is the message to be ourselves — our true selves. 
In regard to our artistic, religious, and social progress 
we must resent all foreign interference. Tagore's 
message to the Westerns as individuals and social units 
is to achieve a larger measure of repose, love, and 
spirituality. He says : 

"Man can destroy and plunder, earn and accumu- 
late, invent and discover, but he is great because 
his soul comprehends all. It is dire destruction, 
for him when he envelops his soul in a dead 
shell of callous habits, and when a blind fury of 
works whirls round him like an eddying dust 
storm, shutting out the horizon. That indeed 
kills the very spirit of his being, which is the 
spirit of comprehension. Essentially man is not 
a slave either of himself or of the word, but he 

160 



INTRODUCTORY 



is a lover. His freedom and fulfilment is in love, 
which is another name for perfect comprehen- 



sion." 



(Tagor's Sadhana, page 15). 
Tagore's greatest message is to the human 
soul apart from all its accidents of caste or 
creed or colour or country. He preaches the 
fulfilment of the soul in love, in renunciation, 
in self-sacrifice ; and he enforces this great 
lesson not only in his religious lectures, but in 
his poems, his stories, his dramas, nay, in his own life. 
He says: 

" Man's abiding happiness is not in getting anything 
but in giving himself to idens which are larger 
than his individual life — the idea of his country 
— of humanity — of God." 

(Tagore's Sadhana, page 152). 
He finally leads the soul to the loftiest and sweetest 
beatitudes of union with the infinite. 

" In the region of nature which is the region of 
diversity, we grow by acquisition ; in the spiritual 
world, which is the region of unity, we grow by 
losing ourselves, by uniting. Gaining a thing, as 
we have said, is by its nature partial, it is limited 
only to a particular want ; but being is complete,, 
it belongs to our wholeness, it springs not from 
any necessity but from our affinity with the in- 

161 
11 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGOKK 

finite, which is the principle of perfection that we 
have in our soul." 

{Tagore's Sadhana page 155). 

Even at the risk of repetition, I wish to lay stress 
again on Tagore's practical patriotism and his 
practical message to India. He yearns, as Swami 
Vivekananda yearned, to achieve Man-making. He 
has given the most precious of all gifts — himself — to 
his work, and the school at Shantiniketan is the holy 
spot from which the higher India of the future is 
destined to rise. Mr. Rhys says truly in his work on 
Tagore : " But now it was the soul of the world that 
was to be made ; and to bring about such a renaissance, 
there was needed, in his conception, a more humane 
order, a finer science of life, and a spiritual republic 
behind our world-politics. We may venture to enlarge 
his hope as we think it over, and to connect it with that 
other — the binding in one commonwealth of the United 
States of the world. The union of nations, the destroy- 
ing of caste, religious pride, race-hatred, and race- 
prejudice — in a word, the ' making of Man ;' there lies 
his human aim. ' It is ' he says, ' the one problem of 
the present age, and we must be prepared to go through 
the martyrdom of sufferings and humiliations till the 
victory of God in man is achieved.' " 

Tagore is indeed " the healer, the discerner and the 
lyric poet " of our time. Though he is a great up- 
lifting and spiritual force working for the whole world, 

162 



INTRODUCTORY 

we take pride in the fact that he is ours, belongs to us. 
in every way. His universal popularity in India has a 
deep spiritual significance. Mr. C. F. Andrews says : 
*' Three years ago I was staying at a village in the 
heart of the Himalayas, as far from the poet's home as 
London is from Constantinople. Some Indian music 
was being sung in the village at the end of the day 
and a little lad of twelve began to sing a poem of 
Rabindra's whose theme was the mother-land. The 
dialect of the song was difficult for the Hillsmen to 
follow, but the drift of the words and the subdued 
passion of the young singer were wholly intelhgible. 
The audience swayed backwards and forwards, as if 
moved by an enchanter's spell. Such is the power 
of the poet's music and verse in India." This deep and 
universal love for Tagore can be said to be real only if 
iruitful, if we love our Holy land with something of his 
love and work for her glory. Dr. A. K. Coomaraswami 
observes : " Those love the poets who do their will 
and whom their singing moves." Tagore has been, is, 
and will ever be inexpressibly dear to us because 
in his sweet accents it is our own Bharata Mata 
that speaks to us, her beloved children ; he has 
revealed to us the wondrous glory of the real 
treasures of our race ; he has restored to us our 
lost manhood and our true divinity ; and because 
•of his immortal works, his self-sacrificing devotion 
.to our beloved and holy land, and the shining example 

163 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

of his life, a new day of glory — glory of dream and! 
glory of achievement — is dawning over India, andl 
we feel with an inexpressible vividness, passionateness^ 
and rapture that 

" We arc ancients of the earth, 

And in the morning of the times." 



164 



CHAPTER II. 

GITANJALI. 
This was the book that brought Tagore's genius and 
art prominently before the gaze of the world. It has 
-varied and peculiar excellences, and even though it is 
couched in prose and hence loses all the melody and 
poetic grace of the original, it charms and enraptures 
and elevates the mind by the marvellous music of its 
thoughts and by the grace and beauty of the English 
prose which a learned critic has called " this flower 
■of English prose." The same critic has said that " the 
great mystics of the world have been the children of 
the sun and the warm winds ot the South." It is this 
note of high and synthetic mysticism that constitutes 
the unique and wonderful charm of the Gitanjali. I have 
■dealt in the Introductory Chapter with the significance 
and value of mysticism and the mystical outlook on life, 
and with Tagore's greatness as a poet of mysticism. A 
•critical study of Gitanjali brings home to us in an inti- 
mate and unique way the beauty and power of the 
mystical interpretation of life and Tagore's pecuUar 
■endowment of mind and heart which enables him to 
see the divine presence in things which are dull and 
meaningless in our eyes owing to our want of vision, 
our being too much with them, our insufficient sense 
•of beauty and our deficiency of love. 

165 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

A recent critic has said that '* the poet is still the- 
greatest of all national voices," that "Poetry needs both 
philosophy and fact, but it can easily have too much of 
either," and that " it is the businesss of poetry to give 
a new life to life itself." These are wise words that 
show very well the peculiar greatness of Tagore as a. 
poet. The highest and loftiest aspirations of the Indian 
mind have been voiced by Tagore in a manner un- 
approached by any others in modern India. By his unerr- 
ing artistic vigilance he has avoided the Scylla and the 
Charybdis of philosophising and realism. His poetry 
is too securely founded on life and the universal 
emotions of the human heart to become a rainbow- 
tinted unsubstantial palace of mystical dreams that 
begin nowhere and end nowhere and are in spite of 
their beauty unrelated to life. It is at the same time 
inspired and aglow with love and mystical passion and 
hence does not fall into the error of transcribing with 
painful and uninforming and depressing accuracy the 
hard facts and uglinesses of life. It lifts the veil of 
commonplaceness from life and shows us the divine 
foundations of life and thus gives " a new life to life 
itself." 

In his recent admirable book on Tagore, Mr. Ernest 
Rhys points out wherein lay the unique fascination of 
the Gitanjali for the Western mind. He says : " They 
(the song-offerings) took up our half-formed wishes and 
gave them a voice ; they rose inevitably from the life, the 

166 



GITANJAI.I 

imagination, and the desires of him who wrote. They 
were the vehicle of a great emotion that surprised its 
imagery not only in the light that was like music, the 
rhythm that was in the waves of sound itself and the 
light-waves of the sun ; but in the rain, the wet road, 
the lonely house, the great wall that shuts in the crea- 
ture-self, the shroud of dust, the night black as black- 
stone. It was an emotion so sure of itself that it made 
no effort after novelty or originality, but took the things 
tjiat occur to us all, and dwelt upon them, and made 
them alive, and musical and significant. Their effect 
on those who read them was curious ; one famous critic 
expressed this effect half humorously when he said : 
' I have met several people, not easily impressed, who 
could not read that book without tears. As for me, I 
read a few pages and then put it down, feeling it to be 
too good for me. The rest of it I mean to read in the 
next world.' " 

The peculiar glory of Gitanjali is that in it the vision 
of God and hunger for the infinite are in touch with 
human life, do not scorn the passions and affections of 
the heart, and are full of a heavenly tenderness for the 
limitations of life. It is thoroughly universal yet 
intensely individual. It shows by an intensity of reali- 
sation what thin bounds divide life and nature, the 
world of sense and the realm of supernal light, the 
individual soul and God. The Gardener shows the 
human soul lit with the morning radiance of human 

167 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

love and rejoicing in its new-boni sensations of keen 
delight in beauty of form and beauty of soul. In 
Gitanjali we have the calm starlight of the deep mid- 
night sky through which moves in full-orbed maiden 
radiance the full moon of the Love of God — that blessed 
love in which all the fragmentary radiances of human 
love, love of art, and love of nature have been gathered 
up into a full and divine radiance that includes and 
transcends them in sweetness and in light. 

I shall point out here the scheme oi. Gitanjali and 
show how throughout these " song offerings " — separate 
and disconnected as they might appear at first sight — 
there runs a lofty purpose based on a true vision of the 
scheme of things. 

Mr. Yeats' introduction to Gitanjali is as full of beauty 
as of insight and shows how one truly poetic mind can 
enter into the heaven of another and greater poetic mind 
with more fitness and better appreciation than ordinary 
minds. The Bengali Doctor of Medicine referred to 
in that noble Introduction says : " All the aspirations 
of mankind are in his hymns. He is the first among 
our saints who has not refused to live, but has spoken 
of Life itself, and that is why we give him our love." 

Mr. Yeats says : "These lyrics display in their 

thought a world I have dreamed of all life long. The 
work of a supreme culture, they yet appear as much the 
growth of the common soil as the grass and the rushes. 
A tradition, where poetry and religion are the same 

168 



GITANJALI 

thing, has passed through the centuries, gathering from 
learned and unlearned metaphor and emotion, and 
carried back again to the multitude the thought of the 

scholar and of the noble " This is a true 

idea admirably expressed. In India Poetry has not 
folded the singing robes about her in scorn of every-day 
life and does not stand like 

" An angel newly drest who wings for heaven." The 
loftiest and grandest of our poems — the Ramayana, the 
Mahabharata, and the Bhagawatba — are in intimate 
touch with us, form and mould our lives, and are a 
perpetual source of inspiration. Again, Mr. Yeats says : 
" These verses will not lie in little well-printed books 
upon ladies' tables, who turn the pages with indolent 
hands that they may sigh over a life without meaning, 
or be carried about by students at the University to be 
laid aside when the work of life begins, but as the 
generations pass, travellers will hum on the high- 
way and men rowing upon rivers. Lovers, while they 
await one another, shall find, in murmuring them, 
this love of God a magic gulf wherein their own more 
bitter passion may bathe and renew its youth. At 
every moment the heart of this poet flows outward to 
these without derogation or condescension, for it has 
known what they will understand ;and it has filled itself 
with the circumstance of their lives. The traveller in 
the red brown clothes which he wears that dust may 
not show upon him, the girl searching in her bed for the 

169 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

petals fallen from the wreath of her royal lover, the 
servant or the bride auraitingthe master's home-coming 
in the empty houses, are images of the heart turning to 
God. Flowers and rivers, the blowing of conch shells, 
the heavy rain of the Indian July, or the parching heat^. 
are images of the moods of that heart in union or in 
separation ; and a man sitting in a boat upon a river 
playing upon a lute, like one of those figures full of mys- 
terious meaning in a Chinese picture, is God Himself. 
A whole people, a whole civilisation, immeasurably 
strange to us, seems to have been taken up into this 
imagination ; and yet we are not moved because of its 
strangeness, but because we have met our own image, 
as though we had walked in Rossetti's willowwood, 
or heard, perhaps for the first time in literature, our 
voice as in a dream." Herein again we realise how 
intuitively and wonderfully Mr. Yeats has entered into 
the very soul of Indian art and Hterature. It is Tagore's 
great -privilege to disclose the beauty and heavenly 
significance lurking in the ordinary phenomena of outer 
and human nature, and symbol after symbol becomes 
transfigured in the radiance of the light of his soul. He 
is in touch with the whole of life and yet he transfigures 
it with the radiance of a higher and truer and diviner 
life. The Gitanjali affords better evidence of this trait 
than almost all his other works, Mr. Yeats points out 
how alien this spirit is to the general spirit of western 
literature. Indeed this feature explains Tagore's 

170 



GITANJALI 

instantaneous yet lasting appeal to the West. Mr. Yeats^ 
says : " This is no longer the sanctity of the cell and of 
the scourge ; being but a lifting up, as it were, into a 
greater intensity of the mood of the painter, painting 
the dust and the sunlight, and we go for a like voice to 
St Francis and to WiUiam Blake who have seemed so • 
alien in our violent history " la the West worship of 
beauty and worship of holiness never joined hands. It 
was reserved for India to join both in a higher worship 
— that of Love of God, — to show the unity and beauty 
and divinity of life, to combine the joy of duty and the 
duty of joy, to lift our hearts and souls to that realm of 
inner paradise where light and law and love are one. 
Again, Mr. Yeats says : '' We write long books where 
no page perhaps has any quality to make writing a 
pleasure, being confident in some general design, just 
as we fight and make money and fill our heads with 
politics— all dull things in the doing— while Mr. Tagore, 
like the Indian civilisation itself, has been content to 
discover the soul and surrender himself to its spon- 
taneity An innocence, a simplicity that one does 

not find elsewhere in literature makes the birds and the 
leaves seem as near to him as they are near to children, 
and the changes of the seasons great events as before 
our thoughts had arisen between them and us." In this 
beautiful, passage the poet-critic brings home to us \ 
what perhaps is the most remarkable and loveable 
feature in Tagores genins. Tagore brings near to us • 

171 



SIR RABINDRAN\TH TAGORE 

what we h^ve put far from us in our eager desire for 
possession, our many loves and hates, our unperceiving 
blindness of vision, our growing callousness and pre- 
occupation with worldly things. The rearrangement of 
our inner perspective is a task more urgent and diffi- 
cult now than before, because our narrowness and 
pettiness and selfishness are now more than ever before. 
Tagore embraces everything in his large and universal 
love, reveals to us the divine ties among things, shows 
the beauty and love of God shining forth everywhere, 
enlarges our limited and narrow selves, and brings the 
gift of peace and love and joy into our joyless, selfish, 
worldly hearts. 

In various places in the Gitanjali Tagore allows us to 
have a glimpse into his ideal of poesy and his concep- 
tion of a poet's function in life and his own peculiar 
mission and place in the universe. I have dealt more 
fully with these matters in my Introductory Chapter, and 
shall hence confine my observations on them here to 
the extent to which they bear on Gitanjali. He con- 
ceives of poesy as the bride of Love and values his art 
as a means of spiritual union with God. Though 
he is full of humility, he recognises at the same 
time how his art becomes beautiful and vital 
when in touch with God. He recognises how 
through his poetic intuition he has. been enabled to 
see the beating of the very heart of the world. 
The fifteenth and sixteenth poems in the Gitanjali 

172 



GITANJALI 

show how he realises his mission in a spirit of 
combined humility and dignity : 

*' I am here to sing thee songs. In this hall of 
thine I have a corner seat. In thy world I have 
no work to do ; my useless life can only break 
out in tunes without a purpose. 
When the hour strikes for thy silent worship at 
the dark temple of midnight, command me, my 
master, to stand before thee to sing. 
When in the morning air the golden harp is tuned, 
honour me, commanding my presence." 

(Page 13). 
"I have had my invitation to this world's festival 
and thus my life has been blessed. My eyes 
have seen and my ears have heard. 
It was my part at this feast to play upon my in- 
strument, and I have done all I could. 
Now, I ask, has the time come at last when I may 
go in and see thy face and offer thee my silent 
salutation ?" 

(Pages 13 & 14). 
He knows that the fruition of all poesy is the love of 
God. He says : " From dawn till dusk I sit here before 
my door, and I know that of a sudden the happy 
moment will arrive when I shall see. In the meanwhile, 
I smile and I sing all alone. In the meanwhie the air 
is filling with the perfume of promise." (Page 86). 
He says again.: 

173 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

■" It was my songs that taught me all the lessons I 
ever learnt ; they showed me secret paths, they 
brought before my sight many a star on the hori- 
zon of my heart. 
They guided me all the day long to the mysteries 
of the country of pleasure and pain, and at last, 
to what palace gate have they brought me in the 
evening at the end of my journey ?" 

(Page 92). 
He says again : " I put my tales of you into lasting 
•songs. The secret gushes out from my heart." 

Page 93). 
Like a true poet he does not shut the gateway of 
the senses, but allows the heavenly radiance of the 
spirit to come in a flood through the senses. He says : 
" Deliverance is not for me in renunciation. I feel the 
embrace of freedom in a thousand bonds of delight... 
No. I will never shut the doors of my senses. The 
delights of sight and hearing and touch will bear thy 
delight. Yes, all my illusions will burn into illumina- 
tions of joy, and all my desires ripen into fruits of love." 

(Page 68). 
Tagore feels and says that poesy must be full of true 
and deep humility, and must not be enamoured 
•of her robe of gold and her jewels and gems, because 
these will prevent her enjoying the final glory of her 
existence — communion with God. He says in the 
seventh poem in the Gitanjali : — 

174 



GITANJAL! 

*' My song has put off her adornments. She has no 
pride of dress and decoration. Ornaments would 
mar our union ; they would come between thee 
and me; their jinglings would drown thy whispers. 
My poet's vanity dies in shame before thy sight. 
O master poet, I have sat down at thy feet. Only 
let me make my life simple and straight, like a 
flute of reed for thee to fill with music." 

(Page 6). 
It is in this spirit of divine humility and self -surrender 
that he says : " I know thou takest pleasure in my sing- 
ing. I know that only as a singer I come before thy 
presence. I touch by the edge of the far-spreading wing 
of my song thy feet which I could never aspire to reach. 
Drunk with the joy of singing, I forget myself and call 
thee friend who art my lord." 

(Page 2). 
He recognises how even the best poet is unable and 
unworthy to convey to the world God's harmonies. 

He says : " My heart longs to join in thy song, but 
vainly struggles for a voice. I would speak, but speech 
breaks not into song, and I cry out baffled." Tagore 
points out how, when the poet-soul is surrendered to 
God in an ectasy of measureless love, God's melodies 
themselves sing through the soul. 

*' All that is harsh and dissonant in me melts into 
one sweet harmony , and my adoration spreads 
wings Hke a^glad bird on its flight across the sea." 

17.5 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

(Page 2). 
" My poet, is it thy delight to see thy creatioa 
through my eyes, and to stand at the portals of 
my ears silently to listen to thine own eternal 
harmony ? 
" Thy world is weaving words in my mind, and thy 
joy is adding music to them. Thou givest thy- 
self to me in love, and then feelest thine own 
entire sweetness in me." 

(Page 61). 
We may well expect how one who conceives so 
worthily and loftily of life will be full of lofty resolve 
and will lead a dedicated life. The following poem is 
full of the fragrance of fervour of the resolution. 

" Life of my life, I shall ever try to keep my body 
pure, knowing that thy living touch i'J upor> all 
my hmbs. 
I shall ever try to keep all untruths out from my 
thoughts, knowing that thou art that truth which 
has kindled the light of reason in my mind. 
I shall ever try to drive all evils away from my 
heart and keep my love in flower, knowing that 
thou bast thy seat in the inmost shrine of my 
heart. 
And it shall be my endeavour to reveal thee in my 
actions, knowing it is thy power gives me 
strength to act. 

(Pages 3 & 4). 

176 



GITANJALI 

Tagore's spiritual nature knows well that the loftiest 
resolutions do not take us very far in the path of achieve- 
ment and of realisation of happiness without His grace. 
Hence we find in the Gilanjali beautiful lyrical gems 
shining with the radiant light of prayer for His love 
and grace. The following poems are worth reading 
and meditating upon every day: 

" Let only that little be left of me whereby I may 

name thee my all. 
Let only that Httle be left of my will whereby I 

may feel thee on every side, and come to thee in 

everything, and offer to thee my love every 

moment. 

Let only that little be left of me whereby I may 
never hide thee. 

Let only that little of my fetters be left whereby I 
am bound with thy will, and thy purpose is 
carried out in my life — and that is the fetter of 
.thy love." (Pages 26 & 27). 

" This is my prayer to thee, my Lord — strike, strike 
at the root of penury in my heart. 

Give me the strength lightly to bear my joys and 

sorrows. 
Give me the strength to make my love .fruitful in 

service. 
Give me the strength never to disown the poor or 

bend my knees before insolent might. 

177 

12 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Give me the strength to raise my mind high above 

daily trifles. 
And give me the strength to surrender my strength 
to thy will vj'ith love." 

(Pages 28 & 29). 
*' When the heart is hard and parched up, come 

upon me with a shower of mercy. 
When grace is lost from life, come with a burst of 

song. 
When tumultuous work raises its din on all sides 
shutting me out from beyond, come to me, my 
lord of silence, with thy peace and rest. 
When my beggarly heart sits crouched, shut up in a 
corner, break open the door, my King, and come 
with the ceremony of a King. 
When desire blinds the mind with delusion and 
dust, O thou holy one, thou wakeful, come with 
thy light and thunder." 

(Pages 30 & 31). 
This prayerfulness of Tagore is wonderful not only 
for its sincerity, passion, and purity but is further 
remarkable in that it is in aUiance with a lofty and pure 
and rational patriotism, and is not merely bent on seek- 
ing individual welfare but seeks to lift his beloved land 
into the heaven of a higher and holier life. He says : 
" Where the mind is without fear and the head is 

held high ; 
Where knowledge is free ; 

178 



GITANJALI 

"Where the world has not been broken up into 

fragments by narrow domestic walls ; 
^here 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." 

(Pages 27 & 28). 
This poem gives us an insight into the poet's heart 
'where we find an intense, pure, and lofty patriotism in 
rational combination with a burning love of humanity 
and a deep and rapturous love of God. It is well 
known that in ancient India when India occupied a 
lofty place in the scale of nations both materially and 
spiritually, such a combination existed. The divorce of 
these two great passions of the human heart has 
brought untold unhappiness on mankind both in India 
and the West. Tagore's message is to bring about the 
holy combination once again for the greater happiness 
of man and the greater glory of God. 

The supreme function of a poet who is at the same 
time a saint and a philosopher is to put us in right 
relation to things, to throw light on the deep and divine 
inysteries of life and de^th, to reconcile and harmonise 

179 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

the seeming discords of life, to show to us the unity of 
Truth, Beauty, and Love, and to lead our souls in an 
ecstasy of adoration to the lotus feet of God. The most 
enduringly beautiful portions of the Gitanjali are those 
showing to us the poet's fundamental ideas on life and 
death, the need for love of God, and the means of 
attaining that goal. The very first poem in the 
Gitanjali shows to us the meaning and value of life in a 
beautiful and convincing manner, how the soul is im- 
mortal and is dowered by God with many lives to make 
it gather experience, become fitter for union with Him,, 
and rise from partial perception and realisation of love 
and beauty in the universe to rejoicing for ever in His 
Infinite Beauty and Love. It says : 

" Thou hast made me endless, such is thy plea- 
sure. This frail vessel thou empti'^st again 
and again, and fillest it ever with fresh 
life. 
This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over 
hills and dales, and hast breathed through it 
melodies eternally new. 
At the immortal touch of thy hands my little 
heart loses its limits in joy and gives birth to 
utterance ineffable. 
Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these 
very small hands of mine. Ages pass, and 
still thou pourest, and still there is room to- 
fill." (Page 1). 

3 80 



GITANJALI 

It is an uplifting and delightful task to study the ideals 
of life as expressed in these thrilling poems of Tagore's, 
both because they show the innermost essence of his 
views of life, and because they bring home to us vividly 
what are the best ideals of a life well lived with a true 
perception of life's origin and destiny. As this is the most 
valuable portion of this most valuable book of poems, 
I shall deal with it at some length and with due 
-elaboration, explaining Tagore's central ideas and 
teachings in my own words, and quoting from the poems 
(here and there to enable the reader to realise the pur- 
pose of Tagore's great teachings. 

In many places in this great book of poems, Tagore 
^expresses in language full of the passion of Godward 
aspiration his keen desire for God-vision, and conveys 
to us the message that such, desire is the crown and 
glory of life. All other aims are secondary, transitory, 
and worthless in comparison with this supreme aim of 
life. It is this lesson that the Upanishads teach again 
and again in golden sentences. It is this lesson that the 
great poets and saints and prophets of mankind have 
•enforced from age to age. Sri Krishna says in the Gita : 

'T^^'^ ^iq"^ ^vr TF^ 5TTf^^ ^WcT: I 

(Having obtained which, the soul does not deem 
anything else as a sweeter or higher gain, and resting in 
which the soul is not shaken even by the deepest grief 
:and sorrow). 

181 



SIR KABINDRANATH TAGORE 
The Swetaswetara Upanishad says : 

(Let us know and see Him who is the Lord of Lords, 
who is farther than the farthest and higher than the 
highest, who is the Lord of the universe, and who is the 
object of all adoration). 

This deep desire for God-vision as the sweetest thing. 
in life and as the glory of the soul is expressed 
in many places in the Gitanjali. Tagore says : 

" Away from the sight of thy face my heart knows 
no rest nor respite, and my work becomes an 
endless toil in a shoreless sea of toil ..••• Now 
it is time to sit quiet, face to face with thee, and. 
to sing dedication of life in this silent and over- 
flowing leisure. " (Pages 4-5) 
" If thou showetli me not thy face, if thou leavest 
me wholly aside, I know not how I am to pass 

these long, rainy hours," 

(Page 15). 

" That I want thee, only thee,— let my heart repeat 
without end. All desires that distract me day 
and night, are false and empty to the core." 

(Page 29). 

*' Day after day, O lord of my life, shall I standi 
before thee face to face ? With folded hands, O' 
Lord of all worlds, shall I stand before thee face 
to face ?'' (Page 70). 

182 



GITANJALI 

Tagore points out how this crown of life is to be 
won after a great deal of preparation of the inner life 
and after fulness of experience is acquired sweetening 
the soul and purifying the heart. He says : " The 
traveller has to knock at every alien door to come to 
his own, and one has to wonder through all the outer 
worlds to reach the inner-most shrine at the 
end." (Page 10). 

Many an apparent failure has to be suffered in the 
course of such an infinite compass of experience. This 
feeling is exquisitely expressed in the ^following, 
wonderful poem : 

" The song that I came to sing remains unsung to 

this day. 
I have spent my days in stringing and unstringing. 

my instrument. 
The time has not come true, the words have not 
been rightly set ; only there is the agony of wish- 
ing in my heart. 
The blossom has not opened ; only the wind is 

sighing by. 
I have not seen his face, nor have I listened to his 
voice ; only I have heard his gentle foot-steps 
from the road before my house. 
The live-long day has passed in spreading his seat 
upon the lioor ; but the lamp has not been lit^ 
and I cannot ask him into my house. 
I live in the hope of meeting with him ; but this 
meeting is not yet." (Page 11). 

183 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Tagore shows that there is a large and luminous 

element of hope in such apparent failure. He says : 

" Day by day thou art making me worthy of thy full 

acceptance by refusing me ever and anon, saving 

me from perils of weak, uncertain desire. 

(Page 12). 
There is also comfort and joy in the golden assurance 
that God's grace will surely come. Tagore is never 
weary of showing us this great truth. He says : 

" The morning will surely come, the darkness will 
vanish, and thy voice pour down in golden 
streams breaking through the sky". (Page 16). 
Again, he says : 

" If I call not thee in my prayers, if I keep not thee 

in my heart, thy love for me still waits for my 

love." (Page 26). 

He shows how God yearns to lead the human soul to 

the heaven of his love. (See the 68th and 83rd poems). 

In another poem, he says : 

" From dawn till dusk I sit here before my door, 
and I know that of a sudden the happy moment 
will arrive when I shall see. la ihe meanwliile, 
I smile and 1 sing all alone. In the meanwhile 
the air is filling with the perfume of promise." 

(Page 36). 
Again, 

" Have you not heard his silent steps ' He comes, 
comes, ever comes." (Page 36). 

184 



GITANJALI 

*' In sorrow after sorrow it is his steps that press 
upon my heart, and it is the golden touch of his 
feet that makes my joy to shine." 

(Page 37). 
3n another beautiful poem, he says : 

" I know not from what distant time thou art 
ever coming nearer to meet me. Thy sun and 
stars can never keep thee hidden from me for 

aye I know not why to-day my life is all astir, 

and a feeling of tremulous joy is passing through 
my heart. It is as if the time were come to 
wind up my work, and I feel in the air a faint 
smell of thy sweet presence." (Pages 37 & 38). 
Again, he says : 

"Time is endless in thy hands, my lor:l. At the 
end ot the day I hasten in fear lest thy gate be 
shut ; but I find that yet there is time.' 

(Page 76). 
The sweetness born in the soul owing to the grace of 
God is not something that comes to us from without, 
but is only an inner fragrant blossoming. The poet 
says : 

" I knew not then that it was so near, that it was 
mine, and that this perfect sweetness had 
blossomed in the depth of my own heart." 

(Page 17). 
This meeting of God and man in the temple • of the 
3ieart has a dual movement as its cause. On the one 

185 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

hand the human sonl moves towards God yearningly 
and gladly. The poet says : 

'^At the end of the stony path, in the country of 
virgin solitude, my friend is sitting all alone. 
Deceive him not. Wake, oh awaken ! . . . . 
Is there no joy in the deep of your heart ? At 
every footfall of yours, will not the harp of the 
road break out in sweet music of pain ?". 

(Pages 50 & 51)- 
On the other hand, God's love yearns for us and moves 
towards us. The poet asks in the next poem : 

" Thus it is that thy joy in me is full. Thus it is 
that thou hast come down to me, O thou Lord 
of all heavens, where would be thy love if I 
were not ?" (Page 51). 

A welknown verse in Sanskrit says ; 

(If I had not been made to reincarnate by fate, 

how couldst thou be called the Lord of Mercy ? 

If there were no diseases, the birth of medicinal 

plants would be futile). 

We must be ever prepared for His coming. And 

when He comes, what shall we give Him ? The least 

that we give Him is honoured and made divine by 

His acceptance. The poet says : 

" I was confused and stood undecided, and then 

186 



GITANJALI 

from my wallet I slowly took out the least little 
grain of corn and gave it to thee. But how great; 
my surprise when at the day's end I emptied my. 
bag on the • floor to find a least Uttle grain of 
gold among the poor heap. I bitterly wept and 
wished that I had had the heart to give thee my 
all.' 
The poet thus shows that the human soul must give 
up every thing in a passion of ecstasy and love when. 
God's love which is life's crov.'n comes to it to gladden 
and glorify it for ever. 

This heavenly consummation of a human life in 
loving God and having the vision of divine beauty as an. 
abiding presence in the temple of the heart, can be had 
only through the attainment of certain negative and 
positive virtues, qualities, and faculties. The first quality 
required is a certain detachment from earthly desires 
(Vairagya). This virtue is hard to secure as a perma- 
nent inner possession. 

The poet says in a beautiful poem : 

" 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. 

187 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

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." (Pages 22 & 23). 

It is only through the Mercy and Grace of God that 

the Heeting sense of detachment from low earthly 

desires for our comfort and our pleasure becomes a 

permanent possession. In the Vishnu Pur ana occurs 

the following gem of a prayer. 

(O Lord, ordain that from my heart may never 

depart my deep love for you — love as deep and as 

continuous as the love that the worldly persons 

feel for the objects of worldly desire). 

Tagore recognises how we persistently shut out 

light and love and grace by increasing our desires and 

■indulging in our passions. In poem after poem in 

Giianjali we see this fact brought out in golden verses, 

IHe says : 

" He whom I enclose with my name is weeping in 
this dungeon. I am ever busy building this 
wall all round ; and as this wall goes up into the 
sky day by day, I lose sight of my true being 
in its dark shadow." (Page 23). 

188 



GITANJALl 

" I thought I could outdo every body in the 
world in wealth and power, and I amassed in 
my own treasure-house the money due to my 
king. When sleep overcame me I lay upon the 
bed that was for my lord, and on waking up I 
found I was a prisoner in my own treasure- 
house." (Page 24). 
" Thus night and day I worked at the chain with 
huge fires and cruel hard strokes. When at last 
the work was done and the links were complete 
and unbreakable, I found that it held me in its 
grip." 
Another negative quality required is the avoidance 
of too much mingling with the world. God-lovers 
have to mingle with the world-lovers to save these and 
uplift them into the radiance of the love of God, but 
they will find themselves dragged down if they mingle 
too much with the latter. The poet says of these, 

" When it was day they came into my house and 
said, ' we shall only take the smallest room here.' 
They said, * we shall help you in the worship of 
your God and humbly accept our own share 
of his grace", and then they took their seat in a 
corner and they sat quiet and meek. 
But in the darkness of night I find they break into 
my sacred shrine, strong and turbulent, and 
snatch with untidy greed the offerings from 
' God's altar." (Page 26). 

189 



SIR RABINDKANATH TAGORE 

Again, 

" Where dost thou stand behind them all, my lover, 
hiding thyself in the shadows ? They push 
thee and pass thee by on the dusty road, taking 
thee for naught. I wait here weary hours 
spreading my offerings for thee, while passers- 
by come and take my flowers, one by one, and 
my basket is nearly empty." 

(Page 32). 
Another quality to be sedulously cultivated is the 
feeling that worldly honour, riches, and joys when 
they come are nothing, and that the only possession 
worth having is the joy of the love of God. In the 
.79th poem in the Gitanjali^ the poet prays : 

" As my days pass in the crowded market of this 
world and my hands grow full with the daily 
profit, let me ever feel that I have gained 
nothing — Ipt me not forget for a moment, let 
me carry the pangs of this sorrow in my dreams 
and in my wakeful hours." 

(Page 73). 
*' When my rooms have been decked out and the 
flutes sound and the laughter there is loud, let 
me ever feel that I have not invited thee to my 
house — let me not forget for a moment, let me 
carry the pangs of this great sorrow in my 
dreams and in my wakeful hours." 

(Page 74). 

1:90 



GITANJALI 

Such are some of the negative qualities and faculties 
to be brought into existence to fit ourselves for the 
.attainment of the true consummation of life. The 
achievement of positive qualities and faculties is an 
equally urgent and indispensable pre-requisite, and the 
Gitanjali gives us precious truths on this matter also. 
The first quality required is a kpen hunger and passion 
ior God- vision. The poet says •. 

" He came when the night was still ; he had his 
harp in his hands, and my dreams became re- 
sonant with its melodies. 
Alas, why are my nights all thus lost ? Ah, why 
do I ever miss his sight whose breath touches my 
sleep ?" (Pages 20 and 21). 

When partial vision comes to us, our craving for 
■more light should become more, and our courage 
in its pursuit more invincible. The poet cries out : 
'* Light, Oh where is the light ? Kindle it with the 
burning fire of desire ! ... A moment's flash of 
lightning drags down a deeper gloom on my 
sight, and my heart gropes for the path to where 

the music of the night calls me Let not the 

hours pass by in the dark. Kindle the lamp of 
love with thy life." (Pages 21-22). 

Another faculty to be acquired is the faculty of ser- 
■vice of God. The poet says : 

" Pluck this little flower and take it, delay not ! 
... Though its colour be not deep and its smell 

191 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

be faint, use this flower in thy service and 

pluck it while there is time." (Page 5). 

The soul must acquire also an utter humility and 

the joy of self-surrender. The seventh poem in the 

Giianjali^ which has been quoted above, shows this 

admirably. The poet says : 

" Leave all the burdens on his hands who can 

bear all, never look behind with regret." (Page 7). 

Again, the soul must seek to serve God mt by flying 

away from life, but by serving and loving His children. 

The poet enforces this lesson again and again 

" Mother, it is no gain, thy bondage of finery, if 
it keep one shut off from the healthful dust of 
the earth, if it rob one of the right of entrance 
to the great fair of common human life." 

(P.ge 7>. 
" When I try to bow to thee, my obeisance cannot 
reach down to the depth where thy feet rest 
among the poorest, and lowliest, and lost " 

(Page 8). 
" Leave this chanting and singing and telli 'g of 
beads ! Whom dost thou worship in this lonely 
dark corner of temple with doors all shut ? Open 
thine eyes and see thy God is not before 
thee 1 
He is there where the tiller is tiihng the hard 
ground, and where the pathmaker is bre. iking 
stones. He is with them in jsun and in showct^ 

192 



GITANJALI 

and his garment is covered with dust. Put off 
thy holy mantle and even Uke him come down 
on the dusty soil! 
Deliverance 1 Where is this deliverance to be 
found ? Our Master himself has joyfully taken 
upon him the bonds of creation ; he is bound 
with us all for ever." 

(Pages 8 and 9). 
In the thirtieth poem Tagore shows the need for a 
life of spacious leisure and secluded meditation. Tagore 
shows us further that we must feel ourselves to be the 
children of God and regain the child-like qualities of 
wonder, innocence, trustfulness, joy, and love if we are 
to attain the kingdom of God that is in us. He 
enforces the same lesson that Christ taught when he 
said : " Verily I say unto you, except ye turn and be 
come as little children, ye shall in nowise enter into the 
kingdom of heaven." (John iii 3,5,8). Poems 60 to 62 
in the Gitanjali are child-poems and are found also in 
The Crescent Moon, and their inclusion in the Gitanjali 
is to impress on our hearts the great truth above said. 

Tagore shows us in verses full of beauty and spirit- 
ual passion what raptures and powers come to us 
when we become dowered with God's grace, the 
attainment of which is the crown and glory of hfe. He 
beautifully describes God's grace as the darkhued and 
benignant cloud that sends down gracious showers of 
joy and love to the arid parched-up heart. In the 

193 
13 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

fortieth poem he says : " Let the cloud of grace bend 
low from above like the tearful look of the mother on 
the day of the father's wrath." This is a simile which 
occurs very often in Sanscrit devotional verses where 
God is described as the Neela Megha (the dark rain- 
cloud) lit up by the twin rainbows of mercy and grace 
and pouring down showers of love. The poet realises 
also another aspect of God-head. He shows us how we 
are not merely passive recipients of His grace but are 
to tight His battles in the world as His servants. 
The true lover further beholds God's love and mercy 
even in the punishments that God sends to him. The 
poems in which Tagore shows these great truths to us 
are full of a lofty and profound symbolism. He says : 
" Ah me, what is it I find ? What token left of 
thy love ? It is no flower, no spices, no vase of 
perfumed water. It is thy mighty sword, 
flashing as a flame, heavy as a bolt of thunder. 
From now I leave off all petty decora- 
tions thou hast given me thy sword for 

• adornment " 

(Pages 46-48). (See also pages 78 and 79) 

The coming of God's grace is the theme of many of 

a poem full of deep spiritual rapture. The poet says : 

" Entering my heart unbidden even as one of the 

common crowd, unknown to me, my king, thou 

didst press the signet of eternity upon many a 

fleeting moment of my life." (Page 35). 

194 



GITANJALI 

*' At last, when I woke from my slumber and 
opened my eyes, I saw thee standing by me, 
flooding my sleep with thy smile." 

(Page 41). 

'^ I was singing all alone in a corner, and the 
melody caught your ear. You came down and 
stood at my cottage door." 

(Page 42). 

Such coming of God's grace is the true joy of life. 
The following prayer of the poet is full of truth and 
beauty. 

" Let him appear before my sight as the first of all 

lights and all forms. The first thrill of joy to 

my awakened soul, let it come from his glance. 

• And let my return to myself be immediate return 

to him." 

(Page 39). 

When the human soul rests in Infinite Beauty it be- 
comes full of peace, rapture, and harmony, and new 
melodies of the scheme of things become revealed to it. 
Emerson says ; " From within or from behind, a light 
shines through us upon things, and makes us aware 

that we are nothing, but the light is all when it 

breathes through the intellect, it is genius ; when it 
breathes through the will, it is virtue ; when it flows 
through the affections, it is love. And the blindness of 
the intellect begins, when it would be something of 

195 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

itself. The weakness of the will begins, when the- 
individual would be something of himself. All reform 
aims, in some one particular, to let the soul have 
its way through us ; in other words, to engage us to 
obey." The poet describes in exquisite verses the 
new faculties and joys that come to us when God's 
grace becomes our heavenly dower : 

" But I find that thy will knows no end in me. 
And when old words die out on the tongue, new 
melodies break forth from the heart ; and 
where the old tracks are lost, new country is re- 
vealed with its wonders." 

(Page 29). 
Through the love of God we attain the love of all, be- 
cause the two loves are inseparable. The poet says : 
" Thou hast made me known to friends whom I 
knew not. Thou hast given me seats in homes 
not my own. Thou hast brought the distant 

near, and made a brother of the stranger 

when one knows thee, then alien there is none,, 
then no door is shut." 

(Pages 58 and 59). 
The poet shows us further that love of God leads us 
to live a dedicated life. This is the idea pervading 
the sixty-fourth poem. It is then that the soul rises on 
the wings of its surrendered will to that close union 
with God wherein it becomes divine itself. The poet, 
asks in exultant rapture; : 

196 



GITANJALI 

'" What divine drink wouldst thou have, my God, 
from this overflowing cup of my life ? 

My poet, is it thy delight to see thy creation 
through my eyes and to stand at the portals of 
my ears silently to listen to thine own eternal 
harmony ? 

Thy world is weaving words in my mind and thy 
joy is adding music to them. Thou givest thyself 
to me in love and thou feelest thine own entire 

sweetness in me." 

(Page6i). 
Looking at the cosmic scheme of things from this 
^iofty and divine standpoint, Tagore is able to perceive 
:and reahse and communicate profound spiritual truths 
;and to see and make us see the divine significance of 
life and its myriad incidents which to ordinary worldly 
'Cyes have no value or purpose. In the daily revelation 
tof light, he sees the grace and love and joy of God 
-manifested. He says. 

'• The hght is scattered into gold on every cloud, 
my darling, and it scatters gems in profusion. 
Mirth spreads from leaf to leaf, my darling, 
and gladness without measure. The heaven's 
river has drowned its banks and the flood of joy 
is abroad." 

(Pages 52 and 58). 
"The same truth is declared by the Upanishads : 

197 



SIR KABINDRANATH TAGOKE 

C Verily from the everlasting joy do all objects have- 
their birth)'. Another truth that the poet reaUses is. 
about the character of the soul as the bride of God. 
" She vv^ho ever had remained in the depth of my 
being, in the twiUght of gleams and of glimpses ;. 
she who never opened her veils in the morning, 
light will be my last gift to thee, my God, folded 
in my final song.... There was none in the 
world who ever saw her face to face, and she 
remained in her loneliness waiting for tliy 
recognition." 

(Pages 61 and 62). 
Tagore makes us see also that the manifested beauty 
of God in the universe is but a portion of his Infinite 
Beauty. 

' Thou art the sky and thou art the nest as well. 
O thou beautiful, there in the nest it is thy love 
that encloses the soul with colours, sounds 

and odours 

" But there, where spreads the infinite sky for the 
soul to take her flight in, reigns the stainless white 
radiance. There is no day nor night, nor form 
nor colour, and never, never a word." 

(Pages 62 and 68). 
The prism of His love refracts His white glory into^ 
the paradise of colours known as the world, but whO' 
can describe the white radiance of His glory ? The- 
Upanishads declare : 

198 



GITANJALI 

Tifrs^ f%^T^cnT% %n^FTnpt f^f^ ii 

(A portion of Him is the universe: The remainder 
is shining immortal beyond). Tagore teaches us 
the unity of Hfe. He says : " The same stream 
of Hfe that runs through my veins night and day 
runs through the world and dances in rhythmic 
measures." (Page 64), 

Yet this unity is full of an infinite variety. He 
teaches further how the soul is a part of the Divine 
Being. The following passage is full of the deepest 
spiritual truth : — 

"Thousettest a barrier in thine own being and then 
callest thy severed self in myriad notes. This 

the self-separation has taken body in me 

The great pageant of thee and me has overspread 
the sky. With the tune of thee and me all the 
air is vibrant, and all ages pass with the hiding 
and seeking of thee and me." 

(Pages 66 and G7). 
God is the lord of life and the goal of life is to meet 
the divine musician playing on the flute of the world. 
The poet says : 

" He it is who puts his enchantment upon these 
eyes and joyfully plays on the chords of my 
heart in varied cadence of pleasure and pam 

., There, at the fording, in the little boat 

the unknown man plays upon his lute." 

Pages 67 and 69.) 

199 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Everything serves and glorifies Him. 
" Thy gifts to us, mortals, fulfil all our needs and 
yet run back to thee undiminished." 

(Page 69). 

God is not only Lord and King of our souls, but is 
our friend and lover and brother. He is to be reached 
by loving our human brothers. The poet says : 

" In pleasure and in pain I stand not by the side 
of men and thus stand by thee. I shrink not to 
give up my life, and thus do not plunge into the 
great waters of life." (Pages 71 and 72). 

Our sense of imperfection is only an illusion. " Un- 
broken perfection is over all." 

(Page 73^. 

We reach the Infinite Beauty and Joy and Perfection 
by self-surrender and love. " Thou hast taken every 
moment of my life in thine own hands." 

(Page 75). 

'' Full many an hour have I spent in the strife of the 
good and the evil, but now it is the pleasure of my play- 
mate of the empty days to draw my heart on to him," 

(Pages 82 and 83) 

Then is the true consummation of life reached and 
the soul attains '' the peace that passeth all under- 
standing." 

Tagore not merely tells us the meaning and crown 
and fruition of life, but throws the light of his pure 

200 



GITANJALI 

soul on the mystery of death and shows us the true 
meaning of death. The poems on death in the Gitanjali 
are various and variously beautiful. In one poem he 
says : 

" If the day is done, if birds sing no more, if wind 
has flagged tired, then draw the veil of darkness 
thick upon me, even as thou hast wrapt the 
earth with the coverlet of sleep and tenderly 
closed the petals of the drooping lotus, at dusk." 

(Page 19). 

" Death, thy servant, is at my door I will 

worship him with folded hands and with tears. 
I will worship him placing at his feet the 
treasure of my heart. ' 

(Page -79). 
God's love sends death to us, so that when our senses 
and faculties become incapacitated and unlit to bring 
home to our souls divine messages to train them, we 
may be gently divested of the worn-out garment of the 
body and reclothed in a better and fitter frame. The 
poet says : 

" On the day when death will knock at thy door, 

what wilt thou offer to him ? 
Oh, I will set before my guest the full vessel of my 
life^ — I will never let him go with empty hands." 

(Page 83). 

" The flowers have been woven and the garland is 

ready for the bridegroom. After the wedding 

201 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

the bride shall leave her home and meet her 

lord alone in the solitude of night." 

(Page 84). 
" I have got my leave. Bid me farewell, my 

brothers ! I bow to you all, and take my 

departure. 
Here I give back the keys of my door — and I give 

up all claims to my house. I only ask for last kind 

words from you. 
We were neighbours for long, but I received more 

than I could give. Now the day has dawned 

and the lamp that lit my dark corner is out. A 

summons has come, and I am ready for my 

journey.'' 

(Pages 85 and 86). 
" The child cries out when from the right breast 
the mother takes it away, in the very next mo- 
ment to find in the left one its consolation." 

(Page 87). 
There is an exquisite quatrain of Landor's where he- 
says : 

I strove with none, for none was worth my strife ; 

Nature 1 loved, and next to Nature, Art. 
I warmed both hand's before the fire of life. 

It sinks and I am ready to depart. 

The 96th poem in the Gitanjali is equally exquisite 
and deserves to be read again and again and shows 
what our attitude should be towards life and death. 

202 



GITANJALI 

" When I go from hence let this be my parting; 

word, that what I have seen is unsurpassable. 
I have tasted of the hidden honey of this lotus 
that expands on the ocean of light, and thus am 
I blessed — let this be my parting word. In this 
play house of infinite forms I have had my play 
and here have I caught sight of him that is 
formless. 
My whole body and my limbs have thrilled with 
his touch, who is beyond, touch ; and if the end 
comes here, let it come — let this be my parting 
word.'' 

(Page 88). 
I cannot conclude this all-too-brief and imperfect 
study of this epoch-making book of poems better than 
by putting side by side two wonderful poems — one by 
Tennyson and the other by Tagore — two great poets 
who are as great seers as they are singers, who have 
touched life at all points without losing their view of 
heaven, who have mingled service and meditation, who 
have risen through sorrow into a divine peace, and 
who have dowered us with a deeper vision of the. 

scheme of things. 

Sunset and evening star, 

And one clear call for me ! 
And may there be no moaning of the bar, 

When I put out to sea, 
But such a tide as moving seems asleep, 

Too full for sound and foam, 

203 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

"When that which drew from out the boundless deep, 

Turns again home. 
Twilight and evening bell, 

And after that the dark, 
And may there be no sadness of farewell, 

When I embark ; 
For tho' from out the bourne of Time and Place 

The flood may bear me far, 
I hope to see my Pilot face to face 
When I have to cross the bar. 

Tennyson. 
" Early in the day it was whispered that we 
should sail in a boat, only thou and I, and never 
a soul in the world would know of this our pil- 
grimage, to no country and to no end. 
In that shoreless ocean, at thy silently listening 
smile my songs would swell in melodies, free as 
waves, free from all bondage of words. 
Is the time not come yet ? Are there works still 
to do ? Lo, the evening has come down upon 
the shore and in the fading light the sea-birds 
come flying to their rests. 
"Who knows when the chains will be off, and the 
boat, like the last glimmer of sunset, vanish into 
t he night ?" 

(Tagore's Gitanjali, page 34). 



204 



CHAPTER m. 

THE GARDENER. 

This book of poems is full of varied beauty and 
emotional appeal, and if the Gitanjali belongs to the 
golden evening of life, the Gardener assuredly belongs 
to its rosy dawn and its meridian splendour. It contains 
exquisite love-poetry, beautiful nature-lyrics, and lofty 
devotional poems, and is as remarkable for its simpli- 
city, spontaneity, and freshness as for its fulness of 
colour and melody. The poems contained in it were 
written during Tagore's youth and manhood and were 
published in three volumes — Sotiar Tari, Manasi, and 
Chitra. They express in their passionate longing, their 
ecstasy in the contemplation of the spiritual elements of 
beauty, and their pure glow of feehng, mingling 
human and divine love, the very soul of Indian music. 
I have shown in the Introductory Chapter the close 
union of poesy and music in the art of Tagore. In the' 
Gardener even more than in other poems the musical 
motif with its aids by way of refrains, rhythms, and 
rapid movement lifts the poet on the wings of melody 
to the loftiest summits of rapture. The poet cries out 
in the fifth poem. 

I am restless, I am athirst for far-away things, 
My soul goes out in a longing to touch the skirts 
of the dim distance, 

205 



U T 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

O Great Beyond, O the keen call of thy flute !" 

(Page 12). 

The above-said qualities of this book of poems can 
be understood in the fulness of their divine beauty 
when we realise in what close spiritual kinship Tagore 
stands to Chaitanya, Mira Bai, and other great souls who 
were saints, musicians, poets, and lovers of God. I have 
dealt with this aspect also fully in my Introductory 
Chapter. 

My method in studying this book of poems — marvel- 
lous in its sweetness, its universality, its simplicity, and 
its varied beauty — will be the same as that which I have 
adopted in studying the Gilanjali — 'to express the 
deepest and most fundamental ideas of Tagore in their 
inner and logical sequence and connection, quoting 
from the book here and there to illustrate the ideas. 

The first group of poems to be studied with love and 
insight is that dealing with poesy in itself, in relation 
to life, in relation to love, and in relation to the divine 
elements in life and love. They are of surpassing beauty 
and profound symbolism, and are not rivalled any- 
where in their truth to the deepest things of life, their 
insight, and their loveliness of form. The first seven 
poems especially deserve to be studied and pondered 
over in an ecstasy of joyful tears, which spring to our 
eyes unbidden at the revelation of beauty and grace and 
love and joy in life. The very first poem strikes a lofty 
note and shows the poetic beauty and appropriateness 

206 



THE GARDENER 

of the name the Gardener. Every line in it is full of 
inner significance. It will be impossible to expand 
here the ideas contained in every sentence, though 
such a task is delightful, uplifting, and worthy. I 
shall do the work on a more suitable occasion if there 
be any call for it. The very opening of the poem that 
describes how the poet comes to the queen after all the 
other servants are gone, shows how the attainment of 
the divine joys of poesy is the last and highest thing to 
which the spirit of man can attain. The servant {viz.^ 
the poet) tells the queen: 

" When you have finished with others, that is my 
time." 

(Page 1). 
What does he want to do ? How shall I express the 
divine beauty of his request ! 

" Make me the gardener of your flower garden . . . 

I will give up my other work. I throw my swords 

and lances down in the dust. Do not send me 

to distant courts : do not bid me undertake new 

conquests. But make me the gardener of your 

flower garden." 

He desires only to dwell amid the heavenly fragrance 

of divine thoughts and emotions. What further work 

need he do ? The work of material progress, nay, 

even the work of service of man in the lower fields of 

activity — he has left far behind. He does not want to 

be sent even in her service away from the sight of her 

207 



SIR RABINDKANATH TAGORE 

divine face and form. Why should he vex his soul with 
further conquests over nature when he has transcended 
that phase of being and has had a glimpse of her face 
in her very throne ? The queen asks him what his 
duties would be. He replies that he would " keep 
fresh the grassy path where you walk in the morning, 
where your feet will be greeted with praise at every. step by 
the flowers eager for dealh^^* swing her in a swing, " re- 
plenish with scented oil the lamp that burns by your 
bedside," and "decorate your footstool with sandal and 
saffron paste with wondrous designs."  Thus when the 
human soul has come into the presence of her Eternal 
Lover, what further duties has she except to serve Him 
and rejoice in His joy ? The remaining portion of the 
poem is equally beautiful. 

" QUEEN. 
What will you have for your reward ? 

SERVANT. 

To be allowed to hold your little fists like tender 
lotus buds and slip flower-chains over your wrists ; 
to tinge the soles of your feet with the red juice of 
ashoka petals and kiss away the speck of dust that may 
chance to linger there. 

QUEEN. 
Your prayers are granted, my servant, you will be 
the gardener of my flower garden." 

208 



THE GARDENER 

The second poem is full of the loftiest truths and 
makes us see how a poet and lover of God, though he 
has transcended the lower forms of work — W2., con- 
quests over nature and service of man through lower 
motives — serves his Goddess best by not merely re- 
joicing in her worship, her beauty, and her love, but by 
serving humanity unselfishly and through higher 
motives, by voicing the sweetest human emotions and 
conveying the messages of his Goddess to man, and by 
seeking to lift up all to the inner paradise where he 
lives and moves and has his being. I find it difficult 
to resist the temptation to explain each sentence in 
this poem, so full of deep inner meaning through- 
out ; but I have to resist the temptation, having regard 
to the limits of space and to the fitness of things ac- 
cording to the scheme of this work. The poet should 
not merely hear the music of the hereafter and be 
dumb. He says : 

" I watch if young straying hearts meet together, 
and two pairs of eager eyes beg for music to 
break their silence and speak for them. 

Who is there to weave their passionate songs, if I 
sit on the shore of life and contemplate death 
and the beyond ? 

• ••••• 

If some wanderer, leaving home, come here to 
watch the night and with bowed head listen 
to the murmur of the darkness, who is there to 

209 

14 



SIK RABINDKANATH TAGORE 

whisper the secrets of life into his ears if I, shutting 

my doors, should try to free myself from mortal 

bonds ?" 
*' It is a trifle that my hair is turning gray. 
I am ever as young or as old as the youngest and 

the oldest of this village. 

• ••••• 

They all have need for me, and I have no time to 
brood over the after-life," 

(Pages 4—6). 
The third poem is full of profound symbolism, and 
it is with hesitation that I offer here a few hints about 
it though I have meditated on it often. It seems to 
show that poems though iridescent with fancy and 
imagination are not valuable in the eyes of the Goddess, 
even though humanity is fascinated by their beauty, 
if they are born merely from the sea of the poet's own 
imagination and are not the result of an inner struggle 
with the lower elements of nature and are not in vital 
touch with life and its aspirations and desires and joys. 
The poet shows in the fourth poem how he cannot 
keep away his brethren from the home of his heart even 
if they have only imperfect sympathy for him and though 
he would fain live on the lofty heights of meditative 
rapture. At the same time the poet hears the imperious 
call of the flute of the Great Beyond and his innermost 
nature responds to the call with a sudden leap of the 
spirit. It says.: 

210 



THE GARDENER 

^ Thy breath comes to me whispering an im- 
possible hope. 
Thy tongue is known to my heart as its very own. 

-• * • • • « 

I am Ustless, I am a wanderer in my heart .... 

Farthest end, O the keen call of thy flute! 

1 forget, I ever forget, that the gates are shut 
ever more in the house where I dwell alone !" 

(Pages 12-13). 
In the sixth poem the poet shows by the simile of 
the caged bird and the free bird, iiow the call of love 
moves the soul imprisoned in matter, though the latter 
bemoans its inability to escape from the cage and soar 
wing to wing with the free bird viz., the Ever-Free, 
Ever-Joyful World-Soul which is Love and yearns to 
teach the caged spirit to soar into the pure empyrean 
of love on the wings of peace and joy. In the seventh 
poem the simile of the maiden and the prince shows 
how poesy serves the God of Love for His sweet sake 
whether he lifts his eyes to her in love or not. She 
flings " the jewel from her breast" beneath his moving 
car, not caring whether he or any one else knows her 
utter self-surrender or not, and realising that such 
ecstasy of devotion is an end in itself and is the 
sweetest and truest thing in life. In another poem 
Tagore shows how poetry should be rooted in the earth 
though its finest blossoms may lift up their heads in the 
serene air of love and light, rejoice in the sunshine- 

211 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORL 

of divine hope, and sweeten everything with their 
fragrance. He says : 

" Infinite wealth is not yours, my patient and dusky 
mother dust ! 

The gift of gladness that you have for us is never- 
perfect. 

• • • • • 

You cannot satisfy all our hungry hopes, but should' 

I desert you for that ? 
Your smile which is shadowed with pain is sweet 

to my eyes. 
Your love which knows not fulfilment is dear to my 
heart. 
• • • • • 

Over your creations of beauty there is the mist of 

tears. 
I will pour my songs into your mute heart, and my 

love into your love. 
I will worship you with labour. I have seen your 
tender face and I love your mournful dust,. 
Mother Earth." (Pages 127-8). 

I shall refer here to only two other poems that show 
the attitude of the poet towards posterity. It shows that 
a poet's highest reward is not fame or worldly possessions 
but the perpetual rebirth of joy in the hearts of living 
men and women of successive generations, Tagore says 
in the last poem in the Gardener : 

212 



THE GARDENER 

*' Who are you, reader, reading my poems an 

hundred years hence ? 
1 cannot send you one single flower from this wealth 
of the spring,one single streak of gold from yonder 
clouds. 
• •••••• 

In the joy of your heart may you feel the living joy 
that sang one spring morning, sending its glad 
voice across an hundred years." 

(Page 146). 

Tagore recognises and proclaims the supreme dignity 

^nd beauty of the poet's art in words full of beauty. 

" In the world's audience hall, the simple blade of 

grass sits on the same carpet with the sunbeam 

and the stars of midnight. 

Thus my songs share their seats in the heart of the 

world with the music of clouds and forests. 

But you, man of riches, your wealth has no part in 
the simple grandeur of the sun's glad gold and 
the mellow gleam of the musing moon. 
The blessing of the all-embracing sky is not shed 

upon it. 
And when death appears, it pales and withers and 
crumbles into dust." 

(Page 129). 

It is a natural transition from poesy to love, and we 

cannot better study the wonderful love-poems in his 

volume than by studying at the outset the poems descritv 

213 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

ing the attitude of a poet towards love. The poet asks 
the lover to reveal his heart to bim. 

" Do not keep to yourself the secret of your hearty 

my friend ! 
Say it to me, only to me, in secret. You who' 
smile so gently, softly whisper, my heart will, 
hear it, not my ears." 

(Page 48). 
" Youth, why do you stand so still under the shadow^ 

of the tree ? 
My feet are languid with the burden of my heart 
and I stand still in the shadow." 

(Page 49). 
The poems where the poet lays bare his soul to his 
beloved are equally beautiful and disclose to us the true 
relations of poesy and love. In one poem the poet asks 
love to allow him to soar into the higher regions of 
thought and emotion. 

" My heart, the bird of the wilderness, has found 

its sky in your eyes. They are the cradle of the 

morning, they are the kingdom of the stars. My 

songs are lost in their depths. Let me but soar 

in that sky, in its lonely immensity. 

Let me but cleave its clouds and spread wings in 

its sunshine." (Page 60). 

In another poem the poet tells his beloved that he 

had given his love to the world and that it was too late 

for him to concentrate it on one personality. 

214 



THE GARDENER 

" It is too late to ask my heart in return for yours. 
There was a time when my life was like a bud, all 

its perfume was stored in its core. 
Now it is squandered far and wide. Who knows 
the enchantment that can gather and shut it up 
. again ? 

My heart is not mine to give to one only, it is given 
to the many." 

(Page 68). 
That is the note of the singer who has truly risen ta 
the raptures of the love of All, the lover whose beloved 
is the soul of the world. A poet who has not fully risen 
to this beatitude must necessarily feel that love is more 
than the joy of poesy or fame. 

"My love, once upon a time your poet launched a 

great epic in his mind. 
Alas, I was not careful, and it struck your ringing 
anklets and came to grief. 

• • • • • 

You must make this loss good to me, my love. 
If my claims to immortal fame after death are shat- 
tered, make me immortal while I live. 
And I will not mourn for my loss nor blame you." 

(Page 69). 
Similarly did Byron say : 

' O talk not to me of a name great in story ; 
The days of our youth are the days of our glory ; 
And the myrtle and ivy of sweet two-and-twenty 

215 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Are worth all your laurels though ever so plenty. 
• •••«• 

Oh Fame !— If I e'er took delight in thy praises, 
'Twas less for the sake of thy high-sounding phrases, 
Than to see the bright eyes of the dear one discover 
The thought I was not unworthy to love her. 
There chiefly I sought thee, there only I found thee-; 
Her glance was the best of the rays that surround thee; 
When it sparkled o'er aught that was bright in my 

story , 
I knew it was love, and I felt it was glory.', 

Our poet realises how his art becomes voicelesss in 
the sweetness of his love as a bee in the lotus. 

" I try to sing a song, but in vain. A hidden smile 
trembles on your lips ; ask of it the reason of rny 
failure. 
Let your smiling lips say on oath how my voice 
lost itself in silence like a drunken bee in the 
lotus." 

(Page 70). 

*' If you would have it so, I will end my singing." 

(Page 84). 

I shall first refer now to the sweet love-poems in 
this volume dealing with love in its variety of charm, 
and then to the poems particularly dealing with 
Indian life and love, before I discuss the wonder- 
ful poems dealing with love in its manifold relation 
to Ufe and finally rising on the wings of truth and 
joy into the highest heaven of divine love. The 

216 



THE GARDENER 

general love-poems in this book are exquisite and per- 
fect lyrical gems. The eighth poem describes how a 
maiden's love is shy though deep. Another poem de- 
scribes maidenly shyness shining in its fulness. of charm 
even when love has triumphed over it. 

" When my love comes and sits by my side, when 
my body trembles, and my eyelids droop, the night 
darkens, the wind blows out the lamp, and the 
clouds draw veils over the stars. 
It is the jewel at my breast that shines and gives 
light. I do not know how to hide it." 

(Pages 20-21). 
The sixteenth poem shows the elemental nature of 
love — its immediateness, its simplicity, and its touch 
with life. 

" It is a game of giving and withholding, revealing 
and screening again ; some smiles and some 
little shyness, and some sweet useless struggles. 
This love between you and me is simple as a song. 
No mystery beyond the present ; no striving for 
the impossible ; no shadow behind the charm ; 
no groping in the depth of the dark. 

We have not crushed the joy to the utmost to 

wring from it the wine of pain. 

This love between you and me is simple as a 

song." 

(Pages 36-37). 

217 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Another poem shows that love, the mendicant, in spite 
of his seeming humiUty, begs for nothing less than the 
whole of our personality. 

" ' What comes from your willing hands I take. I 

beg for nothing more.' 
'Yes, yes, I know you, modest mendicant, you ask 
for all that one has'." 

(Page 51). 
At the same time there is no doubt that this ecstasy of 
perfect self-surrender in a passion of adoration is the 
truest, highest, sweetest thing in life. 

" The lotus blooms in the sight of the sun, and loses 
all that it has. It would not remain in bud in 
the eternal winter mist." 

(Pages 53-4). 
Another poem beautifully says : 

" I love you, beloved ; forgive me, my love. 
Ivike a bird losing its way I am caught. 
When my heart was shaken it lost its veil and was 
naked. Cover it with pity, beloved, and forgive 
me, my love." 

(Page 63). 
The prayer of love for the ecstasy of possession can- 
never be better expressed than it is in the thirty- 
fourth poem. 

" Could I but entangle your feet with my heart 
and hold them fast to my breast !" 

(Page 65). 

218 



THE GARDENER 

A lover though he says that he will leave his beloved 
will return to her feet with renewed rapture. 

" When I say I leave you for all time, accept it as- 
true, and let a mist of tears for one moment 
deepen the dark rim of your eyes. 
Then smile as archly as you like when I come 
again." 

(Pages 71-2). 
The love-poems in this volume that depict love as 
manifested in Indian life are of peculiar attractiveness 
and charm. I must not omit to mention here one pecu- 
liar feature frequently noticed in regard to Indian love- 
poetry, viz., its exquisite setting amid the sweetest 
natural scenes. As I have pointed out in my essay on 
some characteristics of Sanskrit poetry : " Nature 
plays an important part in Sanskrit lyrics : the lotus, 
the moon, and the kokila, are met with frequently. 
The love scenes are placed amidst the enchanting 
spots in nature, in scenes lit up by bright blossoms 
shining like many-coloured moons, where gentle winds 
come laden with strange perfumes, vocal with the 
sounds of tuneful-throated birds." The tenth poem 
and the eleventh poem describe how a bashful 
Indian bride is asked to go and meet the guest at the 
gate and bring him in. The wonderful beauty of these 
poems is their suggestiveness in which a diviner atmos- 
phere seems somehow to interpenetrate the human, 
universe. 

219 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

*' Have no word with him if you are shy ; stand 
aside by the door when you meet him. 

• • • • • 

Have you not put the red lucky mark at the part- 
ing of your hair, and done your toilet for the 
night ? O bride, do you hear, the guest has 
come ? Let your work be !" (Pages 22-23.) 

" Who can know that your eyelids have not been 
touched with lamp-black ? For your eyes are 
darker than rain-clouds. 

• ft • • • 

Come as you are, do not loiter over your toilet." 

(Page 25). 
These and other poems dealing with Indian life and 
ilove bring home to us vividly and lovingly the heaven 
of a happy woman's life and ways in India and the 
heaven of nature shining all about her as a fitting 
temple for love, the goddess of her heart. The twelfth 
poem contains the song of the lake to the beloved and 
shows these traits very well. 

" If you would be busy and fill your pitcher, come, 

O come to my lake. 
The water will cling round your feet and babble 

its secret 

I know well the rhythm of your steps, they are 

beating in my heart 

Your thoughts will stray out of your dark eyes like 
birds from their nests." (Pages 27 & 28). 

220 



THE GARDENER 

The next poem brings before our eyes another sw eet 
picture of Indian life and love. 

" Under the banyan tree you were milking the cow 

with your hands, tender and fresh as butter. 
And I was standing still. 
I did not say a word. It was the bird that sang 

unseen from the thicket. 

The mango tree was shedding its flowers upon the 

village road, and the bees came humming one by 

one." (Page 30). 

The whole poem is so inexpressibly sweet that one 

could imagine it sung by Krishna to Radha at Brinda- 

vana. The next poem is equally fine. 

" The prone shadows with their outstretched arms 
clung to the feet of the hurrying light. . . . 



Some one was busy with her work, and her bangles 

made music in the corner. I stood before this 

hut, I know not why." (Page 32). 

The eighteenth, nineteenth, and twenty-third poems 

describe the sweet and graceful ways of Indian maidens 

with a simplicity that is charming. 

" The two sisters glance at each other when they 

come to this spot, and they smile. 
There is a laughter in their swift-stepping feet, 
which makes confusion in somebody's mind who 
stands behind the trees whenever they go to 
fetch water." (Page 41).. 

221 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

*' You are hidden as a star behind the hills, and I 

am a passer-by on the road. But why did 

you stop for a moment and glance at my face 

through your veil while you walked by the 

riverside path with the full pitcher upon your 

hip ?" (Pages 42 & 43). 

" Why do you stir the water with your hands and 

fitfully glance at the road for some one in mere 

idle sport ? 

" Fill your pitcher and come home." (Page 47). 

The twentieth and twenty-first poems describe yet 

another aspect of love. The following quotations speak 

iov themselves. 

" Day after day he comes and goes away. Go, 

and give him a flower from my hair, my friend. 

If he asks who was it that sent it, I entreat you, do 

not tell him my name — for he only comes and 

goes away." 

(Page 44). 
" Why did he choose to come to my door, the 

wandering youth, when the day dawned ? 
As I come in and out I pass by him every time, 

and my eyes are caught by his face 

He weaves his songs with fresh tunes every time. 
1 turn from my work and my eyes till with the 
mist. Why did he choose to come to my door ?" 

(Page 45). 
I shall quote one other sweet poem describing how 

222 



THE GARDENER 

bashfulness is full of wild regret after the lover goes 

away. 

" He put a flower in my hair. I said, ' It is use- 
less !' ; but he stood unmoved. 
He took the garland from my neck and went 
away. I weep and ask my heart, 'Why does he 
not come back ?' " 

(Page 67). 
I shall now take up the poems dealing with love in its 
manifold relation of life, as they are remarkable for 
their insight into the human heart and knowledge of its 
deepest impulses of pain and rapture. The poet shows 
how the young heart hae a sudden blossoming of sweet- 
ness in it in the springtime of love and how it is first 
of all in love with love before it sees heaven realised in 
one human face. 

'' I run as a musk-deer in the shadow of the forest 

mad with his own perfume 

From my heart comes out and dances the image 

of my own desire. The gleaming vision flits on. 

I try to clasp it firmly, it eludes me and leads me 

astray. 
I seek what 1 cannot get, I get what I do not seek.'' 

(Page 35). 
"You are the evening cloud floating in the sky of 

my dreams. 
I paint you and fashion you ever with my love 
longings ; .; .: , . 

223 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Your feet are red with the glow of my heart's- 

desire, Gleaner of my sunset ! 

I have caught you and wrapt you, my love, in 

the net of my music. 
You are my own, my own, Dweller in my deathless 
dreams ! " (Pages 58 & 59). 

In the last poem above cited we have a divine com- 
mingling of suggestions of love of lover, love of the be- 
loved, and love of God. The poet shows how when 
love comes to reign in the heart, there is the birth of 

an inner spring 

" That quickens the piilse of the morning to wonder 
And hastens the seed of all beauty to birth, 
That captures the heavens and conquers to blossom 
The roots of delight in the heart of the earth r " 

(Mrs. Sarojini Naidu's 'The Bird of Time.)* 

The twenty-second poem describes this in verses full 

of wonderful affluence of beauty. 

" When she passed by me with quick-steps, the end 

of her skirt touched me. 

From the unknown island of a heart came a sudden 

warm break of spring. 

A flutter of a flitting touch brushed me and vanished 

in a moment, like a torn flower petal blown in 

the breeze. 

It fell upon my heart like a sigh of her body and 

whisper of her heart." (Page 46). 

Tagore makes us realise further that the heart and 

its realm are endless in range and variety. 

224 



THE GARDENER 

" But it is a heart, my beloved. Where are its 
shores and its bottom ? You know not the limit 
of this Kingdom, still you are its queen. . . . 
But it is love, my beloved. Its pleasure and pain 
are boundless, and endless its want and wealth. 
It is as near to you as your life, but you can 
never wholly know it." 

(Pages 55 & 56). 
Tagore then shows us the deepest and truest elements 
in love and makes us realise why it is that love draws 
our souls irresistibly and leads us into its paradise. Love 
overwhelms and enraptures us because it has in it the 
mystery of the infinite and because it awakens sweet 
suggestions of ante-natal union. The thirty second 
poem is full oi faultless loveliness and I quote it in full. 
" Tell me if this be all true, my lover, tell me if 

this be true. 
When these eyes flash their lightning, the dark 
clouds in your breast make stormy answer. Is 
it true that my lips are sweet like the opening 
bud of the first conscious love? Do the memories 
of the vanished months of May linger in my 
limbs ? 
Does the earth, like a harp, shiver into songs with 

the touch of my feet ? 
Is it then true that the dewdrops fall from the 
eyes of night when I am seen, and the morning, 
light is glad when it wraps my body round ? 

225 

15 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Is it true, is it true, that your love travelled alone 
through ages and worlds in search of me ? 

That when you found me at last, your age-long 
desire found utter peace in my gentle speech and 
my eyes and lips and flowing hair ? 

Is it then true that the mystery of the Infinite is 
written on this little forehead of mine ? 

Tell me, my lover, if all this be true." 

(Pages 61 & 62). 

^'In the dusky path of a dream I went to seek the 
love who was mine in a former life 

She set her lamp down by the portal and stood 
before me 

Tears shone in her eyes. She held up her right 

hand to me. I took it and stood silent. 
Our lamp flickered in the evening breeze and 
died." (Pages 103 & 104). 

We see expressed here the same profound sentiment 
that is expressed by D. G. Rossetti in The House of Life. 
" O born with me somewhere that men forget 
And though in years of sight and sound unmet 
Known for my soul's birth-partner well enough." 

Tagore shows another true and divine element in 
love — the fact that it is really and in essence an attrac- 
tion of the spirit. 

" I hold her hands and press her to my breast. I 
try to fill my arms with her loveliness, to plunder 

226 



THE GARDENER 

her sweet smile with kisses, to drink her dark 
glances with my eyes. 
Ah, but, where is it ? Who can strain the blue 

from the sky ? 
I try to grasp the beauty ; it eludes me leaving 

only the body in my hands. 
Baffled and weary I come back. 
How can the body touch the flower which only the 
spirit may touch ? " 

(Page 86). 
Tagore shows further that the charm of woman's 
beauty is in part due to the idealising tendency of 
jnan's heart 

" O woman, you are not merely the handiwork of 
God, but also of men ; these are ever endowing 

you with beauty from their hearts. 

The desire of men's hearts has shed its glory over 
your youth. 
You are one half woman and one half dream." 

(Page 100). 
Beauty by itself is mute till Love gives it the gracious 
gift of speech. 

" Amidst the rush and roar of life, O Beauty, 

carved in stone, you stand mute and still, alone 

and aloof." (Page 101). 

Beauty is most truly herself when love and service 

light up her eyes and loosen her tongue and give grace 

and divine helpfulness to her hands. 

227 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

" The perfection of your arms would add glory tO' 

kingly splendour with their touch. 
But you use them to sweep away the dust, and ta 

make clean your humble home, therefore, I am* 

filled with awe." 

(Page 137). 
When love comes into life, the limits of Hfe seem to- 
get a push and life becomes widened and is filled with, 
more light. This is well-brought out in the long poenii 
on page 142. The woman who ' worked and dreamed 
daily to the tune of the bubbling stream ' is made cap- 
tive by love and goes away from the village with the 
lord of her soul. The villagers ask her when she 
comes back how she felt in her new world. She says : 
" ' Here is the same sky' she said, only free from< 
the fencing hills, — this is the same stream grown 
into a river, — the same earth widened into a 
plain 1" 

(Page 144). 
Life without love is dreary, weary, and wasted. 
" I am ihe guest of no one at the end of my day. 
The long night is before me, and I am tired". 

(Page 108). 
Love when it comes brooks no rival sovereign in the 
heart and dominates the soul. 

" I leave behind my dreams, and I hasten to your 
call." 

(Page 110). 

228 



THE GARDENER 

In the above poem there is also a suggestion Of the 
call of Higher and Divine Love, which adds to the beauty 
and mystery of the poem. The precious offering of love 
is such that even the person offering it knows not its 
•exceeding preciousness and rare loveliness. The simile 
<^ the blind girl brings out this truth beautifully in the 
ioUowing poem. 

" One morning in the flower garden a blind girl 

came to offer me a flower chain in the cover of 

a lotus leaf. 

I put it round my neck, and tears came to my eyes. 
I kissed her and said, ' you are blind even as the 
flowers are, you yourself know not how beauti- 
ful is your gift!" 

(Page 99). 
The poet has not merely expressed the higher and 
diviner moods of love, but also its lower, lighter, and 
baser moods. One mood that is expressed with a 
heartbreak in the soul and a sob choking utterance is 
the recognition that death puts an end to the dreams of 
love. 

*' For we have made truce with death for once, and 
only for a few fragrant hours we two have been 
made immortal." , 

(Page 79). 
Therefore how should we order this all-too-brief life 
of ours, where death routs the fond dreams of love ? 

229 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

" Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time 
like dew on the tip of a leaf." 

(Page 81).. 
Not only does death strangle the joys of love but 
even love is often faithless and fleeting. 

" You left me and went on your way. I thought I 
should mourn for you and set your solitary im- 
age in my heart wrought in a golden song. . .. 



But a fresh face peeps across my door and raises its; 

eyes to my eyes. I cannot but wipe away my 

tears and change the tune of my song. 

For time is short." (Pages 82-88), 

Sometimes love of the lower type goes often with 

lack of insight and makes true love dumb with the 

endured agony of suppressed tenderness. 

" I long to speak the deepest words I have to say 
to you ; but I dare not, for fear you should laugh. 
That is why I laugh at myself, and shatter my 
secret in jest. I make light of my pain, afraid' 
you should do so." (Page 73). 

The poet shows that a love that is too hungry for 
bliss defeats its own object. 

" Why did the flower fade ? I pressed it to my 

heart with anxious love, that is why the flower 

faded. Why did the stream dry up ? I put a. 

dam across it to have it for my use, that is why 

• the stream dried up. 

230 



THE GARDINER 

Why did the harp-string break ? I tried to force a 
note that was beyond its power, that is why the 
harp-string is broken." 

(Page 89). 
The next poem describes love scorned and put to 
shame, 

" Why do you put me to shame with a look ? 

I have not come as a beggar 

Not a rose did I gather from your garden, not a 
fruit did I pluck." 

(Page 90). 
Another poem describes how the love that fawns at 
the feet of beauty drunk with the wine of bodily bliss 
is but a low form of love, and how the higher form of 
love is the homage of the liberated reason and the wor- 
ship of a self-respecting and discerning manhood that 
realises in a true woman's love the very crown of life. 
" Free me from the bonds of your sweetness, my 
love ! No more of this wine of kisses. This 
mist of heavy incense stifles my heart. 
Open the doors, make room for the morning light. 
I am lost in you, wrapped in the folds of your 

caresses. 
Free me from your spells, and give me back the 
manhood to offer you my freed heart." 

(Page 85). 

I have discussed above very briefly the love poems, 

pure and simple, in this volume. The poet does not 

231 



SIR RABINDUANATH TAGORK 

content himself merely with the sweet love of youth 
and maid but shows how love broadens and deepens 
through its touch with life as a whole, by its conflict 
with death, and by its becoming fit after such baptism 
of life and death to rise to the very Throne of Grace 
and worship the Lotus Feet of God. 

The seventy-seventh poem shows love lighting up 
every home and shedding its radiance on the sweet 
toils and charities of domestic life. 

" She goes back home with the full pitcher poised 

on her head, the shining brass pot in her left 

hand, holding the child with her right — she the 

tiny servant of her mother, grave with the weight 

of the household cares." (Page 188). 

This sweet bond of- love does not stop with human 

beings but extends to the whole realm of life and makes 

us realise the blissful unity of life. 

" She took up her brother in one arm, and the 
lamb in the other, and dividing her caresses be- 
tween them bound in one bond of affection the 
offspring of beast and man." 

(Page 134). 
" It was in May. The sultry noon seemed end- 
lessly long. The dry earth gaped with thirst in 
the heat. When I heard from the riverside a 
voice calling, 'come, my darling ! ' 
I shut my book and opened the window to look 
out. 

232 



THE GARDENER 

I saw a big buffalo with mud-stained hide standing 
near the river with placid, patient eyes ; and a 
youth, knee-deep in water, calling it to its bath. 
I smiled amused, and felt a touch of sweetness in 
my heart." (Page 135). 

" I often wonder where lie hidden the boundaries 
of recognition between man and the beast whose 
heart knows no spoken language. . . ... . 

Yet suddenly in some wordless music the dim 
memory wakes up and the beast gazes into the 
man's face with a tender trust, and the man looks 
down into its eyes with amused affection. 
It seems that the two friends meet masked, and 
vaguely know each other through the disguise." 

(Page 136). 

I will refer here to a few further aspects described 

'by the poet. The forty-second poem glorifies a life of 

'freedom as opposed to the life of conventions in which 

we are living. 

" I have wasted my days and nights in the company 

of steady wise neighbours. 
Much knowing has turned my hair grey, and much 
watching has made my sight dim. ..... 

I let go my pride of learning and judgment of 
right and wrong. I'll shatter memory's vessel, 
scattering the last drop of tears. ...... 

I'll take the holy vow to be worthless, to be 
drunken and go to the dogs." (Pages 75-77). 

233 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

The poet feels keenly the joy of life and invites us 
to share in the rapture. 

" Over the green and yellow rice-fields sweep the 
shadows of the autumn clouds followed by the 
swift-chasing sun. 
The bees forget to sip their honey ; drunken with- 

light they foolishly hover and hum. 
The ducks in the islands of the river clamour in 

joy for mere nothing. 
Let none go back home, brothers, this morning, 

let none go to work. 
Let us take the blue sky by storm and plunder 

space as we run. 
Laughter floats in the air like foam on the flood. 
Brothers, let us squander our morning in futile 
songs." 

(Page 145). 
He shows how the true joy of life lies in love and in 
living life to the very top of its fulness, and not in 
barren asceticism. 

" No, my friends, I shall never leave hearth and 
home, and retire into the forest solitude, if rings 
no merry laughter in its echoing shade and if the 
end of no saffron mantle flutters in the wind ; if 
its silence is not deepened by soft whispers. 
I shall never be an ascetic." 

(Page 78). 
"God commanded, 'stop, fool, leave not thy 

234 



THE GARDENER 

home/ but still he heard not. God sighed and 
complained, ' Why does my servant wander to 
seek me, forsaking me ?" 

(Pages 130-131). 
The poems dealing with life and love in relation to 
death are full of the profoundest wisdom conveyed in 
perfect words. I do not know if there is anything in 
literature to match the perfect beauty of the sixty-first 
poem. 

" Peace, my heart, let the time for the parting be 

sweet. 
' Let it not be a death but completeness.' 
' Let love melt into memory and pain into songs.' 
Let the flight through the sky end in the folding 

of the wings over the nest. 
Let the last touch of your hands be gentle like the 

flower of the night. 
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a moment, and 

say your last words in silence. 
I bow to you and hold up my lamp to light you on 
your way." (Page 102). 

The following also show to us what should be our 
attitude towards death: — 

" None lives for ever, brother, and nothing lasts for 
long. Keep that in mind and rejoice. . . . .. 

There must come a full pause to weave perfection 
into music. Life droops towards its sunset to be 
drowned in the golden shadows 



&^ 



235 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Beauty is sweet to us, because she dances to the 

same fleeting tune with our lives. 
Knowledge is precious to us, because we shall 

never have time to complete it. 
All is done and finished in the eternal Heaven. 
But earth's flowers of illusion are kept eternally 

fresh by death. 

Brother, keep that in mind and rejoice." 

(Pages 116-8). 

" Raise my veil, and look at my face proudly, O 
Death, my Death !" 

(Page 139). 
Death makes us realise the sweetness of love in its 
fulness. 

" The push of death has swung her into life. 
We are face to face and heart to heart, my bride 
and I." 

(Page 141). 

We now come to the loftiest poems in the volume — 
those wherein after love in its sweet radiance is born 
in the heart and spreads its glory over the whole of life 
and becomes pure and chastened after having looked 
into the fathomless eyes of Death, soars on the wings 
of truth and joy into the highest heaven of divine love. 
In one poem the words are so skilfully chosen that it is 
difficult to say whether it refers to human or divine 
love. 

236 



THE GARDENER 

" Lest I should confuse you with the crowd, you^ 

stand aside. 
I know, I know your art, 
You never walk the path you would." 

(Page 66). 
The human soul realises that it does not attain the 
true end of existence but feels stifled if it tries to sur- 
round itself with beautiful objects in a spirit of selfish 
egoism and seeks to live in a palace of art and worship 
love in an elaborately-designed shrine quite out of 
touch with the life of man and nature. 

" With days of hard travail I raised a temple. It 
had no doors or windows, its walls were thickly 
built with massive stones. 

• • • • • 

It was alwa^-s night inside, and lit by lamps of 
perfumed oil 

Sleepless, I carved on the walls fantastic figures in 
mazy bewildering lines — winged horses, flowers 
with human faces, women with limbs like ser- 
pents. 

No passage was left anywhere through which 
could enter the song of birds, the murmur of 
leaves, or hum of the busy village 

I knew not how time passed till the thunderstone 
struck the temple, and a pain stung me through 
the heart. 

The lamp looked pale and ashamed ; the carvings 

237 



SIR KABINDRANATH TAGORE 

on the walls like chained dreams, stared mean- 
ingless in the light as they would fain hide them- 
selves. 
I looked at the image on the altar. I saw it smiling 
and alive with the living touch of God. The 
night I had imprisoned had spread its wingi and 
vanished." (Pages 125-126). 

It seems to me that in conception and expression this 
jpoem is even finer than the beautiful poem of Tennyson 
on The Palace of Art. There also the soul said : 
" Trust me, in bliss I shall abide 
In this great mansion, that is built for me, 
So royal — rich and wide." 
But soon she felt as 

" A still salt pool, lock'd in with bars of sand, 
Left on the shore ; that hears all night 
The plunging seas draw backward from the land 
Their moon-led waters white. 
Throwing her royal robes away ; 
' Make me a cottage in the vale,' she said, 
Where I may mourn and pray.' " 

The soul realises further that the. innermost soul of 
ove cannot be seized by amorous arms and made 
•captive to the body. 

" Whom do I try to clasp in my arms ? Dreams 

can never be made captive. 
My eager hands press emptiness to my heart and 
it bruises my breast." 

(Page 88). 

238 



THE GARDENER 

Having had a glimpse of the supernal beauty of Love 
that is the soul of the universe, the soul has an irresist- 
ible inner impulse to seek it and attain it. 
" Traveller, must you go ? 
The night is still and the darkness swoons upon the 

forest. 
The lamps are bright in our balcony, the flowers 
all fresh, and the youthful eyes still awake. . . 
What quenchless fire glows in your eyes ? 
What restless fever runs in your blood ? 
What call from the dark urges you ? 

traveller, what sleepless spirit has touched you 
from the heart of the midnight ?'' 

(Pages 105-6). 
The flower of the world's delight can no longer 
satisfy it as it has had a glimpse of a fairer, more 
fragrant, and diviner flower, and as it has realised that 
the flower of earthly life fades and leaves but the thorn 
behind. 

" I plucked your flower, O world. 

1 pressed it to my heart and the thorn pricked. 
When the day waned and it darkened, I found that 

the flower had faded, but the pain remained." 

(Page 98). 
Though the quest is difficult, hope that is the sure 
presage of attainment springs iji the soul. 

'• The lone night lies along your path, the dawn 
sleeps behind the shadowy hills. 

239 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

The stars hold their breath counting the hours, the: 
feeble moon swims the deep night. 

• ' • • • • 

There is no home, no bed of rest. 

There is only your own pair of wings, and the path- 
less sky. 

Bird, O my bird, Hsten to me, do not close your 
wings." (Page 115). 

" I hunt for the golden stag. 

• • • •  

You come and buy in the market and go back to 
your homes laden with goods, but the spell of 
the homeless winds has touched me. I know not 
when and where. 
I have no care in my heart ; all my belongings I 
have left far behind me." 

(Page 119). 
The simile of the madman in the sixty-sixth poem 
that describes the search for the touchstone is opposite 
and beautiful. 

" May be he now had no hope remaining, yet he 
would not rest, for the search had become his 
life,— 
Just as the ocean for ever lifts its arms to the sky 
for the unattainable — just as the stars go in 
circles, yet seeking a goal that can never be 
reached." 

(Pages 111-112), 

240 



THE GARDENER 

In such divine quest failure may often overtake the 
soul that is slowly fitting itself with the aid of the two 
great teachers — life and love — for the attainment of the 
goal of life. Failure is nothing ; it means that the goal 
is a little nearer than it was and that our faculties 
have been more trained than before and will hence 
serve us better during the next attempt. The simile of 
the paper-boat which the poet floated in a ditch when 
he was young and which was sunk by showers of rain, 
shows how in our onward progress petty failures 
should not hold us back anymore than the sinking of 
the paper-boat. 

(Pages 120-121). 
I now come to the divinest portion of the poem where 
the purified and perfected soul comes to the river of 
death and crossing it, reaches its true home — the arms 
of the Eternal Lover — and is pressed to His breast and 
is full of peace and love and joy that pass understand- 
ing. The seventy-first poem is full of the deepest sym- 
bolism and deserves careful and loving study. The soul 
comes to the river of death. 

" The hushed water waits for the wind, 
I hurry to cross the river before the night over- 
takes me. 
O ferryman ! you want your fee. Yes, brother, I 
have still something left. My fate has not cheat- 
ed me of everything." 

(Pages 122-123) 

241 

16 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

After crossing the river, the soul hastens home with 
empty hands. What further burden of earthly posses- 
sions — fame, riches, power — should encumber it, when 
it hastens to attain the lotus feet of God where adore 
with folded palmsthe powers that rule the universe and 
bestow the lower objects of desire on the human souls 
that are full of attachment to the objects of the senses 
and that have not yet had a glimpse of the beauty of 
the countenance of God and of the heaven of His love ? 
Yet it does not reach the Divine Presence quite empty, 
because " much remains still," if not in the hands yet 
still in the heart. Love and service and peace and joy 
— the higher qualities of the soul which unlike the 
material possessions are never lessened by increase in 
the objects of bounty but grow by giving — remain as 
pure gold in the heart and have further the power of 
the golden touch and make whatever comes into con- 
tact with them shining and precious gold. 

" At midnight, I reach home. My hands are 

empty. 
You are waiting with anxious eyes at my door, 

sleepless and silent. 
Like a timorous bird you fly to my breast with 

eager love. 
Ay, ay, my God, much remains still. My fate has 
not cheated me of everything." 

. - -/ ' (Page 124). 
I shall now leave the soul facejto face with God in the 

242 



THE GARDENER 

pure and passionate words of the poet which I am 
afraid of desecrating by any words of mine. 

" Love, my heart longs day and night for the meet- 
ing with you — for the meeting that is like all- 
devouring death. 
Sweep me away like a storm ; take everything I 
have ; break open my sleep and plunder my 
dreams. Rob me of my world. 
In that devastation, in the utter nakedness of spirit, 

let us become one in beauty. 
Alas for my vain desire ! Where is this hope for 
union except in thee, my God ? " 

(Page 87). 



24y 



CHAPTER lY. 

THE CRESCENT MOON. 

Tbis work even more than other works of Tagore'si 
reveals some great qualities of his genius — his childlike- 
purity and simplicity and his deep insight into that 
mysterious shrine of holiness and joy which is some- 
times desecrated by trespassing passions and griefs and 
sin and worldliness — the human heart. The poem — or 
rather the series of poems — idealise childhood from' 
various points of view. The poems show wherein the 
true charm and spiritual power of childhood consist, 
what a whole heaven and a whole earth of Loveliness lie 
neglected and unnoticed about us— the heaven o£ the 
child's heart made bright and beautiful by the sun and 
the moon of purity and of love and by the stars of 
golden poetic fancies, and the earth of the child's fair 
frame which has the radiance and glory of the spring 
;ind in which the sweetness and fragrance of all fair and 
fragrant flowers reside — a heaven and an earth sweeter 
far than the equally unnoticed sapphire sky with its daily 
pageant of heavenly presences and the green-mantled 
earth with its revolving seasons bringing unto it varie- 
gated beauty, ht by laughing flowers, the sweet home 
of life and love and joy. There is no one so tortured 
by physical pain but finds relief from his agonies at the 
sight of the fair fresh limbs and the laughing eyes of a 

244 



THE CRESCENT MOON 

lovely child there is no one so overwheli«ed by 
sorrow but does not soar above his grief and rise into 
a paradise of peace and joy at the sight of the 
buoyancy and gaiety of a child ; there is no one so 
enslaved by passion and sin as not to feel a sudden 
liberation of the spirit and a sweet access of purity and 
heavenliness into his nature at the sight of the perfect 
simplicity and goodness of a child. It was this great 
truth that Christ brought out in an inimitable way as 
original as it is sweet when he said : " Verily I say unlo 
you, except ye be converted, and become as little 
children, ye shall not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven ; 
suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid 
them not ; for of such is the Kingdom of God." Children 
keep the heaven of their heart undefiled because they 
do not know the torment and tyranny of passion and 
sin. It is through them that we are able to keep in our 
hearts such elements of gentleness and love and peace 
as sweeten and transfigure our existence. 

Testimony to this fact has been borne by science, 
by literature and art, and by religion. Science tells us 
how the long and helpless infancy of the human 
offspring led to lifelong marital unions between men 
and women, sweetened our lives with love, dowered us 
with the loftiest elements of civilisation, and raised us 
from the level of the animal creation to the very ceat of 
the Gods. Literature and art have never wearied of 
showing how the child keeps the diviner elements alive 

245 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

in our souls. The paintings of the Madonna and her 
Child in the west, the beautiful story of Krishna's boy- 
hood in Gokula, the description of Parvathi's girlhood 
and Sri Subramanya's boyhood as found in Kalidasa's 
Kumarasambhava, the delineation of Bharatha in 
Kalidasa's Sakuntala, the description of the little child 
in Silas Marner, and innumerable other instances will 
occur to all. The inspired invocation to the child in 
Wordsworth's Ode on Intimations of Immortality is full 
of beauty and truth : 

'• Thou whose exterior semblance doth belie 
Thy Soul's immensity ; 
Thou best Philosopher, who yet dost keep 
Thy heritage, thou Eye among the blind. 
That, deaf and silent, readst the eternal deep, 
Haunted for ever by the eternal mind — 
Mighty prophet ! seer blest ! 
On whom those truths do rest 
Which we are toiling all over lives to find, 
In darkness lost, the darkness of the grave." 

In our religion the realisation of the child's place in 
our spiritual economy is vivid and full. A reUgion that 
worships God as child in Vinayaka, Subramanya, and 
Balakrishna cannot be charged with any lack of appre- 
ciation of the beauty of the child-soul. 

Tagore's The Cresent Moon marks a real epoch, just as 
Blake's publication of "The Songs of Innocence" did in 
his time. The note of love and idealism is as promi- 
nent in it as the note of intuitive insight into the child- 
soul, and we are grateful to the poet for a vivid and 

246 



THE CRESCENT MOON 

joyful appreciation of all that the child-soul means 
for us who go through life weighed down by work 
and sin, and are allowed to have very few peeps into 
the shrine of love and peace and rapture. A perusal of 
the book is in fact a revelation of the sources of divine 
joy lying so to say about our very feet, and soothes our 
world-weariness and sustains and uplifts us, and trans- 
figures our souls with a new spiritual illumination which 
the poet brings to us in this wonderful poem which 
in spite of the fact that it is only a prose rendering'from 
the poet's Bengali poem, appeals in an intimate way to 
our hearts not only by the beauty of the English prose 
but by the poet's passionate sincerity of utterance which 
speaks the language of the heart straight to our souls, 
whatever be the medium chosen for conveying his pre- 
cious sentiments and thoughts. I shall study the poem 
intimately so as to get into the heaven of the poet's 
soul and bear his message to the millions who go 
through life full of grief and pain unaware of the love- 
liness and gladness lying unnoticed about them. 

The poet first brings home to us what a universal 
source of happiness God has given us in our children, 
how in every child God makes himself incarnate to us 
and shows us what are the really godlike qualities, and 
in what manner the children keep our hearts from 
becoming worldly and miserable. The very first poem 
shows how life is gladdened by children and how this 
precious gift of joy is given by God to every human 

247 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORfc- 

being. The poet says : "I stopped for a moment in my 
lonely way under the starlight, and saw spread before 
me the darkened earth surrounding with her arms count- 
less homes furnished with cradles and beds, mother's 
hearts and evening lamps, and young lives glad with a 
gladness that knows nothing of its value to the world." 

(Pages 1-2). 

In the last poem the poet shows how the love of the 
child is dearer and more powerful than kingly power 
or gold or even the smile of the beloved. In many 
places in the poem the poet enforces the same lesson 
with all the resources of art at his command. 

We shall now try to ascertain how well the poet has 
studied the child's mind and heart and soul and how he 
is able to reveal to us the physical and mental graces of 
children and their high moral and spiritual qualities. 
He first shows how there is true greatness and heaven- 
liness behind the simplicity of the child-life. The poet 
says in the fourth poem : 

"Baby knows all manner of wise words, though few 
on earth can understand their meaning. 

It is not for nothing that he never wants to speak. 

The one thing he wants is to learn mother's words 
from mother's lips. That is why he looks so innocent. 

Baby had a heap of gold and pearls, yet he came like 
a beggar on to this earth. 

It is not for nothing he came in such a disguise. 

This dear Httle naked mendicant pretends to be 

248 



THE CRESCENT MOON 

utterly helpless, so that he may beg for mother's wealth 
of love. 

Baby was so free from every tie in the land of the 
tiny crescent moon. 

It was not for nothing he gave up his freedom. 
He knows that there is room for endless joy in 
mother's little corner of a heart, and it is sweeter tar 
than liberty to be pressed in lier dear arms. 

Baby never knew how to cry. He dwelt in the land 
■of perfect bliss. 

It is not for nothing he has chosen to shed tears. 
Though with the smile of his dear face he draws 
mother's yearning heart to him, yet his little cries over 
liny troubles weave the double bond of pity and love." 

(Pages 7-8). 

There are many beautiful passages in this volume in 

which the mystery of the child's coming is enshrined in 

words of haunting beauty and melody. In one poem 

the mother says to the child : 

" You were hidden in my heart as its desire, my 

darling. 
You were in the dolls of my childhood's games ; 
and when with clay I made the image of my 
God every morning, I made and unmade you 
then. 
You were enshrined with our household deity, in 

his worship I worshipped you. 
When in girlhood my heart was opening its petals, 

249 



SIR KkBINDRANATH TAGORE , 

you hovered as a fragrance about it. 
Your tender softness bloomed in my youthful limbs 

like a glow in the sky before sunrise. 
Heaven's first darling, twin-born with the morning 
light, you have floated down the stream of the 
world's life, and at last you have stranded on 
my heart. 
As I gaze on your face, mystery overwhelms me ; 

you who belong to all have become mine. 
For fear of losing you I hold you tight to my 
breast. What magic has ensnared the world's 
treasure in these slender arms of mine ?" 

(Pages 15-16). 
When studying thus Tagore's study of the child in it- 
self, we must make prominent mention of his aliveness 
to the beauty of the child's body — fresh, fair, and 
fragrant like that of a flower. The golden loveliness of 
its skin so soft to the touch and so enrapturing to 
the sight ; the heart-stealing, innocent, and radiant 
smile on the face of the child ; the pure, trustful, and 
loving light in its bright black eyes; the sweet crescent of 
its forehead ; the dimpled sweetness of its cheek and chin; 
and the slender, supple, and lissome grace of its limbs 
awaken in our hearts a feeling of deep thankfulness to 
God for bringing to us through the gift of children 
revelations of His beauty and rebirths of inner spring. 
The poem called " The Source " brings out this senti- 
ment in a beautiful manner. 

250 



THE CRESCENT MOON 

" The sleep that flits on baby's eyes — does anybody 
know from where it comes? Yes, there is a rumour 
that it has its dwelling where, in the fairy village 
among shadows of the forest dimly lit with glow- 
worms, there hang two shy buds of enchantment. 
From there it comes to kiss baby's eyes. 
The smile that flickers on baby's Ups when he sleeps 
— does anybody know where it was born? Yes, there is a 
rumour that a young pale beam of a crescent moon touch- 
ed the edge of a vanishing autumn cloud, and there the 
smile was first born in the dream of a dew-washed 
morning — the smile that flickers on baby's lips when 
he sleeps. 

The sweet, soft -freshness that blooms on baby's Hmbs 
— does anybody knovir where it was hidden so long ? 
Yes, when the mother was a young girl it lay pervad- 
ing her heart in tender and silent mystery of love — the 
sweet, soft freshness that has bloomed on baby's Hmbs." 

(Pages 5-6). 
In thus realising and expressing the beauty of a child,, 
the poet recognises how even dirt in a child does not 
take away its appeal and charm — so" full of true beauty 
and fascination is the fair fresh frame of a child. At 
page 20 the mother tells the child : " You have stained 
your fingers and face with ink while writing — is that why 
call you dirty ? O, lie I Would they dare to call the 
full moon dirty, because it has smudged its face with 
ink ? You tore your clothes 

251 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

while playing — is that why call you untidy ? O, lie ! 
What would they call an autumn morning that smiles 
through its ragged clouds ? " (Pages 20-21). The 
very same idea that even what is unlovely becomes 
beautiful and enhances beauty in the case of perfectly 
lovely forms is conveyed in the immortal stanza of 
Kalidasa : 

(A lovely blossomed lotus flower, though surrounded 
by moss, is still beautiful and fair ; the dark-spot in the 
white orb of the full moon increases its attractiveness. 
This fair maiden is all the fairer in her dark garments. 
What does not become an ornament on the person of 
sweet and perfect beauty ?) 

No poet has brought more vividly before our heart the 
irresistible appeal of the winsome ways of a child as 
Tagore has done. The description of Krishna's child- 
hood and of the sweet ways by which the Divine Child 
made every one around him glad and willing slaves of 
love that we read in stately and melodious verses in the 
Bhagaivatha is not more beautiful than the exquisite 
and intimate touches by which Tagore brings the child's 
sweet and heavenly winsomeness before us. The child's 
■disregard of limitations of time and space and its 

252 



THE CRESCENT MOON 

perfect unconsciousness of the various artificial and often 
annoying limitations and restrictions which we regard 
as making up civilised life seem to lead us into a world 
altogether new where the sense of possession and selfish 
suspicion of others vanishes, and we feel like children 
glad of the beauty and sunshine of life and glad of all 
partaking of the same along with us. All true joy 
results from self-poise and release from petty limitations 
and restrictions, and wherefrom and how can we win 
such self-poise and glad release if not from the word 
of God and the equally sweet words of children, for 
of such is the Kingdom of God ? Tagore well calls the 
sweet ways of children as "the unheeded pageant." 
The poem at page 9 is full of beauty and brings out this 
aspect very vividly. 

"Ah, who was it coloured that little frock, my 
child, and covered your sweet limbs with that 
little red tunic ? 

You have come out in the morning to play in the 
courtyard, tottering and tumbling as you run. 

But who was it coloured that little frock, my child ? 

What is it makes you laugh, my little life-bud ? 

Mother smiles at you standing on the threshold- 

She claps her hands and her bracelets jingle, and 
you dance with your bamboo stick in your hand 
like a tiny little shepherd. 

But what is it makes you laugh, my little life-bud ? 

253 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

O beggar, what do you beg for, clinging to your 

mother's neck with both your hands ? 
O greedy heart, shall I pluck the world like a fruit 
from the sky to place it on your little rosy palm ? 
O beggar, what are you begging for ? The wind 
carries away in glee the tinkling of your anklet 
bells. 
The sun smiles and watches your toilet. 
The sky watches over you when you sleep in your 
mother's arms, and the morning comes tiptoe to 
your bed and kisses your eyes. 
The wind carries away in glee the tinkling of your 
anklet bells," (Pages 9-10). 

I shall now take up Tagore's loving analysis and 
interpretation of the child's personality, because a great 
poet's great glory is that he takes the common things 
and makes us see their diviner aspects and expresses 
the same in simple words that somehow take colour 
and radiance and become full of a heavenly significance 
wh'^-n irradiated by the light of his soul. 

Tagore adverts again and again to the child's absolute 
freedom from cares and its sportiveness and love of 
play. He says: 

"They build their houses with sand, and they play 
with empty shells. With withered leaves they 
weave their boats, and smilingly float them on the 
vast deep. Children have their play on the sea- 
shore of worlds. 

254 



THE CRESCENT MOON 

They know not how to swim, they know not how 
to cast nets. Pearl hshers dive for pearls, mer- 
chants sail in their ships, while children gather 
pebbles and scatter them. They seek not for hid- 
den treasures, they know not how to cast nets. 

• • • • • 

On the seashore of endless worlds children meet. 
Tempest roams in the pathless sky, ships are 
wrecked in the trackless water, death is abroad 
and children play on the seashore of endless 
worlds in the great meeting of children." 

(Pages 3-4). 
Besides this general description Tagore brings home 
to our hearts intimately the games that Indian boys love 
and the appeal of such games to our souls. He says: 
"I launch my paper boats and look up into the sky 
and see the little clouds setting their white bulg- 
ing sails. 

I know not what play mate of mine in the sky sends 
them down the air to race with my boats!" 

(Page 38). 
Tagore then brings vividly before us the child's 
exquisite delight in beautiful objects that appeal to our 
senses. First and foremost is its love of flowers which 
is as deep and sweet as our maturer passion for the 
shining wealth of light in the morning, the mysterious 
beauty of forests in the night, and the majestic rivers 
that bear the gift of life to all. He says: 

255 



SIR RABINDKANATH TAGORE 

*'Ah! these jasmines, these white jasmines ! I seem 
to remember the first day when I filled my hands 
with these jasmines. 
I have loved the sunlight, the sky and the green 

earth ; 
I have heard the liquid murmur of the river 

through the darkness of midnight. 
Autumn sunsets have come to me at the bend of a 
road in the lonely waste, like a bride raising her 
veil to accept her lover. 
Yet my memory is still sweet with the first white .. 
jasmines that I held in my hand when I was a 
child." (Page 70). 

Tagore's interpretation of the child-mind is equally 
beautiful. He deeply desires to enter into the child's 
mind. He says : 

"I wish I could travel by the road that crosses 

baby's mind, and out beyond all bounds ; 
Where messengers run errands for no cause be- 
tween the kingdoms of kings of no history ; 
Where Reason makes kites of her laws and flies 
them, and Truth sets fact free from its fetters." 
He describes admirably the child's love of song, its 
love of stories, its supreme gift of imagination, and its 
desire to play the man. Wordsworth has described 
this aspect of the child's personality in a beautiful 

stanza. 

" Behold the Child among his new born blesses, 
A six year's Darling of a pigmy size! 

256 



THE CRESCENT MOON 

See, where' mid work of his own hand he lies, 

Fretted by sallies of his mother's kisses, 
With light upon him from his father's eyes! 

See at his feet, some little plan or chart, 
Some fragment from his dream of human life, 

Shaped by himself with newly learned art; 
A wedding or a festival, 
A mourning or a funeral, 
And this hath now his heart. 
And unto this he frames his song: 

Then will he fit his tongue 
To dialogues of business, love or strife; 

But it will not be long 

Ere this be thrown aside, 

And with joy and pride 
The little actor cons another part; 
Filling from time to time his 'humorous stage' 
With all the persons, down to palised Age, 
That Life brings with her in her equipage; 
As if his whole vocation 
Were endless imitation." 

The following description by Tagore of a boy's song 
is full of beauty: 

"Suddenly a boy's shrill voice rose into the sky. He 

traversed the dark unseen, leaving the track o£ 

his song across the hush of the evening." 

His poem 'The Land of the Exile' and other poems 

show the child's love of stories. The child's wonderful 

imagination is described again and again in these poems. 

It is difficult to choose illustrations when there are so 

many of them. I give a few below. 

257 
17 



SIR RABINDRAN\TH TAGORE 

^'I shall be the cloud and you the moon. I shall 
cover you with both my hands, aud our house- 
top will be the blue sky." 
• • • • • 

I will be the waves and you will be a strange shore. 

I shall roll on and on, and break upon your lap 
with laughter. 

And no one in the world will know where we both 
are." (Pages 27-8). 

"Supposing I been me z champ a flower, just for 
fun, and grew on a branch high up that tree, 
and shook in the wind with laughter and danced 
upon the newly budded leaves, would you know 
me, mother ? 

You would call, ' Baby, where are you ?' and I 
should laugh to myself and keep quite quiet. 

1 should shyly open my petals and watch you at 
your work." (Page 29). 

•' The princess lies sleeping on the far away shore 
of the seven impassable seas. 

There is none in the world who can find her but 
myself. 

She has bracelets on her arms and pearl drops in 
her ears ; her hair sweeps down upon the floor. 

She will wake when I touch her with my magic 
wand, and jewels will fall from her lips when 
she smiles. 

But let me whisper in your ear, mother ; she is 

258 



THE CRESCENT MOON 

there in the corner of our terrace where the pot 
of the tulsi plant stands". (Pages 31-32). 

" I can imagine how, on just such a cloudy day, 
the young son of the king is riding alone on a 
grey horse through the desert, in search of the 
princess who lies imprisoned in the giants' palace 
across that unknown water." (Page 34)» 

The child's love of adventure and high achievement 
is equally beautifully described in his poems. He de- 
sires to " cross the seven seas and the thirteen rivers of 
fairy land" (page 40), to ' ride abroad redressing human 
wrongs', and to bring relief to those in distress (pages 
62-4). He desires to play the man and take part in the 
work of the world. (Page 42, page 50). 

Tagore's insight unto the child's heart is equally ad- 
mirable. He shows how full of love for the mother 
the child is, and how to it she is the dearest thing in 
the world. 

" Mother, do you want heaps and heaps of gold ? 
There, by the banks of golden streams, fields are 
full of golden harvest. 
And in the shade of the forest path the golden 

champa flowers drop on the ground. 
I will gather them all for you in many hundred 
baskets." (Page 47). 

^' What nice stories, mother, you can tell us ! Why 
can't father write like that, I wonder ?" 

I Page 58). 

259 



SIK RABINDKANATH TAGORE 

" I shall become a delicate draught of air and 

caress you ; and I shall be ripples in the water 

when you bathe, and kiss you and kiss you 

again." (Page 66). 

The child's purity, trustfulness, innocence, and love 

for all — in fact the whole paradise of the child's moral 

nature is beautifully revealed to us in these poems. 

And what shall we say of his description of the child 
-soul ? " Heaven lies about us in our infancy." Tagore 
.says: 

" The fairy mistress of dreams is coming towards. 

you, flying through the twilight sky. 
The world-mother keeps her seat by you in your 

mother's heart. 
He who plays his music to the stars is standing at 

your window with his flute. 
And the fairy mistress of dreams is coming to- 
wards you, flying through the twilight sky". 

(Pages 10-11). 
I shall now consider Tagore's loving study of the 
exquisite relationship between adult life and child-life 
and of all that the child means for us and does for us. 
First and foremost he makes us feel how we are " but 
children of a larger growth". 

" I am busy with my accounts, adding up figures 

by the hour 

I seek out costly playthings, and gather lumps o£ 
gold and silver. 

260 



THE CRESCENT MOON 

With whatever you find you create your glad 
games; I spend both my time and my strength 
over things I never can obtain. 
In my frail canoe I struggle to cross the sea of de- 
sire, and forget that I too am playing a game". 

(Pages 23-24). 

The mother's deep love for the child — that most 

"wonderful and divine thing to which there is no 

parallel this side of heaven — ^is well described by the 

poet. 

" I do not love him because he is good, but be- 
cause he is my little child 

I alone have the right to blame and punish, for he 
only may chastise who loves". (Page 22). 

The supreme value of the child to us for our inner 
growth is well described by the poet. It is through 
the child that we are kept from becoming of the earth, 
earthy. The divine elements of life — pity, self-sacrifice, 
love, eagerness to serve, joy, — are kept alive, in us by 
the child's regenerative influence. Tagore says : 

•' Bless this Httle heart, this white soul that has 

won the kiss of heaven for our earth. 
He loves the light of the sun, he loves the sight of 

his mother's face. 
He has not learned to despise the dust, and to 

hanker after gold. 
Clasp him to your heart and bless him. 



261 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

He will follow you, laughing and talking, and not 

a doubt in his heart. 
Keep his trust, lead him straight and bless him. 

• • • • • 

Forget him not in your hurry, let him come to your 
heart and bless him." (Page 74-75). 

The poem called " The Child-Angel" shows this even 
more clearly. 

" They clamour and fight, they doubt and despair^ 
they know no end to her wranglings. 

Let your life come amongst them hke a flame of 
light, my child, unflinching and pure, and delight 
them into silence. 

They are cruel in their greed and their envy, their 
words are like hidden knives thirsting for blood. 

Go and stand amidst their scowling hearts, my 
child, and let your gentle eyes fall upon them 
like the forgiving peace of the evening over the 
strife of the day. 

Let them see your face, my child, ' and thus know 
the meaning of all things ; let them love you and 
thus love each other. 

Come and take your seat in the bosom of the limit- 
less, my child. At sunrise open and raise your 
heart like a blossoming flower, and at sunset 
bend your head and in silence complete the 
worship of the day." (Pages 79-80). 

Indeed, life itself becomes full of meaning for us and 

262 



THE CRESCENT MOON 

we realise its significance through the contemplation of 
the child-nature. For are we not all children of God 
who takes delight in our delight? As Christ says ; 

" Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask 

for bread, will he give him a stone ? 
Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent ? 
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts 
unto your children, how much more shall your 
Father which is in heaven give good things to 
them that ask him " 
Tagore's poem When and Why says : 

" When I bring you coloured toys, my child, I 
understand why there is such a play of colours on 
clouds, on water, and why flowers are painted 
in tints, — when I give coloured toys to you, my 
child. 
When I sing to make you dance, I truly know why 
there is music in leaves, and why waves send 
their chorus of voices to the heart of the listening 
earth — when I sing to make you dance. 
When I bring sweet things to your greedy hands, 
I know why there is honey in the cup of the 
flower, and why fruits are secretly filled with 
sweet juice — when I bring sweet things to your 
greedy hands. 
When I kiss your face to make you smile, my 
darhng, T surely understand what pleasure 
streams from the sky in morning light, and what 

263 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

delight the summer breeze brings to my body — 
when I kiss you to make you smile." 

(Pages 18-19). 
What can we give to the child in return for all this ? 
What can be a fit recompepse for love ? What but love 
itself ? We must embosom their lives in love so that 
our memory will ever remain in their hearts like a 
blessing, and their love will make the heaven where we 
shall go a heavenlier place as it made a heaven of the 
earth where we were. Two poems of Tagore's teach us 
this in words of faultless beauty and I shall quote 
them. One is called The Gift. 

" I want to give you something, my child, for we 

are drifting in the stream of the world. 
Our lives will be carried apart, and our love for- 
gotten. 
But I am not so foolish as to hope that I could buy 

your heart with my gifts. 
Young is your life, your path long, and you drink 
the love we bring at one draught and turn and 
run away from us. 
You have your play and your playmates. What 
harm is there if you have no time or thought 
for us? 
We, indeed, have leisure enough in old age to 
count the days that are past, to cherish in our 
hearts what our hands have lost for ever. 
The river runs swift with a song breaking through 

264 



THE CRESCENT MOON 

all barriers. But the mountain stays and re- 
members, and follows her with his love." 

(Pages 76-77). 
The next poem is entitled " My Song." 

"This song of mine will wind its music around you, 

my child, like the fond arms of love. 
This song of mine will touch your forehead like a 

kiss of blessing. 
When you are alone it will sit by your side and 
whisper in your ear, when you are in the crowd 
it will fence you about with aloofness. 
My song will be like a pair of wings to your dreams, 
it will transport your heart to the verse of the 
unknown. 
It will be like the faithful star overhead when dark 

night is over your road. 
My song will sit in the pupils of your eyes and will 
carry your sight into the heart of things. When 
my voice is silent in death, my song will speak in 
your living heart." (Page 78). 

Thus this poem is full of wonderful beauty and 
heavenly sweetness of suggestion. In the divine magi- 
cal mirror of the poet's heart the crescent moon is 
reflected, but in the reflection has become by some 
mysterious process a full-orbed moon of art, stainless, 
radiant, full of calm and steadfast rapture, carrying 
our thoughts far away from earthiness and strife into 
the paradise of love and joy and peace. 



265 



CHAPTER y. 

CHITRA. 

In this play we have not the same affluence of mysti-^ 
cal thought and emotion as in other works by Tagore. 
But we have in it a realisation of the diviner elements 
of life and love, a heavenly message to the human soul 
as to what is the meaning of love in the truest sense of 
the term. 

The play is not only a thing of beauty in itself but 
reveals to us what artistic possibilities lie in our 
Puranas if only we have in us the selective and creative 
genius of great poets like Kalidasa and Tagore and 
learn the message of the Puranic stories aright and seek 
to steep them in the hght of our imagination and re- 
veal them to the world for its uplift and delight. The 
great peculiarity in the case of stories of India is that 
they are still a living force m the hearts of men ; that 
the persons dealt within them are still our ideals who 
dominate and direct our lives and our thoughts ; and 
that a new interpretation of such stories in a vivid ^ 
manner that will bring out the great dreams of our race 
loyally will be a great national work for which unborn i 
generations will be grateful to us, because it will help 
to unify and intensify our national life and make our 
land full of dynamic love and achievement, a p  \ ..) 

 2«6 ^1Ul 



W^ » ^ 



CHITRA 

The message of the play is the idea so beautifully 
expressed in Carew's poem on True Beauty : 

" He that loves a rosy cheek 

Or a coral lip admires 
Or from star-like love doth seek 

Fuel to maintain his fires ; 
As old Time maketh these decay, 
So his flames must waste away. 
But a smooth and steadfast mind, 

Gentle thoughts and calm desires, 
Hearts with equal love combined 

Kindle never dying fires : — 
Where these are not, I despise 
Lovely cheeks or lips or eyes !''. 

The poet teaches us that the love that is founded on' 
beauty of body alone is built on insecure foundations. 
Beauty in human face and form is like the glow of sun- 
set on evening clouds, " like hues and harmonies of 
evening" — glorious, fleeting, mysterious. To the man 
with true vision the beauty, grace, and charm that en- 
raptures the lover in his beloved's face is but a dim re- 
flection, an imperfect revelation, of the wondrous vision 
— the light of the soul behind the veil of the mortal 
flesh. The beauty of the soul is immortal as the soul 
is immortal. Love built on the beauty of the soul is 
built on a rock and endures for ever. 

To understand aright the play before us we must re- 
member one great characteristic of Indian love-poetry. 
Though Indian poets have sung in rapturous terms 

267 



,\ 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

about love at first sight, the sudden blossoming of true 
and loyal and measureless affection and devotion for 
another in the garden of the heart, the transfiguration 
of the soul and the universe in the morning radi- 
ance of new-born love, they dwell even more lovingly 
and rapturously on the deep and heavenly joys of love 
after marriage with the sweet charities of home life, on 
the calm mid-day splendour of love's sun which, if it 
has less pomp and variety of colour, has a loftier height, 
a more universal outlook, a more fruitful power. The 
European literary artists dwell more upon the former 
aspect of love than on the latter aspect. Our literary 
artists dwell on both but dwell with more love and joy 
upon the latter than on the former aspect. Ernst Horn- 
witz in his Short History of Indian Literature says : 
" Conjugal fidelity takes a prominent place amongst 
Hindu virtues, and gems many a page of Sanscrit 
Literature." Wilson says : " The loose gallantry of 
modern comedy is unknown to the Hindus, and they 
are equally strangers to the professed adoration of 
chivalric poetry ; but their passion is neither tame 
nor undignified. It is sufficiently impassioned not 
to degrade the object of the passion ; while at the 
same time the place that woman holds in society 
is too rationally defined for her to assume an influence 
foreign to her nature, and the estimate in which human 
life is held is too humble for a writer to elevate any 
mortal to the honours of divinity." 

268 



CHITRA 

« 

That this is true about our world of art is indisput- 
able. The dawn of love before marriage is exquisitely 
described in verses full of true delicacy of feeling and 
wonderful insight in the stories of Sakuntala, Damayan- d^ 
thi, Malathi, and others. Even in such stories the poets 
take us to the riper and higher lives of these women, and fe«W 
show their measureless devotion, love, and self-efface- 
ment after their marriage. The literary artists of India 
however produce their subtlest and sweetest literary 
effect in bringing out the heaven of the sentiment of 
love after marriage. In fact many of the greatest love- 
stories of India take up the lives of the herohies of ^ 
India after their marriage. The instance of the 
Yaksha's wife in Kalidasa's MeghaSandesa is not a c^ 
unique instance, though his great poetic genius has t^ 
enabled him to lift his theme fo the loftiest heights of 
achievement. The stories of Sita, Savitri, Droupathi, f'^ 
and other heroines, human and divine, show this truth ^.j^/, 
very well. Sir Monier Williams says in his book on, 
Indian Wisdom : " Indeed, in depicting scenes of 
domestic affection, and expressing those universal 
feelings and emotions which belong to human nature, 
Sanskrit epic poetry is unrivalled even by the Greek 
epos." Again he says: "It must be admitted, however, 
that in exhibiting pictures of domestic life and manners 
the Sanskrit epics are even more true and real than the 
Greek and Roman .... Indeed, Hindu wives 
are generally perfect patterns of conjugal fidelity : non 

269 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORli 

can it be doubted that in these delightful portraits of 
the Fativrata (devoted wife) we have true representa- 
tions of the purity and simplicity of Hindu domestic 
manners in early times." I shall quote here only one 
exquisite passage from the great poet Bhavabhuthi's 
Vttara Rama Charita^ where Rama describes in one per- 
fect stanza the calm rapture, the utter selflesness, the 
faithfulness unto death and beyond death, and the pure 
and passionate perfection of the wedded love of himself 
and Sita. 

^^ ^ g'H^^'T ^«w:^^ f|^rc5rr:?T% 11 

(It is hard to win — and happy and unrivalled is he 
who wins — that supreme and blessed and true love of 
a good and loving woman which knows no change in 
grief and in joy, which is faithful in all moods and 
conditions, whereon the heart reposes amidst the trials 
of life, the sweetness of which never decays with the 
decay of bodily vigour, and which becomes as time goes 
on the very quintessence of fond affection owing to the 
removal of all barriers to its perfect and blissful self- 
expression). , 

Tagore is a true child of his great poetic ancestors. 
He has recognised and expressed the true glory of love 
in his works. His insight into Indian ideals and 

270 



CHITRA 

■conceptions of love is very well shown in fhe essays that 
he has written interpreting the genius of Kalidasa. 
He says: "The poet has shown here, as in. 
Ktimarasambhava^ that the Beauty that goes hand in 
hand with Moral law is eternal, that the calm, 
controlled, and beneficent form of Love is its best form, 
that Beauty is truly charming under restraint and decays |, 
quickly when it gets wild and unfettered. This ancient 1 
poet of India refuses to recognise love as its own high- 
est glory; he proclaims that goodness is the final goal 
of love. He teaches us that the love of man and woman 
is not beautiful, not lasting, not fruitful, — so long as it is 
self-centred, so long as it does not beget goodness, so 
long as it does not diffuse itself in society over son and 
daughter, guests and neighbours. The two peculiar 
principles of India are the beneficent tie of home-life 
on the one hand, and the liberty of the soul abstracted 
from the world on the other. In the world India is 
variously connected with many races and many creeds; 
she cannot reject any of them. But on the altar of 
•devotion {tapasya) India sits alone. Kalidasa has shown, 
both in Sakuntala and Kumar asatnbhava, that there is a 
harmony between these two principles, an easy transition 
from the one to the other. In his hermitage human boys 
play with lion cubs, and the hermit — spirit is reconciled 
with the spirit of the householder. On the foundation 
of the hermitage of recluses Kalidas has built the home 
of the householder. He has rescued the relation of the 

271 



SIK RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

sexes from the sway of lust and enthroned it on the 
holy and pure seat of asceticism. In the sacred books 
of the Hindus the ordered relation of the sexes has been 
defined by strict injunctions and laws. Kalidas has 
demonstrated that relation by means of the elements oi 
of Beauty. The Beauty that he adores is lit up by 
grace, modesty, and goodness; in its intensity it is true 
to one for ever ; in its range it embraces the whole uni- 
verse. It is fulfilled by renunciation, ratified by sorrow, 
and rendered eternal by religion. In the midst of this 
Beauty, the impetueous unruly love of man and woman 
has restrained itself and attained to a profound peace 
like a wild torrent merged in the ocean of Goodness. 
Therefore is such love higher and more wonderful than 
wild and unrestrained Passion." (See Ganesh and Co'& 
The Indian Nation- Builders, Volume III pages 337-338). 
The story of the drama is very slight, and the beauty 
of the play lies rather in its presentation audits message 
than in the story. Chitra is the only daughter of 
Chitravahana who has however no son. She is brought 
up to be the ruler of a kingdom, and is trained to be-^ 
come a beneficent ruler and military chieftain. She has 
all through her young life cherished a fond passion for 
Arjuna, the chivalrous prince and the ideal man, whom 
she has however never seen. Arjuna, in the course of 
his pilgrimage, meets her wearing her usual masculine 
attire, and on learning who he is the woman in her 
wakes up. She describes this meeting thus: 

272 



CHITRA 

"One day in search of game I roved alone to the 
forest on the bank of the Parna river. Tying 
my horse to a tree trunk 1 entered a dense thick- 
et on the track of a deer. I found a narrow 
sinuous path meandering through the dusk of the 
entangled boughs, the foliage vibrated with the 
chirping of crickets, when of a sudden I came 
upon a man lying on a bed of dried leaves across 
my path. I asked him haughtily to move aside,but 
he heeded not. Then with the sharp end of my 
bow I pricked him in contempt. Instantly he leapt 
up with straight, tall limbs, like a sudden tongue 
of fire from a heap of ashes. An amused smile 
flickered round the corners of his mouth, perhaps 
at the sight of my boyish countenance. Then for 
the first time in my Ufe I felt myself a woman, and 
knew that a man was before me." (Pages 4-5). 
She then dons feminine garments and meets him. 
But she is of an unattractive plainness of face and has 
no seductiveness of form and figure, and has never 
cultivated those feminine graces that have the most 
potent charm and power in their apparent weakness. 
He puts her off with the statement that he has taken a 
vow of celibacy for twelve years. 

She then meets Madana (the God of love) who "binds 
in bonds of pain and bliss the lives of men and women," 
and Vasanta (the God of Spring) who is " Eternal 
Youth." She tells Madana ; 

273 

18 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

"I know no feminine wiles for winning hearts. 
My hands are strong to bend the bow, but I have 

never learnt Cupid's archery, the play of eyes 

Oh, the vow of a man ! Surely thou knowest, 
thou god of love that unnumbered saints and 
sages have surrendered the merits of their life- 
long penance at the feet of a woman. .... 
O Love, God Love, thou hast laid low in the dust 
the vain pride of my manlike strength ; and all 
my man's training lies crushed under thy feet. 
Now teach me thy lessons ; give me the power 
of the weak, and the weapon of the unarmed 

hand For a single day make 

me superbly beautiful, even as beautiful as was 
the sudden blooming of love in my heart. Give 
 me but one brief day of perfect beauty, and I will 

answer for the days that follow." 

(Pages 3, 7, 8, 9, 10). 

Madana then says : " Lady, I grant thy prayer." 

Vasanta adds : " Not for the short span of a day, but 

for one whole year the charm of spring blossoms shall 

nestle round thy limbs." 

Arjuna then meets this superb beauty seated by a lake 
looking at the image of her newborn heavenly loveli- 
ness glassed in nature's mirror. Love blossoms in his 
heart at once. The following marvellous description 
deserves our loving perusal. 

" Was I dreaming or was what I saw by the lake 

374 



CHITRA 

truly there ? Sitting on the mossy turf, I mused 
over by-gone years in the sloping shadows of the 
evening, when slowly there came out from the 
folding darkness of foliage an apparition of 
beauty in the perfect form of a woman, and stood 
on a white slab of stone at the water's brink. It 
seemed that the heart of the earth must heave in 
joy under her bare white feet — methought the 
vague veilings of her body should melt in ecstacy 
into air as the golden mist of dawn melts from o^ 
the snowy peak of the eastern hill. She bowed 
herself above the shining mirror of the lake and 
saw the reflection of her face. She started up 
in awe and stood still ; then smiled, and with a 
careless sweep of her left arm unloosed her hair 
and let it trail on the earth at her feet. She 
bared her bosom and looked at her arms, so 
flawlessly modelled, and instinct with an exquisite 
caress. Bending her head she saw the sweet 
blossoming ot her youth and the tender bloom 
and blush of her skin. She beamed with a glad 
surprise. So, if the white lotus bud on opening 
her eyes in the morning were to arch her neck 
and see her shadow in the water, would she 
wonder at herself the live-long . day. But .a 
moment after the smile passed from her face, 
and a shade of sadness crept into her eyes. She 
bound up her tresses, drew her veil over her 

275 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

arms, and sighing slowly, walked away like a 
beauteous evening fading into the night. To me 
the supreme fulfilment of a desire seemed to 
have been revealed in a flash and then to have 
vanished." (Pages 12-13). 

Chitra surrenders herself to him. There is a delicate 
touch of irony in the following dialogue. 

" Chitra — Then it is not true that Arjuna has taken 

a vow of chastity for twelve long years ? 

Arjuna — But you have dissolved my vow even as 

the moon dissolves the night's vow of obscurity."" 

Though full of deep love for him she grieves at his^ 

homage to her borrowed beauty of body and tells him 

by hints — and that however could not convey the truth 

— about her beauty being a temporary gift. 

^* Chitra — Surely this cannot be love, this is not 
man's homage to woman ! alas, that this frail 
disguise, the body, should make one blind to the 
light of the deathless spirit ! 

• • • • • 

Arjuna — Ah, I feel how vain is fame, the pride of • 
prowess ! Everything seems to me a dream. You. 
alone are perfect ; you are the wealth of the 
world, the end of all poverty, the goal of all 
efforts, the one woman ! Others there are who 
can be but slowly known. While to see you for 
a moment is to see perfect completeness once 
and for ever. 

276 



CHITRA 

•Chitra — Alas, it is not I, not I, Arjuna ! It is the 
deceit of a God. Go, go, my hero, go. Woo not 
falsehood. Offer not your great heart to am 
illusion. Go." (Pages 18-19). 

But she surrenders to the passionate call of his love 
•out of her exceeding love for him. After her first night 
of supreme happiness, she goes back to Madana and 
'Vasanta and passionately beseeches them to take back 
their gift — the beauty that the Gods had thrown about 
"her like a golden raiment woven of the radiance of sun- 
rise and sunset and moonUght and night and flowers 
and everything else wherein the spirit of beauty dwells. 
Vasanta says to her : 

" A limitless life of glory can bloom and spend 
itself in a morning." 

(Page 22). 
Madana says : 
*' Like an endless meaning in the narrow span of a 
song." (Page 23). 

She replies : 
" But when I woke in the morning from my dream 
I found that my body had become my own rival. 
It is my hateful task to deck her every day, to 
send her to my beloved, and see her caressed by 
him. O God, take back the boon !" 

(Page 27). 
Then Vasanta tells her : 

" Listen to my advice. When with the advent of 

277 



SIR RAKLNDKANATH TAGORE 

 ' autumn the flowering season is over, then comes- 
■' the triumph of fruitage. A time will come of 
itself when the heat-cloyed bloom of the body will 
• droop and Arjuna will gladly accept the abiding 
^^ ? fruitful truth in thee ! O child, go back to thy 
mad festival." 
She then goes back and the year of perfect happiness 
i^ drawing to a close. Arjuna tells her that he wishes td 
take her home as his bride. There is a genuine cry of 
the heart in her reply. 

" Home ! But this love is not for a home. . . . 
That which was meant for idle days should 
never outlive them. Joy turns into pain when 
the door by which it should depart is shut 
against it. Take it and keep it as long as it lasts. 
Let not the satiety of your evening claim more 
than the desire of your morning could earn. . . 
The day is done. Put this garland on. I am 
tired. Take me in your arms, my love. Let all 
vain bickerings of discontent die away at the 
sweet meeting of our lips." 

(Pages 80-1).. 
What is Arjuna's reply ? 
" Hush ! Listen, my beloved, the sound of prayer- 
bells from the distant village temple steals upon, 
• • the evening air across the silent trees !" 

(Page 31). 
These words suggest in a wonderful way more than^ 

2-78 



CHITRA 

express words can do that love is a benediction coming 
from God and not a mere empty day's dalliance with 
the fleeting fairness of the body's flower. 

Arjuna yeirns more and more to get nearer to her 
soul. He yearns also to go back to his kingly work of 
love and helpfulness to his subjects though his love of 
Chitra in the forest is still the dominant passion of his 
heart. He says to her : 

" I woke in the morning and found that my dreams 
had distilled a gem. I have no casket to enclose 
it, no king's crown whereon to iix it, no chain 
from which to hang it, and yet have not the 
heart to throw it away. My Kshatriya's right 
arm idly occupied in holding it forgets its 

duties The restless spirit is on me. 

I long to go hunting." 

(Pages 35-36). 
Chitra replies : 

" First run down the quarry you are now following. 
Are you quite certain that the enchanted deer 
you pursue must needs be caught ? No, not yet. 
Like a dream the wild creature eludes you when 
it seems most nearly yours. Look how the wind 
is chased by the mad rain that discharges a thou- 
sand arrows after it. Yet it goes free and un- 
conquered. Our sport is like that, my love ! 
You give chase to the fleet-footed spirit of 
beauty, aiming at her every dart you have in 

279 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

your hands. Yet this magic deer runs ever free 
and untouched". (Page 37). 

Arjuna says in reply to this : 

" Come closer to me, unattainable one ! Surrender 
yourself to the bonds of name and home and 
parentage. Let my heart feel you on all sides 
and live with you in the peaceful security of 

love Mistress mine, do not hope to 

pacify love with airy nothings. Give me some- 
thing to clasp, something that can last longer 
than pleasure, that can endure even through 
suffering." (Page 39). 

It is thus clear that he has thus risen into a higher 
plane of love and has become enamoured of the beauty 
of her sou). But she could not then reveal herself as 
she is, as the gift of the Gods is still on her in all its 
splendour, and the God-given garment of glory en- 
wraps her in a sheath of physical radiance. 
Then comes the last night. Vasanta tells her : 

" The lovehness of your body will return to-morrow 
to the inexhaustible stores of the spring. The 
ruddy tint of thy lips, freed from the memory of 
Arjuna's kisses, will bud anew as a pair of fresh 
asoka leaves, and the soft, white glow of thy skin 
v^ill be born again in a hundred fragrant jasmine 
flowers." (Page 41). 

Chitra then asks : 

" O Gods, grant me this last prayer ! To-night, in 

280 



CHITRA 

its last hour let my beauty flash its brightest, 
like the final flicker of a dying flame.'' 

(Pages 41-2). 
Madana replies : 

" Thou shalt have thy wish." 

(Page 42). 
Meantime the villagers come to Arjuna for protec- 
tion as their beloved sovereign and protector had 
gone on a pilgrimage. He hears from them about 
Chitra's purity, tenderness, nobility, and dignity of soul, 
ability and wish to serve, and heavenly sweetness of 
heart. He becomes deeply enamoured of her and asks 
his beloved to tell him about Chitra. Arjuna says to 
his beloved : 

" They say that in valour she is a man and a 
woman in tenderness." (Page 45). 

Chitra replies : 

" That, indeed, is her greatest misfortune. When 
a woman is merely a woman ; when she winds 
herself round and round men's hearts with her 
smiles and sobs and services and caressing en- 
dearments, then she is happy. Of what use to 
her are learning and great achievements ?" 

(Page 45). 
Arjuna yearns to go to protect the villagers and says; 
" With new glory I will ennoble this idle arm, and 
make of it pillow more worthy of your head." 

(Page 47).. 

28r 



SIR KABINDRANATH TAGOKK 

Arjuna confesses that his heart had gone out to 
Chitra. Chitra says again : 

" Her very quahties are as prison walls, shutting: 
her woman's heart in a farewell. She is ob- 
scured, she is unfulfilled. Her womanly love 
must content itself dressed in rags ; beauty is de- 
nied her. She is like the spirit of a cheerless 
morning, sitting upon the stony mountain peak, 
all her light blotted out by dark clouds. Do not 
ask me of her life. It will never sound sweet to 
man's ear." (Page 48)» 

But Arj Una's heart has been moved by the stories 
that he has heard of Chitra's purity, goodness, and 
charm of soul. He longs to meet her and says : 

" I seem to see her, in my mind's eye, riding on a 
white horse, proudly holding the reins in her 
left hand, and like the Goddess of Victory dis- 
pensing glad hope around her. Like a watch- 
ful lioness she protects the litter at her dugs 
with a fierce love. Woman's arms, though 
adorned with naught but unfettered strength, are 
beautiful!" 

(Pages 49-50). 
Chitra then hesitatingly asks him : 
" Arjuna, tell me true, if now at once, by some 
magic, I could shake myself free from this volup- 
tuous softness, this timid bloom of beauty 
shrinking from the rude and healthy touch of the 

282 



CHITRA 

world, and fling it away from my body like 
borrowed clothes, would you be able to bear it ? 
. . . . . . Would it please your heroic 

soul if the playmate of the night aspired to be 
the helpmate of the day, if the left arm learnt to 
share the burden of the proud right arm ?" 

(Pages 50-1). 
Arjuna raphes ; 

"I never seem to know you aright. You seem to 
me like a goddess hidden in a golden image. I 
cannot touch you, I cannot pay you my dues in 
return for your priceless gifts. Thus my love is 
incomplete. Sometimes in the enigmatic depth 
of your sad look, in your playful words mocking 
at their own meaning, I gain glimpses of a being 
trying to rend asunder the langorous grace of her 
body, to emerge in a chaste fire of pain through a 
vaporous veil of smiles. Illusion is the first 
appearance of Truth. She advances towards her 
lover in disguise. But a time comes when she 
throws off her ornaments and veils and stands 
clothed in naked dignity. 1 grope for that ultimate 
yoii^ that-bare simplicity of truth. 

Why these tears, my love ? Why cover your face 
with your hands 't Have I pained you, my dar- 
hng? Forget what I said. I will be content with 
the present. Let each separate moment of beauty 
come to me like a bird of mystery from its unseen 

283 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

nest in the dark bearing a message of music 
Let me for ever sit with my hope on the brink of 
its realization, and thus end my days." 

(Pages 52-3) 
Such is the conversion of Arjuna's heart, his rise 
from the early frail rapture of the senses — born of the 
blossomed face, the golden statuesque beauty of form 
and figure, the silken softness of the limbs, the fluting 
tones full of love's richest music, the fragrance of dark 
tresses crowned with flowers, and the sweetness that 
dwells in the ruby cup of the lips — to the steadfast 
heavenly joy of the soul to which the body is the 
revelation of the soul and which seeks the never- 
dying and ever-new raptures of the heart born of union 
through the elective affinity of two personalities consum- 
mating ^heir individual lives by a supreme rebirth in the 
heaven of love. Chitra herself — her borrowed garment 
of beauty gone- comes cloaked to Arjuna and says : 
" I brought from the garden of heaven flowers of 
incomparable beauty with which to worship you, 
God of my heart. If the rites are over, if the 
flowers have faded, let me throw them out of the 
temple {unveiling in her original male attire). Now, 
look at your worshipper with gracious eyes." 

(Page 55). 
She then tells him her story of her innate love and her 
borrowed radiance and offers her heart at his feet. She 
-says: 

284: 



CHITRA 

"I am not beautifully perfect as the flowers with 
which I worshipped. I have many flaws and 

blemishes : 

The gift that I proudly bring to you is the heart 
of a woman. Here have all pains and joys been 
gathered, the hopes and fears and shames of a 
daughter of the dust; here love springs up strug- 
gling toward immortal life. Herein lies an 
imperfection which yet is noble and grand. If 
the flower-service is finished, my master, afpept 
this, as your servant for the days to come ! . . . 
If you deign to keep me by your side in the path 
of danger and daring, if you allow me to share the 
great duties of your life, then you will know my 
true self. If your babe, whom I am nourishing 
in my womb, be born a son, I shall myself teach 
him to be a second Arjuna, and send him to you 
when the time comes, and then at last you will 
truly know me. To-day I can only offer Chitra, 
the daughter of a king." 
Arjuna's reply is brief but perfect. The poet's wonder- 
ful art and his power of conveying " an endless world 
of meaning in the narrow span" of a sentence (to use 
his own words in the play) are seen in that wonderful 
reply of Arjuna: 

"Beloved, my life is full." 



285 



CHAPTER YI. 

THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMBER. 

The drama that I now proceed to study critically is 
one that commands our homage alike by its literary 
beauty and its spiritual message. The method that I 
shall adopt is the narration of the story in the poet's 
owi|jwvords, only interposing a few words and ideas of 
my own to bring out the full significance of the situa- 
tion and the dialogue. The translation of the drama 
by Mr. Kshitish Chandra Sen deserves every commend- 
ation for its beauty and charm of style, though it is far 
below Tagore's own translations in "Gitanjali " and 
"Gardener" in point of beauty and melody of style. 

Who is the King of the Dark Chamber ? He is God. 
For is He not felt and seen and realised and adored in 
the chamber of the heart — the Daharakasa ? A few 
wayfarers go into the Kingdom of the King of the 
Dark Chamber from the ordinary earthly Kingdoms. 
The wonderful art of the poet is seen in the way in 
which he has contrasted the earthly Kingdoms with the 
Kingdom of God. The ways of the earth are crooked 
and perilous. But the Kings there, however, are very 
much given to pomp and vainglorious display though 
their wisdom and their power for good are very limited. 
They merely regulate and curb the beast in man to 

286 



THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMBER 

some extent by all sorts of crooked regulations but are 
unable to set free the angel in man. But the King of 
the Universe is not visible in his Kingdom. His 
country is, however, full of wondrous beauty ; the ways 
■therein are open and broad and smooth, and there is 
absolute liberty given to all. The wayfarers are, how- 
ever, bewildered by this new state of affairs. One of 
them named Janardan says : 

"As for roads in our country — well, they areas 
good as non-existent ; narrow and crooked lanes, 
a labyrinth of ruts and tracks. Our King does 
not believe in open thoroughfares ; he thinks 
that streets are just so many openings for his 
subjects to fly away from his kingdom. It is quite 
the contrary here ; nobody stands in your way, 
nobody objects to your going elsewhere if you 
like to ; and yet the people are far from desert- 
ing this Kingdom. With such streets our coun- 
try would certainly have been depopulated in no 
time." • 

Another reproves him for his crooked views. A 
third says : 

" One can't help feeling that life becomes a burden 
in this country ; one misses the joys of privacy 
in these streets." 
The poet's gift of subtle satire is shown in the reply 
given by a third wayfarer. 

2§7 



SIR KABINDRANATH TAGORK 

" And it is Janardan who persuaded us to come to 
this precious country ! We never had any second 
person like him in our family. You knew my 
father, of course ; he was a great man, a pious 
man if ever there was one. He spent his whole 
life within a circle of a radius of 49 cubits drawn 
with a rigid adherence to the injunctions of the 
scriptures, and never for a single day did he 
cross this circle. After his death a serious 
difficulty arose — how cremate him within the 
limits of the 49 cubits and yet outside the house ? 
At length the priests decided that though we 
could not go beyond the scriptural number, the 
only way out of the difficulty was to reverse the 
figure and make it 94 cubits ; only thus could 
we cremate him outside the house without violat- 
ing the sacred books. My word, that was strict 
observance ! Ours is indeed no common 
country.'' 
*We cannot come across a more scathing indictment 
of the meaningless and disastrous addiction of many of 
our countrymen to the letter that killeth, and the poet 
points out how^ even in such mischievous adherence to 
the letter there is infidelity in regard to their vaunted 
homage to the scriptures. The attack upon adherence to 
the letter that killeth is, of course, not with reference to 
our community alone but with reference to all communi- 
ties that swear by pet phrases and shibboleths — as for 

288 



THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMBER 

instance the theories of the overman and of master- 
morality that are now endangering the safety of nations 
and the peaceful evolution of humanity — and ruin them- 
selves and the world irreparably by such addiction to 
evil ways. 

As soon as this band of wayfarers comes into the 
new kingdom, whom do they meet first ? The poet's 
admirable art must be noted here. The wayfarers see 
a grandfather with a band of boys. The grandfather 
represents the Guru — the teacher whose feet are gladly 
and firmly set on the path leading to God, who con- 
fers on all by his presence and by his teaching the joy 
that irradiates his heart, who is as happy as the day is 
long, and who in his heavenly wisdom puts to shame 
by the simplicity and truth of his ideas the elaborate 
sophistries of others. He comes leading a band of 
boys, for, in the words of Jesus Christ, " of such is the 
kingdom of heaven." Sri Shankaracharya says : 

(The yogi whose mind is bent on seeking union with 
the Lord rejoices like a boy and like one who has lost 
his senses). The song that the grandmother and the 
boys sing is full of the rapture of spring. The play 
thus opens with the glory and joy of springtime. 

" The Southern gate is unbarred. Come, my spring, 

come ! 
Thou wilt swing at the swing of my heart, come, my 

spring, come ! 

289 

19 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Come in the lisping leaves, in the youthful surrender of 

flowets ; 

Come in the flute songs and the wistful sighs of the wood 

lands ! 

Let your unfastened robe wildly flap in the drunken 

wind ! 

Come, my spring, coriie !" 
Then the wayfarers meet some citizens of the new 
kingdom. These, not having seen their King, say that 
he must be either non-existent or ugly, as otherwise he 
would not refuse to appear before his subjects during 
the great spring festival. The dialogue among them 
contains many beautiful natural touches — one of them 
Virupaksha by name has come to the conclusion that 
the king mnst be dreadfully ugly and he is dying to com- 
municate the secret to all. The grandfather comes into 
this group and tells them ; 

" We are all Kings in the Kingdom of our King. 

Were it not so, how could we hope in our hearts to 

meet hira ! 
We do what we like, yet we do what he likes : 

We are not bound with the chain of fear at the feet of a 

slave-owning Kmg. 

Were it not so, how could we hope in our heart to meet 

him ! 

Our King honours each one of us, thus honours his own 

very self. 

No littleness can keep us shut in its walls of untruth for 

aye. 

Were it not so, how could we hope in our heart to meet 

him ! 

We struggle and dig our own path, thus reach his path 

at the end. 

290 



THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMBER 

We can never get lost in the abyss of dark night. , 
Were it not so, how could we hope in our heart to 

meet him ! 

We may well pause here and try to understand the 
great spiritual truths contained in this song. We are 
all kings, i.e.^ pure spirits. Else how could divine com- 
munion or union be ]")ossible ? The line "we do. what 
we like, yet we do what he likes " gives us a more con- 
vincing solution of the problems of free will and pre- 
destination than is given by many volumes of crabbed 
and dull philosophy. We are under the reign of Mercy, 
and hence for each step that we take forward His 
Mercy takes ten steps towards us and renders our sal- 
vation possible. We cannot be in the prison of sorrow 
and fear for ever. We struggle towards light and in 
realising ourselves realise Him. 

The following dialogue between one of the citizens 
and the grandfather is as full of truth as it is beautiful. 

^^Firsl citizen — Just fancy! Any one libelling me can be 
punished, while nobody can stop the mouth of any 
rascal who chooses to slander the King. 

Grand-father — 'The slander cannot touch the King. 
With a mere breath you can blow out the flame which 
a lamp inherits from the sun, but if all the world blow 
upon the sun itself its effulgence remains undimmed 
and unimpaired as before." 

This simile enables us to realise vividly how the 
unquenchable radiance of God's mercy and love is ever 

291 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

illumining us whether we open our eyes to its beauty 
and saving power or not and whether we give it the 
homage of our hearts or revile it in our hardness of 
heart and blindness of vision. 

Then re-enter the party of foreigners with whom the 
play opens. Janardan tries to convince them that the 
order and regularity and harmony existing in the King- 
dom presupposes the existence of a King but the others 
would not believe him as he had not seen the King 
himself. 

The following song that now occurs in this play is 
admirably conceived and expressed. 
"My beloved is ever in my heart, 

That is why I see him everywhere, 
He is in the pupils of my eyes 

That is why I see him everywhere. 
I went far away to hear his own words, 

But, ah, it was vain! 
When I came back I heard them 

In my own songs. 
Who are you to seek him like a 

beggar from door to door! 
Come to my heart and see his face in 
the tears of my eyes !" 
This poem is full of high and sweet spiritual ideas 
God is near to those who seek Him within themselves 
through the golden pathway of love and meditation. 
The Laltta sahasranama says of the Universal Mother: 

292 



THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMBER 

(Who is capable of approach and worship by one who 
■seeks Her by means of meditation and inward striving, 
and who is hard to reach by mere outside search and 
■external forms of worship). If our heart is full of God 
we can then see the divine radiance everywhere. We 
need not go far to hear His voice. In the stillness of 
our meditation and in the rapturous outpourings of 
our love we hear his magical flute. We need not seek 
Him from place to place. Let us go to the true devotee 
who yearns for God's love and whose heart is pure. In 
the temple of the pure heart and in the tears that spring 
to the eyes when we realise our unworthiness to receive 
His love, we can see the radiance of His face. 

Now comes the episode of the false King. He has 
the flag and the paraphernalia of the true King; but he 
is a miserable counterfeit, though he is very beautiful 
to see. The citizens are overjoyed when they learn 
from the heralds that the King is coming. One of them, 
Kumbha by name, tells the others that once he paid 
homage to a false King and was disappointed in his 
expectations. He says : 

"It is only the other day that a King came and 
paraded the streets, with as many titles in front 
of him as the drums that made the town hideous 

by their din What did I not do to 

serve and please him! I rained presents on him, I 
hung about him like a beggar — and in the end I 
found the strain on my resources too hard to 

293 



SIR KABINDRANATH TAGORE 

bear. But what was the end of all that pomp 
and majesty ? When people sought grants and 
presents from him, he could not somehow dis- 
cover an auspicious day in the Calendar: though 
all days were red-letter days when we had to pay 
our taxes !" 
But no one pays any heed to his words. One of them 
Madhav cries out as soon as he sees the false king : 

" Look ! There comes the king ! Oh, a king in- 
deed ! What a figure, what a face ! Whoever 
saw such beauty — lily-white, creamysoft ! ► 
... He looks as if he were moulded and 
carved for kingship, a figure too exquisite and 
delicate for the common light of day." 

Such is the popular conception of kingship ! Every 
one pays homage to the false king while bitterly 
reviling others for their knee-crooking and baseness of 
soul. Then Kumbha brings the grandfather in, who- 
tries to disabuse his mind of the delusion of the popu- 
lace. The grandfather says : 

" Whenever has our king set out to dazzle the eyes 
of the people by pomp and pageantry ? . . . 
If my king chose to make himself shown, your 
' eyes would not have noticed him. He would 
not stand out like that amongst others — he is. 
one of the people, he mingles with the common 
populace." 

294 



THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMBER 

Such is the mystery of the Divine Being. Tennyson 
has said in The Higher Pantheism : 

" Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands 
and feet." Out of His infinite compassion, He comes 
among the sons of men to lead them to the paradise 
of His love. Kumbha says : 

" But did I not tell you I savir his banner ? 
Grandfather : — What did you display on his 

banner ? 
Kumbha : — It had a red Kimshuk flower painted on 
it — the bright and glittering scarlet dazzled my 
eyes. 
Grandfather : — My king has a thunderbolt within a 
lotus painted on his flag." 
Thus the pseudo-king has mere empty glitter and 
parade. Such is the nature of all false faiths. But 
the true God has a thunderbolt within a lotus painted 
on his flag. The thunderbolt stands for Law and the 
lotus for Love and Beauty. Hence He is Law and 
Love and Beauty. Tennyson says in the poem above 
referred to : 

" God is law, say the wise ; O Soul, let us rejoice, 

For if He thunder by law the thunder is yet His voice." 

The further dialogue between Kumbha and the 
Grandfather is equally full of spiritual truth. 

Kumbha : — So none can recognise him in his in- 
cognito, it seems. 
Grandfather : — Perhaps there are a few that can. 

295 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Kumbha : — And those that can recognise him — 

does the king grant them whatever they ask for ? 

Grandfather : — But they never ask for anything. 

No beggar will ever know the king." 

How true and beautiful this is ! Those who get a 

glimpse of the beauty of God's countenance beg for no 

earthly blessings. They live in the heaven of His love 

and want nothing else. Now comes the Mad Friend 

whose song is full of beauty. He typitics the soul that 

is mad after God, and who in his divine madness is 

wiser than the sane worldly fools. Swami Ramakrishna 

Paramahamsa has said : 

" This world is a huge Lunatic Asylum where all 

men are mad, some after money, some after 

women, some after name or fame, and a few after 

God. I prefer to be mad after God.' 

I shall quote here a portion of the Mad Friend's 

song : 

" Do you smile, my friends ? Do you laugh, my 
brothers ? I roam in search of the golden stag ! 
Ah yes, the fleet-foot vision that ever eludes me ! 

You all come to buy in the market 

place and go back to your houses laden with 
goods and provisions : but me the wild winds of 
unscalable heights have touched and kissed — Oh, 
I know not when or where ! I have parted with 
my all to get what never has become mine ! 
And you think my meanings and my tears are 

296 



THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMBER 

for the things I thus have lost ! With a laugh 
and a song in my heart I have left all sorrow 
and grief far behind me : Oh, I roam and 
wander through woods and fields and nameless 
lands — never caring to turn my vagabond's 
back !" 
The next scene introduces us to Queen Sudarshana 
and her maid of honour Surangama. The Queen typi- 
fies thejiva (the individual soul) and Surangama seems 
to typify self-surrender and peace (Prapathi and San- 
thi). The king mqets and loves and dowers with divine 
joy Queen Sudarshana but only in the Dark Cham- 
ber of the Palace. The first ghmpse of God is in the 
Dark Chamber of the heart. Sudarshana yearns to see 
Him in the universe in open daylight and rebels when 
this wish is not granted. 

Sudarshana : — But why should this room be kept 

dark? 
Surangama : — Because otherwise you would know 
neither light nor darkness. 

• • • • * 

Sudarshana : — No, no — I cannot Hve without light — 
I am restless in this stifling dark. Surangama, 
if you can bring a light into this room, I shall 
give you this necklace of mine. 

Surangama : — It is not in my power, O Queen. 
How can I bring light to a place which He would 
have kept always dark ! " 

297 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGOKE 

The soul wants to bre*a[k the divine law that the first 
sight of God shall be only through faith and love that 
do not adopt an attitude of doubt or question or 
challenge or negation but adopt a humble attitude of 
reverent yearning. It wants the light of mental percep- 
tion to be brought into this chamber of Faith and Love 
where in silence and stillness and darkness the first 
glimpse of the Divine is had in the heart. But this may 
not be, though when the sense of God-immanence is- 
developed, God may be seen in light and in darkness, 
in the outside world and in the Chamber of the Heart. 
Surangama tells the process of the conversion of her 
soul from an attitude of rebellion to one of utter and 
reverent self- surrender. 

'' A day came when ail the rebel in me knew itself 
beaten, and then my whole nature bowed down 
in humble resignation on the dust of the earth. 

And then I saw I saw that he was- 

as matchless in beauty as in terror. Oh, I was 
saved, I was rescued.'' 

The following dialogue has a whole heaven of spirit- 
ual suggestiveness in it. 

" Surangama :— Do you not feel a faint breeze blow- 
ing ? 

Sudarshana : — A breeze ? Where ? 

Surangama : — Do you not smell a soft perfume ? 

Sudarshana : — No, I don't. 

298 



THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMBER 

Surangama : — The large door has opened. . . . 

he is coming ; my king is coming in. 
Sudarshana : — How can you perceive when he 

comes ? 
Surangama : — I cannot say ; I seem to hear his foot- 
steps in my own heart. Being his servant of this 
dark chamber, I have developed a sense — I can 
know and feel without seeing. 
Sudarshana : — Would that I had this sense too, 
Surangama ! 

. Surangama : — You will have it, O Queen 

this sense will awaken in you one day. Your 
longing to have a sight of him makes you restless, 
and therefore all your mind is strained and 
warped in that direction. When you are past 
this state of feverish restlessness, everything will 
become quite easy." 
The power to recognise God's Beauty and the heart 
to love it come out of humility and reverence and self- 
surrender. The King now comes to meet Sudarshana 
in the Dark Chamber. His song requesting her to 
open the door is full of the music of inner melodies. 
" Open your door. I am waiting. 
The ferry of the light from the dawn to the dark is 

done for the day, 
The evening star is up. 

Have you gathered your flowers, braided your hair,. 
And donned your white robe for the night ? 

299 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

The cattle have come to their folds and birds to 

their nests. 
The cross paths that run to all quarters have 

merged into one in the dark. 

Open your door. I am waiting." 

Even the radiance of God cannot illumine the house 

•of our heart until we open the door and let the light 

come in. Surangama asks Sudarshana to open the door. 

"Then do you go, O Queen, and open the door for 

him : he will not enter otherwise. 
Sudarshana: — I do not see anything distinctly in the 
dark — I do not know where the doors are. You 
know everything here — go and open the doors 
for me." 
The soul in its attitude of rebellion and reliance on 
reason does not even know where the hindrance to 
light is. Surangama opens the door and goes out. 
The King comes in. Sudarshana insists on seeing Him 
in the open day-light. What marvels of thought and 
■vision are compressed in the following dialogue ? — 

" Sudarshana : — But tell me, can you see me in the 

dark? 
King : — Yes, I can. 
Sudarshana : — What do you see ? 
King : — I see that the darkness of the infinite hea- 
vens, whirled into life and being by the power of 
my love, has drawn the light of a myriad stars 
into itself, and incarnated in a form of flesh and 



'1 



300 



THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMRER 

blood. And in that form, what aeons of thought 
and striving, untold yearnings of limitless skies, 
the countless gifts of unnumbered seasons! 
Sudarshana: — Am I so wonderful, so beautiful? When 
I hear you speak so, my heart swells with glad- 
ness and pride. But how can I believe the won- 
derful things you tell me ? I cannot find them in 
myself ! 
King: — Your own mirror will not reflect them — it 
4essens you, limits you, makes you look small and 
insignificant. But could you see yourself mirrored 
in my own mind, how grand would you appear! 
In my own heart you are no longer the daily 
individual which you think you are. You are 
verily my second self. 
Sudarshana: — Oh, do show me for an instant now to 
see with your eyes ! Is there nothing at all like 
darkness to you? I am afraid when I think of this. 
This darkness which is to me real and strong as 
death — is this simply nothing to you ?" 
This soul of ours is perfect in its beauty, being the 
flower of the entire cosmic life ; and yet in the mirror of 
mind this beauty is not seen in full. God's perfect vision 
realises its beauty in full. The soul gathers exprience 
through the ages ; and only after it realises its nature fully 
can its first glimpse of God in the heart become a steady 
realisation of Him everywhere. Sudarshana insists on 
being allowed to see the King in open daylight. The 

201 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

King says that he will appear in the full radiance of day- 
light, but that she will have to recognise him for herself. 
Sudarshana says: 

" I shall know you; I shall recognise you. 
I shall find you out among a million men. 
I cannot be mistaken." 

The King then tells her and Surangama that he can 
be seen at the festival of the Spring, 

" Where the music will play at its sweetest, where 

there the air will be heavy with the dust of flowers 

— there in the pleasure grove of silver light and 

mellow gloom." 

Surangama deprecates the Queen's curiosity and says: 

'* Curiosity will have to come back baffled in tears !" The 

song with which the scene concludes expresses the same 

truth in beautiful and melodious and suggestive words : 

" Ah, they would fly away, the restless vagrant 

eyes, the wild birds of the forest! 
But the time of their surrender will come, their 

flights hither and thither will be ended when 
The music of enchantment will pursue them and 

pierce their hearts. 
Alas, the wild birds would fly to the wilderness!" 
The scene now changes to where various kings of the 
earth — Kings of Kanchi, Avanti, Koshala, and other 
Kingdoms— have come to the Kingdom of the King. They 
seem to typify the mind and the senses. They speak 
with scorn of the access allowed to the common people 

302 



THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMBER 

to witness the festival and are angry at a separate place 
not having been set apart for them. They frankly say 
that they have come for the sake of Sudarshana. They 
are met at the very outset by the Grandfather and the 
boys who tell them that they are " the Jolly Band of 
Have-Nothings." They resent the approach of these 
Jolly Beggars. Then they meet the counterfeit king. 
The King of Kanchi who typifies the mind sees through 
the hoax, for what false faith on God can stand the day- 
light of reason ? But the other kings who typify the 
senses are more dense and are attracted by his outside 
show. The impure Mind, however, does not discard the 
false king but seeks to gain Sudarshana with his help. 
The King of Kanchi calls on the false king to do him 
homage which the latter obsequiously does after a little 
bluster. How much bitter and melancholy truth sum- 
ming up a million movements since the world began 
is expressed in the following dialogue ! The King of 
Kanchi asks the false king : 
" Have you got any following ? 
The false "king'' repUes: 

" I have. Every one who sees me in the streets 
flocks after me. When I had a meagre retinue at 
first every one regarded me with suspicion, but 
now with increasing crowd their doubts are 
waning and dissolving. The crowd is being 
hypnotised by its magnitude. I have not got to 
do anything now." 

303 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

In our country itself many movements have been born 
and live in which the increasing crou^d has got hypo- 
notised by its own magnitude, and people who joined 
them for the fun of the thing or for other purposes have 
become blind to their falseness and hoUowness, and 
'faith unfaithful keeps them falsely true.' The kings 
promise to help him to become king in fact, and he 
promises to bring Sudarshana to them. 

The citizens of the kingdom now come in a state of 

anger and loudly abuse the king as this man lost his 

child, that man lost his fortune, and another man is 

striken with disease. Do we not all blame God for what 

is due to onr own sin? The Grandfather says to them : 

"I have lost all my five children one after another. 

Third citizen : — What do you say now ? 

Grandfather : — What then ? Shall I lose my king 

too because I have lost my children ? Don't 

take me for such a big fool as that." 

The five children seem to typify the five senses who 
have ceased to be worldly and are hence said to be 
dead. The citizens do not heed his words and depart 
in a state of anger and revolt. 

The scene now changes to the royal palace whence 
Sudarshana is looking out to find the king in open day- 
light. Sudarshana is not with her but Rohini is with 
her. How can Surangama (self-surrender and peace) be 
by her side in her state of pride and passionateness ? 
Rohini has naturally a deep aversion for Surangama. 

304 



THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMBER 

She seems to typify the soul's lower nature and its love 
of pleasure. In Sanskrit mythology Rohini is the be- 
loved consort of Chandra (the moon) who is the God of 
passion and pleasure. Sudarshana sees the false king 
from her tower and falls in love with his beauty of person 
and sends Rohini with flowers to the false King. The 
song of the boys whom she calls in to sing to her is 
very sweet. 

" My sorrow is sweet to me in this spring night. 
My pain smites at the chords of my love and softly 

sings. 
Visions take forth from my yearning eyes and flit in the 

moonlight sky. 
The smells from the depths of the woodlands have lost 

their way in my dreams. 
Words come in whispers to my ears, I know not from 

where, 
And bells in my anklets tremble and jingle in time with 

my heart-thrills." 
How vividly it calls to mind the equally beautiful 
song in Tennyson's Princess : 

♦' Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean, 
Tears from the depth of some divine despair 
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes 
In looking on the happy autumn fields, 
And thinking of the days that are no more," 

and the equally melodious stanza in Kahdasa's Saifeun^a/a, 

^?TTi% 3ft^ TT^rtaj f^^fr^^^rs^q; 

305 
so 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

(The reason why even a happy man is filled with a 

vague longing and melancholy when he sees 

lovely things and hears melodious sounds is that 

he remembers, without clearly realising, antenatal 

love and passion which remain iixed in the soul 

without rising to the surface of consciousness.) 

When the false King sees the present of flowers — the 

flowers of thought and emotion — sent by the Jiva^ he 

is unable to respond to the call of the love of the 

Queen. For which false faith can satisfy the hunger of 

the soul ? The King of Kanchi, who is at the side of 

the false King, accepts the flowers for the " King " and 

gives a necklace of jewels as a present to Rohini, as 

he has a game of his own to pursue. Sudarshana's 

pride is now shattered to atoms by this, and yet she is 

unable to banish from her mind the delicate attractive-- 

ness of the false " King's" person. She even gets the 

necklace from Rohini and finds pleasure in putting it 

round her neck. 

The scene now shifts to where the people throw red 
powder on each other as a sign of merriment during 
the spring festival. The translator has the following 
note : " In this play this red powder has been taken to 
be the symbol of the passion of love." The Kings, how- 
ever, would have none of the red powder on their robes. 
The Grandfather tells the citizens about those Kings : 

306 



THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMBER 

" Well done, friends — always keep them at a dis- 
tance. They are the exiles of the Earth — and 
we have got to keep them so." 
Then follow two marvellous songs both worth quot- 
ing in full. 

" All blacks and whites have lost the distinction 
And have become red — red as the tinge of your feet. 
Red is my bodice and red are my dreams, 
My heart sways and trembles like a red lotus." 
" With you is my game, love, my love ! 
My heart is mad, it will never own defeat, 
Do you think you will escape stainless yourself redden- 
ing me with red powder ? 
Could I not colour yotir robe with the red pollens of the 

blossom of my heart ?" 

When shall the ancient hatreds of the earth— colour 
bars, race animosities, religious persecutions, and other 
machinations of the devil — be washed out of existence 
by this deluge of red — the red of love, of peace, of uni- 
versal brotherhood ?  

Then the false " King" and the various earthly Kings 
enter the palace gardens. Th'=^ ^^^2 of Knnchi coun- 
sels the false " King" to set fire to the palace gardens 
and to take advantage of the bustle and confusion to 
accomplish his object. Meantime he himself has an 
idea of seizing the kingdom also in addition to having 
Sudarshana. The King of Kanchi and " the false King" 
leave the other Kings in the lurch, and these are in a 
stiate of consternation and suspicion — -as they are not 

307 



SIR RABINDKANATH TAGORE 

shrewd enough and do not know what to do and they^ 
reahse further that the King of Kanchi is trying to de- 
ceive them and take everything for himself. The 
gardeners and the pet animals in the garden hurry 
away. A sudden conflagration envelops the garden . 
The King of Kanchi fired only a portion of the garden 
and finds the flames leaping up all round and destroy- 
ing everything. Such is reason. It can never stop- 
half-way, but must go the full length of the process of 
logical analysis, though it is surprised at the reasoning 
process taking it to conclusions for which it was un- 
prepared. In such a baptism of lire, the false " King" 
loses the few shreds of dignity that he had and col- 
lapses in terror. The King of Kanchi pulls him out of 
the conflagration more dead than alive. Sudarshana 
runs up and asks the false " King" to save her from the 
fire. He cries out that he is a fraud and that he is not 
the King at all and runs out with the King of Kanchi.. 
She is overpowered by shame and cries out: 

"No King! He is not the King? Then, O thou God of 

lire, burn me, reduce me to ashes! I shall throw 

myself into thy hands, O thou great purifier,, 

burn to ashes my shame, my longing, my desire." 

Then she re-enters her burning chambers seeking the 

bath of fire to wash off her sins. 

There she meets the true " King " who assures her 
that fire will not reach that room. She says that she is 
burnt by the fire of shame. She confesses that she is . 

308 



THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMBER 

-wearing the false King's necklace. How beautiful and 
iuU of qieaning is the King's reply. 

" That garland, too, is mine, — how else could he get 
it ? He stole it from my room." 

This shows how the elements of truth and beauty 
that exist in lower faiths are come from God. Sudar- 
shana says that the surrounding flames showed the King 
to her for a minute; that he is "black as the threaten- 
ing storm-cloud, black as the shoreless sea"; and that 
she cannot bear the sight of his form. He tells her: 

"Have I not told you before that one cannot bear 
my sight unless one is already prepared for 
me ? That is why I wanted to reveal myself to 
you slowly and gradually, not all too sudden." 

Such is the vision of God that we get in the light of 
the lire of reason! We see him black and awful — as he is 
the Law by which the whole universe is controlled and. 
guided. Sudarshana says that she is under the spell and 
glamour of the false "King's" beauty and wants to leave 
him. The King says: 

" You have the utmost liberty to do as you like . . 
. . . you can go as free as the broken storm- 
cloud driven by the tempest." 

She then rushes out. Then enters Surangama who 
sings a song that shows how God's love deals with our 
soul that frets and fumes like a froward child. 

" What will of thine is this that sends me afar I 

309 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Again shall I come back at thy feet from all my 

wanderings. 
It is thy love that feigns neglect— thy caressing 

hands are pushing me away — to draw me back to 

thy arms again! O my King, what is this game 

that thod art playing throughout thy Kingdom ?" 
, Sudarshana comes back but finds that the King is 
gone. She asks Surangama : 

" Tell me if he has punished the prisoners with 

death. 
Sw'angama— Death} my King never punishes with 

death. 
Sudarshana — 'What has he done to them, eh ? 
Surangama — He has set them at liberty. Kanchi 

has acknowledged his defeat and gone back to 

his kingdom." 

''''■ This dialogue contains some of the loftiest. lessons o£ 
•the loftiest religion. No one can be alien to God's love, 
or banished from his grace, for ever. No one is utterly 
destroyed but each is allowed to work up his way to 
His love. Surangama then asks Sudarshana's leave to go 
with her. The Queen is surprised and touched by this 
as Rohini deserted her refusing to go with her. 

They then go to the house of Sudarshana's father — 
the King of Kanya Kubja. But he would not treat her 
with affection, and says: "When woman swerves from 
the right path, then she appears fraught with the direst 
calamity." Sudarshana is depressed by none showing 

310 



THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMBER 

the least sympathy for her in her misfortune. Her mind 
is still running on the false " King " and his beauty. She 
thinks that he fired the palace to seize her and reverts 
fondly to his passion and boldness. But Surangama 
informs her that the daring act was that of the King of 
Kanchi and not that of the false " King" who is well- 
named SuvarnUy i.e.^ the man with a bright exterior. 
Sudarshana piqued at the true " King's" fancied neglect 
of her praises Suvarna and tries to argue herself into a 
passion for him. 

The King of Kanchi now turns up to carry off Sudar- 
shana by force. The other kings — of Avanti, Koshala, 
Kalinga and other places — also turn up with their 
armies. Suvarna pleads to be left out of the battle but 
the King of Kanchi would not allow this. The King of 
Kanya Kubja is beaten in battle and rtiade prisoner, and 
the arrangement is that from among the kings he whom 
Sudarshana chooses is to wed her. The a.rt of the poet 
is seen in its fulness in making the false King 
hold the umbrella of the King of Kanchi in the 
Suvayamvara hall. The King of Kanchi compels him 
to hold the umbrella as Sudarshana looked on the latter 
with favour and he thinks that she will admire him and 
love him when she iinds that the man whom she 
admired was but the umbrella-bearer of a greater 
King. A false religion is used for temporal purposes 
by designing monarchs. Woe unto the world if there 
be such an unholy alliance of civil and ecclesiastical 

311 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

power ! Sudarshana feels humiliated when she sees in 
the hall Suvarna whose beauty had attracted her hold 
the umbrella of the King of Kanchi. Surangama com- 
forts her by saying : " Mistakes are but the preludes 
to their own destruction." Sudarshana prepares to go 
into the hall with a dagger in her bosom to kill herself. 
The following soliloquy of Sudarshana is full of 
beauty and is further valuable as showing what the poet 
has understood by the Dark Chamber. 

" O King, my only King ! You have left me alone, 
and you have been but just in doing so. But 
' will you not know the inmost truth within my 

soul ? {Taking out a dagger from within her bosom). 
This body of man has received a stain — I shall 
make a sacrifice of it to-day in the dust of the 
hall, before all these princes ! But shall I never 
be able to tell you that I know of no stain of 
faithlessness within the hidden chambers of my 
heart ? That Dark Chamber where you would 
come to meet me lies cold and empty within my 
bosom to-day — but, O my Lord ! none has 
opened its doors, none has entered it but you, 
O King ! Will you never come again to open 
those doors ? Then, let death come, for it is 
dark like yourself, and its features are beautiful 
as yours. It is you — it is yourself, O King." 
The assembled princes await the arrival of Sudar- 
shana. Some of them have a presentiment of coming 

312 



THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMBER 

trouble but the King of Kanchi ridicules such fears. 
He says : 

" I never take the unseen into account till it has 
become * seen.' " 
That is the power and the weakness of mind. The 
grandfather now turns up and announces that the King 
has come. Then most of the princes who had coveted 
Sudarshana quietly sneak away. The King of Kanchi, 
however, says : 

" I too am going — but not to do him homage. I go 

to fight him on the battle-ground. 
Grandfather : — You will meet my King in the field 
of battle ; that is no mean place for your recep- 
tion." 
When the other Kings find him resolved to fight, 
they join him lest he should carry off the prize. All get 
beaten but the King does not come to claim Sudar- 
shana. 

Sudarshana waits for his coming but is unable to 
bend her heart in humihty before him. She is deeply 
annoyed at his neglect. The Grandfather then turns up, 
and she then bows to him. It is the first step in the 
ladder of spiritual progress. He typifies the Guru, 
and she first bends low before him. She says : 

"I have heard that you are my King's friend, so 
accept my obeisance and give your blessings." 
According to the Hindu religion, when the soul is 
sincere in its yearning to see God, the Guru will come 

313 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

at the right moment. But when Sudarshana sees that 
after the great battle the victorious King went away 
without seeking her, she again sets her mind against 
him. This episode shows well the alternations and 
fluctuations of faith and unfaith in a sincere soul. The 
Grandfather then tells her : 

" You are young still — you can aftord to wait for 

him ; but to me, an old man, a moment's loss is 

a week. I must set out to seek him whether I 

succeed or not." 

The Grandfather after thus setting out meets the King 

of Kanchi on the road leading to the palace of the true 

King. The following dialogue contains many great 

spiritual truths. 

" Grandfather : — What Prince of Kanchi, you here I 
Kanchi : — Your king has sent me on the road. 
Grandfather : — That is a settled habit with him. 
Kanchi : — And now, no one can get a glimpse of 
f/; him. # 

Grandfather : — That too is one of his amusements. 
Kanchi :• — But how long more will he elude me 
hke this ? When nothing could make me ac- 
knowledge him as my King, he came all of a 
sudden like a terrific tempest — God knows from 
where — and scattered my men and horses in one 
wild tumult ; but now, when I am seeking the 
ends of the earth to pay him my humble hom- 
age, he is nowhere to be seen. 

3U 



THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMBER 

Grandfather : — But however big an Emperor he 
may be, he has to submit to him that yields." 
The King ceaselessly inspires all to seek His love and 
sends them on the road leading to Him, though many 
wander off into other paths on the way and others 
stand still owing to faintness of heart. It is not easy 
to get a glimpse of the radiance of His face. Our atti- 
tude of negation and dehance makes Him show His 
terrific aspect but we cannot see His Saumya (or 
benign aspect) unless love become humble, reverential, 
full of love and adoration. But, however great He may 
be, he yields to love. 

^^^ ^ ^^^J JU^^: ^W^^ \k^\i^ I 

(In this way — by peerless and steadfast devotion 

alone — can one know me, realise me, and attain union 

with me). (Ch. XI — Gila). 

The King of Kanchi has, however, not attained utter 
humility of soul and is hence unfit to see God. He 
travels by night to avoid being laughed at for his going 
a walking to pay homage to another. He says to the 
Grandfather : 

" I still cannot get rid of the feeling of a secret 

dread of being laughed at by people when they 

see me meekly doing homage . to your King, 

ackr^owledging my defeat." 

The reasoning mind is not prepared to surrender 

315 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

■everything but wants to preserve its dignity. Having 
been accustomed to command and govern, it finds it 
strange to love and obey. Far different is the attitude 
of the grandfather {guru) who typifies faith and who is 
prepared to lose everything for God. He says : 

" I am waiting with my all in the hope of losing every- 
thing* 

I am watching at the roadside for him who turns one 

out into the open road, 

Who hides himself and sees, who loves you unknown to 

you, 
I have given my heart in secret love to him, 
I am waiting with my all in the hope of losing every- 
thing." 
On the same road travels Sudarshana also, humble 
and contrite, hearing the sweet and resistless call 
of the Infinite. She says to her inseparable 
companion Surangama : 
" What a relief, Surangama, what freedom ! It is 
my defeat that has brought me freedom. Oh 
what an iron pride was mine ! Nothing could 
move it or soften it. My darkened mind could 
not in any way be brought to see the plain truth 
that it was not the king who was to come, it 
was I who ought to have gone to him." 
The poet's spiritual insight is seen in his making her 
say that after the transfiguration of reason by love she 
heard again those beautiful magical melodies of God's 
Vina that she used to hear seated by the window of the 

316 



THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMBER 

Dark Chamber in her days of unwavering faith before 
the period of her intellectual revolt Surangama says : 
"But it is just to hear that same Vina^s music that I 
am always by your side. It is for this call of 
music which I knew would one day come to dis- 
solve all the barriers of love that I have all along 
been listening with an eager ear." 
All the minor faculties of the soul find their ultimate 
fulness of perfection when the soul begins to hear and 
enjoy God's melodies, the hearing of which is the ama- 
ranthine crown of the life of the soul. Sudarshana now 
meets the King of Kanchi who is going on the same road. 
Sudarshana : — King of Kanchi ! 
Surangama : — Don't be afraid, my Queen ! 
Sudarshana : — Afraid ! Why should I be afraid ? 
The days of fear are gone for ever from me ! 
So long as the soul relied on its strength and was in 
a state of opposition to God, it was beset by fears and 
dangers. Now that it had — in the beautiful words of 
the Gitanjali — "the strength to surrender its strength to 
His will with love," it felt fear no more. The dialogue 
between the King of Kanchi and Sudarshana is full of 
the loftiest symbolism. 

" Kanchi : — (entering) Queen-mother, I see you too 

on this road ! I am a traveller of the same path 

as yourself. Have no fear of me, O Queen 1 

Sudarshana : — " It is well, King of Kanchi, that we 

should be going together, side by side — this is 

317 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

but right. I came on your way when I first left my 

home, and now I meet you again on my way back." 
The very change in the form of address and salutation 
is noteworthy. Hitherto Sudarshana was called by 
him Queen or Queen Sudarshana. He now calls her 
"Queen- Mother." The mind thus realises its real rela- 
tion to the soul. It reverences and adores what it sought 
to possess and dominate. As long as the soul turned 
its face away from God, it followed the vagrant rush- 
light of the mind. As soon as the soul turned back to- 
wards the Light, the mind even went in advance as a 
servant and ceased to be a domineering master. It is well 
that the soul and the mind should go together in joy 
and good-fellowship towards God. Nay, Kanchi says 
that Sudarshana should not walk and that he would get 
her a chariot. Sudarshana says : 

" Oh, do not say so : I shall never be happy if I 

could not on my way back home tread on the 

dust of the road that led me away from my king. 

I would be deceiving myself if I were now to go 

in a chariot." 
Surangama says : 

" King, you too are walking in the dust to-day: this 

road has never known anybody driving his horse 

or chariot over it." 
Going to reach the lotus feet of God is going home 
and we must reach home full of deep humility, thank- 
fulness, love, and joy. 

318 



THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMBER 

It is necessary to have the utmost humility through- 
out our spiritual life. Every feeling of pride is a great 
set-back. Surangama says then: 

" Look, my Queen, there on the eastern horizon 
comes the dawn. We have not long to walk. I 
see the spires of the golden turrets of the king's 

palace." 

Which faculty of the soul can have the first sight of 
God's Palace if not love and self-surrender, or can have 
the privilege of directing the soul's vision there ? 
 The grandfather then enters and announces : My 
child, it is dawn— at last !" Here again the change in the 
form of the address shows the poet's wondrous art and 
insight. The grandfather was calling her ' Queen ' be- 
fore, but now calls her child. Sudarshana says : 

" Your benedictions have given me God-speed, 
and her I am, at last." 

So long as sdie felt that she was Queen, he went his 
•way. Only by becoming a spiritual child of the Guru 
did she get true vision. The Lord says in Chapter IV 
of the GUa : 

(Hence seek the knowers and realisers of God and 
humbly seek illumination by humility, by asking for 
light, and by service. They will give you illumination). 

The remaining portion of the dialogue is unutterably 

319 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

beautiful and full of spiritual meaning. I shall quote it 
here, 

" Grandfather : — But do you see how ill-mannered 
our king is ? He has sent no chariot, no music 
band, nothing splendid or grand. 

Stidarshana : — Nothing grand, did you say ? Look, 
the sky is rosy and crimson from end to end, the 
air is full of the welcome of the scent of flowers. 

Grandfather : — Yes, but however cruel our king may 
be, we cannot seek to emulate him: I cannot help 
feeling pain at seeing you in this state, my child. 
How can we bear to see you going to the king's 
palace attired in this poor and wretched attire ? 
Wait a little — I am running to fetch you your 
Queen's garments. 

Stidarshana: — Oh no, no, no! He has taken away those 
regal robes from me for ever — he has attired me 
in a servant's dress before the eyes of the whole 
world ; what a relief this has been to me! / am 
his servant now^ no longer his Queen. To-day I stand 
at the feet of all those who can claim any relationship 
with him. 

Grandfather : — ^Bul your enemies will laugh at you 
now : how can you bear their derision ? 

Shudarshana : — Let their laughter and derision be 
immortal-let them throw dust at me in the streets : 
this dust will to-day be the powder with which 
I shall deck myself before meeting my lord. 

320 



THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMBER 

Grandfather :— After this, we shall say nothing. Now 
let us play the last game of our Spring festival — 
instead of the pollen of flowers let the south 
breeze blow and scatter dust of lowliness in every 
direction ! We shall go to the lord clad in the 
common grey of the dust. And we shall find him 
too covered with dust all over. For do you think 
the people spare him ? Even he canaot escape 
from their soiled and dusty hands, and he does 
not even care to brush the dirt off his garments. 

Kanchi : — Grandfather, do not forget me in this 
game of yours! I also will have to get this royal 
garment of mine soiled till it is beyond all 
recognition. 

Grandfather — That will not take long, my brother [ 
Now that you have come down so far — you will 
change your colour in no time. Just look at our 
Queen — she got into a temper with herself and 
thought that she could spoil her matchless 
beauty by flinging away all her ornaments : but 
this insult to her beauty has made it shine forth 
in tenfold radiance, and now it is in its unadorned 
perfection. We hear that our king is all innocent 
of beauty — that is why he loves all his manifold 
beauty of form which shines as the very orna- 
ment of his breast. And that beauty has to-day 
taken off its veil and cloak of pride and vanity ! 
What could I not give to be allowed to hear the 

321 

21 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

wonderful music and song that has filled my 
king's palace today ? 
Surangama : — Lo, there rises the Sun ! 

This dialogue reveals how when humiUty and love 
are evolved in the soul, its power of realising beauty is 
heightened and its utterance becomes musical and sweet. 
Then the beauty of the dawn and the fragrance of 
flowersiare realised by the soul as more attractive than 
any display of human pomp. The soul recognises that 
true joy lies in service — not only in service of God but 
also in service of all lovers and servants of God. Even 
the mind desires to have its royal garment full of the 
common dust of the earth. Humility and self-surrender 
have but increased the beauty of the soul. Finally, 
Surangama who pointed to the dawn nov/ points to the 
coming of the golden orb of the sun. Indeed when in 
utter humility of spirit the soul seeks God with passion- 
ate determination, the sun of illumination shines forth 
and the long night of sin and sorrow is lost in light. 
Who can show this sun if not Surangama {Prapathi and 
Bhakthi) ? Even though the Guru helps us, it is our own 
Prapathi and Bhakthi that could show us the beauty of 
the face of God. 

Now we come to the wonderful last scene when the 

human soul is face to face with the Eternal Lover and 

Bridegroom in the Dark Chamber of the Heart and sees 

His radiance flooding the heart with love and light. 

Sudarshana : — Lord, do not give me back the 

322 



THE KING OF THE DARK CHAMBER 

honour which you once did turn away from me ! 
I am the servant of your feet — I only seek the 
privilege of serving you. 

ICing : — Will you be able to bear me now ? 

Siidarshana : — Oh yes, yes, I shall. Your sight re- 
pelled me because I had sought to find you in 
the pleasure-garden, in my Queen's chambers : 
there even your meanest servant looks hand- 
somer than you. That fever of longing has left 
my eyes for ever. You are not beautiful, my 
lord — you stand beyond all comparisons ! 

King : — That which can be comparable with rae 
lies within yourself. 

.Siidarshana : — If this be so, then that too is beyond 
comparison. Your love lies in me — you are 
mirrored in that love, and you see your face re- 
flected in me : nothing of this mine, it is all 
yours, O Lord ! 

King : — I open the doors of this dark room to-day 
— the game is finished here ! Come, come with 
me now, come outside — into the light ! 

Sudarshana : — Before I go, let me bow at the feet 

of my lord of darkness, my cruel, my terrible, 

my peerless one ! 

Thus God leads the soul into the light, as it is now 

fit to realise and enjoy Him both in the dark chamber 

of the heart and in the universe as a whole. 

Thus ends this wonderful drama of the soul. It is 

323 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

peerless in its spiritual beauty and depth of vision. It 
is even more beautiful than Krishna Misra's Prahhoda- 
chandrodaya — a drama where, in noble and musical 
Sanskrit, the life of the soul is depicted in allegory. We- 
may quote here a stanza from it as it well describes the 
state of exaltation attained by the Mind and the Soul in 
Tagore's play. It is uttered by the human soul. 

[My faculty of discrimination has attained the ful- 
ness of its power by all its manifold enemies 
being laid low : and 1 have been dowered with 
the state of endless spiritual rapture free from all 
taint of pride and sin]. 



324 



CHAPTER YII. 

THE POST OFFICE. 

It is man's proud privilege — while at the same time 
it is his most perplexing problem — to seek to solve the 
mystery of life and death. After all is said and done, 
after glorious achievement and measureless aspiration, 
we cannot but realise the shadow of death over every- 
thing human, the inevitableness of the hour when lips 
most sweet of song shall be hushed in death and hands 
strong to serve and save shall lie in helpless and relax- 
ed weakness for ever. Every parting brings tears to 
the eyes and agony to the heart, and makes us cry out : 
" Is this the end ? Is this the end ?" The most per- 
fectly true and beautiful representation of this mood is 
found in the famous lines occurring in Shakespeare's 
Tempest : 

" We are such stuff 

As dreams are made of, and our little life 

Is rounded with a sleep." 
The same idea occurs in the Bhagawad-Gita : 

^oijThMV:Hl^c( rRrchlMfi^^^T II {Chap. II.) 

(The secrets of birth are unrevealed to our gaze ; we 

but know the brief moments of life ; the secrets of 

325 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

death are equally unrevealed to our gaze. What is the 
use of despair and lamentation ?) 

When the grief of parting is most acute, what strikes 
the mind is the desolation wrought by the cruel hand 
of death. The evanescence of life and the gloom that 
the contemplation of this casts over the loving heart 
are more often described by poets than the higher 
truths of life, because death is a cruel fact that cannot 
be ignored, while the intimations that we get of the 
soul's immortal life are few and fitful and are insuffi- 
cient to allay our sorrow or irradiate our inner gloom 
with the dawn of assured conviction. English poetry 
contains innumerable beautiful passages descriptive of 
the fleeting character of human life and of death being, 
of the very constitution of things. Shirley sings : 
" The glories of our blood and state 

Are shadows, not substantial things ; 

There is ao armour against fate ; 

Death lays his icy hand on kings." 

Gray says in a famous stanza : 

" The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power, 
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave, 
Await alike the inevitable hour : — 
The paths of glory lead but to the grave." 

Moore's poem ' the world is all a fleeting show' con- 
tains the following sorrowful lines : 
" Poor wanderers of a stormy day, 
From wave to wave we are driven, 
And fancy's flash and reason's ray 
Serve but to light the troubled way." 

326 



THE POST OFFICE. , 

As can well be expected we find this mood as well 
as the higher buoyant and triumphant moods expressed 
in most melodious verse in Tennyson's In MeiM)riam. 

Sometimes poets have treated this evanescence of 
life and the mystery of life and death in a light, grace- 
ful fashion that hardly hides the heartbreak in the 
assumed gaiety of tone. One of the most beautiful 
instances of this is the following poem by Mrs. Barbauld: 

" Life ! I know not what thou art, 

But know that thou and I must part; 

And when, or how, or where we met 

I own to me's a secret yet. 

Life! we've been long together 

Through pleasant and through cloudy weather; 

Tis hard to part when friends are dear — 

Perhaps 't will cost a sigh, a tear; 

— Then steal away, give little warning. 

Choose thine own time ; 

Say not Good Night, — ^but in some brighter clime 

Bid me Good Morning." 

The higher and more hopeful view of life and of the 
immortality of the soul is won by the human heart 
through the revelations of religion, the analysis of the 
philosopher, and the intuitions of the poet. It is not my 
purpose here to elaborate these aspects. But we must 
remember that the method of the poet .in intuitively 
realising the higher truths and communicating them to 
the world is quite different from that of the saint or of the 
philosopher. The faculty of imagination is closely allied 

327 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

to that of spiritual perception, and the poet who is 
dowered with supreme imagination realises intuitively 
the truths of the spirit. His imaginative faculty leads 
him to express the relations between the seen and the 
unseen and the deep facts of the life of the soul in terms 
of human relations and observed facts of nature. 
Hence it is that he convinces and uplifts our minds in 
a more direct and immediate and effective way than the 
saint or the philosopher. His magic of melody adds 
beauty and vividness to his concrete method, and we go 
from his presence with a new light in our faces, a new 
clarity in our minds, and a new rapture in our hearts, 
though the golden declarations of religion are more 
positive and the conclusions of the philosopher are more 
logically demonstrated. Mr. W. B. Yeats in his admi- 
rable introduction to Tagors's Gitanjali describes the 
manner in which the facts of life and nature become 
full of deep spiritual meaning and appeal to the mystical 
poet : "The traveller in the red-brown clothes that he 
wears that dust may not show upon him, the girl search- 
ing in her bed for the petals fallen from the wreath 
of her royal lover, the servant or the bride awaiting the 
master's home-coming in the empty house, are images 
of the heart turning to God. Flowers and rivers, the 
blowing of conch-shells, the heavy rain of the Indian 
July, or the parching heat, are images of the moods of 
that heart in union or in separation; and a man sitting 
in a boat upon a river playing upon a lute, like one of 

328 



THE POST OFFICE. 

those figures full of mysterious meaning in a Chinese 
picture, is God Himself." One of the most perfect in- 
stances of such poetic method and intuition is the 
famous poem of Crossing the Bar by Tennyson. It is full 
of the most faultless beauty of thought and word, and 
displays the poetic mood par excellence at its highest 
point of perfection. 

" Sunset and evening star, 

And one clear call for me ! 
And may there be no moaning of the bsr, 

When I put out to sea, 
But such a tide as moving seems asleep. 

Too full for sound and foam, 
When that which drew from out the boundless deep 

Draws again home. 
Twilight and evening bell, 
And after that the dark ! 
And may there be no sadness of farewell, 

When I embark ; 
For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place 

The flood may bear me far, 
I hope to see my Pilot face to face 
When I have crost the bar. " 
Tke Post Office is more full of this beautiful sym- 
iDolism than any other writing of his except The King of 
the Dark Chamber. Mr. Yeats no doubt says in his pre- 
face to it : "When this little play was performed in 
London a year ago by the Irish players, some friends of 
mine discovered much detailed allegory, the Headman 
being one principle of social life, the Curdseller or 

329 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Gaffer another, but the meaning is less intellectual, more 
emotional and simple. The deliverance sought and won 
by the dying child is the same deliverance which rose 
before his imagination, Mr. Tagore has said, when once 
in the early dawn he heard, amid the noise of a crowd 
returning from some festival, this line out of an old vil- 
lage song, " Ferryman, take me to the other shore of 
the river." It may come at any moment of life, though 
the child discovers it in death, for it always comes at 
the moment when the ' I ' seeking no longer for gains 
that cannot be ' assimilated with its spirit,' is able to- 
say, ' All my work is thine.' {Sadhana^ pp. 162-3). On 
the stage the little play shows that it is very perfectly 
constructed, and conveys to the right audience an emo* 
tion of gentleness and peace." Undoubtedly no one but 
a great poet has the right of entry irjto the innermost 
heart of another great poet; and hence we must treat 
the above interpretation with all the respect that it 
deserves so amply and well. But we must see that there 
are certain special and unique differentia of the Indian 
genius that make it possible for an Indian to enter into 
the spirit of an Indian's wisdom in a manner beyond 
the powers of any outside student, however sympathetic, 
talented, and endowed he may be. I have already- 
stated in my general sketch of Tagore's genius how 
mysticism of the higher and diviner order is of the very 
essence of his conception of life. The child in the play 
is not merely a warm, living, and true-hearted child but, 

330 



THE POST OFFICE. 

is much more, though even treating the play as 
Mr. Yeats has done we arrive at truths of great 
beauty. We must try to understand the poet 
vi^ith the help of the hint that he has given as above- 
said in Mr. Yeats' preface: " The deliverance sought and. 
won by the dying child is the same deliverance which 
rose before imagination, Mr. Tagore has said, when 
once in the early dawn he heard, amid the noise of a 
crowd returning from some festival, this line out of an 
old village song, "Ferryman, take me to the other shore 
of the river.' " An ordinary, worldly mind would, and 
could, see nothing in this. But to the mystical poet to 
whom the divine aspect of things is a radiant reality, the 
effect is marvellous. Amidst the noises and distractions 
of life, the golden call of God's voice to go to the far- 
ther shore of the river of life and live in the light of 
His love for ever is borne in on our minds and hearts 
by the line ' Ferryman, take me to the other shore of 
the river,' being wafted to our ears unexpectedly. SrL 
Sankara's Mohamudgara says : 

" ^^f^ ^1^1^ IFT'TT qf^ Tiff 5^R I ■' 

(O God, lead me through Thy Mercy to the farther 
shore of this river of wordly life which I am unable to 
cross, however much I try). 

God is called the Tharaka Brahma (^R^ STil)— He 
who helps us to cross. The same high symbolism is 
found in all this as in Tennyson's Crossing the Bar. 
Though the study of the play as it is without attempting.. 

331 • 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

any study of its inner meaning is interesting, and though 
the study of it in a spirit of ordinary symbolism treating 
Amal as a boy attaining deliverance through death 
yields us valuable results, yet the subtlest and most 
delicate and fascinating elements of beaiaty in the play 
and its most uplifting lessons and ideas will be realised 
by us only if we understand the play in the light of the 
higher symbolism. 

I shall here adopt the method of narrating the story 
of the play interpreting the characters and the dialogue 
in the light of the higher symbolism as above said. I 
shall, however, as I go on dwell also on the other two 
aspects also, so that the reader may at the same time 
realise the full beauty of this remarkable play. Before 
I proceed to do this work, I wish to say that the trans- 
lator Mr. Devabrata Mukerjea has done his work very 
well on the whole. It is always difficult to give in 
translation a colloquial and natural air to dramatic 
dialogue. But the translator must remember that no one 
will take his work seriously as an original work, and 
hence he must guard against a too frequent and injudici- 
ous introduction of conversational forms current in the 
tongue into which the play is translated. This defect is 
noticeable in some places in this translation, and I wish 
that the translator had avoided it and had placed the 
work before the poet himself whose powers in the art of 
English prose composition are remarkable and whose 
,prose has been desci-ibed by the Quarterly Review as 

332 



THE POST OFFICE. 

" this flower of English Prose." Such phrases as " By 
Jove," " I'm jiggered." " There'll be a great to-do," 
"That's him," etc., ought not to be allowed to mar the 
beauty of this marvellous play. 

Madhav, a rich man who had prospered in the world 
by his thorough worldliness unredeemed by any spiritnal 
effort or aspiration, is childless. He brings up as his 
foster-son a beautiful boy named Amal. The very names 
are significant. Madhav means 'lord of worldly pros- 
perity.' Amal means ' the pure and stainless one.' The 
poet displays the most wonderful insight and art in 
making Amal the foster-son of Madhav. Madhav 
symbolises the worldly life, and Amal symbolises the 
pure spiritual life. In not making Amal the natural- 
born son of Madhav the poet shows how the pure 
spiritual life can never be born of the merely worldly 
life. Surely the poet meant something by making Amal 
the foster-son of Madhav. So far as the mere story is 
concerned, and even in regard to the meaning and 
underlying idea hinted in Mr. Yeats' preface, it was 
enough to make Amal the natural-born son of Madhav. 
We must pause and see why the poet did otherwise. 
Again, by making Madhav adopt this beautiful boy, the 
poet shows how the only chance of redemption for the 
worldly man is by seeking intimate alliance with the 
spiritual life. He merely loves it in a blind way at first 
but through its contact he begins to lose his old love of 
wealth for its own sake ; he sees the ice of his frigid 

333 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

feelings melt beneath the warmth of the golden sun- 
shine of love; and he comes into contact with the higher 
truths and presences of life. But more of this la.ter on. 
Amal is very ill, and Madhav is in reality uplifted all 
the more and purified and spiritualised by this baptism 
of suffering, though he feels heartbroken at the coming 
loss of the one real joy that came into his life late and 
was leaving it so soon. He says : 

" What a state I am in ! Before he came, nothing 

mattered ; I felt so free. But now that he has 

come, goodness knows from where, my heart is 

filled with his dear self, and my home will be no 

home to me when he leaves." 

The art of the poet is seen further in making Amal 

the son of a man who was Madhav's wife's brother by 

village ties. The poet seems to suggest that even in 

the case of two worldly natures — ^as those of Madhav 

and his wife — the woman is more emotional and spiritual 

than the man, and that, woman's nature being more 

refined and pure and transparent than that of man, the 

light of the spirit shines on him through her. The 

way in which the baser worldly passions of Madhav 

became purified by the advent of Amal is described by 

Madhav himself thus : 

" Formerly, earning was a sort of passion with me ; 
I simply couldn't help working for money. 
Now, I make money, and as I know it is all for 
this dear boy, earning becomes a joy to me. " 

334 



THE POST OFFICE. 

He is very anxious th^t Amal should live and be 
the light of his life and home. The physician that he 
calls in advises that the boy should be strictly kept 
■within doors. The poet makes fun of the physician's 
pedantry which is as great as his healing power is 
slight. The physician seems to represent the sum of 
physical and worldly sciences that seek to keep with- 
in the bondage of* the senses the spirit struggling to live 
in freedom beneath the overarching love and grace and 
mercy of God. 

As soon as the physician gives his strict injunction 
to keep Amal indoors, he goes away. Then enters Gaffer 
by whom Tagore symbolises the poet. Naturally the 
poet is the truest and dearest ally of the spiritual life. 
Madhav says that Gaffer ought not to try to take the 
boy out of doors into the autumn wind and sun. Gaffer 
replies : 

" God bless my soul ! So I'm already as bad as 

autumn wind and sun, Oh 1 
But, friend, I know something, too, of the game of 
keeping them indoors. When my day's work is 
over, I am coming in to make friends with this 
child of yours." 
Amal then enters and pleads hard with Madhav to 
be let out. The following passage shows what a 
wonderful faculty of keen observation and vivid and 
natural description Tagore has. Amal says : 

" See, there where Auntie grinds lentils in the 

335 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

quvin, the squirrel is sitting with his tail op and 
with his wee hands he's picking up the broken 
grains of lentils and crunching them. Can't I run 
up there ? " 
Madhav says that this could not be done as the doctor 
had forbidden it. The following dialogue is full of 
keen irony and shows how the poet has deep contempt 
for the so-called learning which merely consists in book- 
knowledge out of touch with the deep fundamental 
facts of life. 

Madhav : — Doctor says it's bad for you to be out. 

Amal : — How can the doctor know ? 

Madhav : — What a thing to say ! The doctor can't 

know and he reads such huge books ! 
Amal : — Does his book-learning tell him every- 
thing ? 
Madhav : — Of course, don't you know ! 
Amal {with a sigh) : — Ah, I am so stupid ? I don't 

read books. 
Madhav : — Now, think of it , very, very learned 
people are all like you ; they are never out of 
doors. 
Amal : — 'Are'nt they really ? 

Madhav : — No, how can they ? Early and late they 

toil and moil at their books, and they've eyes for 

nothing else." 

Thus the poet shows how worthless mere blind 

book-learning is and how it is as much of an obstacle 

336 



THE POST OFFICE 

to the higher life as the selfish 'worldly mammon- 
worshipping life. Madhav asks Amal to be a learned 
man, but Amal declines the honour and says that he 
prefers to go about and see God's world. The follow- 
ing dialogue is full of profound symboUsm : — • 

Amal : — " See that far-away hill from our window — 
I often long to go beyond those hills and right 
away. 
Madhav : — Oh, you silly ! As if there's nothing 
more to be done but just get up to the top of 
that hill and away ! Eh ! You don't talk sense, 
my boy. Now listen, since that hill stands there 
upright as a barrier, it means you can't get be* 
yond it. Else, what was the use in heaping up 
so many large stones to make such a big affair of 
it, eh ? 
Amal : — Uncle, do you think it is meant to pre- 
vent us crossing over ? It seems to me because 
the earth can't speak, it raises its hands to the 
sky and beckons. And those who live far off, 
and sit alone by their windows, can see the sig- 
nal." 
One cannot but call to mind here the marvellous 
Hymn before sunrise in the Vale of Chamouni by Coleridge. 
'• O dread and silent Mount ! I gazed upon thee, 
Till thou, still present to the bodily sense, 
Didst vanish from my thought : entranced in prayer 
I worshipped the Invisible alone. 



337 

22 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGOKE 

Thou, too, hoarlMount ! with thy sky-pointing peaks, 
Oft from whose feet the avalanche, unheard, 
Shoots downward, glittering through the pure serene, 
Into the depth of clouds that veil thy breast — 
Thou too again, stupendous Mountain ! thou 
That as I raise my head, awhile bowt d low 
In adoration, upward from thy base 
Slow|travelling with dim eyes suffused with tears, 
.:)olemtily seen^est like a vapoury cloud 
To rise before me —Rise, oh, ever rise, 
Rise like a cloud of incense from the Karth ! 
Thou kingly spirit throned among the hills, 
Thou dread ambassador from Earth to Heaven, 
Great Hierarch ! tell thou the silent sky, 
And tell the stars, and tell yon rising sun, 
Jtarth, with htr thousand voices, praises God." 
The poet's many sided genius is seen in his exquisite 
pictures of the child's mind and heart in this play — 
though the finest expression of this aspect of his inner 
endowment is to be found in The Crescent Moon. They 
are scattered in profusion throughout the play and 
show the exquisite play of the child's imagination which 
brings into focus things far and near in space and time 
and sheds over them the unfamiliar yet beautiful and 
radiant hght of its soul. Amal longs to go over the hills 
and far away. The mountain seems to him the uplift- 
ed arm of the earth beckoning to the sky. Here is 
another exquisite touch which brings back to each of us 
his happy childhood. 

Amal: — "Oil, I will ualkon, crossing so many 

33S 



THE POST OFFICE 

streams, wading through water. Everybody will 
be asleep with their doors shut in the heat of 
the day and I will tramp on and on seeking work 
far, very far." 
Again, he would like to take curds from the village 
by the red road near the old banyan tree and hawk the 
curds from cottage to cottage. He would like to be the 
King's Postman with '• a lantern in his left hand and 
on his back a bag of letters," going through the sugar- 
cane field into the narrow lane to deUver the letters. 
He would like even to be kidnapped for the joy and 
romance and freedom of it. He loves to hear travellers' 
tales and poetic descriptions of the Parrots Isle which 
is a land of wonders 

" Opening on the foam 

Of perilous seas in fairy lands forlorn," 

where there men exist but parrots in all their 
beauty of form and wings fly and rest and where 
waterfalls come dancing down the slopes of hills and 
fall like molten diamonds and then make the pebbles 
sing as they rush over them to the sea. An even 
sweeter fancy of his is his dream of a " lovely little 
bride with a pair of pearl drops in her ears and dress- 
ed in a lovely red saree,'" and his deep desire to serve 
Sudha and get for her '' some flowers from the very 
topmost branches right out of sight," Perhaps the 
loftiest and sublimest of the fancies is his determination 
;to ask the king to show him the Polar Star. 

339 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

But I am anticipating much of what is to come here- 
after in my eager desire to reveal the wonderful art of 
the greatest poet of modern India in all its fulness. 
Amal, in obedience to the doctor's injunction and his 
foster-father's wishes, stops within doors by the side of 
the window opening on the roadside. This gives the 
poet the opportunity to unroll before our gaze the 
wonderful panorama of colour and fragrance and 
sweetness that make up the sum of Indian life. It 
helps him also to show the evolution of the spiritual 
life by reason of its intimate touch with God's creation. 
The pictures chosen show the poet's never failing in- 
stinct for what is at the same time artistically charming 
and spiritually uphfting. I shall briefly describe the 
drama of outer life as it is played on the world's stage 
before the eyes of Amal seated by the window open- 
ing on the street. 

First comes the curdseller. He is somewhat rough 
when the child stops him but is unable to buy the curds- 
for want of money. The art of the poet is seen in 
making the curdseller lose his anger in a sudden 
access of pity and love by ' one touch of nature that 
makes the whole world kin." ' 

" Amal : — I would go with you if I could. 

Dairyman : — With me ? 

Amal :— Yes, I seem to feel homesick when I hear, 
you call from far down the road. 

340 



THE POST OFFICE 

Dairyman : — (lowering his yoke-pole). Whatever 
are you doing here, my child ? " 
To the man coarsened by hard work and loveless 
looks from persons who treat him as one born to minis- 
ter to their comforts the loving accents from the pure, 
fresh lips of the child come as a revelation of gentle- 
ness and love and bring out the godUke elements in 
him. The following dialogue speaks for itself : — 

" Dairyman : — Dear child, will you have some 

curds? Yes, do. 
Amal : — But I have no money. 
Dairyman . — -No, no, no, don't talk of money ! 
You'll be so happy if you take some curds from me. 
Amal : — Say, have I kept you too long ? 
Dairyman : — Not a bit ; it has been no loss to me 
at all ; you have taught me how to be happy 
selling curds." 
Words fail me to describe how deeply I admire the 
insight and art shown in this. The dairyman to whom 
life was a mere affair of selling curds and making 
money and to whom man was a mere buying agent is 
uplifted into a higher realm of emotion. He is made 
to feel real joy in his work. I call to mind here the 
iamous passage in the Gita which says: 

(The wise man should not unsettle the minds of 

341 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

those who are unaware of the higher verities and are- 
attached to their work in life. He should make them 
do their work with joy, by himself doing life's work in 
a spirit of non-attachment and of surrender of the fruit 
o£ the work to God and as an act of worship of God). 
Hence it is that the dairyman goes back from Amal's 
spiritual presence a transformed being, uplifted by love,, 
and taking real j oy in his life's work h umble though i t be. 
Then comes the village watchman. He is astonished 
at the boy's not being afraid of him. When he says that 
he will march the boy to the king, the boy says that 
that is just what he wants. The following dialogue 
between him and Amal is full of profound symbolism. 
" Anial : — Won't you sound the gong, Watchman ? 
Watchman : — Time has not yet come. 
Amal : — How curious ! Some say time has not yet 
come, and some say time has gone by ! But surely 
your time will coaie the moment you strike the 
gong ! 
Watchman : — -That's cot possible ; I strike up the 

gong only when it is time." 
This brings to mind the famous Sanskrit verses 
quoted below. 

^TTJfrqr ^«T^ ^^T ^^W\ 2r^f%?cTTT: I 

342 



THE POST OFFICE 

cpnr: sFtv:T^ ^m?s ^t T%sf^cr rr^^n: i 

(Thy mother will not be with thee for ever ; nor thy 
father nor thy brother nor other relatives ; nor thy 
wealth nor thy house. Therefore awake, awake. 

The world is overcoaie by desire, by ceaseless work, 
and by anxious thought for the future. It knows not 
how life is slipping away. Therefore awake, awake. 

In thy frame there lurk thieves — Desire, Passion, 
and Avarice — to steal the jewel of thy wisdom. There- 
fore awake, awake. 

Life is pain ; decay is pain ; the worldly life is pain ; 
and a ceaseless round of worldly lives is pain. There- 
fore awake, awake !) 

Such were the verses sung by the beater of the 
drum during the four watches of the night. The 
dialogue between Amal and the Watchman then pro- 
ceeds : 

" Amal : — Tell me why does your gong sound ? 
Watchman : — My gong sounds to tell the people 
Time waits for none, but goes on for ever. 

Amal : — 'Where, to what land ? 

Watchman : — That none knows. 

Amal : — Then I suppose no one has ever been 

843 



SIK RABINDKANATH TAGORE 

there ! Oh, I do wish to fly with the time to that 
land of which no one knows anything. 

Watchman : — All of us have to get there one day, 
my child. 

Atnal : — Have I too ? 

Watchman : — Yes, you too. 

Amal : — But doctor won't let me out. 

Watchman : — One greater than he comes and lets us 
free. 

The symbolism herein is as beautiful as it is 
apparent. Where does Time go ? The river 
of Time flows into the sea of Eternity whither 
the spiritual life longs to fly but whither it can 
go only through Divine Grace. If we were to 
know the value of Time aright, how well-ordered 
our lives would be ? The following sonnet that 
occurs in D. G. Rossetti's The House of Life may 
well be remembered in this connection : 
" The lost days of my life until to-day, 

What were they could I see them on the street 

Lie as they fell ? Would they be ears of wheat 

Sown once for f<iod but trodden into clay ? 

Or golden coins squandered and still to pay ? 

Or drops of blood dabbling the guilty feet ? 

Or such spilt water as in dreams must cheat 

The undying throats of Hell, athirst alway ? 

I do not see them here ; but after death 

God knows I know the faces I shall see, 

344 



THE POST OFFICE 

Each one a murdered self, with low last breath. 
' I am thyself, — what hast thou done to me ? 
And I — and I — thyself, (lo ! each one saith) 
And thou thouself to all eternity 1' " 

It is the watchman that tells Amal about the King's 
Post Office. What does the Post Office stand for ? 
The Post Office is the one means by which the village 
^ets into touch with the great world. In the play it 
represents the agency by which our petty life gets 
into touch with the infinite universe of God's love and 
grace. Each postman represents the bearer of God's 
blessed gospel to the world. Amal cries out : " I'll be 
the King's postman when I grow up." The poet's 
subtle and ironical humour comes out well in the 
following dialogue. 

Watchman : — " Ha ! ha ! Postman, indeed ! Rain 

or shine, rich or poor, from house to house 

delivering letters — that's very great work." 

He evidently thinks highly of his own petty work in 

the village and despises the postman. Amal's reply is 

full of beauty. 

" That's what — I'd like best. What makes you smile 
so ? Oh, yes, your work is great too." 
Immediately afterwards the watchman who was so 
proud of his work catches sight of the village headman 
and runs away. Such is temporal authority which in 
all cases is afraid of some other authority somewhere or 
other, and is a slave unto the strong while it is a tyrant 

345 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

unto the weak. The art of the poet is seen very well" 
in the following dialogue: 

Amal : — ■" I suppose the King's made him our head- 
man here. 
Watchman : — Made him ? Oh, no ! A fussy busy- 
body ! He knows so many ways of making 
himself unpleasant that everybody is afraid of 
him. It's just a game for the hkes of him, 
making trouble for everybody." 
This shows very well indeed how all tem'poral autho- 
rity is treated in its absence, and how the heart's homage 
is never won but by love. 

Amal then calls the Headman. The combination of 
ignorance, self-importance, contempt for others, and 
thorough worldliness in the Headman, who seems 
to symbolise temporal authority generally, is very 
amusing to see. Has not Shakespeare said : — • 
" But man, proud man, 
Drest in a little brief authority. 
Most ignorant of what he's most assured, — 
His glassy essence, like an angry ape, 
Plays such fantastic trick i before high Heaven 
.A.3 make the an^^els weep." 

Measure for Measure. 
How in all temporal authority vanity goes along with 
eagerness for flattery is well-brought out in the fol- 
lowing dialogue. 

Headman : — Who is yelling after me on the high 
way ? Oh it's you, is it, you wretched monkey ? 

346 



THE POST OFFICE 

Atnal : — You're the headman. Everybody minds you. 
Headman : — (looking pleased). Yes, oh yes, they do! 

They must ! 
Atnal: — Do the King's postmen listen to you? 
Headman : — The've got to. By Jove, I'd like to 
see " — 
The Headman is tickled by Amal's expectation of a 
letter from the king, and his anger turns on Madhav by 
some curious mental deflection. He says : 

'• Madhav is a devilisli swell nowadays. He 
made a little pile ; and so kings and padishas 
are every day talk with his people. Let me find 
him once and I'll make him dance. Oh you, — • 
you snipper snapper ! 1 11 get the King's letter 
sent to your house — indeed I will !" 
Then comes a girl, and this is one of the loveliest 
portions of the play. The poet's art and insight 
deserve the highest praise here. He has brought out 
in a few words the entire nature of womanhood — its 
grace, its emotior.al sweetness, and its pre-occupation 
with the actual work of life while shedding on it the 
radiance of love. The girl's name is Sudha and she 
is the daughter of a flower-seller. The name means 
" nectar " — and a more admirable name for a girl can 
hardly be imagined. The following dialogue between 
the girl and the boy is very fine : 

" Girl : — You make me think of some late star of 
the morning ! Whatever's the matter with you ? 

847 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Amal : — I don't know; the doctor : won't let me out. 
Girl : — Ah me ! Don't go then ! Should listen to 
the doctor. . . . Let me close the window 
a bit tor you." 
How well this shows that in spite of her grace and 
emotional refinement woman always stands up for the 
established order ! But this is because of her love. It 
is her love for Amal and her desire to save him from 
getting worse that make her think of closing the win- 
dow. The poet seems to hint also that woman's nature 
is on the whole less dreamy and more practical than 
man's. When Amal says that he would blossom into a 
Champa flower and asks if she would be his sister Parul, 
she replies : 

" You are silly ! How can I be sister Parul when 
I am Sudha and my mother is Sasi, the flower- 
seller ? I have to weave so many garlands 
a day." 
She then goes away promising to bring him a flower. 
I shall refer later on to the last scene in the poem 
wherein Sudha brings the promised flower. 

Then enter a troop of boys bent on play. Amal 
persuades them to play in front of the window with his 
toys. He then asks them to bring one of the king's 
postmen so that the latter may come to know him, and 
they promise to do so. Who but pure-hearted children 
are beloved of the bearer of God's gospel, for has not 
Christ said : " Of such is the kingdom of heaven," and 

348 



THE POST OFFICE 

" Verily, I say unto you, except ye be converted, and' 
become as little children, ye shall not enter into the 
kingdom of heaven ? ' This is the real reason why 
Tagore has made Amal a little boy. 

In Act II Amal is show^n as confined to his bed. The 
Gaffer enters as a Fakir and tells him about the Parrots' 
Isle and reawakens Amal's longing for release. I have 
already referred to the description of the Parrots' Isle. 
The following bit of description is also worth remem- 
bering : 

" Indeed, they (the parrots) live among the green 
hills ; and in the time of the sunset when there is 
a red glow on the hillside, all the birds with their 
green wings go flocking to their nests." 
Amal then asks Gaffer if the King's letter is coming. 
Gaffer says that the letter is coming. There is a slight 
element of satire in the poet's description of Gaffer which 
ought not to be ignored. The ordinary poet, though 
dowered with imagination and hence able to get glimp- 
ses of the truths of the spirit, does not fully believe in 
his intuitions. After Amal describes to him the coming 
of the postman, he says : ' 

" My eyes are not young, but you make me see all 
the same." 
The following dialogue is full of the de epe&t and 
truest symbolism. 

Amal : — " Say, Fakir, do you know the King who- 
has this Post Office ? 

349 



SIR RABIN DRANATH TAGORE 

Gaffer : — I do ; I go to him for my alms every day. 
Amal : — Good ! When I get well, I must have my 

alms from him, may n't I ? 
Gaffer : — You v^ron't need to ask, my dear, he'll 

give it to you of his own accord. 
Amal . — No, 1 will go to his gate and cry ' Victory 
to thee, O King !' and dancing to the tabor's 
sound, ask for alms. Won't it be nice ? 
Gaff^er'. — It will be splendid, and if you're with me, 
I shall have my full share." 
What a suggestion is here as to the hierarchy of 
values even in the higher life ! Even though the poet 
gets his dower of insight and vision through Divine 
grace, it is the man of spiritual life on whom the 
fulness of Divine love falls, and it is through him that 
even the poet gets his full dower of higher joy. A poet's 
vision of spiritual things is like a pure bubbling 
fountain but the vision of a saint living a truly spiritual 
life is like the Ganges bearing its refreshing waters far 
and wide. 

Madhav then comes and says that Gaffer and Amal 
have got him into trouble by saying that the king was 
going to send messages to them and that the village 
headman has had the king informed of the fact anony- 
mously. Gaffer then tells Amal not to be anxious as the 
king will not be cross at all. Then the Doctor enters and 
asks even the window to be shut. The headman enters 
after this and says that a letter has come from the 

350 



THK POST OFFICE 

King for Anial and gives a blank slip of paper. Gaffer 
says that the letter announces that he is coming with 
the Stale physician to see Amal. Though the village 
headman has done all this in a spirit of cruel fun, the 
King has willed that Gaffer's words come true. The 
King's herald announces that the king has sent his 
greatest physician to attend on his young friend, and 
will himself come in the night. 

The state physician then comes and feels Amal's 
body and orders all the doors and windows to be 
opened. 

State Physician : — "What's this ? How close it is 
here ! Open wide all the doors and windows. 
(Feeling Amal's body.) How do you feel, my 
child ? 
Amal : — I feel very well,- Doctor, very well. All 
pain is gone. How fresh and open ! I can see 
all the stars now twinkling from the other side 
of the dark." 
The state physician represent the Grace of God — the 
universal healer of all suffering from sin and sorrow. 
He overrules the earthly doctor's injunction about 
•shutting out God's light and air and opens all the 
avenues of light to irradiate the soul struggling to be 
iree. He asks Amal ; 

"Will you feel well enough to leave your bed when 
the king comes in the middle watches of the 
night?" ,. 

351 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Amal replies : 

" Of course, I'm dying to be about for ever so long. 
rU ask the king to find me the polar star. I must 
have seen it often, but I don't know exactly 
which it is." 
The spiritual truths contained in these few simple- 
seeming words are many and profound. The Polar 
star represents the highest peace and radiance of spiri- 
tual rapture — unchanged amidst the changing lesser 
lights. The poet hints a great deal in saying that Amal 
must have seen it often already though he cannot locate 
it now. All religions say that spiritual rapture is a 
re-attainment ; that it is not a thing to be newly got,, 
for what is born in time must die and perish ; and that 
it has existed for ever and has to be realised by us. 

The State Physician objects to the headman being in 
Amal's room, for what place has temporal authority in 
the regions of the higher life ?. But at Amal's intercession 
he allows the headman to remain. The following 
dialogue is full of beauty and truth : 

Madhav (whispering into Amal's ear). " My child, 

the king loves you. He is coming himself. 

Beg for a gift from him. You know our humble 

circumstances. 

Amal : — Don't you worry, uncle — I've made up my 

mind about it. 
Madhav : — What is it, my child ? 

Amal : — I shall ask him to make mc one of his 

« 

352 



THE POST OFFICE 

postmen that 1 may wander far and wide, deli- 
vering his message from door to door. 
, Madhav (slapping his forehead). Alas, is that all ?" 
Thus even in the presence of God the giver of every 
bounty, and allied to Amal the pure spiritual nature, 
the worldly soul is not able to rise to a realisation of 
higher joys or pray for a higher gift than the gift of 
more worldly prosperity. Amal, on the other hand, 
yearns to be one of the many bearers of His message 
to the worlds. 

The following conversation is equally beautiful and 
pregnant with meaning : 

'^ Physician : — Now, be quiet all of you. Sleep is 
coming over him. I'll sit by his pillow ; he's 
dropping asleep. Blow out the oil-lamp. Only 
let the star-light stream in. Hush, he sleeps. 

Madhav (addressing Gaffer). What are you stand- 
ing there for like a statue, folding your palms ? 
I am nervous. — Say, are there good omens ? 
Why are they darkening the room ? How will 
star-light help ? 

Gaffer : — "Silence, unbeliever." Madhav thinks that 
the smoking oil-lamps of the world give more 
helpful light than the serene radiance of God's 
stars. We get here another beautiful picture of 
Gaffer standing like a statue folding his palms. 
The poet, being attuned to love and other diviner 

353 
23 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

elements of life, realises the divine presence and 
is full of the spirit of prayer. 
Now enters Sudha, and gives the play a heavenly 
ambrosial close. I wish to quote the entire scene here. 
" Sudha : — Amal ! 
Physician : — He's asleep. 
Sudha : — I have some flowers for him. May'nt I 

give them into his own hand ? 
Physician : — Yes, you may. 
Sudha : — When will he be awake ? 
Physician . — Directly He comes and calls him. 
Sudha : — -Will you whisper a word for me in his 

ear ? 
Physician : — What shall I say ? 
Sudha : — Tell him Sudha has not forgotten him. 
Thus comes release from earthly bondage to the soul 
struggling to be free — diffusing happiness and joy all 
round, giving to all workers a new joy in their work 
and a new love for all, uplifting even souls immersed in 
worldliness, and last but not least crowned with the 
garland of the love of pure and true womanhood. 

Such is the play and such are the ideas contained in 
it. A great poet's work is Uke shot silk full of many 
glancing and shimmering colours; and now one heaven- 
ly tint seems to be prominent and now another. I do 
not claim for the above interpretation any degree of 
finality or thoroughness. But I only claim that there is 
ample warrant for the interpretation. In any event there 

354 



THE POST OFFICE 

is no doubt that the play is full of deep spiritual mean- 
ing and that the poet has employed in it the resources 
of the highest symbolism which is his unique and price- 
less gift, and hence it is our duty to try to realise the 
great spiritual truths hinted and enforced in this 
ivonderful play. 



355 



CHAPTER YIII. 

TRANSLATION OF ONE HUNDRED POEMS 

OF KABIR. 

I have already dealt with Tagore's mystical genius in 
my introductory chapter and shown how in order to 
understand him aright we must know the true inward- 
ness of the great Bhakti movement in this holy land, the 
beauty of the songs and poems of Kabir, Chaitanya,. 
and others, and the gracious significance and emotional 
appeal of the Sufi doctrines. 

Evelyn Underhill, who has helped Tagore ia 
' translating one hundred poems of Kabir, has written an 
admirable introduction to the work. She speaks of 
" that mystical religion of love which everywhere 
makes its appearance at a certain level of spiritual 
culture, and which creeds and philosophies are power- 
less to kill." Kabir was a disciple of Ramananda and 
realised the unity of the doctrines of the Bhakti cult 
and of Sufism. He was not only a great saint but also 
a great mystical poet and musician whose poems and 
songs are " the spontaneous expressions of his vision and 
his love." He was a weaver and earned his living by 
working at the loom. As Evelyn Underhill well says : 
" He knew how to combine vision and industry ; the 
work of ihis hands helped rather than hindered the 

356 



TRANSLATION OF ONE HUNDRED POEMS OF KABIK 

impassioned meditation of his heart It was from out 

of the heart of the common Hfe that he sang his raptur- 
ous lyrics of divine love." He disliked and denounced all 
formalism, empty and loveless asceticism, pride of birth 
and caste and rank, and worldUness, which are the 
worst foes of light. Above all, his utmost simplicity of 
emotional appeal combined with the richness of mysti- 
cal apprehension of Truth and Beauty makes his poems 
a perpetual source of delight and spiritual uplift. By 
the most universal and elementary facts and relations 
of life he brings home to us the higher joys and affini- 
ties of the life divine. As Evelyn Underhill says: "There 
are in his universe no fences between the ' natural ' and 
■'supernatural' worlds; everything is a part of the 
creative play of God, and therefore — even in its humblest 

details — capable of revealing the player's mind All 

aspects of the universe possess equal authority as sacra- 
mental declarations of the presence of God. " The 
introduction brings out also two other very great traits 
of Kabir's genius. *' Movement, rhythm, perpetual 
change, forms an integral part of Kabir's vision of 
Reality. Though the Eternal and Absolute is ever pre- 
sent to his consciousness, yet his concept of the Divine 
Nature is essentially dynamic." Again, " the constant 
insistence in simplicity and directness, the hatred 
of all abstractions and philosophizings, the ruthless 
criticism of external religion ; these are amongst his 
most marked characteristics." 

357 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

My object is not to expound here the great beauties 
of Kabir's songs but to show the divinely beautiful par- 
allelism of sentiment and style between Kabir and 
Tagore — both thoroughly Indian, full of true and lofty 
mystical genius, and dowered with golden beauty of 
style. I wish to do so both for purpose of showing the 
true poetic and spiritual descent of Tagore and of mak- 
ing my readers recognise how though the mortals speak 
many tongues the immortals speak but one. Both are 
dowered with that keen and luminous inner vision be- 
fore which the shams and lies of life flee away and life 
is seen in all its fulness and beauty ; both have an utter- 
most simplicity of emotional appeal and describe 
truly and transfigure with the divine radiance of 
love the universal elements in life ; both are great 
musicians and poets in whose hands words and sounds 
become consecrated by dedication to God ; both de- 
nounce in deathless words formalism, blind and unfruit- 
ful asceticism, pride and narrowness of vision and world- 
liness which bar us as with triple steel from the shrine 
of Truth and Love; both teach us how love and renunci- 
ation and service are the best and loftiest and sweetest 
things in life ; and both have entered the sacred inner- 
most shrine of God's love with praying lips and adoring 
hearts, have seen the blessed vision, have become full of 
love's ecstasy, and have realised God's love in myraid 
ways, and communicate to the world what they have 
been privileged to see. 

358 



TRANSLATION OF ONE HUNDRED POEMS OF KABIR 

Both of them teach us that we must get rid of our 
formalism, our adhesion to the letter forgetting and 
even disclaiming the spirit. Christ has told us how the 
letter killeth while the spirit giveth life. Formalism 
makes us feel self- satisfied and hardens the heart, and 
thus banishes from within us the divine elements of self- 
surrender, self-sacrifice, humility, and love. Kabir says: 

" There is nothing but water at the holy bathing 
places ; and I know that they are useless, for 
I have bathed in them. 

The images are all Ufeless, they cannot speak j 

I know, for I have cried aloud to them. 
The Purana and the Koran are mere words ; lifting 

up the curtain, I have seen. 
Kabir gives utterance to the words of experience ; 
and he knows very well, that all other things are 
untrue. " (Pages 49-50). 

" The yogi dyes his garments, instead of dyeing his 

mind in the colours of love : 
He sits within the temple of the Lord, leaving 

Brahma to worship a stone. 
He pierces holes in his ears, he has a great beard 

and matted locks, he looks like a goat : 
He goes forth into the wilderness, killing all his 

desires, and turns himself into aneunuch. 
He shaves his head and dyes his garments ; he 

reads the Gita and becomes a mighty talker. 

359 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Kabir says : 'You are going to the doors of death, 
bound hand and foot P " 

(Pages 69-70). 

" O servant, where dost thou seek me ? Lo ! I am 
beside thee. 

I am neither in temple nor in mosque : I am 
neither in Kaaba nor in Kailash : Neither am I 
in rites and ceremonies, nor in yoga and renuncia- 
tion. 

If thou art a true seeker, thou shalt at once see 
Me : thou shalt meet me in a moment of time. 

Kabir says : " O Sadhu ! God is the breath of all 
breath." 

(Page 1). 
Tagore says in the Gitanjali : 

" Leave this chanting and singing and telling of 
beads ! Whom dost thou worship in this lonely 
dark corner of a temple with doors all shut ? 
Open thine eyes and see thy God is not before 
these ! 

He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard 
ground and where the pathmaker is breaking 
stones. He is with them in sun and in showeri 
and his garment is covered with dust. Put off 
thy holy mantle and even like him come down 
on the dusty soil ! 

Deliverance ? Where is this deliverance to be 
found ? Our master himself has joyfully taken 

360 



TRANSLATION OF ONE HUNDRED POEMS OF KABIR 

upon him the bonds of creation ; he is bound 
with us all for ever. 
Come out of thy meditations and leave aside thy 
flowers and incense ! What harm is there if thy 
clothes become tattered and stained ! Meet him 
and stand by him in toil and in sweat of thy 

brow." 

(Pages 8-9). 
Kabir and Tagore condemn further the vain, arrogant, 
self-sufficient, self-satisfied and fruitless asceticism that 
thinks highly of itself, runs away from all spheres of 
love and service, and seeks the God of Love and Mercy 
through self-mortification and loveless self-discipline. 
Kabir says : 

" Because he lives in solitude, therefore the yogi 
says that his home is far away. 

Your Lord is near ; yet you are climbing the palm- 
tree to seek Him." 

(Page 28). 

" Dance, my heart ! dance to-day with joy. 

The strains of love fill the days and the nights 

with music, and the world is listening to its 

melodies. 

Mad with joy, life and death dance to the rhythm 
of this music. The hills and the sea and the 
earth dance. The world of man dances in laugh- 
ter and tears. 

361 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Why put on the robe of the monk, and live aloof 
from the world in lonely pride ? 

Behold ! my heart dances in the delight of a hun- 
dred arts, and the Creator is well pleased." 

(Page 38-39). 
" It is not austerities that mortify the flesh which 
are pleasing to the Lord, 

When you leave off your clothes and kill your 
senses, you do not please the Lord : 

The man who is kind and who practises righteous- 
ness, who remains passive amidst the affairs of 
the world, who considers all creatures on earth 
a» his own self, 

He attains the Immortal Being, the true God is 
ever with him, Kabir says : " He attains the true 
name whose words are pure, and who is free 
from pride and conceit." (Page 69) 

Tagore also gives us the same great gospel in his 
poems. Indeed his unique glory consists in his harmo- 
nising the conflict of ideals in our land due to the 
commingling of the civilisations of the West and of the 
East. He leads us to that radiant region where work 
and service thrive in joy side by side with thought and 
contemplation beneath the overarching skies of love lit 
by the sun of poesy and the full moon of song. This 
was our immemorial Indian ideal though during the 
dark ages of Indian history we fell away from ideals oi 

362 



TRANSLATION OF ONE HUNDRED POEMS OF KABIR 

patriotic work and service- The greatness of Tagore's 
work consists in the harmony abovesaid and in leading 
us to retain the spirit of our great civilisation while 
catching the spirit of modern enlightenment and pro- 
gress and national service. That he has had the same 
appeal in Japan also is clear from Professor Hirose's 
article in The Journal of the Indo-Japanese Association. 
Professor Hirose says : " Since the opening of inter- 
course with the Western countries and the introduction 
of advanced Western civilisation, our thinking world 
has been invaded by Western thoughts and apparently 
we have gradually lost some of the traditional traits of 
old Japan. Of late we have awakened to the inadvisa- 
bility of discarding our own ways and manners in our 
zeal to take good things from other nations. It is a 
matter for congratulation that the thoughts of Tagore 
have found their way to the minds of thinking Japanese, 
who have begun to awake from their exclusive adora- 
tion of Western civilisation, and have aroused within 
them a spirit to love and respect the old traditions of 
their own country. In that respect, I think, our nation 
is greatly indebted to Mr, Tagore." Tagore himself 
has said : " Our ancient civilisation was really complete 
in all its parts and was not a spiritual shade devoid of 
a material body." I shall quote here the following 
beautiful poem embodying his ideals of work and 

serjdce,--^ " — — — _— . 

" Deliverance is not for me in renunciation. — I feel 

363 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

the embrace of freedom in a thousand bonds of 

delight. 
Thou ever pourest for me the fresh draught of thy 

wine of various colours and fragrance, filling this 

earthen vessel to the brim. 
My world will light its hundred different lamps 

with thy flame and place them before the altar 

of thy temple. ^ 

No, I will never shut the doors of my senses. The 

delights of sight and hearing and touch will bear 

thy delight. 
Yes, all my illusions will burn into illumination of 

joy, and all my desires ripen into fruits of love." 

{Gitanjali^ page 68). 
*' God commanded, 'stop, fool, leave not thy home,' 

but still he heard not. 
God sighed and complained, ' why does my servant 

wander to seek me, forsaking me ? " ' 

{The Gardener, pages 130-131). 
" No, my friends, I shall never leave my hearth 

and home, and retire into the forest solitude, if 

rings no merry laughter in its echoing shade, and 

if the end of no saffron mantle flutters in the 

wind ; if its silence is not deepened by soft 

whispers. 
I shall never be an ascetic." 

{The Gardener^ page 78). 
Both these great poets recognise at the same time that 

364 



TRANSLATION OF ONE HUNDRED POEMS OF KABIR 

the crown and fruition of work and service is love and 
realisation. Kabir says : 

" So long as man clamours for the I and the Mine, 

his works are as naught : 
When all love of the I and the Mine is dead, then 

the work of the Lord is done. 
For work has no other aim than the getting of 

knowledge. 
When that comes, then work is put away. 
The flower blooms for the fruit : when the fruit 

comes, the flower withers. 
The musk is in the deer, but it seeks it not within 
itself ; it wanders in quest of grass." 

(Pages 5-6). 
Tagore sings : 
" Away from the sight of thy face my heart knows 
no rest or respite, and my work becomes an end- 
less toil in a shoreless sea of toil. To-day the 
summer has come at my window with its signs 
and murmurs ; and the bees are flying their 
minstrelsy at the court of the flowering grove. 
Now it is time to sit quiet, face to face with thee, 
and to sing dedication of life in this silent and 
overflowing leisure." 

{Gitanjalij pages 4-5). 

Both poets bring home to our minds again and again 

the great truth which Christ proclaimed by saying : "The 

Kingdom of Heaven is within you," and that our holy 

365 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

scriptures teach by the blessed sayings Tat twatn asi 
and Ahani Brahmasmi. Salvation is not a process of 
attaining with painful exertions what is not ours. It is 
a realisation of our Divine Nature, our union with the 
Divine. Kabir says : 

" The musk is in the deer, but it seeks it not with- 
in itself : it wanders in quest of grass." (Page 6). 
" Do not go to the garden of flowers ! O friend ! 

go not there ; 
In your body is the garden of flowers. Take your 
seat on the thousand petals of the lotus and there 
gaze on the Infinite Beauty." (Pages 3-4). 

Tagore sings : 

" Only now and again a sadness fell upon me, and 
I started up from my dream and felt a sweet 
trace of a strange fragrance in the south wind. 
That vague sweetness made my heart ache with long- 
ing, and it seemed to me that it was the eager 
breath of summer seeking for its completion. 
I knew not then it was so near, that it was mine, 
and that this perfect sweetness had blossomed in 
the depth of my own heart." 

{Gitanjali, pages 16-17). 

Again and again both poets make us realise the 

melody of God's voice heard by the soul in nature and 

in the dark but pure chamber of the heart. Kabir says : 

The melody of love swells forth, and the rhythm. 

of love's detachment beats the time. 

866 



TRANSLATION OF ONE HUNDRED POEMS OF KAB IR 

Day and night, the chorus of music fills the 
heavens." (Page 17). 

"There the whole sky is filled with sound, and 
there that music is made without fingers and 
without strings." 

(Page 22). 

" There the sky is filled with music, 

There it rains nectar : 

There the harp-strings jingle, and there the drums 
beat." (Page 23). 

" I hear the melody of His flute, and I cannot con- 
tain myself where the rhythm of 

the world rises and falls, thither my heart has 
reached." (Page 71). 

Tagore sings: 

*' I know not how thou singest, my master! I ever 
listen in silent amazement. 

The light of thy music illumines the world. The 
life breath of thy music runs from sky to sky. 
The holy streams of thy music breaks through 
all stony obstacles and rushes on. 

My heart longs to join in thy song, but vainly 
struggles for a voice. I would speak, but speech 
breaks not into song, I cry out baffled. Ah, thou 
hast made my heart captive in the endless meshes 
of thy music, my master !" (Page 3). 

Both poets teach us that God is to be realised in 
creation, that the whole world is the lila or sport of God, 

367 



SIR RABINDHANATH TAGORE 

and that we must know and love Gods's infinite play of 
forms known as the universe. Kabir says: 
" His form is infinite and fathomless, 
He dances in rapture, and waves of form arise from 
His dance." (Page 33). 

" His play the land and water, the whole universe ! 
His play the earth and the sky ! 
In play is the Creation spread out, in play it is 
established. The whole world, says Kabir, rests 
in his play,yet still the player remains unknown." 

(Page 89>. 
Tagore says : 

" In this playhouse of infinite forms I have had 

my play and here have I caught sight of him 

that is formless." (Page 88). 

Both poets make us realise that God is Joy (Ananda). 

Kabir says : 

" He dances in rapture, and waves of form arise 

from His dance. 
The body and the mind cannot contain themselves,, 
when they are touched by His great joy. 

He holds all within His bliss." 

(Page 38). 
" The Creator brought into being the Game of Joy: 

and from the word ' Om ' the creation sprang. 
The Earth is His joy ; His joy is the sky ; 
His joy is the flashing of the sun and the moon ;. 

368 



TRANSLATION OF ONE HUNDRED POEMS OF KABIR 

His joy is the beginning, the middle, and the end ; 

His joy is eyes, darkness, and light. 

Ocean and waves are his joy : His joy the Saras- 

wati, the Jumna, and the Ganges. 
The Guru is One ; and life and death, imion and 
separation, are all His plays of joy !" 

(Pages 88-89). 
Tagore sings : 

" Light, my light, the world-filling light, the eye- 
kissing light, heart-sweetening light ! 
Ah, the light dances, my darling, at the centre of 
my life ; the light strikes, my darling, the chords 
of my love ; the sky opens, the wind runs wild, 
laughter passes over the earth. 
The butterflies spread their sails on the sea of 
light. Lilies and jasmines surge up on the crest 
of the waves of light. 
The light is shattered into gold on every cloud, 

and it scatters gems in profusion. 
Mirth spreads from leaf to leaf, my darling, and 
gladness without measure. The heaven's river 
has drowned its banks and the flood of joy is 
abroad." 

{Gitanjali^ pages 52-58). 
Both poets tell us in a divinely convincing way how 
God yearns to save us and take us into the paradise of 
His love. Kabir says : 

" To Thee Thou hast drawn my love, O Fakir ! 

369 

24 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

I was sleeping in my own chamber, and Thou didst 

awaken me ; striking me with Thy voice, O 

Fakir ! 
I was drowning in the deeps of the ocean of this 

world, and Thou didst save me : upholding me 

with Thine arm, O Fakir ! 
Only one word and no second — and Thou hast made 

me tear off all my bonds, O Fakir 1 
Kabir says, Thou hast united Thy heart to my 

heart, O Fakir." ' 

(Page 10). 
Tagore sings: 
" By all means they try to hold me secure who love 

me in this world. But it is otherwise with thy 

love which is greater than theirs, and thou keep- 

est me free. 
Lest I forget them they never venture to leave me 

alone. But day passes after day and thou art 

not seen. 
If I call not to thee in my prayers, if I keep not 

thee in my heart, thy love for me still waits for 

my love." {Gitanjali^ pages 25-26). 

Both poets describe ecstatically the joys of divine 
communion and tell us how we can attain them only 
by renunciation and love. Kabir says: 

" I played day and night with my comrades, and 

now I am greatly afraid. 
So high is my Lord's palace, my heart trembles to 

370 



TRANSLATION OF ONE HUNDRED POEMS OF KABIR 

mount its stairs, yet I must not be shy if I would 
enjoy His love. ' 

My heart must cleave to my Lover; I must with- 
draw my veil, and meet him with all my body: 
Mine eyes must perform the ceremony of the lamps 
of love." (Page 11). 

Tagore sings : 

"My song has put off her adornments. She has no 
pride of dress and decoration. Ornaments would 
mar our union; they would come between thee 
and me; their jingling would drown thy whispers. 
My poet's vanity dies in shame before thy sight. O 
master poet, I have sat down at thy feet. Only 
let me make my life simple and straight, like a 
flute of reed for thee to fill with music." 

{Gitanjali^ page 6). 

Both poets give us very true and vivid and consoling 

pictures and ideas as to the true significance of the 

mysterious phenomena of life and death. Kabirsays: 

"Look upon life and death ; there is no separation 

between them, 
The right hand and the left hand are one and the 
same." ' (Page 20). 

Tagore sings in one of the most beautiful poems in 
the Gitanjali. 

" I was not aware of the moment when I first cross- 
ed the threshold of this life. 
What was the power that made me open out into 

371 



SIR KABINDRANATH TAGORE 

this vast mystery like a bud in the forest at mid- 
night. 

When in the morning I looked upon the light I felt 
in a moment that I was no stranger in this world^ 
that the inscrutable without name and form had 
taken me in its arms in the form of my own 
mother. 

Even so, in death the same unknown will appear 
as ever known to me. And because I love this 
life, I know I shall love death as well. The child 
cries out when from the right breast the mother 
takes it away, in the very next moment to 
find in the left one its consolation." 

[Gitanjali^ page 87)^ 
Each poet brings out very clearly what is the first 
duty of Hfe and what ought to be the prayer of each 
soul. Kabir sings in an exquisite poem : 

" Hang up the swing of love to-day ! Hang the 
body and the mind between the arms of the 
Beloved, in the ecstasy of love's joy : 

Bring the tearful streams of the rainy clouds to 
your eyes, and cover your hearts with the shadow 
of darkness : 

Bring your face nearer to His ear, and speak of 
the deepest longings of your heart. Kabir says : 
" Listen to me, brother ! bring the vision of the 
Beloved in your heart !." 

(Page 105). 

372 



TRANSLATION OF ONE HUNDRED POEMS OF KABIR 

Tagore voices forth the pure and perfect and 
passionate prayer of the soul in the following poem : 
" Let only that little be left of me whereby I may 

name thee my all. 
Let only that little be left of my will whereby I 
may feel thee on every side, and come to thee 
in everything, and offer to thee my love every 
moment. 
Let only that little be left of me whereby I may 

never hide thee. 
Let only that little of my fetters be left whereby 
I am bound with thy will, and thy purpose is 
carried out in my life — and that is the fetter of 
thy love." 
Such are a few of the divine resemblances of style 
and thought and emotion between these two great 
poets. I shall conclude this chapter by giving below a 
few other exquisite quotations from this translation of 
Kabir's poems by Tagore. 

" O Friend ! hope for Him whilst you live, know 
whilst you live, understand whilst you live ; 
for in life deliverance abides. " 

(Page 2). 
" So from beyond the Infinite, the Infinite comes ; 
and from the Infinite, the finite extends." 

(Page 6). 

" The devout seeker is he who mingles in his heart 

the double currents of love and detachment, 

373 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

like the mingling of the streams of the Ganges 
and the Jumna " (Page 18). 

" You have slept for unnumbered ages : this 
morning will you not awake ?" 

(Page 26), 
" The truth-seeker's battle goes on day and nighty 
as long as life lasts it never ceases." 

(Page 45). 
" The lock of error shuts the gate, open it with the 
key of love : Thus, by opening the door, thou 
shalt wake the Beloved." 

(Page 45). 
" O Man, if thou dost not know thine own Lord,^ 
whereof art thou so proud ?" 

(Page 64). 
"The jewel is lost in the mud, and all are seeking 

for it ; 
Some look for it in the east, and some in the west ; 

some in the water and some amongst stones. 
But the servant Kabir has appraised it at its true 
value, and has wrapped it vi^ith care in the end 
of the mantle of his heart." 

(Page 75). 



374 



CHAPTER IX. 

FICTION.* 

Some of the poet's best work is to be found in his 
short stories and novels and romances. But we must 
know and state at the very outset his limitations as a 
story-teller, though some extravagant admirers have 
gone the length of claiming him to be a great genius in 
the realm of creative fiction. The chief characteristics 
of the novel and the romance as a literary form is that 
interest of plot, incident, and character should be its 
chief aim and charm. The novel, however, differs from 
the romance in that the incidents in the former are 
probable and of normal occurrence while in the latter 
we have a certain degree of ideality of incident. In 
Tagore's novels even more than in his dramas we see 
that his approach to the heart of the subject is a poetic 
approach. He does not throw himself heart and soul 
into the characters and the scenery ; the subjective, 
introspective, reflective side of his nature peeps out 
though in a form full of beauty and takes its place along 
with the characters ; the atmosphere of the story and 
the drama becomes charged and electrical with poetic 
suggestion ; the tendency to take the beauty or the 
pathos of each great situation as the central theme and 
to regard the incidents as accessories thereto leads to 

375 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

the simplification of the incidents, so that the artist may 
avoid any crowding of the canvas and prevent the 
details or the interest of the story drawing our gaze 
away from the overwhelming pathos or rapture of a 
psychological situation ; and the language too fakes 
colour from the outlook and is full of a heavenly beauty 
of suggestiveness that draws our attention to the fact 
that more is meant than is said. Tagore being a 
poet to the inmost core of his being cannot but feel 
deeply the poetic aspect of every great situation in 
inner and outer life. We must not forget this circum- 
stance when trying to estimate his achievement as a 
story-teller. 

It follows from the above discussion that Tagore 
would naturally choose the short story as his favourite 
literary form in prose. It enables him to describe 
beautiful or happy or pathetic situations and moments 
in the lives of individuals without undue elaboration 
of incident or attention to interest of plot and character. 
The lyric mood is as brief as it is intense ; and one so 
liberally dowered as Tagore with it will hardly be able 
to bring to bear upon his creations that combination of 
epic and dramatic gifts and that objectivity of tempera- 
ment without which the great masterpieces of fiction 
conceived and executed on a large scale can never be 
written. 

It seems to me that Tagore's having chosen the short 
story as a literary form is in the main due to the fact 

376 



FICTION 

that every Hindu is owing to tradition and environment 
a born story-teller. The fables of Hitopadesa and 
Panchaiantra have travelled all over the world. The 
Bhagavatha movement by its popular appeal and by its 
method of extempore improvisation of stories helped to 
bring into existence a rare literary form in which direct- 
ness of narration, emphasis on the universal elements and 
joys and sorrows of human nature, and a high tone of 
, moral and rehgious fervour contribute to the beauty 
and power of the Kathas. The art of oral narration led 
also to the exclusion of all but the important incidents. 
The artist when he works with the pen in the secluded 
studio of the imagination can deal with the lives and 
characters of many characters ; each little rill of inci- 
dent will flow into the mighty stream of the central 
story till at last the majestic river sweeps like the 
Ganges towards the close. But the oral narrator has 
his audience from him ; if he loses the threads of his 
narrative the spell would be broken ; an audience 
hearing a story will necessarily bestow less attention 
on it than a reader sitting at a book with his imagina- 
tion alone by his side as his beloved spouse ; and the 
imperious need of arresting and keeping attention over- 
rides all other considerations. On the other hand, he 
can piay on the heart as a musician plays on the flute. 
He can intersperse his narration with apposite moral 
reflections and devotional songs ; there is the direct con- 
tact of soul and soul ; and the immediateness and direct- 

377 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

ness of the appeal gives him an immense advantage over 
the writer. He has as his aids the expressive language 
of the eyes, the manifestation of emotion by the mobile 
face, the various and limitless inflections of the human 
voice, and the varied grace of gestures. Indeed the 
whole human frame charged with the electricity of 
emotion is at his service. This advantage over cold 
print and distance more than counterbalances the few 
advantages that the writer of an elaborate story has in, 
his favour. The modern developments of the art, how- 
ever, at least in Southern India, shows a great deal of 
degradation ; vividness and naturalness of story telling 
arc as conspicuous by their absence as true dcvolional 
spirit ; while the introduction of mixed and composite 
musicial styles and of low farcial elements for the sake 
of pandering to the public taste has torn into shreds 
the few elements of dignity that decorated the art in the 
course of its long travel along the road of time. 

Thus Tagore's short stories owe their peculiar charm 
to the special glories and limitations of his genius and 
to the special peculiarities of the Indian story-telling art. 
We must also bear in mind that Tagore has been a lov- 
ing student of the best literatures of the West and that 
hence his art has acquired a new grace and power by 
such study, which has enabled him to take up life as it 
is around us and bring out its heights and depths before 
our eyes without that over-idealising tendency and ob- 
trusion of the supernatural elements which were the 

378 



FICTION 

chief defects of Indian fiction in the past. He is certain- 
ly not a realist, because the microscopic examination of 
the moral evils and material uglinesses of life that has 
of late blinded some of the greatest of the world's crea- 
tive artists in the West to the elements of beauty, joy,, 
and divinity in life and human nature is not possible to 
one who is essentially a poet and hence habitually 
dwells in a heaven of beauty, love, and joy. He takes the 
realities of life and shows their inner significance in the 
light of his soul. The supernatural element also comes 
into his stories almost naturally, because both the natu- 
ral and supernatural realms own a common allegiance 
to the sway of imagination and claim and realise kinship 
when kneeling before the sovereign's throne. 

It is thus clear that the chief charm of Tagore's short 
stories is the revelation of the hearts of men and women. 
The incidents in them are few and are chosen more for 
the light that they throw on human hearts than for keep- 
ing up the interest of the reader by wealth and variety 
of incident. Another beautiful trait in them is the 
frequency of beautiful natural descriptions. These 
are introduced not for their own sake but to show 
the common bond of sympathy that exists 
though unperceived between the soul of man and 
the soul of nature. Here again the poetic outlook 
on life is responsible for these wonderful literary effects. 
The stories reveal further how the poet's dower of ima- 
gination has enabled, him to enter into the life of all 

879 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

classes of men and women in his land, and depict their 
daily tasks and joys and sorrows in a spirit of observant, 
large-hearted, divine sympathy. Everywhere the poet 
pleads for more sympathy, more love, more simpli- 
city, a better ordering of life, a higher serenity, a sweeter 
submission to the divine will, and an increasing reaUsa- 
tion of the divine foundations of life. Another charac- 
teristic of the stories is the living touch that they have 
with the new aspirations of united and national life that 
are surging through the heart of young India under the 
benign and uplifting sway of the British Crown, Last but 
not least must be mentioned the insight that he has into 
woman's heart. It has been well-said: "The man is 

the more variable phenomenon But the 

true woman is timeless, universal." The delineation of 
womanhood in Indian literature exposes the libel so 
often hurled by blind outsiders as well as bHnd critics 
within at the Hindus in regard to their alleged want 
of chivalry and reverence for womanhood. Mr. A. W. 
Ryder says about Kalidasa: '' I know of no poet, unless 
it be Shakespeare, who has given the world a group of 
heroines so individual yet so universal, heroines as true, 
as tender, as brave as are Indumathi, Sita, Parvathi, the 
Yakha's bride, and Sakuntala" Tagore shows in many 
of his stories his realisation of the tenderness, love, and 
heroism of the Hindu wife, and his gallery of portraits 
of Indian womanhood is admirable for its truth and its 
charm. He describes womanhood in all the various 

380 



FICTION 

phases and stages of its beauty, its fascination, its emo- 
tional refinement, its delight in self-sacrifice, and its divine 
rapture of love and tenderness. The little girl Minnie 
in the Fruit-seller who flits hither and thither like a gay 
butterfly basking in the sunshine of life and takes 
leave of us as a young bashful bride bright with the 
coming glow of love's moon though yet knowing not its 
radiant sweetness, just as the sky is beautifully bright 
with the coming glow of moonrise while the moon is 
yet behind the hill and unrevealed to our expectant 
eyes ; the little girl Souravt, who has chosen in her 
heart as her bridegroom the fickle Rasik who marries 
into a rich family for the sake of money ; the Dumb 
Girl who is treated tenderly by all and is in dumb con- 
verse with nature and all created beings though denied 
the power of speech ; the girl Charushashi^ petted, play- 
ful, and wilful and yet full of an indefinable and irre- 
sistible charm ; the Hindu wife Chandara whom the joy 
of self-sacrifice sustains and gladdens though she 
belongs to a poor and uneducated family and has to 
lose her life by her confession made to screen her hus- 
band's brother who had committed a murder ; the 
Hindu wife Bindhya Bhashini who owns her husband's 
guilt to save him from dishonour and loves him as the 
idol of her heart though he returns from England a veri- 
table snob with a foreigner as his wife ; the girl-widow 
in A Study In Anatomy who is carried away by irresisti- 
ble passion to kill herself ; and the man that she loves 

381 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

the girl-widow Kusiim who in a spirit of utter self 
control and self-sacrifice goes gladly to her death in the 
waters of the Ganges when the Sanyasi to whom she 
lost her pure heart unknown to him and even to herself 
asks her to forget him ; the matronly widow Jaikali 
Devi, who in spite of the stern austerity of her life, 
Iceeps her heart sweet by love of God and love of living 
creatures in distress, and goes through life passionless 
and pure : — these and other characters form a glorious 
group of heroines whose heroism in real — and in many 
cases in humble — life discloses to us the beauty and 
purity and loftiness of Tagore's conception of woman- 
hood and his insight into the human heart. 

I shall describe briefly a few of Tagore's short stories 
below." The Fruit-seller describes the girl Minnie. The 
Kabtili Rahamat becomes her friend in spite of great 
disparity of age, as her sight brings into his memory 
the vision of his own young daughter in his far-off home. 
He is convicted for stabbing a man and when he comes 
out of prison he learns that it was Minnie's bridal-day. 
He desires to see her before he goes away. Her father 
objects but yields when Rahamat speaks of his little 
daughter and says that he grew to love Mitmie out of 
remembrance of his own pretty child and shows the 
the imprint of his girl's tiny palm upon a piece of 
paper that he has been keeping next to his heart. 

" I saw an imprint of a tiny palm upon the paper. 

282 



FICTION 

It was not a photo, nor an oil-painting, but only 
a mark obtained by smearing the palm with some 
lamp-black. With this souvenir of his child 
nearest to his bosom does Rahamat come every 
year to sell fruits in the Calcutta streets — as if 
the soft touch of the child's tiny palm fills his 
great heart labouring under the pangs of separa- 
tion and suffuses it with ambrosial nectar." 
[Page 13 of Rajani Ranjan Sen's Glimpses of 
Bengal Life containing a translation of Tagore's 
stories.] 
The second story describes how a schoolboy misses 
his mother's love when in his aunt's house. The third 
story called A Resolve Accomplished strikes a higher 
note and gives us a beautiful glimpse of heroism in 
humble life. Bansi, the elder brother of Rasik, fore- 
goes the pleasures of married life and toUs beyond his 
strength to place his brother in a position of comfort 
and have the lineage perpetuated through him. But 
Rasik flees away from the life of drudgery, marries into 
a rich family for the sake of money ignoring the girl 
Souravi who has been his playmate and has been look- 
ing up to him as her future lord, and finds on coming 
back that his brother had died leaving to him the 
money that he had put by for his dear brother's sake. 
Bansi was a weaver and the poet describes sym- 
pathetically how the weaver's art in India — where 
Dacca muslins have been described as woven of wind 

383 



SIR RABINDKANATH TAGORE 

and in regard to whose perfection in the art of weaving 
James Mill said that ' of the exquisite degree of per- 
fection to which the Hindus have carried the produc- 
tions of the loom it would be idle to offer any descrip- 
tion' — has been ruined by competition with the 
machine-made cloth imported from the West. 

" A pack of evil spirits, however, advanced from 
over the sea and hurled missiles of fire upon the 
inoffensive loom. They set the demon of hunger 
in the poor weaver's homes, and the whistling 
of steam sounded like frequent blasts from their 
horns of victory." 

(Pages 27-28). 
Tagore shows us how people praise others if these 
work for them and do not want payment but show no 
kindness if the question of payment comes in. 

" Upon going to work, he found that works done 
without remuneration carried favour and appre- 
ciation — which had ever been his own, — but that 
in the case of works of need there was no pity 
and no appreciation." (Pages 48-49). 

We have to be grateful to Tagore for showing us 
how the modern industrial movement which consists of 
resolutions at conferences, is followed by no practical 
wisdom, and merely exhausts energies that could be used 
for good work and further retards progress by filling 
our hearts with a glow of self-satisfaction which is a 
poor substitute for the glow of self-sacrifice that must 

384 



FICTION 

be there, shining in a steady flame like a sacred fire on 
an altar. 

" All went on well so long as its promoters sat in 
committee, but as soon as they came down to the 
field of actual work it became all confusion. 
From various countries they imported various 
kinds of looms and at last wove such a tangled 
mesh of worthless trash that committee after com- 
rrittre in their protracted sittings could not 
ascertain as to which pool of refuse the whole 
thing was to be thrown into.'' 

(Pages 62-58). 
In the fourth story {The Dumb Girl) the poet describes 
how a dumb girl was given in marriage without her 
defect being disclosed and how the only tenderness 
that she knew came to her from Nature and from the 
mute love of her kine. 

"Subhahad no language, but she had a pair of 
large dark eyes with long-drawn eye-lids, and 
her lips would tre'mble like tender leaves upon 

the slightest touch of emotion But 

the large dark eyes have nothing to translate — 
the mind casts its spontaneous shadow upon 
them and impressions expand or contract there- 
in of themselves." (Page 64). 
" She looked all round — could find no language 
nor see those ever-familiar faces that understood 
the language of the dumb. An endless, 

385 

25 



SIR KABINDRANATH TAGOKE 

inexplicable wailing rang in the girl's ever-silent 
heart — none but One but who knew the heart 
could hear it." (Page 74). 

There is something infinitely pathetic in this dumb 
agony of the human heart that is denied all possibility 
of self-expression. Pain is unavoidable so long as 
man has not risen to the supreme paradise of love of 
God ; and so long as he performs punya and papa (good 
acts and sinful acts) he must reap the inevitable harvest 
of his actions. The pity of it all becomes insupportably 
keen and oppressive when a simple, sweet, and lovable 
nature \t denied the solace of pouring out its sorrows 
into sympathetic cars and receiving words of love, con- 
solation, and encouragement from loving lips. Tagore 
ha» seized and expressed the pathetic situation with a 
poetic insight peculiarly his own. 

The next story about the Wandering Guest has con- 
siderable poetic attractiveness. The boy Tarapad 
therein is quite as attractive a figure as Alastor could 
be expected to be if met with in ordinary life. His is a 
poetical nature that flits from joy to joy but would 
feel crushed by the load of ordinary life. He is 
brought up by a rich man whose wayward girl Charu 
shashilikes the boy and is of a lovable though imperious 
nature. The boy, however, is drowned in a flood and 
the poet suggests that that was the fittest close to the 
life of such a dear and free and joyful child of nature 
to whom the trammels of common life would have been 

3«6 



FICTION 

I 



 

an intolerable agony. The following description of 

the boy is very fine : 

" A fine boy he was, large-eyed and of fair 
complexion, and a delicate sweetness played 
about his pleasant smiling face and lips. The 
cloth he wore was not very clean. His bare 
frame was devoid of all manner of superfluities, 
as if some skilful artist had fashioned it with 
considerable care and rounded it off quite fault- 
lessly. He looked as though he had been a 
hermit boy in his previous birth, and asceticism 
undefiled having considerably reduced the 
proportions of his body a chastened Brahma nic 
beauty had now been beaming all about him." 

(Pages 75-76). 
The Look Auspicious is a story of considerable charm. 

Kanti Chunder came across a beautiful girl and sought 

her in marriage. The following description of the 

girl is full of delicate beauty : 

" That girl's beauty was extremely fresh, as if the 
Artificer of the world had let her off just after 
modelling her. It was hard to ascertain her 
age. Her body had developed but her face was 
so very immature that the least touch of world- 
liness was not perceptible there. The news of 
her stepping into the confines of youth did not 
seem to have yet reached herself." 

(Page 106). 

387 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

She was unfortunately deaf and dumb and insane^, 
though the insanity was of a harmless type. Not 
knowing this and not knowing that she had a sister, he 
sought her father and asked him to give his girl in 
marriage. He did not want to see the girl as he thought 
that he had seen the girl whom the father was prepared 
to give to him in wedlock. During the marriage 
ceremony when the bridegroom and the bride have 
the first auspicious look at each other he found out the 
error. But he became reconciled lo the change when 
he learnt the truth and when he realised how gentle 
and modest and good and fair his bride was.' Tagore 
realises and expresses the supreme charm of the Hindu 
custom about the auspicious look in these beautiful words. 
" This really was the look auspicious. All obstruc- 
tions tore away from before the eye of the mind 
hidden behind that of the flesh. All the bright- 
ness from the lamps as well as his heart now 
radiated and centred upon a single soft and 
gentle face. Kanti saw an amiable countenance 
and a chastened tranquil beauty suffusing that 

face." 

(Page 114). 

The secret of the happiness of Hindu marriages 

from the time of the marriage of Rama and Sita 

is disclosed to us in these precious and beautiful 

words. 

In A Study in Anatomy we have a description of how 

388 



FICTION 

a girl-widow grew in beauty and loved Sashi Shekar 
and poisoned him and herself when she learnt how 
though loving her he resolved to marry another for the 
sake of money and social advancehient. The following 
description by herself of her bloosomed beauty is very 
brightly written : 

*' I could myself well understand that like glisten- 
ing shoots of light from a piece of diamond 
when it is moved, the waves of my beauty would 
ripple all around at every movement of my 
frame in a variety of undulations as I walked. I 
would sometimes gaze upon the pair of my 
hands for long — such hands that could rein the 
mouths of the whole world's stubborn manhood 
and hold it in sweet subjection. When Subhadra 
bending proudly in her car of victory sped away 
with Arjuna through the three worlds plunged in 
wonder, perhaps she had a pair of such round 
not very plump arms and rosy palms and 
tapering fingers like flames of beauty." 

(Pages 119-120). 
The story called The Landing Stairway is one of the 
•finest of Tagore's stories and brings out the supreme 
beauty of his poetic endowments very well. Tagore 
has the rare power of realising and making us realise 
the psychical elements in seemingly inert matter. In 
this story a river-stair up and down whose steps 
millions of feet — hard, soft, proud, humble, clean, dirty, 

389 



) 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

beautiful, ugly, pure, sinful, — had passed and which has 
felt the footfalls through the hastening centuries turns 
story-teller. The Ghat's reminiscences are narrated 
with imagination and insight. 

" The Ganges had been full — only four of my steps 
had been lying bare above the water. Land and 
water seemed to be locked in a loving embrace, 

The sunshine of the autumn 

morn lighting upon the full breast of the Ganges 
had taken the hue of molten gold or of the yellow 
champaka flower — at no other time of the year 
is this same colour of the sunbeams to be seen I 

The light of my days and the 

shadow of my nights fall daily upon the Ganges 
and are daily wiped away again from her surface 
and they leave no mark anywhere. Thus it is 
that my heart is ever young though I look very 
old." 

(Pages 129-131), 
The Ghat then narrates the story of the young widow 
Kusum, who unknown to herself falls in love- a lovt 
that had no physical taint in it — with a young Sanyasi 
(ascetic), and at his bidding to forget him steps into 
the Ganges as into a bridal chamber and dies. The 
following description of the Sanyasi with his pure soul 
in communion with Nature in her solemn beauty is 
wonderful. 

'^ When the hermit w£)uld at early dawn every day 

390 



FICTION 

immerse in the water of the Ganges before sun- 
rise, facing the morning star, and say his morning 
prayers in a calm solemn voice, I could then 
hardly hear the noise of the flowing stream. 
While listening to his voice, the sky towards the 
eastern bank would every day assume a ruddy 
hue, streaks of crimson would dye the fringes of 
the clouds, darkness would break and drop 
down on every side hkc the covering of the 
flower-bud about to bloom, and the red tint of 
the blooming Dawn would gradually come out in 
the celestial expanse. Tht tops of trees would by 
degrees manifest themselves against the sky, the 
wind would wake up, the colour of the sky would 
grow white, and at lait from inside, from behind 
the line of trees, the sun would gently rise step 
by step in the heateni above cleansed after its 
morning bath. It would seem to me that as this 
saintly personage standing there in the water of 
the GauRCS and looking towards the east uttered 
some potent incantations, at each word as it was 
uttered the spell of the night broke away, the 
moon and the stars sunk down in the west, the 
sun ascended the eastern sky, and the scenic 
outlook of the earth underwent a wondrous 
transformation 1 Who is this magician ? When 
after his bath the ascetic would raise from out 
of the water his fair holy frame shining like a 

391 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

flame of the sacrificial fire, drops of water would 
then trickle out of his matted hair and the young 
sunHght reflect itself from all parts of his 
body." (Page 138). 

I shall quote here only one more bit of heavenly de- 
scription — now of an inner paradise as the quotation 
above was the description of an outer paradise. 

" The shade of sadness that was upon her calm 
face passed away and she looked pure and holy 
like a consecrated flower bathe 1 in dew — so 
much so that when she fell upon the hermit's 
feet with supreme veneration every morning, 
she looked like a flower dedicated to the wor- 
ship of a god." (Page 142). 
Mr. Rhys in his recent book well says : " In this 
story Rabindranath Tagore reveals the heart of Kusum 
by the slight interrogative touches which he often uses 
to give reaHty to his spiritual portraits of woman. He 
is one of the very few tale-tellers who can interpret 
women by intuitive art. The devotion and heroism of 
the Hinduism he paints are of a kind to explain to us 
that though the mortal rite of Sati is ended, the 
spirit that led to it is not at all extinct. It lives re- 
embodied in a thousand acts of sacrifice, and in many 
a delivering up of the creature-self, and its pride of 
life and womanly desire." Sir Edwin Arnold says 
beautifully in his Easl and West . " This was the basis 
of the heroic though tragical custom of ' Sati ' or 

392 



FICTION ' 

widow-burning, one of the grandest defiances ever 
flung by human faith and love at the face of the doc- 
trine of annihilation." 

I have already stated above what the story of The 
Sentence is about. It shows how in spite of the crudi- 
ties, deadening drudgery, and unhappiness in the home 
of poverty there is a great deal of heroism in humble 
life in India, and how the divine elements in the souls of 
men and women shine forth even in a cottage and irra- 
diate it with the beams of love and renunciation. In The 
Expiation the pure souled, meek, and gentle wife Bin- 
dhyabhashini takes the guilt of her husband on her 
head, though he rilles her father's iror^safe and goes 
with the stolen money to En.i^land, is called to the bar, 
and comes out to India a worthless snob with a Euro- 
pean wife. In The Golden Mirage we see described an 
unsympathetic wife who does not understand her 
dreamy husband and drives him to commit suicide to 
escape the slow torture of her want of sympathy. In 
The Trespass we have a sweet touch of nature that makes 
the whole world kin. An austere widow to whom her 
temple is everything in life allows a pig meant to be 
sacrificed elsewhere to find shelter in her sanctum 
sanctorum and rejoices in saving its life. Tagore says : 
" This little event pleased the great Lord of all 
living beings of the whole universe, but the little 
god of this small village named society became 
very much agitated." (P«ige 218). 

393 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

I wish to describe in greater detail the remarkable 
last story in the volume. It is entitled The Hungry 
Stones^ and reveals a wonderful power of romance. A 
modern worldly man goes to dwell in a palace of marble 
where an emperor and his harem ( 'f beauties had lived 
and loved and died. He discovers every night ghost 
figures repeating their ancient tasks and loves and joys. 
" From the mouth of the fountain set in its bath 
jets of rose- scented water used to spirit upwards, 
and in this sequestered room, cooled by the 
perfumed spray, youthful Persian girls would 
rest upon the cold rocky seats decked with tine 
marble, ^nd setting their tresses loose for ablu- 
tion they would stretch their soft uncovered 
blossom-like feet in the limpid water of the 
reservoir and with sitars upon their knees sing 
the gazal songs of the vi«ejards." (Page 221). 
An Iranian slave-girl, a lierce African-Eunuch, and 
other figures flit about as in real life. He cries aloud to 
the beautiful girl : 

"O Beauty celestial, in the lap of what-creature o£ 
the desert, on the bank of what cool fountain 
under the date-palms, did you take birth ? 
What Bedouin robber tore yon away from your 
mother's breast like a flower-bud from a wild 
creeper, and rode with you upon a steed of 
electric pace and cross the burning sandy 
expanse ? The music o£ 

394 



FICTION 

the sarangi^ the clinking of the anklets, the gleam 
of the knife through the golden wine of Shiraz,. 
the smarting poison, the smiting glance !" 

(Page 235). 
He then learns that Meher AH who haunts the palace 
ruins crying " keep away, keep away ! all false, all 
false 1" had become mad after living sometime in the 
palace and moving with the passionate, beautiful, and 
impulsive ghostly figures, and then leaves the palace for 
ever where he heard 
'' Voices sweet 
Wooing him unto wild tempestuous lusts " (Ste- 
phen Phillips' The New Injerno), and felt as he 
would be whirled into a life of mad and tempes- 
tuous passion and sin. 
I shall refer here to one other novel called The Eyesore- 
translated recently in the pages of The Modern Review' 
by Surendranath Tagore. There Tagore attempts a 
longer story than usual but the traits already pointed 
out are there just as in the short tales above said, 
Mahendra and Vihari are friends and more like brothers 
than friends. Mahendra marries Asha and lives happily 
with her. His mother Rajalakshmi and his aunt 
Annapurna are devoted to him. The imperious yet 
loving nature of Rajalakshmi and the sweet, submissive,. 
and self-sacrificing nature of Annapurna are well 
delineated. Into this family comes Binodini whom 
Rajalakshmi had originally intended for Mahendra, who 

395 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Avas married to some one else afterwards, and who 

became a widow. Asha loves her fondly and gives her 

the pet name of Eyesore in sport. But slowly Binodini 

displaces Asha in Mahendra's heart. She does so at 

first out of pleasure in the realisation of the power of 

her beauty. The girls, however, continue to be good 

friends ?s unsuspicious Asha has no idea of the coming 

tragedy. They arrange a picnic and are quite merry. 

" The artless merriment of the girls seemed to 

infect and gladden the rustling leaves and waving 

blossoms, the changing lights and shadows of 

the groves, and the rippling wavelets." 

Vihari condemns Binodini's action and she slowly 
le itns to love him and his noble nature. Mahendra 
finding his life and Binodini's life intolerable at home, 
goes away with her to another house, leaving Raja- 
laksmi and Asha to grieve and pine. But Binodini in 
her new-born pure love for Vihari has had a rebirth of 
the soul, Rajalakshmi now falls very ill and is on her 
death-bed. Her, death effects a reconciliation and a 
purification. Vihari offers to marry Binodini. But she 
upborne by a lofty spirit of renunciation refuses to drag 
him down by such a marriage, and goes with Anna- 
purna to Benares to attain the joys of dispassion and 
devotion. I cannot help comparing the art of Tagore 
in this story which is a precious human document with 
that of R. C. Dutt in his Lake of Palms. Sudha in the 
iatter is finely drawn but one cannot help feeling that 

396 



FICTION 

the author has not learnt to subdue his reformer's zeal 
to his art. In Bankim Chunder Chatterjee and Tagore,. 
the artist and student of the human heart sees life 
steadily and sees it whole and makes us reahse the 
glory and the pathos of human life, Bankim Chunder 
is a great novelist of genius ; Tagore, though his great- 
est work is not in fiction, and is not as great a novelist 
as Bankim Chunder, has vitalised the short story by 
breathing into it the divine breath of poetry and given 
us '' a thing of beauty which is a joy for ever." 



397 



CHAPTER X. 

SADHANA. 

I have taken up Sadhana last as it is a noble and 
beautiful summing up of Tagore's profoundest ideas on 
life here and hereafter, and as all his other works lead 
up to it. All other works of his seem to be like beautiful 
individual notes while the Sadhana is like the sweet tune 
running through them all. In all other works the lyric 
genius, the dramatic talent, and the story-telling skill 
seem to be like so many prisms resolving the white light 
of the poet's soul into a beautiful symphony of colours, 
while in the Sadhana we have the white light in its calm 
noonday radiance. Even here the all-pervasive lyric 
mood is present like the all-embracing infinite blue sky, 
but even that mood is lit up and irradiated by the white 
light of the soul even as the sky looks bluer and more 
radiant in the enveloping white light of the day. 

The Sadhana consists of lectures delivered in America 
and again in England. Those who had the privilege of 
hearing them speak of the wonderful spell exercised by 
Tagore on his hearers, and say that much of the force 
and the charm of the addresses is lost in the book. The 
book even in its present form i*s a precious spiritual 
document to which we must turn again and again for 
consolation, inspiration, and illumination. ^ 

398 



SADHANA 

Tagore says in his preface that what he has attempt- 
ed is not a philosophical treatment but to bring his 
readers " into touch with the ancient spirit of India as 
revealed in our sacred texts and manifested in the life 
of to-day." He further points out that " all the great 
utterances of man have to be judged not by the letter 
but by the spirit — the spirit which unfolds itself with 
the growth of life in history." He says further : '' The 
meaning of the living words that come out of the 
experiences of great hearts can never be exhausted by 
any one system of logical interpretation. They have 
to be endlessly explained by the commentaries of 
individual lives, and they gain an added mystery in 
each new sevelation." 

In the Sadhana vre find the most fundamental ideas, 
aspirations, and joys of the Indian mind. I have already 
shown in the introductory chapter that Tagore has the 
most perfect insight into the Indian ideals of life and 
art, and is a perfect embodiment of the Indian type of 
culture. In the 'Sadhana we find revealed to us the 
deepest and innermost ideas of one who is a poet as 
well as a saint — who has seen and heard and enjoyed 
the panorama of life and the music of things and at the 
same time has seen in the heart the supernal beauty of 
tlie face of God. 

I shall try to give here some of the deepest and most 
beautiful ideas in the book, leaving the reader to study 
the book for himself fully and lovingly because every 

399 



SIK KABINDKANATH TAGORE 

sentence in it is precious and valuable and the book is 

a veritable mine of spiritual gold. 

At the very beginning of the book and throughout 

the work we find Tagore emphasising the difference 

between the Indian outlook on life and the Western 

outlook on life. 

" Civilisation is a kind of mould that each nation is 
busy making for itself to shape its men and women 
according to its best ideal. All its institutions^ 
its legislature, its standai'd of approbation and 
condemnation, its conscious and unconscious 
teachings tend towards that object. The modern 
civilisation of the West, by all its organised 
efforts, is trying to turn out men f)erfect in 
physical, intellectual, and moral efficiency. 
There the vast energies of the nations are 
employed in extending man's power over his 
surroundings, and people are combining and 
straining every faculty to possess and to turn to 
account all that they can lay their hands upon, 
to overcome every obstacle on their path of 
conquest. They are ever disciphning themselves 
to fight nature and other races, their armaments 
are getting more and more stupendous every 
day ; their machines, their appliances, their or- 
ganisations go on multiplying at an amazing rate. 
This is a splendid achievement, no doubt, and a 
wonderful manifestation of man's masterfulness 

400 



SADHANA 

which knows no obstacle, and which has for its 

^ object the supremacy of himself over everything 

else. The ancient civilisation of India had its 

own ideal of perfection towards which its efforts 

were directed Yet, this also was a 

sublime achievement, — it was a supreme 
manifestation of that human aspiration which 
knows no limit and which has for its object 
nothing less than the reaUsation of the Infinite." 

(Pages 13-14). 
We can well see how Tagore's ideas on this matter 
are in agreement with those of another great son of 
India in modern times — 'Swami Vivekananda. Tagore 
is thankful that both the great types have been in exist- 
ence for the better growth of man and the greater glory 
of God. He recognises how each type possesses also 
the defects of its virtues. In the West the soul of man 
is ceaselessly extending outwards and finds no rest or 
peace or rapture because of its partial vision. In India 
when India was most truly herself there was perfect vision 
but in mediaeval and modern India there was and is a 
tendency to ignore " the claims of action in the external 
universe " (see pages 125-127). Tagore pleads for the 
recognition of man as spirit who has at the same time 
to climb to Godhead through right action, right know- 
ledge, and love. He points out how man loses his true 
value where cannibalism prevails, and by elaborating that 
idea in an original and striking way, he makes us realise 

401 
26 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

that to the extent to which we lower the value of man 
and degrade his true nature and dignity, we are all 
cannibals. No more scathing condemnation of this 
cheapening of the soul which prevails in the West and 
is now beginning to prevail here also can be had than 
that which occurs in the following passage : 

'' In countries higher in the scale of civilisation we 
find sometimes man looked upon as a mere body, 
and he is bought and sold by the price of his 
flesh only. And sometimes he gets his sole value 
from being useful; he is made into a machine, and 
is traded upon by the man of money to acquire 
for him more money. Thus our lust, our greed, 
our love of comfort result in cheapening man to 

his lowest value It produces 

ugly sores in the body of civilisation, gives rise to 
its hovels and brothels, its vindictive penal codes, 
its cruel prison systems, its organised method of 
exploiting foreign races to the extent of perma- 
nently injuring them by depriving them of the 
discipline of self-government and means of self- 
defence." (Pages 108-109). 
How true this is, is well borne out by the following 
passage in B. Alderson's Andrew Carnegie. 

" The American employer looks upon his work-peo- 
ple as being literally hands; he cares little about 
their bodies, and still less about their souls." 
Mr. Carnegie himself says : 

402 



SADHANA 

•" I remember how after Vandy and I had gone 
round the world, and were walking the streets of 
Pittsburg, we decided that the Americans were 
the saddest-looking race we had ever seen. Life 
is so terribly earnest here. Ambition urges all on, 
from him who handles a spade to him who em- 
ploys thousands. We know no rest." 
J. S. Mill says: 

" It is questionable whether all the labour-saving 
machinery has yet lightened the day's labour of 
a single human being." 
Hence it is that Tagore points out: 

"Civilisation can never sustain itself upon cannibal- 
ism of any form. For that by which alone man 
is true can only be nourished by love and justice. 

(Page 112). 
Tagore points out further wherein lies the speciality 
of the Indian type of culture and civilisation. 

" The practice of realising and affirming the pre- 
sence of the infinite in all things has been its con- 
stant inspiration." (Page 66). 
The Indian sages " greeted the world with the glad 
recognition of kindred." Tagore tries to analyse what 
this was due to. He points out that while in the West 
civilisation was born in cities where each man put a 
wall between himself and his neighbour and a roof be- 
tween him and the overarching sky, in India it was born 
in the bosom of nature, — in forests. " To realise this 

403 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

'^eat harmony between man's spirit and the spirit of the 
world was the endeavour of the forest-dwelUng sages- 
of ancient India." (Page 4). 

" The West seems to take a pride in thinking that it 
is subduing nature; as if we are Hving in a hostile 
world where we have to wrest everything we 
want from an unwilling and alien arrangement oi 
things. This sentiment is the product of the city- 
wall habit and training of mind. For in the 
city life man naturally directs the concentrated 
light of his mental vision upon his own life and 
works, and this creates an artificial dissociation 
between himself and the universal nature within 
whose bosom he lies." (Page 5). 

" But in India the point of view was different; it in- 
cluded the world with the man as one great truth. 
India put all her emphasis on the harmony that 
exists between the individual and the universal . 

With meditation and service, with a 

regulation of her life, she cultivated her conscious- 
ness in such a way that everything had a spiritual 
meaning to her." (Pages 5-7). 

Tagore then proceeds to explain the Indian idea of 
places of pilgrimage and of absention from animal food. 
" Therefore India chose her places of pilgrimage 
wherever there was in nature some special gran- 
deur or beauty, so that her mind could come out 
of its world of narrow necessities and realise its 

404 



SADHANA 

place in the infinite. This was the reason why in 
India a whole people who once were meat-eaters 
gave up taking animal food to cultivate the senti- 
ment of universal sympathy for life, an event 
unique in the history of mankind." 

(Page 9). 
He ridicules and exposes the untruth of the idea that 
this realisation of the infinite meant the annihilation of 
the self. 

" In the typical thought of India it is held that the 
true deliverance of man is the deliverance from 
avidya, from ignorance. It is not in destroying 
anything that is positive ;ind real, for that can- 
not be possible, but that which is negative, 
which obstructs our vision of truth. When this 
obstruction, which is ignorance, is removed, 
then only is the eyelid drawn up which is no 
loss to the eye." (fage 72). 

I shall now deal with the chief spiritual ideas of 
Tagore in the book and then deal with a few practical 
applications of them by him to life and art. He points 
out that the mystery of life has been in no way lessen- 
'Cd by the work of science : 

" Curiously enough, there are men who lose that 
feeling of mystery, which is at the root of all de- 
lights, when they discover the uniformity of law 
among the diversity of nature. As if gravitation 
is not more of a mystery than the fall of an 

405 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

apple, as if the evolution from one scale of 
being to the other is not something which is 
even more shy of explanation than a succes- 
sion of creations. The trouble is that we verjr 
often stop at such a law as if it were the final 
end of our search, and then we find that it does 
not even begin to emancipate our spirit. It only 
gives satisfaction to our intellect, and as it does 
not appeal to our whole being it only deadens in 
us the sense of the infinite." (Pages 97-98). 

The eternal though ever-changing universe is full of 
mystery : 

"The play of life and death we see everywhere — 
this transmutation of the old into the new. The 
day comes to us every morning, naked and 
white, fresh as a flovi^er. But we know it is old. 
It is age itself. It is that very ancient day which 
took up the new-born earth in its arms, covered 
it with its white mantle of light, and sent it forth 
on its pilgrimage among the stars. Yet its feet 
are untired and its eyes undimmed. It carries- 
the golden amulet of ageless eternity, at whose 
touch all wrinkles vanish from the forehead of 
creation. In the very core of the world's heart 
stands immortal youth. Death and decay cast 
over its face momentary shadows and passion ;. 
they leave no marks of their steps — and truth 
remains fresh and young." (Page 88). 

406 



SADHANA 

The highest joy and duty of man is the realisation of 
his oneness with the infinite. This perception of the 
soul by the soul may not lead to power but leads to 
joy. 

" Thus the text of our every- day meditation is the 
Gayatriy a verse which is considered to be the 
epitome of all the Vedas. By its help we try 
to reaUse the essential unity of the world with 
the conscious soul of man ; we learn to perceive 
the unity held together by the one Eternal 
Spirit, whose power creates the earth, the sky, 
and the stars, and at the same time irradiates 
our minds with the light of a consciousness that 
moves and exists in unbroken continuity with 
the outer world." (^'age 9). 

" For a man who has realised his soul there is a 
determinate centre of the universe around which 
all else can find its proper place, and from 
thence only can he draw and enjoy the blessed- 
ness of a harmonious life." (P^ge 34). 
It is only then that the inner chaos is resolved into a 
beautiful cosmos with God as its sovereign, its vivifying 
force, and its ultimate meaning. 

" But when we find our centre in our soul by the 
power of self-restraint, by the force that har- 
monises all warring elements and unifies those 
that are apart, then all our isolated impressions 
reduce themselves to wisdom, and all our momen- 

407 



SIR KABINDRANATH TAGORE 

tary impulses of heart iind their completion in 
love ; then all the petty details of our life re- 
veal an infinite purpose, and all our thoughts and 
deeds unite themselves inseparably in an internal 
harmony." 

(Page 35). 
I shall quote one other passage here as this idea is 
the grand central idea which has inspired all other 
ideas of Tagore about life and art : 

" We seem to watch the Master in the very act of 
creation of a new world when a man's soul 
draws her heavy curtain of self aside, when her 
veil is lifted and she is face to face with her 
eternal lover. 
But what is this state ? It is Hke a morning of 
spring, varied in its life and beauty, yet one and 
entire. When a man's life rescued from dis- 
tractions finds its unity in the soul, then the con- 
sciousness of the infinite becomes at once direct 
and natural to it as the light is to the flame. All the 
conflicts and contradictions of life are reconcil- 
ed ; knowledge, love, and action are harmoniz- 
ed ; pleasure and pain become one in beauty, 
enjoyment and renunciation equal in goodness ; 
the breach between the finite and the infinite 
fills with love and overflows ; every moment 
carries its message of the eternal ; the formless 
appears to us in the form of the flower, of the 

408 



SADHANA 

fruit ; the boundless takes us up in his arms as a 
father and walks by our side as a friend." 

(Page 43). 
It follows from this central idea that just as we have 
■our physical body, so we have our social body and our 
universal body. " The emancipation of our physical 
nature is in attaining health, of our social being in 
attaining goodness, and of our self in attaining love." 

(Page 83). 
Taeore shows us also how man's impulse to realise the 
laws of the universe, his search for system, is really a 
search for unity, for synthesis, for the Infinite. 

His views as to Avidya (ignorance) and sin are a 
logical outcome of his great central idea and are full of 
convincing wisdom and golden beauty. Avidya is but 
man's spiritual sleep, the non-realisation of his oneness 
and harmony with the Infinite. ^'■Avidya is the ignorance 
that darkens our consciousness, and tends to limit it 
within the boundaries of the personal self." (Page 32). 
Sin is only the same defect from another point of view. 
Ignorance, viewed in its moral aspect, is sin. '^ For in 
sin man takes part with the finite against the infinite 
that is in him. It is the defeat of his soul by his self. 

In sin we lust after pleasures, not because 

they are truly desirable, but because the red light of 
■our passion makes them appear desirable." 

(Pages 38-39). 
From the same central idea follows also the truth of 

409 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

the supreme freedom of consciousness and its attain- 
ment of its goal by achieving union with God by service^ 
knowledge, and love,— which is preached by Sri 
Krishna in the Gita and has been taught to us by all our 
great spiritual teachers. 

" This is the noble heritage from our forefathers 
waiting to be claimed by us as our own, this 
ideal of the supreme freedom of consciousness. 
It is not merely intellectual or emotional, it has an 
ethical basis, and it must be translated into 
action. In the Upanishad, it is said, The Supreme 
Being is all-pervading^ therefore he is the innate 
good in all. (^^S'^TTqr't ^ VfTr^T^ ^JTiqr ^IT?T 1 

T^^ •)• To be truly united in knowledge, love, 
and service with all beings, and thus to realise 
one's self in the all-pervading God is the essence 
of goodness, and this is the keynote of the 
teachings of the Upanishads." (Pages 21-22). 

Tagore has done a great service in emphasising the 
need for right action to emancipate the soul from the 
tyranny of self, though I cannot agree with those who 
in their ignorance of the deepest ideas of Tagore and 
the fundamental truths of our scriptures assert that 
Tagore proclaimed action as the goal of life. He says: 
" As joy expresses itself in law, so the soul finds its 
freedom in action." Freedom in action, and not freedom 
from action, is tb-e goal. This is the Gita ideal of Nish- 

410 



SADHANA 

katna Karma in another form. " This is the Karmayogof 
of the Gita, the way to become one with the iniinite 
activity by the exercise of the activity of disinterested 
goodness." (Page 58). 

Tagore says again : 

" When man cuts down the pestilential jungle and 
makes unto himself a garden, the beauty that he 
thus sets free from its enclosure of ugliness is 
the beauty of his own soul. Without giving it 
this freedom outside, he cannot make it free 
within. When he implants law and order in the 
midst of the waywardness of society, the good 
which he sets free from the obstruction of the 
bad is the goodness of his own soul : without 
being thus made free outside it cannot find 
freedom within." (Page 121). 

"As for ourselves, it is only when we wholly 
submit to the bonds of truth, that we fully gain, 
the joy of freedom. And how ? As does the 
string that is bound to the harp. When ther 
harp is truly strung, when there is not the slightest 
laxity in the strength of the bond, then only does 
music result ; and the string transcending itself 
in its melody finds at every chord its true 
freedom." (Page 128). 

While admiring this gospel of self-consecration by 
action, I cannot but think that Tagore has erred by 
over-statement in his appeal to the Sanyasin as a mans: 

411 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

running away from the world. (Pages 129-130). Our 
sages declare that every man must begin his spiritual 
progress by service of humanity ; that the attainment of 
illumination by renunciation, knowledge, and love is an 
end in itself ; and that even after illumination the wise 
man should do his duties in a spirit of detachment 
and dispassion so that others might not be led astray 
by the wise men giving up the performance of duties. 
They declare further that in the case of the very few 
who have risen to the highest raptures of love and 
wisdom and are immersed in bliss no worldly action 
can be expected. What action do the votaries of the 
gospel of work ask them to do ? If they pass through a 
place they spread a paradise of love about them, and 
whoever is fortunate enough to breathe for a moment 
in the divine and luminous atmosphere that they carry 
about them feels a sudden conversion of the heart. A 
compassionate glance from their eyes is worth a thou- 
sand religious lectures. How few, how very few, can be 
such souls ? In the case of those who are only travellers 
on the path towards the light performance of duties is 
exacted by the sacred law, though they will do their 
duties in a spirit of detachment and dispassion and as 
an act of worship of the Lord saying and feeling Sri 

Xrishnarpanam asthu Q^l^^m^^ ^T^) — I dedicate it 
to Sri Krishna. Through law the soul rises to wisdom 
and love, and through wisdom and love it rises to the 
IBliss of the Lord. 

412 



SADHANA 

Tagore lays emphasis again and again on the gospel: 
of love above referred to. He says : '' Essentially man 
is not a slave either of himself or of the world ; but he 
is a lover. His freedom and fulfilment is in love, 
which is another name for perfect comprehension." 

(Page 15). 

What is this love? It is the joyous attainment and 
realisation of a larger self. " Our soul can realise itself 
truly only by denying itself." (Page 19). 

The object of love is recognised as our own soul. 
Tagore thus explains the meaning of a famous passage 
in the Upanishads : 

" The meaning of this is, that whomsoever we love, 
in him we find our own soul in the highest 
sense. The final truth of our existence lies in 
this. ParamaUna, the supreme soul, is in me, as 
well as in my son, and my joy in my son is the 
realisation of this truth. It has become quite a 
commonplace fact, yet it is wonderful to think 
upon, that the joys and sorrows of our loved 
ones are joys and sorrows to us — nay, they are 
more. Why so? Because in them we have grown 
larger, in them we have touched that great 
truth which comprehends the whole universe." 

(Page 29).. 

413 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

'' Therefore is love the highest bUss that man can 
attain to, for through it alone he truly knows 
that he is more than himself, and that he is at 
one with the All." (Page 28). 

What is the nature of love ? Swami Vivekananda 
•says : " The first test of love is that it knows no bar- 
gaining ; it always gives. Love takes on itself the stand 
of a giver, and never that of a taker." Tagore says : 
" Love spontaneously gives itself in endless gifts." 
(Page 107). He points out again : "Working for love 
is freedom in action. This is the meaning of the teach- 
ing of disinterested work in the Gita." (Page 78). 
We can now realise Tagore's great ideas about 
God, Nature, and Man. Nature is God expressed and 
manifested as Law. In man we have a spark of the 
divine ; and he can rise to the raptures of union with 
God through love. 

" If God assumes his role of omnipotence, then 
his creation is at an end and his power loses all 
its meaning. For power to be a power must act 
within limits. God's water must be water, his 
earth can n'sver be other than earth. The law 
that has made them earth and water is his own 
law by which he has separated the play from the 
player, for therein the joy of the player consists. 
As by the limits of law nature is separated from 
God, so it is the limits of its egoism which 
separates the self from Him Our 

414 



SADHANA 

life, like a river, strikes its banks not to find 
itself closed in by them, but to realise anew 
every moment that it has its unending opening 
towards the sea. It is as a poem that strikes its 
metre at every step not to be silenced by its rigid 
regulations, but to give expression every moment 
to the inner freedom of its harmony." 

(Pages 86-90). 
Thus creation is law as well as love. 

" Waves rise, each to its individual height, in a 
seeming attitude of unrelenting competition, but 
only up to a certain point ; and thus we know of 
the great repose of the sea to which they are all 
related, and to which they must all return in a 
rhythm which is marvellously beautiful. 
In fact, these undulations and vibrations, these 
risings and fallings, are not due to the erratic 
contortions of disparate bodies, they are a rhyth- 
mic dance. Rhythm can never be born of the 
haphazard struggle of combat. Its underlying 
principle must be unity, not opposition." 

(Pages 96-97). 
We now come to the consummation of life as under- 
stood and taught by Tagore. All the abovesaid ideas 
lead up to this great idea. Attaining God and union 
with Him are the consummation of the life of the soul. 
" It is the end of our self to seek that union. It must 
bend its head low in love and meekness and take 

415 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

its stand where great and small all meet. It has 
to gain by its loss and rise by its surrender. His 
games would be a horror to the child if he could 
not come back to his mother, and our pride of 
personality will be a curse to us if we cannot give 
it up in love. We must know that it is only the 
revelation of the InHnite which is endlessly new 
and eternally beautiful in us, and which gives 
the only meaning to our self." 

(Page 91). 
" So our daily worship oi God is not really the pro- 
cess of gradual acquisition of Him, but the daily 
process ot surrendering ourselves, removing all 
obstacles to union and extending our conscious- 
ness of Him in devotion and service, in goodness 
and in love." (Page 149). 

The above are the leading spiritual ideas in Sadhana. 
I shall refer now very brieliy to his solution of some 
great spiritual problems that have been agitating the 
mind of man from the dawn of time. His treatment of 
the problem of the freedom of the will is original and 
convincing. ^ 

" Therefore, it is the self of man which the great 
king of the universe has not shadowed with his 
throne — he has left it free. In his physical and 
mental organism, where man is related with 
nature, he has to acknowledge the rule of king, 
but in his self he is free to disown him. There 

416 



SADHANA 

our God must win his entrance. There he comes 
as a guest, not as a king, and therefore he has to 
wait till he is invited. It is the man's self from 
which God has withdrawn his commands, for 
there he comes to court our love. His armed 
force, the laws of nature, stand outside its gate, 
and only beauty, the messenger of his will, finds 
admission within its precincts." 

(Page 41). 

He says again : 
" Our will has freedom in order that it may find 
out that its true course is towards goodness and 
love. For goodness and love are infinite, and only 
in the infinite is the perfect realisation of free- 
dom possible." 

(Page 84). 
One of the discourses is devoted to the problem of evil. 
Tagore points out that pain is not an end in itself like 
joy ; that it is negative and hence transient ; and that 
through the discipline of death and pain we rise to the 
heaven of immortality and bHss. Of course this does 
not explain why pain originated in the universe. It 
may be argued that God could discipline the soul 
through happiness to bliss. Indeed, the only rational 
explanation of the problem of evil is to be found in the 
Hindu theory of Karma. But Tagore's views are quite 
true and beautiful so far as they go. He says : 

" When science collects facts to illustrate the 

417 

27 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

struggle for existence that is going on in the 
kingdom of life, it raises a picture in our minds of 
'nature red in tooth and claw.' But in these men- 
tal pictures we give a fixity to colours and forms 
which are really cTanescent. It is like calcul- 
lating the weight of the air on each square inch of 
our body to prove that it must be crushingly 
heavy for us. With every weight, however, there 
is an adjustment, and we lightly bear our burden. 
"With the struggle for existence in nature there is 
reciprocity. There is the love for children amd 
tor comrades; there is the sacrifice of self, which 
springs from love ; and this love is the positive 
element in life." (Pages 49-50). 

Tagore says of death : 

" But the truth is, death is not the ultimate reality. 
It looks black, as the sky looks blue ; but it does 
not blacken existence, just as the sky does not 
leave its stain on the wings of the bird." 

(Page 50). 

He decries pessimism as an unreal and erroneous 
mood. 

** Pessimism is a form of mental dipsomania, it dis- 
dains healthy nourishment, indulges in the strong 
drink of denunciation, and creates an artificial 
dejection which thirsts for a stronger draught." 

(Page 58). 

What is good, then, as opposed to evil ? " Good is 

418 



SADHANA 

that which is desirable for our greater self." (Page 54). 
Animals are unmoral whereas man can be immoral or 
moral. 

"To the man who Hves for an idea, for his coi^ntry, 
for the good of humanity, life has an extensive 
meaning, and to that extent pain becomes less 
important to him." (Page 56), 

Tagore then takes up the problem of self— a problem 
which is hard to solve because here the mind has to 
work on itself. Tagore is a behever in the creed that the 
human personality is distinct and separate though it 
must realise and merge in the infinite. Here we must 
wade through metaphysical depths and I forbear to do 
so because this is hardly the occasion for that task. 
Whether the ego reaches its consummation by merging 
itself in the All or whether it does so by maintaining its 
separateness and communing with the Infinite through 
love is a problem which cannot be settled by us who 
are in the position of men who standing at the base of 
the Himalayas debate which is their topmost peak. 
Tagore says : 

" It is our joy of the infinite in us that gives our joy 

in ourselves." (Page 70). 

The attainment of the infinite by the self is pictured 

by Tagore in many ways with true poetic vision. It is 

like the lamp surrendering its oil to light the flame, like 

•" the tree's surrender of the ripe fruit," like the river 

419 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

that moves, never hasting, never resting, to meet and 
mingle with the Infinite Ocean. 

I shall nov^ deal brietly with Tagore's ideas on the 
message and meaning of nature and art. They 
flow naturally out of his central ideas as to tlie truth of 
things. One great truth that he has given us is that 
though nature is full of activity and strife without, yet 
she is all silence and peace within, and that the beauty 
of nature, though it has an active aspect and is ever 
undergoing transformation, becomes a messenger of 
peace and joy to the human heart in which the elements 
of love and joy in nature remain beautiful and change- 
less for all time. 

' The colour and smell of the flower are all for some 
purpose therefore; no sooner is it fertilized by the 
bee, and the time of its fruition arrives, than it 
sheds its exquisite petals and a cruel economy 
compels it to give up its sweet perfume. It has 
no time to flaunt its finery, for it is busy beyond 

measure But when this same 

flower enters the hearts of men, its aspect of 
busy practicability is gone and it becomes the very 
emblem of leisure and repose .... A flower, 
therefore, has not its only function in nature, but 
has another great function to exercise in the 

mind of man They bring a 

love-letter to the heart written in many-coloured 
inks Outwardly nature is busy and 

420 * 



SADHANA 

restless, inwardly she is all silence and peace. 

You see her bondage only when 

you see her from without, but within her heart 
is a hmitless beauty." 

(Pages 99, 100, 101, 103). 

Similarly art is outwardly iajitative of the world of 
man and the world of nature but her soul is beauty, love, 
peace, and joy. The artist objectities his idea to realise 
its beauty and its elements of love, joy and peace. 

" The artist who has a joy in the fullness of his 
artistic idea objectities it and thus gains it more 
fully by holding it afar. It is joy which detaches 
ourselves from us, and then gives it form in 
creations of love in order to make it more per- 
fectly our own. Hence there must be this sepa- 
ration, not a separation of repulsion but a 
separation of love." 

(Page 79). 
Art is the expression of the j ay of the soul, just as 
■creation is the expression of the joy and love of God. 

WR?T^-^ ^a^^^mrf^ ^cTTR^Tiq?^, ?rr^$ t ^rrmf^ 

(From joy does spring all this creation, by joy is it 
maintained, towards joy does it progress, and into joy 
does it enter). Tagore says : 

" It is the nature of this abounding joy to realise 
itself in form which is law. The joy, which is 

421 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

without form, must create, must translate itself 
into forms. The joy of the singer is expressed 
in the form of a song, that of the poet in the 
form of a poem. Man in his role of a creator is^ 
ever creating forms, and they come out of his 
abounding joy." 

(Page 104). 

" A thing is only completely our own when it is a 

thing of joy to us." (Page 137). 

If we contemplate things for a time we realise how 

what is merely useful comes into merely temporary 

relation to us and ranishes out of the fields of memory ^ 

but beauty and joy are infinite and immortal ; and the 

few moments when we hare had a vision of true 

beauty and enjoyed true rapture shine out as stars in 

the sky of the soul. Beauty is omnipresent like joy ;. 

and ugliness results when we set our self against the 

Infinite. 

"In the same manner there is ugliness in the dis- 
torted expression of beauty in cur life and in 
our art which comes from our imperfect realisa- 
tion of Truth." 

(Pages 140-141). 

Hence we can now realise what is false iEsthetics 

and what is true zesthetics. The attempt to see beauty 

only in what is remote, infrequent, or unusual is wrong. 

" In some stage of our growth, in some period of 

our history, we try to set up a special cult of 

422 



SADHANA 

beauty, and pare it down to a narrow circuit, so 
as to make it a matter of pride for a chosen 
few." (Page 189). 

The aesthetic emancipation comes when we free our- 
selves from such narrovrness of rision, when we see the 
■nperceived joy and loYelincss in cyen common things, 
"when the apparent discords are resolved into modu- 
lations of rhythm." (Page 119). We then realise the 
rapture, repose, and radiance that are omnipresent in 
nature and in humanity, and become true artists, and 
are filled with joy, peace, lore, and beauty. 

Hence work must be the outcome of love and joy if it 
is to be of permanent value and beneficence; and the 
artist, while expressing love and joy, must obey the laws 
of art because joy expresses itself in law and Hnds full 
freedom in such expression. 

" The beauty of a poem is bound by strict laws, yet 
it transcends them. The laws are its wings, 
they do not keep it weighed down, they carry it 
to freedom. Its form is in law but its spirit is in 
beauty. Law is the first step towards freedom, 
and beauty is the complete liberation which 
stands on the pedestal of law. Beauty har- 
monises in itself the limit and the beyond, 
the law and the liberty." (Pages 98, 99). 

Similarly in the world-poem also we have to rise to 
the perception of law and then to rise yet higher into 
the realisation of love and joy. 

423 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

" In the world-poem, the discovery of the law of its 
rhythms, the measurement of its expansion and 
contraction, movement and pause, the pursuit 
of its evolution of forms and characters, are true 
achievements of the mind ; but we cannot stop 
there. It is like a railway station ; but the sta- 
tion platform is not our home. Only he has at- 
tained the final truth who knows that the whole 
world is n creation of joy." (Page 99). 

The poet must share his joy with all. 

" A poet is a true poet when he can make his 
personal idea joyful to all men, which he could 
not do if he had not a medium common to all his 
audience. This common language has its own 
law which the poet must discover and follow, 
by doing which he becomes true and attains 
poetical immortality." (Page 60). 

Tagore then shows how music is the purest form of 
art. 

" Music is the purest form of art, and therefore the 
most direct expression of beauty, with a form 
and spirit which is one and simple, and least 
encumbered with anything extraneous. . . . 
Therefore the true poets, they, who are seers 
seek to express the universe in terms of music. 
. . . . What is more, music and the musician 
are inseparable. When the singer departs, his 
singing dies with him ; it is in eternal union with 

424 



SADHANA 

the life and joy of the master. This world-song 
is never for a moment separated from its singer. 
It is not fashioned from any outward material. 
It is his joy its-ilf taking never-ending form." 

(Pages 141 to 143). 
I have dealt with Tagore's application of his great 
central ideas to art. I shall now say a few words about 
his application of tliem to life. He shows that the 
attainment of our true nature by self-sacritice and love 
is the fulfilment of life — a precious truth which, if it is 
the " master-light of our being,' will lead us to the 
lotus feet of God. 

*" Our revelatory men have always been those who 
have lived the life of self-sacrifice. The higher 
nature in man always seeks for something which 
transcends itself and yet is its deepest truth ; 
which claims all its sacrifice, yet makes this sa- 
crifice its own recompense. This is man's DAanwa, 
man's religion, and man's self is the vessel which 
is to carry this sacrifice to the altur." 

(Pages 75-76). 
Life becomes a failure and tragedy when we try to 
raise our fleeting possessions to the dignity and 
sacredness of God- head. 

" Our physical pleasures leave no margin for the 

unrealised In all our intellectual 

pleasures, the margin is broader, the limit is far 
off The tragedy of human life 

425 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

consists in our vain attempts to stretch the limits 
of things which can never become unhmited — to 
reach the Infinite by absurdly adding to the 
rungs of the ladder of the finite." 

(Pages 150-151). 
Hence love and renunciation are the deepest truths 
of the soul, and it is through love and service that we 
attain the lotus feet of God. 

" We see everywhere in the history of man that 
the spirit of renunciation is the deepest rcaUty of 

the human soul Man's abiding 

happiness is not in getting anything but in 
giving himself up to what is greater than himself, 
to ideas which are larger than his individual 
life, the idea of his country, of humanity, of God." 

(Pages 151-152). 
I shall conclude this study reverently by quoting the 
following devotional gem: — 

" O giver of thyself ! at the vision of thee as joy 
let our souls flame up to thee as the fire^ 
flow on to thee as the river, permeate 
thy being as the fragrance of the flower. 
Give us strength to love, to love fully, our 
life in its joys and sorrows, in its gains and 
losses, in its rise and fall. Let us have strength 
enough fully to see and hear thy universe, and to 
work with full vigour therein. Let us fully live 
the Hfe thou hast given us, let us bravely take 

426 



SADHANA 

and bravely give. This is our prayer to thee^ 
Let us once for all dislodge from our minds the 
feeble fancy that would make out thy joy to be 
a thing apart from action, thin, formless, and 
unsustained. Wherever the peasant tills the 
hard earth, there does thy joy gush out in the 
green of the corn, wherever roan places the 
entangled forest, smootlis the stony ground, and 
clears for himself a homestead, there does thy joy 
enfold it in orderliness and peace. 
O worker of the universe ! We would pray to thee 
to let the irresistible current of thy universal 
energy come like the impetuous south wind of 
spring, let it come rushing over the vast field of 
the life of man, let it bring the scent of many 
flowers, the murmurings of many woodlands, 
let it make sweet and vocal the lifelessness of our 
dried-up soul-life. Let our newly awakened 
powers cry out for unlimited fulfilment in leaf 
and flower and fruit." 

(Pages 133-134)„ 



427 



CHAPTER XL 

TAGOHE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

AND SPEECHES. 

I. Introductory. 

Some of Tagore's most valuable work is yet untrans- 
lated. As Mr. Rhys says : " The copy of his collected 
poems — a curious, attractive-looking large quarto, 
bound in plain crimson boards without adornment, 
printed with the cursive Bengali type in double 
columns, and published at Calcutta — serves as a very 
tantalising reminder of the amount of his verse that is 
still untranslated. It must in all contain about ten 
times as much matter as we have in the present English 
books, of which The Gardener is first in order of time." 
The Rev. Mr. C. F. Andrews wrote to me in a letter : 
■*' He has also written sermons called ' Shantiniketan ' 
containing some of his most beautiful thoughts." My 
present ignorance of the Bengali language prevents 
me from reading all the poet's untranslated works. 
One of the gentlemen in Bengal to whom I wrote for 
information about them advised me to read Bengali 
and confined his information to that advice. I had 
.already made up my mind to read Bengali for reading 
Tagore in the original if for nothing else. Another 

428 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

Bengali gentleman to whom I applied for information 
about the poet's untranslated works and for personal 
impressions of Tagore the man, referred me to 
Mr. Rhys's recent book. The main portion of my work 
had been written before Mr. Rhys's book appeared, and 
my correspondent's view that first-hand information 
about the poet's ways and views and his untranslnted 
works could be had by me from a book by a distant 
English admirer is certainly remarkable for its original- 
ity. I have resolved to learn the beautiful Bengali 
language and hence shall before long be able to enter 
into the heaven of Tagore's art by the royal road of the 
language in which his w^ork is enshrined for ever. 

I shall in this chapter refer to such of his miscella- 
neous songs, poems, essays and other prose writings, 
lectures, and letters as are available to the general 
public in English. It is gratifying to note that many 
of them have been translated and published in The 
Modern Review and elsewhere, though the task of col- 
lecting them and bringing them together has been a 
difficult one. I do not pretend to have achieved any 
degree of completeness in performing this task, and 
can only hope to perform it in a manner worthy of it 
on a future occasion. I shall also deal with the form 
and substance of Tagore's untranslated works as far as 
I have been able to get satisfactory information about 
them, leaving this task also to be done in a fitting man- 
ner on a subsequent occasion. 

42y 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

II. Tagore's Miscellaneous Songs. 
Though Tagore is not an expert musician, he has an 
instinct and genius for absolute music, and he is a 
musician by the royal prerogative of the heavenly 
harmony of his inner nature. His songs have stirred 
Bengal profoundly by their love of motherland 
and love of God, and have become a unique and 
great national asset. The highest homage is 
paid to a poet or musician when his poems or 
songs become a part of the inner wealth of all the 
people of his land and not merely the proud possession 
of a small and exclusive literary coterie. In India we 
have had many great geniuses whose very names are 
unknown and whose wonderful conquests in the realm 
of Beauty have become a national possession. The 
■great merits of Tagore's music are their popular appeal, 
their patriotism, their instinct for beauty, and their 
-devotional rapture. Tagore's songs have a unique com- 
bination of melt^dy and message and are faithful to the 
highest Hindu ideals of music. The basis of Indian 
music is the Raga which may be described as a melody- 
mould, the informing soul of the song which determines 
the particular type of beauty that the song is to have 
as its dower. Improvisation for expressing what is 
-called Manodharma (musical imagination) is allowed 
within the limits of the Raga. The words are set to 
music, and not music to words. These are the main 
points of difference between European and Indiaa 

430 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

music, because while Indian music has the abovesaid 
unique and beautiful traits, the music of Europe has not 
got them. Rasa is the soul of all art according to Hindu 
artists, and each art can be fully enjoyed only by a 
rasika (one who has a natural bent for it and a cultivated 
taste as well). This is the reason why Indian music, 
when expressed in staff notation, retains only the form 
of Indian music but misses its true glory, its perfume, 
its soul. It is a great thing that in spite of the abolition 
of artistic education in schools, the general apathy and 
imdifference in regard to matters of art, and the 
increasing love of European musical instruments and 
methods even. among the few who interest themselves in 
matters of art, the blessing of Saraswathi over this dearly 
loved land of hers continues unabated, and that great 
genuises and saints and lovers of God who have 
attained perfect self-expression through the art of music 
have been born in this land. We in Southern India 
remember with pride and joy the great names of 
Tyagayyar and Dixitar whose songs are among the 
most powerful forces making for unity, faith, and divine 
love. It is only in art and religion that the scattered 
atoms of humanity in India have found and will find 
the compulsive harmony that will make them live 
a new life and realise their unity and fall into their 
proper places in a large scheme of national regenerative 
work and become a new shining cosmos instead of a 
dead chaos which they are now. 

431 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

" When Nature underneath a heap 

Of jarring atoms lay 
And could not heave her head, 
The tuneful voice was heard from high, 

Arise, ye more than dead ! 
Then cold and hot and moist and- dry 
In order to their stations leap 

And Music's power obey." 
(Dryden's Song for St. Cecilia's Day.) 

The various atoms of Indian humanity that are now 
more than dead have been trodden under foot by many 
conquering races, and it is only after the British 
occupation that peace broods over the land like a 
descended dove. It is only now possible to hoar 
the compulsive music of art and religion and emerge 
as a cosmos into the heaven of racial greatness, 
because for many centuries past the din of battles and 
the groans of the oppresssd were so loud and ear-pierciilg 
and heart-rending that the music of art and rehgion had 
no chance of being heard. But even now we have to 
contend against battle cries of another type if we want 
to hear the divine melody of art and music in India. 
The social shibboleths j^houted from the housetops by 
a noi3y set of " friends of India" playing at achieving 
reform and unity through platform eloquence, the 
disregard of art in schools, and the increasing 
Europeanisation of our ways and tastes are even worse 
than the deafening battle cries of old. Mr. A. H. Fox- 
strangways says in his excellent book on Indian Music : 

432 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

*' If the rulers of Native States realised what a death- 
blow they were dealing at their own art by supporting 
or even allowing a brass band, if the clerk in a Govern- 
ment office understood the indignity he was putting on 
a song by buying the gramophone which grinds it out 
to him after his days' labour, if the Mahomedan ' star'- 
singer knew that the harmonium with which he accom- 
panies himself was ruining his chief asset, his musical 
ear, and if the girl who learns the pianoforte could see 
that all the progress she made was as sure a step 
towards her own denationalisation as if she crossed the 
black water and never returned — they would pause 
before they laid such sacrilegious hands on Saraswathi." 
Captain Day says: " In future years it is hoped. . . . 
that the study of the national music of the country will 
occupy, as it should, a foremost place in all Indian 
schools." Some of us live in that sweet hope — a hope, 
alas ! that does not seem near fulfilment. The Ganga of 
musical and artistic genius in the land fed with the Ufa- 
giving waters of grace coming down from the heaven- 
kissing altitudes of Bhakti has not run dry as yet. Shall 
we choke it with the dust of modern shibboleths and 
Western ways, or shall we remove the obstruction of 
snobbery and vulgarity and indifference and make it 
flow in a life-giving stream and kiss reverently the white 
robes of this Ganga of the soul come from the heaven 
of God's love to our lovely land ? 

Thus the most powerful element of emotional appeal 

433 

28 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

and fascination in Tagore's songs and lyrics consists in 
its being thoroughly personal and national while having 
those universal elements of beauty that are the bed-rock 
of widespread fame and permanence of charm. All 
genuine art is personal, suggestive, national, creative. 
Form is its beautiful body and the creative idea is its 
soul. Art is ethical not by set purpose and intention 
but because the true, the good, and the beautiful 
converge from different directions, and meet, and 
are lost in light. This is the real significance 
of the oft-quoted and entirely misunderstood saying 
that there is no morality in Art. It is a most hopeful 
sign of the times that in spite of the innumerable dis- 
couragements and obstacles that daunt the soul and 
weary the holy feet of Art, India has been given an 
artist of Tagore's supreme vision and faculty divine. 
Art in India has now to encounter the apathy born of 
poverty and ignorance, the vulgarisation and Euro- 
peanisation of taste among the rich, the increasing 
commercialism and preoccupation with politics over 
the whole universe, the bringing up of generation after 
generation of students in ignorance of the ideals and 
methods of Indian art in schools which are systematically 
mismanaged by men who have themselves been brought 
up in phenomenal ignorance of the same, the general 
ignorance of the meaning and value and beauty of 
Indian symbolism which was the pedestal on which the 
Goddess of Art stood smiling in our splendid past to 

434 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

feceive the homage of her worshippers who stood be- 
fore her presence with pure hearts and folded palms 
and praying eyes and tuneful throats, and the modern 
spirit of Puritanism and social experimentation which 
is a sworn foe of joy while full of inner defilements and 
is leading us to the verge of the bottomless pit of 
national perdition. In Tagore's songs and lyrics we 
see how the highest and best ideals of our art have 
attained perfect expression in spite of the spirit of the 
age, and they hold out to us a glad promise of the great 
future that Indian art is to have in our beloved land. 

Sir Rabindra Nath Tagore's songs are many and 
various. One of them is quoted below. 

"The more they tighten their bands, the more 
will our bands snap ; the more their eyes redden, 
the more will our eyes open. 

Now it is time for you to work and not to dream 
sweet dreams; and the more they roar, the quicker 
and better will our sleepiness be cured." 

The following is a translation of Tagore's popular 
song, "Tumi Kon Kananer Ful, Tumi Kon Gaganer 
Tara." 

" What a flower thou, in what bower born ? 
Or thou a star, dost some far heaven adorn! 
Yet I've seen thee, aye, I did, somewhere ! 
The vision of a dream though it were 1 
Meseems thou didst sing to me too, 

435 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Whilst those thine eyes mine did woo : 

But the day I cannot guess ; 

Alone in my heart's recess 

The orbs of those eyes shine ! 

O speak not, prithee, no : 

Only looking at me thy way dost go, 

And in this moonlight even flow 

Melted thyself in smiles divine. 

And' toxicate with slumber, 

My soul all sweeten'd over, 

As I gaze at the moon yonder, 

May from the skies sublime, 

Of the stars a pair, like those orbs fair. 

Pour in a stream, their serene beam, 

On me wond' ring supine." 

(Bhavendra Nath Dey's translation.) 
I shall quote here one song more. 
" O thou, who art the world's delight, 

Motherland of our ancestors 

Whose lands with solar rays are bright ! 

Thy feet the blue sea waters lave, 

Thy verdant robes the breezes wave, 
Thy brow Himalaya mount 

Crown'd with its snows of purest white. 
The day first dawns within thy skies. 
The vedic hymns first here took rise. 

Poesy, wisdom, stories, creeds 

In thy woodlands first saw the light. 

Everlasting is thy renown 

Who feed'st the world and feed'st thy own. 

The Jumna and the Ganga sweet 

Carry thy mercy day and night." 

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TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

III. Miscellaneous Poems. 

I have already shown in my review of Tagore's chief 
poems how they are instinct with the very spirit of 
poesy and show that India's soul is still hers — radiant 
puissant, unconquered. Well has Blake said; " Nations 
are destroyed and flourish in proportion as their poetry, 
painting, and music are destroyed or flourish." It is 
through the arts that we attain a wider self — the 
raptures of a higher, fuller, diviner Hfe. Tagore well 
says that literature is well called Sahitya^ " because by it 
men after overflowing the limit of their own absolute 
necessity widen their heart to be in communion with 
humanity and universal nature." A poet is not merely a 
worshipper of beauty, a lover of the true, the beautiful, 
and the good which form a unity in trinity, and a soul 
dowered with creative energy ; he is the revealer of the 
soul of his people. So long as the artist is loyal to the 
soul of his race, and his motherland, these cannot be 
utterly lost, and we can well walk with erect heads and 
elated hearts in expectation of national regeneration in 
the near future. 

Tagore's miscellaneous poems are as beautiful as his 
major poems and reveal as great qualities as these. 
Tagore's lyric endowment is at once the cause of his 
greatness and his limitations. He excels in " short 
swallow-flights of song"; but there is no great epic or 
narrative poem by him. The lyric mood is brief, sweet, 
and passionate; and hence though it can give us 

437 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

*' infinite riches in a little room," it cannot sustain a 
poet through a long poetic effort. Tagore's short 
poems are of wonderful beauty. They are found in 
many tiny volumes of verse issued by him, and some of 
them have been translated in the pages of the 
Modern Review. They display the same affluence of 
mystic emotion, the same plastic power of moulding 
language into a thing of beauty to become a fit vehicle 
for the heavenly ideas surging in the poet's heart, and 
the same vision for the spiritual affinities of things that 
his bigger volumes of verse reveal. I shall deal here 

with a few of them. 

" Thou hast come again to me in the burst of a sudden storm 
Filling my sky with the shudder of thy shadowy clouds. 
The sun is hidden, the stars are lost. 

The red line of the road is merged in the midst of the rain : 
The wail of the wind comes across the water. 
Fitful showers, like ghostly fingers, strike the chords of some 

unseen harps 

Waking up the music of the dark, 

Sweeping my heart with a shiver of sounds." 
In this we have not merely natural magic but spiritual 
suggestiveness and charm. The fairy beauty of the 
world, when rain speeds to the expectant earth through 
" the blue regions of the air," is brought home to our 
minds while we seem to hear the thunders of an inner 
storm and see the landscape of the heart blotted out of 
sight by descending showers and feel in our souls * the 
music of the dark'. Here is another lyrical gem. 

438 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

" I know that the flower one day shall blossom crowning my 

thorns, 
And my sorrow shall spread its red rose-leaves opening its 

heart to the light. 
The breeze of the south, for which the sky kept watch for 

weary days and nights. 
Shall suddenly make my heart tremulous and plunder its 

music and perfume. 

Thy love shall bloom in a moment, 

My shame shall be no more when the flower is ripe for 

offering. 
And when at the end of the night my friend comes and 

touches it with his fingers. 
It will drop at his feet and spend its petal in joy." 

Here we have natural scenery and spiritual suggestion 
of a different type altogether. The imagery of spring — 
with its wealth of bloom, its glory of light, its sweet 
perfume, and its immortal youth beneficent and bright — 
is brought before us in all its manifold charm while 
suggesting to us that the blossom of a gladness beyond 
expression shall crown the thorny plant of life, that a 
new perfume of love and service and renunciation shall 
spread from the very heart of sorrow that has learnt 
the truth of things, that the heart shall become fragrant 
with the free play of the south wind of joy, that love 
shall be born in the soul overcoming all selfishness, 
shyness, and sorrow, and that life will reach its summit 
of realisation when it touches in an ecstasy of adoration 
the lotus feet of God. I shall quote here another perfect 
poem : 

439 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

*' I know that at the dim end of some day the sun will send its 

last look upon me to bid me farewell. 

The tired wanderer will pipe on his reed the idle tunes by 

the waysidei 

The cattle will graze on the slope of the river's bank, 
The children with careless clamour will play in their court- 
yards, and birds will sing, 
But my days will come to their end. 
This is my prayer to thee that I may know before I leave 
Why the green earth raised her eyes into the light and called 

me to her arms, 

Why the silence of night spoke to me of stars, 
And daylight stirred in my life glad ripples, — 
This is my prayer to thee. 

When the time comes for me to go, 
Let all my songs cease upon their one refrain, 
And my basket be full with the fruits and flowers of all 

seasons. 

Let me see thy face in the light of this life before it dies 
And know that thou hast accepted the garland of beauty that 

was woven in my heart, 
When the time comes for me to go." 

What better and higher and holier consummation of 
life can be imagined than that the soul full of the 
accumulated wisdom and experience of many ages and 
births shall understand the meaning of things and feel 
thrilled by the mystery and wonder of the world, and 
go into the shrine of the Beloved with a glad and 
unfaltering heart and lay its garland of pure thoughts 
and feelings in adoration before God, and live in an 

440 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

•endless and perfect ecstasy of bliss ? The following 
poem is a fine poem entitled " My Heart is on Fire." 

" My heart is on fire with the flame of thy songs. 

It spreads and knows no bounds, 

It dances swinging its arms in t!ie sky, burning up the dead 

anrl the decaying. 

The silent stars watch it from across the darkness. 

The drunken winds come rushing upon it from all sides. 

O, this fire, like a red lotus, spreads its petals in the heart of 

the night." 

Several poems of Tagore have been translated in the 
•excellent chapter on '^ Poems of Rabindranath Tagore," 
in Dr. A. K. Coomarasvvamy's Art andSwadesi (published 
by Messrs. Ganesh & Co., Madras). But many of these 
have come out in the poet's own English translations 
in The Gitanjali^ The Gardener^ and The Crescent Moon. I 
shall quote below a few other poems. 

THE METAPHYSICS OF A POET. 

" Let any one who will ponder with eyelids closed, 
Whether the Universe be real, or after all an illusion : 
I meanwhile sit and gaze with insatiate eyes 
On the Universe shining with the light of Reality." 

SALVATION. 

^' Closing my eyes and ears, withdrawing my mind and 

thought, 
Turning my face away from the world. 
Shall my little soul alone cross over 
This awful sea to gain salvation at last ? 
Beside me will sail the great ship of the Universe 

441 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

The cheerful canoe of voyagers filling the air 

With spreading sails gleaming white in the sun — 

Her freight of human hearts, how beautiful ! 

For on and on she will sail 

With laughter and tears through alternate darkness and Hghtr 

Through infinite space will echo sadly 

The sound of their joys and sorrows. 

When all the Universe sails away with this cry 

What avails it for me to seek salvation alone ?" 

This beautiful message of working for the salvation 
of all is a message that Tagore enforces with the 
magical utterance of a poet and the moral fervour of a 
prophet. If we study the message of India through the 
ages, we realise how except perhaps in the case of the 
few who are become one with God and are lost in light 
and love and joy — and perhaps even in their case also 
— the search for individual salvation without working 
for the salvation of all has been proclaimed to be futile 
and unblessed with the fruit of success. Bhagawan Sri 
Krishna lays this injunction of service of humanity on 
all and refers to His own gracious self as coming among 
men not for getting anything unattained by Him but 
out of the abundance of His love and His yearning to 
serve Humanity and make it attain the heaven of His 
Love. We know a beautiful incident in the life of Sri 
Ramanuja, which shows this yearning for the salvation 
of all very well. His Guru Tirukuttiyur Nambi revealed 
to him a holy mantra under promise of secrecy as it 
was a rahasya. Ramanuja asked his Guru what would 

442 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

happen if he revealed the mantra freely to others and 
broke the law of secrecy. His Guru said that the 
person who reveals it would die though the persons 
hearing it would be saved. The heart of Sri Ramanuja 
yearned for the happiness of all mankind, and he ran to 
the top of a tower and shouted out the holy mantra to 
the crowded streets below, careless as to his fate if only 
he could save others from sin and sorrow. We have read 
in the holy life of Sri Chaitanya (Lord Gouranga), that 
when Adwaita was asked by Chaitanya to choose a boon 
he prayed that the nectar of prema (love of God) might 
be distributed to all, irrespective of creed, colour, or 
caste. When shall this heavenly ecstasy of emotion — 
emotion that is too keen, heart-filling, and quivering 
with purity, intensity, and rapture to live in a region of 
mere fruitless vague desire — redawn in our hearts slay- 
ing the darkness of our hearts with its golden arrows of 
light and waken us to a new and endless day of service 
of man and love of God ? 

Another short poem gives us a beautiful solution of 
the eternal problem of fate and free will. 

The Guide. 

" I asked of Destiny : 'Tell me 
Who with relentless hand pushes me on ? 
Destiny told me to look behind. I turned and beheld 
My own self behind pushing forward the self in front." 
Here we have a beautiful statement of the law of 
Karma — a miserably misunderstood Indian Doctrine. 

443 



SIR RABINDUANATH TAGORE 

Our self has by its acts fashioned for us our tendencies 
and our joys and sorrows. But if we have had an in- 
finite number of past lives, is not an infinity of power 
'-within us ? What can vanquish infinity except infinity ? 
Karma is not fatalism. We do not believe in any blind 
overrujjfrg force. We do not say ; 

"The moving finger writes : and having writ 
Moves on: Nor all your piety nor wit 
Can lure it back to cancel half a line, 
Nor all your tears wash out one word of it." 

We believe in Bhakti and Jnana being able to uplift 
us from the surrounding mire of low life to the heaven 
of His love, though such past actions as had begun to 
fructify in effect will like a discharged arrow expend 
themselves and bring to us their allotted load of joys 
and sorrows. But even these joys and sorrows will lose 
their poignancy of delight or agony to the true lover 
and knower of God — just as moonlight and darkness, 
though they are as far as under as earthly joy and 
earthly sorrow, are aHke overthrown and absorbed in 
the divine radiance of the sun which, like the dominat- 
ing light of love and knowledge of God, brooks no rival 
near its throne. It is only when the gracious doctrines 
of Karma, Dharma, Bhakti, and Jnana are truly under- 
stood, that man can live a worthy life and ascend from 
rapture to rapture till at last he lays his soul at the feet 
of God and lives for ever in the heaven of His love. 

In many of Tagore's poems we find a note of sadness 

444 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

which at the same time is not mere sadness, because it 
is lit by the recognition of the immortal destiny of the 
soul. His mystical sense of the unity of life and of 
divine imminence casts a halo over the ceaseless travail 
of the soul and lights up the eternal mystery of life 
and death. The following poem on Death is exquisite 
in its beauty, its suggestiveness, and its spiritual truth. 

" O Death, had'st thou been but emptiness, 
In a moment the world would have faded away. 
Thou art Beauty : the world like a child 
Rests on thy bosom for ever and ever." 
One recent poem of his, "Unity in Diversity" 
deserves to be widely read and passionately pondered 
over. 

" We are all the more one because we are many, 
For we have made ample room for love in the gap where 

we are sundered. 
Our unlikeness reveals its breadth of beauty radiant with 

one common life, 
Like mountain peaks in the morning sun." 
I shall quote here a poem of Tagore's translated by 
R. Palit. 

" Fruitless our cry 
Fruitless the rebel longing of our souls ! 
The day is dying ! 

Darkness holds th'earth and light the sky, 
While noiseless creeps behind 
With downcast eyes 
Weary eve with her mourning sigh. 
I hold thy hands in mine 

445 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

My hungry eyes 

Look deep into thine 

And seek for thee ! 

Thee ! The real thee ! 

Thy self ! Thy essence ! Thy sweetness veiled 

Behind that mortal frame ! 

In the dark depth of my eyes, 

Quiver the soul's mysterious beams, 

As th'infinite mystery of heavenly light 

Through star-set darkness tremulous gleams. 

Thus, ever I gaze. 

A quenchless thirst, like the sandy flood 

Of fierce simoon, 

Drowns my soul and being, 

in thy eyes. 

Behind thy smile. 

In thy melodious speech. 

Or in the calm peace that radiates from thee. 

Where shall I find the true, th'immortal thee ! 

1 seek and weep. 

In vain ! In vain ! 

In vain the cry, 

The mad presumptions hope ! 

Not for thee this fullest rapture, 

Holy and hidden. 

Be thine the spoken word, 

The fleeting smile, 

And love shadowed in a passing glance ; 

Let this suflice 

What hast thou ? 

Hast Infinite Love ? 

Canst meet Life's infinite want ? 

446 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

That seekest the whole human being 

In perfect complelion, 

Alone and helpless thou ! 

Canst thread thy path 

Amid the throng of worlds, 

Through ignorance and error, 

The chequered maze of light and shade, 

Or the labyrinth of daily change ? 

And lead thy chosen partner. 

Thy eternal companion, 

Through all eternity ? 

Though fearful, tired and weak, 

Bent with the weight of thy own soul, 

Darest thou seek 

The burden of another charge ? 

Not food for thy hunger 

Is the human soul ; 

Nor aught that with greedy clutch 

Thou mayst grasp and hold ! 

Wouldst thou with keen desire 

Pluck the Lily in its bloom, 

That with tender care 

From the subtlest essence 

Of Beauty, Time, and Space 

God fashioned for his own shrine, 

And universal joy. 

Be thou content, 

That for thee is its sweetest perfume ; 

That thou mayst love. 

And thy soul bathe itself pure 

In that loveliness sublime ; 

Nor stretch thy impious covetous hand. 

447 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

The breath of calm and gentle peace 
Hath stilled all sound in th'evening air. 
Cool with tears thy hot desire. 
Away ! this cry of hunger cease." 

(The Modern Review, May 1911). 

The poet teaches us in this beautiful poem that the 
beauty of the soul is the real thing of which the beauty 
of the body is but a dim reflection ; that the search for 
it is a holy and difficult task ; that unless we are pure 
and perfect we cannot realise it ; that beauty is not to 
be grasped with selfish hands quivering with the desire 
of physical possession ; that beauty is the sweetest o f 
the flowers created for the adoration of God ; that we 
must be grateful to God for giving the sunlight of beauty 
for our souls to bathe in its pure beams and become 
pure ; that we must make ourselves fit to have the 
heavenly companionship of beauty ; and that when we 
slay the lower hunger of the body, the soul will dwell in 
fulness of joy in the contemplation of beauty. 

Another poem translated by Tagore himself and 
published in the Modern Review^ November 1913, maybe 
quoted here though it is long. It consists of a number 
of small poetic gems. 

1. 

" The axe begged humbly, Oh thou mighty oak, 

Lend me only a piece of thy branch- 
Just enough to fit me with a handle." 

The handle was ready, and there was no more wasting of 

time^ 

448 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

The beggar at once commenced business, — and hit hard at the 

root, 

And there was the end of the oak. 

2 

The favourite damsel said, " Sire, that other wretched Queen 

of thine 
Is unfathomably deep in her cunning greed. 
Thou didst graciously assign her a corner of thy cowshed. 
It is only to give her chances to have milk from thy cow for 

nothing. 
The king pondered deeply and said : " I suspect thou has 

hit the real truth 
But I know not how to put a stop to this thieving." 

The favourite said : " 'Tis simple. Let me have the royal 

cow 
And I will take care that none milk her but myself." 

3 

Said the beggar's wallet, " Come, my brother purse, 
Between us two the difference is so very small. 
Let us exchange !" The purse snapped short and sharp, 
*' First let that very small difference cease !." 

4 

The highest goes hand-in-hand with the lowest. 

It is only the commonplace who walks at a distance. 

5 

The thirsty ass went to the brink of the lake 
And came back exclaiming: " Oh how dark is the water !" 
The lake smiled and said : " Every ass thinks the water 

black, 
But he who knows better knows that it is white." 

29 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

6 

Time says, "It is I who create this world." 
The clock says, "Then I am thy creator." 

7 
The flower cries loudly. " Fruit, my fruit, 
Where art thou loitering, — Oh how far!" 
" Why is such a clamour ?" The fruit says in answer, 
" I ever live in your heart taking form." 

8 

The man says, " I am strong, I do whatever I wish." 
" Oh what a shame;" says the woman with a blush. 
*' Thou art restrained at every step," says the man. 
The poet says, " That is why the woman is so beautiful." 

9 

" All my perfume goes out, I cannot keep it shut." 
Thus murmurs the flower, and beckons back its breath. 
The breeze whispers gently, "You must ever remember this — 
It is not your perfume at all which is not given out to others." 

10 
The water in the pitcher is bright and transparent ; 
But the ocean is dark and deep. 
The little truths have words that are clear ; 
The great truth is greatly obscure and silent." 

11 

A little flower blooms in the chink of a garden wall. 

She has no name or fame. 

The garden worthies disdain to give her a glance. 

The sun comes up and greets her, " How is my little beauty?" 

12 

Love comes smiling with empty hands. 

Flattery asks him, " What wealth didst thou win?" 

450 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

Love says, "I cannot show it it is in my heart." 
Flattery says, " I am practical — what I get I gather in both 

hands." 

13 
"Who will take up my work?" asks the setting sun. 
None has an answer in th« whole silent world. 
The earthen lamp says humbly from a corner, 
" I will, my lord, as best I can." 

14 
The arrow thinks to himself " I fly, I am free, 
Only the bow is motionless and fixed." 

The bow divines his mind and says, " When wilt thou know 

the truth 
That thy freedom is ever dependent on me ?" 

15 
The moon gives light to the whole creation, 
But keeps the dark spot only to herself. 

16 
" Restless ocean, what endless speech is thine?" 
" It is the question eternal," answered the sea. 
" What is there in thy stillness, thou ancient line okhills?" 
" It is the silence everlasting " came the answer. 

17 
In the morn the moon is to lose her sovereignty, 
Yet there is smile on her face when she says, 
" I wait at the edge of the western sea 
To greet the rising sun, bow low, and the depart." 

18 

The word says, " When I notice thee, Oh work, 
I am ashamed of my own little emptiness." 
The work says, " I feel how utterly poor I am ; 
I never can attain the fulness which thou hast." 

451 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

19 

If you at night shed tears for the lost daylight, 

You get not back the sun but miss all the stars instead, 

20 
I ask my destiny — what power is this 
That cruelly drives me onward without rest ? 
My destiny says, " Look round !" I turn back and see 
It is I myself that is ever pushing me from behind. 

21 
The ashes whisper, " The fire is our brother." 
The smoke curls up and says, " We are twins." 
•' I have no kinship " the firefly says, "with the flame — 
But I know I am more than a brother to him." 

22 
The night comes stealthily into the forest and loads its 

branches 
With buds and blossoms, then retires with silent steps. 

The flowers waken and cry, — " To the morning we owe our 

all." 
And the morn asserts with a noise, " yet it is doubtless true," 

The night kissed the departing day and whispered, 
" I am death, thy mother, fear me not. 
I take thee unto me only to give ftiee a new birth 
And make thee eternally fresh." 

24 
Death if thou wert the void that our fear let us imagine, 
In a moment the universe would disappear through the charm.. 
But thou art the fulfilment eternal, 
And the world ever rocks in thy arms like a child. 

25 

Death threatens, " I will take thy dear ones." 
The thief says, " Thy money is mine-" 

452 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

Fate says, " I'll take as my tribute whatever is thine own." 

The detractor says, " I'll rob you of your good name." 

The poet says, " But who is there to take my joy from me?" 

How shall I unfold the beauty and wisdom of these 
twenty-five small poems ? It will require a volume by 
itself to do this task worthily. Some of them have 
been translated by others, and we have only to set these 
translations side by side with Tagore's own translations 
to see the instinct for beauty of thought and style which 
he has in a supreme measure. I despair of doing the 
work of interpreting the above poems worthily and 
well and shall give here only a few hints. The fourth 
poem contains a great and profound truth. It is only 
arrogant human pride that sets barriers between man 
and man. But God and god-like men know no such 
barriers. Mediocrity glories in differences of rank and 
wealth and power. But to the God-like these do not 
exist at all. The sixth poem teaches us a great philo- 
sophic truth that the idea of time creating the world is 
as much an illusion as the idea of a clock creating time. 
The idea of time is purely subjective. Just as one 
aspect of the self-division of the soul is the universe, so 
another aspect of such self- division is time. Time is 
a purely subjective phenomenon. But the soul is in- 
finite and immortal. The seventh poem is full of the 
most perfect wisdom. What a fruitless clamour is the 
clamour for fruit ? The fruit is in the course of birth 
inside the flower. If the flower lives its life fully, 

453 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

taking its share of sun and rain and sending the joy of 
perfume with liberal gladness to all, the perfect fruit 
will surely come through His grace in the fulness of 
time. How shall I describe the peerless beauty of the 
eighth poem ? Only a poet can describe in perfect 
prose what the poet has truly said in perfect poetry. 
The fascination of the eternal feminine consists in its 
perfect obedience to law, its perfect harmony and at- 
tunement in relation to the laws of beauty and grace, 
its perfect homage to modesty and measure in self- 
expression, its balance and repose, its readiness to quell 
the rebellion of the will and crown Purity and Love as 
the King and Queen of the fair domain of the soul, and 
its overflowing ambrosial sea of tenderness and emo- 
tion and spiritual feeling out of which is born the 
Lakshmi of heavenly beauty. The ninth poem shows 
OS how genius finds its truest fulfilment in limitless re- 
nunciation and service. That which it gives freely and 
gladly to all is its only true and valuable possession. 
The eleventh poem shows us how the lowliest of 
human beings if he is pure and good is loved by God 
even though his arrogant brother-man despise him. 
The twelfth poem shows us how the inner affluence of 
love is superior to the outer affluence of flattery. The 
fourteenth poem shows us how our wills though they 
seem free are really dependent on God, that 
" Our wills are ours to make them thine." 
The twentieth poem shows how it is foolish to be 

454 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

thinking over and grieving for a lost past and how such 
an attitude u^ill not bring back the vanished past but 
will unfit to us to see the beauty that lies about us and 
to do our great work in life in Ihe present and for the 
future. The twenty-second poem shows us that the 
true kinship is kinship of soul. What is the use of 
us — the Indians of to-day — claiming kinship with our 
great forefathers ? We are to them what the ashes and 
the smoke are to the fire. Let us kindle the flame once 
again till it shall shine bright as gold and illuminate the 
darkness of the soul up to the very ends of the earth. 

I shall refer here to Tagore's great poem on Ahalya 
published in " The Modern Review," January, 1916. 
" Struck with the curse in midwave o£your tumul- 
tuous passion your Hfe stilled into a stone, clean, 
cool, and impassive. 
You took your sacred bath of dust, plunging deep 

into the primitive peace of the earth. 
You lay down in the dmnb immense where faded 
days drop, like dead flowers with seeds, to 
sprout again into new dawns. 
You fell the thrill of the sun's kiss with the roots of 
grass and trees that are like infant's lingers clasp- 
ing at mother's breast. 
In the night, when the tired children of dust came 
back to the dust, their rhythmic breath touched 
you with the large and placid motherUness of 
the earth. 

455 * 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Wild weeds turned round you their bonds of 

flowering intimacy. 
You were lapped by the sea of life whose ripples 
are the leaves' flutter, bees' flight, grasshoppers' 
dance, and tremor of moths' wings. 
For ages you kept your ear to the ground, counting 
the footsteps of the unseen comer, at whose 
touch silence flames into music. 
Woman, the sin has stripped you naked, the curse 
has washed you pure, you have risen into a per- 
fect life. 
The dew of that unfathomed night trembles on your 
eyelids, the mosses of ever-green years cling to 
your hjair. 
You have the wonder of new birth and the wonder 

of old time in your awakening. 
You are young as the new-born flowers and old as 
the hills." 
This wonderful poem takes our heart and soul to that 
passionate lyrical outpouring of Ahalya's heart and soul 
at Rama's holy feet in the Adhyatma Ramayana. There 
is in it further an indefinable something that makes us 
realise that Ahalya symbolises our beloved land, whose 
JalUng away from the path of purity and righteousness 
has had disastrous consequences, who though measure- 
lessly old has immortal youth in heir veins and is 
" young as the new-born flowers and old as the hills," 
who is " counting the footsteps of the unseen comer, at 

• 45G 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

whose touch silence flames into music," who is now 
rising from her sleep of ages, and who has " the wonder 
of new-birth and the wonder of old time in her awaken- 
ing." 

I shall quote here a few other precious poems by 
Tagore : 

" Beloved !. in this joyous garden of ours we shall 
ever dwell and sing songs in rapturous joy. 
Here shall our hearts thrill with the mystery of 
life. Yea, and the days and nights shall pass as 
visions of the Lord of Love, and we shall dream 
together in a languor of everlasting delight." 
[From Basanta Koomar Roy's article on Rabindra- 
nath Tagore in the " Open Court" for July 1913.] 

"But in sweet repose she smiles, for now the tender 
chords of her heart stir melodiously in the shadow 
land of dreams." 
[The poem on the Pensive Beloved quoted in the 
above]. 

"To thee, my motherland, I dedicate my body ; for 

thee I consecrate my life; for thee my eyes will 

weep; and in thy praise my muse will sing." 

I shall refer finally to the following poem of Tagore's 

on Indian Unity which is wonderful in its insight into 

the poet's function in life and its message as to our 

future duties: 

" When fate at your door is a miser the world be- 
comes blank like a bankrupt ; 

457 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

When the smile that o'er brimmed the sweet 

mouth, fades in a corner of the lips ; 
When friends close their hearts to your face, and 

hours pass in long lonely nights ; 
When the time comes to pay your debts, but your 

debtors are one and all absent ; 
Then is the season, my poet, to shut your doors 

tight with bolts and bars, 
And weave only words with words and rhymes 

with rhymes. 
When sudden you wake up one morning to find 

your fate kind to you again ; 
When the dry river-bed of your fortune fills up in 

unhoped — for showers ; 
Friends are lavishly loving and the enemies make 

truce for the moment ; 
Ruddy lips blossom in smile, black eyes pass stolen 

glances ; 
This is the season, my poet, to make a bonfire of 

of ycur verses ; 
And weave only heart with heart. 
And hand with hand." 
As Tagore points out the greatest of truths is that of 
the unity of life and " the knowledge of this is the 
highest good and the uttermost freedom." In his season 
of obscurity the poet should not lose his vision but 
realise it in songs and rhymes. But when he becomes 
a great force in life and is acclaimed on all sides, the 

458 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

full frution of his life is in helping his fellowmen to 
achieve a higher unity in love of man and love of God. 
It is interesting to know that Tagore is now com- 
posing new poems {Giia Mala) in the Gitanjali strain. 
They will be the passionate expression of the thoughts 
and emotions of a highly spiritual soul in the full- 
maturity of its powers and are sure to be a precious 
human document revealing the elements of beauty and 
holiness in life and the true and eternal relations of 
Man, Universe, and God. 

I shall close this section with the following exquisite 
stanza from " The Infinite Love" by Tagore : 
"The onrolling flood cf the love eternal 
Hath at last found its perfect final course 
All the joys and sorrows and longings of the heart, 
All the memories of the moments of ecstasy, 
All the love-lyrics of the poets of all climes and times 
Have come from the everyvi^here 
And gathered in one single love at thy feet. ' 
IV. Tagore's Dramas. 
Tagore has written many plays but only three of 
them have been translated into English. His dramas 
carry on the great dramatic tradition in India and show 
how the most potent adverse influences are unable to 
quell the soul of India and disturb the wonderful 
unity of her life. Indian plays have had as their great 
traits in the golden age of dramatic composition in 
India a large, balanced, and sane view of life, a high 
strain of romanticism, a worthy conception of woman- 

459 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

"hood, 3 wonderful fusion of the real and the ideal, a 
fine power of characterisation, and above all a deep, 
faith in a beneficent Providence and in the divine 
foundations of life. Little attempt was made at origin- 
ality of plot, because the infinite storehouse of Puranic 
stories was near at hand and open to all. The genius 
of the greatest poets was lavished on delineation of 
character till the figures of Sita, Sakuntala, Rama, 
Krishna, and other personages human and divine stand 
out before our mental gaze like living and breathing 
men and women whom we have known and loved from 
our youth. Also the life of human beings is shown as 
embosomed in the larger and more varied and radiant 
life of nature, till we begin to realise both man and 
nature as quivering with a higher and diviner radiance 
than their own. All these great qualities of classic 

Indian drama are seen in their fulness of beauty in 
Tagore's plays. 

In Tagore's drama called Prakriiirn Pratisodha 

(nature's revenge) we have the delineation of a Sanyasi 

(ascetic) who seeks to master all the secrets of life and 

nature and who learns at the end the supremacy of 

love over knowledge. In bis play entitled Valmiki-Pra- 

iiva (the genius of Valmiki) we see how faithful he is to 

the great ideals of the Hindu race. The episode of 

Valmiki's discovery of rhythmic and poetic experssion 

and the surprise and rapture that it brought to him, of 

Jiis enlightenment as to the nature and attributes of Sri 

460 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

Rama, and of the composition of Ramayana and its 
musical recitation by Kusa and Lava is one of the most 
romantic and fascinating stories in the entire range of 
literature. The play of Valmiki-Prativa was acted 
recently in the Theatre Royal. Lord Carmichael and 
Lady Carmichael were among the interested spectators. 
The play is one of the earliest works of Sir Rabindranath 
Tagore. It is a musical opera composed by him when 
he was fourteen years of age. It consists of six scenes. 
Valmiki is described as having been a robber in his 
younger days — as the chief of a band of freebooters 
and worshippers of Kali. One day his followers 
captured a young girl who had lost her way in the wood 
and took her captive to their chief to be offered as a 
sacrifice to the goddess. But the girl's beauty and 
purity and helplessness touched his heart and he set 
her free. Ever after this he was a changed man. He 
roamed over the forest in sadness. He tried to shake 
off his melancholy by joining in a chase with his fol- 
lo>wers. But the cruel sport jarred upon his new-born 
sense of pity and compassion and he turned away from 
it. One day he saw a hunter aiming at two birds sitting 
on a bough and enjoying the delight of love. A sudden 
overflowing wave of tenderness overflowed his heart, 
and his utterance became rhythmic and he gave ex- 
pression to the first Sanskrit sloka (stanza) ever uttered 
by the lips of man. He was himself astonished at the 
sweetness of the rhythm and felt as if one had suddenly 

461. 



SIR RABINDKANATH TAGORE 

seen Lakshmi rising in her matchless heavenly beauty 
above the sunlit sapphire glory of the sea. Kalidasa 
describes this scene thus in his beautiful words: 

[Whose pity (shoka) born of the sight of the cruel 
killing of the birds by the hunter became transformed 
into poesy (sloka)'}. 

We know also that another play of Tagore's — Malini 
— was acted in England by some of his Indian admirers 
and that it was widely appreciated there. I may here 
mention also his other famous plays— Chitvargada^ 
Visayan^ Achalayatan. His short story Dalia was 
dramatized as The Maharani of Arakan and produced in 
the Royal Albert Hall Theatre, London. 

I shall make here a brief reference to Tagore's musical 
play called Phalguni. The name and story of the play 
suggest that death is only rejuvenation and hint also that 
the second spring of India's greatness will come into 
shining existence very soon. It was recently staged at 
Calcutta on 2!)th January 1916 by the pupils of the Bolpur 
Brahmacharya Asram. The story is as follows. A king is 
in great distress of mind on finding that age, the enemy 
whose forces can never be defeated, has invaded him. 
He sees his first grey hair and feels that he must give 
up the world. He asks Shrutibhushan, a great holy man, 
to help him in his path of renunciation. The duties of 
his exalted position are left uncared for, and a terrible 
famine sweeps over the land. Shruthibhusan enables 

462 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

him to attain serenity and peace. Then comes the poet, 
who had been dismissed by the poet in his sorrow at 
i:he ravages of age and brings music into the land and 
work and zest in Hfe. He does so by the play of 
Phalgimi consisting of four scenes. The first scene is 
named Outburst; the second is named Search ; the third 
is named Doubt ; and the last is named Discovery. Each 
scene has a musical prelude. The Dramatis personae are 
A Band of Youths — seekers of the secret life. 
Chandrahas : — The favourite of the party who re- 
presents the charm of Hfe. 
The Leader : — The Life- Impulse. 

Dada (Elder Brother) : — The wise man of the party. 
He checks and controls and is the 
spirit of prudence. 

Baul : — The blind singer, seer of life in its truth, undis- 
tracted by eyesight. 

A ferryman, a watchman, and others. 

Heralds of Spring : Flowers, young leaves and birds 

represented by boys and girls. 

Winter and his party. 

In the musical prelude to Scene I we find a descrip- 
tion of the joy of nature. The heralds of Spring are 
abroad ; and there are songs in the rustling bamboo 
leaves, in birds' nests, and in blossoming branches. The 
bamboo sings : 

" O south wind, Oh wanderer, push me and rock me, 
Thrill me into the outbreak of new leaves. 

463 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

I stand a tiptoe, watching by the way side to be started 

by your first whisper, 

By the mustc of your footsteps, a flutter of joy running 

though my leaves, betraying my secret. 

The bird sings : 

" The sky pours light into my heart, my heart repays the 

sky in songs. 
I felt the south wind with ray notes. 

Oh blossoming Palash, the air is afire with your passion, 
You have dyed my songs red with your madness. 
Oh Sirish, you have cast your perfume-nets wide in the sky,, 
bringing up my heart into my throat. 
The blossoming Cham oak sings : 

" My shadow dances in your waves, ever flowing rivei, 
I, the blossoming champak, stand unmoved on the bank 

with my vigil of flowers. 
My movement dwells in the stillness of my depth, 
In the delicious birth of new leaves, in floods of flowers, 
In unseen urge of life towards the light ; 
Its stirring thrills the sky, and the silence of the dawn is 

moved. 
The first scene depicts a band of youths seeking 
adventure. The words of the wise man of the party- 
are unheeded by them. Then enters their leader, 
Immortal youth, and they agree to bring the Old Man, 
Winter captive, for their spring festival. In the musical 
prelude to Scene II we find Spring's heralds trying ta 
seize Winter. 
They sing : 

" We are out seeking our playmates, waking them up from 

every corner before it is morning. 



464 



TA GORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

We call them in bird-songs, beckon them in trembling 
branches, we spread our enchantment for them 

in the sky. 

You shall never escape us. Oh winter ! 
You shall find our lamp burning even in the heart of the 

darkness you seek." 
Winter sings : 

" Leave me, Oh let me go. 

I am ready to sail across the South Sea for the frozen 

shore. 

Your laughter is untimely, my friends, you weave with my 

farewell tunes your r.ong of the new arrival. 

Spring's heralds sing : 

*' Life's spies are we, lurking in all places. 
We have been waiting to rob you of your last savings of 
dead leaves, scattering them in the south winds. 
We shall bind you in flower-chains where Spiing keeps his 

captives, 
For we know you carry your jewels hidden in your gray 

rags." 

The band of youths then set forth to find the Old Man. 
They question the Ferryman about him, but he knows 
only the way and not the wayfarers. They question 
the Watchman and he says that his watch is during the 
night and that passers-by are shadows to him. They 
learn that the Old Man is seen only from behind and 
never in front. In the Musical Prelude to Scene III, 
Winter is being unmasked and his hidden life is about to 
be disclosed. The Spring's heralds sin^ : 

465 

30 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

" How grave he looks, how laughably old, 
How seriously busy with the preparations of Death ! 
But before he reaches home we will change his dress and 

his face shall change," 
A troup of young things come in and sing : 

" We shall smile and leave when our time comes, 
For we know that we throw ourselves into the arms of 

the never-ending." 

In the Scene III the young travellers are described 
as sitting tired with wavering faith in their Leader, 
who has disappeared from their sight. Then comes 
Chandrahas, the favourite of the party, with a blind 
singer to direct him in his pursuit. The singer 
can see with his soul, not having the distraction 
of eyesight. Chandrahas makes ready to enter the 
cave to capture the Old Man. The following is the 
musical prelude to Scene IV^ 

Winter is revealed as Spring. He says thus in 
answer to the queries put to him. 

" Do you own defeat at last at the hand of youth? 

Yes! 
Have you(in the end met the Old who ever grows new? 

Yes! 
Have you come out of the walls that crumble? 

Yes! 
Do you own defeat at last at the hands of the hidden life? 

Yes! 
Have you in the end met the Deathless in death! 

Yes! 

466 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

Is the Dust driven away that steals your City of the Im- 
mortal ? 

Yes!." 

Chandrahas then enters the cave and says that the 
Captive will follow soon. To the astonishment of all 
the youths, their Leader himself comes out of the cave 
and the Old Man is nowhere .... Then Spring's 
followers surround him and sing : — 

" Long have we waited for you, beloved, watching the 

road and counting days. 
And now April is a flower with joy. 
Your come as a soldier boy winning life at death's gate. 

Oh the wonder of it ! 
We listen amazed at the music of your young voice. 
Your light mantle is blown in the wind liiie the odour of 

spring blossoms. 
You have a spray of Malathi flower in your ear. 
A fire burns through the veil of your smile, — 

Oh the wonder of it ! 
And who knows where your arrows are with which you 

smile death!" 
The Wise Man comes with his last quatrain, which 
runs as follows : — 

" The sun stands at the gate of the east, his drum of victory 

sounding in the sky. 
The night bows to him with her hands on her heart and 

says, 
' I am blessed, my death is bliss! 

The darkness receives his alms of gold, filling his wallet 

and departs." 

467 



SIR| RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

They all sing : 

" Come and rejoice ! for April is awake, 
Fling yourselves into the flood of being, bursting the bond- 
age of the past.- 
Apriljis awake. 
Life's shoreless sea is heaving in the sun before you. 
All the losses are lost, and death is drowned in its waves. 
Plunge into the deep without fear with the gladness of 

April in your blood." 

Thus the play is one of'singular beauty and spiritual 
appeal. The circumstances of its production show 
how Tagore is as great a patriot and philanthropist as 
he is a poet and play-wright. It was staged for reliev- 
ing with the receipts the famine in Bankura. Tagore 
figured in it as an actor. He acted as the poet and 
then as the blind beggar. It embodies the highest 
teachings of Hindu philosophy and religion, but its 
poetic and musical perfections prevent the teaching 
from being too obtrusive. The central idea of the play 
takes our minds to the story in Tennyson's Gareth and 
Lynette where Gareth fights with the Knight of Death 
who is thus described: 

" High on a night, black horse, in night— black arms, 
With white breast-bone, and barren ribs of Death, 
And crowned with fleshless laughter,— some ten steps— 
In the half-light, — through the dim dawn— advanced 
The monster, and then paused, and spake no word." 
When Sir Gareth clove the helmet with his trusty. 
sword, what was seen ? 

468 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

" And out from this 
Issued the bright face of a blooming boy 
Fresh as a flower neiv-born." 

And thus we take leave of the play in a glad though 
•solemn mood, with a clearer vision as to the eternal 
A^erities shining throagh the shows of life and death, 
and realising the truth of truths proclaimed in a golden 
verse in the Gita. 

[He is never born and never dies. Nor was He 
created at any particular time. Nor shall He born 
a new. He is birthless and deathless, eternal and im- 
mortal, measurelessly old, and yet ever young. He is 
never slain even though the body be slain.] 

V. Tagore's Novels. 

I have shown in a previous chapter that the lyrical 
and poetic element in Tagore's genius is predominant 
in his short stories and longer novels, and that it gives 
to his stories and novels a peculiar fascination though it 
prevents his taking a place the first rank as a novelist 
•of genius. I shall refer here to a few other beautiful 
novels and stories from his pen. 

The story of Raja and Rani describes how a Queen 
viewed the King's friend with disfavour, how owing to 
;her disfavour the friend was neglected by the servants, 

469 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

how after hearing him sing and act she viewed with 
him favour while he went down in the King's favour 
proportionately, how then the servants neglected him 
owing to the King's disfavour, and how eventually he 
was dismissed by the King and had to go away. " Nor 
was this the only matter of regret to Bepin. He had 
been bound to the Rajah by the dearest and most 
sincere ties of attachment. He served him more for 
affection than for pay. He was fonder of his friend 
than of the wages he received. Even after deep cogita- 
tions, Bepin could not ascertain the cause of the Rajah's 
sudden estrangement. " 'Tis Fate ! all is Fate !" Bepin 
said to himself — and then, silently and unmurmuringly, 
he heaved a deep sigh, picked up his old guitar, put it 
up in the case, paid the last two coins in his pocket as 
a farewell Bakshish to Pute and walked out into the 
wide, wide world where he had not a soul to call his 
own." There is a considerable element of pathos and 
wisdom in this short story. 

Another short story called " The Supreme Night " is 
conceived in a high strain. Surabala and the hero of 
the story were playmates during early youth. He then: 
went away to Calcutta for his education, and full of 
dreams for the regeneration of India he refused to 
marry Surabala till his education was over. She 
was then married to Ram Lochan Ray who after- 
wards became a Government Pleader. The dreaming 
hero's father died and the hero had to take up a 

470 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

humble schoolmaster's place. Once when he went 
to Ram Lochan's house Surabala saw him through a 
window and he saw her. He is overpowered by vain 
longing and the sense of what might have been. He 
says : " I used to muse that human society is a tangled 
web of mistakes ; nobody has the sense to do the right 
thing at the right time, and when the chance is gone we 
break our hearts over vain longings." One night when 
Ram Lochan was away, the tides came rushing on the 
land. The hero ran towards Surabala's house and met 
her on " an island three yards in area" while all around 
went the roaring waters. " The night wore out, the 
tempest ceased, the flood went down ; without a word 
spoken, Surabala went back to her house, and I, too, 
returned to my shed without having uttered a word. . 
, . . . That one night, out of all the days and 
nights of my allotted span, has been the supreme glory 
of my humble existence." 

Tagore's Gora is a fairly long novel. It has grace and 
simplicity of style due to consummate art, the fascina- 
tion due to restraint and measure in expression of 
feeling, and a large humanity. Gora is born of Irish 
parents but is brought up in a Bengali family. He was 
born during the Indian mutiny, but is unaware of his 
parentage. He and his friend Benoy became passionate 
champions of the Hindu revival. Benoy comes into 
contact with a Brahmo called Pares Bhattacharya and 
his foster-children Sucharita and Satis. Cora's adoptive 

471 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

father Krishna Dayal was a friend of Pares Babu, and so 
Gora also came to know the latter and his family. Benoy 
falls in love with Lalita, a daughter of Pares, and Gora 
is attracted by Sucharita. Gora is thrown into gaol for 
supporting schoolboys in a conflict with the authorities. 
The Brahmos disapprove of Benoy's proposed marriage 
with Lalita and excommunicate Pares. Gora finally 
learns the secret of his birth, and then comes to Pares 
as a disciple. Both are free from their old shackles 
and feel that they belong to a freer India. Gora event- 
ually marries Sucharita. Those who have studied well 
the original say that it is a failure on the whole. 
Tagore's poetic genius cannot but invest the story with 
charm, especially in portions where lyric treatment is 
possible. But there is little or no movement in the 
story. Mr. K. C. Chatterji, who has written an excellent 
article on Modern Bengali Fiction in the Indian Review 
for Juy 1914, says : " Rabindra Nath's Bengali style is 
distinguished for its inimitable humour, literary grace 
and simple native dignity. His excursions in the field 
of longer romance have not been equally successful. His 
only long novel " Gora " is a failure." 

VI. Tagore's Essays on Art and Literature. 
India is famous not only for its art and poetry, but 
also for its aesthetics ; and some of the greatest poets 
and artists of India have been among the greatest 
rhetoricians and art critics of the world. Tagore 
carries on this literary tradition, and we find united 

472 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

in him vision and imagination and a keen realisation to 
the laws of poetic truth and poetic beauty. 

In his essay on The Real and the Ideal^ he brings out a 
great truth of art in his own vivid and inimitable manner. 
He describes the difference between the real and the 
ideal by first pointing out a great psychological truth. 
We see objects but the conception of beauty is an inner 
discernment ; the vibrations of ether are transformed 
into the sensation of light ; and outer incidents are 
transformed into joy and pain in the heart. This 
mysterious transformation into facts of conscious- 
ness is one of the most wonderful things in life at 
which the really scientific mind has felt puzzled and 
staggered. Tyndall says : " But the passage from the 
physics of the brain to the corresponding facts of con- 
sciousness is inconceivable as a result of mechanics. . . 
What, then, is the causal connection between the ob- 
jective and subjective, between molecular motions and 
states of consciousness ? My answer is : I do not see 
the connection, nor have I as yet seen anybody who 
does. It is no explanation to say that the objective 
and subjective effects are two sides of one and the 
same phenomenon. Why should the phenomenon 
have two sides ? This is the very core of the difficulty. 
There are plenty of molecular motions which do not 
■exhibit this twosidedness. Does water think or feel 
when it runs into frost-ferns upon a window here ? If 
-not, why should the molecular motions of the brain be 

473 



SIK RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

yoked to this mysterious companion — consciousness ? 
. . . . Amidst all our speculative uncertainty, how- 
ever, there is one practical point as clear as the day ;. 
namely, that the brightness and the usefulness of life, 
as well as its darkness and disaster, depend to a great 
extent upon our own use or abuse of this miraculous 

organ (soul) I know nothing, and never 

hope to know anything, of the steps by which the pass- 
age from molecular movements to states of conscious- 
ness is effected." Du Bois Raymond says: "What 
conceivable connection subsists between definite move- 
ments of definite atoms in my brain on the one hand, 
and on the other hand such primordial, indefinable, 
facts as these ; I feel pain and pleasure ; I experience 
a sweet taste, or smell a rose, or hear an organ, or see 
something red. . . It is absolutely and for ever in- 
conceivable that a number of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen,, 
and oxygen atoms should be otherwise than indifferent 
as to their own position and motion, past, present,, 
or future. It is utterly inconceivable how conscious- 
ness should result from their joint action." These 
acute criticisms of the mechanical theory of the uni- 
verse are the securest basis of idealism, and Tagore is 
in full agreement with them. On this basis he raises 
the fair fabric of the positive side of idealism. The 
music of the waves is beautiful ; but the inner music 
evoked by it is of an even deeper and truer reality and 
sweetness. " Only one thought seized me then — that 

474 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

this music which the great sea had struck in the inner 
chord of my soul could never be a mere echo of the 
wail of wind and the murmur of waves that I heard 
around. ... It was a distinct music and in sweet order, 
one by one, the notes of it opened out to me like the 
petals of a full-blown flower." I have already referred 
to Tagore's insight into the spiritual aspect and oneness 
of nature which this passage shows very well. It is his 
deep meditation and comtemplation that have given 
him this unique faulty. Mr. Basanta Koomar Roy says: 
" He would spend hours together watching the mystic 
flow of the Ganges or seeing the moon kiss the sacred- 
river into ripples. Here he would spend night after 
night upon the flat roof of the house, musing on the 
mystery of the star-ht universe." Tagore had this spirit 
and this insight even in his childhood. He says: "In 
the mornings, every now and then, a kind of unspeak- 
able joy, without any cause, used to overflow my heart. 
. . . . All the beauty, sweetness, and scent of this 
world, .... all these used to make me feel the 
presence of a dimly recognised being, assuming so 
many forms just to keep me company." In later life 
this joy in beauty was included and transformed in his 
spiritual rapture, and his love included humanity and 
nature as two holy manifestations of God. Tagore 
describes this transformation thus : " A singular glory 
covered the entire universe for me — bliss and beauty 
seemed to ripple all over the world Then. 

475 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

nobody and nothing whatsoever remained unwelcome to 
me. . . Even the coarse forms and features of some 
of the members of the labouring class, as they passed by 
on the street, had an inner glory for me." Tagore's view 
is that the artist must reveal to the world the beauty, 
the love, the joy, and the holiness that he realises in 
life more vividly than others by reason of his clearer 
and keener vision. The artist feels it his duty, his 
privilege, his glory to express the harmony and beauty 
discerned within. Tagore says : " We, therefore, see 
that all that the artist is anxious for, is to express this 
invisible and inexpressible within, lying in the heart of 

the visible and the tangible without The 

invisible and inner beauty of the universe is a thing of 
the heart, and the artist knows it as such. He rends 
the veil woven by habit and brings out that inner 

beauty He thus proves that no form is 

ultimate and final in the universe. All forms are sym- 
bols. If their passage to the soul be once opened, they 
remain no longer fixed but become plastic and free." 
Tagore then reveals to us the idea underlying the 
Indian view that different ragas and raginis are asso- 
ciated with different parts of the day and the night and 
with different seasons. " For instance, Bhairo is a 
ragini of the morning. But is it an imitation of the 
thousand sounds of the new awakened earth that we 
hear in the morning time ? No. The musician who 
composed it had heard with rapt soul the inner music 

476 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

of all the various sounds, — and more, of the deep and 
soundless silence of the morning and then he could say 
that his ' Bhairo' was a ragini of the morning." Tagore 
then points out that the effort and emphasis of Western 
music in trying to express emotions by the " urging 
and straining of both voice and tune" are a violation of 
the deepest laws of art. We must learn the highest 
ideas of Western music as it also is a heavenly self- 
expression of the soul of man. As Maud MacCarthy 
says : '' Now an exchange of musical ideas does not 
imply, as some think, a ' cosmopolitan art devoid of 
character,' because true national traits emerge stronger 
under the stimulus of true international communion." 
She says again: "Hence, the finest Western music, which 
is as yet unknown to India, is but another of her beau- 
tiful wondering children." As has been well said by 
her: "The arts are nature's beauties as they exist in the 
subtler human experience." We must, however, retain 
the great and unique traits of our music. Maud Mac 
Carthy well says : "Nevertheless, in spite of many unto- 
ward circumstances, it cannot die, because its roots are 
deep in the heart of the people, mingling with every 
phase of their rich imaginative natures, and with each 
cherished aspect, personal and familiar, mystic and 
transcendental, of their archaic but vital religious and 
social organism." I make bold to quote here two other 
passages from her essay on Indian Musical Education as 
they show our duty and the duty of our rulers very well. 

477 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

She says; " The art of improvisation in ragas, with its 
complex rules and arduous training, its psychic and 
physical discipline and control, may still be heard in its 
glory, amongst true Indian surroundings, where it 
wells up, bird-like but with all the added powers of 
conscious creation, of human art. This splendid herit- 
age, with its countless mythic and transcendental asso- 
ciations, is a national duty to preserve, and to 
increase from individual to multisonant perfections. 
And this can only be done by chnging to immemorial 
Indian traditions in music." [She adds in a footnote, 
traditions — not conventions: let all young artists write 
upon their hearts that tradition is a living, but conven- 
tion, a dead, thing.] She says again: "I lay this stress 
upon the advantages which are also to be gained by the 
Western nations from Indian musical education for 
Indians, because among the greatest privileges of true 
education, and tests of its worth, is that which is within 
the reach of every Indian by birth, if not always by merit 
— the privilege of teaching, after he has pondered the 
-wisdom of his sacred land." We must learn to revere 
our professional musicians, and then our reverence will 
react on their lives so that they will lead Hves worthy 
of their art. If we wait to revere till they lead worthy 
lives, we may wait for ever. The decadence of India 
began when art and religion lost their old comradeship 
and went diverse ways, and when the man of mere 
wealth or intellect began to despise the man of art 

478 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

and forced him down into the hell created by his own 
irreverence and contempt. Art by itself is a pure and 
uplifting thing and would purify and uplift the artist 
but for our superciliousness and the terrible gravitational 
force of the world of contempt that we in our imagined 
superiority — thoroughly unjustified by our masked sins 
draped in the lace garments of hypocrisy — feel for him. 
If we restore our ancient Sankirtan parties and are not 
ashamed of our love of God but exult and glory in it 
and in the musical expression of it, Indian art will 
flourish as before and we shall lead better lives. 
In a recent speech at Lahore Tagore pleaded for the 
introduction of music in the curriculum of every Indian 
University. In modern India people of light and 
leading are the products of a wrong system that 
has no place for art in its scheme of education, and 
this has reacted on art and led to its decadence. Yet 
what chance is there of this in modern India ? I have 
been led into these melancholy reflections outside my 
present scope, because of my deep and passionate love 
of the Indian ideals of the life of art and the art of life. 
Tagore has sought to reintroduce beauty into life and 
life into beauty by the recently started " Bichitra 
Hall" to which I have referred already. Tagore 
■expresses the very soul of music when he says : 
"We express sorrow by shedding tears, and joy by 
laughing, and what can be more natural ? But if in the 
singing of a sorrowful song, the singer imitates weeping 

479 



SIK KABINDRANATH TAGORE 

and in a song of jubilance, laughter, how grossly he 
insults the goddess of music, the hner sense of music. 
In fact, the power of music is at its best when the tear 
trembling in the eye is not allowed to be shed, and the 
laughter ringing within the heart is not allowed to 
break out. Then, indeed, through our human tears and 
laughter, our consciousness stretehes out to the infinite, 
and in our songs of joys and sorrows, even the trees 
and the fountains and rivers join their voices and find 
their deepest expression. Then, indeed we realise the 
efflux of our soul as the joyous sport of the ocean of 
the Universal Heart." Tagore shows how even the 
most imitative of all arts— the histrionic art — has the 
expression of the inexpressible as its highest crown. 
Though actors interpret by gesture and voice yet they 
will achieve their best effects by self-control. Tagore's 
closing observations deserve being read and re-read and 
pondered over: '• Inasmuch as art restrains 'reality,' 
it lets in truth, which is greater than 'reality.' The pro- 
fessional artist is a mere witness to 'reality', while the 
real artist is a witness to truth. We see the produc- 
tions of the one with our corporeal eyes, and of the 
other with the deeper eye of contemplation. And to 
see anything in contemplation requires, first and fore- 
most, that the obsession of the senses be curbed strongly 
and this declaration be made to all outward forms that 
they are never ultimate or final, never an end but 
always means to an end." 

480 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

In his essay on The Stage, Tagore points out that 
each art is seen in all her glory only when she is sole 
mistress. He says : " A sort of artistic pageant may no 
doubt be got up with a mixture of word and tune and 
picture, but that would be common or market Art, not 
of the Royal Variety." The art of drama, though 
it takes help from acting, scenery, music, and other 
accessories, does not depend on such aid for its highest 
appeal. " Like the true wife who wants none other 
than her husband, the true poem, dramatic or otherwise, 
wants none other than the understanding mind. We 
all act to ourselves "as we read a play, and the play 
which cannot be sufficiently interpreted by such in- 
visible acting has never yet gained the laurel for its 
author." The actor also must assert his individuality 
and should not become the slave of the scene-painter. 
He says : " That is why I like the J^alra plays of our 
country. There is not so much of a gulf separating the 
stage from the audience. The business of interpreta- 
tion and enjoyment is carried out by both in hearty co- 
operation, and the spirit of the play, which is the real 
thing, is showered from player to spectator and from 
spectator to player in a very carnival of delight. When 
the flower-girl is gathering her flowers on the empty 
stage, how would the importation of artificial flowers 
help the situation ? Must not the flowers blossom at 
her every motion ? If not, why need an artist play the 
flower-girl at all, why not have stocks and stones for 

481 
31 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

spectators ?." He well points out : "If the poet who 
created Sakunlala had to think of bringing concrete 
scenes on his stage, then at the very outset he would 
liave had to stop the chariot from pursuing the flying 
deer." Tagore then says: " The European wants his 

truth concrete In the Orient, pomp 

and ceremony, play and rejoicing, are all easy and 
simple. It is because we serve our feasts on plantain 
leaves that it becomes possible to attain the real object 
of a feast — to invite the whole world to a little home ; 
this true end could never have been gained had the 

means been too complex and extravagant If 

the Hindu spectator has not been too far infected with 
the greed for realism, and the Hindu artist still has 
any respect for his craft and his skill, the best thing 
they can do for themselves, is to regain their freedom 
by making a clean sweep of the costly rubbish that has 
accumulated round about and is clogging the stage." 

In Indians Epic Tagore tells us that there are two 
kinds of poetry. One kind expresses the eternal feelings 
of Humanity through the medium of the poet's personal 
joys and sorrows and fancies and experiences. The 
other expresses " the feelings and experiences of an 
entire country or age and make them the eternal pro- 
perty of Man." In Kalidasa's poems we see his skill 
and genius. Ramayana and the Mahabharata^ however, 
seem to be India's own, the poet being hidden by the 
poem. The whole of India is expressed in them. They 

482 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

contain "the eternal history of India/' Tagore says : 
*' The history of what has been the object of India's 
devoted endevour, India's adoration, and India's 
resolve, is seated on the throne of eternity in the palace 
•of these two vast epics." Rama is the ideal man, and 
Valmiki has set up in his work the supreme ideal for 
men. In the Ramayana the tie of moral law and the 
'bond of domestic affection have been lifted to a trans- 
icendent height. This shows in what high regard the 
grihastha life has been held in India and how the house- 
holder's life " held the whole fabric of society together 
and developed the true manhood of the people." 
Tagore says : " The household was the foundation of 
the Aryan Society of India ; and the Ramayan is the 
epic of that household." The Ramayana is our book 
'Of ethics, our romance, our scripture. " In the Rama- 
yana's simple annshtup rhythm the heart of India has 
been beating for thousands of years." The world needs 
both the Western and the Eastern tyjies of art. Tagore 
well says : " The Ramayan is ever showing us a picture 
of those ancients who thirsted for the nectar of the 
Fully the Undivided. If we can preserve our simple 
reverence and hearty homage for the brotherliness, 
love of truth, wifely devotion, servant's loyalty depicted 
in its pages, then the pare breeze of the Great Outer 
Ocean will make its way through the windows of our 
.factory-home." 

I have already referred in a previous chapter to 

483 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Tagore's beautiful essays on Kalidasa : The Moralist and* 
Sakuntala : Us Inner Meaning, Tagore shows us that it 
is wrong to regard Kalidasa the poet of mere aesthetic, 
enjoyment ; and that in him, as in Vyasa and Valmiki,. 
we find the shrine of renunciation set as the object of 
adoration in the very palace of sense-delights. He points 
out how a European poet would have closed the 
Sakuntala with the agony of the king on recovering the- 
lost ring and the Kumarasamhhava with the grief and' 
shame of Parvathi " at the failure of her assault on 
Siva's heart." He deprecates the artistic ideal that: 
turns away from married love and seeks to glorify the 
cyclonic love that bears away two souls on its tem- 
pestuous wings whatever unhappiness they leave behind. . 
Kalidasa describes the morning radiance of love but: 
reserves best resources of his art for the love " stripped- 
of all the external robes of beauty and circled with the 
pure white halo of goodness." "He shows Cupid van- 
guished and burnt to ashes, and in Cupid's place he makes 
triumphant a power that has no decoration, no helper, — 
a power thin with austerities, darkened by sorrow." 
Tagore says again: — " The wild love which forgets every 
thing except the loved one, succeeds in rousing against 
itself all the laws of the universe. Therefore, such love 
speedily becomes intolerable ; it is ' borne down by its 
opposition to the rest of the world.' . . . Physical 
charm is not the highest glory or supreme beauty in a 
"woman Submission to spiritual beauty is. 

484 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

no defeat, it is a voluntary offering of self." Again he 
says : " The highest rank among our women is that 
of the matron. Child-birth is a holy sacrament in our 
country." I shall quote again a beautiful sentence 
quoted already in a preceding chapter. "This ancient 
poet ot India refuses to acknowledge passion as the 
supreme glory of love ; he proclaims goodness as the 
final goal of love." The above passages are all from 
Tagore's essay on Kalidasa : The Moralist. In the essay 
on Sakunlala : Its Inner Meanings Tagore enforces the 
same lessons. He says : " In Goethe's words, Sakunlala 
blends together the young year's blossoms and the 
fruits of its maturity ; it combines heaven and earth in 

• one Goethe says expressly that Sakunlala 

contains the history of a development, — the develop- 
ment of flower into fruit, of earth into heaven, of 
matter into spirit." Sakunlala e\ev2Ltes " love from the 
sphere of physical beauty to the eternal heaven of 
moral beauty." Sakuntala — a fair forest-maiden — had 
no armour against Cupid. But in spite of her secret 
marriage and too ready surrender she retains her innate 
chastity. Later on spiritual self-discipline makes her a 
[perfect woman. " With matchless art Kalidas has 
placed his heroine on the meeting-point of action and 
calmness, of Nature and Law, of river and ocean, as it 
were." '' Sakuntala's simplicity is natural, that of 

Miranda is unnatural Sakuntala's simplicity 

'was not girt round by ignorance, as was the case with 

485 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

Miranda Miranda's simplicity was never 

subjected to such a fiery ordeal ; it never clashed with- 
knowledge of the world." " In this drama Kahdas has- 
extinguished the volcanic fire of tumultuous passion by 
means of the tears of the penitent heart." Dushyanta is 
purified by remorse, and hence Sakuntala, equally puri- 
fied, becomes the queen of his soul instead of being- 
one of the beauties of the harem " Truly 

in Sakuntala there is one Paradise lost and another 
Paradise regained." 
VII. Tagore's Essays on History, Politics, and 

Sociology. 
Tagore's mesasge on historical, political, and socio* 
logical matters is worthy of our serious study. He is not 
a regular historian, or politician, or student of sociology. 
His deepest interests lie elsewhere. But a man en- 
dowed with genius, with vision, and with love, living in* 
this scientific and historical age and during times of 
unrest and transition in India and yearning for the birth 
of a higher national life in this sacred land, cannot help 
thinking deeply on matters of vital importance to our 
national welfare and progress. The views of such a 
man are entitled to the deepest reverence because his 
innate purity of vision, his burning love, and his 
synthetic genius will enable him to realise the deeper 
movements of the soul of the nation and give us valu-^ 
able ideas as to the work to be done for the regenera- 
tion of our beloved land. 

486 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

I have dealt with Tagore's ideas on these matters 
at some length when dealing with his Sadhana. 
Indeed his central ideas are detailed in the first chapter 
of that wonderful book. In his essay on The Philosophy 
of Indian History^ he points out that the history of 
dynasties and battles that we learn is not the true 
history of India and that " we shall fail to see the true 
India if we look at her through this blood-red shifting 
scene of dreamland." He says : " But to a foreign 
traveller this storm is the most noticeable affair, every- 
thing else is hidden from him by the clouds of dust, 
because he is not within our house but outside it. Hence 
it is that the histories of India written by foreigners tell 
us only of this dust, this storm, and not of our home.''* 
Again he says : " But there was a real India in those 
days, just as there were foreign countries. For if it 
were not so, who gave birth to Kabir and Nanak, 
Chaitanya and Tukaram, amidst all this tumult ?" Our 
boys learn the wrong kind of history. When shall our 
great historian of India arise who shall reveal the soul 
of India as manifested in her history ? Tagore says : 
" Indian history has concealed the true India. The 
narrative of our history from the invasion of Mahmud 
of Ghazni to Lord Curzon's outbursts of imperialistic 
pride, is only a variegated mist so far as India is con- 
cerned. It does not help us to realise our true country, 

it only veils our gaze This history has, as 

it were, slipped the true holy book of India within a 

487 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

■volume of the marvellous Arabian Nights Tales. Our 
boys learn by rote every Hne of this Arabian Nights^ but 
none opens the sacred volume of India's inner history. 
Later, in the night of cataclysm, when the Mughal 
Empire was in its death gasp, the vultures assembled 
from afar in (he funeral heath, began their mutual 
squabble, deception, and intrigue. Can we call that the 
history of India ? In the next page we have the British 
administration regularly divided into periods of five 
years each, like the squares of a chess-board. Here 
the true India grows even smaller. Nay, more, the 
India of this period differs from a chess-board in this 
that while the ordinary chequers are alternately black 
and white, on this historical chess-board fully fifteen 
parts out of sixteen are coloured white. It is as if we 
were bartering away our food-stuffs for good govern- 
ment, good justice, good education, in some gigantic 
Whiteaway Laidlaw and Co.'s firm, while all other 
shops were closed. In this huge administrative work- 
shop everything from justice to commerce may be 
*' good'; but our India occupies only an insignificant cor- 
ner of its clerical department." Tagore gives us another 
great and valuable idea: "We must, at the outset, discard 
the false notion that history must be cast in the same 
mould in all countries One who has read the life of 
Rothschild will, on coming to the life of Christ, call for 
His account books and office diary, and if these are not 
forthcoming he will turn up his nose and say, " A 

488 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

■biography forsooth ! of a man who was not worth a pen- 
ny in the world !" Similarly, most critics, when they fail 
to get from India's political archives any genealogical 
tree or despatches of battle, despair of being able to 
construct India's history_ and complain, ' How could a 
country have a history when it had no politics ?' The 
present teaching of Indian history is a disgrace to 
modern culture. 'J'agore says : "The method in which 
we are taught from our childhood dissociates us every 
day from our country, till at last we cherish a feeling of 
repulsion from her." It is, however, impossible to quell 
the national spirit. " Like the life that animates our 
body, this national spirit is a manifest reality and yet 
inexpressible in terms and concepts. ... Its mar- 
vellous power moulds us secretly, keeps up the con- 
tinuity between our past and present ; — it is the link 
that ties us together in a community and prevents us 
from becoming unconnected atoms." Tagore says that 
we can realise and define the Mission of India. "We see 
that throughout the ages India's only endeavour has 
been to establish harmony amidst differences, to incline 
various roads to the same goal, to make us realise the 
one in the midst of the many with an undoubting inner 
conviction ; not to do away with outer differences, and 
yet to attain to the deeper oneness that underlies all such 
differences. It is quite natural for India to realise this 
inner harmony and to try to spread it to the uttermost. 
This spirit has in all ages made her indifferent to 

489 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

political greatness, because the root of such greatness is 
discord. Unless we keenly feel foreign nations to be ab- 
solutely alien to us, we cannot regard extension of em- 
pire as the supreme end of our life." Thus Tagore's 
burning nationalism never soured his love for other 
nations and races in the world. He believes in univer-^ 
sal unity amidst national diversity — diversity, not 
hatred. He has realised that "above all nations is 
humanity " and teaches that national variations are 
necessary for the harmonious development of the uni- 
verse. This greatest of India's national singers thinks, 
that " as the mission of the rose lies in the unfoldment 
of the petals which implies distinctness, so the rose oi 
humanity is perfect only when the diverse races and 
the nations have evolved their perfected distinct 
characteristics, but all attached to the stem of human- 
ity by the bond of love." In his speech at the banquet 
given in his honour in England he said: " I have 
learned that, though our tongues are different and our 
habits are dissimilar, at the bottom our hearts are one : 
The monsoon clouds, generated in the banks of the Nile, 
fertilize the far distant shores of the Ganges ; ideas- 
may have to cross from East to Western shores to find 
a welcome in men's hearts and fulfil their promise. 
East is east and west is west — God forbid that it. 
should be otherwise — but the twain must meet in amity, 
peace and mutual understanding ; their meeting will 
be all the more fruitful because of their differences ; 

490 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

it must lead both to holy wedlock before the 
common altar of humanity." Tagore then proceeds- 
to point out the great social idea underlying the 
Indian ordering of society. " The union that European 
civilisation has sought is based upon conflict, while the 
union adopted by India is founded on reconciliation. 
The real element of conflict lying hidden in the politi- 
cal union of a European nation can, no doubt, keep 
that nation apart from other nations, but it cannot 

create harmony among its own members 

It is not the case in Europe that all classes do their 
respective legitimate functions and thus by their collec- 
tive efforts maintain the social organisation. On the 
contrary, they are mutually antagonistic ; every class is 
always on the alert to prevent others from growing 

stronger Thus the social harmony 

is destroyed and the State is driven to make law after 
law to hold together, somehow or other, all these 
discordant elements of society. Such a result is inevit- 
able, because if you sow conflict you must reap conflict^ 
never mind how luxuriant and many-leaved your plant 
may look. India has tried to reconcile things that are 

naturally alien to each other She set 

limits to and fenced off all the rival conflicting forces of 
society and thus made the social organism one and capa- 
ble of doing its complex functions She 

has ever been building, out of diverse materials, the 
foundations of that civilisation of harmony which is the 

491 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

highest type of human civilisation This 

 estabHshment of harmony and order is manifest not 
only in our social structure hut also in our religious 
system. The attempt of the Gita to perfectly reconcile 
Knowledge, Faith, and Deed, is peculiarly Indian. The 
word ' Religion ' as used by Europe cannot be trans- 
lated into any Indian tongue, because the spirit of India 
opposes any analysis of Dharma into its intellectual 
components. Our Dharma is totality, — the totality of 
our reasoned convictions, our beliefs and our practices, 
this world and the next, all summed together. India 
has not split up her Dharma by setting apart one side 

j of it for practical and the other for ormamental purposes. 

Dharma in India is religion for the 

■whole oi society, — its roots reach deep underground, 

 but its top touches the heavens ; and India has not 
contemplated the top apart from the root, — she has 
looked on religion as embracing earth and heaven 

( -alike, overspreading the ivholeMiQ of man, like a gigantic 
banyan tree. Indian history proves this fact that in the 
civilised world India stands forth as the example of 

"i how the many can be harmonised into One. To realise 
the One in the universe and also in our own inner 

I nature, to set up that One amidst diversity, to discover 

' it by means of knowledge, to establish it by means of 

. action, to perceive it by means of love, and to preach 

it by means of conduct, — this is the work that India 

.has been doing in spite of many obstacles and calamities, 

4'J2 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

in ill-success and good fortune alike. When our his- 
torical studies will make us realise this eternal Spirit 
of India, then and then only will the severance between 
our past and our present cease to be." I have quoted 
the above-said long passages, because of their perfect 
insight into the very heart of Indian socialand religious 
ideals and their perfect beauty of style. Tagore, however, 
seems to have wavered between this view and the view 
that caste is an evil. In his letter to Mr. Myron 
H. Phelps of America published in the Modern Review 
for August 1910 and February 1911, he says : '' It (the 
caste system) has largely contributed to the freedom 
from narrowness and intolerance which distinguishes 
the Hindu religion and has enabled races with widely 
different culture and even antagonistic social and 
religious usages and ideals to settle down peaceably 
side by side — a phenomenon which cannot fail to 
astonish Europeans, who, with comparatively less jar- 
ring elements, have struggled for ages to establish peace 
and harmony among themselves. But this very absence 
of struggle, developing into a ready acquiescence in 
any position assigned by the social system, has crushed 
individual manhood, and has accustomed us for 
centuries not only to submit to every form of domina- 
tion, but sometimes actually to venerate the power 
that holds us down. The assignment of the business of 
Government, almost entirely to the mihtary class, reacted 
upon the whole social organism by permanently 

493 



. SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

excluding the rest of the people from all political co- 
operation, so that now it is hardly surprising to find the 
almost entire absence of any feeling of common interest, 
any sense of national responsibility, in the general 
consciousness of a people of whom as a whole it has 
seldom been any part of their pride, their honour, their 
dharma^ to take thought or stand up for their country. 

The regeneration of the Indian people, 

to my mind, directly and perhaps solely depends upon 
the removal of this condition." In a recent article by 
Tagore on The Appeal of Christ to India, published in the 
January issue of The Quest for 1916, he says : "We in 
■India have been led by the spirit of exclusion which is 
inherent in our society. We have drawn lines as to 
"where we shall eat and where not and have thus erect- 
ed ring-fences throughout our world. . . . Even 
against those whom God has sent to distribute food to 
the world we have enforced the restrictions of caste. 
Thus we have long entertained such an altitude of ill- 
will towards Jesus Christ. . . . Who else has 
glorified man in every way as he has done ?" While 
as an estimate of Christ's Ufe and work the article is 
excellent, it errs by overstatement in its condemnation 
of the caste system. The non-acceptance of Christ- 
ianity in^ India is due not to lack of love for 
Christ but to our religion including and transcending 
his holy religion. It seems to me that a good deal 
of misapprehension as to its aims and ideals and 

494 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

'methods is the cause of attacks on the caste system. 
The widely-prevalent system of village autonomy and 
local self-government, the incident in the Ramayana 
about the king taking his people into his confidence and 
•consulting them as to the choosing of the yiivaraja^ 
and the duties of kings and subjects as laid down in 
the Niii Sastras, show that the institution of caste is no 
hindrance by itself to a healthy political life springing 
up or flourishing in the Hindu polity. The caste 
system as it now obtains is as much a foe of religion as 
it is a foe of light and love and progress. But the caste 
system as conceived by the master-minds of old never 
clashed with the expansion of the Hindu race, or its 
political growth, or its military greatness. We can well 
learn this fact if we study to any purpose the great and 
impressive history of Hindu colonisation, or the politi- 
cal institutions of ancient and mediaeval India, or the 
course of military conquest by Raghu and other great 
heroic chiefs of our race. The ideal of caste was to 
secure harmonyj co-operation, efficiency, and orderly 
lives by each caste performing its great duties of life in 
a spirit of detachment and as an act of worship of God. 
Sir Henry Cotton says : " The system of caste far from 
being the source of all troubles which can be traced in 
Hindu society, has rendered most important service in 
the past, and still continues to sustain order and 
solidarity." Dr. A. K. Coomaraswami says: "What 
I do suggest is that the Hindus grasped more firmly 

495 



SIR RABINDKANATH TAGOKE 

than others the fundamental meaning and purpose of 
life and more dehberately than others organised society 
with a view to the attainment of the fruits of Ufe ; and 
this organisation was designed not for the advantage 
of a single class but, to use a modern formula, to take 
from each according to this capacity and to give tO' 
each according to his needs. Even with its imperfec- 
tions Hindu society as it survives will appear to many 
to be superior to any form of social organization 
attained on a large scale anywhere else, and infinitely 
superior to the social order which we know as modern 
civilisation." Hindu society was so ordered as to be a 
garden full of beautiful blossoms of souls — with diverse 
colour and fragrance yet all fit for worship at the lotus 
feet of God, — a garden which was the expression of a 
beautiful and divine plan and scheme of life. There is 
no doubt whatever that the great features of the true 
system of caste which is intimately bound up with our 
religion can be preserved while the great political 
institutions and ideals of the West are being built into 
our civilisation, till we shall present to the world a type 
as beautiful and rare and noble as the great type that 
existed in the past of India, and in which order and 
progress, social love and social efficiency, statical and 
dynamic elements, harmony and energy, peace and 
power, will be combined till our beloved land becomes 
the pattern for all other lands and the wonder and 
glory of the world. ,:^ ^^^_^ ^^^ \ 

496 \ 



TAGOKE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

I shall point out here briefly that Tagore's views on 
woman's place in society are worthy of our serious 
consideration. He says in his article on Woman's Lot in 
East and West : " Women are the centripetal force o£ 

society I think this destruction of social 

harmony is the reason why women in Europe are 

striving for equal rights with men Well,. 

we are quite happy with our household goddesses, and. 
they too have never told us that they are very unhappy. 

Europe, your happiness lies outside, 

our happiness dwells inside the home ; how then can we 

make you realise that we are happy With- 

us love is the supreme need." Tagore's abiding 
reverence for womanhood is as vital an element of 
his genius as his love of nature and his passion of love 
for God. He said recently to a gathering of students 
that after the loss of his mother, he, — being the young- 
est in the family— was most tenderly looked after by 
his sisters and other ladies of the household ; and that 
"this gave him ample opportunity of watching and 
adoring the divine qualities of womanhood — the un- 
fathomable tenderness, the never-tiring patience, and 
the absolute self-effacement." The following summary 
of his views that appeared in December 1915 in the 
Indian Patriot speaks for itself : " The poet deprecated 
the modern tendency which found expression in some 
extreme movements in the West — concerning woman's 
rights. Talk as much as you like of woman's equality 

497 
32 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

•with man, — a woman's nature was constitutionally 
different from a man's, not merely accidental variations 
that were doomed to disappear, but there were 
pronounced differences designed and decreed by 
Heaven to be handed down everlastingly. In the 
pursuit of ideals — in the struggle for existence — in the 
engrossment of work, a man forgets his immediate 
environment — he is incapable of looking at individuals — 
he dashes onward. But the infinite patience for going 
into details — the eager looking after —cannot be denied, 
that cannot be dispensed with, nay, they are the very 
pulse and throb of life. Sir Rabindranath thought it 
was not desirable to have this difference removed and 
he hoped that the high ideal of a true woman would 
never be lost sight of." Tagore shows in the article 
above referred to how the Hindu widow is unlike the 
European old maid but is a centre of love and happiness^ 
—attached to her relations, loving her husband's memory^ 
pure, and pious. Our women receive practical education 
in the home and are trained to be good, loving, pious, 
serviceable, and courteous. We must give proper edu- 
cation through the medium of vernaculars and Sanskrit 
to our women but not so as to make them turn away 
from the path trodden by Sita and Savitri. If our social 
agitators will ponder over these wise words of Tagore, 
all Indians can yet join together and work for the 
regeneration of true womanhood in our beloved land. 
Tagore's essays on " My Interpretation of Indian 

498 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

"History," which I have referred to already in a previous 
chapter, contain some of his maturest and most valu- 
able ideas. He points out that " through all the 
operations of the universe there runs the alternations 
of inhaling and exhaUng, closing and shutting, sleeping 
and M^aking ;— an eternal rhythmic beat is going on 
with its alternate swell and cadence, first inwards, then 
outwards." In the rhythm of human nature, however, 
there is not the same perfect harmony, though there is 
a quest for it. The struggles of the Aryans with others 
led to unity among themselves. Then began, Tagore 
says, the great enterprise of the fusion of the Aryans 
and the Non- Aryans. I must, however, point out that 
Tagore repeats an ordinary mistake when he says that 
the brahna-vidya was pecuharly a Kshatriya science. 
Many of the seers of the Upanishads were Brahmins,and 
the Rig Veda itself proclaims the unity of God. Tagore 
misunderstands the term Raja-vidya. It does not mean 
the lore of the kingly caste but the king of all vidyas. 
Nor is it right to say that *' Bhrigu spurning at the 
bosom of Vishnu" epitomises the history of a conflict 
between Brahmmism and the new religion of lov^e. 
These are utterly fanciful and baseless theories 
invented and flaunted before the public gaze to support 
pet social and historical theories. It is equally absurd 
to draw any inference from the fact that Vishnu 
incarnated as Kshatriyas during his avatar a as Rama 
.and Krishna. These declared that they reverenced 

499 



SIR RABIN DRANATH TAGORE 

the true Brahmins and came to maintain* 
Varnashrama Dharma. Further, it is said that the- 
Kalki Avatara is to be in a Brahmin family. It is 
a wrong method to take up single facts or phrases and 
then build a big castle of theory upon such a slender 
foundation. For the sake of supporting such a pet 
theory or winning a worthless victory in a vain 
argument, we twist and torture facts and talk learnedly 
about interpolations and allegorical meanings. Tagore 
then takes us to the Buddhistic era. " Amidst the 
Buddhistic flood the Brahman caste alone in Aryan 
society could keep itself intact, because the Brahmans 
in all ages had been the guardians of the individuality 

of the Aryan race By that time the Kshat- 

riyas had become almost entirely submerged in the 
common people."' Tagore then shows to us the reasser- 
tion and '' restoration of our racial individuality and 
our own institutions and ideals, from out the wide- 
spread social dissolution of the Buddhistic age;" 
Tagore then describes Sri Krishna's gracious message 
as revealed in the Gita. He says : " The ultimate 
truth in all Indian history is the synthesis of know- 
ledge, action, and faith" The Gita shows 

how every aspect of human activity is completed and 
perfected when it is joined to the Vast, the Complete, 
the Universal." He says again : " The characteristics 
of the Shiva-cult are bareness of ornament and stern- 
ness ; its peace and passion alike are attuned to the 

500 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

spirit of destruction. It represents the monism of the 
-Aryan civilisation, it tends to absorption into One ; it 
(follows the path of negation ; its decoration consists in 
renunciation, its abode is the charnel-house. The 
•essence of Vaishnavism is the play of love, beauty, and 
youth ; — it represents the dualism of Aryan civilisa- 
tion," Tagore then sajj^ that the Brahmin reassertion 
iin the post-Buddhistic age was characterised by the 
assimilation of non-Aryans on a basis of inferior status 
for them. Here again we are in the region of fanciful 
theories. We must ever remember the following 
golden ideas in Tagore's great essay : "India always 
seeks for the One amidst Many ; her endeavour is to 
concentrate the diverse and the scattered in One, and 
not to diffuse herself over Many. . . . Not to fight 
against the accumulated rubbish of ages, to let matters 
drift, is to court death. . . . The strength of a race 
is limited. If we nourish the ignoble, we are bound 
'to starve the noble. . . . Thus placed between two 
contending forces, we shall mark out the middle path 
of truth in our national hfe ; we shall realise that only 
through the development of racial individuality can we 
truly attain to universality, and only in the light of the 
spirit of universality can we perfect individuality ; we 
shall know of a verity that it is idle mendicancy to 
discard our own and beg for the foreign, and at the same 
:time we shall feel that it is extreme abjectness of 
ipoverty to dwarf ourselves by rejecting the foreign." 

501 



\ 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

I shall now take up Tagore's article on The Rise and' 
Fall of Sikh Power. He points out there that Sivajii 
began with the clear ideal of a Hindu Empire while the 
Sikhs began as a religious sect which became a political' 
force owing to Mughal oppression. When the Mughal! 
Empire became weak the Sikhs thirsted after expansion! 
and domination. Tagore well says : *' So long as our 
enemies are strong, the instinct of self-preservation, 
remains intense within us and the sense of a common' 
danger keeps us firmly knit together. When that ex- 
ternal pressure is removed, what force is there to keep 
in check the intoxication of victory ?" He says again : 
" He who unites men by force succeeds in so doing; 
only by weakening others. Nay, worse still, he gains- \^v 
his end only by overpowering and crippling the eternal ^ 
root principle of true union, namely, love.'' The success 
of Ranjit Singh made the Sikhs feel that Might is Right. 
*' The Sikhs flashed through the sky of history with? 
meteoric splendour and then sank down for ever." The- 
follovving passage is full of the truest wisdom : "In. 
this way men sacrifice their highest good for the sake 
of a temporary need, of which history records many ex- 
amples ; and even now this short-sighted greed makes 
all societies offer human sacrifice, i.e , destroy true and! 
full manhood. The blood-thirsty demon to whom we 
offer such sacrifice assumes different names — such as. 
Society, State, Religion, or some fascinating catchword 
of the time, — when it plies its task of destruction."^' 

502 



TAGORES MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

Tagore teaches us a valuable le- son as to why the efforts- 
of the Sikhs and the Marathas ended in failure. He- 
says : '' My answer is, — an idea which wishes to com- 
prehend the whole country cannot achieve success if it 
is taken up by one great man or a few great men only. 

India's history has repeatedly shown that 

forces origin a te'h ere but are not carried on continuously.. 

The cause is our mutual separation." 

Here again Tagore's perception of the evils of caste as- 
they are, leads him to attack the Hindu institution of 
caste. But we must never forget his warning : " So long, 
as the perception of Oneness does not find scope of 
work in the religious consciousness of the community,, 
so long as a unifying force, vivified for ever by some 
noble idea, does not drive the society from all sides^ 
within and without, to the goal of union, even so long 
can no pressure from outside, no heroism of any in- 
dividual genius, make such a society firmly knit and 
instinct with life and sensibility." 

We now come to Tagore's essay on The Impact of 
Europe on India. India's peculiar isolation and natural 
resources enabled her to perfect her social order and 
devote herself to the task of fathoming the unfathom- 
able. ''The human soul is limitless like the material 
universe. It is sheer scepticism to say that those who 
had explored that undiscovered inner world did not 
gain any truth or new bliss." But our seclusion and 
social peace and spiritual effort were not to be left 

503 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

oandisturbed. '' Just then through some loophole the 
ever-restless human stream poured into our country 
and tore up our social order, it mingled the new with 
our old, doubt with our belief, discontent with our pre- 
vailing content, and thereby threw all into confusion." 
Tagore exposes with inimitable sarcasm our supineness 
and the restless and often unpurposive energy of the 
West. 

We now come to the great essay on the Future of 
India. I have purposely arranged Tagore's essays in 
such a way as to present a panoramic view so that we 
•draw great lessons from a great presentation of the 
whole of our history in its true inwardness. The 
following message of Tagore is as true as it is noble : 
•" Whatever is best, whatever is fullest, whatever is the 
supreme truth, that is for all ; and that is ever trying to 
assert itself through every conflict and opposition. In 
proportion as we try to advance that with all our will, 
in that proportion only will our efforts succeed. The 
attempt to secure one's own triumph, either as an in- 
dividual or as a part of a nation, has no abiding influence 
on the divine order of things. The banner of Grecian 
conquest, under Alexander's guidance, failed to bring 
the whole earth under one sceptre. The failure dashd 
to the ground Grecian ambition, but that ambition has 
no bearing on the world to-day. The Roman universal 
empire in the course of its building was split up and 
scattered over Europe by collision with the Barbarians. 

504 



TAGOKE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITLXGS 

Kome's ambition was unrealised, but who in the world 
will mourn the loss to-day? Greece and Rome have 
loaded the reaped harvest of their achievement in the 
Golden Boat of Time, but they themselves have not got 
any seat for ever in that boat, and Time is no loser by 
this fact, only it has been spared a useless burden. The 
final purpose of the history that is being built up in 
India is not that the Hindus or any other race will pre- 
dominate here. Indian history has no less an object 
than this, — that here the history of man will attain to a 
special fulfilment and give an unprecedented form to 
its perfection, and make that perfection the property 
of all mankind. If in modelling the image of this 
perfection, the Hindu, MusHm or Englishman utterly 
removes all trace of his own existing individual features, 
'he may thereby no doubt destroy his national pride, 
but neither truth nor goodness will suffer. We are 
here to build up the Greater Indian The significance 
of the advent of the British civilisation into India is 
thus beautifully described. " Recently the English 
have come from the West and occupied a chief place in 
Indian History. This event is not uncalled for nor 
accidental. India would have been shorn of its fullness 
if it had missed contact with the West. The lamp of 
Europe is still burning. We must kindle our old 
extinguished lamp at that flame and start again on the 
road of Time. . . . We must fulfil the purpose of 
•our connection with the English. This is our task 

505 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

to-day in the building up of Great India." Tagore then) 
points out "how the highest intellects of our country ia 
the modern age have spent their lives at the task of 
reconciling the West to the East." He well says : *' In 
whatever quarter of the globe a great man has removed 
the barrier to Truth, or taken off the chains of inertia 
and set free the fettered powers of man, he is truly our 
own, each of us is truly blessed by him." Tagore makes 
us realise why Bengali literature has attained supreme 
heights of achievement in recent times. He says : 
" That Bengali literature has so rapidly grown is only 
because it has torn off all those artificial bands which 
prevented it from uniting with the world's literature." 
He says further : "Thus we see from every side that 
the truly great men of modern India, the inspirers of 
the new age, have such an innate liberality of mental, 
constitution that in their lives neither the East nor the 
West is opposed and repressed, but both attain to frui- 
tion together. Our educated men now-a-days think that. 
the attempt of the various races in India to unite pro- 
ceeds from a desire to gain political strength. But by so 
thinking we make what is large subordinate to what is 
small. The union of all races in India is higher than 
all other aims, because it is the only means of attaining 

to the fullness of humanity Our efforts at 

union will succeed only if we look at this movement 
for union from the religious point of view." Tagore 
then analyses the new-born national spirit and says : 

506 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

"We once went abegging to Europe, foolishly, inertly. 
. . . A manner of acquisition which is humiliating 
to us cannot be a suroce of gain to us. From this cause 
it is that for sometime past we have rebelled against 
Western education and influence. A new-born self-res- 
pect has pushed us back from Europe towards our own 
country. In obedience to the will of great Time, this 
necessary self-respect arose in us." He says again : 
" Good government and good laws alone are not the 
highest benefits to mankind. Office, court, law, rule, — 
those things do not constitute man. Man wants man, 
and if he gets that, he is ready to put up with many 
sorrows and many wants." Tagore then teaches a 
wholesome lesson to both Englishmen and Indians alike. 
He says : "We cannot acquire with ease whatever 
is greatest, whatever is best in the English ; 

we must win them Those of us who 

present themselves at the court of the English 
with folded palms and lowered head, in search of title, 
honour, or post, only draw out the Englishman's 
meaner elements ; they corrupt the manner of England's 
expression of herself in India. ... So long as we, 
out of personal or collective ignorance, cannot treat our 
countrymen properly like men, so long as our landlords 
regard their tenants as a mere part of their property, 
so long as the strong in our country will consider it 
the eternal law to trample on the weak, the higher 
castes will despise the lower as worse than beasts, — 

507 



SIR RABINDKANATH TAGORE 

•even SO long we cannot claim gentlemanly treatment 
from the English as a matter of right, even so long 
we shall fail to truly waken the English character, 
even so long will India continue to be defrauded of her 
due and humiliated." This lesson of sturdy self-respect 
is enforced very well by Tagore's outspoken and 
eloquent article on Indian Sindenls and Western Teachers 
published in the April issue of the Modern Review for 
19J6. What will be the golden goal if India is true to 
herself ? "Then in India province will join province, 
race will join race, knowledge will be linked with 
knowledge, endeavour with endeavour ; then the 
present chapter of Indian history will end, and she will 
emerge in the larger history of the world." (Tagore's 
article on The Future of India.) 

VIII. Tagore as a Public Speaker. 

Those who have heard Tagore's public addresses 
say that he is an orator of genius. His face and features 
which are full of distinction and attractiveness contri- 
bute to his fascination as an orator. Mr. Basanta 
Koomar Roy says : " The Hindu poet's flowing hair, 
his broad, unfurrowed forehead, his bright, black, 
magnetic eyes, chiselled nose, firm but gentle chin, 
delicate sensitive hands, his sweet voice, pleasant smile, 
keen sense of humour, and his innate refinement, make 
him a man of rare and charming personality." Tagore's 
• astonishing versatility has enabled him to be great as a 

508 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

poet, play-wright, philosopher, prose- writer, philan-- 
throphist, peadagogue, publicist, and patriot ; he is a 
profound student of history ; he has edited four 
different magazines, Sadhana, Bangadarsan, Bharaii^ and, 
Tattwahodhini ; and he is a great orator. He owes all 
these great traits to his deep and passionate love of his 
motherland and of God. Almost always he speaks 
before Bengali audiences in his own mother-tongue, 
though his English style has won the admiration of 
Englishmen of culture in England. Whenever a lecture 
by him is announced people assemble by thousands to 
come into touch with his wonderful perfonality and 
hear the words of love and wisdom that fall from his 
lips. I have already referred to his beautiful religious 
address collected under the name of Shaniiniketan. In 
them we see how his soul is full of love of God and 
how he has realised that the universe is the manifesta- 
tion of God's love. He makes us feel vividly and 
intensely the glory and loveliness of nature and lifts 
our hearts to the raptures of Divine love. Mr. Yeats 
says : " When I tried to find anything Western which 
might compare with the works of Mr. Tagore, I 
thought of "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas 
a Kempis. It is like, yet between the work of the two 
men there is a whole world of difference. Thomas a 
Kempis was obsessed by the thought of sin ; he wrote 
in terrible imagery. " Mr. Tagore has as little thought 
of sin as a child pi i ying with a top." In a recent address 

509 



SIR KABINDRANATH TAGORli 

on Ananda Mohan Bose, Tagore laid great stress on the 
profound spirituality of the life of Ananda Mohan Bose 
and showed that the secret of his greatness of achieve- 
ment lay in his passion of love and service. He said in 
a recent presidential address on Raja Ram Mohan Roy : 
" Ram Mohan came to this lifeless country, like a foun- 
tain in the desert, with his message of salvation, his 
green verdure of life. We would fain shut our doors 
against him if we could, but he forces his way in. All 
round us we see our lives fed by the water of his 
life-stream. Because we are enjoying the fruit we are 
apt to forget and deny the roots which sucked the 
nourishing juice and fed it. Ram Mohan came to us 
with the glad tidings of the freedom of the soul ; but 
we want outward freedom, to be acquired by the know- 
ledge of material science in imitation of the West ; but 
that is impossible ; until and unless we are free in soul, 
the centre of all life and power, we can never be free." 

IX. Tagore as a Letter- Writer. 

Tagore's letters are full of beauty and charm and 
give us a fascinating revelation of his poetic and 
saintly personality. They will be a great inner asset 
when they are published in a collected form. I shall 
refer here to only one letter that Tagore wrote to 
our great and self-sacriticing patriot, Mr. Gandhi. 
He refers there to the struggle in South Africa 
as the " steep ascent of manhood, not through 

510 



I 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

the bloody path of violence but that of dignified pa- 
tience and heroic self-renunciation." He says further : 
"The power our fellow countrymen have shown in 
standing firm for their cause under severest trials, 
fighting unarmed against fearful odds, has given us 
a firmer faith in the strength of the God that can defy 
suffering and defeats at the hands of physical supre- 
macy, that can make its gains of its losses." 

I shall quote here finally extracts from a very 
valuable letter by him to Mr. Frederick Bose, who 
wrote to Tagore asking what methods were adopted 
by him to unfold the mental and spiritual faculties 
of his pupils. Tagore said : " To give spiritual culture 
to our boys was my principal object in starting my 
school in Bolpur. Fortunately, in India, we have the 
model before us in the tradition of our ancient forest 
schools .... Having this ideal of a school in 
my mind, which should be a home and a temple in one, 
where teaching should be a part of a worshipful life, I 
selected this spot away from all distractions of town, 
hallowed with the memory of a pious life whose days 
were passed here in communion with God . . The 
first help that our boys get hereon this path is from the 
cultivation of love of nature and sympathy with all 
living creatures. Music is of very great assistance to 
them, the song, being not of the ordinary hymn-type, 
dry and didactic, but as full of lyric joy as the author 
could put in them. You can understand how these 

511 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

s©«gs affect the boys when you know that singing, 
them is the best enjoyment they choose for themselves 
in their leisure time, in the evenings when the moon is 
up, in the rainy days when their classes are closed. 
Mornings and evenings, fifteen minutes' time is given 
to them to sit in an open space, composing their minds 
for worship. We never watch them and ask questions, 
about what they think in those times, but leave it 
entirely to themselves, to the spirit of the place and the 
time, and the suggestion of the practice itself. We rely 
more upon the sub-conscious influence of Nature, of the 
associations of the place, and the daily life of worship 
that we live than on any conscious effort to teach them." 
It is needless to comment upon the greatness and 
practicality of this ideal and this method. In most of 
the schools of the ordinary type we have no moral and 
spiritual education at all ; and in the microscopic 
minority of schools where the door is partly and 
tremblingly opened to the rays of divine light as if they 
were a menace to be counteracted and kept out, we 
have ponderous lifeless text-books in learned language 
on incomprehensible themes. Our great Viceroy, Lord 
Hardinge, said in his address on the occasion of laying 
the foundation stone of the Hindu University, which,, 
located in the holy city of Benares with its immemorial 
traditions of learning and godliness, is looked up to by 
the whole of India as the inaugurator of a new era in 
our national life : " Indeed the whole Indian idea o£ 

512 



TAGORE'S MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS 

education is wrapped up in the conception of a group 
of pupils surrounding their Guru in loving reverence, 
and not only imbibing the words of wisdom that fall 
from his lips, but also looking up to him for guidance 
in religion and morality and moulding their characters 

in accordance with his precept and example 

The object of an educational system must be to draw \ 
out from every man and woman the very best that is in 
them, so that their talent may be developed to their 
fullest caipacity, not only for their individual fulfilment 
of themselves, but also for the benefit of the society of 
which they find themselves members . . . Though 
something may be done by mental and moral discipline, 
and something by the precept and example of Profes- 
sors, these are but shifting sands upon which to build 
character without the foundation of religious teaching 
and the steadying influence of a religious atmosphere." 
When shall we lay these valuable words to heart and 
see that young India is disciplined in schools of the 
type of Tagore's school at Bolpur ? Tagore has further 
insisted on the need for imparting education in the 
vernaculars. He has stated that he does not find it 
possible to compose exquisite poems in English 
directly. He said recently : " We feel that we are not 
in our own element as our own tongue is not the 
medium of instruction. In order to uplift the country,, 
education must be spread more liberally and in order 
to render it more popular, it must be made cheaper and 

513 

33 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

•easy of attainment. I cannot conceive why the door-Lof 
higher education should be shut against those who 
were not so fortunate or opulent as to acquire the 
English language." Thus he has given to us the great 
ideals of free and compulsory education, making higher 
education cheap and widespread, education on national 
lines, education through the medium of vernaculars, 
artistic education, and moral and spiritual education, and 
tie has striven all his life to realise these great ideals on 
which the future greatness of our race depends. The 
education of youths on the footing of their having a 
unity of personality and by trying to appeal to intellect, 
emotion, will, imagination, and soul at the same time is 
his noble ideal and has been achieved by him at Bolpur. 
In his recently published brilliant article on Indian 
Students and Western Professors^ which adorns the pages 
of the Modern Review for April 1915 he pleads for 
greater sympathy in dealing with Indian students and 
makes us realise how the Indian students of to-day have 
patriotism and self-respect and form a fine type of man- 
hood and must be educated in a spirit of fraternity and 
love. I have thus referred in conclusion, to this aspect 
of Tagore's work because it is in my opinion the very 
greatest of his many and manifold services to our 
beloved motherland, which is to us the light of our eyes 
and the idol of our hearts. 



514 



CHAPTER XII. 

, CONCLUSION. 

Our great and sympathetic Viceroy Lord Hard- 
inge, when he presided at the lecture by the Rev. 
C. F. Andrews on Tagore, said that the sovereignty of 
Tagore had already passed far beyond the bounds of 
Bengal and had reached to Western as well as Eastern 
shores, that he admired the large humanity of the poet 
whose affections, interests, and emotions were as 
large as humanity itself, and that he rejoiced to honour 
a poet whose sympathies were so deep and wide and 
whose poetry was so true to nature and profound in 
spirit. This is an estimate as true as it is felicitous in 
expression. The poet's dower of vision and imagina- 
tion and love and sympathy is unique ; and his affluence 
of genius has a deep spiritual origin. It is in the study 
and interpretation of a mind like that of Tagore— so 
rich, so original, so pure, so perfect, so spiritual, and yet 
so practical — that we realise the truth of Emerson's 
wise and beautiful words : " Those who are capable of 
humanity, of justice, of love, of aspiration, stand already 
on a platform that commands the sciences and arts, 

speech and poetry, action, and grace The 

heart which abandons itself to the supreme mind finds 

535 



SIR KABINDRANATH TAGORE 

itself related to all its works, and will travel a royaK 

road to particular knowledges and powers 

Genius is religious. It is a larger imbibing of the- 
^ommon heart." 

Tagore ! thy land of ancient hallowed fame, — 
Our well-beloved mother, thine and mine, — 
That, like the Goddess Uma who though born 
With heavenly beauty on the snow-clad slopes 
Of Himalaya great has blessed this land— 
From East to West and North to farthest South 
To where the smiling seas dance round the Cape — 
With her immortal presence fair and sweet, 
Does o'er our myriad forms of life and thought 
The light of her eternal radiance shed 
Till in that splendour bright they lose their gloom 
And shine (or e'er and e'er, is proud of thee. 
Thou in the silence of thy pure true heart, 
Amid the din of tonguesters leading men 
They know not where and tramp of battling hosts 
That tight and kill and burn they know not why, 
Hast he.-^rd the ageless music chanted sweet 
By India's sages who by Ganga's stream- 
That with the flutter of her mantle white 
Does speed in joy to give the two-fold gift 
Of gold of corn and brighter gold of grace- 
Did hear the beating of the heart of things 
And saw the beauty of the face of God : 
The words that Rama uttered when he bore 
His loving sire's behest upon his head 
( As royal crown far brighter than the crown 

That lay neglected at his holy feet, 

516 



CONCLUSION 

And lit the light of truth and virtue pure 
Dispersing inner gloom : the heavenly flute 
Of Krishna which did kiss his gracious lips 
And gazed on Him with seven insatiate eyes : 
The sweet Sankirtans which Chaitanya sang, 
Which flowed from him in an ambrosial flood 
Deluging parched-up tracts of soul with prem : — 
And hence in thy sweet verses full of grace 
We hear such mingled harmonies as thrill 

-■Our hearts with joys of golden memories 
Beyond expression sweet. Thy song is both. 

-A recollection and a prophecy. 
The fragrance of the coming happy spring 
That o'er our well-beloved land shall dawn 
With wealth of flovsrers of love and song and deed 

tPerfumes thy verse. The yearning for the day 
When our sweet land with crown of highest hills 

..Now sceptreless shall hold love's sceptre bright 
And be the Queen of all the world— a thought 
Which almost is an intense agony 
But for the joy of working for the goal — 
Has been thy ruling thought and dearest dream. 
The gracious coming of a singer dowered 
With gifts of golden speech and song to charm 
The souls of men — a holy happening 
O'er which the angels keep high holiday — 
God grants as rare and radiant royal boon 
To righteous races worthy of. His grace. 
'Tis only next in sweet uplifting power 
To His most gracious coming unto earth 
To take His birth among the sons of men, 
And dower them with His grace. 

517 



SIR RABIN DRANATH TAGORE 

O poet-saint ! 
Thou hast thy wondrous talents used full well. 
Thy work is no art-palace decked with flowers 
Of speech and fragments fragile fleeting fair 
Of song's bright rainbow shining in the cloud 
Of fancied grief of love : Nor prison-cell 
Where human.powers shut out from light of love 
And from the sight of sky of God's sweet grace 
And shining flowers of earth's most varied joys — 
Are chained and doomed to hopeless toil while Fate 
Doth hold the lash with bitter mocking lips : 
Nor some vast charnel-house where lie 
The mouldering tombs that mark the milion graves 
Of human triumphs, inventions, arts, and deeds 
That were immortal deemed while over all 
The desolating breath of darkness dire 
Doth sweep : but is a shining temple built 
With love and godward thoughts ?nd service true 
To brother-men, wherein we pass beneath 
The soaring dome of song that lifts our thoughts 
To Heaven, through wondrous portals high and bright: 
Of Fancy, to the sacred altar fair 
Where God has His beloved chosen seat, 
With flowers of purest thoughts and acts of love 
Around His lotus feet, while dream around 
Thought's golden lamps with joy's unwavering flame, 
And from the censers of adoring hearts 
Love's heavenly fragrance spreads o'er all the world. 

1 have with gladness read thy " Crescent Moon 
From whose pure orb a shaft of light did come 
Within my inner gloom and lit it bright : 
Thy " Gardener " that lets us pass in joy 

518 



CONCLUSION 

Within the heavenly bower where sits in light 
The maiden of our dreams with loving heart 
And bright expectant eyes : Gitattjalt 
That shows how o'er the solemn evening 
Of consummated life a holy calm 
Doth brood while from the Heaven descend in liglif 
God's angels fair to lead us to His throne. 
I sat with thy sweet Amal when he looked 
Through life's large window at the world beyond 
And when he went to sleep with angel-touch 
Upon his brow : I stood — one half of me 
As bride's-maid fair and half as bridegroom's friend- 
When sweet Sudarshana in chamber dark 
Did meet her heart's true king : And then in light 
Beneath the shining skies and by the hearth 
I saw thy Chitra — house-wife, comrade, queen, 
And goddess crowning with her thrilling kiss 
And sceptr'ing with her love her Arjuna. 
I read thy wondrous tales that show the light 
Of love in humblest huts and god-like hearts 
In poorest folks : I read thy " Sadhana " — 
That ladder leading unto love of God 
With golden rungs of action, faith, and thought : 
Thy holy songs so full of love of God 
And of our land, the Goddess of our hearts. 
Have thrilled my inmost being : O poet-saint 
The white-robed holy Ganga of thy song 
And verse and rhythmic prose has made me pure 
And overflowed my heart's most poor domain 
That in its aridness unfruitful lay 
Till now it smiles with sweet full-blossomed flowers 
Of love which with His grace may yet become 

519 



SIR RABINDRANATH TAGORE 

True golden fruitage for my country's joy. 

Accept this homage of my grateful heart, 
O poet-saint : God grant thou livest long 
To lead our land to lofty heights of love 
And thought and service till she shine again 
With radiance bright and lead all sister realms 
In love unto the lotus feet of God. 



520 





BIBLIOGRAPHY. 




I. TAGORE'S BENGALI WORKS 


1. 

2. 


Achalayatan. 
Adhunik Sahitya. 


3. 


Alochana. , 


4. 


Baikunther Katha. 


5. 


Bau-thakuranir Hat. 


•6. 


Bhakta Bani. 


7. 


Bhanusinher Padabali. 


8. 


Bichitra Prabandha. 


9. 


Bidaya. 


10. 
11. 
12. 


Bisarjan. 

Byanga-Kantuk. 

Chaitali. 


13. 
14. 


Chayanika. 
Chha6i Gan. 


15. 


Chhinna-Patra. 


16. 


Chhutir Para. 


17. 


Chitra. 


18. 


Chitrangada. 


19. 


Chokher-Bali. 


20. 


Dak-ghar. 


21. 


Dharma. 


22. 

1^3. 

24. 


Galpa Chariti. 
Galpa Guchcha. 
Gan. 


:25. 


Gitanjali. 



521 





BIBLIOGRAPHY 


26. 


Gitilipi. 


27. 


Gora. 


28. 


Goraya Galad. 


29. 


Hasya Kautuk. 


30. 


Ingraji Patha. 


31. 


Ingraji Sopan. ^ 


32. 


Ingraji Sruti Siksha. 


33. 


Jivan Smriti. 


34. 


Kahini. 


35. 


Kalpana. 


36. 


Kanika. 


37. 


Kari Komal. 


38. 


Katha. 


39. 


Katha Chathustaya. 


40. 


Katha Kahini. 


41. 


Kheya. 


42. 


Kshanika. 


43. 


Loka Sahitya. 


44. 


Manasi. 


45. 


Mayar Khela. 


46. 


Mukut. 


47. 


Nadi. 


48. 


Naibedya. 


49. 


Naukadubi. 


50. 


Panchabhuta. 


51. 


Prachin Sahitya. 


52. 


Prajapater Nirbhandha. 


53. 


Prakretir Pretisodh. 



522 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

54. Piabhat Sangita. 

55. Prayaschitta. 

56. Raja. 

57. Raja O Rani. 

58. Raja Praja. 

59. Rajarshi. 

60. Sahitya. 

61. Samaj. 

62. Samalochana. 

63. Samuha. 

64. Sandhya Sangit. 

65. Samskrita Sopan. 

66. Santineketan. (14 Volumes). 

67. Saradotsab. 

68. Saritra Pooja. 

69. Sisu. 

70. Sonar Tari. 

*71. Swadesh O Sankalpa. 

72. Phalguni [staged at Calcutta in January 1916.]" 

73. Gitamala [In course of preparation.] 

74. Prem. 

75. Jouban Svapna. 

[Taken partly from Professor N. Mitra's The Indian 
Literary Year Book for 1915]. 

I give below a brief description of some of Tagore's 
works in Bengali : — 

Achalayatan:— It is an allegorical problem- play in 
prose. It has no female characters. 

523 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

It describes how a monastery degene- 
rates by shutting out healthy contact 
with the world and is reformed and 
purified by overpowering outside in- 
fluences. It is said to contain various 
lyrical and musical gems. 

Adhunik Sahitya: — Essays on Modern Literature. 

Alochana. — Essays on General Topics. 

Baikunthar-Katha . — It contains some fine comic and 
some pathetic situations. It de- 
scribes how an old man having an ex- 
aggerated idea of his own literary 
productions thrusts them upon un- 
willing hearers. 

Bau-Thaukuranir-Hat: — It is a historical novel treating 

of certain kings of Bengal during the 

later Moghul period. It belongs to 

the poet's early period of literary 
activity. 

'Bhakta-Bani: — It is akin to the series known as "Shanti- 
niketan." It contains the lives and 
teachings of Kabir and other great 
saints. 

Bichitra Prabandha: — A selection of essays. 

Bidaya : — Poems. 

©isarjan: — It is a drama in verse. Raghupathi,apriest and 
an earnest and pious devotee of Kali, 
wants to offer animal sacrifice to Kali. 

524 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Govinda Manikha, King of Tipperah,, 
is sincerely opposed to this and issues 
a mandate against animal sacrifice. 
I The dialogue between them on sacrifice 
is said to be a literary masterpiece. 
Raghupathi conspires to dethrone the 
king. The priest deprives a poor girl 
of her only and favourite goat to offer 
it as a sacrifice. Raghupathi's dis- 
ciple Jayasinga who loves the girl is 
incensed at this. The conflict in his 
soul between his reverence for his- 
Guru and his love for the girl and for 
her pet is a fine subject for dramatic 
handling and is very beautifully de- 
scribed. He offers to give his own 
heart's blood to propitiate KaH rather 
than allow the goat to be killed. 

Byanga Kantuk: — A collection of humorous stories and- 
plays. 

Chaitali: — A series of poems. 

Chhabi-O-Gan : — Poems. 

Chhinna-Patra: — Fragments of his letters. (His son 
Rotindra Babu is now collecting more 
of Tagore's letters). 

Chitra: — Poems. 

Dharma:— Prose works. 

Galpa Chariti : — Stories. 

525 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Gan: — songs. 

Gitilipi : — Songs. 

Goraya Galad: — A comic play. 

Ingraji Patha. ) An easy original method of teach- 
Ingraji Sopan. ) ing English to boys. 

Jiwan Smrithi. — Reminiscences. 

(Tagore's reminiscences are being 
translated in the issues of the Modern 
Review from January 1916). 

Kahini. — A series of poems illustrating stories from 
Mahabharata, Jatakas, and Rajput 
history. 

Kalpana. — Poems. 
Kanika. — Short Instructive poems. 
Kari-0-Komal. — Poems. 
Katha. — Poems on historical subjects. 
Kheya. —Poems. 
Kshanika. — Poems. 

Loka Sahitya. — Literature for the masses. 
Manasi. — Poems. 

Mayar Khela.— An opera dealing with love. It belongs 
to the poet's early period. 

Mukut. — A fine play intended for youngsters. 

Nadi, — Poems. 

Naibedya. — Poems. 

Naukadubi. — It is of the same class as Eyesore. 

Panchabhuta. — Personification. 

526 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Prachin Sahitya. — Criticisms on Kalidasa and other 
poets. 

Prajapater Nirbhanda. — A drama. 

Prakritir Pratiscdh. — A drama on nature's revenge. 

The supremacy of love over know- 
ledge is proved. 

Praj'aschitta. — A dramatic version of " Ban-Thakuranir- 
Hat" with the addition of exquisite 
songs. 

Raja-0-Rani.— A drama. A Raja neglects his kingdom. 
The Rani's entreaties slowly bring 
about a reformation in him. 

Raja Praja. — Political Essays. 

Rajarshi. — A novel, being a prose version of the play 

"Bisarjan." 
Sahitya. — Essays in Literature. 
Samaj. — Social Essays. 
Samalcchana.— Criticisms on General Literature. 

Saritra Pooja.- — Lives of eminent men. The hfe of 
Vidyasagar in it is admirable. 

Samskrita Sopan. — An easy method of teaching Sans- 
krit. 

Shanti Niketan.— Sermons delivered at the Bolpur 
Ashram. 

Saradotsab.— A drama for the boys of the Ashram. It 

deals with Sarat-Kal. 
Sonar Tari.— Poems. 

527 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

[I owe this information to Mr. N. Lakshmanan of 
Coimbatore, who got it from Mr. Narayan K. Dewal]. 

II. TAGORE'S WORKS IN ENGLISH. 

1. Gitanjali. 

2. The Gardener. 

3. The Crescent Moon. 

4. The King of the Dark Chamber, 

5. Post Office. 

6. Chitra. 

7. Sadhana. 

8. Translation of Kabir's Poems by Tagore and 
Evelyn Underbill. 

9. GUmpses of Bengal Life— Translated by Rajani 
Ranjan Sen. 

MISCELLANEOUS POEMS. 

10. A poem called " Baisakh." 

{Modern Review^ July 1910)» 

11. A poem called " Fruitless Cry " 

{Modern Review^ May 1911). 

12. " The Ocean." 

{Modern Review^ February 1912). 

13. " Three poems," translated by the poet himself^ 

{Modern Review^ September 1912). 

14. Poems translated by the poet himself. 

{Modern Review, November 1918). 

15. " My Heart is on Fire " — A poem. 

{Modern Review, January 1915>. 

528 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

16. " Santineketan : " A poem. 

(Modern Review^ February 1915). 

17. " Unity in Diversity : " A poem. 

{Modern Review^ October 1915). 

18. Various poems translated in the chapter on 
Tagore in Dr. A. K. Coomaraswami's Art and Swadeshi^ 
(published by Messrs. Ganesh & Co.). 

MISCELLANEOUS ESSAYS ON LITERATURE AND ART. 

19. Sakuntala : Its Inner Meaning. 

{Modern Review, February 1914). 

20. India's Epic. 

 {Modern Review, March 1912). 

21. Kalidas : The Moralist. 

{Modern Review^ October 1913). 

22. The Stage. 

{Modern Review, December 1913). 

23. The Real and the Ideal. 

(The Indian Review, March 1914). 

MISCELLANEOUS NOVELS. 

24. Raja and Rani. 

{Modern Review, June 1911). 

25. The Supreme Night. 

{Modern Review, June 1912). 

26. Eyesore. 

{Modern Review, Jan. to Deer. 1914). 

529 

31 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

27. Elder Sister. 

{Modern Revieiv^ July 1910). 

MISCELLANEOUS ESSAYS ON INDIAN HISTORY, POLITICAL. 

AND SOCIOLOGY. 

28. The Future of India. 

[Modern Review^ March 1911). 

29. The Rise and Fall of the Sikh Power. 

{Modern Revieiv^ April 1911). 

30. The Impact of European India. 

{Modern Review^ May 1911). 

31. My Interpretation of Indian History. 

{Modern Review^ August to September 1913). 

32. Woman's Lot in East and West. 

{Modern Review^ June 1912). 

33. Tagore's letter to Mr. Myron H. Phelps on 
Caste. [Modern Review^ February 1911). 

ADDRESSES. 

34. Address on Raja Ram Mohan Roy. (The Indian 
Messenger, dated 10th October 1915). 

MISCELLANEOUS. 

35. Tagore's Introduction to " Songs from the Pun- 
jab" by Ratan Devi. 

36. Tagore's letter on Bengali Prosody. 

37. Tagore's Introduction to Mrs. Biswas's, "The 
Passing of Spring." 

38. Tagore's Translation of " The Poems of Vidya- 
pathi and Chandidas " (under preparation). 

530 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

39. Some Songs by Tagore are translated in 
:Mr. Bipinchandrapal's The Neio Spirit. 

40. The Relation of the Universe and the Individual. 
{Modern Revieii\ July 1913). 

(This is the same as chapter I o{ Tagore's Sadhana). 

41. Tagore's letter to Mr. Frederick Rose about 
spiritual education at Bolpur. \_New India^ dated 11th 
January 1916]. 

42. Tagore's letter to J. D. Anderson, on Bengali 
Prosody. 

43. Tagore's Poem " Trumpet." 
do " Peace Hymn." 
do on " Tryst and the Brahmin." 
do on " Indian Unity." 
do on " Ahalya " [Modern Revieiv^ 

January 1916]. 

48. Tagore's appreciation of Sister Nivedita, prefixed 
to her Studies from an Eastern Home. 

49. Tagore's Lecture giving reminiscences of his 
early life. [Indian Patriot^ December 1915]. 

50. Tagore's Address on "The Vehicle of Teaching," 
containing his views as to education through the me- 
dium of vernaculars. [New India, dated 11th February 
1916]. 

51. Tagore's Address on the occasion of Ram Mohan- 
roy's Anniversary in 1915. 

52. Tagore's Address on Ananda Mohan Bose in 
1915. 

531 « 



44. 


Do 


45. 


Do 


46. 


Do 


47. 


Do 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

53. Tagore's Essay on the Philosophy of Indian 
History. 

54. Tagore's ''My Reminiscences" [Translated in 
the Modem Review^ from January 1916]. 

55. Tagore's article on " The Appeal of Christ to 
India," in The Quest for January 1916], 

56. Tagore's Translations of Two Poems by Deven- 
dranath Sen [Published in The Modern Revieiv for 
March 1916. 

57. Tagore's Article on " Indian Students and Western 
Professors" in the Modern Review, April 1916]. 

III. BOOKS AND ARTICLES ON TAGORE. 

1. Mr. Rhys' Rabindra Nath Tagore: A Biography. 
(Published by Messrs. Macmillan & Co., 5 s. net). 

2. R. C. Dutt's " Literature of Bengal. " 

3. My Monograph on Tagore. 

(Biographies of Eminent Indians Series, pub- 
lished by Messrs. Natesan & Co., Madras, 
As. 4). 

4. Mr. J. D. Anderson's Article on the metre of 
Tagore's Gitanjali. (The New Reformer^ October 1914). 

5. The Chapter on " Poems of Rabindra Nath 
Tagore" in Dr. A. K. Coomaraswami's Art and Sivadesi^. 
(published by Messrs. Ganesh & Co., Madras). 

6. The chapter dealing with Tagore in Vol. Ill "of 
Indian Nation-Builders Series, (published by Messrs. 
Ganesh & Co.) 

• 532 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

7. The article by the Rev. C. F. Andretvs on 
Tagore. {Modern Review for July 1913). 

8. The Rev. Mr. C. F. Andrews' The Renaissance 
in India. 

9. The Rev. Mr. C. F. Andrews' An Evening with 
Rabindra. {Modern Revieiv^ August 1912). 

10. Lord Hardinge's Presidential Remarks on the 
occasion of the lecture on Tagore by the Rev. C. F. 
Andrews, (pages 34-35 of the Modern Review for July 
1913). 

1 1. The Rev. C. F. Andrews' Poem On Reading the 
Gitanjali^ (published in the Modern Review and in his 
collected poems). 

12. The Rev. Mr. C. F. Andrews' Poem on Tagore, 
{Modern Review^ March 1912). 

13. Mr. J. Ramsay Macdonald's Article to the Daily 
Chronicle about the school at Bolpur. 

14. Article on The Gitanjali by the Rev. P. B. 
Emmet in The Indian Review for May 1913. 

15. Article on The Nobel Prize for Rabindranath in 
The Indian Review for December 1913. 

16. Article on Rabindranath' s Conception of Woman- 
hood by Mr. Chunilal Mukherji. {The Indian Reviewy 
July 1913). 

1 7. Article on Modern Bengali Fiction by Mr. K. C. 
Chatterji. {The Indian Review, July 1914). 

533 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

18. "A Review of Tagore's Gora by Satya V. Mukerjea. 
{Modern Revieiv^ August 1912). 

19. Mrs. Norah Richards' article on European Influ- 
ence on the Indian Stage. [Modern Review^ January 
1914). 

20. Article on " Patriotic Songs of Bengal " by 
Hemendra Prasad Ghose in the Indian Review for 
September 1907. 

21. The chapter on " Sadhana" in Pandit Sita Nath 
Tattwabhushan's History of Brahmoism. 

22. John Alden Carpenter's Book of Songs setting 
to music selections from Gitanjali^ (pubhshed by Mr. 
G. Schirmer). 

23. Four Songs from Gitanjali set to music by 
Professor Landon Ronald. (Messrs. Macmillan & Co.). 

24. The portion in the Bengal Administration 
Report for deahng with Tagore as a landlord. 

25. Mr. Ajitkumar Cbakravarthi's article on "Shanti- 
niketan." {Modern Revieiv^ 1914). 

26. Mr. Seshadri's Articles in The Hindu for 1914-1915 
on The Crescent Moon^ The King of the Dark Chamber^ and. 
The Post Office. 

27. My Articles on Tagore 

(1) Rabindranath Tagore : An Appreciation : 

The Hindu ^ dated 1st November 1913. 

(2) The Spiritual Beauty of Tagore's 

The King of the Dark Chamber. 
{Vedanta Kesari, November 1914). 

534 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

(3) Tagore's The Post Office. 

{Vedanta Kesari^ November 1915). 

(4) Tagore's Chitra : A Study and an Apprecia- 

tion. 
{The Madras Fortnightly, March 1915). 

(5) Tagore's The Crescent Moon. 

(The Modern World, March 1915). 

(6) Tagore's Translation of Kabir's poems. 

{The Literary Journal, August 1915). 

(7) Kabir and Tagore. , 

{The Madras Fortnightly, August 1915). 

(8) Tagore's Sadhana : [Vedanta Kasari, January 
1916.] 

(9) Tagore's Gitanjali : \_Vedanta Kesari, March 
1916.] 

28. J. C. Rollo's Chitra: [^Indian Reviwe for 1914, 
pages 609, 610]. 

29. Professor T. Hirose of Keio University, Tokio 
on Tagore. [Journal of the Indo-Japanese Association 
for August 1915, quoted in the Modern Review, January 
1916J, 

30. Tagore's Limitations. [From the Vernacular 
paper Hindustan quoted in the Indian Review, Novem- 
ber 1915, page 977]. 

31. Sir Narayan Chandavarkar's Lectures on Tagore 
in 1915. 

535 



BIBLIOGRAPHY 

32. A letter by " An Educational Pilgrim" to the 
Leader: [Quoted at pages 157 to 160 of the Dharma 
Prachar, Mysore]. 

33. Mr. Basanta Koomar Roy's article on Rabindra 
nath Tagore in the Open Court, July 1913. 



536 



INDEX. 



Andrews, C. F. on Tagore. 

34. 43, 46 
Andrews, C. F. Poem on 

Shantineketan ... ... 60-1 

Architecture, Indian ... 79 

Art, Indian : Ideals of. 77-78 

Beaconsfield on Race ... 27 

Beauty and Love ... 26ti-267 

Bengali Renaissance ... 32 

Bhagavatha Natha Move- 
ment ... ... 376-378 

Bhakti Movement in India. 10-14 
Bhanu Sinha ... ... 41 

Bibliography ... 521-536 

Bolpur ... 59-74 

Chaitanya ... 14-16 

Chamberlain, H. S., on Race. 27 
Chandidas ... U, 12 

Childhood, Appeal of. 244-246 

Chitra ... ... 266-285 

Civilisation, types of. 401-2 

Civilisation of India, Speciality 

of ... ... ... 403 

Coomaraswami, Dr. A. K. on 

Indian Art ... ... 29 

Crescent Moon ... 244-265 

Crescent Moon — Child is God 

Incarnate ... ... 247 

Crescent Moon — Child's 

Beauty ... ... 250-12 

Crescent Moon — Child's Spor- 

tiveness ... ... 254-5 

Crescent Moon — Child's Mind. 

256-259 
Crescent Moon— Child's Love 

of Beauty ... 255-6 

Crescent Moon — Child's 

Heart ... ... 259-260 

■Crescent Moon— Child's Soul 260 
Crescent Moon — Child's 

Appeal ... ... 261-4 



Crescent Moon — Our Gift to 

the Child ... 264-5 

Dancing, Indian ... ... 80 

Death and After ... 325-328 

Education in Ancient India 62-3 
England's Place in Indian 

Renaissance ... 21-22 

England and India, Mutual 

Gifts ... ... .. 22 

Fiction, Tagore's ... 375-397 

Gardener ... ... 205-243 

Gardener— Symbolism. 207-212 
Gardener — Love Poems. 213-236 
Gitanjali ... ... 16-5-204 

Gitanjali— Ideal of Poesy ... 172 
Gitanjali— Prayerfulness. 177-9 
Gitanjali— Desire for God 

Vision ... ... 181-2 

Gitanjali — Certainty of God's 

Grace ... ... ... 184 

Gitanjali — God Love and God 

Vision — How attained. 187-194 
Havell on Indian Art ... 29 

Hindu Race, Unity of, ... 26 

Ideals of Indian Art. 77-78 

Image W^orship, Significance 

of ... ... 77 

Indian Art, Idealistic and 

Religious ... ... 29 

Indian Unity ... 24-26 

Kahir, Translation of. 356-374 

Katha Movement ... 376-378 

of the Dark Chamber. 

286-324 

Life, Indian View of ... 81 

Love, Indian Ideal of ... 82 

Love Poetry in India. 267-270 

Macdonald, J. R. on Tagore's 

School ... ... 71-74, 

Maharshi Devendranath 

Tagore ... ... ... 2 



King 



11 



INDEX. 



Maharshi Devendranath, His ] 

Great Traits. ... 4, 5, C, 7 ; 

Mira Bai ... ... ... 12 

Miscellaneous Writings of 
Tagore ... ... 428 et seq. 

Miscellaneous Songs of 
Tagore ... ... 430-6 

Miscellaneous Poems of 
Tagore ... ... 437-459 

Miscellaneous Dramas. 459-469 
Miscellaneous Novels. 469-472 

Miscellaneous Essays of 
Tagore on Art and Litera- 
ture ... ,,. 472 et seq. 
Montagu on Tagore's Univer- 
sal Popularity ... ... 1 

Music, European and Indian. 

430-431 
Music, Indian ... ... 79 

Mystery and Science. 405-6 

Mysticism ... ... 127-137 

Nalanda University... ...63-4 

Nationhood in India „.. 24-6 

Nationalism in Literature ... 28 
Nivedita on Indian Unity ... 24 
Nivedita on the Mission of 
Indian Art ... ... 30 

Poem on Tagore ... 516-520 
Poetry, Relation of, to Spiritu- 
ality in India ... 9-10 

Post Office ... 325-356 

Race, Meaning of ... ... 27 

Radhakumud Mookerji on 
Indian Unity ... ... 24 

Ratcliffe, S. K. on Tagore's 
School ... ... ... 67 

Religious Education, News of 

Tagore on ... 611-4 

Renaissance, The Indian. 19-35 
Renaiscence of Wonder in 
India ... ... 92 

Rhys, Ernest, on Bengali 
Language ... ... 33 

Rhys, Ernest, on Indian Gurus 65 
Rhys, Ernest, on Tagore : 
Crismsitic ... ... 13 



Sadhana ... ... 398-42r 

Shantiniketan ... 59-74- 

Shantinikftan School Hours. 67-68 
Social Service ».. .'.68 

Sufism ... ... 17-18- 

Tagore, Sir Rabindranath ... 2 
„ as a Letterwriter. 510-4 
„ as a Public Speaker 508-10 
,, Award of Nobel Prize. 

47-48 
„ Chinna Patra ... 37 

„ Conception of Art, 83-88 
„ Conception of Woman- 
hood ... 147-156 
„ Development of His 

Art ... 111-112 

,, Devotional Songs. 109-110 
„ Fiction ... 375-397 

,, Great Message to 

India ... 159-164 

,, His Educational Ideals. 66 
„ His Love of Nature. 36-37 
„ His Personality. 49-59 

„ His Place in Indian 

Renaissance. 33-35 

„ HisSyntheticMysticim. 1 
„ Indian Music ... 87 

,, Individualism, Ideal- 
ism, and Roman- 
ticism ... ... 90 

,, Influence of Brahmo 

Samaj on Him .. 19 
,, Insight into Indian 

Ideals ... 74-83. 

,, Jivan Smrithi ... 37 

„ Life ... 35-49- 

,, Limitations... ... lU 

„ Love Poetry. 105-106 

,, Lyrical Genius. 106-108 
,, Message to Man ... 161 
,, Miscellaneous Writ- 
ings ... 428 et seq, 
„ Miscellaneous Songs. 

430-43fr 
„ Miscellaneous Poems. 

437-469' 



INDEX. 



in 



Tagore, Miscellaneous Dramas. 

459-469 
,, Miscellaneous Novels. 

469-472 
„ Miscellaneous Essays 
on Art and Litera- 
ture ... 472 et seq. 
„ Mysticism ... 127-146 
„ National Character of 

His Art ... 93 

„ Nature Poetry. 101-104 
„ Novels ... 110 

,, on Religious Educa- 
tion ... 511-4 
Poet of the People ... 98 
„ Pravat Sangit ... 41 
„ Religious Ideas. 141-146 
„ Renascence of Wonder. 92 
„ Sadhana ... 398-427 
„ Sandhya Sangit ... 41 
„ Shantiniketan. 59-74 
„ Simplicity and Spon- 
taneity ... ... 96 

„ Social Gospel. 155-158 

„ Stvle ... 112-126 



Tagore, The Geniusof Valmiki. 42 
„ Translation of Kabir. 

35Q-374 
„ Universal Appeal ... 97 
„ Varsha Shesha ... 43 

„ Views on Historical, 
Political, and Socio- 
logical Matters. 486-508 
,, Views on the Dramatic 

Art 
,, Voicing of the East ... 
,, What he owes to his 

Father 
„ What he owes to the 
Vaishnava Poets and 
Mystics ... 
,, What he owes 
Sufism 
Underhill, Miss Evelyn 

Tagore ... 
Vernaculars 
Vernaculars, Place of. 
Vidyapathi 



85 

88 



11-16 
to 

17-18 
on 
... 1 

30-32 

113-4 
... 11 



Vincent 
Unity 



Smith on Indian 



26 



TABLE OF ERRATA. 



Page 



Line 



For 



Read 



22 


26 


East 


West. 


33 


23 


development 


development. 


36 


16 


lovely 


lonely 


36 


17 


lovely 


lonely 


40 


26 


javan 


jivan. 


44 


26 


know 


knew 


45 


8 


Naivedya Sishu 


Navvedya, Siahir* 


47 


23 


stated. 


stated : 


50 


19 


soared 


soured 


58 


28 


it 


them 


54 


27 


Banjuya 


Bangiya 


66 


8 


Yeat's 


Yeats' 


56 


13 


care 


cares 


56 


14 


pleasure 


pleasures 


60 


3 


Heramalahi 


Her Amalaki 


64 


23 


W 


^ 


76 


8 


^ gii^ 


«^urr 


90 


11 


spirits 


spirit 


90 


28 


in service 


in the service 


93 


1 


Hence utter 


On hence utter 


98 


11 


soul 


soul, 


98 


16 


) 


1 


98 


18 




omit 


100 


18 


any by 


by any 


101 


8 


potriotism 


patriotism 


101 


24 


every 


many 


102 


10 


above said 


abovesaid 



TABLE OF ERRATA. 



Page 


Line 


For 


Read 


106 


18 


letter, 


letter 


116 


23 


consonants, 


consonants 


117 


28 


per feet 


perfect 


120 


26 


word, 


word 


124 


25 


margins 


margins, 


136 


9 


thousand 


a thousand 


151 


5 


goal. 


goal, 


165 


28 


beauty 


beauty, 


169 


8 


who 


save 


171 


26 


beautiful. 


beautiful 


171 


28 


genins 


genius 


176 


14 


fervour of the 


the fervour of 


179 


17 


ancient India 


ancient India, 


180 


6 


need for love 


need for the love 


193 


21 


above said 


abovesaid 


200 


9 


shrink not to 


shrink to 


^36 


24 


, soars 


, and soars 


240 


19 


opposite 


apposite 


245 


1 


child 


child ; 


270 


7 


selflesness 


selflessness 


276 


14 


and 


omit 


288 


25 


upon 


upon the 


289 


22 


grandmother 


grandfather 


309 


17 


the twhole 


the whole 


315 


10 


benign aspect) 


benign) aspect 


368 


10 


still player 


still the player 


381 


20 


1 


omit 


381 


20 


loves 


loves ; 


394 


5 


harem f 


harem of 


394 


19 


cross 


crossed. 




21 


^T«T^ 51 


^ 


421 


'4|IH«'<^«i 


432 


14 


hoar 


hear 



TABLE OF ERRATA. 



Page 


Line 


For 


Read 


443 


28 


Doctrine 


doctrine 


462 


4 


<^:(Wu4^: 


i^AV^: 


469 


9 


^W^: 


^R^- 


484 


11 


that 


which 


484 


12 


and seeks 


and which seeks 


524 


17 


1915 


1916 


524 


22 


referred 


referred, 


526 


6 


well-beloved 


well-belove'd 



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