Gitanjali Song Offerings

by Rabindranath Tagore

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How does Tagore's use of imagery in Gitanjali correspond with the poems?

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In addition to nature, many of Rabindranath Tagore’s images in the Gitanjali poems are drawn from the objects of everyday life. The use of apparently simple images provides direction connections for the readers and encourages their engagement with the ideas.

One such image is the frail or empty vessel, standing for the human physical body which needs spiritual fulfillment. This opening image includes supplication to fill it with life. Similar images in songs 74 and 90 relate empty and full vessels to both life and death.

In the first poem as well, the flute—into which breath must be blown to sound—appears. Similarly, appearing in numerous songs are the harp and the lyre, which must be plucked to sound. More generally, Tagore uses musical images. In contrast, he offers images of silence or not hearing, as the silent steps of God which people do not heed.

Dress and garments are also featured. They often provide a contrast between inappropriate displays of wealth and luxury and the more suitable simplicity of material and lack of adornment. By extension, the death–shroud connection appears, along with dust for mortality. Contrasted as well is the true beauty of a woman who needs no further elaboration, representing divine perfection and lack of artifice.

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