In his own hand...

A facsimile copy of the original notebook of Rabindranath Tagore in which he translated Gitanjali into English has been printed by Sahitya Samsad, Kolkata. This was one of two that he made between 1910 and 1912, and the one that he gave William Rothenstein. Which Rothenstein gave to Yeats, and which Yeats, in some sense, gave to the world...

The notebook, like the Gitanjali itself, is a slender volume, most of the writing being on one side of the page. Most of it was, for a non-Bengali like me, unfamiliar, both in translation, and in the original... But there was a special thrill in seeing the hand of Tagore, trying different words, scratching out entire phrases... seeing the beginnings of his distinctive style of writing and drawing on the same page...

And also to see the evolution of his own translation.

For instance, the famous lines,
WHERE the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
appear in the notebook, before more editing, before more polishing as

WHERE the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been frittered into fragments partitioned
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where sleepless striving stretches its strenuous arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habi, and
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into everwidening thought and action
- there waken up my country into
that heaven of freedom, my Father!


(The differences are marked in red, and the italicised word above was scratched out).

A wonderful edition to have and to hold. New in our Poetry section, in hardcover, 192 pages, Rs 140. ISBN: 8179551830

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