Gitanjali

Gitanjali (Bengali: গীতাঞলিি) is a collection of 103 English poems, largely translations, by the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. This volume became very famous in the West, and was widely translated. Gitanjali (গীতাঞিল Gitanjoli) is also the title of an earlier Bengali volume (1910) of 157 mostly devotional songs. The word gitanjoli is composed from "git", song, and "anjoli", offering, and thus means - "An offering of songs"; but the word for offering, anjoli, has a strong devotional connotation, so the title may also be interpreted as "prayer offering of song". The English collection is not a translation of poems from the Bengali volume of the same name. While half the poems (52 out of 103) in the English text were selected from the Bengali volume, others were taken from these works (given with year and number of songs selected for the English text): Gitimallo (1914,17), Noibeddo (1901,15), Khea (1906,11) and a handful from other works. The translations were often radical, leaving out or altering large chunks of the poem and in one instance even fusing two separate poems (song 95, which unifies songs 89,90 of naivedya). The translations were undertaken prior to a visit to England in 1912, where the poems were extremely well received. A slender volume was published in 1913, with an exhilarating preface by W. B. Yeats. In the same year, based on a corpus of three thin translations, Rabindranath became the first nonEuropean to win the Nobel prize.

The poems of Gitanjali express a largely metaphysical outlook, talking about a union with the "supreme"; but like much western poetry that explores similar themes, the language suggests the union of two earthly lovers. This type of anthropomorphic depiction of celestial love is quite common in the Vaishnava literature of India since the 12th century (see Vidyapati or Jayadevaf). Rabindranath Tagore encountered it also in his interactions with the Baul community in rural Bengal. For example, poem 7 in the English

volume renders poem 125 from the Bengali gItanjali, Amar e gan chheŗechhe tar shôkol ôlongkar and talks of heavenly love in terms of the lover taking off her jewelry, which is getting in the way of the union. See also the poem 18, at the bottom of this page. Some poems involve themes related to nature, but here, too, the spiritual is subtly present, as in this poem (no. 57), given here along with the Bangla text in Roman script: Light, my light, the world-filling light, the eye-kissing light, heartsweetening light! Ah, the light dances, my darling, at the centre of my life; the light strikes, my darling, the chords of my love; the sky opens, the wind runs wild, laughter passes over the earth. The butterflies spread their sails on the sea of light. Lilies and jasmines surge up on the crest of the waves of light. The light is shattered into gold on every cloud, my darling, and it scatters gems in profusion. Mirth spreads from leaf to leaf, my darling, and gladness without measure. The heaven's river has drowned its banks and the flood of joy is abroad.

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