Gitanjali Poem 50 Summary and Analysis

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I had gone a-begging from door to door in the village path, when thy golden chariot appeared in the distance like a gorgeous dream and I wondered who was this King of all kings!

My hopes rose high and me thought my evil days were at an end, and I stood waiting for alms to be given unasked and for wealth scattered on all sides in the dust.

The chariot stopped where I stood. Thy glance fell on me and thou earnest down with a smile. I felt that the luck of my life had come at last. Then of a sudden thou didst hold out thy right hand and say "What hast thou to give to me?"

Ah, what a kingly jest was it to open thy palm to a beggar to beg! I was confused and stood undecided, and then from my wallet I slowly took out the least little grain of corn and gave it to thee.

But how great my surprise when at the day's end I emptied my bag on the floor to find a least little grain of gold among the poor heap. I bitterly wept and wished that I had had the heart to give thee my all.

I had gone a-begging from door to door in the village path, when thy golden chariot appeared in the distance like a gorgeous dream and I wondered who was this King of all kings!
Gitanjali Poem no. 50

Summary

      The main idea in this poem depicts the Indian values. The power of Charity and humbleness on one hand and surrender to God's will on the other hand are elevated here. The poet pictures himself in the guise of a beggar going from door to door to beg alms from people in a village. Soon he is surprised by the appearance of a splendid golden Chariot in front of him. He wonders at the gorgeous beauty and glory of this king of all kings. He feels it as a splendid dream. The poet is happy at the thought that his bad days are at an end and his hopes soar high in the sky. He was expecting rich alms from this Almighty, glorious king. He lost himself in the dream of scattered wealth but soon he waked up when this Almighty, splendid king comes down with a heavenly smile on his face and says "what do you have to give me?"

      The poet was shocked and thought it was a royal joke-that a donor is opening His palm in front of a beggar. Here the poet is unaware of the aim behind the king's act of begging. The God was testing his charity. The poet was bewildered and confused, but he gave Him a grain of corn from his wallet. At the end of the day, when the poet emptied his bag on the floor, great was his surprise to see a small piece of gold among the grains in the heap. He wept bitterly and regretted that he did not give his all to God.

Critical Appreciation

      The lyric is a poetic version of Indian values. Tagore, being Indian has in his mind the virtues of charity, humbleness and sacrifice. The theme of poem is that you get by one hand if you give by other. Unaware of the truth, the poor poet gives a single grain of corn from the heap and later repents if he had the generosity to give everything to God.

      The renunciation of all possession is the only way that leads to God. This is the inevitable truth. This lyric of Tagore reminds the Indian epics where God comes in different disguises to test the bounty of their devotees. The generosity of Karna, the love of Krishna for His devotee and poor friend Sudama. The offerings of Sudama in the form of rice turned his poverty to wealth. The generosity, pure love and charity wins the Almighty God and He comes down to help the poor humble lovers of Him. The style and verse are as simple as other lyrics of Tagore. The simplicity of words, theme and diction maintains the human interest. The form of lyric in a parable is again laudable to impress the readers.

"The chariot stopped where I stood, thy glance fell on me and thou calmest down with a smile. I felt that the lack of my life had come at last. Then of a sudden thou didn't hold out thy right hand and say what hast thou to give to me?"

      Besides being a mystic, Tagore is a man of teachings. He is not a preacher but his poems teaches good lessons to human beings, act as a educator of mankind. This parable, in which the practice of charity is applauded depicts one of the sayings of the Bhagavad Gita, where it is mentioned that the Lord of creation having, in ancient times, emanated mankind together with sacrifice said:

"By this shall ye propagate, be this to you the giver of desires."

      Means one gets in proportion to what one sacrifices. One must not always expect for granted favours from others or God but should do whatever he can do for needy and unfortunates. The poet here conceived himself as a mendicant and God as a magnificent prince who would be expected to give generous alms to everybody. But the beggar's hopes are belied. The prince comes out of the chariot and suddenly opens his palm before the beggar and asks the beggar as to what he has got to give the prince instead of giving anything himself to the poor beggar. The beggar gives him one of the smallest grains of corn, only to find at the end of the day that the alms collected by him contain one grain of gold. Thus God has rewarded charity.

      There is a mystical background also to the episode described here, Kuchela (Sudama) the boyhood friend of Krishna, was living a life of utter poverty. One day he remembered his friend Krishna the Lord of Prosperity and visited him in rags. He offered Krishna some stale corn meal he carried with him. Krishna ate it exhibiting great pleasure and each morsel he took Kuchela grew richer and more richer. On reaching home he found his home flooded with wealth and splendour. This is the might of charity or giving.

Annotations

      A-begging: the act of begging. Gorgeous: majestic. Alms: money, or anything given in charity. Wallet: the bag in which beggars collect their alms.

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