Rabindranath Tagore

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What world is imagined in Tagore's poem "Where the mind is without fear"?

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In Rabindranath Tagore’s poem beginning “Where the mind is without fear,” the speaker imagines an ideal world rooted fundamentally in the ideal of freedom – freedom that manifests itself in a wide variety of ways. The opening two lines celebrate the kind of intellectual freedom that fosters human dignity and self-respect:

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high 
Where knowledge is free

These lines suggest the ability to think freely and to possess freely the results of one’s own and others’ thinking. Lines 3 and 4, meanwhile, suggest the importance of freedom from narrow, parochial, trivial divisions, such as those of ethnicity, race, sectarian hatred, and other artificial barriers:

Where the world has not been broken up into fragments 
By narrow domestic walls

The reference to “walls” helps emphasize the importance of liberty of all kinds; the word “domestic” implies confinement to a small, familiar, limiting space, however comfortable that space may sometimes seem.

Lines 5 and 6 use images implying freedom of movement in order to suggest the kind of intellectual and spiritual freedom necessary if mankind hopes to achieve full knowledge, full self-expression, and full development of its true potential:

Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection

Lines 7 and 8 emphasize intellectual freedom once more and also imply the need for freedom from deadening conventions and traditions. Lines 9 and 10 imply the freedom to continue to grow, progress, develop, and especially to act in accordance with one’s mental and spiritual growth and progress.

Finally, line 11 explicitly emphasizes the theme of liberty and makes clear that the speaker refers not simply to individual freedom but to national freedom as well. Meanwhile, the reference to “my Father” implies that the speaker’s desire for freedom is not a desire for self-indulgent independence from all constraints or for any kind of ruinous chaos; rather, it is a yearning for responsible, conscientious liberty.




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