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Shaper Shaped by Harindranath Chattopadhyaya

In days gone by I used to be
A potter who would feel
His fingers mould the yielding clay
To patterns on his wheel;
But now, through wisdom lately won,
That pride has gone away,
I have ceased to be the potter
And have learned to be the clay.

In other days I used to be
A poet through whose pen
Innumerable songs would come
To win the hearts of men;
But now, through new-got knowledge
Which I hadn’t had so long,
I have ceased to be the poet
And have learned to be the song.

I was a fashioner of swords,
In days that now are gone,
Which on a hundred battlefields
Glittered and gleamed and shone;
But now I am brimming with
The silence of the Lord,
I have ceased to be sword-maker
And have learned to be the sword.

In by-gone days I used to be
A dreamer who would hurl
On every side an insolence
Of emerald and pearl.
But now I am kneeling
At the feet of the Supreme
I have ceased to be the dreamer
And have learned to be the dream.

Shaper Shaped as a poem is all about how deceptively man thinks of his power and glory and what it turns out to be in essence; how the State of Things and how the ultimate realization of the self, the admission of it by none the else but the persona himself. Our ego, pride and hypocrisy let us not know the truth. The Will of God is behind it all which but we know it not, feel it not. How the Divine Scheme of Things which is but not hidden from anyone! Only the fools pride over their shallow knowledge, Eliot’s The Hollow Men, the wise say it not. But man drunken with power, pelf and position thinks it not. How does hypocrisy get deflated is the thing herein? How does the balloon of self-ego burst it? How the intrigues of man which but he himself is not in the know of! It is ignorance which but lets him not realize in time. But Alexander Pope’s ‘A little learning is a dangerous thing’ works as an eye-opener showing the way to all with, ‘Where angels fear to tread’. In the words of Kabir, where the mart is small put you it not diamonds on display, for purchase, as for that a gemmologist is needed who can recognize the real worth and price of the gem or the jewel under cover. Thomas Gray felt about the streaks of genius in those lying in the country churchyard who could have definitely attained the heights of glory had they got the opportunities. So, there is nothing to be proud of.

A little learning is a dang'rous thing;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.
– Alexander Pope in An Essay on Criticism

Who has genius? Who has not? Who is talented and who not? How to say it? Talent will flower if it is reared, nurtured. Do not think that he or she is not talented, only you are talented. He or she too has the streak of genius which but we know it not. Have we tried to know them? Who is gifted with what capabilities? Who is with what abilities? We have just tried to learn to suppress. Let us quote a stanza from Gray again:

Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
Are the wild flowers not beautiful? Some are definitely ravishingly beautiful which but we know it not.

Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood;
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell guiltless of his country's blood.
– Thomas Gray in Elegy

The poem is a busting of self-ego and hypocrisy; human conceit and deceit. The poet’s use of wit and intellect too can be taken into consideration. Where does self-praise lead to ultimately? How the path of life and the world? Where does it go to? How the time passing? When does wisdom take over to, one cannot say it, when it dawns upon and the counsel comes to.

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar.
– T.S.Eliot in The Hollow Men

Harindranath as a poet is a multi-faceted personality who tries to assimilate and corroborate the assorted things, but the incongruities lead it to nowhere to the finding of the doubt if he is a saint or not, a yogi or a bhogi, a man of practical wisdom or mystical leaning. We appreciate his metaphysics, mysticism, but his wit, conceit displaces us. We do not know it what he is, a mystic or a communist.

How the things have been shaped? How do the things and ideas get shaped? Whose art where lies it in? How the art of the potter? Who the Potter of potters? Here we get reminded of Kabir and his dohas; his artistry taking to the art of weaving and the making of earthen pots. The charkha, the potter wheel, the cotton carder, the images of this sort starts dancing before the eyes.

None can say about the wheel of fortune turning over. None can about the time speeding away. The things of the world are not so as we think about. To be a man is the main thing. Have we ever tried to be a man? It is but in humility, humbleness. While reading the poem, the mythological Irish coat of Yeats so richly embroidered with dances before the eyes.

The poet thinks over the realms of human delving swapping his positions, clutching time into consideration, the dreams he dreams and the roles he plays. How did he use to be a proud potter making the pottery of different shapes and designs? His art was so unique that he used to shape the things artistically and magically with while formatting and cycling, recycling the clay. But there came a time when distaste overrode him and he too distanced himself with the art of pottery-making. Human weakness and frailty took over and desisted from and he realized the futility of doing the same work. Man himself is made from clay then what to pride over as a potter?

Again, when he took to the pen for scribbling his feelings and emotions on paper, jotting down the things of the heart, he felt it within himself that he was but a master of words, a music maker, a word maker. But there came a time when he felt poetry nothing before newly-found knowledge. Fact and reason questioned his sentimentality and emotionalism and he felt the inner crisis, the split between faith and doubt, fact and fiction. What can it poetry give to? Why to write poetry? What does humanity need it most? The poet too a part of poetry.

The poetic dilemma is one of One Day I Wrote Her Name by Edmund Spenser:

One day I wrote her name upon the strand,
But came the waves and washed it away:
Again I wrote it with a second hand,
But came the tide, and made my pains his prey.
"Vain man," said she, "that dost in vain assay,
A mortal thing so to immortalize;
For I myself shall like to this decay,
And eke my name be wiped out likewise."
"Not so," (quod I) "let baser things devise
To die in dust, but you shall live by fame:
My verse your virtues rare shall eternize,
And in the heavens write your glorious name:
Where whenas death shall all the world subdue,
Our love shall live, and later life renew.

Again he saw himself in the image of a sword-maker whose swords were brandished in wars; many a battle was fought and lost. So many were killed and annihilated. But the victory of the sword last it not long. It neither could win his heart nor could give a life-long glory. Returning from the battlefield, he brooded over the futility of wars and the element of bloodshed, hatred, animosity, brutality and violence it inculcated in unnecessarily at the cost of innocent human blood shed so mercilessly and cruelly. How long can man talk of war and warring rather than peace, the peace of mind which but gives it final consent and repose? But the reality none strove to know it that he was himself but a sword. None has come to feel that the silence of the Lord is all that we seek unto Him.

Again he imagined himself as a dreamer who goes about dreaming, seeing sweet dreams. He went the way the stone-dealer, the diamond merchant went it priding over diamonds, emeralds and pearls, but the dreams remained it dreams and he felt it deceived. Where does it lie in the real joy? What does it last unto the last? He mumbled and fumbled over thinking it, putting upon the roles. What was actually his role of play? Poetry as the theatre of life and he rehearsing a drama is the thing in reality. But the dreamer too knows it not that he too himself but a dream dreamt and the drama may be a good one or a bad one.

The Shaper shaped it and now it is unto the man, up to the self to realize it what it has been shaped and how the things of the world. What a life to lead! What it the truth of life! But the problem lies it with us that we feel it not. Know thyself, is the thing which the poet means to reveal it through the poetic images.


More by :  Bijay Kant Dubey

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Comment Enjoyed reading this literary write

Hema Ravi
05-Jun-2021 22:32 PM

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