Mercury Day poetry: Tagore’s ‘My Country Awake’

Wednesday is (was) Indian Independence Day, and to add to the celebrations, here is Tagore’s “My Country Awake.” It was written pre-Independence and seems to capture a more universal desire or wish than can be tied to one country, alone. Tagore was born in Kolkata, and was the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Via nobelprize.org

Here’s a bit more from nobelprize.org:

In his mature years, in addition to his many-sided literary activities, he managed the family estates, a project which brought him into close touch with common humanity and increased his interest in social reforms. He also started an experimental school at Shantiniketan where he tried his Upanishadic ideals of education. From time to time he participated in the Indian nationalist movement, though in his own non-sentimental and visionary way; and Gandhi, the political father of modern India, was his devoted friend. Tagore was knighted by the ruling British Government in 1915, but within a few years he resigned the honour as a protest against British policies in India.

Tagore had early success as a writer in his native Bengal. With his translations of some of his poems he became rapidly known in the West. In fact his fame attained a luminous height, taking him across continents on lecture tours and tours of friendship. For the world he became the voice of India’s spiritual heritage; and for India, especially for Bengal, he became a great living institution.

And now here’s his poem:

 

My Country Awake

Where the mind is without fear and the head held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by Thee into ever-widening thought and action;
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Posted by Steve

 

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Mercury Day poetry: Tagore’s ‘The Source’

Since we’ve been thinking about “the source” this week — who, where, when — it seemed that Rabindranath Tagore’s poem, “The Source,” would make sense today.

Tagore, of course, was the great Bengali poet, painter and musician. What did he not do? Not much.

***

The Source

The sleep that flits on baby’s eyes–does anybody know from where it comes? Yes, there is a rumour that it has its dwelling where, in the fairy village among shadows of the forest dimly lit with glow-worms, there hang two shy buds of enchantment. From there it comes to kiss baby’s eyes.

The smile that flickers on baby’s lips when he sleeps–does anybody know where it was born? Yes, there is a rumour that a young pale beam of a crescent moon touched the edge of a vanishing autumn cloud, and there the smile was first born in the dream of a dew-washed morning–the smile that flickers on baby’s lips when he sleeps.

The sweet, soft freshness that blooms on baby’s limbs–does anybody know where it was hidden so long? Yes, when the mother was a young girl it lay pervading her heart in tender and silent mystery of love–the sweet, soft freshness that has bloomed on baby’s limbs.

Posted by Steve