Organic Sensibility of Tagore

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Bina tells us about the love of Nature in Tagore and compares it with Wordsworth. Nature was organic to both these poets. Here’s an interesting insight, as part of the Special Feature, exclusively for Different Truths.

It seems the poetic for Wordsworth and Tagore started looking at an ordinary commonplace scene in Nature with their inner eye that left them spellbound and struck them with awe.  The inspiration was so great that both the poets relived them vividly at a later day in their life.

Consider the statement of Wordsworth on the opinions of a poet where he says, “…the statements of a poet, no doubt, not of a philosopher, but still evidently statements expressing, intimating, or symbolising, what for him was the most vital truth…the meanest flower that blows could give him thoughts that often lie too deep for tears…. in a poem not less solemn that Nature was the soul of moral being; and also that she can influence us that nothing will be able to disturb our faith that all that we behold is full of blessings.”[1]

Perhaps the thoughts that “lie deep for tears” (quoted above) become the food for thought for the poet and the “film of familiarity” or “the invisible screen of the commonplace” (quoted above) is raised and the workaday becomes a shrine of significance.

Wordsworth was pre-eminently the poet of Nature and some of his most characteristic similes are drawn from clouds.  Tagore also did similarly draw imagery in many of his poems like Wordsworth’s “I wandered lonely as a cloud. That floats in high o’er vales and hills.” “Motionless as a cloud the old man stood.” or “Poised, like a weary cloud in the middle air.”

The “abyss of air”, “the chasm of the sky”, are phrases as characteristic to Wordsworth as to Tagore and of the poets whom boundlessness attracted irresistibility. It seems of all “skyey influences”[2] none affected the likes of Wordsworth and Tagore so much as sunset, sunrise, and moonlight.  Sunrise affected them more profoundly.  There is no ecstasy in their poetry as Tagore felt in “Awakening of the Waterfall”:

How have the sun’s rays in my
entered this morning!
“Awakening of the Waterfall”)

Is Tagore as rapturous as Wordsworth in Wanderer?

…When from the naked top
Of some bold headland, he beheld the sun
Rise up, and bathe the world in ! He looked –
Ocean and earth, the solid frame of earth
And ocean’s liquid mass, in gladness lay
Beneath him: – Far and wide the clouds were touched,
And in their silent faces could he read
Unutterable love.
(“Wanderer”)

Perhaps he said that this same “Wanderer” could read in silent faces of the clouds’ unutterable love and that among the mountains all things for him breathed immortality. Tagore also opens his heart to this unutterable love, to the human message the morning light filtering through the mist gives him.  Then there is no looking back for the poet, the mouth of the fountain has been discovered open and forth flows the spirit of awakening.  “Awakening of the Waterfall” is true to its being since poetry is, in fact, the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings and arises from emotion recollected in tranquility.  Before the emotions come to the senses, the “organic” senses and then the film of familiarity is removed.  “Organic Sensibility in the first implies the capacity to receive impressions through the senses.  Perhaps, it is correct that  “In Wordsworth, as in most poets, the dominant sense was sight,”[3] and “The most despotic of the senses, Wordsworth calls it, and feared at one time that he might succumb to its despotism and become a mere epicure of visual sensations.”[4]  To return to the idea of “Organic Sensibility” the reader can feel that Tagore’s hearing senses are also very sensitive.  It is felt that Wordsworth and Tagore were very sensitive to a certain order of sounds, namely to natural sounds, especially the sounds of wind and water, in all volumes from the loudest to the faintest, from the stationary blasts of waterfalls or the roar of tempests down to the tinkling knell of the distant tomb or a temple or the whisper of the breeze in the in the grass.

Tagore writes in one of his most celebrated poems Jete Nahi Dibo/“I Will Not Let You Go” where the poet hears the monotonous wail and the melancholy note:

What sombre sadness broods
over the earth and sky.
For as I go, I hear one monotonous wail, one
melancholy note: ‘I will not let you go.’
From the earth’s rim to the farthest horizon
there echoes the endless cry:‘
I will not let you go.’
(“I Will Not Let You Go”)

Or the poet hears the echoing thunder “On a Rainy Day”:

On a day like this one could tell her.
On day like this,
Enveloped in rain and sunless,
Dark and echoing with thunder.
…the noises and the voices of the world are
unreal, distant and non-existent.
(Barshadine/“On a Rainy Day”)

Similarly, the rocking of leafy trees in a high wind and the beating of the rain upon the roof was heard by the poet and thus Wordsworth’s one of the most characteristic poems begins:

There was a roaring in the wind all night;
The rain came heavily and fell in floods.
But now the sun is rising calm and bright;
The birds are singing in the distant woods;
Over his own sweet voice the Stock-dove broods;
The Jay makes answer as the magpie chatters;
And all the air is filled with pleasant noise of waters.
(“Resolution and Independence”)

The profound sense of hearing of Wordsworth is evident here in the above lines.  The poet’s ears respond even to the sombre ‘broods’ of the Stock-dove in the distant woods and everything around the poet appears pleasant with its characteristic noise.

Again Tagore tells solemnly after witnessing a stormy night in a song:

The night my doors were shattered by storm,
I did not know you had come to my home.
(Je Raate Mor Duar Guli Bhanglo Jhare)

’ hearing also seems to be powerful enough in his “Ode on a Grecian Urn”, where the keen (sensual) ears listen to the silent melodies of the soft pipes of the centuries-old musicians:

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song…
( “Ode on A Grecian Urn”)

It is perhaps, rightly claimed by the critic J.C. Smith that “in Wordsworth’s day the term ‘touch’ covered three senses which psychology now distinguishes, namely the sense of touch, temperature, and what is known sense of pressure.”[5]

There is a remarkable passage in the Eighth Book of ‘The Excursion’, which illustrates Wordsworth’s use of the term pressure.  Speaking of the effect of the factory life on children, he says:

And even the touch, so exquisitely poured
Through the whole body, with a languid will
Performs its function; rarely competent
To impress a vivid feeling on the mind
Of what there is delightful in the breeze,
The gentle visitations of the sun,
Or lapse of liquid element – by hand,
Or foot, or lip, in summer’s warmth–perceived.
(The Excursion, Book-VIII)

Here it is clearly the sense of temperature and sense of touch that Wordsworth speaks of.  Similarly Tagore, in his poem Vaishakh/ “Summer” says:

The hot winds surge with wild energy.
They pirouette with burning breath in bursts of frenzied speed,
grass and whirl in the mad dance
crushed particles are churned in space
in cyclonic rhythm
as the winds surge with wild energy.
(Vaishakh/“Summer”)

Apart from sight and touch and hearing, Tagore’s sense of smell also can be asserted through some of his poems. J.C. Smith points out that, “Wordsworth’s sense of smell like Scott’s was very obtuse.”[6] To Tagore the smell of the rain-bathed earth, the smell of baked mud in the hearth of a village dweller or the smell of Rajanigandha/Tuberoses or the beautiful smell from the hair of his beloved, from Jasmine braid were all very distinct to boost up his senses.  In Romantic/“The Romantic” the poet says:

I bring to your room
The scent of springtime woods
In the flowers of the tuberose
On the secluded breeze.
(Romantic/“The Romantic”)

 

Tagore wrote a beautiful poem where he sensed the wonders of the earth in Vismaya/“Wonder”:

My heart sings at the wonder of my place in the
world of life and light;
At the feel in my pulse of the rhythm of creation
cadenced by the swing of endless time.
I feel the tenderness of the grass in my forest
walk, the smell of wayside flowers startles me.
That the gifts of the infinite are strewn in the
dust wakens my song in wonder.
I have seen, have heard, have lived in the depth
of the known have felt the truth that exceeds all
knowledge which fills my heart with wonder and
I sing.
(Vismaya/“Wonder”)

Perhaps, Coleridge was right in believing that whereas in his philosophy the mind informed the senses, Wordsworth sought to compound the senses into mind.  Tagore’s organic sensibility, the capacity to receive impulses through senses is beyond any doubt.  Tagore, like Keats and Shelley, has the senses of taste, space and sublime as well.  These sense-impressions, visual and other but chiefly visual, were stored by Tagore mostly in his nature poems. Tagore was a man possessed of more than usual organic sensibility. In Tagore, it is aesthetically augmented and sustained.

©Dr. Bina Biswas 

Photos from the

[1] M.H. Abrams, (ed.): A.C. Bradley: Wordsworth, (New Delhi, Prentice Hall of India Pvt. Ltd.,1979), p.14

[2] JC Smith: A Study of Wordsworth,(London, Oliver and Boyd, 1946), p.4

[3] JC Smith: A Study of Wordsworth, (London, Oliver and Boyd, 1946), p.1

[4] Ibid p.2

[5] Op. cit. p.9

[6] JC Smith: A Study of Wordsworth, (London, Oliver and Boyd, 1946),p.11

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Dr. Bina Biswas

Dr. Bina Biswas

Dr. Bina Biswas is a former professor, translator, poet, critic, editor, and author of fiction and the CEO of India’s first literary agency of international quality that provides a one-stop publishing service. She is one of the exciting ‘Romantic’ presences in today’s Indian Writing in English. Recently, one of her translated works ‘Meghanādabadha kābya, was unveiled by the Hon’ble Ex-President of India, Pranab Mukherjee at Delhi. She has authored 9 books and 4 major translations and currently working on her travel memoir.
Dr. Bina Biswas

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