Thursday, December 11, 2014

Rambling again

How shall I hold my soul
to not intrude upon yours? How shall I
lift it beyond you to other things?
I would gladly lodge it
with lost objects in the dark,
in some far still place
that does not tremble when you tremble.

But all that touches us, you and me,
plays us together, like the bow of a violin
that from two strings draws forth one voice.
On what instrument are we strung?
What musician is playing us?
Oh sweet song.

(Rainer Maria Rilke)

The imagery of a violin is quite significant, for it is rare to find two souls that are strung to the same length, playing the same music. And the constant endeavour, not to intrude, not to impose an individual's own dispositions upon the other.

And the reference to the musician is an unmistakable sign of the mystic and its exactly here that I find parallels with Tagore. One of his poems, a bengali song, says about the wonder one experiences, listening to the melody that is playing all around. Another promises to sing your song every day, praying for words, praying for melodies, yet another voices the anguish of not knowing the ways and means of offering homage to the god of the soul who sits alone...

Tagore wrote around two thousand songs of which a hundred odd compilation as Gitanjali, won him the Nobel in 1913. What I really find truly remarkable in his songs is that love and worship become indistinguishable at times, and his canvas is wide, universal. (And yes, he turned to painting in his later years, which are now prized collections)

Here is a sample of his own translation into English -

There is a half hour documentary on the Gitanjali, published by the Ministry of External Affairs, which can be accessed from this link

I would be ending with another poem, which is said to have been heard by the Scottish poet Robert Burns from an old herder. He added some lines of his own, and the song Auld Lang syne became famous throughout the world

Should Old Acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind;
The flames of Love extinguished,
and fully past and gone ...

Inspired by this , Tagore wrote a song in bengali and set it to music and here is Srikanto Acharya singing the Tagore song after the English, and explaining it all 



  1. A beautiful and erudite post, as always, my friend. I adore the Rilke poem!

  2. Me too Sherry Blue, and thank you for visiting these pages

  3. The poems are incredible. And the post, a delight to read.