Monday, February 13, 2012
I was put up on a writing assignment to review a poetry recently, when I came across Paper Boats by Rabindranath Tagore. I loved the poem and its simplicity. My fascination for kids was an ad-on to work on this assignment. Below is the poem itself, followed by the review...
Day by day I float my paper boats one by one down the running stream.
In bid black letters I write my name on them and the name of the village where I live.
I hope that someone in some strange land will find them and know who I am.
I load my little boats with shiuli flower from our garden, and hope that these blooms of the dawn will be carried safely to land in the night.
I launch my paper boats and look up into the sky and see the little clouds setting thee white bulging sails.
I know not what playmate of mine in the sky sends them down the air to race with my boats!
When night comes I bury my face in my arms and dream that my paper boats float on and on under the midnight stars.
The fairies of sleep are sailing in them, and the lading in their baskets full of dreams.
- Rabindranath Tagore
From a child’s perspective
Rabindranath Tagore, a revered poet from India, also known as the polymath as his works in literature and poetry display, was the first to have popularised modern India in the literary world. A Bengali poet who even mastered English, he translated many of his works in to the latter. His writings have a universal appeal as they reflect the message of peace, love, joy, and humanity. He belonged to a large family of thirteen siblings. The Tagore’s were art-loving and social people, and their home was an abode to literary magazines, theatre, and recitals of both Bengali and western classical music. Rabindranath Tagore’s early childhood saw his siblings turn philosopher, poet, musician, composer, playwright, and novelist. Such background must have strongly influenced him, and he gifted us with his novel writings. Here, as I write an insight of one of his poems’ – Paper Boats – from a collection called The Crescent Moon, it only reveals his style of writing that transcends the barriers of space and time. This poem reflects the innocent psychology, imagination, and innocent dreams of a child through a simple example of a paper boat.
Paper boats have always fascinated the playful childhood for everyone. Every game or play holds a special story for every child that revolves around his / her psyche, which highlights the innocence attached with the age. The child in this poem floats his paper boats down the running stream. Out of curiosity, he writes his name and address on each boat, hoping that someone somewhere will find them and know him -- “I hope that someone in some strange land will find them and know who I am.” Although he knows none where the paper boats will go, he feels that whoever will find them is his unknown friend. This shows that for a child the world is his own and is friendly, unlike what many of us grown-ups would assume it to be. And, for the unknown friend he also fills in the boats with flowers from his garden, which he would have himself presented if he met the friend. “I load my little boats with shiuli flower from our garden, and hope that these blooms of the dawn will be carried safely to land in the night” -- quite a thoughtful and innocent insight of a child’s psyche there by Tagore!
“I launch my paper boats and look up into the sky and see the little clouds setting thee white bulging sails. I know not what playmate of mine in the sky sends them down the air to race with my boats” – here, the child imagines the clouds in the sky turning in to white sails just like that of his paper boats. As the clouds seem to be moving slowly ahead in the sky, the child imagines as if they are racing with his paper boats down in the stream. He supposes that there is someone in the clouds who is his playmate. The child personifies his imagination by befriending that ‘someone’ in the clouds and fancying him to be his partner in the play that he is indulged in to. The poet has impeccably captured the child’s imagination here, which holds true through different instances when we observe children at play with their mind’s eye!
Children find happiness in the smallest of things, hopes, and even dreams. Generally, children dream of the most influential part of their day when they are asleep. Most of them vouch to have dreamt of fairies and wonderland, and themselves being pampered or enjoying the sight of it. Likewise, the child in this poem, after a day’s play with his paper boats, goes off to sleep contently. As he buries his face in his arms, he dreams of the journey of his paper boats still floating down the stream under the midnight stars. “The fairies of sleep are sailing in them, and the lading in their baskets full of dreams” – as he surrenders himself to a good night, the child dreams of fairies who too are sailing in his paper boats. The poet beautifully ends it here by expressing that the fairies of sleep too are content with the basket full of dreams with which they lay in the boats, and leaves the child to dream on.
Rabindranath Tagore, whose appearance with his flowing hair, seemingly spiritual and mesmeric personality, and his other-worldly dressing gave him a prophet-like reputation. His elegant literature and magical poetry are testimony of his mercurial writings, which earned him the Prize in Literature in 1913 to become the first non-European Nobel laureate. Paper Boats is one such extract from his works that reiterates his style of writing and a sense of keen observation that comes out here through the psychology, power of imagination, and fancy dreams that a child would exhibit.