Discuss Rabindranath Tagore's poem "Vocation."

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Rabindranath Tagore, author of the poem "Vocation" won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913.  To best comprehend a writer's work, it is important to understand the man.  Tagore was a highly successful writer. The motivation for the Nobel Prize stated:

Because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of Western literature...

Writing in many genres, Tagore found praise in all work.

Withdrawing from the formal school setting at the age of fourteen, Tagore was self-educated with some tutoring at home.  He strongly believed that without goals and hope rural India would never have a brighter future,  particularly in the colonial system. His focus emphasized education and making life choices.

A vocation is a type of profession which demands special commitment:  a calling or destined profession which gives the person special happiness and fulfillment.  Tagore's poem, written in free verse, employs first person narration.  The narrator is a boy who observes different people at work during his day.

In each worker, the narrator finds something pleasing and envies the worker. These are his perceptions of each occupation:

Before school, the hawker (street vendor)= sells jewelry; no time frame; does not have to travel

After school, the gardener=allowed to do all the things a boy loves; gets dirty and wet; uses a shovel; no one tells him what to do

At night in bed, the watchman= walks the streets with only his shadow following along; carries a lantern; never has to go to bed

Failing to realize that his education will provide him with many opportunities, the young boy values only freedom without authority.  Foolishly, the boy does not see the hardships that each worker faces.

The hawker yells all day, standing in the same spot trying to sell cheap jewelry.  Undoubtedly his work is boring and unsatisfying.

The gardener, possibly working for someone else, spends hours doing backbreaking work.  His job is dirty and wet and his hands are calloused from using gardening tools.

The watchman walks all night without sleep.  He must carry a lantern.  The streets are shadowy, desolate, and lonely.  

The perceptions of the boy are obviously childish.  Unaware of his possibilties for the future, he sees excitement and fun in these tedious jobs held by men who probably find little fulfillment in their work.  Hopefully, time and maturity will enable the boy to find his vocation through his education and commitment to a profession.  

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