Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Glimpses of Bengal. By Sir Rabindranath Tagore

Bengal sea. Image from
This book contains excerpts from Sir Rabindranath Tagore’s letters while staying at Bengal. He explains:
“ I felt the writing of letters other than business ones to be a delightful necessity. This is a form of literary extravagance only possible when a surplus of thought and emotion accumulates. Other forms of literature remain the author's and are made public for his good; letters that have been given to private individuals once for all, are therefore characterised by the more generous abandonment.
It so happened that selected extracts from a large number of such letters found their way back to me years after they had been written. It had been rightly conjectured that they would delight me by bringing to mind the memory of days when, under the shelter of obscurity, I enjoyed the greatest freedom my life has ever known.
Since these letters synchronise with a considerable part of my published writings, I thought their parallel course would broaden my readers' understanding of my poems as a track is widened by retreading the same ground. Such was my justification for publishing them in a book for my countrymen.”
I’ve selected the first one, in the series “ Bandora by the Sea,” dated October 1885:
The unsheltered sea heaves and heaves and blanches into foam. It sets me thinking of some tied-up monster straining at its bonds, in front of whose gaping jaws we build our homes on the shore and watch it lashing its tail.
What immense strength, with waves swelling like the muscles of a giant!
From the beginning of creation there has been this feud between land and water: the dry earth slowly and silently adding to its domain and spreading a broader and broader lap for its children; the ocean receding step by step, heaving and sobbing and beating its breast in despair.
Remember the sea was once sole monarch, utterly free.
Land rose from its womb, usurped its throne, and ever since the maddened old creature, with hoary crest of foam, wails and laments continually, like King Lear exposed to the fury of the elements.

Glimpses of Bengal. By Sir Rabindranath Tagore. S.R.Ellison, Eric Eldred, and the Distributed Proofreading Team. 1885-1895

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