Tagore in search of light, knowledge and deliverance
As a mortal singer singing the Songs Celestial
“Thou hast made me known to friends whom I knew not.
Thou hast given me seats in homes not my own.
Thou hast brought the distant near and made a brother of the stranger.
I am uneasy at heart when I have to leave my accustomed shelter;
I forget that there abides the old in the new, and that there also thou abidest.
Through birth and death, in this world or in others,
wherever thou leadest me it is thou, the same,
the one companion of my endless life
who ever linkest my heart with bonds of joy to the unfamiliar.
When one knows thee, then alien there is none,
then no door is shut. Oh, grant me my prayer
that I may never lose the bliss of the touch of the one in the play of many.”
‘Thou hast made me known to friends whom I knew not’ is actually a poem of vasudheva kutumbakam philosophy as upheld by the Indians for so long and the poem is a poem of large-heartedness and thanksgiving. Hospitality knows it no bounds. The guest too is a god. It is God hidden behind all of our acquaintances and introductions. Had He not introduced, could we have been so? Had He not, could we have known each other? We must thank God for introducing us to the unknown fellows and guests. But the core of the thought and idea is man is a traveller on the travel of life and the world and what it is in reality of a traveller. There is nothing as his own. The lighter the luggage is the simpler will it be the journey.
Tagore in search of light, knowledge, realization, self-light, self-knowledge, self-realization, is the thing that appalls us. A poet of vasudheva kutumkbakam, the visva-manava, a humanistic world without borders, reared by love and hospitality, his is an Indian philosophy, Bhartiya darshana. It is but God’s grace that some guest comes to our house and we meet them expectedly or unexpectedly. We must thank Him for His blessings bestowed upon. Who will help whom and in what way, who can say it? Gnana is but light which but dispels inner darkness after lighting with. Bhakti is but a medium of approach, the feeling for. Sanskritic, Vedic, Upanishacdic and Puranic thoughts and ideas take the space of his poetry and we cannot help without discussing them. The poem is also Biblical in the spirit that it has something of the thanksgiving and the obligatory part. Human life is but a chain of life and death. It is endless and is a continual cyclic process. Things remain the same, just the shapes keep on changing.
When one leaves the accustomed house, one will definitely feel it uneasy, which is but this life and the go of the world. The human heart in which the dweller dwells in too forgets it that He is ever-present in the same old house out of which the new one is recreated, modified and restored and renovated.
In this world or that, life or death wherever he goes, He keeps all that under His purview. It is He who guides him on the path of life; it is who shows light to him. If He is with then why to fear it, there is none to fear.
If one gets self-knowledge, the knowledge of the self then none is alien, everyone is but a relative, as it links soul to soul, self to self, heart to heart, mind to mind. No door remains closed for anyone, be it the Inn of God or the people’s dwelling. Let the light of His illuminate it all. Let the blessing of His endow and bestow upon us. Let the Guide be our guide. One who is omnipresent and omnipotent can never leave us forsaken and forlorn, living a poor and miserable destiny. Just we should learn to labour and wait is the Miltonian diction lessoning us in this context.
“The song that I came to sing remains unsung to this day.
I have spent my days in stringing and in unstringing my instrument.
The time has not come true, the words have not been rightly set;
only there is the agony of wishing in my heart.
The blossom has not opened; only the wind is sighing by.
I have not seen his face, nor have I listened to his voice;
only I have heard his gentle footsteps from the road before my house.
The livelong day has passed in spreading his seat on the floor;
but the lamp has not been lit and I cannot ask him into my house.
I live in the hope of meeting with him; but this meeting is not yet.”
‘The song that I came to sing remains unsung to this day’ is a singer’s song trying to take up some Song Divine which has not been scripted and composed and the days have passed in stringing and unstringing the instrument. But how to sing that song if the time gets idled away in such a way and the words come to not or are not arranged for the musical composition? The music has not been tidied up nor have the words been set to music. Without scripting the song and setting the words to, the song will not reverberate. All the days have turned futile just with the wish that he will sing a song. What has it made the time idle away? The time has just spent in stringing and unstringing the instrument. The time has not come true. Only there lies in the agony of wishing in his heart. Is it that the song will not be perfect? Is it that he is a mortal composer, musician and singer? The whole time has spent in thinking about that he will come, come and pass, pass by the way and he will have a chance to see Him, but it did not happen it rather he would have attended to his works. Had he done it before, it would have been well. Had he got the things readied, had he made the preparations before, it would have been different.
There are things which come up while discussing the poem. Does the Divine need human mortal songs to hear them? Will the mundane singer be able to sing the Song Divine? What is the appropriate time to be ready for? When will he embark upon to hear? Perhaps He will just pass by the way hearing the song. Is it that He passes as a Divine Passer-by, a Wayfarer, a Strange Traveller?
By the terms, ‘The blossom has not opened. Only the wind keeps sighing by.’, he means to say that the appropriate time has not come. Let the blossoms open up. The wind is still sighing by.
The poet has not seen Him, nor has heard His Voice. Only he has heard His Footsteps from his house passing by the way.
“The livelong day has passed in spreading his seat on the floor; but the lamp has not been lit and I cannot ask him into my house.”
The whole lifelong day full of hectic activity and busy day-to-day work has come and spent almost and it is getting dark, the lamp has not been lit, but how to welcome Him in? When will he be able to see Him? The imagery is one of an Indian mud and thatched house wherein the awaited guest will be given a seat rolling the mat over the floor.
The poet lives in the hope of meeting Him, but this meeting too is not. Will the poet be able to see Him? Is it a wish or a reality? Can one see Him? The world rests on hope, is the matter which the poet means to communicate it here.
The theme is one of bhakti and devotion, surrender, self-surrender in utter humility and submission, which is so much pietistic and pure. Our days pass off as thus and we fail to do the main thing. When shall we when the days will come to a close and will draw down?
“What divine drink wouldst thou have, my God, from this overflowing cup of my life?
My poet, is it thy delight to see thy creation through my eyes and to stand at the portals of my ears silently to listen to thine own eternal harmony?
Thy world is weaving words in my mind and thy joy is adding music to them. Thou givest thyself to me in love and then feelest thine own entire sweetness in me.”
Is it a song of Mira or Radha? Whose song is it? What divine drink wouldst thou have, my God, from this overflowing cup of my life?, as a devotional lyric is small, but musical and melodious and can be set to music. What drink will God like to have from the cup of life? Here the play is on the cup, the cup of life as assigned to man, as says Vivekananda in his poem, The Cup. The cup also refers to the cup of poison offered to Mira as for eliminating her. Why did she take the company of the saints? This did not go well with the royal people. The other thing is the differentiation between the mortal and the spiritual spheres of life. But the Divine drinking from the mortal cup of man appears to be unimaginable which but can happen only in bhakti poetry. Discerning her royal robes and taking to the saintly attire, she sang and danced oblivious of her status and it suited her as a widow lost in Krishna bhakti. The cup of life is as such, this is the path as assigned to man from age and to age and man as a traveler will keep going, which but he cannot digress and deviate from.
Who is the Poet of poets? The Lord-god is the answer and it is His Delight to see Creation through his eyes and whichever it passes through the ears of the poet carries it the melody.
The world which appears so fresh, so new and so different goes on weaving words in him, but His Joys on the other hand keep adding music to them. None but it is He whose Love, Love Divine is reflected in it all and he in turn keeps getting endowed with sweetness. It is His Love which is but the unexpected blessing of man bestowed upon with so much bliss and affection. In love everything seems to be own so the case herein. God too is bound by love, but that should selfless and pure and how many of us are but pure lovers? The reason is this that we do not love without vested interests and if we selflessly, the path can be seen.