Poetry has a way of touching the deepest corner of our hearts and talking directly to our souls. The trail of the essence that it leaves in our minds is what makes us relate poetry to the most beautiful art of the Universe. It’s like painting on the canvas of the soul with words from Heaven.
Although the tradition of poetry is age-long, modernity in poetry came as recent as the 19th Century. Modern Bengali Poetry has its seeds in English Poetry. Victorian poet G.M. Hopkins was the first to convey a certain modernity in his poems. His style was so radically different from those of his contemporaries that it brought a new age in the history of poetry writing. The revolutionary styles of his poems influenced Bengali Literature as well and left its effect on the works of several modern poets.
There were many such poets who touched the shore of many hearts with the waves of their poetry. So much so that they turned the course of Bengali Literature through the modernity that they conveyed in their art.
The Renaissance Era
The first among them was Michael Madhusudan Dutta, who marks the Renaissance Era in the tradition of modern Bengali poetry. It is through him that Bengali Literature saw the pure amalgamation of the Eastern and Western form of poetry. A great lover of poetry himself, he was the creator of Bengali sonnet and the pioneer of Amitrakshar Chhanda or the blank verse.
The most astounding thing that strikes me about him is that he himself wrote a poem which was to be used for his epitaph!
Stop a while, traveller!
Should Mother Bengal claim thee for her son.
As a child takes repose on his mother’s elysian lap:
Even so here in the Long Home,
On the bosom of the Earth,
Enjoys the sweet eternal sleep
Poet Madhusudhan of the Duttas.
The Immortal One
The multi-talented artist Rabindranath Tagore seconds him in lifting the Bengali Literature to a completely different level, weaving emotion, romance and imagination into a single work of art. Such was his poetic existence that even his stories and dramas can be read as sheer poetry. And so excellent was his creative talent that he could spin poetry out of anything that ever existed in the Universe.
Rabindranath Tagore himself was well aware of his incredibility. He knew that even hundreds and thousands of years after his departure from this Earth, his popularity will not diminish. So, he wrote a poem name “Year 1400” for those readers who would be reading his poetry even after a hundred years:
A hundred years hence
Who are you, reader, reading my poem
With such curiosity,
A hundred years hence!
Shall I be able to send you
An iota of joy of this fresh spring morning,
The flower that blooms today,
The songs that the birds sing,
The scarlet splashes of the setting sun—
Drenched in passion
A hundred years hence?
The Beauty of Rural Bengal
Emerging as a major voice of the post-Rabindranath period, Jatindramohan Bagchi left a mark in Bengali Literature through his poetry that brought out the natural beauty of villages and conveyed the intricacies of life in rural Bengal in all its joys and sorrows.
The one poem that made this poet dear to my heart forever was “Kajla Didi”. It is a poem about a little sister asking where her elder sister is; the innocent little one doesn’t know that her elder sister has died.
Above the bamboo garden the moon has risen,
O Mother, where is my story-teller sister, Kajla Didi?
Near the pond, underneath the lemon plant, bunch of fireflies glow
The smell of flowers doesn’t let me sleep, alone I’m awake all night
O Mother, where is my Kajla Didi?
My mother used to recite this poem to me at bedtime. My heart cried every time I heard it, yet I couldn’t resist hearing it. Such was its grip over me! Of all the poems I heard in my childhood, Kajla Didi remains one of those poems that still affect me to this day.
Romance and Nature
Reflecting the influence of Madhusudan and resonating with the poetry of Tagore, poet Satyendranath Dutta slowly rose to fame for his poems that intermingled romance with nature. The lyrical or musical tone that his poetry produced earned him the title of “Chhonder Jadukar” or the Wizard of Rhythm.
His beautiful short poem “Fuler Fosol” (The Harvest of Flower) is my personal favourite:
If you manage to get one paisa,
Buy food to feed your hunger;
But if you manage two,
Take half and buy a flower.
The Weird and Absurd
Sukumar Ray was another talent who rose to fame by his unique composition of pure non-sense and gibberish literature, written just to poke fun at the world as we see it. Merging his amazing sense of humour and unfathomed wit with his command over Bengali vocabulary, he produced a completely different taste of humour that appealed to the children and the adults alike.
His book Abol Tabol The Weird and the Absurd) is a collection of poems, all down the same line—weird and absurd. Of those, my personal favourite is Ekushe Ain The Rule of 21:
In Shiva’s homeland, the rules are quite strange!
If someone slips and falls by err, the police come to arrest.
Your ordeal continues inside of a court room,
Where judges are ready to fine you a fortune—
21 rupees is the price you must pay!
Although all his poems and stories apparently appear to be absurd and meaningless, yet I feel as if they have a subtle underlying meaning hidden from the common eyes, which surfaces only if one reads the poems very carefully.
Poetry is the mirror to the soul that reflects the poet’s intense emotions and then passes on the reflection to the readers. True enough, while reading or hearing my parents recite these poems, I felt something deep pass down my heart. As a child, I was too young to understand every word that poetry brewed; but they resonated something within me.
And now when I re-read the great creations of the poets, my heart surrenders to their aura and forges a connection between me and the artists.
About the Author
Sanchari Das devotes her free time to writing, painting, singing and enhancing her photography skills. The author of three books, Sanchari dreams to inspire millions through her writing. Born with a Piscean heart beaming with creativity, she is ever ready to embark upon new ventures and discover all the hidden sides to her personality.
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