Rabindranath Tagore, Greatest Writer in Bengali, Rabindranath Tagore Festival 1999, By Land By River, Nobel Prize for Literature 1913, Embassador of Bangladesh, Many Were The Riches, The Boy, Want, The Apprehension, The Flower, Our Journey, Where Is The Road To Heaven? Far Off Polar Beaches, Never Ending, The Dungeon, Who Follows Me? A Reddish Mirage, The Maiden With The Lamp, Gitanjali, Song Offerings
"And yet alas, we have to let go
of everything, and they go"
Many were the riches I didn't
gain in my life
for they were beyond my reach
but much more I lost because
I didn't open my palms
In 1999 the North Westminster School in NW1 organised a Rabindranath Tagore Festival in connection with the Worldwide Bangladesh Festival. The title of this event was 'By Land, By River'. It was a celebration of the work of Tagore (1861 - 1941) who is the greatest poet of India and Bangladesh and the most famous writer in Bengali. He won the Nobel prize for literature in 1913.
The Embassador of Bangladesh kindly took the time to meet with me and to introduce me to the headteacher of the North Westminster School, who in turn invited me to contribute to the Tagore Festival. The Tagore Series shown here was produced for this occasion. Every little painting (and most are small, 10 x 10 cm) is based on (and accompanied by) a painting by a poem by the great man.
The individual pantings of the Tagore series are not for sale. I would only consider the selling the whole series as one piece. These paintings belong together and should stay together. However, I would be happy to offer this series on loan to any venue who wants to display them, possibly as part of a larger art or literary festival.
When existence first manifested itself,
the first day's sun asked:
'Who are you?'
There was no answer.
The day's last sun
puts its last question
on the shore of the western ocean
in a hushed evening -
'Who are you?'
but got no answer
Tagore stressed the need for a new world order based on transnational ideas and values:
The soil, in return for her service, keeps the tree tied to her; the sky asks nothing a leaves it free
His voice sounds fresh and modern nearly a century after he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
W.B. Yeats wrote that Tagore's work 'stirred my blood as nothing had for years'...
Most of the poems on this page were taken from the 'Gitanjali' (Song Offerings).
He was about ten years old
an orphan raised in a home that wasn't his own
like a weed that springs up by a broken fence
not tended by a gardener
receiving sunlight, gusts of wind, rain
insects, dust and grit;
which sometimes a goat crops off
or a cow tramples down
which yet doesn't die, gets tougher
with a fatter stem
and shiny green leaves
What I want
I want by mistake
What I get
I do not want at all
To dull my pain
I might wake it in you
to lighten my load
I might press it on you
my anguished cry of loneliness well might
keep you awake at night
such are my fears, who don't I speak freely.
If you can forget
Pluck this little flower and take it, delay not! I fear lest it droop and drop into the dust
I may not find a place in thy garland, but honour it with a touch of pain from thy hand and pluck it. I fear lest the day end before I am aware, the the time of offering go by.
Though its colour be not deep and its smell be faint, use this flower in thy service and pluck it while there is time.
Early in the day it was whispered that we should sail in
a boat, only thou and I, and never a soul in the world
would know of this pilgrimage to no country and no end.
In that shoreless ocean, at thy silently listening smile
my songs would swell in melodies, free as waves,
free from all bondage of words.
Is the time not come yet? Are their works still to do?
Lo, the evening has come down upon the shore and in
the fading light the seabirds come flying to their nests.
Who knows when the chains will be off, and the boat
like the last glimmer of sunset, vanish into the night?
Where is the road to Heaven?
In my mind I have roamed
on far off polar beaches
where earth has vowed
eternal virginity in chill attire
What comes to an end
ends only to the eyes
walks through the door of darkness
Bursting the heart of the old
the new will itself unfold
When life's flowering is over
death's fruits will appear
He whom I enclose with my name is weeping in his dungeon. I am ever busy building this wall all around; and as this wall goes up into the sky, day by day I lose sight of my true being in its dark shadow.
I take pride in this great wall, and I plaster it with dust and sand lest a hole should be left in this name; and for all the care I take I lose sight of my own true being.
WHO FOLLOWS ME?
I came out alone on my way to my tryst. But who is this
that follows me in the silent dark?
I move aside to avoid his presence, but I escape him not.
He makes the dust rise from the earth with his swagger
He adds his loud voice to every word that I utter.
He is my own little self, my lord, he knows no shame;
but I am ashamed to come to thy door in his company
Oh fool, try to carry thyself upon thy own shoulders! Oh beggar, to come beg at thy own door!
Leave all thy burdens on his hands who can bear all, and never look behind in regret.
Thy desire at once puts out the light from the lamp it touches with its breath. It is unholy - take not thy gifts through its unclean hands. Accept only what is offered by sacred love.
I will finish this page with a very beautiful poem that I recently sent to a friend, and reflected on how it deserves a painting to go with it:
Life of my life, I shall ever try to keep my body pure,
knowing that thy living touch is upon all my limbs.
I shall ever try to keep all untruths from my thoughts,
knowing that thou art that truth which has kindled the light of reason in my mind.
I shall ever try to drive all evils away from my heart and keep my love in flower, knowing that thou has thy seat in the inmost shrine of my heart.
And it shall be my endeavour to reveal thee in my actions, knowing it is thy power gives me strength to act.
If that isn't beautiful, then what is?!
Imelda Almqvist 2006 (Last Updated Summer 2012)
Rabindranath Tagore, Greatest Writer in Bengali, Rabindranath Tagore Festival 1999, By Land By River, Nobel Prize for Literature 1913, Embassador of Bangladesh, Many Were The Riches, The Boy, Want, The Apprehension, The Flower, Our Journey, Where Is The Road To Heaven? Far Off Polar Beaches, Never Ending, The Dungeon, Who Follows Me? A Reddish Mirage, The Maiden With The Lamp