Tagore... in english

23-01-2023 17:14

Rabindranath Tagore, born in an artistically-minded Brahman family in Calcutta ( Bengal) was a famous poet and author of prose. He is widely praised as the ideal mouthpiece of what is alive and present in the Indian soul. Apart from this, he also was a singer, a writer of plays, a mystic, a pedagoge and an advocate of exchanges between Eastern- and Western cultures. 

In 1913 Rabindranath received the Nobelprize for Literature for his 'Geetanjali'....

'because of his deeply sensitive, fresh and beautiful verses. By this, his poetical thoughts, expressed in his own English words, have been made a part of Western literature'  


Tagore has left us so much beauty!  Apart from his many novels, plays, songs and poems, my heart has been touched especially by his Gitanjali, or sacred hymns. In his body of work he does not only refer to nature and it's rich diversity, but also to the colour, sound and scent of life itself! At the same time in his Gitanjali he sings his praise to his Higher Self, as the inner bridegroom, the friend within him, who is his Lord as well, and who is also present in nature. Rabindranath has literally experienced this himself in his early years: the divine unity of all phenomena. 

Es schläft ein Lied in alle Dinge ( a song is sleeping in all things), a beautiful text by J von Eichendorf (1788- 1857) is pointing at that. You could say: a song is sleeping in all things, and all we have to do is to awaken this sleeping beauty! We can try to listen to that song and if we attune ourselves properly... try to sing along. In these confusing times, remembering again and again our inner beauty can provide support. 

Tagore mentions the Eternal: meaning the divine source behind Maya, behind our dualistic and temporary world of phenomena. The Eternal One... who lives within us, and work through us. That is Tagore's message in his Gitanjali!


Gitanjali 72

He it is, the innermost one,

who awakens my being with his deep hidden touches                                                                                                                                                                  

He it is, who puts his enchantment upon these eyes

And joyfully plays on the cords of my heart

in various cadens of pleasure and pain.


He it is, who weaves the web of this Maya

in evaniscent hues of gold and silver, blue and green                                                                                                                                                      

And lets peep out through the folds his feet

at whose touch I forget myself.                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Days come, and ages pass

and it's ever he who moves my heart

in many a name, in many a guise, 

in  many a rapature of joy and of sorrow. 

- R. Tagore - 


Wreath of flowers

When I, some three years ago, came in touch with a number of Gitanjali, suddenly it dawned on me: this poetry has to be brought to attention again! At the same time my main question was: are there Gitanjali songs in English, that everyone can sing? And with that I mean songs outside the in India widely known Gitanjali of Tagore himself. On the internet, that I searched for many weeks, I did find compositions for choir and orchestra, but no songs that are suitable for singing together. I saw these a signal. I ordered the 'Wijzangen' ( devotional songs) by Frederik van Eeden, who translated the 103 Geetanjali in Dutch, and the original English Dover Thrift Edition, and selected 14 verses. This led to re-translations with small adjustments, resulting in a collection of 14 songs. The singer Robert la Boresa became a partner in this project. But being touched by Tagore's Gitanjali, also brought up the poet in himself. In him arose a poetic reaction to these texts. Robert calls this 'Dialog' his personal poem to Tagore's. 

The book content (edition 2020):  sheetmusic: 5 songs in Dutch, 9 in English, texts: both in the original English and the retranslated Dutch, dialogs by Tagore and la Boresa.                                                                                                                                                                                                                        furthermore: ornaments, illustrations by R la Boresa, photographs and coverdesign by N Pisuisse. 

CD: 14 Gitanjali performed by: Nicole Pisuisse: chant, diatonic accordion, darbuka, Robert la Boresa: chant, guitar, Greetje Buikstra: lute, chant, kalimba, shrutibox, Mirjam Radder: cello. Spoken recitation of the poems: Robert la Boresa. CD design: N.Pisuisse

Workshop or presentation with slides possible on demand. Email: n.j.l.pisuisse@gmail.com

Elaborate information about Tagore can be found on Wikipedia. 


Nicole Pisuisse, Zutphen, the Netherlands, 23 th January 2023


(translation in english: M. Bloemhof, Zutphen)