What is a summary of Song 36 from Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore?

In Song 36, the speaker offers a prayer to God in the hope of gaining the strength necessary to achieve virtue. The virtues the speaker seeks to embody are matters of balance and moderation. They want to manage their joys and sorrows, for their love to benefit others, to treat both the poor and the powerful as equals, and to transcend frivolous aspects of daily life. Finally, they want to surrender all this strength to God's will.

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Tagore's Song 36 is a prayer to God expressing how the speaker wishes to live. He prays for strength in five areas. First, he asks God for the ability to "lightly bear," or be detached from, both his joys or sorrows so that he can see them as transitory and...

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Tagore's Song 36 is a prayer to God expressing how the speaker wishes to live. He prays for strength in five areas. First, he asks God for the ability to "lightly bear," or be detached from, both his joys or sorrows so that he can see them as transitory and unimportant. Second, he wishes to be able to serve others successfully. Third, he asks for the strength to treat poor and rich with equal dignity, neither scorning the poor nor groveling before the mighty.

A fourth request is that he can raise his mind above petty daily matters that are ultimately unimportant. Finally, he wants to give up his "strength" to God's will in a spirit of love.

Tagore's use of anaphora, the repeating of the words "give me the strength" over and over at the beginning of lines, creates a sense of litany which highlights the prayerful nature of this piece. More particularly, it mimics the pattern of Christian litany at a time when many Indians wanted to legitimate Hinduism as a valid religion in the eyes of their Christian colonizers.

Tagore shows through this work his belief in the central importance of humility, dignity, and service to those less fortunate as the keys to spiritual balance. By not focusing too much on himself, the speaker hopes to be freed to help others and love God.

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In Song 36, Tagore describes the cry of every Hindu penitent. The song is a prayer to transcend the earthly soul through a wholehearted surrender to God.

Tagore prays that God will strike at the root of "penury" in his heart. This "penury," or spiritual poverty, originates from the elevation of Self. Tagore continues his song by praying for strength. This strength is, of course, of a divine nature. Tagore suggests that the prayer for strength is essentially a prayer to annihilate the carnal nature of the Self.

He prays for strength to bear the joys and sorrows of life equally and for the strength to manifest his love for God in fruitful service. Tagore also prays for strength to never ignore the plight of the needy. Interestingly, he also prays for strength never to bow before "insolent might." In other words, Tagore wants God to give him the courage to stand up against those who would oppress the poor and disenfranchised.

Next, Tagore prays for strength to rise above "daily trifles" or the material considerations of life. He considers the intricacies of daily living to be a pettiness, compared to the wholehearted worship of God. Lastly, Tagore prays for strength to surrender his intensely carnal nature to God; he desires that his will be subsumed by God's will.

In Song 36, Tagore makes the point that man cannot love God without a wholesale surrender of all his earthly desires, even natural ones such as the desire for free will. A devotee of God can only realize contentment when his love for God is all-absorbing. So, complete self-surrender to God is always manifest in service to others, hence the prayer to be "fruitful in service" and to "never . . . disown the poor." 

 

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The following is "Song 36" from Rabindranath Tagore's Gitanjali Song Offerings.

This is my prayer to thee, my lord - strike, strike at the root of penury in my heart. Give me the strength lightly to bear my joys and sorrows. Give me the strength to make my love fruitful in service. Give me the strength never to disown the poor or bend my knees before insolent might. Give me the strength to raise my mind high above daily trifles. And give me the strength to surrender my strength to thy will with love.

As the only Indian poet to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for Literature in 1913, Tagore is renowned for his spiritual writings which were embedded with magic and elegance.

The above song is found in Tagore's Gitanjali Song Offerings. This text is a collection of poems, 103 to be exact, which Tagore translated from his original language into English. The text was he one responsible for his Nobel Prize.

To summarize Song 36, one must understand the utter spirituality of Tagore.

In Gitanjali Song Offerings, it is evident that Tagore regards his deity as an ever-present companion. In Tagore's fiction and his plays, it is equally clear that he sees life as a struggle between good and evil. Neither creed nor class can guarantee virtue.

Therefore, Song 36 is a prayer to Tagore's god whom he gives all power over his life to. Tagore is asking for the strength to be a good man, live a honorable life, and live for his god.

This song can be paralleled to the "Lord's Prayer". Here, those of Christian faith ask of God to give them the strength to live good Christian lives.

"Our Father in heaven,hallowed be your name.Your kingdom come,your will be done,on earth as it is in heaven.Give us this day our daily bread,and forgive us our debts,as we also have forgiven our debtors.And lead us not into temptation,but deliver us from evil." (Matthew 6: 9-13)
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