Gitanjali Poem No. 51 - Summary and Analysis

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The night darkened. Our day's works had been done. We thought that the last guest had arrived for the night and the doors in the village were all shut. Only some said, The king was to come. We laughed and said "No, it cannot be!"

It seemed there were knocks at the door and we said it was nothing but the wind. We put out the lamps and lay down to sleep. Only some said, "It is the messenger!" We laughed and said "No, it must be the wind!"

There came a sound in the dead of the night. We sleepily thought it was the distant thunder. The earth shook, the walls rocked, and it troubled us in our sleep. Only some said, it was the sound of wheels. We said in a drowsy murmur, "No, it must be the rumbling of clouds!"

The night was still dark when the drum sounded. The voice came “Wake up! Delay not! "We pressed our hands on our hearts and shuddered with fear. Some said, "Lo, there is the king's flag!" We stood up on our feet and cried "There is no time for delay!"

The king has come but where are lights, where are wreaths? Where is the throne to seat him? Oh, shame! Oh utter shame! Where is the hall, the decorations? Some one has said, "Vain is this cry! Greet him with empty hands, lead him into thy rooms all bare!"

Open the doors, let the conch-shells be sounded! In the depth of the night has come the king of our dark, dreary house. The thunder roars in the sky. The darkness shudders with lightning. Bring out thy tattered piece of mat and spread it in the courtyard. With the storm has come of a sudden our king of the fearful night.

The night darkened. Our day's works had been done. We thought that the last guest had arrived for the night and the doors in the village were all shut. Only some said, The king was to come. We laughed and said "No, it cannot be!"
Gitanjali Poem no. 51


      Like other lyrics of Tagore, in this poem too the poet stresses on spiritual illumination. Man, who is busy with his hectic life is getting far away from heavenly glory. The darkness had covered the sky. The poet and his friends had done their toil for the day. The doors of the villagers had been shut with the thought that the last guest had been come. Few said that the king had still to come. But poet and his friends laughed and said that it was impossible. The king here symbolizes the divine king, Omnipresent God. Few people had the divine intuition that the divine king would come but the burden of trivial life acted as a barrier between the poet, his friends and the divine life. They were unable to hear the inner promptings of divine visitation.

      The knocks at the door were assumed as the sound of wind and the villagers extinguished their lamps and lay down. Few villagers said the knocking is of the messengers of king but the ignorant poet and his companions laughed at this and said that it was wind. Later in the night the sounds of thunder were heard and the earth shook and trembled at the noise, but this errand of God is still ignored as the roar of thunder, wasn't accepted as the sound of the king's chariot, his ascendance. The sound of drum in the dark was heard and a voice was there saying that they should wake up and make no delay. Fear overpowered the poet and others. Someone had seen the flag of the king. The atmosphere of confusion, perplexity, shame and fear was there as they hadn't made any preparation to welcome Him. A wise voice was heard that all this regret was useless and that they must greet him with bare hands and lead him to bare room. For the almighty king, who is flourished with all pleasures, God seeks the place where lies the true heart, pure devotion and selfless love. They decided to welcome Him with tattered carpet for His seat and hence the king of our dark, dreary house was welcomed.

Critical Analysis

      The human soul craves to meet the divine, spiritual illumination but the attraction of worldly temptations pulls the soul away from the union. The ignorant poet and his companions were filled with fear at His arrival but spiritual seeker should not be fearful of Him. God dwells where lies true love for him, worldly attractions and decorations are of no use for Him.

      The Indian doctrine of Bhakti is revealed here. The king here symbolizes God who comes to His devotees at a remembrance but with pure heart, like Mira and Kabir, who were lost in all time Bhakti of their lover, creator, almighty king and hence when He came down to meet their soul they enjoyed the ecstasy without missing this opportunity. So the spiritual seekers should always be ready, for no one can say when the moment of enlightenment may come. Like all mystics Tagore uses symbolism and imagery to increase the expressive range of his language. His imagery drown from the common life where villagers are waiting for disguised king communicates the abstract truth of Bhakti to the readers with a rare lucidity and clarity.


      Drowsy: sleepy. Murmur: low sound. Rumbling: deep, heavy and continuous sound. Shuddered: trembled. Wreaths: garland of flowers. Conch-shells: used for sacred ceremonies, the conch is a large, spiral shell musical sound. Tattered: torn. King of our dark, dreary house: Here symbolizes the God, the king of death, Omnipotent God who even overpowers dreary death.

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