Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies

Tagore in Europe . . . the lyrics just flowed
Posted:May 21, 2017
increase Font size decrease Font size
There are not many poets who are desirous of wandering into distant lands. This rarity applies to poets not only in Bengal, but one might say, in the whole world. But Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore is one poet who so easily fits into that rare category. No poet in his era had travelled as extensively as Tagore, be it abroad or his own country.
Tagore in his writings and also in his life not only expressed his feelings about human beings and humanity but also forged a strong bond between his motherland and the world at large. He travelled extensively to various countries of the world but Europe attracted him the most, inspired him in thoughts, feelings and reflections.
At various stages in his life, Tagore visited many countries in western and eastern Europe on a number of occasions. During these travels, he wrote poems and diary, letters to various personalities, but his urge to write songs did never falter. Here is a glimpse of some of the songs that flowed from his pen during his sojourns in Europe.
During his visit to London in June, 1912, Tagore stayed with his friend William Rothenstein in his house in Hampstead Heath, one of the aristocratic areas of London. It was during this trip that Tagore wrote the song ‘sundara bote tobo angadakhani’. In Rothenstein’s house, he met many literary figures and was giving final touches to his translation of 103 poems and songs which came to be known as ‘Song Offerings’. The first publication of ‘Song Offerings’ came out in November, 1912 and it was this publication that earned Tagore the Nobel Prize for literature in November, 1913. Just a footnote here – the manuscript was lost in London but could later be retrieved from the Lost Property Office of Baker Street Underground Station.
In 1913, Tagore made a stopover in London on his way back from the United States and he had to undergo a minor surgery. While recuperating in a house in Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, another classy area of London, Tagore wrote two other popular songs, ‘ashim dhawn tou aachhe’ and ‘tomaar-iy naam bolbo’.
Tagore’s fame and reputation had by this time spread throughout the world, but Tagore’s mind and heart were with his beloved Shantiniketan. He was yearning to return home. In a letter to Meera Devi, the poet wrote, ‘My mind is getting restless to return home. The pulling of people here has brought a feeling of tiredness inside me. I would have got some peace if only I could spend a few days in silence in one of my country’s uninhabited secluded corner’.
To Rothenstein, he wrote, ‘I am pining for the touch of life, for the warmth of reality and for that reason the call of my Bolpur school is becoming more and more insistent’. It was in such a state of mind that Tagore wrote while staying in that house in Chelsea’s Cheyne Walk the song, ‘ei monihaar amaai naahi shaaje’.
Before returning home, Tagore stayed for a couple of days at Rothenstein’s home. On 27 August, 1913 Tagore penned the song, ‘jibon jakhon chhilo phool-er moto’. On the same day, in a letter to his friend C. F. Andrews, Tagore wrote a letter from Far Oakridge in the county of Gloucestershire, ’The time has come when I must leave England, for I find that my work here in the West is getting the better of me. It is taking too much of my attention and assuming more importance than it actually possesses. Therefore, I must without delay, go back to that obscurity where all living seeds find true soil for germination. This morning I am going to take a motor-ride to Rothenstein’s country house’.
During his various trips abroad between 1912 and 1932, Tagore had to spend busy times in delivering lectures and attending receptions. For a brief period, the flow of songs was temporarily halted. There were trips when he did not pen a single song; surprising but true. But then in 1926, during his travels in Europe, there was a great change. While visiting various towns and cities in Europe he built up a bunch of beautiful songs. He presented a bouquet of 26 songs of intense emotion.
After a two-week tour of the 3 Scandinavian countries – Norway, Sweden and Denmark – Tagore boarded a steamer in Copenhagen on his way to Germany across the Baltic Sea. On 8 September, sitting in the steamer, Tagore wrote, ‘shey kon pagol jaai pothe tor, jaai chole jaai ekla raate, taare daakish ne tor aangina te’. Was the poet speaking out his own mind? Was it his inner contemplation? It was as if, after four months, the dormant fountain suddenly sprang to life in the unique environment of the Baltic Sea in northern Europe.
Tagore put up in Atlantic Hotel in northern Germany’s biggest port city and industrial centre Hamburg. The subject of his lecture there was “Culture and Progress”. In his hotel room, on two consecutive evenings of 9 and 10 September, the poet wrote, ‘roi je kangaal shunnyo haate’ and ‘kaar chokher chawar hawaai dolaai mon’.
The next stop was Berlin where he stayed in a hotel called Kaiser Hoff. During his five-day stay, Tagore’s German publisher Kurt Wolff organised a reception in the poet’s honour in his house. The Prince of Bavaria and a number of University professors attended the reception. He also met the German Education Minister Dr Baker and Professor Einstein before leaving for Munich where on 17 and 18 September flowed two more songs from his pen, ‘chhutir baaNshi baajlo je ei neel gogone’ and ‘naai naai bhoi, hobe hobe joy’. ‘Tor bhetore jaagiya ke je’ and ‘akaaash, tomai kon ruupe mon chinte paare’ were also written in Munich. The latter was however not composed into a song.
From Munich, Tagore travelled to Nurnberg, the industrial city in Bavaria. He was delivering lectures and in between kept himself busy in writing songs. Two songs he wrote there on 19 and 20 September ‘shokaal belar aaloi baaje’ and ‘amaar mukti gaaner shurey’ which later was transformed into ‘amaar mukti aaloi aaloi’.
Stuttgart was the poet’s next destination. On 21 September, he spent a very pleasant afternoon with a German family and immediately on returning to his hotel, he expressed his feelings about the afternoon in the song ‘bhalo lagaar shesh je naa paai’. This was later turned into another popular song of Tagore, ‘modhuro tomaar shesh je naa paai’.
On 24 September, in Cologne, Tagore penned two songs ‘chahiyaa dekho rosher srote’ and ‘tumi ushaar shonar bindu’. The following day, he was in Dusseldorf and there he wrote ‘aapon gaaner taane tomaar’ which later was changed to ‘gaane gaane tobo bandhono jaak tuute’. Despite hectic travels, lectures, meetings and visits to scenic and tourist places, the poet’s message continued to be reverberated in melodious songs.
Tagore returned to Berlin after visiting Cologne and Dusseldorf. His son, Rathindranath who was taken ill had to be hospitalised and had to undergo surgery. He did not inform anybody about his illness. Apparently, Professor Einstein provided all the assistance for Rathindranath’s treatment. Once, Rathindranath got a bit better, Tagore set off for Dresden. On 4 October, after attending a meeting, delivering a lecture and a poetry reading session, Tagore spent the evening watching his play ‘Dakghor’. ‘Aapni amaar konkhaane, beraai taar-iy shondhaane’ was the last song he wrote during that visit to Germany.
From Germany Tagore went to Prague where he stayed for 5 days. His old friend Professor Binternits and Czech Professor Lesni organised a number of lectures for Tagore. One evening, he went to enjoy music composed by Bach in one of the newly built theatres. A vocalist by the name of Zemlinsky entertained the poet with a number of Tagore songs in the Czech language. He also went to watch German and Czech versions of his play ‘Dakghor’. The song ‘kothaai phirish porom shesher anweshane’ was written during his stay in Prague.
Immediately after reaching Vienna from Prague, Tagore had to deliver a lecture. The poet could feel that such hectic travelling was taking a toll on his health. He was forced to cancel further travelling and stayed back in Vienna for 10 days. But, the flow of his pen did not stop. He wrote ‘akaashe tor temni aachhe chhuti’.
In 1926, Tagore visited a number of east European countries. He arrived in Budapest, the capital of Hungary, on 26 October and as usual, got engaged in delivering lectures. But doctors there advised him to take complete rest. In Budapest, Tagore wrote two songs, ‘poth ekhono shesh holo na’ and ‘din-er belaai baanshi tomaar’.
Heeding to the doctors’ advice, Tagore went to Hungary’s famous health resort on Lake Balaton. Tagore was so fascinated by the natural beauty of Balaton that in a letter to artist Elizabeth Bromner, ‘I have seen almost all the countries of the world, but I saw nowhere such a beautiful harmony of the sky and the water than that I had enjoyed on the shore of Balatonfured, filling my soul with rapture’.
When Tagore was resting in the health resort on Lake Balaton, he did not refrain from writing. On 9 November, he wrote‘paantho paakhi’r rikto kulaai boner gopon daale’ which unfortunately was not composed as a song. Tagore then went on a lecture tour to Zagreb, Belgrade, Sofia and Bucharest. He drafted the song ‘arup tomaar baani’ in Zagreb and gave the final touches to it in Bucharest.
One finds it extremely difficult to analyse how during hectic travel schedules one’s mind is surged with lyrics in a totally alien environment. One could get some insight from a letter Tagore wrote to Tejesh Chandra one late night during these travels, from a hotel room in Vienna, ‘here I am at three in the morning – as it is, there is this darkness of night, covered in clouds – in my mind, I feel an intolerable restlessness to escape from myself at a furious speed. Where do I escape? From the din and bustle to music’.
And that is Rabindranath Tagore, to so many of us.
BDNews24, May 22, 2017
increase Font size decrease Font size

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
spotlight image Sergio Arispe Barrientos, Ambassador of  Bolivia to India is, at 37, the youngest head of mission in New Delhi. Only the second envoy from his country to India, Barrientos, who presented his credentials to the Indian President last month, feels he has arrived at a propitious time, when India’s focus is on so
On February 15, 2017 Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C37) successfully launched the 714 kg Cartosat-2 series satellite along with 103 co-passenger satellites from Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota. 12 minutes later, writes Anil Bhat
While most Indians were observing recent domestic political developments; with surprise defeats for the ruling BJP in its pocket boroughs and a likelihood of the opposition uniting against the Party for the 2019 national elections, writes Tridivesh Singh Maini
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday talked over telephone and pledged to deepen bilateral ties and promote mutual trust, writes Gaurav Sharma 
Famous for its pursuit of Gross National Happiness, Bhutan has a new cause for joy: In recognition of its Gross National Income (GNI) growth and social development, the kingdom is poised to graduate from the UN category of the world's poorest known as the Least Developed Countries (LDC), writes Arul Louis
With a dire warning about the looming future of a waterless world, Indian spiritual leader Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev made a plea for mobilising humanity to save the rivers of India and the world before it is too late, writes Arul Louis

While India has regained its position as the world’s fastest growing large economy – with the uptick in GDP expansion at 6.7% in Q3 of 2017-18 – sustaining it critically depend...


A recent novel "Radius 200" by author Veena Nagpal has two facts at the centre of the fictional narrative that she weaves. "Impending water scarcity and the very real danger of an Sino-Indian conflict over this precious resource,...


What is history? How does a land become a homeland? How are cultural identities formed? The Making of Early Kashmir explores these questions in relation to the birth of Kashmir and the discursive and material practices that shaped it up to the ...


A group of teenagers in a Karachi high school puts on a production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible— and one goes missing. The incident sets off ripples through their already fraught education in lust and witches, and over the years ...


Title: Do We Not Bleed?: Reflections of a 21-st Century Pakistani; Author: Mehr Tarar; Publisher: Aleph Book Company; Pages: 240; Price: Rs 599


From antiquity, the Muslim faith has been plagued by the portrayal of Muslim men regularly misusing this perceived “right” to divorce their wives instantly by simply uttering “talaq” thrice.