SIR RABINDRA NATH TAGORE No other Indian occupies, at present, a more prominent place in the estimation of competent critics. And if towards the end of a highly appreciative chapter, we become somewhat critical of Tagore's expressed ideas on politics and social philosophy, it is with no intention of minimising his influence as the poet of the Indian Re-awakening, but solely under the honest conviction that constant thinking about universal ideas renders poets—and he will be a bold man indeed who questions Tagore's pre-eminent position as poet—somewhat indifferent to concrete issues and to the desire of reducing ideas to a coherent system. We shall offer our criticism in a spirit of reverence towards one of the greatest men that modern India has produced.
Sir Rabindra Nath, the Nobel Prize Laureate for 1913, is the most highly gifted poet of the Renaissance in India in its various aspects—literary, religious, social and philosophical. He has given, in language understood of the West, eloquent and forceful expression to the emotions and longings I that stir the heart of New India. But he is much more than merely a brilliant literary exponent of the aspiration and outlook of awakened India. He is a poet, to be sure, but he is a prophet as well— one who beckons us on to the future and asks us to lay the foundations of our national life deep and broad, on righteousness, unity and love.
Tagore's magic minstrelsies have called a new India into being, sweeping the chords with the inspiration that comes from a new vision, a new discovery of the spiritual, a new synthesis of the contradictions of life. The power of his song has welded us into a fuller unity, the vibrations of his music have thrilled us into novel conceptions of duty and self-sacrifice and patriotism.
Tagore is the poet of disillusioned India, of modernised India, conscious of her destiny. Con trasted with Kipling, the roughrider of Imperialism, Tagore is the delicate poet of national culture. If it were excess of sentiment to suggest that Nation alism is the poem of Tagore, we might perhaps say that there is no other theme of human interest so near his heart and so easily transmutable into his music as national regeneration and hope. Kipling
made us despair : Tagore bids us be of good cheer. It is impossible to overestimate the amount of mischief that has been done by the famous lines of Kipling ; especially as the supplementary lines are so easily forgotten : For Fact is East, and West is West, And never the twain shall meet." They meet in Tagore, who represents in his person ality and in his poems a spiritual fusion of East and West. While proud of the Indian continuity, he is not ashamed of enriching and replenishing that continuity by assimilating elements of Western culture, which serve to fill the gaps in indigenous tradition. In so doing, he breaks away entirely from those mean and parochial views concerning human destiny which assign to one nation the task of ruling and subduing for all time, and to'another nation the duty of perpetual subordination. In Tagore, East and West meet as fully enfranchised partners rather than in the role of slave and master, or factory-hand and employer.
" This is my prayer to Thee, my Lord,— Give me the strength never to disown_the poor Or bend my knees before insolent might." But his national philosophy is not sectarian, racial, denominational or narrow-minded. He is conscious of the limitations and deficiencies in the older phases of Indian tradition. His Nationalist faith does not delight in blowing its own trumpet or magnifying the virtues of India and the vices of other countries. That way lies jingoism. To Tagore " East and West " connote not simply convenient geographical distinctions but culture-grounds of views, con ceptions, and practices which by their harmonious interaction enrich the content of life.
Unlike the watchword of Swami Dayananda Saraswati, " Back to the Vedas," that of Tagore would presumably be : " Forward with life." Yet both these men have been progressive.