Study Guide

60

by Rabindranath Tagore

60 Summary

Summary

Paragraph 1
Tagore’s “60” is a prose poem, so it uses paragraphs in place of poetic stanzas. The first paragraph begins with the line: “On the seashore of endless worlds children meet.” Based on the phrase “endless worlds,” one can see that this poem may have some metaphysical, or supernatural, qualities. The idea of endless worlds suggests a universal or infinite quality of some sort. In addition, Tagore introduces the image of a seashore in this sentence. He could be talking about an actual seashore, but the metaphysical context suggests that Tagore is talking about a symbolic one. A symbol is a physical object, action, or gesture that also represents an abstract concept, without losing its original identity. Symbols appear in literature in one of two ways. They can be local symbols, meaning that their symbolism is only relevant within the context of a specific literary work. They can also be universal symbols, meaning that their significance is based on traditional associations that are widely recognized, regardless of context. In “60,” the symbols are universal. Tagore is talking about a seashore, which is the opposite of the sea. The sea traditionally represents infinity—an idea that Tagore has already suggested with “endless worlds.” Following this line of thinking, the opposite of infinity, or heaven, is the mortal, human world. So, the seashore could represent this human world.

The next line addresses the idea of infinity directly: “The infinite sky is motionless overhead and the restless water is boisterous.” Once again, Tagore could be simply describing a day at the beach, where children meet on the beach, the sky is calm, and the sea is choppy. The next line—“On the seashore of endless worlds the children meet with shouts and dances.”—certainly supports this idea of children playing by the sea. This line also repeats part of the first line, so that the paragraph is bookended by the same image—a technique that Tagore uses throughout the poem. However, looking at the poem symbolically, one can find significance in many of the images. First of all, besides the idea that the sea represents infinity, water in general is a symbol for life or creation, in a feminine sense. Likewise, the “infinite sky” traditionally symbolizes heaven, and is often associated more generally with the male forces of creation. So, taken together, the sky and sea represent male and female creation forces. Next to these two cosmic forces, the seashore, representing the human world, seems almost insignificant, except for the presence of the children.

Paragraph 2
The second paragraph describes the children in more detail. The first line notes that they “build their houses with sand and they play with empty shells.” When sand is used to build a house, it suggests impermanence, since the “vast” ocean will just wash away these sand houses with the tide. This idea of impermanence is reinforced by the idea of empty shells, since the animals that inhabited the shells have died and left only their shells behind. In general, however, shells are linked to the water from which they come, so they...

(The entire section is 1291 words.)