Gitanjali as a Nature Poem
The poetry of nature in Gitanjali is purposive, existing not only for the beauty of the thing as it is, but of symbolical significance. Here we have images cut in diamond which refract light. It is difficult to find the detached natural objects containing the pure aesthetic glamour. They are tied to the apron strings of thought. The ecstatic joy of the mystic, the agony of the adorer, the high expectations of the tryst with the Beloved have been explained through the objects of nature. Like Wordsworth, Tagore does not draw the conclusions from it. Brief, though intense, feeling studded in the poem looks fresh in the light of the natural objects. From there Tagore’s imagination flits on to the different moods. It is not like The Cortege of Khalil Gibran where nature appears in all its solid impact of human life. “The frolicsome breeze brings joy to sad hearts.”
Nightingale playing such a great role in the poems of the younger romantics in English literature is a peace-giving bird in The Cortege: for when the Nightingale sings, all is beauty and joy and religion, and the spirit is soothed and the reward is peace. The pride of an individual, even when he dies, has been compared with the pride of an eagle in the poem. Gitanjali is not essentially a poem composed with the sole object of illuminating the life of nature. It is a harp which strums upon the different aspects of life, even beyond it at times
The ecstatic mood of the worshipper of God has been beautifully described in the flight of the bird winging across the sea. (Gitanjali. 2). The life sustaining music of the divine runs through the skies. The holy stream of His music breaks through all stony obstacles and rushes on. Thus we find that objects of nature are not self-accomplished but related poetically with the moods and thoughts in the poem. The flower is not characterized with a natural charm as are the daffodils of Wordsworth, it assumes a significance akin to the human life. For instance Tagore says that this little flower be plucked lest its petals should fall before it is done. The pain of death incurred in the act of plucking has been softened by the symbol of “the little flower.” Human life is like a flower, a fit object for offering to God.
The cosmic width has been symbolized by the stars and planets. He has no natural or astronomical interest in them, they are only important as the poetic symbols of the vast space which a human eye sees.
The mystic’s desire has not yet attained fruition: ‘the blossom has not opened’. It is in the sighing of the wind he lives, which refers to the agony of the separation of the lover from the beloved. The sky and light are the great gifts of life which are provided by the providence to the humans for their convenience. The poet is just thankful to him for this.
He is not concerned with the beauty of the rainy season in this poem, but certainly the ‘rainly hours’ are important for they refer to the unrealized glory of life. It is further, accentuated by the restless wind.’ The human existence which has not yet been touched by the divine glory comes to be in the grip of the rainy hours and the restless wind.
The blooming of the lotus in the poem refers to the appearance of the glory of God which the mystic laments that he could not see it. “My basket was empty and the flower remained unheeded”. The ineffable sweetness blossoms in the heart of the poet which is the result of the divine pursuits. The worldly drudgery and the material insignificance of human life have been symbolized by the “faded futile flowers.’ Sickness and death have been aptly compared with the yellow Ieaves’ which flutter and fall. The poet listens to the melodies floating on towards him from the other shore.’ Such is life.
Tagore’s objects of nature are charged with feeling and emotion. But no great thought comes to dwell upon them. There is no sustained natural description. The objects of nature have an erstwhile value which make an idea glisten for a while, and are thrown back by the rush of other ideas. Gitanjali is an assortment of the various ideas. it has no spinal cord to support any single sustained theme. At present it is an evil, next time, the tillers of the soil, then the sad mood, then joy, the feeling of inadequacy as a mystic. In this manner the poem runs an undecided course. The stuff no doubt is that of the bordering life, but it has been parceled out in patches. It is one reason that nature has not been accorded a sustained reception. The casually caught moods, the objects of nature come handy for illuminating and explaining thoughts. The God of the mystic walks in the deep shadows of the rainy July, with secret steps’ eluding all watchers.
The world in general, particularly that one where the hustle and bustle of life falls to create the congenial atmosphere for the gods to walk, has been compared with the ‘woodland’ without songs. The human despair has been epitomized by Tagore in a charming poetic style. “The sky groans like one despair strikes fire like a piece of metaphysical poem. For the mystic God is coming and coming through the mazy paths besieged by the gloom in nature.
“By what dim shore of the ink-black river, by what far edge of the frowning forest, through what mazy depth of good art thou threading thy course to come to me, my friend?” (Gitanjali, 13).
The wind has passed tired’ and it is time that someone drew the veil of darkness upon the poet. The gloomy mood has been drawn with the aid of the natural objects. Sky is not only vast, but it seethes in high despair. Night is not charming but weary for one who is out to have a tryst with the divine. The flower of life needs renewal. The love of the lord stirs in the heart of the adorer particularly when the sky is ‘overcast with clouds and the rain is ceaseless.’ The pangs of the mystic have been represented by the murky metaphors and symbols drawn from nature. “The night is black as a black stone.” The average man, away from God, lives in darkness. Thus the nature in Gitanjali has been black-taped particularly where the poet feels a sense of inadequacy or the pangs of separation. The earthly freshness of nature, the joy that runs through glades and brook, the soothing clusters of trees, the enchanting landscapes are obviously missing: it is because of the fact that they would have been irrelevant to the spirit of the poem.
The immanence of nature felt by Wordsworth in The Excursion and in other poems is none of the poets concern in Gitanjali. He is not out to find the active principle’ residing in nature. The poet is in a different frame of mind. He has no time to look to the stern Winter which in Wordsworth ‘loves a dirge-like sound.’ The occasional symbols and metaphors drawn from nature suit immensely the flow of the poem. They ripple on the surface of its stream.
Khalil Gibran in The Cortege says that it is in nature resides the reward of the soul who seeks it. Behind the cloud resides the moon but one has to pierce it before one can hope to see it. A mystic must have that courage and determination. In nature he sees the equality professed so much by the democrats and socialists in the various societies. The falling leaves are not wasted, they are revived by the process of the cycle of nature. The re-birth has a different meaning in Gibran than what we find in Tagore. There is no consciousness of the superiority or beauty of ugliness in the objects. If there is beauty in foliage or in peacock it remains there in its own right. It does not carry any idea or conscious thought along with it. Beauty and sweetness exist in nature but the forest docs not stand med for it. The capering gazelle just capers on without being conscious of its own glory. The subtle thoughts drawn from nature are abounding in this poem. Tagore in Gitanjali is in an altogether different frame of mind.
The destiny of man hovering on the verge of god-realization possesses him strongly. He skips by the possible luscious aspects of nature or the thoughts emanating from them. He does not pause to look at the glory of nature, but whenever he touches an object of that description he pours all beauty on it. The ecstasy of the mystic, and the gloom of the despair have been described with the aid of the objects of nature.
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