What is an analysis of the poem "The Wayfarer"?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem "The Wayfarer" by Rabindranath Tagore was first published in his book Gitanjali, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. The book (and thus the poem) was first published in Tagore's native language, Bengali, in 1910. The poet, who was bilingual, then published in 1912 Gitanjali or Song Offerings in English, a volume containing a selection of poems from the Bengali Gitanjali as well as some other works, translated and often substantially revised by the poet himself. Ezra Pound wrote an influential and extremely enthusiastic appreciation of the volume on its appearance in English. 

The poem is narrated in the first person. It takes place on a stormy night in a small town or village. The narrator is thinking of the "wayfarer" of the title walking on deserted streets. The narrator addresses the wayfarer as "Oh my only friend, my best beloved," but we do not learn any actual details about the Wayfarer; gender, age, clothing, and appearance are not described. We do know that the speaker yearns to have the Wayfarer visit his home and assumes that the purpose of the Wayfarer's silent and elusive journey is to visit him.

Although we can read this as a love poem, much of Tagore's work focuses on the spiritual as well. What we do sense is a sort of spiritual longing or incompleteness on the part of both characters that can only be assuaged by union of narrator and Wayfarer, but also some obstacle that prevents the Wayfarer from simply dropping by in a normal fashion. The obstacle may be religious, a matter of fate, or destiny, or perhaps the Wayfarer is imaginary.

lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If you mean "The Wayfarer" by Stephen Crane, the poem is about the quest for truth. (If you mean Rabindranath Tagore's poem "The Wayfarer," see thanatassa's answer.)

The wayfarer,
Perceiving the pathway to truth,
Was struck with astonishment.
It was thickly grown with weeds.
"Ha," he said,
"I see that none has passed here
In a long time."
Later he saw that each weed
Was a singular knife.
"Well," he mumbled at last,
"Doubtless there are other roads."

The pathway is a metaphor for this search. The speaker  sees that the path is thick with weeds, symbolizing that truth is often difficult to discern because it is clouded with "weeds." Also, each weed is a "singular knife" meaning each weed is some obstacle to the truth - perhaps deceit, perhaps self-serving motivies, perhaps white-lies, perhaps lies by government, corrupt leaders, etc. (I'm extrapolating here).

The speaker also acknowledges that not too many are interested in seeking the truth, because there is evidence that the path has not been traveled much.

The poem ends on a pessimistic note because the speaker, too, decides that the path to truth is too treacherous with all those weeds, and he, too, decides to look for other roads.

See the links for further help.

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