Gitanjali Poem 20 Summary and Analysis

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On the day when the lotus bloomed, alas, my mind was straying, and I knew it not. My basket was empty and the flower remained unheeded.
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 longing and it seemed to me that it was the eager breath of the summer seeking for its completion.
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.

On the day when the lotus bloomed, alas, my mind was straying, and I knew it not. My basket was empty and the flower remained unheeded.
Gitanjali Poem no. 20

Summary

      Here, the poet talks about how one day he realizes that the God whom he has been searching for and waiting from so long to come into His presence, resides within himself. The poet was gathering flowers but on the day the lotus came into bloom, he was not aware of it as his mind was wandering and thus failing to pluck it, his basket remained empty. But there was sadness in the poet's heart and when he suddenly woke up from his dream he felt a strangeness in the south wind. This faint, untraceable sweetness touched the poet's heart and made him long for it so much that his heart hurt and he felt that it might be the summer breeze Then he realizes that the breeze was his own and the perfect sweetness was blooming from within his own heart.

Critical Analysis

      In lyric number twenty, Tagore elaborates on the Indian religious concept that God resides in every man's heart. The poet has been searching everywhere for God and sometimes he felt as though God has eluded him, the love emanating from God hurt him too but finally he finds that it has all been coming from within himself.

      Tagore uses vivid imagery to convey the concept. The flower imagery is again seen here. The poet seeking God is presented through the graphic picture of a flower gatherer who fails to notice that the lotus has bloomed and further fails to pluck it. He is lost in his dreams but he feels a strange fragrance now and again. The use of the lotus to symbolise God's love or presence is fitting because in Hindu mythology, the lotus is the seat of the Lord, the creator and preserver.

Annotation

      Lotus: God's love. Straying: wondering. Flower remain unheeded: did not respond to God' love. Started up from my dream: suddenly work. Vague sweetness: a sweetness only faintly traceable. Heart ache with longing: wish for union with God so much that his heart hurt. Breath of the summer: pleasant summer breeze.

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