The Meaning of Love in Tagore’s The Gardner: Dustin Pickering (Tagore Special)

Dustin Pickering

Our world is incomplete. One solemn fact of human existence is described by Martin Buber, ‘This however, is the sublime melancholy of out lot that every You must become an It in our world.” However, we cannot fail to appreciate the love infused in the verses of our finest poets. Love is our universal truth. Love is essential to human life much the same as breathing air. We often trouble ourselves, we thinkers, over the meaning of love in a selfish world.

The pandemic’s economic consequences seem to have brought out the worst human tendencies. At the same time, the world is brought together digitally through the internet in ways never seen before. I personally have attended numerous poetry and literary gatherings during the pandemic. Poetry is the deepest language of the human spirit. It voices our essential longings, thoughts, aspirations and hopes through some of the most wretched despondency we experience. Rabindrath Tagore wrote, “Beauty is truth’s smile when she beholds her own face in the mirror.” This is analogous to Keats’ fabulous statement that “Truth is beauty, and beauty truth.”

In works such as Gitanjali and The Gardner Tagore celebrates the unity of love through our existence. The Gardner is a splendid vision of humanity. The long prose poem concerns a man in love but the subject is an allegory for immortality and yearning for deeper friendship through appreciation of beauty.

The deeper friendship sought is one of clear honesty concerning the nature of the world, its harmony and difficulties. The speaker in the poem seems troubled by his lust for the woman he loves. Tagore writes, “From my heart comes out and dances the image of my own desire. The gleaming vision flits on. I try to clasp it firmly, it eludes me and leads me astray. I seek what I cannot get, I get what I do not seek.” Does the speaker wish to transcend his lust to become servant to his beloved? It is apparent in my reading that the speaker believes in the essential good of the earth, its beauty and joys. The Creator did not create to fill us with misery.

Love is an effort; in truth, it is glorious and humble work of the soul. Tagore’s work celebrates love’s difficulties, conflicts and transcendent capacities with outstanding mystical language. Love is our salvation. We are tasked to care for the planet we live on as well as those who cannot care for themselves. We are part of Nature, and Nature resides within us so it is our solemn duty to become like the servant in our cares.


Bio: Dustin Pickering is founder of Transcendent Zero Press and founding editor of Harbinger Asylum. He has contributed writing to Huffington Post, Café Dissensus Everyday, The Statesman (India), Journal of Liberty and International Affairs, The Colorado Review, World Literature Today, and several other publications. He is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee. He placed in the top 100 out of 12,500 entries for the Erbacce prize in 2021, and was a finalist in Adelaide Literary Journal’s first short fiction contest. He was also honored by the Friends of Guido Gozzanno. He hosts the popular interview series World Inkers Network on Youtube.

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