Song Offerings Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee For more FREE books visit our website: www. spiritualbee. com Dear Reader, This e-book is a reproduction of the original “Gitanjali – Song Offerings” by Rabindranath Tagore, first published in 1913. This book is now in the public domain in the United States and in India; because it’s original copyright owned by the Macmillan Company has expired. As per U. S. copyright law, any book published in the United States prior to January 1st 1923 is in the public domain in the United States.
Under Indian copyright laws, works enter the public domain 60 years after the author’s death. A photographed version of the original book is also available for download at our website www. spiritualbee. com/gitanjali-poems-of-tagore/ Book Summary: “Gitanjali” is one of Rabindranath Tagore’s best known works for which he received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. Many of the verses in Gitanjali are beautiful prayers written after a gut-wrenchingly painful period in Rabindranath Tagore’s life, during which he lost his father, wife, daughter and a son in quick succession.
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His unfathomable pain and unshaken devotion to God are captured in the moving proseverses of Gitanjali, which Tagore dedicated as “Song Offerings”. For a reader uninitiated in Tagore, it is our humble recommendation that they read the prose-verses of Gitanjali only after gaining familiarity with some of his other works. His books My Reminiscences, Glimpses of Bengal, Sadhana and Nationalism are a great place to start and are available for a free download at our website www. spiritualbee. com/free-spiritual-books/ – In that way the reader will have gained a fuller perspective and a rich contextual background, to weight Tagore’s words against.
When one reads the works of Tagore, one detects a clear stream of spirituality and an intense love for Nature that flows through most of his books. It is no exaggeration that the more works of Tagore one reads, the more one falls in love with this simple and beautiful poet. He shone forth brightly his lamp of timeless wisdom of the East ? that this Universe has been created out of pure love, and it is only our love for each other together with peace, justice and freedom that will sustain it. “The Upanishads say: “From joy does spring all this creation, by joy is it maintained, towards joy does it progress, and into joy does it enter. It means that God’s creation has not its source in any necessity; it comes from his fullness of joy; it is his love that creates, therefore in creation is his own revealment. ” – Rabindranath Tagore explaining a verse of the Upanishads, in his book “Sadhana – The Realisation of Life” It is no wonder that in India, Rabindranath Tagore is revered as “Gurudev” ? “a teacher embodying God-like knowledge”, a title conferred upon him by Mahatma Gandhi. We hope that you enjoy reading this masterpiece as much as we did! Since knowledge grows by sharing, do forward this e-book to your friends and family. Kind regards, The Spiritual Bee
Painted by Nandalal Bose Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee 4 GITANJALI (SONG OFFERINGS) BY RABINDRANATH TAGORE A COLLECTION OF PROSE TRANSLATIONS MADE BY THE AUTHOR FROM THE ORIGINAL BENGALI WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY W. B. YEATS NEW YORK THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 1920 EDITION (FIRST PUBLISHED IN 1913) Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee 5 TO WILLIAM ROTHENSTEIN Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee 6 PREFACE
THESE translations are of poems contained in three books ? Naivedya, Kheya, and Gitanjali ? to be had at the Indian Publishing House, 22 Cornwallis Street, Calcutta; and of a few poems which have appeared only in periodicals. Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee 7 INTRODUCTION By W. B. YEATS A FEW days ago I said to a distinguished Bengali doctor of medicine, “I know no German, yet if a translation of a German poet had moved me, I would go to the British Museum and find books in English that would tell me something of his life, and of the history of his thought.
But though these prose translations from Rabindranath Tagore have stirred my blood as nothing has for years, I shall not know anything of his life, and of the movements of thought that have made them possible, if some Indian traveller will not tell me. ” It seemed to him natural that I should be moved, for he said, “I read Rabindranath every day, to read one line of his is to forget all the troubles of the world. I said, “An Englishman living in London in the reign of Richard the Second had he been shown translations from Petrarch or from Dante, would have found no books to answer his questions, but would have questioned some Florentine banker or Lombard merchant as I question you. For all I know, so abundant and simple is this poetry, the new Renaissance has been born in your country and I shall never know of it except by hearsay. ” He answered, “We have other poets, but none that are his equal; we call this the epoch of Rabindranath. No poet seems to me as famous in Europe as he is among us.
He is as great in music as in poetry, and his songs are sung from the west of India into Burmah wherever Bengali is spoken. He was already famous at nineteen when he wrote his first novel; and plays, written when he was but little older, are still played in Calcutta. I so much admire the completeness of his life; when he was very young he wrote much of natural objects, he would sit all day in his garden; from his twenty-fifth year or so to his thirty-fifth perhaps, when he had a great sorrow, he wrote the most beautiful love poetry in our language”; and then he said with deep emotion, “words can never express what I wed at seventeen to his love poetry. After that his art grew deeper, it became religious and philosophical; all the aspirations of mankind are in his hymns. He is the first among our saints who has not refused to live, but has spoken out of Life itself, and that is why we give him our love. ” Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee 8 I may have changed his well-chosen words in my memory but not his thought. “A little while ago he was to read divine service in one of our churches ? we of the Brahma Samaj use your word ‘church’ in English ? t was the largest in Calcutta and not only was it crowded, people even standing in the windows, but the streets were all but impassable because of the people. ” Other Indians came to see me and their reverence for this man sounded strange in our world, where we hide great and little things under the same veil of obvious comedy and half-serious depreciation. When we were making the cathedrals had we a like reverence for our great men? “Every morning at three ? I know, for I have seen it” ? one said to me, “he sits immovable in contemplation, and for two hours does not awake from his reverie upon the nature of God.
His father, the Maha Rishi, would sometimes sit there all through the next day; once, upon a river, he fell into contemplation because of the beauty of the landscape, and the rowers waited for eight hours before they could continue their journey. ” He then told me of Mr. Tagore’s family and how for generations great men have come out of its cradles. “To-day,” he said, “there are Gogonendranath and Abanindranath Tagore, who are artists; and Dwijendranath, Rabindranath’s brother, who is a great philosopher. The squirrels come from the boughs and climb on to his knees and the birds alight upon his hands. I notice in these men’s thought a sense of visible beauty and meaning as though they held that doctrine of Nietzsche that we must not believe in the moral or intellectual beauty which does not sooner or later impress itself upon physical things. I said, “In the East you know how to keep a family illustrious. The other day the curator of a Museum pointed out to me a little dark-skinned man who was arranging their Chinese prints and said, ‘That is the hereditary connoisseur of the Mikado, he is the fourteenth of his family to hold the post. ’” He answered. When Rabindranath was a boy he had all round him in his home literature and music. ” I thought of the abundance, of the simplicity of the poems, and said, “In your country is there much propagandist writing, much criticism? We have to do so much, especially in my own country, that our minds gradually cease to be creative, and yet we cannot help it. If our life was not a continual warfare, we would not have Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee 9 taste, we would not know what is good, we would not find hearers and readers.
Fourfifths of our energy is spent in the quarrel with bad taste, whether in our own minds or in the minds of others. ” “I understand,” he replied, “we too have our propagandist writing. In the villages they recite long mythological poems adapted from the Sanscrit in the Middle Ages, and they often insert passages telling the people that they must do their duties. “ II I have carried the manuscript of these translations about with me for days, reading it in railway trains, or on the tops of omnibuses and in restaurants, and I have often had to close it lest some stranger would see how much it moved me.
These lyrics ? which are in the original, my Indians tell me, full of subtlety of rhythm, of untranslatable delicacies of colour, of metrical invention ? display in their thought a world I have dreamed of all my life long. The work of a supreme culture, they yet appear as much the growth of the common soil as the grass and the rushes. A tradition, where poetry and religion are the same thing, has passed through the centuries, gathering from learned and unlearned metaphor and emotion, and carried back again to the multitude the thought of the scholar and of the noble.
If the civilization of Bengal remains unbroken, if that common mind which ? as one divines ? runs through all, is not, as with us, broken into a dozen minds that know nothing of each other, something even of what is most subtle in these verses will have come, in a few generations, to the beggar on the roads. When there was but one mind in England Chaucer wrote his Troilus and Cressida, and though he had written to be read, or to be read out ? for our time was coming on apace ? he was sung by minstrels for a while.
Rabindranath Tagore, like Chaucer’s forerunners, writes music for his words, and one understands at every moment that he is so abundant, so spontaneous, so daring in his passion, so full of surprise, because he is doing something which has never seemed strange, unnatural, or in need of defence. These verses will not lie in little well-printed books upon ladies’ tables, who turn the pages with indolent hands that they may sigh over a life without meaning, which is yet all they can know of life, or be carried about by students at the university to be laid aside when the work of life begins, but as the
Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee 10 generations pass, travellers will hum them on the highway and men rowing upon rivers. Lovers, while they await one another, shall find, in murmuring them, this love of God a magic gulf wherein their own more bitter passion may bathe and renew its youth. At every moment the heart of this poet flows outward to these without derogation or condescension, for it has known that they will understand; and it has filled itself with the circumstance of their lives.
The traveller in the red-brown clothes that he wears that dust may not show upon him, the girl searching in her bed for the petals fallen from the wreath of her royal lover, the servant or the bride awaiting the master’s home-coming in the empty house, are images of the heart turning to God. Flowers and rivers, the blowing of conch shells, the heavy rain of the Indian July, or the parching heat, are images of the moods of that heart in union or in separation; and a man sitting in a boat upon a river playing upon a lute, like one of those figures full of mysterious meaning in a Chinese picture, is God Himself.
A whole people, a whole civilization, immeasurably strange to us, seems to have been taken up into this imagination; and yet we are not moved because of its strangeness, but because we have met our own image, as though we had walked in Rossetti’s willow wood, or heard, perhaps for the first time in literature, our voice as in a dream. Since the Renaissance the writing of European saints ? however familiar their metaphor and the general structure of their thought ? has ceased to hold our attention.
We know that we must at last forsake the world, and we are accustomed in moments of weariness or exaltation to consider a voluntary forsaking; but how can we, who have read so much poetry, seen so many paintings, listened to so much music, where the cry of the flesh and the cry of the soul seem one, forsake it harshly and rudely? What have we in common with St. Bernard covering his eyes that they may not dwell upon the beauty of the lakes of Switzerland, or with the violent rhetoric of the Book of Revelation?
We would, if we might, find, as in this book, words full of courtesy. “I have got my leave. Bid me farewell, my brothers! I bow to you all and take my departure. Here I give back the keys of my door ? and I give up all claims to my house. I only ask for last kind words from you. We were neighbours for long, but I received more than I could give. Now the day has dawned and the lamp that lit my dark corner is out. A summons has come and I am ready for my journey. ” Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee 11
And it is our own mood, when it is furthest from A Kempis or John of the Cross, that cries, “And because I love this life, I know I shall love death as well. ” Yet it is not only in our thoughts of the parting that this book fathoms all. We had not known that we loved God, hardly it may be that we believed in Him; yet looking backward upon our life we discover, in our exploration of the pathways of woods, in our delight in the lonely places of hills, in that mysterious claim that we have made, unavailingly, on the women that we have loved, the emotion that created this insidious sweetness. “Entering my heart nbidden even as one of the common crowd, unknown to me, my king, thou didst press the signet of eternity upon many a fleeting moment,” This is no longer the sanctity of the cell and of the scourge; being but a lifting up, as it were, into a greater intensity of the mood of the painter, painting the dust and the sunlight, and we go for a like voice to St. Francis and to William Blake who have seemed so alien in our violent history. III We write long books where no page perhaps has any quality to make writing a pleasure, being confident in some general design, just as we fight and make money and fill our heads with politics ? ll dull things in the doing while Mr. Tagore, like the Indian civilization itself, has been content to discover the soul and surrender himself to its spontaneity. He often seems to contrast his life with that of those who have lived more after our fashion, and have more seeming weight in the world, and always humbly as though he were only sure his way is best for him: “Men going home glance at me and smile and fill me with shame. I sit like a beggar maid, drawing my skirt over my face, and when they ask me, what it is I want, I drop my eyes and answer them not. At another time, remembering how his life had once a different shape, he will say, “Many an hour have I spent in the strife of the good and the evil, but now it is the pleasure of my playmate of the empty days to draw my heart on to him; and I know not why is this sudden call to what useless inconsequence. ” An innocence, a simplicity that one does not find elsewhere in literature makes the birds and the leaves seem as near to him as they are near to children, and the changes of the seasons great events as before our thoughts had arisen between them and us.
At times I wonder if he has it from the literature of Bengal or from religion, and at other times, remembering the birds alighting Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee 12 on his brother’s hands, I find pleasure in thinking it hereditary, a mystery that was growing through the centuries like the courtesy of a Tristan or a Pelanore. Indeed, when he is speaking of children, so much a part of himself this quality seems, one is not certain that he is not also speaking of the saints, “They build their houses with sand and they play with empty shells.
With withered leaves they weave their boats and smilingly float them on the vast deep. Children have their play on the sea-shore of worlds. They know not how to swim, they know not how to cast nets. Pearl fishers dive for pearls, merchants sail in their ships, while children gather pebbles and scatter them again. They seek not for hidden treasures, they know not how to cast nets. ” W. B. YEATS. September 1912. Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee 13 GITANJALI Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee 14 1
THOU hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life. This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales, and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new. At the immortal touch of thy hands my little heart loses its limits in joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable1. Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine. Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill. 2 WHEN thou commandest me to sing it seems that my heart would break with pride; and I look to thy face, and tears come to my eyes.
All that is harsh and dissonant in my life melts into one sweet harmony ? and my adoration spreads wings like a glad bird on its flight across the sea. I know thou takest pleasure in my singing. I know that only as a singer I come before thy presence. I touch by the edge of the far spreading wing of my song thy feet which I could never aspire to reach. Drunk with the joy of singing I forget myself and call thee friend who art my lord. 3 I KNOW not how thou singest, my master! I ever listen in silent amazement. The light of thy music illumines the world. The life breath of thy music runs from sky to sky.
The holy stream of thy music breaks through all stony obstacles and rushes on. 1. Ineffable: too great or intense to be expressed in presentation by The Spiritual Bee Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book words; unutterable. 15 My heart longs to join in thy song, but vainly struggles for a voice. I would speak, but speech breaks not into song, and I cry out baffled. Ah, thou hast made my heart captive in the endless meshes of thy music, my master! 4 LIFE of my life, I shall ever try to keep my body pure, knowing that thy living touch is upon all my limbs.
I shall ever try to keep all untruths out from my thoughts, knowing that thou art that truth which has kindled the light of reason in my mind. I shall ever try to drive all evils away from my heart and keep my love in flower, knowing that thou hast thy seat in the inmost shrine of my heart. And it shall be my endeavour to reveal thee in my actions, knowing it is thy power gives me strength to act. 5 I ASK for a moment’s indulgence to sit by thy side. The works that I have in hand I will finish afterwards. Away from the sight of thy face my heart knows no rest nor respite, and my work becomes an endless toil in a shoreless sea of toil.
To-day the summer has come at my window with its sighs and murmurs; and the bees are plying their minstrelsy at the court of the flowering grove. Now it is time to sit quiet, face to face with thee, and to sing dedication of life in this silent and overflowing leisure. Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee 16 6 PLUCK this little flower and take it, delay not! I fear lest it droop and drop into the dust. It may not find a place in thy garland, but honour it with a touch of pain from thy hand and pluck it. I fear lest the day end before I am aware, and the time of offering go by.
Though its colour be not deep and its smell be faint, use this flower in thy service and pluck it while there is time. 7 MY song has put off her adornments. She has no pride of dress and decoration. Ornaments would mar our union; they would come between thee and me; their jingling would drown thy whispers. My poet’s vanity dies in shame before thy sight. O master poet, I have sat down at thy feet. Only let me make my life simple and straight, like a flute of reed for thee to fill with music. 8 THE child who is decked with prince’s robes and who has jewelled chains round his neck loses all pleasure in his play; his dress hampers him at every tep. In fear that it may be frayed, or stained with dust he keeps himself from the world, and is afraid even to move. Mother, it is no gain, thy bondage of finery, if it keep one shut off from the healthful dust of the earth, if it rob one of the right of entrance to the great fair of common human life. Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee 17 Drawn by Nandalal Bose MY SONG HAS PUT OFF HER ADORNMENTS 9 O FOOL, to try to carry thyself upon thy own shoulders! O beggar, to come to beg at thy own door! Leave all thy burdens on his hands who can bear all, and never look behind in regret.
Thy desire at once puts out the light from the lamp it touches with its breath. It is unholy ? take not thy gifts through its unclean hands. Accept only what is offered by sacred love. Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee 18 10 HERE is thy footstool and there rest thy feet where live the poorest, and lowliest, and lost. When I try to bow to thee, my obeisance cannot reach down to the depth where thy feet rest among the poorest, and lowliest, and lost. Pride can never approach to where thou walkest in the clothes of the humble among the poorest, and lowliest, and lost.
My heart can never find its way to where thou keepest company with the companionless among the poorest, the lowliest, and the lost. Painted by Surendranath Kar HERE IS THY FOOTSTOOL Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee 19 11 LEAVE this chanting and singing and telling of beads! Whom dost thou worship in this lonely dark corner of a temple with doors all shut? Open thine eyes and see thy God is not before thee! He is there where the tiller is tilling the hard ground and where the path-maker is breaking stones. He is with them in sun and in shower, and his garment is covered with dust.
Put off thy holy mantle and even like him come down on the dusty soil! Deliverance? Where is this deliverance to be found? Our master himself has joyfully taken upon him the bonds of creation; he is bound with us all for ever. Come out of thy meditations and leave aside thy flowers and incense! What harm is there if thy clothes become tattered and stained? Meet him and stand by him in toil and in sweat of thy brow. 12 THE time that my journey takes is long and the way of it long. I came out on the chariot of the first gleam of light, and pursued my voyage through the wildernesses of worlds leaving my track on many a star and planet.
It is the most distant course that comes nearest to thyself, and that training is the most intricate which leads to the utter simplicity of a tune. The traveller has to knock at every alien door to come to his own, and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end. My eyes strayed far and wide before I shut them and said “Here art thou! ” The question and the cry “Oh, where? ” melt into tears of a thousand streams and deluge the world with the flood of the assurance “I am! ” Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee 20 13
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 livelong1 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.
Drawn by Nandalal Bose THE SONG I CAME TO SING Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee 1. Livelong: Complete, whole; of time long or seemingly long, especially in a tedious way. 21 14 MY desires are many and my cry is pitiful, but ever didst thou save me by hard refusals; and this strong mercy has been wrought into my life through and through. Day by day thou art making me worthy of the simple, great gifts that thou gavest to me unasked ? this sky and the light, this body and the life and the mind ? saving me from perils of overmuch desire.
There are times when I languidly linger and times when I awaken and hurry in search of my goal; but cruelly thou hidest thyself from before me. Day by day thou art making me worthy of thy full acceptance by refusing me ever and anon1, saving me from perils of weak, uncertain desire. 15 I AM here to sing thee songs. In this hall of thine I have a corner seat. In thy world I have no work to do; my useless life can only break out in tunes without a purpose. When the hour strikes for thy silent worship at dark temple of midnight, command me, my master, to stand before thee to sing.
When in the morning air the golden harp is tuned, honour me, commanding my presence. 16 I HAVE had my invitation to this world’s festival, and thus my life has been blessed. My eyes have seen and my ears have heard. It was my part at this feast to play upon my instrument, and I have done all I could. Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee 1. Ever and anon: An old English phrase meaning now and then; frequently; often. 22 Now, I ask, has the time come at last when I may go in and see thy face and offer thee my silent salutation? 17
I AM only waiting for love to give myself up at last into his hands. That is why it is so late and why I have been guilty of such omissions. They come with their laws and their codes to bind me fast; but I evade them ever, for I am only waiting for love to give myself up at last into his hands. People blame me and call me heedless; I doubt not they are right in their blame. The market day is over and work is all done for the busy. Those who came to call me in vain have gone back in anger. I am only waiting for love to give myself up at last into his hands. 18 CLOUDS heap upon clouds and it darkens.
Ah, love, why dost thou let me wait outside at the door all alone? In the busy moments of the noontide work I am with the crowd, but on this dark lonely day it is only for thee that I hope. If thou showest me not thy face, if thou leavest me wholly aside, I know not how I am to pass these long, rainy hours. I keep gazing on the far away gloom of the sky, and my heart wanders wailing with the restless wind. 19 IF thou speakest not I will fill my heart with thy silence and endure it. I will keep still and wait like the night with starry vigil and its head bent low with patience.
Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee 23 The morning will surely come, the darkness will vanish, and thy voice pour down in golden streams breaking through the sky. Then thy words will take wing in songs from every one of my birds’ nests, and thy melodies will break forth in flowers in all my forest groves. 20 ON the day when the lotus bloomed, alas, my mind was straying, and I knew it not. My basket was empty and the flower remained unheeded. Only now and again a sadness fell upon me, and I started up from my dream and felt a sweet trace of a strange fragrance in the south wind.
That vague sweetness made my heart ache with longing and it seemed to me that it was the eager breath of the summer seeking for its completion. I knew not then that it was so near, that it was mine, and that this perfect sweetness had blossomed in the depth of my own heart. 21 I MUST launch out my boat. The languid hours pass by on the shore ? Alas for me! The spring has done its flowering and taken leave. And now with the burden of faded futile flowers I wait and linger. The waves have become clamorous, and upon the bank in the shady lane the yellow leaves flutter and fall.
What emptiness do you gaze upon! Do you not feel a thrill passing through the air with the notes of the far away song floating from the other shore? Gitanjali: Spiritual Poems of Rabindranath Tagore – An e-book presentation by The Spiritual Bee 24 22 IN the deep shadows of the rainy July, with secret steps, thou walkest, silent as night, eluding all watchers. To-day the morning has closed its eyes, heedless of the insistent calls of the loud east wind, and a thick veil has been drawn over the ever-wakeful blue sky. The woodlands have hushed their songs, and doors are all shut at every house.