Poetry

I love poetry. Along side mathematics, it is the one other art which I pursue passionately. I was considering how influential poetry has been over the ages. Poetry: a rhythmic ensemble of words which come together for a singular expression of emotions, ideas and aesthetics. But poetry is not so limited; indeed defining poetry is beyond me, I shall make no such attempt. Instead I will just hint at how it has been influential through the ages. I am obviously unqualified to say anything intelligent and will blabber around to the other blind people who wish to hear.

It tends to surprise me how poetry effects people. It can give rise to an unknown zeal hidden somewhere in nooks and crannies of the soul, it can imbibe new ideas in the society and steer people away from falling into the chasm of evil, it can express love and can smudge itself with the falling teardrops from the lover’s eyes, it can instil hope among those who have long taken to failure and are living only so that they may die one day. I failed to realise what great responsibility lies on the shoulders of ones who can wield a pen; the pen indeed is much stronger than the sword.

Through ages poetry has come to use: whether it be the beautiful lines by Adi Shankaracharya which lead people on the spiritual path, the expressive lines of Tulsidas which moved people to devotion or the ones by Kabir which questioned social norms and culture. I would like to recall a couple of poems:

It is said that Gandhiji was much influenced by the following poem. Written by a stalwart among the romantics, Percy Bysshe Shelley, the poem by itself has an interesting history. “Masque of Anarchy” was written at the wake of a cruel massacre in erstwhile England. It sowed the seed for protests by non-violent means. I am currently under the heavy influence of “My experiments with Truth” and is probably why I was reminded of this poem. Let me recall a few lines from the poem.

‘And if then the tyrants dare
Let them ride among you there,
Slash, and stab, and maim, and hew, —
What they like, that let them do.
‘With folded arms and steady eyes,
And little fear, and less surprise,
Look upon them as they slay
Till their rage has died away.’
‘Then they will return with shame
To the place from which they came,
And the blood thus shed will speak
In hot blushes on their cheek.
‘Every woman in the land
Will point at them as they stand—
They will hardly dare to greet
Their acquaintance in the street.
‘And the bold, true warriors
Who have hugged Danger in wars
Will turn to those who would be free,
Ashamed of such base company.
‘And that slaughter to the Nation
Shall steam up like inspiration,
Eloquent, oracular ;
A volcano heard afar.
‘And these words shall then become
Like Oppression’s thundered doom
Ringing through each heart and brain.
Heard again—again—again—
‘Rise like Lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number—
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you—
Ye are many—they are few.’

My voice trembles as I read the last few lines “Ye are many-they are few”. As I read the poem, my blood boils and wishes to rush into action, to stand by the nation’s side, steadfast and fearless. Everything though has a time and place.

The second poem influenced Mr. Nelson Mandela. I was probably reminded of this one because of his recent demise.

Invictus

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.

The poem echoes through ones ears as one reads it out loud.
“In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.”…

My study of poetry has just begun. As a school student, I was not much inclined toward arts or literature. Although I loved poetry the effort required in learning the lines by heart was a constant deterrent. But as they say, better late than never.

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