T-Rabindranath Tagore: Letters to Dead Poets #atozchallenge

Dear Sir,

How are you? I hope my letter finds you at peace and feeling content. You are now one with the air we breathe, the earth,  the sun, the moon wherever it is your spirit lives. While I have my own views about what happens to us after death, I’m not so sure about the itty bitty details and I’m not about to tell a person of vast wisdom who already knows the answers in detail what may or might not be. You could even tell me the colour of the carpet.

DSC_0918

Writing to you has somehow transported me far beyond the bounds of these four walls and I’m down at the beach writing by candlelight chilled by the sea breeze. A full moon shines and majestic clouds charge like ancients chariots through the shadows and I fixate on a distant star and make a wish. The muse whispers in my ear and rather than tending to earthly concerns, I write. I read. I write. Indeed, lately I’ve been shut away in my writer’s cave.

While you can chop and change the order of things, every story has a beginning. So, that’s where we’ll start. Not at your beginning back in 1861 but going back to when we first met.  It was my grandmother’s funeral and the Priest read out one of your poems. To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t be entirely sure which one it was and after much searching, I’ve never found anything which quite matches up to those threads of memory.

In any case, I found this:

The Gardener Lxi: Peace, My Heart

Peace, my heart, let the time for
the parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain
into songs.
Let the flight through the sky end
in the folding of the wings over the
nest.
Let the last touch of your hands be
gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a
moment, and say your last words in
silence.
I bow to you and hold up my lamp
to light you on your way.

Rabindranath Tagore

Meanwhile, as the older generation passes onto the next, the seeds of youth sprout and reach steadily skywards towards the sun, soaking up the wisdom of those who have been while pursuing youthful follies with great vigour.

Kids Angels Uniting Church 2008

The kids dressed as angels for the Christmas Eve Service, 2008.

When we first met, my children were only five and three. My son was in his very first year at school and just learning to read and write. Indeed, his work was little more than a blank page with his name written in huge uneven letters at the top with an equally catastrophic sentence chaotically splattered down below. I think my daughter was just starting to read and was drawing people with huge heads stuck on stick legs but she knew who each and everyone was.

You captured that wonder of small children in your writing in a way that’s all too easy to miss when you’re living in it day by day.

DSC_0039

Clouds And Waves

Mother, the folk who live up in the clouds call out to me-
“We play from the time we wake till the day ends.
We play with the golden dawn, we play with the silver moon.”
I ask, “But how am I to get up to you ?”
They answer, “Come to the edge of the earth, lift up your
hands to the sky, and you will be taken up into the clouds.”
“My mother is waiting for me at home, “I say, “How can I leave
her and come?”
Then they smile and float away.
But I know a nicer game than that, mother.
I shall be the cloud and you the moon.
I shall cover you with both my hands, and our house-top will
be the blue sky.
The folk who live in the waves call out to me-
“We sing from morning till night; on and on we travel and know
not where we pass.”
I ask, “But how am I to join you?”
They tell me, “Come to the edge of the shore and stand with
your eyes tight shut, and you will be carried out upon the waves.”
I say, “My mother always wants me at home in the everything-
how can I leave her and go?”
They smile, dance and pass by.
But I know a better game than that.
I will be the waves and you will be a strange shore.
I shall roll on and on and on, and break upon your lap with
laughter.
And no one in the world will know where we both are.

Rabindranath Tagore

As much as I love the idea of going to the edge of the Earth, lifting up my hands and going up into the clouds, Come to the edge of the earth, lift up your
hands to the sky, and you will be taken up into the clouds.”

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, We will fall!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
And so they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.”

― Guillaume Apollinaire

Colored Toys

When I bring to you colored toys, my child,
I understand why there is such a play of colors on clouds, on water,
and why flowers are painted in tints
—when I give colored toys to you, my child.

When I sing to make you dance
I truly now why there is music in leaves,
and why waves send their chorus of voices to the heart of the listening earth
—when I sing to make you dance.

When I bring sweet things to your greedy hands
I know why there is honey in the cup of the flowers
and why fruits are secretly filled with sweet juice
—when I bring sweet things to your greedy hands.

When I kiss your face to make you smile, my darling,
I surely understand what pleasure streams from the sky in morning light,
and what delight that is that is which the summer breeze brings to my body
—when I kiss you to make you smile.

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 wilderness 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 traveler 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

However, as a writer myself and having spent years trying to juggle writing and loving and spending time with my husband and kids, when I’m in writing mode and the muse is stuck on overdrive, it’s very hard to strike a balance. Writing these Letters to dead Poets has become some kind of madness because writing to over 26 poets in a month and trying to squeeze inside a different poet’s skin, mind and shoes every day is incredibly hard work and very intense as I try to let go of myself and drift into my role for the day. Moreover, as the poets are in alphabetical order, they’re not conveniently clustered together in groups or flowing in time from one to the next to the next like an orderly London bus queue. I am out there in the ocean every day in my little paper boat trying to navigate my way.

woman writing

The way I see it, this journey lasts a month and things can be put aside and the kids are now old enough that they shouldn’t fall in a screaming heap if I’m busy. Indeed, I feel like I’ve put so much of myself on hold for so long and for such a multitude of reasons, that now when it’s very evident to me that my time has come, the rest can wait. Not all of it but surely nothing is going to fall off the side of the earth if heaven forbid I focus on my writing for a change.

Tagore-mother and child

Why should writers be made to feel guilty when we work? I never query my husband’s right to work or complain when work calls in the middle of the night and his off to spend the night with his “harem”…an entire network of computers all bickering with each other and refusing to talk.

Is that just because he gets paid for his work? Or, because his work is somehow more tangible than mine? He actually leaves the house, goes somewhere called an office and doesn’t tap away on a computer in his pyjamas.

Anyway, for all of these reasons, that’s why I loved your poem Authorship and I was thrilled to stumble across it again now. Even though the kids are that much older, it still very much applies and bring a smile to my heart:

Authorship

You say that father write a lot of books, but what he writes I don’t
understand.
He was reading to you all the evening, but could you really
make out what he meant?
What nice stores, mother, you can tell us! Why can’t father
write like that, I wonder?
Did he never hear from his own mother stories of giants and
fairies and princesses?
Has he forgotten them all?
Often when he gets late for his bath you have to and call him
an hundred times.
You wait and keep his dishes warm for him, but he goes on
writing and forgets.
Father always plays at making books.
If ever I go to play in father’s room, you come and call me,
“What a naughty child!”
If I make the slightest noise you say, “Don’t you see that
father’s at his work?”
What’s the fun of always writing and writing?
When I take up father’s pen or pencil and write upon his book
just as he does,-a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,i,-why do you get cross with me
then, mother?
You never say a word when father writes.
When my father wastes such heaps of paper, mother, you don’t
seem to mind at all.
But if I take only one sheet to take a boat with, you say,
“Child, how troublesome you are!”
What do you think of father’s spoiling sheets and sheets of
paper with black marks all over both sides?

Rabindranath Tagore

Lastly, no discussion of your work would be complete without mentioning your homeland and your love for India and Bengal. I think you would enjoy reading Racism by Oodgeroo Noonuccal and the works of Maya Angelou. People who see the unity in humanity and want to tear down all the narrow-minded barriers which divide us.

Where The Mind Is Without Fear

Where the mind is without fear and the head is 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

Rabindranath Tagore

However, as much as I could immerse myself in your poems forever and don’t want to say goodbye, I have to leave. I need to get some sleep and a dose of the much needed “balance” you prescribe.

I’ll be back.

Love and warm greetings,

Rowena

Tagore-Dancing Woman.jpg

Dancing Woman by Tagore

 

8 thoughts on “T-Rabindranath Tagore: Letters to Dead Poets #atozchallenge

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