Gitanjali Poem no. 64 || Summary and Analysis

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On the slope of the desolate river among tall grasses I asked her, "Maiden, where do you go shading your lamp with your mantle? My house is all dark and lonesome - lend me your light!" She raised her dark eyes for a moment and looked at my face through the dusk. "I have come to the river," she said, "to float my lamp on the stream when the daylight wanes in the west." I stood alone among tall grasses and watched the timid flame of her lamp uselessly drifting in the tide.

In the silence of gathering night I asked her, "Maiden, your lights are all lit - then where do you go with your lamp? My house is all dark and lonesome, - lend me your light.” She raised her dark eyes on my face and stood for a moment doubtful. "I have come," she said at last, "to dedicate my lamp to the sky." I stood and watched her light uselessly burning in the void.

In the moonless gloom of midnight I asked her, "Maiden, what is your quest holding the lamp near your heart? My house is all dark and lonesome, - lend me your light." She stopped for a minute and thought and gazed at my face in the dark. "I have brought my light," she said, "to join the carnival of lamps." I stood and watched her little lamp uselessly lost among lights.

On the slope of the desolate river among tall grasses I asked her, "Maiden, where do you go shading your lamp with your mantle? My house is all dark and lonesome - lend me your light!" She raised her dark eyes for a moment and looked at my face through the dusk. "I have come to the river," she said, "to float my lamp on the stream when the daylight wanes in the west." I stood alone among tall grasses and watched the timid flame of her lamp uselessly drifting in the tide.
Gitanjali Poem no. 64

Summary

      The theme of the poem is still the 'quest of God' and 'realization of God'. But this lyric is quite different. It is satirizing, criticizing the orthodoxy and hollowness of Hindu religion which are being accepted as a way to please the God. God can be reached through humanity rather than following useless rituals.

      The poet asks the girl, on the slope of the deserted river among the tall grass, to lend him her lamp so that his lonesome and dark house may be enlightened. The maiden raises her dark eyes for a moment and looks at his face through the dim light of the evening. She refuses him in order to follow the old custom of floating the lamp on the river. The poet is helplessly looking at the floating lamp burning in the void. Later the poet requests her again to lit his house with her lamp as her house is full of light and poet's house is dark and deserted. She again refuses and dedicates her lamp to the sky. Similarly many lamps are burning in the moonless darkness of midnight to celebrate the ceremony or festival of lamps, but none is given to the poet. The poor, pathetic poet remains in need, while the number of lamps are burning in needless empty ritual.

Critical Analysis

      The poem has a voice of reformer. The poet is pointing out the hollowness, uselessness of rituals prevailing in India. He is satirizing on the superstitiousness and orthodoxy of Hindu religion. The small lyric, which presents the helplessness and need of a poor man whose house is in dark and on the other side the superstitious woman who is wasting lighted lamps on the streams, in the open and in the carnivals of lighted lamps, is a poignant attack on the orthodoxy.

      The poor poet is an embodiment of poverty in the whole India. His need, suffering and helplessness is covering the poor inmates of the country who cannot afford a light while few are wasting money and material in empty rituals. The tradition of floating the lamp on the river is one of the peculiar thought of hindus that these lights do good to the souls of the departed while the living man (poet) is deprived of this light. The moonless midnight suggests the hindu festival Deepawali flourished with number of lamps, huge wastage of money in crackers and gifts is these and somewhere it is passed in chaos, need and suffering.

      The way to attain union with God is to serve suffering humanity, for God's footstool rests where the poor and low live. God is not to be found through rituals and ceremonial worship. The joy and ecstacy of union with God can only be achieved through humanity. The love for poor and sufferers, the kindness for needy makes a way to the Supreme, Infinite power, God.

"She stopped for a minute and thought and gazed at my face in the dark. I have brought my light, she said, 'to join carnival of lamps'. I stood and watched her little lamp uselessly lost among lights."

      These lines are at the same time critical and reforming. The poet here asks for the kindness of every man for each other. He is criticizing the hollow, useless traditions and orthodoxy of Hindu religion. The poet, who is a poor and needy man in the dark house, asks for a lamp and she refuses and says she has to join this in the carnival of lamps and the poet still in dark looks at the thousand lamps burning but unable to make his house enlightened. The poem is thus a satire on the out-mode rites and rituals of India. And conveys a message of humanity, kindness and equality. The maiden in these lines is the rich class spending their money uselessly without caring for the needy and poor who actually waits for their benevolence. This small incident is a criticism on the religious pomp and callousness of the upper middle classes who are indifferent to the suffering of their poor brethren.

Annotations

      Desolate: lonely. Mantle: outer cloth. Wanes: decreases, grows dim. Timid: hesitant. Drifting: floating. Quest: search. Carnival: festival.

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