“Waking Up”, Tagore’s poem about life’s answers

Upon awakening. With its musical lyric and imbued with melancholy, Tagore manages to make us reflect on the moods, the most intimate emotions and, often even uncomfortable, human conditions. Tagore’s reflections are rooted in indian religion, and in the profound spirituality that binds man to the elements of nature. A symphony of emotions and feelings, capable of giving us great depth. “Upon awakening” is in fact a long and intense poem on the existential condition of our being.

Waking up, poetry

Upon awakening I found
with light a letter.
But I can’t know
which says: I can’t read.

And I don’t want to distract
a scholar from books:
what is written there perhaps
he couldn’t read it.

I’ll hold it on my forehead,
I will hold it close to my heart.
When night falls
and the stars come out,
I will carry it on my lap
and I will remain silent.

And they will read it to me
the rustling leaves,
and he will make it a stream
with its flowing a song
which he will repeat to me
also the Bear from the sky.

I can’t find it
what I seek, or understand
what should i learn,
but I know this letter
which I have not read, made
my burden is lighter,
and all my thoughts
has turned into songs.

The most important answers are not studied in books

What is our place in the world? What sense do we have, here, now? Doubts mix with the small certainties we want to have in our lives, the wind becomes a storm. In this poem, an answer is sought, far from rational explanations. Because certain explanations cannot be studied in books or read to be understood.

Tagore he begins by stating just that when he talks about a “letter he is unable to read”. Some things just take them with you, keep them close to your heart, under the starry sky. Certain emotions can be processed even if we don’t know them thoroughly, even if we don’t know how to read them. However life is full of doubts, questions, uncertainties, and we might as well live with what we have, without filters. This is why Tagore writes, in the end, “I don’t know how to find, what I’m looking for, or understand, what I should learn, but I know that this letter, which I haven’t read, has made my burden, and all my thoughts, lighter” .

Rabindranath Tagore

Rabíndranath Thákhur, better known in the West by his anglicized name Rabindranath Tagore, was born in Kolkata on 7 May 1861 from a Bengali noble family. The youngest of fourteen brothers, Rabindranath does not follow regular studies, but is educated by his father, who takes care of him at three hundred and sixty degrees of his son, with whom he also shares travel experiences.

In 1874, the family experienced a tragic moment: Rabindranath’s mother died, and the young man went to live with his brother Dwijendranath, who was a poet, musician and philosopher, and with his sister-in-law. Already in this period, Rabindranath began to write and compose poems – “The lament of nature” also dates back to these years – which were immediately published in various magazines. In 1878 he made his first trip to England and stayed there for 17 months. Henry Morley becomes his teacher of literature and music. Upon returning to his homeland, Tagore composes the musical drama “The Genius of Valmiki” and “Songs of the Evening”.

In 1883 Tagore marries Mrinalini Devi, who is only ten years old and with whom Rabindranath Tagore will have five children. The two go to live in Ghazipur. A second trip to Europe dates back to 1890, during which the poet visits England, Italy and France. Upon his return, he composed numerous works, including plays, poetry collections and travelogues.

From 1902, a great drama begins for Tagore: his wife dies. Shortly thereafter, his daughter and younger son also died. Tagore is devastated by the pain of mourning, which is reflected in the poems written during this period. In 1913, after a third trip to Europe and many poems published, Rabindranath Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

The man, who in the last period of his life dedicated himself to the figurative arts creating more than 2000 drawings and paintings, died on August 7, 1941.

“Waking Up”, Tagore’s poem about life’s answers