The Bard and the Baul

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Madhumita translates a poem of Tagore, whom she calls, Baul. She quotes a few sonnets of Shakespeare, who is better known as the Bard. Separated by continents and centuries, the Bard and the Baul are unified in their immortality, she opines.

A hundred years from today

Who are you there sitting curious

Reading my poem

A hundred years from today.

I cannot send you                                          

A least fraction

Of the joy I feel

On this dawn of a new spring

Cannot send you a flower

That blossoms today

Or a song a bird sings

Cannot send you

Moistened with my love

The crimson beauty I see,

A hundred years from today.

Even then open the southern door                             

And sit at the balcony

Look at the distant horizon

Immerse yourself in imagination

And just but think –

One day, a hundred years ago,

A sprightly joy came from which heaven

And struck at the heart of the universe –

A dawning spring day

In a frenzied impatience

Fluttered its restless wings

On a flower-incensed southerly breeze –

And arrived all of a sudden

To redden the earth with the colours of youth

A hundred years past your times.

A hundred years from today

Who is the new poet

Who sings for you?

I send for him

Joyous greetings of this spring

May my songs of spring be sounded

Even for a little while

In your vernal days

In your heart beats

In the humming of black bees

In the rustlings of the new tender leaves

A hundred years from today.’

(Aji hote shatobarsho pore – Tagore, translation mine)


So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,                               

 So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.         

(Sonnet 18- Shakespeare)


Not marble, nor the gilded monuments

Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme;

But you shall shine more bright in these contents

Than unswept stone besmeared with sluttish time.

When wasteful war shall statues overturn,

And broils root out the work of masonry,

Nor Mars his sword nor war’s quick fire shall burn

The living record of your memory.

‘Gainst death and all oblivious enmity

Shall you pace forth: your praise shall still find room

Even in the eyes of all posterity

That wear this world out to the ending doom.

So, till the judgment that yourself arise,

You live in this, and dwell in lovers’ eyes.

(Sonnet 55- Shakespeare)

The Bard of Avon and the Baul of Bolpur lived and wrote continents and centuries apart. Despite having nothing in common in their personal lives, the two poets shared one of the most significant of qualities of a great poet, immortality.

William Shakespeare, the national English poet is read with reverence and admiration hundreds of years later. A master story teller through his plays, he has delved into the human psyche and has revealed the human mind in its myriad manifestations and expression. Love, fear, ambition, jealousy, racism – there is no facet of the human mind that the master crafter has not addressed. Adept at drama, he has written poetry too, having particularly excelled in his 154 sonnets which alone reveal the persona of the bard. “With this key Shakespeare unlocked his heart,” William Wordsworth, the celebrated Romantic poet, has rightfully remarked. In his sonnets Shakespeare writes of love, friendship, his idea of true beauty, the passage of time, mortality and possible immortality, while drawing vignettes of nature in all its seasonal beauty. The sonnets have great cross-cultural importance and influence. The sonnets, an innovation on the established Italian original, have been immensely popular in his age, rose to reputation in the nineteenth century and have never fallen from favour by readers since then. There is no major written language into which the sonnets have not been translated and there are no readers who are interested in poetry who have not read Shakespeare.

Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel Laureate Indian poet is as versatile and a genius as Shakespeare. In his gamut of work, poetry, plays, novels, short stories, he has explored the inner and the outer human world, the beauty that surrounds him and the inner emotions and passions, the joys and sorrows. He is a philosopher par excellence, who, with his serene and effortless mastery of words, has wooed his readers into a lifelong friendly relationship with his work. Tagore is the reader’s friend and disciple, learning from him and with him, the intricacies of the complex human world. A Romantic at heart, he writes of love and friendship as no other Indian poet has. A worshipper of beauty, in nature and in the human mind, he is the Baul, the poet-singer, who sings of the joys and sorrows of life with an abandon, drawing one and all to him with a rare magnetism.

Hundreds of years have passed since the Bard lived and wrote. Human eyes see and human hearts beat. Shakespeare lives on and will live. Tagore (1861-1941) will continue to be an inspiration for hundreds of years since he wrote ‘A hundred years from now…’ His songs are immortal as is his entire work. There have been and will be younger poets, gifted and celebrated. But there will never be another Tagore. Just as there has never been and will never be one as iconic as Shakespeare on the English soil. Both poets have transcended the limits of time and space; are universal and immortal.

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