Stray Birds though has been translated from Bengali is a collection of short poems, very short poems containing one to two, three and four lines in the maximum. Most of the poems figure as one-liners or two-liners with a thought-content or sketch in verse. We do not know if Tagore had Japan on his mind as it has been dedicated to T. Hara or had he written under the influence of the Japanese poets famed for the haiku? Whatever be that, let us read them as poetic fragments to derive and d raw from to form our ideas and thoughts with regard to his poetry. Published in 1916, it is a collection of some 326 verses.
Stray birds hopping and playing near the window in summer, singing and flying away take us to a scenic view of Indian heat, dust and cool shades. The yellow leaves fluttering and falling down during the autumn tell of how the path goes through the forest, the return journey, when the spring gets spent.
“Stray birds of summer come to my window to sing and fly away.
And yellow leaves of autumn, which have no songs, flutter and fall there with a sigh.”
The poem no.13 asks the heart to listen to the whispers of the world with which music and love can be made.
“Listen, my heart, to the whispers of the world with which it makes love to you.”
Themes and thoughts get chosen naturally, here the poet means to say it all that. What it is the best, it gets inducted in.
“I cannot choose the best.
The best chooses me.”
The waterfall, the song of it is fall and flow of the water which is but the song of its life.
“The waterfall sings, "I find my song, when I find my freedom." “
The rising sun, when it glows, how beautiful is it to look in the morning, the red disc glowing and the golden sunbeams scattering! But when it sets down, the scenery is quite different from the sun rising.
“The sun goes to cross the Western Sea, leaving its last salutation to the East.”
God’s joy lies it in creating. All that we see is the creation of God.
“God finds himself by creating.”
What to say about the galaxy of stars? Their twinkles and lights? The celestial light? The lamps of light?
“The stars are not afraid to appear like fireflies.”
What is it greatness? Who are born great? But here it differs from Gray’s viewpoint who sees the wild blooms not less beautiful as well the streaks of genius in those village rustics lying unknown in the country churchyard. It is also a fact some are born great, some become great, and some are thrust upon greatness.
“The great is a born child; when he dies, he gives his great childhood to the world.”
Truth should not be hidden as errors may not let it come out.
“If you shut your door to all errors truth will be shut out.”
The poet here sees the cranes, herons and egrets flying back as Yeats sees them peddling in Coole Park.
“Thoughts pass in my mind like flocks of ducks in the sky.
I hear the voice of their wings.”
How is thought fed up with words and ideas? Thoughts do not come to so easily. One needs to think a bit for them to come to.
“Thought feeds itself with its own words and grows.”
What is woman’s life, how to say it? Why are tears into the eyes of hers? Her breast is always filled with the milk of human kindness. Perhaps Mercy is her name.
“Woman, thou hast encircled the world's heart with the depth of thy tears as the sea has the earth.”
Here a woman giggling comes to our light and in her laughter, joy and glee lies it the happiness of true life and the house.
“Woman, in your laughter you have the music of the fountain of life.”
When the sun sets in the west, the world gets enveloped in darkness and silence. Only the bird twitters break the morning sea of silence finally followed by the rising sun, the lotus petals opening, unfolding the whole saga of the morning.
“When the sun goes down to the West, the East of his morning stands before him in silence.”
Men are but self-centred and selfish, but Man is kind as often get it misled as we are not so which we must have been.
“Men are cruel, but Man is kind.”
Here the poet talks about the unbreakable bond of relationship which it exists in between the Finite and the Infinite which one can feel through love. The heart is the temple of God which George Herbert says it in his poetry. The below-mentioned verse is replete with bhakti-bhavana which one can find in the bahkti-cult poetry.
“God kisses the finite in his love and man the infinite.”
The patch of the desert land the traveller has to cross over to as because there is human drudgery and dullness of years, there is struggle and suffering to be borne.
“Thou crossest desert lands of barren years to reach the moment of fulfilment.”
Silence gives consent, is the thing. Silence is but godly and man can learn from to break it with words and speeches.
“God's silence ripens man's thoughts into speech.”
Whose footsteps are it imprinted upon his verses? It is God the Eternal traveller whose footfall and imprint we can feel it everywhere. Here the poet seems to be hinting G.M. Hopkins’ Pied Beauty and God’s Grandeur.
“Thou wilt find, Eternal Traveller, marks of thy footsteps across my songs.”
Stray Birds as a collection of one, two, three and four liners, is inclusive of poetic tidbits passing through as a trail of imagery, a train of rudimentary thoughts and ideas and reflections. Stray thoughts and ideas take the canvas of the work written as a collection of short, very short, brief, very brief poems bordering on the fringe of prose and poetry, poetry and prose. Can the straight lines be called poetry? Is poetry musical thoughts?