Silent Steps by Rabindranath Tagore
Bijay Kant Dubey
Have you not heard his silent steps? He
comes, comes, ever comes.
Every moment and every age, every day
and every night he comes, comes, ever
Many a song have I sung in many a
mood of mind, but all their notes have
always proclaimed, `He comes, comes,
In the fragrant days of sunny April
through the forest path he comes,
comes, ever comes.
In the rainy gloom of July nights on
the thundering chariot of clouds he comes,
comes, ever comes.
In sorrow after sorrow it is his steps
that press upon my heart, and it is the
golden touch of his feet that makes my
joy to shine.
Silent Steps is one the most lyrical poems of Rabindranath Tagore included in Gitanjali for which he receives the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. What it is remarkable in the poem is the devotional intensity of feeling and the mood of surrender seconded by an inner desire to merge into the Supreme Soul, the Greater Self. Rarely do we come across such a feeling of self-surrender as it is here in Gitanjali, a sublime work of an illuminated mind and soul which he has inherited archetypally. Waiting for Godot not, waiting for the Divine and its realization is the central theme of the poem and above all is the music of the line, the rhythm of thought and idea and reflection, He comes, comes, ever comes, repeatedly adding to the alliterative beauty of the poem. Three seasons, summer, spring and rainy have been referred to as to stress upon the coming. In Indian philosophy, especially in classical love poetry, where the element of devotion is so strong, God has been envisaged as friend, brother, sister, mother and father. God is the guest, maker of fate and destiny, God the boatman sailing away the boat of life in the midstream. All joys and sorrows are the things of His. Such a thing one says it in every household during the seventh day of the Durga Puja when it is said She comes to visit the world. Even in one of his poems, Aurobindo while dwelling upon sadhna and its experiences refers to the passing of a supernatural figure.
The poet enquires about if the steps of His coming have been marked or not. His presence is everywhere in this universe. The whole universe, cosmos is the creation of His and nothing as hidden from His eyes. He comes, comes, ever comes. Every moment and every age, every night and day, He comes, comes, ever comes. The whole world is resonant with His steps.
Many a song he has sung in many a mood of mind, but all their notes have proclaimed, thudded with the rhythm of His ever coming and ever going. He comes, comes, and ever comes. When does He not? The world is vibrant with His coming and going.
In the fragrant days of sunny April through the forest path, He comes, comes, and ever comes. Actually during the sunny days of April, leaves come out and flowers hang by though the sun may be strong. The imprint of spring may be marked.
In the rainy loom of July nights, He comes, comes, ever comes on the thundering chariot of clouds. In the months of Shravana, it drizzles, downpours, thunders and rains and the sky overcast with floating clouds looks pleasant. Especially the hanging clouds look enjoyable.
In sorrow after sorrow it is the Divine Steps which press upon his heart. It is the golden touch of His feet which makes his joy to shine. Joy is His, sorrow is His, everything but the creation of the Almighty, the One Omnipresent, Omniscient. In the world of day to day affairs, the trivial and trivia of it, we almost forget Him. We try to remember Him only in the times of sorrow, this is how Kabirdas says in one of his dohas. Mirabai got enlightenment when she saw Him through the pains and aches of her heart, saying her all to Lord-God. Such a thing George Herbert says it when he mentions that this heart is the temple of God wherein He dwells in.
Silent Steps is a song of Divine illumination. Here the bhakti-tradition can be traced back from the days of Rashkhan, Jayasi, Mirabai, Tulsidas, Vidyapati, Surdas and so on. The influence of Vaishanavism hangs heavy over the poet and he is under it no doubt. The Indian thought and content is almost the same. India the land of saints and singers flashes upon the mind’s eye as and when we read this poem.
Only these have been recast into a new garb. The poems may be new to the West, but it is actually the same handed down from generation to generation, age to age. The poet as a singer of heart is the cardinal aspect of this poem. The aesthetic quality too is quite admirable and is sensuous too. The lyrical flow is noticeable. As the poem has not been titled, so it may be called, ‘Have You Not Heard His silent Steps?’ too. When does He come to? In every atom is God, the whole creation is His. Such a thing it is there in G.M.Hopkins’ Pied Beauty and God’s Grandeur. To find its answer, we may turn to Kabirdas with the the things as such, where do you search me, I am near you. What it needs to referred to in this context is this that Tagore himself has translated the poems of Kabirdas.