Gitanjali Song Offerings

by Rabindranath Tagore

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How does Tagore’s use of imagery in Gitanjali 50 correspond with the poem?

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In Gitanjali 50, Rabindranath Tagore’s use of imagery focuses on the opulent golden chariot, which is contrasted with the scant possessions of the beggar. Gold is contrasted with food, as the poet represents both in a single grain. The beggar’s nearly empty bag or wallet is also featured. These images are repeated elsewhere, as the relationship between wealth and poverty is analogous to that between giving and receiving. In this poem, hand and heart also represent those contrasts. Tagore suggests that divine power to turn scant resources into treasure is activated by human generosity.

Gold is a central element of the imagery in Gitanjali 50. The speaker beholds a gorgeous golden chariot, which they compare to a dream, using a simile. Later that day, a grain of gold appears in the items the speaker empties out of their bag. The poverty of the speaker is represented by the initial image of their going door to door and begging, as well as by the dust on the path. Poverty is likewise indicated by the image of a tiny grain—possibly rice or wheat—in their bag.

When the deity from the chariot asks what the beggar has, the beggar shows generosity by removing the grain from the bag and placing it in the deity’s extended right hand. At the end, that generosity is represented by the heart, which the speaker wishes they could give to their generous supporter.

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