TAGORE: A RENAISSANCE MAN
Rabindranath Tagore was born in Calcutta, into a wealthy Brahmin family. After a brief stay in England in 1878 he attempted to study law. After this stay he returned to India, and instead pursued a career as a writer, playwright, songwriter, poet, philosopher and educator. During the first 51 years of his life he achieved some success in the Calcutta , where he was born and raised with his many stories, songs and plays. His short stories were published monthly in a friend's magazine and he even played the lead role in a few of the public performances of his plays. Otherwise, he was little known outside of the Calcutta area, and not known at all outside of India.
This all suddenly changed in 1912. He then returned to England for the first time since his failed attempt at law school as a teenager. Now a man of 51, his was accompanied by his son. On the way over to England he began translating his collection of Gitanjali [Song Offerings] of mystical and devotional songs, in1912 into English.
“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, and 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.”
(first publishion in 1910)
Almost all of his work prior to that time had been written in his native tongue of Bengali. He decided to do this just to have something to do, with no expectation at all that his first time translation efforts would be any good. He made the handwritten translations in a little notebook he carried around with him and worked on during the long sea voyage from India. Upon arrival, his son left his father's brief case with this notebook in the London subway. Fortunately, an honest person turned in the...