Analysis

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Last Reviewed on December 18, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 646

Rabindranath Tagore's poem "Song VII" is written in free verse and does not adhere to any specific meter or rhythmic pattern. The poem is comprised of two stanzas, the first containing five lines and the second containing four. From the very first line of the poem, the reader is meant to glean that its subject is poetry itself. The speaker states,

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My song has put off her adornments.

Images of music bookend "Song VII": the very last line of the poem invokes the image of "a flute of reed for thee to fill with music." It is unsurprising that Tagore would invoke such images and make this direct correlation between poetry and song, as Tagore himself was known as a prolific musician and songwriter.

The speaker begins by personifying the poem: in the first line, he gives the poem the power to physically remove from itself anything it considers "decoration," as the song "has put off her adornments." Further, the poem is described as having the ability to possess an ego and an opinion of itself, as it is said to have "no pride of dress and decoration." The speaker describes the poem as an intermediary in a "union" between him and some as yet unknown other that is implied by the first-person plural voice, and he notes,

Ornaments would mar our union;
they would come between thee and me.

The speaker's references to "adornments," "dress," "decoration," and "Ornaments" refer to ornate language that serves only to create space between him and the mysterious other. This fear of distance between experience and its expression—and the speaker's desire to avoid creating it—is greatly evident through the poem's lack of set rhyme and meter. Each line of "Song VII" is crisp, direct, and end-stopped; the sentences are characterized by careful, spare syntax, as well as light use of imagery and metaphor. The length of each line is determined not by a restrictive metrical pattern but by the architecture of the sentences themselves. In sum, the speaker avoids unnecessarily ornate language and syntax that the speaker feels would introduce a distancing wedge between himself and "thee." The "jingling" that inevitably accompanies overly adorned poetry would serve only to "drown thy whispers."

Until this point, the poem's addressee—its "thee" and "thy"—has been ambiguous. However, in the second stanza, the speaker directly addresses a "master poet" before whom he is humbled:

O master poet, I have sat down at thy feet.

This addressee can be read in various ways, but all invite the divine into the space of the poem: the poem's addressee is no mere person but rather a figure along the lines of a muse or higher power. Through this lens, the first stanza's references begin to slot into place. The "whispers" which excessive adornments "drown" are in fact the divine itself, some ultimate meaning that is only able to be conveyed through poetry when a "poet's vanity" is uninvolved in composition.

The poem's final two lines continue to address the "master poet" and further imply the presence of a divine or godlike presence in the creation of art. The speaker indicates a wish for his life and artistic talents to act as a conduit for the divine:

Only let me make my life simple and straight,
like a flute of reed for thee to fill with music.

The speaker, here, is no musician, as readers might expect a poet to compare himself to. Rather, the speaker is the instrument on which the true musician—some kind of god—can play, and he thus casts himself as a vessel that transports greater meaning. In its direct address and plea to the divine, "Song VII" is much like a prayer. Its speaker ultimately asks that the divine pass through him in the process of making art, just as breath passes through the body of a flute.

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