When Dr. Mahendra Bhatnagar started writing poems he was perhaps in the dawn of his life. In this journey while showering nectar through his pen he has perhaps reached the dusk, still the memoirs of youthful exuberance shine bright. He has won against the hazards of time and yet the game continues – the batsman not out.
When I read one of his recent editions “Dawn to Dusk” I was full of spontaneous praise for him though it is a mixture of old and new poems. Brighter ideas came to my notice than those of “Forty Poems”. He is a bit revolutionary and always progressive in his thought. This time I find the poet’s growth of mind is towards nature increasingly establishing a supernatural relationship with moon, stars and so on. It is certain that his talk with the moon carries special message for the world. It is a remarkable feature of his poetry. In his earlier days he was talking with moon and the talk is continued still. The moon has proved to be the paragon of beauty to him.
In 1950s when the poet was bubbling with energy he was being tempted by the moon and appealing to it not to smile; he envisions “the dream world of happiness” in his graceful eyes. By the dusk he has been tied with the moon in such relationship as to call her “my sweetheart”. Then it was perhaps a sort of love at first sight:
“Please smile not and tempt me thus
Or else I shall kiss your cheeks”
(Forty Poems - P-48)
And now he is quite confident in his love, he is confidently in communion with this object of nature:
“This is the face I kissed thousand times
Sometimes soft kisses
At others like the lustful Adam”
(Dawn to Dusk - P-120)
Sometimes it looks like Wordsworth’s involvement in nature, a sensuous manifestation that delights man, most poets of nature. A sense of divinization of nature is also explicit in some parts. The poet says stars are appearing down the ages with perpetual youth. They are “showering vine of nectar like affection” and laughing, stirring together instinctively in their own world. Here and there in Bhatnagar’s poetry it looks as if he has a touch of Wordsworth’s feeling about the indwelling spirit of nature which imparts its consciousness to all objects.
What sort of relation is the poet trying to establish between man and moon?
You too may be bathing
In the showers of the cool rays
Looking with the eyes large
You may be soothing your restless heart.
(Dawn to Dusk - P-100)
In his poem “To my sister” Wordsworth calls his sister to go on a work and allow their mind to “drink at every pore the spirit of the season”. Mahendra Bhatnagar is drunk with the soothing rays of the moon, making the burdensome life light, trilling the loneliness of youth as if he is restlessly lost in himself while in communion with nature. Definitely he is longing to establish a bond with the moon, its soothing beam, to be filled with the intense passion of the loving moments. It is not different from the flowery band that man wreathes with nature every morning as mentioned by Keats in his poem Endymion - “a thing of beauty is joy forever”- it is a wonderful feeling of remaining in the company of natural objects, a feeling of universal love in nature. The poet urges the ‘night’ not to leave, as if he is intoxicated with its beauty. He experiences a sort of oneness with nature. He loves nature, he is one with nature and nature is the witness to the love of his heart.
Dr. Bhatnagar has a special attraction for moon and it is exhibited in his poetry in different forms. In “Poonam” the full moon peeps at him from behind the peepal tree. Peepal is a symbol of holiness for the poet and moon is an embodiment of beauty. It is personified as a beautiful maiden bubbling with love, floating in dreams and shining with brilliance. The face of the moon looks suspicious far on the horizons. This shows the lack of confidence in the poet about a consummated love with this object of nature. The Keatsian flowery band is not wreathed completely here – it is about the relation between man and nature or may be ‘moon’ is a metaphor for something or somebody that the poet is unable to get and so expresses despair. The moon is described as innocent, restless and perplexed.
In “The Glowing beauty” the poet observes the moon under the ‘veil of clouds’. The poem exhibits the depth of poetic beauty in the lucid flow of imagination. The cloud is described as a veil so thin that the ‘bashful modest face’ of the moon gets reflected behind it. Her beauty is so tender and sweet that the poet calls it an ‘over-brimmed honey vessel spreading droplets like stars’ just like ‘numberless of emotions sprung up from heart’.
Here poetic sensibility undergoes changes but it continues to remain with the moon. In another context the poet calls moon the “the lord of night” as a dignified being with prominence of beauty. When it shines in the sky the maidens who are proud of their beauty feel ashamed and their charm loses its glow.
When you shine in the sky
Their charm loses all its glow
You spread splendor in the sky
As if it were cool, and bright as silver new
(Dawn to Dusk -110 - Dedication)
Moreover the poet says that one can sacrifice the riches of the world merely at a smile of the moon and even the smallest particle of this earth feels eternal joy at the appearance of the moon. The moon here takes the place of a transcended being, that above this earth that represents lower nature. The poet has established a communion between the moon and the earth. He is a great word-painter in his language. The pictorial quality in many of his poems is quite appreciable. While giving to the reader the pictures of inanimate objects like moon stars etc. the poet invests them with life, with the power to see, feel, blush and so on. Some of his pictures are sensuous in appeal.
Too difficult to steal sight from moon!
When she spreads the fresh splendor
in the lonely sky
the ocean of emotional heart
fills with the cheer- waves.
(Dawn to Dusk - 112 - “Too Difficult”)
Moon is described as a simple-hearted bird of the sky afflicted by eclipse. The poet feels a close relation with this object of nature and says:
O, moon I am with you
Let me know your agony
I am yours, will remain yours,
Do not conceal anything.
(Dawn to Dusk - 114 - “Eclipse”)
The poet seems to be a frustrated lover while calling the moon a mirage and proclaiming that “one who loves the moon heaves a sigh all his life alone.”
The poet goes too far in his imagination and calls the moon his “sweetheart”. May be, the sweetheart is a metaphor for some beautiful object or person that the poet is not able to forget; rather he is trying to console hos mind looking at the face of the moon. When the poet visits down the memory lane a lot of things come to his notice. He loses himself in the dream world wishes that the love of the sweetheart may not trickle away from him, since his heart is over brimmed with love for her. Another aspect of Dr. M. Bhatnagar’s poetry is that he is engaged in continuous talk with the objects of nature especially moon as if it is a living thing.
What do you say?
‘Did not know me?
Hush! Your pranks of love I cannot bear now
Aided by your beauteous beams,
I must clasp you.
(Dawn to Dusk -120 - “Moon My Sweetheart”)
Dr. M. Bhatnagar has poems on midday, evening, night and other parts of the day. In his poem “Midday” he expresses his despair with a sort of loneliness- a desolate hour and in “An Evening” he is impatient waiting for something or someone that is also in desolation. Why does the poet feel like this? Is it because he has left his youthful days far behind? Is it because looking at the world around, he has lost all his charm of life? Or because he feels he is in the dusk of his life? No line in his entire poetry published so far has indicated such fatigue that is seen now.
Sweet and sanguine
Virgin, surging longings,
Nestling in my heart
Are now abandoned
(Dawn to Dusk -130 - “Unwanted”)
The poet seems to have entered the stage of renunciation like Lord Budha. No more he is dreaming of beauty and exuberance now. All dreams are his past. A bit of coldness is occupying his mind.
‘The sweet spring has passed,
The golden era is over!’
(Dawn to Dusk - 130 - “Unwanted”)
He feels he is crestfallen, with heavy heart, he has to ‘trudge home alone to recite dirges throughout life’. While roaming in the dream world with sweet thoughts he did not foresee that destiny would snuff out all splendors from his life. The poet here represents mankind and indicates that it happens in everybody’s life. Everybody has one day to undergo pangs separation and grief thereby. Everybody has to experience the lonely hours of dusk and recite dirges.
In another poem it seems as if the poet’s passion is consummated. Nature and the poet lie in the warm heart of each other; he experiences the invisible impulses at work in nature to help him transcend the lower nature. Nature is alive just like a living soul that enters every beautiful object and gives a soul, a life to it.
Next to moon stars have drawn the attention of Dr. M. Bhatnagar. The twinkling of stars look as if shivering, tortured, perturbed and weak like human beings who are affected by exploitation.
When the bright new dawn descends
The grimy night departs
They too silently go
with their bag and baggage somewhere.
(Dawn to Dusk -4 - “Darkness-fellow Stars”)
Stars are perpetual partners of deep darkness. While with moon the poet is in high spirit of love but with stars he looks a bit critical, depressed, takes pity on them calling them “poor helpless”. At times he looks a bit self-contradictory. In the same poem - “The Waking Stars” - he describes them as vigilant and indomitable by slumber equipped with its army. The stars may also be a metaphor for somebody who spends sleepless night for the sake of others.
The poems such as ‘The Evening’, ‘Rain’, ‘The Passing Night’, ‘The Summer”, ‘The New Dawn’ and ‘A Rainy Night’ the poet has expressed a lot of positive thoughts by means of his description of nature in one way or the other. Somewhere he describes nature’s soothing influence and healing power and somewhere else the bond between man and nature.
Clouds have also drawn the attention of the poet. In the ‘evening’ the clouds play hide and seek reaching near the sun and in the ‘rain’ the flooded clouds are over spreading on heated earth.
Dr.M. Bhatnagar is known to the readers as a poet of progressive thoughts. His poems have always been inspiring the human world to live the life with courage against all hardships and adversities. In his volume Dawn to Dusk he has accomplished the same task.
To conclude I can say that the poems of Dr. M. Bhatnagar are replete with words of sympathy with man on earth. His reference to man as a part of nature, rejoicing in the lap of nature, establishing a sweet relation with nature is quite remarkable. Looking at the rapidly deteriorating human values the poet has expressed his anguish. He wishes that man should learn to live with nature and revive the cardinal values of life.
“The flood light is needed!
In place sand dunes precarious
We need a solid concrete dam!
So that man may have a firm footing,
In the face of storms
And man may resist on.
Strong, valiant and patient!”
Let not life be destroyed,
Nor let there be any groans and sighs!
Let every man laugh
A laughter white and pure!
And let hopes bloom
Of a future happy and glorious.
(Forty Poems-82 - The Future)
The poet tends to receive inspiration from the vast expanse of the sky, from light, from storm for mankind. This is how he is drinking Nature’s beauty remaining neck deep in it.