Nature Element: in Rabindranath Tagore's Poetry

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Tagore - Nature Poet:

      Tagore is a great nature poet. He expresses a deep love for Nature in his writings. To him every aspect of Nature is a symbol of beauty, and has a special meaning for him.

The Affinity between Man and Nature:

      Tagore has accepted that there is intimate relationship between man and Nature. Tagore accepts the interdependence of man and Nature on both of them. Tagore believes that man cannot separate himself from Nature. Man sometimes tries to prove his superiority by keeping himself apart from the Nature but as he becomes wiser, he breaks the walls of separation between himself and Nature, a deeper unity grows between them. Man himself is both Nature and spirit, and so he cannot reject Nature, as Nature has to depend upon man for giving meaning to it. Tagore does not look upon Nature as hostile to man. He does not consider it as an enemy to self or its aspiration. He has a positive view of the kinship of spirit to Nature.

Tagore has accepted that there is intimate relationship between man and Nature. Tagore accepts the interdependence of man and Nature on both of them. Tagore believes that man cannot separate himself from Nature. Man sometimes tries to prove his superiority by keeping himself apart from the Nature but as he becomes wiser, he breaks the walls of separation between himself and Nature, a deeper unity grows between them. Man himself is both Nature and spirit, and so he cannot reject Nature, as Nature has to depend upon man for giving meaning to it. Tagore does not look upon Nature as hostile to man. He does not consider it as an enemy to self or its aspiration. He has a positive view of the kinship of spirit to Nature.
Rabindranath Tagore

God and Nature:

      Nature and God, Tagore says, as in Vedantic terminology is Prakriti and Purusha, the two aspects of the Absolute. Meditation on Nature or an aspect of Nature leads to realisation of God. Nature, according to Tagore is the melody of God. It ennobles man.

      Nature is an outer manifestation of God. It is an aspect of Almighty who expressed Himself in Nature and its myriad forms. God has created this world with various beauties of nature and best form of worship and the process of God realization is to enjoy the beauties of nature. This is the theme of one of the poems of Tagore in Gitanjali. While the companions of poet choose the arduous path, poet opts for the nature and its calm. He enthusiastically surrenders to the spontaneity of natural scenery and his companions carry on the spiritual Voyage renouncing such a wonderful gift of God. But in end, it is the poet who achieves his goal and hence fulfilled his spiritual aim.

"At last, when I woke from my slumber and opened my eyes, I saw the (God) standing by me, flooding my sleep with my smile." (Poem 48)

Tagore's Love for Nature:

      Throughout his life Tagore exhibited a passionate love for Nature. He wanted to solve life's riddles by living closest to her. Nature tor him, included not only trees and birds and hills but also the sky, the stars, the moon and the sun. To Tagore, Nature is not just an imaginary country in a fairyland. It is the "embodied joy of the Infinite".

      There is an abundance of word-pictures of the Nature in the poetry of Tagore. Splendid pen-pictures of Nature in all her splendour and glory, in all her spring time beauty when she is decked out in her very best, are scattered all up and down his poetry. One fine example of such Nature-description, selected from The Gardener:

"Over the green and yellow rice-fields sweep the shadows of the autumn clouds followed by the swift-chasing sun. The bees forget to sip their honey: drunken with light they foolishly hover and hum, The ducks in the islands of the river clamour in joy for mere nothing.
Let none go back home, brothers, this morning let move go to work."

The Various Aspects of Nature:

      Tagore is in love with Nature in its all moods. Every object of Nature arises a feeling in him. He says, "I believe that, in a little flower, there is a living power hidden in beauty which is more potent than a Maxim gun. I believe that in bird's notes Nature expresses herself with a force which is greater that revealed in the deafening roar of a cannonade. I believe that there is an ideal hovering over the earth - an ideal of that paradise which is not the mere outcome of imagination, but the ultimate reality towards which all things are moving. I believe that the vision of paradise is to be seen in the sunlight, and the green of the earth in the flowing stream, in the beauty of spring time and the repose of a winter morning. Every where in the earth the spirit of paradise is awake and sending forth its voice...."

      Tagore has captured everything about Nature, its moods and various aspects. He is perfectly at home in describing the languid beauty of lush greenery in a garden or by the side of a river. Similarly, he has captured the harsher side of Nature, on one hand he points thus:

"The sun rose to the mid sky and doves cooed in the shade. Withered leaves danced and whirled in the hot air of noon. The shepherd boy drowsed and dreamed in the shadow of the banyan tree, and I laid myself down by the water and stretched my tired limbs on the grass" (Poem 48, Gitanjali)

      Such alluring scenery of Nature tempts the poet and leaving his companions on their way to spiritual voyage, Tagore stays under a tree to enjoy the bliss of nature. He ignores the laughs and mockery of his friends for him and surrenders his mind to the ecstasy of Nature.

      On the other hand the harsher, more realistic, comprehensive picture of Nature is depicted in his poems. Like Shelley, he also loves nature in her more dynamic vaster, and cruel mood. Nature, red in tooth and claw, was not unknown to him as it was to Wordsworth. Picturesque descriptions of Nature in her terrible mood abound in the - poetry of Tagore. Barsha Shesh (1898) translated into English as the "New Year and 'Sea Waves' in Manasi (translated by Edward Thompson) are regarded by Edward Thompson and other competent critics as the great est land-storm and the greatest sea-storm ever depicted by any poet. A Terrible land-storm is thus depicted:

"Like fruit, shaken free by an impatient wind from the veils of its mother flowers thou comest, New Year, whirling in a frantic dance amid the stampede of the wind-lashed clouds and infuriate showers, while trampled by thy turbulence are scattered away the foaled and the frail in an eddying agony of death. Thou art no dreamer a float on a langurus breeze lingering among the hesitant whisper and hum of an uncertain season. Thine is a majestic march, O terrible stranger, thundering forth an ominous incantation, droving the days on to the perils of a pathless dark.
Where thou carriest a dumb signal in thy banner, a decree of destiny undeciphered."

      This account of the storm has the sweep and majesty of Shelly's Ode to the West Wind and is remarkable for its grandeur and close observation of natural phenomenon. The poem ends with a quiet picture, which heightens by contrast the fury and turmoil of the previous stanzas.

      Similarly The Sea Waves gives a realistic picturesque account of a storm at sea. "The raging fury of the sea and the utter helplessness of eight hundred men and women are described. The climax of the poem is thus depicted.

"Wrathful at the delay, foaming and hissing. The azure Death grows white with mighty anger."

The Accurate Descriptions of Seasons:

      Tagore has described beautifully Nature's cavalcade of the passing seasons which change in a rhythmic cycle. Tagore here displays the accuracy of the scientist, the sensitivity of the painter to forms and colours, and the virtuosity of the musician and poet in giving melodious expressions to his impressions. Descriptions of the changing seasons have always been a favourite theme for the Indian painter as well as poet. As elsewhere, it is in the description of the rainy season that Tagore excels, although it is autumn which seems to be his favourite. Still, he has described every season with a wonderful skill. "He is not simply a poet of the Rains. He has a thousand pictures, all distinct from each other, and all perfect, of every Indian season. Autumn is a favourite of his... and he personifies her as Lakshmi, the gracious goddess. Noon in the summer heats is another favourite, and he can make the page quiver with its lense, blinding quiteness. Spring, and he can make the page fragrant with the bakul blossom and musical with bees. Winter he does not care so much about, but has depicted equally well when he chose." Some examples of Tagore's depiction of weather and the seasons aree given below:

"In the deep shadows of the rainy July, with secret steps, thou walkest, silent as night, eluding all watches."
(Gitanjali, 22)

"Are thou abroad on this stormy night on thy journey of love, my friend? The sky groans like one in despair" (Gitanjali, 23)

"The sky is overcast with clouds and the rain is ceaseless. I know not what this is that stirs in me - I know not its meaning. A moments' flash of lightning drags down a deeper gloom on my sight, and my heart gropes for the path to where the music of the night calls me."
(Gitanjali, 27)

      Flowers are always opening in his poetry, and the south wind is always blowing through it. The wealth of natural beauty in his poetry often makes the reader catch his breath. The variety, the abundance, as well as the freshness of natural magic have charmed all his readers. Indeed, the open air atmosphere of the Gitanjali is one of its chiefest graces.

Nature as a Friend and Guide:

      There are many similarities between Tagore and Wordsworth. Both feel that when we approach Nature in a proper mood and spirit Nature is bound to influence the human soul of man. For this reason, Nature can be the guide and friends for mankind as Tagore suggests in his many poems in Gitanjali. While Wordsworth believed in Nature's education only in theory, Tagore tried to give a practical shape to this concept. In his open air university at Shantiniketan, the entire education system is based on a living contact with Nature. Tagore is a practical idealist or a romantic realist in his vision of Nature. He believes in the immortal gifts of Nature to man. He believes in the affection of Nature who accompanies with the human moods and rejoices at the enjoying spirit of man.

The Oneness of Man and Nature:

      Tagore believes in the oneness of man and Nature. For this reason, he does not keep his own identity apart from that of Nature but mingles freely with it and does not even mind losing his own identity in that of Nature. Nor does Tagore's depiction of natural landscape keep the human apart from Nature. This is one aspect of his poetry where Tagore has achieved conspicuous success. "No poet... has shown such a power of merging not only himself but also his human figures with their landscape. Here he is absolutely great, and absolutely original. Sometimes, the mingling is a matter of subtle and exquisite perception of the intimate inter-relation between mind and matter. Sometimes, it attains to such a haunting picture as that of the lovely, dump girl at noon; in the deep mid-noon, when the boatmen and fisherfolk had gone to their dinner, when the villagers slept, and birds were still, when the ferry boats were idle, when the great busy world paused in its toil... there were only dumb Nature and a dumb girl, sitting very silent - one under the spreading sunlight, the other where a small tree cast its shadow." Tagore, in one of the poems in the Gitanjali, speaks of life as an invitation to this world's festival. He has found a blessing in enjoying the sights and sounds of this festival. He considers his own role at this festival to have been that of playing his role faithfully by being shown the face of God and being allowed to make his salutation to his in silence. Tagore merges with Nature not only as man but also as poet, for it is Nature which is an inexhaustible source of poetic images for him, on which he draws more frequently than any other poet.

Nature - Metaphor, Image and Symbol:

      Many of the images and symbols of Tagore are taken from the Nature itself. Everyday, commonplace objects and phenomena are constantly drawn upon by him to communicate highly abstract religious truths. There is a surprising wealth and abundance of nature imagery and illustration in the Gitanjali alone.

      Many of the images and symbols that Tagore uses are abstract. The early influence of Shelley on his mind perhaps, shaped the abstract quality of his imagination just as Platonism runs as an undercurrent of Shelly's poetry. The abstractness of his poetry implies no lack of value and sharp intellectual analysis is required to analyse its subtleties.

      In the images of light, boat, cloud, pitcher, the flute, the palace and the king, the poet is trying to relate the human personality with that or mythical Krishna. Each one of them is in some way or other related to the divine lover Krishna. They suggest incidents from the life of Krishna like the Gopis rushing to the banks of Jamuna at the melody coming from the flute of Krishna who was of the colour of the sky and who represented the "perfection of beauty and love". Bach one of these images is emblematic of achintya bhedabheda, i.e., simultaneous difference and non-difference between God and the Bhakta. All these images combine the abstract conception of the Vedantic Absolute and its concrete manifestation.

      The poet, through these mytho-mystical symbols, creates the play of love and beauty and thus strives to express an absolute truth and beauty beyond the scope of imagery. His most characteristic imagery is not solely an affair of the Upanishad. lt is to a very large extent personal. It is expressive of his search for truth and it is sensuous as well as intellectual. It embodies an attempt to relate the finite with the Infinite. The symbol of flower is used to express the beauty of God's creation and it also symbolizes the vitality, vigour, joy, love, power of love, symbolizes the rhythm of life with its bloom and, death on its fading out. Flower is another embodiment of sacrifice.

      Light, again a part of Nature symbolizes freedom, love of God for his son, the knowledge, spiritual illumination and happiness. Similarly stars are the symbol of love and joy, They are like flowers blossoming in the sky. The sky itself symbolizes the infinity, immensity and eternity. The boat is a romantic and also a spiritual symbol for voyage: "I must launch out my boat." Again: "Early in the day it was whispered that we should sail in a boat. only thou and I..". "There at the fording in the little boat the unknown man plays upon his lute." God is the enchanter. He lures the soul to the mystic tryst by his music. "Journey" is the journey of life. It is also referred to as "Voyage" the poet's self is the traveller and the companion of God.

      The flight of birds in the sky symbolizes the freedom which man longs for but fails to attain. Man like them longs for a nest in the sky, which is God. The ceaseless flow of life, the intense longing of the human soul for a home of rest in the far away is a recurrent theme of Tagore's poetry. It is symbolized by the ever ceasing, flow of water in the river, and the ocean symbolizes the great unknown, the heaven of rest for which man longs. The sea is the symbol of eternity the deep and limitless mysteries of unknown.

      Edward Thompson says that "No poet that ever lived has had a more constant and intimate touch with natural beauty. He can use, at his best, the same images and pictures, the oldest ones in the world, a SCore of times in as many lines, and each time with freshness and charm. His wealth here is inexhaustible, and it is manifest in prose as in verse and is almost as manifest in English as in Bengali.

Pictorial Art of Tagore:

      S.B. Mukherji writes, "There is hardly a thought or concept or emotion that does not glow with vivid suggestive images from Nature. Nature catches the breath, the warmth, the colour of all the poets' mood and emotions. Never has a poet drawn more abundantly varied pictures of Nature's loveliness, of her beauty and her mystery, to vivify his thought or mood or emotion. And never has a poet caught in his verse the familiar yet elusive charms of the country with a more sensitive imagination: the breath of the wind as it rustles through the leaves, the grace of the lengthening shadows through the parted foliage; the rippling sounds of water in the pitcher tossed by the rhythmic sway of a girl's waist; the soft fragrance of the nameless flowers: the drone of the honey laden bees; the light trembles on the water in the blazing sun: the deep dark waters of the lake darkened evermore by the shady trees around and catching the last rays of the setting sun - indeed it is impossible to sum up the multitudinous nature-portraits that abound in Tagore's poetry. They bear testimony not merely to the variety of Tagore's pictorial art but, more significantly, to the profound sensitiveness of an imagination that "with an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy," sees into the life of Nature.


      The minute observation of Nature, the intimate, intense and life long love of Nature makes him a true philosopher, admirer and mystic lover of Nature. The treatment of Nature in, Tagore's poetry, is unique and original. Nature, for him is the source of inspiration, joy, mirth, affection and life.

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