Themes and Concepts of Tagore’s Poem Gitanjali
Themes and Concepts of Tagore’s Poem Gitanjali : The variety and abundance of themes makes Gitanjali, a source of eternal fascination. The spiritual voyage in Gitanjali starts from the very truth of eternity of God. Tagore‘s desire for ecstasy of oneness With God starts his quest of God. Till the time, he achieved his destination, the ultimate aim of realisation of God, he comes across many truths – love, self purification, devotion, charity, preservance, simplicity, innocence, dedication, self annihilation, humility, detachment and humanism. These truths make a way to poet’s ultimate destination and give Gitanjali, a richness of themes.
Themes and Concepts of Tagore’s Poem Gitanjali
The major theme in Gitanjali is the theme of mysticism which brings several other-themes in the reflection. The Indian philosophy expresses that mysticism is that exalted stage where the human soul is in direct communion with God. A mystic believes that the ordinary world of sense perception is not real and that, behind this visible world there is a more real world that can be apprehended spiritually and not through the medium of the senses. The mystic seeks to establish an immediate and intuitive relationship with the inner, ultimate reality. In a certain sense mysticism is at odds with realism and common-sense. Mysticism is not a rationally explainable concept. All mystics seeks to withdraw themselves from the world of appearance and ally themselves with the inner world. This mysticism believes in renunciation, detachment from worldly affairs and in ascetism. A lot of mystic writers undoubtedly influenced Tagore including Walt Whitman, Kahlil Gibran and to some extent, Sri Aurobindo.
Still Tagore’s mysticism is slightly different from the former one. He does not completely distrust reason and of perception. He doesn’t advocate a dissociation from everyday life but enjoys the joy of living. He doesn’t reject sense experience but makes it a medium of spiritual experience. Nor he is least inclined towards asceticism. His mysticism is thus counterbalanced and kept in check by intense humanism. In his lyric no 73 he says
“Deliverance is not for me in renunciation”
He enjoys the thousand bonds of delight Tagore asserts that a man who is detached from the worldly things but who is at the same time active and more courageous than the man who merely renounces the world. He is not a poet who denies the world of senses and ends in intellectual abstractions. He will “never shut the doors of senses.” He believes that
“The delights of sight and hearing and touch will bear thy (God) de-light.”
Tagore believes in humanism – a way to His abode. For him paying no heed to mankind, his friends, brothers is a sin. Renouncing them is not a way to find the Almighty because he know that to stand ‘In pleasure and in pain’ (lyric-77) by the ‘side of men’ gives the eternal joy. “To stand by (God) thee” and distance from mankind makes a man feel Him missing everywhere. Tagore’s mysticism says that man can attain union with the Immanent will even amidst this busy life of ‘buyers and sellers’ what he needs is true love, devotion, feeling of gratitude, purity of heart and mind and awareness of spirituality because he dwells not in temples but with low and humble mankind.
The another central theme of Gitanjali is the devotion. As the name of book suggests that these songs are an offering to the Supreme, Inscrutable one. Each flower of beautiful lyric is a symbol of love and pure devotion towards the Eternal one. The constant and intense yearning of poet, the individual soul for the reunion with the Infinite makes Gitanjali, a “mighty piece of prayer, pleading and exaltation.” It is a work in which poetry aspires to a condition of prayer. The lyric has a mantric quality, as if they were hymns chanted by a true devotee to his maker, the Supreme.
The human soul, which is a part of the Divine, although it forgets this fact many times, inwardly wishes to be reunited. On the other hand, there are the pulls and attractions of worldly temptations. So man finds God as the only source of strength in his difficulty and he prays the Almighty for his help and offers Him his sincere devotion. The tradition of Vaishnava devotional poetry of India is being given a new and original treatment. That is why it created a sensation in West. When it was first published in English, Abbe Bremond declared that “such poetry is half a prayer from below and half a whisper from above, the prayer evoking the response, or the whisper provoking the prayer, and always prayer and whisper chiming into song.”
The human soul have no significance unless it is ‘filled by the spirit of God. Birth and death are but the filling and emptying of soul by supreme soul and in this way the man feels the immortal, eternal touch or God. The lifeless, reed comes to life when the Lord Krishna plays upon it – forever piping songs forever new. He is the guiding spirit, the source of illumination, enlightenment and courage. He is the impelling force who moves man to raptures of joy and sorrow. As he says in his lyric no 72.
“He it is, the innermost one, awakens my being with his deep hidden touches.”
He is omnipresent. He is there in Nature, in the infinite sky, in the hurly burly of life and in the life of solitude. His gifts are unlimited. As in his poem no 75 he says “Thy gifts to us mortals fulfil all our needs”. The river, the flower enriches the fields and air with vitality, fertility and sweet perfume. The poet wants to thank Him “with folded hands”. He is “lord of my life” whose “worship doesn’t impoverish the world.” He is the poet of poets. He is the poetic inspiration
“Thy Joy is adding music to them.”
His feelings of gratitude is reflected in lines of poem no 65 when he says.
“Thou givest thyself to me in love and then feelest thine own entire sweetness in me.”
The love of God comes to the earth in the disguise of golden light “that dances upon the leaves, clouds and the sky.” He is all pervasive. He is to be seen in the myriad forms of Nature, in the heavens or on the earth. Sometimes He comes with the sweet perfume of the lotus and at other times He plays on His harp. It is His call which the poet hears in the myriad voices of Nature. Sometimes He is a stranger coming to the poet’s house, Sometimes he is a “thirsty traveller” of lyric no 54. The Almighty is the lover and the poet in the guise of bride desires to consume herself in the act of union in the loneliness and darkness. The all pervasive presence of God is suggested through a host of images taken from the common, familiar things of life.
Many of his images create the impression of the vastness and majesty of God, as the image of a glad bird spreading its wings on its flight across the sea. He pleas the affectionate father to come upon him with a shower of mercy; when his heart is hard and parched up. He prays Him for burst of song’, peace and rest. He prays God to give him the strength to bear his joys and sorrow, to help poor, to rise his mind above the trivial things. The lyric no 36 is purely a devotional poem. The poem is in the form of a personal prayer. The poet feels that his heart is spiritually poor, and he prays that God may put an end to his poverty which is very deep seated in him. The poet is in love with God but does not wish to spend this love only in prayer and worship, but to turn it into the service of humanity. He prays that he should have humility enough to yield before God’s strength. He prays to sit by the side of God.
He had much business in hand, but he will complete it later. Tagore’ poem no 5 is truly devotional where “Away from the sight of thy face my heart know no rest nor respite, and my work becomes an endless toil in a shoreless sea of toil”. The feeling of gratitude, love and devotion makes him so:
“My heart has touched thy feet” The devotion for God adopts many forms. Somewhere the poet is lost in true love for God like Meera where she is lost in selfless, pure love. Somewhere like Gopis, the beloved will give himself up to Him for love. The poet imagines himself to be a bride who is awaiting the visit of the bridegroom, while at others he is the beloved who goes out to meet the lover in secret at the appointed place The poet’s prayer of God is also in various terms, according to his needs. In poem no 36 he prays to Him to make him more worthy of meeting Him by eradicating his spiritual poverty and endowing him with noble qualities:
“Give me the strength lightly to bear 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.
Give me the strength to raise my mind high above daily trifles.”
When the poet is in God’s presence, he will rededicate himself to God. Sometimes the prayer is for strength to withstand and resist the temptations of the world, and even to thank God that he has not granted the poet’s trivial requests. In poem no 34 the poet prayer is for self annihilation. He wants only that much to remain which may enable him to see God’s presence everywhere. The element of devotion or Bhakti is most clearly seen in Poem no 38 where the poet repeatedly chants his desire for God, expressing this idea through comparisons:
“As the night keeps hidden in its gloom the petition for light, even thus in depth of my unconsciousness songs the cry – I want thee, only thee”
The Theme of death is another important theme which covers more than fifteen poems. In the starting the poet celebrates the joy of death as the joy of life. He asserts that both are two aspects of God: ” the twin brothers, life and death, dancing over the wide world”. Later passages of Gitanjali are preoccupied with death which he elsewhere calls the king of the Dark chamber’. The Krishna image slowly changes to a death image. “Death, thy servant, is at my door” and with it comes the feeling of self-annihilation. For poet the death is the servant, errand or the Supreme Inevitable force, He worships him with folded hands and with tears.
“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 wil never let him go with empty hands.” (Poem-90)
“will worship him with folded hands: and “I will worship him placing at his feet the treasure of my heart.”
The poet seems to feel that death is inherent in nature and therefore lodged within him. It is the last fulfilment of life. The soul opens to death like “a bud in the forest at midnight.” “Because I love this life,” he says, know I shall love death as well.” Dying into death here is dying into the deathless. It is an amorous adventure undertaken in a stormy night. It is a wedding. The soul plays with the Lord as the beloved plays with her lover. The poet feels within him the same longing that the Gopis felt when Krishna left them. By meditating on him they broke their physical bonds and attained him. The soul giving up its vain struggle would travel on the beautiful path of death into the home the beloved.
Themes and Concepts of Tagore’s Poem Gitanjali
In some of the poems the poet prays to death to come to him, while in others he asserts that he will receive death with all honour and will not be afraid of it. Sometimes the theme is blend with self surrender, as in poem no 17. In this poem the poet says that he is waiting for death to give himself up at last into his hands. In the poem 91 he says that “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 the night.” Again: “I shall put on my wedding garland. Mine is not the red brown dress of the traveller and though there are dangers on the way I have no fear in my mind.” The red brown dress is a mark of renunciation. The poet will not have it. He will go to the Lord in wedding robes. Death is thus an auspicious event that will unite the soul with the Supreme.
Death is an intimation of immortality. The death, the vast sea of eternity makes his way to the abode of Eternity. The all-devouring death is the fulfilment of life, the origin of new. He will feel the ecstasy of consummation by his union with Death. Death gives man, a sense of divine wisdom. He sees “by the light of death thy world with its careless treasures.” He, now, knows that the treasure of divinity, devotion, spirituality and eternity are the noblest and all other things are meanest. Death for him is not an end but a beginning of spiritual voyage. Unlike Donne and Hardy, he speaks of death with a optimistic approach rather than with painful and gloomy aspects. He makes life and death inseparable companions, the two breasts of affectionate, caring mother the Almighty.
The next alluring theme is the communion with Nature. It is in nature that man and God come closest to each other. He perceives a strong affinity between man and Nature. Nature is the manifestation of God, in fact a fragment of God. He identifies himself with the forces of nature and objects of nature. He often speaks of himself as a reed through which the breath of God will pass, thus giving birth to music.
In another poem he compares himself to the remnant of a cloud of autumn, at the same time comparing God to the Sun:
“I am like a remnant of a cloud of autumn uselessly roaming in the sky, O my sun ever-glorious! Thy touch has not yet melted my vapour, making me one with thy light, and thus I count months and years separated from thee” (Poem no 80)
The poet asserts that the ultimate aim of human soul is achieved through nature. The communion with Nature makes a way to communion with God, the Immanent will. In poem no 48 the poet accepts the presence of God in the nature. He expresses that the essence of their search lies in Nature, in its beauty, innocence and glory. The Creator has created the nature with joy. The rejoicing spirit of God can be seen in the chirping of birds, merry flowers and in the scattered light of golden sun. Radha Krishnan says: “Tagore beautifully depicts how an enthusiastic surrender to the spontaneity of natural scenery leads a man to his goal. That is why when he wakes from his slumber and opens his eyes he sees.
“thee (God) standing by me, flooding my sleep with thy smile.”
Tagore turns to Nature to express his moods of intense joy also. He believes that Nature harmonises with man. If man is in a good mood the Nature accompanies him with a cherishing spirit. In poem no 2 he gives expression to his Joy at the glad event of summer, which has come to his window with its sighs and murmurs. Tagore does not look upon the world by Nature as a snare which the spiritual seeker must avoid. He accepts them as “immortal gifts” of God. The river, flowers, leaves, clouds, sky, stars, sun and the golden light all rejoice with man’s joy. The poet thanks God for his love that comes to mankind in the guise of light.
“Light, my light, the world-filling light, the eye-kissing light, heart sweetening light!” (Poem no 57)
The Nature along with man enjoys this affection of God:
“The butterflies spread their sails on the sea of light. Lilies and Jasmine’s surge upon the crest of the waves of light”.
“Myth spreads from leaf to leaf and gladness without measure” (Poem no 57).
Gitanjali abounds in beautiful descriptions of clouds, waves and storm. The vivid imagery from Nature show the poet’s great love of Nature as well as his first hand contact with it and his matchless powers of observation. Gitanjali is rich in the descriptions of the pageant of the seasons, especially the rainy season. One of the most beautiful poem in this respect is Poem no 5 where we have the charming description of the coming of summer:
Themes and Concepts of Tagore’s Poem Gitanjali
“Today the summer has come at my window with its sighs and murnurs and the bees are playing their minstrelsy at the court of the flowering grove”
Like Wordsworth Tagore feels that Nature is a friend, mother and guide of man. His various images, similes and metaphors makes him a romantic-realist in his vision of Nature.
The happiness of child is an another expression of God’s glory. The theme of childhood expresses the original glory and purity of the soul. The child symbolizes innocence, fearlessness and simplicity. The poem no 60 is a good example of this expression. They play on the seashore of endless worlds and they are unaware of death of the after-life. They are content and joyous, playing with empty shells and sand. The merchants and pearl divers are busy making profits and their minds are haunted by the approaching death. But children, not caring for worldly riches, do not bother about it. How little can make them so glad. Their beauty come from the mystery of love that pervades their mother’s hearts. Nature herself is illuminated and moved to joy at their gay abandon. As Tagore says
“The sea surges up with laughter” (Poem 60)
“The sea plays with children, and plate gleams the smile of the sea beach.” (Poem 60).
The world of children is different from the world of grown-ups. As the poem no 60 praises the childhood and the denunciation of the guile, shrewdness, greed and money mindedness which are the characteristics of the grown ups. The children are devoid of such things:
“They seek not for hidden treasures, they know not how to cast nests.” (Poem 60)
There is no discrimination for rich robes and costly ornaments. The mystic smile on the lips of a child, the colourful toys of child all delight man and Nature. While this collection of poems of Tagore don’t have childhood as a dominating theme, still few poems like poem no 8, 60, 61 and 62 have the fascination and innocence of childhood. The another poem of Tagore expresses his wish or his imagination where he plays like a child with the God. This poem no 97 is another successful poem on the theme of childhood, and the idea that not only the untarnished human soul but even God Himself is comparable to a child, is very striking. Tagore has painted God as a child and the world as His leela or play.
In the theme of childhood, Tagore resembles Blake and Wordsworth. They too believe in the simplicity and innocence of childhood. All of these poets believe that their innocence and purity makes them very near to the spiritual enlightenment and the heavenly glory.
Tagore is not an escapist. He believes in detachment, asceticism and deliverance but all these are counterbalanced with his love of humanism. He is not a staunch believer of renunciation of world of senses. He believes that relationship of soul with God, needs the relationship with the man. ‘Tagore says that the God lies among the human beings. He is in you, me and every living being so to love everyone in this world is to love the Almighty and to serve mankind is to serve the Supreme, Immanent will. God is not to be found in the temple but with the lowest and humblest.
“Here is thy foot stool and there rest thy feet where live the poorest, and lowliest and lost.” (Poem no 10)
He castigates the idolatary and blind worship. He criticizes in poem no 11
“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 thee!” (Poem 11)
He is there among the tiller, the stone breaker and honest labourers. He lives with those poor hard workers whose “garment is covered with dust. He keeps company with companionless. The rich and the bourgeoisie are far removed from God because of the artificial living. That is why Bible says; “Blessed are the poor for thy shall see God”
“Raise the stone and there thou shalt find me, cleave the wood and there I am.”
He condemns asceticism or complete renunciation as ‘evasiveness’ from your worldly duties:
“Deliveranee? 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”.
God himself is bound by this world. So how can the mortals throw off their bondage? The poet makes a disparagement of life of renunciation and praises the life of action. His tone is of a humanist. He has no sympathy for those who give a slip to life. Although he was a born aristocrat, the dominant note in Gitanjali is that of human dignity and equality. He castigates he Indian tradition of exclusiveness and isolation. He criticizes the discrimination. His belief that Man cannot ignore his fellow men and still hope to realise God, for God is with needy and poor rather than with priest and the prince. Tagore’s humanism is also reflected in his poem no 35 where he prays for his country’s redemption. He cries for “heaven of freedom”.
Themes and Concepts of Tagore’s Poem Gitanjali
He wants a country where there should be no divisions of caste, creed and nationality. The theme of humanism in itselt covers the hollowness of Indian tradition and rituals. The uselessness of religious rituals which are so characteristic of orthodox Hinduism. The idol worship and performance of rites and ceremonies is being criticized. As in poem no 64 Tagore says that the dark house of poor poet is left aloof and dark amid the useless burning lamps. He pleas the girl to enlighten his house but she is busy with hollow rites of dedicating the lamps to river and sky. The lights are believed to reach the souls of departed ancestors.
The rich people want to dedicate their lamps to the empty sky and let them uselessly burn in the open air whereas the poor live in darkness as they can’t afford even the light. Tagore through this satirizes the pomp and callousness of the upper middle classes who are indifferent to the suffering of their poor brethren.
7. Spiritual Illumination:
The dominating spirit of Gitanjali is the quest of God and man realizes Him only after the spiritual illumination. The poet begins his poem with a belief that man is a “frail vessel whose own existence is short-lived and God fills it with fresh life’. His ‘immortal touch’ gives man joy. He is all-pervasive, immanent, life of life, truth, love, source of power and illumination that is why man should try to make himself worthy of union with God. Self purification is essential for the mystic union with the God and from here starts his voyage for union. He asks for ‘a moment’s indulgence to sit by His side. He feels restless when he is away from God.
He knows that the communion with humanity and a participation in ordinary human activity is essential for the enjoyment and spiritual growth. He feels His presence, His foot stool among the poorest, lowest, and lost. The man, poet, still craves to meet Him but he finds himself chained with sensual pleasures. His baser self who is proudly, assertive, arrogant and egoistic is a barrier between his lofty, individual soul and the Infinite. His quest of life consists in the daily effort to crush that pettier, proudy self; to let the lofty one grow in power and place it firmly on the throne before completing this earthly pilgrimage.
These two parted self make the man pass through two stages. One gives joy and sorrow, parting and meeting and other one gives the joy of spirituality and detachment. The poet believes that these two parts petty one and lofty one cant be parted. ‘They are like light and shadow. It is difficult to get rid of this petty self. It is this which forms the ego of a person. Tagore says
“I came out alone on my way to my tryst. But who is this that follows me in the silent dark?
I move aside to avoid his presence but I escape him not.”
“He is my own little self, my lord, he knows no shame; but I am ashamed to come to thy door in his company.”
And Tagore knows that
“Pride can never approach to where thou walkest.”
He cries for the freedom from these worldly temptations and his grief is great due to the separation from God. But when the sudden spiritual illumination comes to him which he ignores many a times, he comes to know that He is there in him, beside him. He is a part of this Almighty. God severed himself to create man. “Thou settest a barrier in thine own being and then callest thy severed self in myriad notes. This thy self-separation has taken body in me.” All His creation is this part separated from Him.
Themes and Concepts of Tagore’s Poem Gitanjali
He is there in clouds, leaves, streams, golden light of sun and chirping of birds. This self-revelation, realisation of God’s presence in him is the spiritual illumination which makes his way easy from the sea of eternity. Realising the Supreme one as a spirit in the finite one is the sudden illumination which elevates the soul with enjoyment and satisfaction.
One of the poem in Tagore’s collection of various themes pleas for charity. This poem is in a form of parable which asserts the importance of this virtue. The poem no 50 expresses Tagore’s message that one gets in proportion to what one sacrifices. The poet in the guise of beggar goes begging from door to door, till he beholds a price in a glorious chariot. He expects the big mount in alms which the prince will give him. But the act of prince shocks him when he himself extends his palm towards him and asks him what he has to give him. The avarice of poet allows him to give him the smallest grain of corn. As a reward he finds at his house in his wallet a gold grain. He repents and realises the value or giving. The parable has a mythical background of Krishna and Sudama. Sudama, the friend of Lord Krishna in utter poverty remembers his friend and visits him in his rags. He offers Krishna some stale corn meal he carried with him. Each morsel that Krishna takes, makes Sudama wealthier. Sudama finds him flooded with wealth and splendour. Such is the power of virtue of charity, one of the dominant theme of poem no 50.
9. Love Theme:
The theme of love is dominant in many poems. Mostly all the poems of Gitanjali are covered or filled with the feeling of love. Somewhere this love comes out in the form of a lover’s plea for his beloved God. Somewhere in the guise of pure love of Radha Krishna, it dances with the sweet melody of Krishna’s flute and another time the woman in love searches his beloved.
These are so many diverse way to reach Him but the simplest and easiest is the one by love. The pure, selfless love is the highest virtue. It is above all codes and rules. The beloved feels forlorn and longs for Him. As in one poem Tagore says.
“I am only waiting for love to give myself up and last into his hands.” (Poem 17)
In poem no 19, the poet lover waits for his beloved God and he compares his waiting to that of the night. In another poem the love flows with air from the flute of Krishna that thrills the poet. In another poem the divine love fills the devotee with joy when beloved God Himself comes to His lover devotee. The poem no 32 elevates the spiritual love. Self-effacing, self-sacrificing, true love is never possessive. He, whose love is inferior, wants to hold, the person in captivity and never leaves her alone.
He always keeps remembering himself to her last she should forget him. But God grants perfect freedom to the persons he loves and continues to love them even if they do not pray to Him or keep Him in their hearts. Somewhere the man waits for his beloved God in the guise of flowery girl, in the guise of bride for the union and somewhere He himself comes to them during night and leaves His gift for them. “I sit and muse in wonder, what gift is this of thine.” (Poem 52). In another way He comes to man through Nature. His love enlighten them with
“Light, my light, the world-filling light, the eye-kissing light, heart- Sweetening light!” (Poem 57)
The God showers His love for them in the golden light of sun. The joy of love fills Tagore’s heart and he says:
“yes, I know, this is nothing but thy love, O beloved of my heart – this golden light that dances upon the leaves.”
He comes to mankind in the form of ‘immortal gifts’. The river, flower, moon, clouds and sun all symbolizes His love for man.
“thy gifts to us mortals fulfil all Our needs and yet run back to thee. undiminished” (Poem 75)
Themes and Concepts of Tagore’s Poem Gitanjali
Somewhere poet sings the love of mother for her affectionate child. In few poems the poet 18 in the joy of love for his child and somewhere he celebrates the love of man for another man, the love of a brother friend and patriot. In the end of Gitanjali, though the whole book is garden of love, the poet celebrates his love for God. He is filled with gratitude and says:
“In one salutation to thee, my God, let all my senses spread out and touch this world at thy feet.”
The love of man for God and Almighty’s love for man is ineffable in utterance. Poet can’t express this in words and says:
“Ah, who knows what they mean!”
Only the true, pure, simple and innocent heart feels it.
10. The Theme of Music and Lyric:
Tagore embellishes God with the epithet of the poet of poets’. For him God is the superb master of music. In poem no 3, he is perplexed and astonished at the manifestation of His melody. The whole world is lighted up by the light in His music. His music is like a holy stream, it rushes on overcoming all obstacles. Even the stones are moved by it. The poet views the whole creation as a manifestation of divine music. His flute fills the world with joy. He is dumbfounded and utterly captivated by the eternal strains of God’s own music.
“Ah, thou hast made my heart captive in the endless meshes of thy music”
Sometimes the poet imagines to be a musical instrument which becomes the medium of God’s music. He imagines to go to this heavenly abode with his harp of life and
“I shall tune it to the notes of forever.” (Poem no 100)
The poet fills with joy and pride when God commands him to sing in his poem no 2. At that time all that is harsh in his life is resolved into a harmony and his worship of God flies across the sea like a bird.
“and my adoration spreads wings like a glad bird on its flight across the sea.”
The theme of another poem no 7 is music. Here he compares his song to a beloved. She will unite with Him without any ornament coming between to obstruct their union. Similarly he announces that he would not decorate her with any ornament.
“Ornaments would mar our union.”
He praises God’s, Master poet’s incomparable music:
“My poets 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.”
In another poem Tagore sings of music, though now he regrets that he has not yet been able to sing the song which he came into the world to sing. He regrets in poem no 13 that he has wasted a lot of time in making preparations for it, stringing and unstringing his instrument. All sorts of flaws and short comings have combined to frustrate him. The intense pain in his heart is there because the intended song has not come yet. But still there is hope in his heart. He sings in his poem no 15 in the tradition of true Bhaktas, like Surdas and is content in singing the songs of God in “this hall of thine.” He does not want any more honour. And In his poem 49 the poet wins over God’s heart easily his simple Carol which he sings wins for him the grace of God.
Themes and Concepts of Tagore’s Poem Gitanjali
The God, Master musician, himself, comes to his cottage door with a flower for prize. The poet is full of praise, thanks and gratitude for His poetic inspiration in poem no 65. It is God’s inspiration that he writes thee songs that lead him through all mazes of secret mysteries. Through the country of pain and pleasure and other qualities his songs have brought him to the palace gates of God. The poet sought Him with songs and the songs in turn led him into secret paths. The poet expresses Him through his songs and his songs are the offerings to the master musician. His Songs full of gratitude.
“gather together their diverse strains into a single current and flow to a sea of silence in one salutation of thee.” (Poem 103) and they will surely reach the “eternal home.”
There are few other themes in the poem, though they are not so dominant in Gitanjali, still have a alluring quality.
11. Spiritual Voyage:
The theme of Spiritual Voyage where the poet prepares for his soul’s journey after the death. In poem no 42, the poet sings of his journey. The boat, spiritual symbol for voyage is used here. His expectation of holy voyage from the ocean of eternity is being expressed. The poet waits impatiently for his journey to heavenly abode. The poet’s self is the traveller and the companion is God. The another theme of patriotism is in light in poem no 35 where the poet prays God to led him and his people to a plane where the mind is fearless, knowledge free, where there is no narrow mindedness. Into that region where there is regard for truth, where there is yearning for perfection, and reason is respected. He says
“Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake” (Poem no 35)
Another theme of detachment is very effective. He says that the created world is very beautiful as “Beautiful is thy wrestlet, decked. with stars and cunningly wrought in myriad-coloured jewels.” But mora beautiful is the detachment like “thy sword with its curve of lightning “The sword is with me to cut asunder my bonds, and there shall be no fear in life for me in the world” (poem no 53). It is the sword detachment and not the rose petals that makes the soul fearless to meet all the challenges in the world courageously. The shine of sword gives the soul the spiritual enlightenment
Poem no 78 depicts the theme of perfection. The poet, by implication, criticizes the attitude of those who find fault with the world in some way or other. These people do not overlook certain losses and gains that affect everyone. They look “before and after the pine for what is not.” But in reality “unbroken perfection is over all” the creation.
14. Theme of Farewell:
The theme of farewell is there in few poems. He dispossesses completely of all worldly possessions and with an expectant heart and soul of the poet will reach Him. There will be the music of the evening star shining over his voyage to Death.
“At this time of my parting, wish me good luck, my friends” (Poem no 94)
“I start on my journey with empty hands and expectant heart.”
He does not have bitter feelings about the world when he wants to leave it. He is full of gratitude because he feels that he has received more than he could give
“I received more than I could give” (Poem 93)
He is very satisfied. He has received the unsurpassable gifts from the life and after tasting the honey of the lotus he wants to “die in death-lessness”. He will take the harp of his life into God’s audience – hall and tune it to everlasting notes, and after it has sobbed out its last note, he will lay it down at God’s feet. In his last poem he says:
“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. Like a flock of homesick cranes flying night and day back to their mountain nets let all my life take its voyage to its eternal home in one salutation to thee.” (Poem 103)
There are few poems which depicts or criticizes the human weakness. Like poem no 85 where the poet exclaims;
“When the warriors came out first from their masters hall, where nas they hid their power? Where were their armour and their arms?”
Man is allured by worldly temptations. He is prisoner in the chains of his own desires and our possessions become our limitation. By seeking false ends we multiply our fetters. The poet asks:
“Prisoner, tell me, who was it that wrought this unbreakable chain?”
And the worldly tempted man answers:
“It was I, said the prisoner, ‘who forged this chain very carefully”
“I found that it held me in its grip”
These are the temptations of wealth, power and luxuries. Pride, ego and lust all are the barriers in his life to meet his Supreme Father. All the care that he takes to improve his material life ultimately shadows his own self. He is so lost in these things that many a times man remains indifferent to the end and when at last moment of spiritual illumination comes he discover that he is too unready to receive it and he cries and repents:
“The king has come – but where are lights, where are wreaths? Where is the throne to set him? Oh, shame! Oh utter shanme! Where is the hall, the decorations?” (Poem 51)
And this is God’s mercy that He refuses to fulfill his desires that make one forget Him. The theme of rebirth after death is there in his poem no 24. The exhausted earth is wrapped in a coverlet of sleep and petals of drooping lotus are tenderly closed at dusk. Man also towards the end of the journey of his life is exhausted and he may be renewed in another birth like a flower under the cover of this kindly light. Rebirth takes him towards the way of perfection. The poem no 70 describes the quick passage of time. The theme of change is there. Seasons change, all things rush on, no power can hold. Death seems to be eternally present in the quick changes wrought by time. Tagore says that while this relative time is fleeting and evanescent, the time absolute is eternity itself. To obtain God’s grace, there is no limitation of time. He waits for you in timelessness and His abode is always open for man.
“Time is endless in thy hands, my Lord. There is none to count thy minutes.”
“At the end of the day I hasten in fears lest thy gate be shut; but I find that yet there is time.”
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