Have you not heard his silent steps?
He comes, comes, ever comes.
Every moment and every age,
every day and every night he comes,
comes, ever comes.
Many a song have I sung in many a mood of mind,
but all their notes have always proclaimed,
'He comes, comes, ever comes.'
In the fragrant days of sunny April
through the forest path
he comes, comes, ever comes.
In the rainy gloom of July nights
on the thundering chariot of clouds
he comes, comes, ever comes.
In sorrow after sorrow it is his steps
that press upon my heart,
and it is the golden touch of his feet
that makes my joy to shine.
‘Have you not heard his silent steps?’ is one of those poems of Gitanjali which tell of the Divine Presence felt through inward consciousness always resounding with, ‘He comes, comes, ever comes.’ Where is He not? When does He not come to? Whether you call Him or not, but He comes, comes, ever comes. Wherever you want Him, He is by you to extend a helping hand. The whole that see you is the Creation of His; the vast and wide world of stars and heavenly bodies. The flowers which look lovely, the butterflies which hover about are the things of His; the hills, dales, vales and brooks with the sparrows twittering and wood-notes; the dawn break and the eve fall, all; the silences of the solitary landscapes, horizons seem to be lurking and meeting somewhere at a distance everything but His sketch and drawing. The Lord God is the Maker of it all. Nothing is beyond His imagery and knowledge. If you call Him with your heart, He will come, come, definitely come. The whole earth is the playfield of His and He keeps doing the lila. Just try to call Him, call Him, if you have not, just call Him. As the anklets tinkle they so are the lilts of His footsteps resonant with, resounding with all over the universe and with the jingle, tinkle of the bells, the whole of the Divine Lila dances before the eyes. He is the Maker of fate, destiny and who else can know better than him? He is the Singer of singers, the Mystic of mystics, the Musician of musicians, the Painter of painters.
Have you not heard his silent steps?, with this the poem begins, wanting to know whether one has heard it or not. He comes, comes, ever comes, is the answer rounding the same jointly. One who is the Knower of all, one who is Omnipresent, who is Omnipotent, the Almighty God knows it all, knows it all and where is it not footsteps resounding? One who is the Seer of the past, present and future knows it all, nothing hidden from Him. Just have faith in Him, just have belief in Him, leaving your all to Him, surrendering oneself totally.
Every moment, every age, every day and every night, He comes, comes, ever comes. One should have the yearning within to hear His footsteps approaching. He is not far from us, He is just nearer to us which but we know it not, which but we feel it not, who is He going, passing through the ways just like a stranger, an unknown passer-by, a common wayfarer. He is present in every age. The moments which are passing are the moments of His. So are the days and the nights. If comes He not, who will? When does He not come to? He is even present during the night time.
That murmur, soon replies, “God doth not need
Either man’s work, or his own gifts. Who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest.
They also serve who only stand and wait.”
— John Milton in On His Blindness
Many a song he has sung in many a mood of his, but all their notes have proclaimed, relayed to, He comes, comes, ever comes. He is in all the notes and the ragas, in all the sound-notes and speech-melodies. The tunes and tones may vary as per the song, but the message is the same, He is in it all and all those variations in themes and melodies have been created by Him. If He is in the melody of sorrow, internal sorrow expressed through lyrical words and music, He is in the happiest songs expressing joy and delight. If He has made vedana, pain, He has also made ananda, delight. Just try to approach Him with your utmost humility and self-surrender. He will hear, hear, hear you. All your sorrows will vanish away.
In the fragrant days of sunny April, He comes, comes, ever comes through the forest path. How beautiful the scenery is? How landscapic is it! If Nature is to be seen, one needs to pass through the forest, some trees with leaves, some yet to shed the old ones and some with reddish hues, all but glistening. Some trees with clusters of blossoms are yet to take us by surprise. The cool shades of the trees have always eluded the passers-by. Chaitra and Baisakh are the months of the Hindu calendar vividly described here. To sit under the cool shades of the trees and to quench thirst and to think of whose Creation is this and to start the journey again are but the marvels of poetic imagery and imagination. Here none but a traveler, a shepherd can feel it. Wild blooms hanging by and so fragrant with the glistening new buds of leaves charm us to our core.
The mystery and beauty of the forest-paths, so full of eerie silence and bizarre habitation have always eluded man. God coming through the forest-paths is but a type of imagery. The picture of a madhubana dances before the eyes where Krishna used to play the flute, taking us to Brindaban.
In the rainy July of gloomy nights on the thundering chariot of clouds, He comes, comes, ever comes. One who has made the summer and the spring has also made the rainy season. But when it darkens and it thunders and lightning strikes, the beloved feels afraid of being lonely in the room, the soul feels it lonely and disheartened in the absence of the lover yet to return from. The same classical love imagery has been used in as it is in Krishnalila, as it is in Kalidasa’s Meghdutam. Shravan and Bhadra are the months of the Indian rainy season. The word gloom adds to fear and suspense going within the human psyche and the persona cast against the backdrop of loneliness and striking of some unknown misfortune. How does the imagery and scenery turn to from the spring and the summer to the cloudbursts, rain and thundershowers? At that time, when it thunders and flashes, bolts from the blue seem to be striking, the soul fears to be alone in the room. Sometimes the gloom seconded by tempests and cyclonic winds and rains take the people by surprise befalling with some trouble. Here Indra’s a little bit of kopa, curse if it is otherwise referred to in terms of gloom, thunder, rain and lightning frightening the self may be taken to mythically to dwell it differently. The internal fear of man as for life and existence has never left him care-free as this body is the body of maya. These too seem to have been touched upon to some extent. Rains, mild rains drizzling without the lightning and thunder appear to be lovely too. Shelley too refers to the concept of Brahma, Vishnu, Maheshwara in the poem, The Cloud.
I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother's breast,
As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain,
And laugh as I pass in thunder.
— Shelley in The Cloud
In sorrow after sorrow it is his steps that press upon my heart, and it is the golden touch of His feet that makes his joy to shine. Sorrow after sorrow keeps raking the self and so are the hurts and wounds of the physical world which but disturb the inner self. But what has it to be done? These must be endured at any cost. But all those complaints and grievances vanish away the moment He touches with His Golden Feet. Sorrows but lead unto Him and here man is put to test. All the doubts with regard to His coming dispel it in the end; all the troubles of tireless long waiting too mean it not. Just a touch of His Lotus-feet is enough for all bliss and blessing to be bestowed upon man.
How musical is it to be tuned to the poetic repetition, He comes, comes, ever comes. We think it within where He is coming from. It is but bhakti-rasa which is doing the marvels herein with the images of Sagun Brahma, the In-form Divine, nay of the Nirguna Brahma, the Formless Divine which is not the first choice of Tagore. Bhakti, not bairagya, renunciation, is the love of the poet as he seems to be flirting with Maya which is but a thug, as Kabir says it.
On reading the poem, questions arise in the mind with regard to if God is a kith and kin of the poet, where God is indeed, if he has seen Him. Classical and pastoral, both the types of imagery have been used and applied in writing the poem. The small poem replete with the bhakti-rasa, the devotional fervor is really one of the marvels of classical love poetry and such a thing has been envisaged in Radha’s love for Krishna and others. Mira with an idol of Krishna into the hands of hers too may be the picture. Where is Krishna? Krishna is in the heart? Where is Rama? Rama is in the heart. India is a land of Rama and Krishna and without them India cannot be India.
Though entitled, as most of the poems of Gitanjali are, it can be titled as ‘Silent Steps’ or ‘Have you not heard his silent steps?’. The poem too is a poem of silent steps, the Silent Steps of God, the Lord-God. The pictures and images of classical love poetry will be apt if we discuss the poem in that light as there is something which goes as the background music of the song under discussion.
Ghunghat ke pat khol tohe piya milengei, slide the doors, hangover of the curtain, you will get your lover husband, may be another point of reference. Why is this ghunghata, the covering that hinders from seeing? Why the curtain over? Lift it. Open the door of your heart and you will see God. Lift the veil to see the beloved. Lift the veil to see Him. Discard the darkness which lies it within. Cleanse it, purify the soul with your innocence to see Him. Light the lamp of light and light is but knowledge, a lamp burning, dispelling darkness, which is but ignorance. There are several layers of thought and meaning and idea.
Kabir’s “Pothi padhi padhi jag muwa, pandit bhaya na koya, dhai akhar prem ka, padhe se pandit hoya”, Reading texts absorbingly till the end, none could be a pundit of, one who reads two and a half letters of love is a scholar really.
There are no traces of agnosticism, skepticism, nihilism and atheism in it. Not even the crisis in faith comes nearer to inflict the self. The central idea of the poem is His coming, the Divine Resonance vibrating with, the Divine Reflection seen it in all. Where is He not and in what not? Just have a tryst with, do experiment with and you will see is the theme and His Presence is befitting enough, the Divine Providence so bountiful and blissful endowing with blessedness.
There is something of the horror and terror, fear element when he mentions the rainy gloom of July nights and the thundering chariot as for his arrival. When he uses the words for the songs he has sung in many moods, he refers to waiting and the mind resting on hope and assurance instead of the futility experienced in the end. The fragrant days of sunny April through the forest path add to the pictorial, landscapic, scenic quality of the poem against the backdrop of a natural phenomenon and panorama. The words ‘sorrow after sorrow it is his steps that press upon my heart’ refer to the bearing of pain, feelings undergone, the waiting done for and love grows it not suddenly and that too Divine Love which but takes it time. The ‘golden touch of his feet that makes my joy to shine’ is all about the fruit of labor and waiting, the final stage of realization. When he says ‘every moment and every age, every day and every night’ with regard to His arrival, the poet seems to be referring to the kaleidoscope of time telling of His presence. As for the first, the hearing of His steps pervades the spirit of the whole poem.
A small poem, a marvel of devotional lyricism and musicality, religious fervor and utter submission, Silent Steps can win the admiration of the readers is really a great virtue of his poetry and he has carried it down following it, drawing and deriving and recreating from the stream of bhakti-rasa where he has drunk deep, the same medievalist trend of classical love poetry offering solace and redemption to mankind.