Rabindranath by Bashabi Fraser

This is a quartet of 2 Petrarchan sonnets and two Shakespearean sonnets which provide a kind of potted history of the Tagore family and their and Tagore’s contribution to the Bengal Renaissance, Tagore’s life, work, philosophy and legacy.

Prof Bashabi Fraser
Prof Bashabi Fraser


Rabrindranath I


You came as the fourteenth blessing

To a house cherishing its social exclusion

In revolutionary arts and acts, addressing

A nation’s thirst for self-expression.


The grandson of an Empress’s friend

And son of an ascetic reformer,

Yours was a generous humanism to expend

As you were no ordinary dreamer


But a pragmatic visionary on the final surge

Of a Renaissance that was bookended

By the modern consciousness of your family’s urge.

To catapult India into recognition. The wounded


Dawn that India woke to was one you did not see in action

While the world recuperated from near destruction.


Rabindranath II


You were a reservoir replenished by our sages

Your depths reflecting the immediate sky above

Your currents eager to swirl with vital love

Your banks reliable, containing negative rages.

Your protean talent could prove outrageous

As respectable girls could dance with Buddhist love

And you could be Balmiki in style and prove

The validity of the past in the bold and courageous.


I can see you in Shelidah, pushing the waves

Aroused to action by a people in stagnation.

I can see you coaxing growth despite the Birbhum sun

And leaving, to speak with the warning of mass graves –

Writing, painting, protesting, urging all nations,

Undeterred by your growing isolation.


Rabindranath III


A child in Europe unhesitatingly said of you

‘Oh, that is God’. Did he see that indomitable spark

That India and the world saw glowing in the dark

As movements of self-rule paralysed the few

And mobilised the millions? But it was you

You stood apart, building cooperative arks

To house the peasants’ output and see them disembark

At market places, as your schemes were set to renew


A country. You built a nest where East and West met

As partners in exchange, anticipating a world of mutual

Respect. We owe you the anthems of two proud nations;

You sang a people to bond and a border to relent.

You changed a generation’s handwriting with your usual

Artistry, and refined language to express every occasion.


Rabindranath IV


In our post-Partition struggle to retain our dignity

You were the internet we surfed for meaning

In our lives, lost to our past in a crowded city

But stirred by your songs on festival mornings.


You had brought the woman across the threshold

Warned of household division if she was confined.

A widow became a bride in your own household

And an orphaned girl – a daughter redefined.


You were a designer in every fold of existence –

Your robes a syncretic weave of fakir and sage;

Your houses were shaped by a multicultural essence

And every genre you touched reached the ultimate stage


Of achievement. The time has come, Poet to acknowledge

Our measureless debt to you and share your borderless knowledge.