AD's English Literature : Rabindranath Tagore’s Perceptive and Insightful Essay ‘Modern Poetry’: Thematic Analysis

Monday, October 12, 2015

Rabindranath Tagore’s Perceptive and Insightful Essay ‘Modern Poetry’: Thematic Analysis



“Everything comes to us that belong to us if we create the capacity to receive it.” - Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore’s perceptive and insightful essay ‘Modern Poetry’ was written long before either  the emergence of what we call to the post modernist trends, or even the application of the term ‘modern’ trends initialed in the 20th century English literature by writers like T.S. Eliot. We call T.S. Eliot a modernist today. But Tagore would naturally have been unfamiliar with the term. In any case, among the modernist poets, only Eliot is Tagore’s concern in his essay is to define the term ‘modern’ and indicate its limit, he first deals with the question of relativity which is always implied by the term. The term is in fact semantically mobile and in general sense, modern poetry is something that progresses in company with and at the speed of the years: the last year’s modern is not this year’s. Tagore realizes the problem where he says that the poetry of the great Romantics of the 19th century must have seemed ‘modern’ to their contemporariness because it was so complexly new and such a great departure from the past. Aqua when the Victorians replaced the Romantics there was a similar shift in the implications of the term ‘modern’. However; as we know the Victorian poetry was in its important respect, just a continuation of the romantic poetry. What is more pertinent is Tagore’s point that with the turn of the century Victorianism became absolute. 

Rabindranath Tagore
The 20th century brought in its train a new area which is untamable. Therefore today, the term ‘modern’ would denote a new kind poetry which came with the 20th century. This century ‘modern’ is however, associated with a definite period of time and history. Thus O.S. Fraser claims as modern Catullus but not Spenser, Conrad but not at worthy. Most people use the term historically to locate a distinct stylistic phase and this is what Tagore does in taking about modern poetry. However, Tagore’s essay shows that the word “modern’ retains its force because of its association with a characteristic contemporary feeling. We can describe the 18th century English Literature in the western countries as neoclassical and 19th century or romantic. In the same way the term ‘modern’ has been used analogously to romanticism to suggest the general temper of the 20th  century arts, like many western critics, Tagore realizes that modernism in our inevitable art. Unlike term, however, he does not consider romanticism as the natural off shoot of  Victorianism. On the contrary, he mentions that the romantic cult of beauty has been perverted in the modern period in to the cult of the ugly and deformed: the frog has replaced Apollo as an object of adoration.

Tagore’s takes as the finest specimen of modern spirit, the poetry of T.S. Eliot and in this again, he shows his infallible critical judgment. So far as Eng. Poetry is concerned, Eliot is indeed the first great representative of the modern spirit. Towards the end of the 19th century or T.R. Leaves has printed out, English poetry was characteristically, pre-occupied with the creation of a dream world. Nevertheless thus were late 19th century poets like Harry and Hopkins, whose use of the poetic language did not convey this spurious dreamy quality. Hop kings and hardy are, therefore today, rearranged as the first modernists, a fact which Tagore does not acknowledge. But with some critical Instinet, reinforced by his own poetic sensibilities, Rabindranath Tagore realizes the signification of Eliot’s contribution to the new kind of poetry. He refers to Eliot’s poems like ‘The love song of J. Alfred Prufock’ and ‘the wasteland to prove the modernity of his idiom and his subject. In the lines quoted by Tagore, Eliot focuses on the sordidness of life in the modern city. He also uses image like ‘the burnt out ends of smoky days’ in the ‘Prelude’ and thousand sordid images in the ‘Wasteland’. Tagore is also mindful of the fact that Eliot’s poetry, like all modern poetry, often gives vision of an opposition, almost spiritual, kind of reality. In this convection, he quotes from preludes this Luis-“the notion of some infinitely gentle infinitely suffering thing.” All the examples quoted by Tagore on the specimen of modernity prove his astonish and most prophetic critical insight. It is now accepted that one of the great characteristics of modern poetry is its pre-occupation with the city and the use of a large number of imagery. Tor Tedjo, Baudelaire was the first European modern poet, the first European poet to take his stand or the poet of the city. Eliot himself says, “Baudelaire gave new possibilities to poetry in a new stock of image from contemporary life”.                                          

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