Gitanjali Poem 41 Summary and Analysis

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Where dost thou stand behind them all, my lover, hiding thyself in the shadows? They push thee and pass thee by on the dusty road, taking thee for naught. I wait here weary hours spreading my offerings for thee, while passers by come and take my flowers, one by one, and my basket is nearly empty.

The morning time is past, and the noon. In the shade of evening my eyes are drowsy with sleep. Men going home glance at me and smile and fill me with shame. I sit like a beggar maid, drawing my skirt over my face, and when they ask me, what it is I want, I drop my eyes and answer them not.

Oh, how, indeed, could I tell them that for thee I wait, and that thou hast promised to come. How could I utter for shame that I keep for my dowry this poverty. Ah, I hug this pride in the secret of my heart.

I sit on the grass and gaze upon the sky and dream of the sudden splendour of thy coming - all the lights ablaze, golden pennons flying over thy car, and they at the roadside standing agape, when they see thee come down from thy seat to raise me from the dust, and set at thy side this ragged beggar girl a-tremble with shame and pride, like a creeper in a summer breeze.

But time glides on and still no sound of the wheels of thy chariot. Many a procession passes by with noise and shouts and glamour of glory. Is it only thou who wouldst stand in the shadow silent and behind them all? And only I who would wait and weep and wear out my heart in vain longing?

Where dost thou stand behind them all, my lover, hiding thyself in the shadows? They push thee and pass thee by on the dusty road, taking thee for naught. I wait here weary hours spreading my offerings for thee, while passers by come and take my flowers, one by one, and my basket is nearly empty.
Gitanjali Poem no. 41

Summary

      In this poem Tagore portrays his spiritual longing for God again in the semi-erotic terms of a beggar maid waiting for her prince and lover to take her away. The poet addresses the lover God and questions why He stood behind all, hiding Himself in the shadows. He is pushed and passed and taken for nothing. While the beloved waits the tiresome hours with all her offerings to God spread before her. People walking past her taking away all her flowers one by one at last leaving her basket empty.

      In this manner the morning and the afternoon has passed and now it is evening. And in the darkening light of the evening the beloved feels drowsy with sleep. People passing the beloved or the poet sitting thus at the side of the road look at him and smile and this fills the poet / beloved with shame. And then the poet says that he sits like a beggar girl who hides her face by drawing her skirt over her face. When the poet is asked what he wants from these people, he drops his eyes and cannot answer. He does so because he cannot tell them that he was waiting for God for he had promised to come to him. And He has nothing to offer God but his poverty and yet this is a matter of pride that the poet hugs and holds close in the innermost recess of his heart.

      The poet sits on the grass and looks at the sky and dreams of how God would come to him in all his glory and splendour. He shall come with lights blazing and his golden flags flying over this chariot. And when God shall come down from his seat on the chariot and raise the poet from the earth, then everyone shall look on in surprise and wonders. And when God shall set him beside himself, the poet says that like a creeper trembling in the summer breeze, he shall tremble but with shame and pride because of the great glory conferred on him.

      But time passes on slowly and yet there is no sound of God's chariot coming near. Many processions pass by with loud noises, pomp and glamour. Then the poet finally questions if He would thus remain hiding in the shadows silently and cries if he were to be the only one left waiting for Him, crying his heart out and long for God's darshan in vain.

Analysis

      Tagore uses the traditional imagery of Indian religious poetry yet again. Here, the poet is a poor bride who waits for her Prince to come and love her. The mingling of the religious and the erotic image, the sacred and the secular makes the poem a great success. Moreover the Cindrella and the Prince charming aspect all adds to its beauty and charm. The picture that merges of a poor beggarly girl waiting on the road side with nothing to offer as the flowers she had gathered had been taken away by passers by is beautiful. More apt is the idea conveyed in the picture of the maid longing intensely, sometimes hopeful sometimes despairing for her lover who promised to come.

      The poet is waiting for a union which God promised. People mock and smile decisively at such girls and she is filled with shame and cannot say what it is that she wants. The maid dreams of how her lover would come splendidly dressed in a chariot and how he would take her and she would be full of shame that she was not worthy such a rich and handsome groom and yet proud at the same time. The people around them would be filled with wonder and surprise. The image of God coming as a groom leading the marriage procession is again emphasised in the next line which talks about other processions coming but the girl remains waiting. For her lover still stands in the shadows being pushed and jostled by others. And she cries if she would be the only one left waiting and her wai reflects all the poet's despair and longing for God. The poem is an in tensely passionate expression of the poet's love and devotion for God and his strong yearning to be blessed with God's darshan. He thus expresses his deep faith that he shall one day achieve salvation. The poet is confident that he shall recognise God and be blessed.

Annotation

      Taking there for naught: people taking him (God?) for nothing. Golden pennons: golden coloured flags. Time glides on: time moves softly.

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