The Poetry of India – Rabindranath Tagore (1861 – 1941)

Tagores poetry captures the energy and diversity of India, which saves me attempting a feeble summary after my recent visits.  I discovered ‘Gitanjali’, his most famous work, in a little book shop somewhere.

Written just after the death of many members of his family, and with a glorious introduction by W.B. Yeats, this is a work of sheer beauty from the darkest corner of grief, with a depth of devotion and love that lifts the soul.  Fittingly he became the first non-european be awarded the title of Nobel laureate in 1913.

On my travels it led me to a greater understanding of Indias faith in the divine, its all-encompassing power of survival, fortitude and joy.

His elegant and magical poetry was originally written in his native Bengali.   These are two of my favourites.  The first encomapsses the beauty and romance of life, the second the resolve and struggle that has been a trait of Mother India throughout its long, long history.  It is a rallying cry to the human spirit.

Later in his life he turned his wonderful talent to painting, many now ehibited in the Museum of Modern Art in Delhi.  He commented:

‘words are too concious; lines are not.  Ideas have their form and colour, which wait for their incarnation in pictoral art……My morning began with songs and poems; now, in the evening of my life, my mind is filled with form and colours…….  Love gives evidence to something which is outside us but which intensely exists and thus stimuates the sense of our own existence.  It radiantly reveals the reality of its objects.’

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore’s


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, my darling, and it scatters gems of profusion.

Mirth spreads from leaf to leaf, my darling, and gladness without measure.  The heaven’s river had drowned its banks and the flood of joy is abroad.

The end of Spiti, June, India 2010

Ekla Chalore “Walk Alone”

If they answer not to thy call,

Walk Alone.

If they tremble and cower mutely

Facing the Wall,

O thou of evil luck,

Open thy mind and speak out alone.

If, when crossing the wilderness,

They turn away and desert you,

O thou of evil luck,

Trample the thorns under thy tread,

And along the blood-strewn path,

Walk alone.

If, when the night is troubled

With storm,

They do not hold up the light,

O thou of evil luck,

With the thunder flame of pain,

Ignite thine own heart,

And let it burn alone.


Streetside Hampi, August, India 2011

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