Lack of Variety and Monotony: in Tagore's Gitanjali

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Introduction:

      The piece of creative work that has won the Nobel Prize for Literature is surely above applause. Such is the renown of Gitanjali that it charmed the readers with its spiritual and materialistic truths, with its newness, Indianness and simplicity. This is an immortal masterpiece devoted to the Immortal God. Still this immortal piece is charged with some flaws. In Gitanjali there is a constant repetition of particular images, words and phrases, and this results in a certain staleness and monotony found by critics. There is lack of variety in his thought and language, diction and imagery. The tone of several poems was found to be only pseudo-mystic and artificially spiritual. There is fault in Tagore's use of English. He was attacked as being ungrammatical and violating English idiom and usage. There is an another charge of lack of structural unity.

The poems do not represent a logical structural succession of a continuous theme, they are individual works. The poet begins his poems with adoration of God and then follows the various themes of love and devotion but in between he speaks about charity, repentance. For example till poem no XLIX he speaks about love and devotion then soon comes the theme of charity and poem XLII speaks about detachment and again the tone turns to love-tryst in his poem no XLIII and again flows the air of love and soon the innocence and joy of childhood interrupts the theme of love. Then in poem no LXIV the poet satirizes on the hollowness of Hindu religion. "The poem LXXXVI again disturbs the yearning of soul and welcomes the Death and later it is in the end that Tagore balanced the flow of theme of death with an end of salutation to the God.
Rabindranath Tagore

Lack of Unity:

      The poems do not represent a logical structural succession of a continuous theme, they are individual works. The poet begins his poems with adoration of God and then follows the various themes of love and devotion but in between he speaks about charity, repentance. For example till poem no XLIX he speaks about love and devotion then soon comes the theme of charity and poem XLII speaks about detachment and again the tone turns to love-tryst in his poem no XLIII and again flows the air of love and soon the innocence and joy of childhood interrupts the theme of love. Then in poem no LXIV the poet satirizes on the hollowness of Hindu religion. "The poem LXXXVI again disturbs the yearning of soul and welcomes the Death and later it is in the end that Tagore balanced the flow of theme of death with an end of salutation to the God.

Monotony in Gitanjali:

      There is a sameness as regards his thoughts. Always he is dealing with mystical and spiritual truths, and this imparts to his poetry a certain dreaminess and mistiness. There is diffusiveness and vagueness in his poetry because he is treating with those mystical truth which are difficult to create even though there is abundance of vivid, sensuous imagery. His pre-occupation with mystic truth obliges him to use an oblique manner of expression which is the stumbling stone in his way of his readers. This is the dilemma of mystic writers and Tagore could not escape it though he ceaselessly tries to give it a concrete, sensuous, expression. That is why he has been charged with being, "misty, dreamy, and diffuse'. Besides the themes the versification has a single key. After a few poems it begins to jar on the mind of the reader. Tagore 's diction is no doubt simple and often extremely effective, but it is very much limited in range. Tagore's style often attracts too much attention to itself, with the result that it seems to offer every sentence as containing a profound thought. Actual analysis of the lines is therefore very often bound to be very disappointing because of the high expectations that have been raised earlier. The impression is inescapable that Tagore sometimes dresses an ordinary idea in impressive expression in order to pass it off as a gem of profundity. He does not seem to have looked at his poems very critically. There are few examples from Gitanjali that may be examined in support of charge of monotony in versification:

"I know that how thou singest, my master! I ever listen in silent amazement.
(Poem III)

"Life of my life, I shall ever try to keep my body pure, knowing that thy living touch is upon all my limbs."
(Poem IV)

"Pluck this little flower and take it delay not! I fear lost it droop and droop into the dust."
(Poem VI)

"O Fool, to try to carry thyself upon thy own shoulders!"

"O beggar, to come to beg at thy own door!"
(Poem IX)

      There is a repetition in the diction also. The recurrence of words like flute, reed, adornments, finery, bondage, clouds, flowers, shadows, dream, shore etc produces the dullness and monotony. For e.g.

"I must launch out my boat"
(Poem XXI)

Again:

"We would sail in a boat, only thou and I.."
(Poem XLII)

"Light, oh where is the light?"
(Poem XXVII)

Again:

"Light, my light, the world filling light, the eye, kissing light, heart sweetening light"

"The light is shattered..."
(Poem LVII)

Critics View:

      Regarding the monotony Edward Thompson, one of the most sympathetic critic, noticed:

"It must be admitted that he has written a great deal too much, and the chief stumbling-block in the way of accepting him among the great poets is the inequality of his work. There are frequent outcroppings of stony ground, as in a Bengal upcountry landscape. Also especially in his earlier books, there is a vast amount of flowery undergrowth which needs a sickle or fire, to clear the loftier trees and show them in their strength and nobleness. There is a recurrence of a certain vocabulary, of flowers, south wind, spring, autumn, tears, laughter, separation, tunes, bees, and the rest, which sometimes is positively maddening This sort of thing is most apparent when he is least inspired but it is by no means absent from his best work. In Rabindranath, said a Bengali to me, 'flowers are always opening and the south wind is always blowing'. Even in much of the noblest work of his latter years his incorrigible playfulness, the way in which, often when most serious, he will fondle and toss with fancies, sports some splendid things. In his lectures and addresses, he can never resist the temptation of a glittering simile. Often he dazzles the beholder with beauty when he wishes most to convince. When he should run a straight course, he turns aside. Never was such an Atlanta. From all this comes sometimes a sense of monotony, which hides from the reader the richness and versatility of his work."

      Paul Verghese says; "There is much inequality in Tagore's thought and matter. This is most evident in The Gardner which otherwise contains some of the harming lyrics of love. Lines such as following can only be described as pretty banalities: "you are the evening cloud floating in the sky of my dreams. I paint you and fashion with my love longings. You are my own, Dweller in my endless dreams!" The chief defect of Tagore's poetry however, is a certain rhythmic and tonal monotony; the tonal variety especially is almost negligible. In other words the reader fails to be surprised and thrilled by any newness with each succeeding work. The tone is mystical all through his works from Gitanjali to the The Fugitive and Other Works. It is this monotony more than anything else that accounts for the decline of Tagore's reputation in the west. Perhaps only one aspect of Tagore's poetical creativeness is presented to his non-Bengali readers through translation. When other aspects of Tagore's poetry are also revealed in competent translation, the real greatness of Tagore will come to be appreciated. In the mean-while it is necessary for a proper appreciation of "Tagore that his reputation as a predominantly mystic poet should not be overstressed."

Usage of Foreign Language:

      Tagore's poetry suffers from certain well-marked faults of grammar and syntax. His English is far from perfect. It not only shows instances of un-English usage, which may be pardoned in one not to the manner born, but also, positive mistakes of grammar and idiom. Nor is Tagore's syntax always perfect, not taking into consideration the fact that he often uses inversion without even a proper pretext, According to Edward Thomson.

"Examination of Rabindranath's English soon shows that it is by no means perfect grammatically. It contain sentences which no educated Englishman would have written, sentences marked by little, subtle errors. There are others who could bear testimony that English is absolutely his own, but I will speak out of what I know, having seen some hundreds of his translated poems before publication. He writes English of extreme beauty and flexibility, but with mistakes that can be brought under two or three heads. First, he is not quite at home with the articles. Secondly, he does not use prepositions as an Englishman would. Thirdly, he sometimes has an unnecessary word where clauses meet, which makes the rhythm sag, like cloth with a stone in it. Add to this an occasional misuse of idiom, as 'I took my shelter; where English says, I took shelter', and you have the whole of his slips. These things are but the tacks and nails of languages. The beauty and music are all his own. It is one of the most surprising things in the world's literature that such a mastery over an alien tongue ever came to any man."

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