Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
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Gitanjali is the most well-known work of the Bengali polymath Rabindranath Tagore. Tagore was the first non-European winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature (1913.) While Gitanjali is a work of poetry, Tagore didn’t restrict himself to this form, but also wrote stories, novels, plays, and music.
Gitanjali translates to “Song Offerings” and while the English version is a translation, it was translated by Tagore himself. Thus, there is no need to wonder whether the translator got it right or injected too much of his own worldview into the process.
This collection of 103 poems (the original Bengali has 157)displays both beautiful language and thought-provoking sentiments. This may be why the work is so beloved and stands the test of time.
I’ll share a few of my favorite passages:
“The child, who is decked out with prince’s robes and who has jeweled chains round his neck loses all pleasure in his play;…” -Poem VIII
“O fool, to try to carry thyself on thy own shoulders! O Beggar, to come to beg at thy own door!” -Poem IX
“On the day when the lotus bloomed, alas, my mind was straying, and I knew it not.” -Poem XX
“On the seashore of endless worlds children meet.” -Poem LX
“In the moonless gloom of midnight I asked her, ‘Maiden, what is your quest, holding the lamp near your heart? My house is all dark and lonesome,– lend me your light.’ She stopped for a minute and thought and gazed at my face in the dark. ‘I have brought my light,’ she said, ‘to join the carnival of lamps.’ I stood and watched her little lamp uselessly lost among lights.” -Poem LXIV
“And because I love this life, I know I shall love death as well.” -Poem XCV
The edition I have, which is published in India by Rupa Press, contains Tagore’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech as well. (The Amazon page I’ve linked to shows the edition that I read, but the cover shown above is a different version. The poems are all the same because Tagore self-translated, it is only the supplemental matter that is different.)
I highly recommend this collection of poems.