‘Tagore was deeply emotional, profoundly moral, and steadfastly rational’

William Radice, poet, scholar of Bengali language and translator of Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore, in his works and his life, shows us what a truly great poet can be.  There was nothing that he could not do with language, rhythm and rhyme.  He was deeply emotional, profoundly moral, and steadfastly rational.   His pursuit of harmony embraced nature, art, religion and science.  He spoke for Bengal, India and the world.  Much of his work – in education, music, rural development or painting – transcends linguistic barriers.  He also communicated extensively and influentially through English.  But the biggest challenge in the dissemination of his achievement is linguistic.  How can those who do not know Bengali gain access to him?  Encouraging progress has been made in recent decades through translations, adaptations, festivals and films.  The international celebrations in 2011 of the 150th anniversary of his birth will yield many new possibilities.  The fact that Tagore invites such endeavours is a fulfilment of all he believed in: harmony, peace, the opening of windows and the breaking down of walls.  In this, Bengalis who live in Europe and North America have a crucial role to play.  In his lifetime, Tagore was the most famous poet in the world.  He could become that again, and more.

For the complete biography and publications of  William Radice, please visit


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143 Responses to “‘Tagore was deeply emotional, profoundly moral, and steadfastly rational’”

  1. Hanne-Ruth Thompson says:

    No disrespect to Tagore, but isn’t it a bit over the top to call him the most famous poet of his time? Surely T.S. Elliot, Hermann Hesse, Rainer Maria Rilke, Pablo Neruda were rather more widely known than Tagore?

    • Pan Koji says:

      Tagore was the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize, and at least in Asia in the early 20th Century he was more famous and his works more popular than the other writers mentioned by Hanne-Ruth. During his travel to various Asian countries Tagore attracted large crowd not only in lecture halls but also at train stations where people gather to catch a glimpse of him. “Crescent Moon Society”, named after the anthology of his poem, was established in China in the 1920′s and all the great Chinese writers, Lu Xun, Mao Dun, Liang Qi Chao, Liang Shu Ming, Bing Xin and Xu Zhimo commented on Tagore’s poetry and philosophy. Indeed, the cultural world of China was swept with “Tagore wave” during his visit to that country in 1924, and his popularity in Korea can be assessed by the fact that the two leading Korean dailies published detailed reports of all the activities of Tagore in China.

      • Karla Forgaard-Pullen says:

        ‘Widely known’ is a culturally specific term. If one counts in numbers, a ‘widely known’ personage in Asia would always exceed reknown of a ‘peer’ in Europe, North America or Africa. Due to colonialist and imperialist behaviours, much more European ‘knowledge’ was taken into Asia than was allowed to be translated out for nearly two centuries. It is time for notions of ‘more than’ and ‘better than’ to be set aside and for open minds to rise.

    • Sukumar Roy says:

      Though no disrespect to Ms. Hanne-Ruth Thompson either, perhaps she should get acquainted with the huge volume and the awesome quality of Tagore’s work – including his works as a poet, just a small part. Though majority of his work of course is in Bengali, there does exit a sizable volume in English as well. I am sorry, but this can be said without hesitation that none of the poets mentioned above come anywhere even CLOSE to Tagore’s stature – particularly when one compares his overall contribution.

      In that regard, one will be very, very tempted to even say that there has been NO literary figure – past or present – who can come close to Tagore. Tagore’s contributions have so many facets – as a “poet, philosopher, playwright, novelist, essayist, painter, composer and educator” as well as a humanist – and have deeply shaped the cultures of several countries directly or indirectly. He is considered to be the one who bestowed the title “Mahatma” or Great Soul to Mahatma Gandhi.

      Tagore’s messages have been not only universal, they also transcend time. As a matter of fact, his messages are far more relevant today AND almost certainly in the future; more so than what they were in the past. Such traits separate him from any other past or present literary figure – he being a literary giant notwithstanding.

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Our Tagore events

  • Oct 6, 2012 AUTUMN EXTRAVAGANZA, Michael Power St. Joseph High School, Toronto. A variety show with Tagore’s works, and a multicultural Dance Ensemble with folk dances of Ukraine, Chile, and India.

  • Sep 25, 2012 'Walking Alone: Justice and Inequality in Tagore's thought', talk by Ananya Mukherjee-Reed at Princeton University, USA.

  • May 4, 2012 Soul of Spring,McMichael Art Gallery, Kleinburg, Ontario. A medley of music, dance and poetry based on Tagore's play. It was performed during an exhibition of Tagore's paintings 'The Last Harvest' at the gallery.

  • Jan 19, 2012 'Race and Diversity in Tagore', talk by Ananya Mukherjee-Reed at the University of Toronto

  • Sept 30, 2011 Tagore reading at the Festival of South Asian Literature and the Arts

  • October 2, 2011 A panel on Tagore featuring Uma Dasgupta and Martha Nussbaum on Writers & Company, CBC Radio One Broadcast time 3:05 pm Eastern. Click here for more details and podcast
  • Dec 3-4, 2011: A film festival featuring the North American premier of two films based on Tagore's work.
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