There is something about good poetry - the careful editing, the exact juxtaposition of one right word next to another, the cadence and rhythm - which makes it so much more evocative than the best prose. I used to be a poetry buff when I was younger - both reading and writing it - and even now find great delight in dipping into it from time to time. Many years ago, i came across this poem by Rabindranath Tagore which I fell in love with. For some reason, most anthologies of his poetry don't have it and when I look for a poem called The Gift, a different poem pops up. I recently re-located it through Google ( Google ki Jai) and had to share it here.
O my love, what gift of mine
Shall I give you this dawn?
A morning song?
But morning does not last long -
The heat of the sun
Wilts like a flower
And songs that tire
O friend, when you come to my gate.
What is it you ask?
What shall I bring you?
A lamp from a secret corner of my silent house?
But will you want to take it with you
Down the crowded street?
The wind will blow it out.
Whatever gifts are in my power to give you,
Be they flowers,
Be they gems for your neck
How can they please you
If in time they must surely wilt,
All that my hands can place in yours
Will slip through your fingers
And fall forgotten to the dust
To turn into dust.
When you have leisure,
Wander idly through my garden in spring
And let an unknown, hidden flower's scent startle you
Into sudden wondering-
Let that displaced moment
Be my gift.
Or if, as you peer your way down a shady avenue,
From the thick gathered tresses of evening
A single shivering fleck of sunset-light stops you,
Turns your daydreams to gold,
Let that light be an innocent
Truest treasure is fleeting;
It sparkles for a moment, then goes.
It does not tell its name; its tune
Stops us in our tracks, its dance disappears
At the toss of an anklet
I know no way to it-
No hand, nor word can reach it.
Friend, whatever you take of it,
On your own,
Without asking, without knowing, let that
Anything I can give you is trifling -
Be it a flower, or a song.
Then there is Invictus, which has always sent shivers down my spine for its indomitable spirit and inspirational theme. In some ways, it reminds me of Beethoven's 5th Symphony which is my favourite - that is the one in which the composer rails against the malign fates that made him deaf; starts out by rebelling, slips into despair briefly and then thunders back his defiance at the Gods and concludes with the triumph of his will over fate.
The poet, Henley, went through a similar fate - he had TB of the bone and one leg had to be amputated at the knee. Doctors suggested amputating the other one too but he persevered and kept that and lived on till the age of 54. Invictus was written from his hospital bed.
William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever Gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of Circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of Chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.