There's a poet in you
Yes, I'm certain
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In early 2020, before a certain spiked-protein’s untimely rendezvous with humanity became headline news, I was introduced, by a dear friend, to the work of Rabindranath Tagore. The first non-European to win the Nobel prize, Tagore’s legacy of inspired writings and most notably his poetry, captured the unity between the physical and spiritual dimensions of existence. Reading Tagore felt metaphorically similar to encountering an oyster; it may pose a formidable guard but caress it with patience and it will open up to a mesmerising world of mellifluous prose.
For Tagore, the experience of immortality lay in our sense of belonging to the interconnectedness of things, a sense that we can nurture and articulate through the medium of poetry. He writes:
…the manifestation of Man has no end in itself — not even now. Neither did it have its beginning in any particular time we ascribe to it. The truth of man is in the heart of eternity, the fact of it being evolved through endless ages. If Man’s manifestation has round it a background of millions of light years still it is his own background. He includes in himself the time, however long, that carries the process of his becoming.
His scintillating oeuvre continues to be a silent source of encouragement to seek beauty even in the most mundane or crippling of situations. His writing is almost always encased within a broader plea for people to see unity in the elements of existence — of observer and observed, of physical and psychic — because that is the human experience.
Tagore wholeheartedly believed that, through deep introspection, we’d find a poet in all of us, ready to harness the pearls of positivity amidst life’s travails. To see through the muddied waters of pessimism and scarcity and enjoy the bounties of the universe with minimum expectation and maximum contentment.
The motif of the undercover poet is most pronounced in Tagore’s magnum opus, Gitanjali (“Song Offerings”). Gitanjali propelled to stratospheric fame after W B Yeats introduced it to the world in 1913 through a compelling foreword, now a permanent fixture in most Bengali and English versions of the text. Written as a sacred ode to the universe and its organising influence on life, the 103 poems contained in the book highlight the many realisations Tagore had under the crimson sky, against the backdrop of India’s intellectual renaissance in the early twentieth century. Gitanjali marked the beginnings of a curious but alluring osmosis of Indian traditions and secular Western scientific doctrine.
One of my favourite verses is the following short excerpt:
"All things rush on, they stop not, they look not behind, no power
can hold them back, they rush on.
Keeping steps with that restless, rapid music, seasons come
dancing and pass away—colours, tunes, and perfumes pour in
endless cascades in the abounding joy that scatters and gives up and
dies every moment."
There is an undeniable timbre of simplicity, depth and romanticism to Tagore’s words as he explores the race of life, using poetry as a canvas. Readers are treated to the hypnotism in how each landscape seamlessly blends into the next with natural ease. And a reminder of the wonders that are missed because people are frantically racing against each other, steamrolling their way, their will, exhausting their abilities, and ultimately not realising where their happiness lies.
Tagore has reinforced a belief that I’ve held for most of my adult life, that poetry is indeed the charioteer of one's soul - and we are at it’s helm. All we need to do is recognise it.