Theme of Love: in Rabindranath Tagore's Poetry

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      Rabindranath Tagore is a great love poet. He has captured the myriad forms of love and painted it with great originality and delicacy. His poems reveal the ecstasy of love. Somewhere it is a love of devotee for his beloved God, somewhere Tagore is lost in the love of ardent lover for his beloved. Gitanjali is one of the collections which sings the songs of love: love for nature, love for mankind, spiritual love of human and passionate love of a women for her lover. Tagore's love poetry is sensuous, and sometimes becomes perceptively erotic but it is never sensual and physical. Besides Gitanjali, The Gardner, Fruit Gathering, The Lovers Gift and The Fugitive are few other love poems of Tagore.

Gitanjali is a fascinating example of Tagore's art of treating with divine or spiritual love. It is not only that man who like a pure devotee, honest and humble offers himself to Him in his love but also the almighty comes to his devotees out of this love for them. From eternal time God is coming nearer to man for meeting him. Man also, through his different births, is marching forward to meet his Divine Lover. God waits patiently for man's coming, for getting his love.
Rabindranath Tagore

Love in its Various Forms:

(1) Divine Love:

      Gitanjali is a fascinating example of Tagore's art of treating with divine or spiritual love. It is not only that man who like a pure devotee, honest and humble offers himself to Him in his love but also the almighty comes to his devotees out of this love for them. From eternal time God is coming nearer to man for meeting him. Man also, through his different births, is marching forward to meet his Divine Lover. God waits patiently for man's coming, for getting his love. Tagore says:

"If I call not thee in my prayer, if I keep not thee in my heart thy love for me still waits for my love."

      In God's love there is blow of pain, and suffering. But the blow of suffering helps him to know his real self. Pain comes to us with God's love hidden in it.

"...there are blows of pain in your love, never the cold apathy of death."

      Finite and Infinite, these two have a gulf of love between them and when both meet each other in love to celebrate the ground Communion, the sky becomes flooded with celestial light. The God has created the creation out of his love. This creation, this world is an expression of Almighty's love for mankind. To find this love we will not have to go beyond the world or meditate in aloofness, His love dwells everywhere.

      The ecstasy of divine love is again felt by readers when the poet displays the beautiful love imagery resembling the legend of Radha-Krishna. The beloved sees the deep shades of rainy July and hears the secret steps of Him. She says:

"I am only waiting for love to give myself up at least into his hands."

      Man asks for love in return of his love for him and He showers His love to them in the guise of immortal gifts of Nature. He comes to mankind with all His love thus:

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

      And man full of gratitude fill with joy and expresses his love and applause:

"yes, I know, this is nothing but thy love, O beloved of my heart - this golden light that dances upon the leaves.."
and his "heart has touched thy (God's) feet."

(2) The Humane Love: Not A Thing of Ignorance

      Tagore though celebrates the spiritual love in his poems of Gitanjali, somewhere feels the intensity of human love. Tagore says that the vaishnav concept of love of Radha-Krishna has taken inspiration from human love of woman and her lover. One of the poems in Gitanjali has an erotic imagery where the bride, the soul is craving for union with her bridegroom.

"After the wedding the bride shall leave her home and meet her lord alone in the solitude of night"

      In other poem the lover, like a woman in her earthly love for her beloved waits for her beloved:

"I keep gazing on the far-away gloom of the sky, and my heart wanders sailing with the restless wind."

(3) The Human Love for Nature:

      The another aspect of love theme in Tagore's poetry is the love of poet for Nature. Nature expresses the love of God, the all-pervasive spirit. The bond of love binds man and Nature together. The immortal gifts of Nature - the river, the flower, the sunlight, the breeze all serve mankind, showers their love to mankind and return back to God's abode. The beautiful decorative words used by Tagore to express the myriad forms of Nature depicts his love for Nature - the 'sun-embroidered gloom', 'the gold-tinged clouds', 'ever-glorious sun'. Another poem in Gitanjali expresses his love for Nature, where while going on a spiritual voyage with his friends he chooses to feel the calm and joy of Nature. That is why while his companions laughed at him in scorn and hurried on to their way to spiritual voyage, he gave himself up -

"for lost in the depth of a glad humiliation - in the shadow of the dim delight".

      And the truth is that the poet is successful in his spiritual voyage through the way of Nature and when he opens his eyes after his surrender to thee maze of shadows and songs, he saw.

"thee (God) standing by me, flooding my sleep with thy smile"

      While his companions chose more arduous paths to search him and their search is endless. Even Radha Krishnan praises how "Tagore beautifully depicts how an enthusiastic surrender to the spontaneity of natural scenery leads a man to his goal.

(4) The Human Love for Mankind:

      Throughout his life, in all his writings he expresses this feeling of universal love and unity with the whole mankind and due to this he is appreciated and loved by all people of the whole world. Humanism is dominant and truest note in his writings which touches human hearts across all barriers of country and period. He believes whole heartedly that the only way of human welfare is the path of love, friendship and fraternity among all men. He feels sympathy for the people of so-called lower class - farmers, labourers and other workers. For him, it is not by merely attributing humanity that we realize God, by realizing humanity we reach God. He believes in the bonds of humanity, the relationships of mankind and feels delight in all this. Serving humble, poor, and low is to serve the God, as he is among them. For

"He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground and where the pathmaker is breaking stones"

      and not in the temples. He asks

"whom dost thou worship in this lonely dark corner of a temple with doors all shut? Open thine eyes and see thy God is not before thee!"

      He believes in the "bonds of creation and love of man for another human soul.

The Various Moods of Love:

      Tagore describes all seasons and moods of love. Although he describes both desire and longing as well as attainment and fulfilment there always is a subtle delicacy in his treatment - He captures the birth of love as well as its growth into a consuming passion. He dwells on its pangs as well as its rapture. Some of the poems portray vividly the depth and the intensity of the poets love. His wooing of his beloved is often in tradition of Indian courtly love. In one of the poems in The Lover's Gift he deserves his longing for his beloved thus:

"She is near to my heart as the meadow flower to the earth, she is sweet to me as sleep is to tired limbs.
My love for her to my life flowing in its fulness, like a river in autumn flood, running with sweet abandonment.
My songs are one with my love, like the murmur of a stream, that sings with all its waves and currents."

      He imparts a tinge of mystery even to human love when he says in one poem that he has been waiting for his beloved since beginning of time, that he has loved him, not only in this life, but in his previous births also. Here human love and spiritual love merge inextricably:

"Today, as I behold your face, instantly the joy of love bursts through the pangs of separation.
I have loved you in a hundred forms every age and all my past lives; you incarnate eternal memories, you and I have played within a million lovers; and now within a single love mingle the memories of all other passions, and all the joys and sorrows of the world."

      Here it is the immortal soul living in each body that is in love with the other. So that its passage from one body to another does not affect its love. This love is thus literally and truly eternal. Tagore has also captured the lighter moods of love. In one of the poems in The Gardner, both the speakers know, and the reader is somehow aware of their knowledge, that the leave taking is brief and temporary, yet the lover puts into it all the fervour and intensity as though the lovers enact the drama of separation in order to enjoy the sweet delight of reunion. The infinite mystery of love is the theme of many of Tagore's poems. In some of his poems Tagore also describes the evanescent moods of love, the rainbow of emotions from longing to fulfilment.

Unusual Aspects of Love:

      Some of Tagore's poems also deal with the unusual aspects and situations of love and lovers. A very remarkable poem is the Lover's Gif deals with the birth of love in the heart of a prostitute. She has been employed to seduce an ascetic and defile his piety. The ascetic, a stranger to women, takes her to be an incarnation of divine beauty. The prostitute suddenly casts aside her defilement and feels herself to be as pure and unspoiled as the ascetic think her to be. Thus the innocent love the ascetic has raised the prostitute to its own heights of loftiness. Quite naturally for the first time in her life she feels the ardour of deep and intense love.

Exuberance of Love:

      Not only is love a strange, disturbing sensation but it is also the absorbing passion, and many of the poet's love-lyrics reveal the depth and the agony, the fever and the fret, of this emotion which is possibly the most fundamental thing in human life. The intensity of love is portrayed through a number of original and telling images, as in Lover's Gift-4. In this eager desire for union the lover naturally minimizes the distance between him and his sweetheart, saying that she is as near to him as the meadow-flower is to the earth, an image which is suggestive and beautiful, "The comparison between the fullness of the heart and the fullness of a river in autumn is conventional, but the poet adds a touch of his own to this well-worn image when he compares the songs of love to the music of a stream, which, unlike ordinary human music, is produced by all its currents and waves.

Psychology of Love:

      Tagore is an expert in describing the psychology of the various aspects of the experience of love. To the lovers the whole universe is encompassed within their love, and their own persons seem to them to embrace entire creation. Thus Tagore sees something impersonal and timeless in human beauty and love. They are like forces of Nature, and ever in harmony with them. The moods of Nature, follow those of the lovers. Tagore has revealed great skill in the depiction of the feelings of a woman in love. Here he depicts faithfully the Indian love tradition. The woman in love may be full of longing but she is always shy and modest. This is the theme of Gardner-8. The young traveller comes in search of the woman who had been waiting for him for long, but for very shame she could not say that it was she whom he had come out to meet. She would not let the lover take liberties with her body without protest, however much his caresses may be dear to her.

Nature in Harmony with the Moods of Lovers:

      It is to be noted that Nature in Tagore's love poetry is not merely decorative; she is represented as sympathetic to the mood of this lovers. Again and again she takes on their moods, and is identified with them. Nature is humanized - she reflects the joys and sorrows of the lovers and human joys and sorrows are thus intensified. In this way their love is universalizes. When the lovers meet their joy find its expression in the joy of nature. She dances with joy. When they are separated nature reflects their suffering. Thus the nature background is brought into close harmony with the human situation and in this way human moods, joys and sorrows are intensified. Sometimes, the sentiments of love, specially its sorrows, supply the poet with food for reflection on the facts of life and death, and the treatment of love thus mingles with his philosophy of life. Sometime, as in Gardner-17, the lovers do not actually come in contact with each other, but they share a thousand things which connect them with each other. They hear the murmur of the same river and smell the fragrance of the same flowers, and their lambs graze in the same meadows. Thus the various objects in the nature become the connecting links between them, and they are strongly near, though unknown to each other.

Salvation Through Love:

      For Tagore, love is higher than knowledge, the way which leads to Brahma. For him, that is truth which is unity, and if knowledge is to be true, it must comprehend that unity which is only possible through love. Tagore's philosophy aims at understanding the supra-human in terms of the human, he calls it love.

      According to the poet the Infinite can best be realized in love of the Supreme Being which lies at the root of the creation. He rejects the concept of tearing off all bonds of love for salvation. He is happy with the bondage, because it does not bind but measures the truth of freedom, attained by love, for only love is freedom. Our will attains its perfection when it is - one with love. So, love is at a time bondage as well as freedom. We see, by creating this world, God is constantly giving himself up to again himself in love. Love is harmony between loss and gain. Love is at the root of creation, and therefore, man gets God only in love. This love which is pure consciousness is not mere sentiment only, but is truth, for love is the ultimate meaning of everything around us. It is the white light of pure consciousness that emanates from Brahma. It is the true nature of human personality. The poet has told that when the body is perished and with that its fame, glory, pride and delusion which are connected with this body are sheded, then remains only the eternal, blissful 'Me' which has surpassed time, place and death. In love, this blissful nature of him is expressed.

      The way of salvation has its beginning from the love of man for another man or humanism. Even love for God is expressed in our work for humanity in which God is revealed. Life which is self centred is most narrow. And all works done for self enjoyment make a man bound. When we work for others in state, society we actualise ourselves; our latent power gets expressed, and not only that, when prompted by universal love we serve humanity, we worship God in the best way. He says

"God loves to see in me, not his servant but himself who serves all."

      Thus, the universal love, humanism, the wish to work for the wel fare of the whole humanity makes a way to God and freedom.

Suggestiveness: Styles and Technique:

      It would be interesting to examine the style and technique which Tagore has revealed in his love poetry. His manner is on the whole suggestive rather than exhaustively descriptive. The suggestive approach creates a deeper impression on the mind than a lavishly fulsome description. Tagore makes full and effective use of the devices of understatement and suggestion. Momentous feelings and ideas are conveyed through delicate touches which are indirect and may appear trivial unless we ponder over their implications. Tagore's images are often sensuous. Although the pictorial element predominates, there are many images connected with the other senses such as that of hearing, touch and smell. Tagore's poetry is very rich in colours. The following lines are a good example of the style Tagore adopts when he describes the soul's love for the Eternal Being in one of his poem in Gitanjali.

"That I want thee, only thee - let my heart repeat without end. All desires that distract me, day and night, are false and empty to the core.
As the Light keeps hidden in its gloom the petition for light, ever thus in the depth of my unconsciousness rings the cry - I want thee, only thee. As the storm still seeks its end in peace when it strikes against peace with all its might, even thus my rebellion strikes against thy love and still its cry is - 'I want thee only thee'."
(Poem 38)

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