Tagore, Yeats, Neruda & Cooperatives

Essential TagoreDuke Augustus: My attention was caught by an opinion piece in The Hindu titled  Tagore and the idea of Cooperation which started with a quote from Nobel-Prize-winning Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore:

“Today, economic power has been captured by a small minority. But it has acquired this power only by accumulating the productive power of others. Their capital is simply the accumulated labour of a millions of working people, in a monetized form. It is this productive power that is the real capital, and it is this power that latently resides in every worker …” — Samabayaniti/The Co-operative Principles, 1928.

As the piece goes on to explain:

In a compelling set of essays written between 1915 and 1940, Rabindranath Tagore articulated a social vision where exploitation would give way to a just, humane, collectively owned economy. At the core of his thought was the cooperative principle. This is an idea worth revisiting on the International Day of Cooperatives, which this year falls on July 2, and even more so during the lead-up to 2012, which is the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives.

Though I am either 2 days late or 1 year early for the discussion, as a board member of my cooperative apartment I deem it timely.  If you want more information on Cooperatives in the US, you can take a look at the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives and US Federation of Worker Cooperatives.

I noticed the opinion piece because Duchess Susanna & I have been reading selections from The Gardener by Tagore.  In addition to being Nobel-Prize-winning Bengali poet, Tagore (1861-1941) was  also a novelist, musician, painter, playwright, essayist and political activist.  He was an outspoken critic of British imperialism and supporter of Indian nationalism.   Tagore’s life was threatened for his views.  He renounced his British knighthood after a 1919 massacre.

This is Poem 30 from his The Gardener:

You are the evening cloud floating in the sky of my dreams.
I paint you and fashion you ever with my love longings.
You are my own, my own, Dweller in my endless dreams!

Your feet are rosy-red with the glow of my heart’s desire,
Gleaner of my sunset songs!
Your lips are bitter-sweet with the taste of my wine of pain.
You are my own, my own, Dweller in my lonesome dreams!

With the shadow of my passion have I darkened your eyes, Haunter of the depth of my gaze!
I have caught you and wrapt you, my love, in the net of my music.
You are my own, my own, Dweller in my deathless dreams!

As I was looking at the The Gardener while writing this epistle, I noticed it was dedicated to one of my favorite poets, W.B. Yeats.  Digging a little further I found out that Tagore that Yeats was one of many influential figures that Tagore met on his international travels to spread his writings and political ideas. Yeats (1865-1939) was also a Nobel-Prize-winning poet, playwright and political activist.  He was an Irish nationalist and a supporter of Irish independence from England.  When Ireland became a free state, he was appointed a Senator.

More info about this book at powells.com (new window)Though I had come across Tagore a number of times , the impetus to read his work came from Pablo Neruda. The Duchess and I discovered The Gardener while reading Neruda’s  Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair.  Neruda (1904-1973) admired Poem 30 of The Gardener quoted above.  Poem XVI of Neruda’s  own Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair is a paraphrase of Tagore’s poem 30 .  Neruda, too, followed the tradition of being a Nobel-Prize-winning poet and politician.  He held a number of Chilean diplomatic posts.  He was briefly a Senator for the Communist Party.  When Communism was outlawed, he had to go into self-exile.  He returned home as a supporter of assassinated President Salvador Allende.


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