The noon a mystic dog with paws of fire
Runs through the sky in ecstasy of drouth
Licking the earth with tongue of golden flame
Set in a burning mouth
It floods the forest with loud barks of light
And chases its own shadow on the plains
Some secret Master-hand hath set it free
Awhile from silver chains
At last towards the cinctured end of day
It drinks cool draughts from sunset-mellowed rills,
Then chained to twilight by the Master's hand
It sleeps among the hills.
Harindranath Chattopadhyaya’s Noon, what noon is it? What Indian noon? Where the earth parching and sizzling and cracked with fissures down into, the sun blazing hot just as a ball of fire, the dogs panting and gasping for breath with the tongue out of and the saliva falling? Man too perspiring, feeling thirsty and the sun scorching, burning it all. It is hot all around and the winds swirling with dust and dry leaves at some nook and corner and the people in the villages talking of goblins and ghosts. This is perhaps the Indian scene of Indian summers as described or intended to be taken by Harindranath and Jayanta Mahapatra. Mahapatra too is scenic of Indian summers with the crocodiles deep into the waters, the hamlets pictured and photographed against the backdrop of hills in the countryside, the rites and rituals going in the Jagannath Puri temple and the worship going on and overheard at noon with Vedic, Upanishdic and Puranic incantation doing the rounds. Tagore’s traveller will like to rest in the forest tract to enjoy the cool shade quenching the thirst and viewing the landscape.
But Harindranath’s dog is not a simple, but a mystic dog, the dog of the Mystic Master, of the Great Sadhaka, Shiva as Kalbhairava going with the Bhairava-vahana, attendant. The image of Adi Shankaracharya seeing Shiva in the kangal rupa and going with the dog reminding him of Daridranarayana dances before the eyes.
To think of his dog is to think about the sadhakas, tantrics of India, to talk of hagiography. To think of his dog is to think of Bama Khepa, Ramkrishna Paramhamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Maharshi Aurobindo; Tarapith, Pondicherry, Kalighat and so on, occult mystery and mysticism. To talk about him is to talk about Mahapatra’s summer and noon, Tagore’s Chandalika and Ananda and Eliot’s The Waste Land. In Chandalika, the blazing Baisakh and the thirst of Ananda and he drinking water with the hands of Chandalika at a well and she lying in the hope of meeting him attracts us differently. In the Waste Land, the imagery is one such of a waterless, barren earth and man praying for cloudburst, rains and blessing for vegetation.
A small poem Noon can be the marvel of expression as such in thought and content, idea and imagery is unthinkable. Let us see how the poet takes to. The noon as a mystic dog with the paws of fire runs through the sky in ecstasy of drouth licking the earth with the tongue of golden flame set in a burning mouth. Words fail in explaining the poem as there lies in a hidden meaning going underneath at the psychic level of consciousness and beneath it the unconscious layers of the dark mind and its image and idea moving along the corridors. The dark layers of consciousness, how to delve deep into? Achetan manna, unconscious inner mind and its experimental conjectures about the Divine set-up keep us taking about mystically. Generally, a dog during the hot noontime pants and gasps for breath is a fact. But here the mystic noon keeps haunting the landscape showing the scenery with the mystic dog going over the far-off territory. The forests are alit with the light, the sunlight falling over and the barks of the mystic dog can be heard echoing into and seems to be chasing its own shadow on the plains. Some secret Master-hand has set it free awhile from silver chains and it running freely, and on taking some short hurried steps, at last it takes a break to drink cool draughts of water from the sunset-mellowed rills. After that, again it is chained to twilight by the Master’s hand and then it sleeps among the hills. Shelley’s ‘If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?’, is the case of deliberation here. If it is hot, it will definitely be cold. There is a pleasure of sleeping under the shade of a tree; taking a dip into the cold water bodies of the hilly area.
Whatever be the context of reference, the poet has said it all, about the hot summertime noon, the cold water, quenching of thirst, the mystic dog let loose by the Mystic Master and the scenery changing with the shift of the golden sunlight flashing harsher and softer. But we are not sure of, whose dog is it? Who the Mystic Master? Is it God, the Mystic of the mystics? The Tantric of the tantrics? The Sadhaka of the sadhakas? Whose noon is it? It is but God’s secluded, lonely noon. The noon too is of the sadhaka resting in a cottage attached to the crematorium ghat and the mystic dog panting outside the door. The mystic noontime loneliness is also the tantrical sadhna time.
Only a sadhaka can tell about such an experience. A common Indian too talks about similarly in the villages giving a folklore imagery to the lonely noontime dogged by hot perspiration as for taking a siesta and making the small children sleep with rural lullabies. If these be not then an shramite is he definitely of some sort. The lotus of meditation blooms into the heart and mind of a sadhaka and the petals of which soaked in divine waters letting drip over from it sculpted above and set to the roof of the temple and he feeling all that as an outcome of tranquil meditation.
Outwardly, the poem is a picture of a noon full of light and heat, looking clear in broad day light, but together with is the sun glowing hot and the light falling upon directly. There is no rest from, no respite from heat. The earth appears to be parched and drying. But inwardly it is not only a noon. Under the pretext of a noon, the dog seems to be tracking the Master lost in sadhna during the noontime at some sadhna ghat or in a sadhna cottage. It may be anywhere, in a secluded place like Wordsworth’s Tintern Abbey with the hermits or a crematorium ghat away from human haunt and habitation.
It is also a truth sometimes that when the master keeps doing the sadhna during the noontime, the dog remains panting outside his cottage ever watchful, ever on the guard of, ready to bark and resist the entry of any stranger. It even follows the tantrica, the sadhna into footsteps to be to the ghat or the secluded place of his sadhna. Though not a mystic, Harindranath is no less than any, and he has given it a nice twist taking to the pedestal of mysticism. But he has left the auspicious black cow, the black dog and the black cat from clutching along. There is also a pleasure of seeing the mystic dog over the plains with the Mystic Master with the sunrays descending down over the distant landscape and the scenery viewable by the lonely dwellers. Only Blake’s tiger has not been called. Had it been, it would have wreaked havoc for the deer taking water from the rills at twilight. The imagery of a master with the trained or chained dog going does the rounds when we read the poem as the chains, tying the belt, barking, paws, mouth, licking and it all suggest to and present before us to peruse, but the context has been construed otherwise to give it a mystical twist and now it is thick with that, heavily under as one cannot without such a background.
Noon as a poem can be interpreted in both the ways, one may take it for a noontime description as well as a mystical noon directly. Everybody knows it how hot and perspiring, humid and sweating is it to pass the noontime, specially the summer season noontime, longer and scorching. But the dog and the Master hijack it all to clutch it all through the way.
The noon, a mystic dog with paws of fire, in ecstasy of drouth, licking the earth, with tongue of golden flame, set in a burning mouth, floods the forest with loud barks of light, chases its own shadow on the plains, some secret Master-hand hath set it free, from silver chains, towards the cinctured end of day, drinks cool draughts from sunset-mellowed rills, then chained to twilight by the Master's hand, sleeps among the hills, etc. add beauty and depth to the poem aggravating Nature mysticism seconded by transcendental meditation and mystical flashes of sadhna and tantricism.