ACROSS THE HIMALAYAN GAP
Tagore and China
CHINESE NEW POETRY...
Moruo’s spiritual tryst with Tagore is one of the finest stories in
interliterariness, But, the story has never been fully discovered, let alone
being properly told. The scholarly distortions which have been discussed in
Prof. Das’ preceding essay have made it more imperative to restore the
true historical perspective. In the first place, let us acknowledge Guo
Moruo’s abundant gratitude for Tagore. In a poem of Guo which has already
been noticed widely, there was Guo’s implicit acknowledgment about his
mentor. The poem was composed in 1920, entitled “Anshang”
(On the shore) which takes a leaf out of Tagore’s “On the seashore”
from The Crescent Moon. In the
third verse of the poem, Guo directly used the Chinese translation of the
Tagore poem of the following lines:
these lines which were originally written in Bengali were used twice by Tagore as a part of both Gitanjali (verse 60) and The
Crescent Moon. Their featuring in
the poetry of Guo Moruo
as an integral part of an original poem in Chinese language has thus created
a record of the same lines living in the original poems of three languages -
Bengali, English and Chinese. Only Tagore, who is the only author of two
national anthems of the world (that of India and Bangla Desh). can create
such a record. But, Guo Moruo’s being instrumental to such an
interliterary miracle also deserves recognition.This was Guo Moruo’s
special style of thanking the one who had meant so much to his life.
Moruo openly acknowledged his indebtedness to Tagore in two other poems. In
“Chen’an”(Good morning), he affectionately calls :
the next half of the poem, he saluted the “Pyramid on the Nile”, “Leonardo
da Vinci”, “Poets of Ireland”, “Washington”, “Lincoln”,
Whitman” - after repeating the last name three times, then, “Whitman so
expansive like the Pacific.”)
we can see that the foreign country enjoying the top place of honour was
India, while the person enjoying maximum mention was Whitman - the American
poet. But Tagore was far from eclipsed because of the graphic and vivid
descriptions of Santiniketan (as “Ziran Xueyuan”, i.e., “the Ashram of
Nature”). Himalaya, Bengal, Indian Ocean, particularly, the Holy Ganga.
note that “good morning” was not a traditional Chinese greeting, and
what Guo Moruo had adopted in translating it, i.e. “Chen’an”, is no
longer in currency in Chinese language. I doubt whether it was ever a
popular usage at all. So, the caption of the poem does reflect Guo Moruo’s
daring progressive mentality, not hesitant in embracing new ideas, new
symbols and new lifestyles. It is, thus, important that he included Tagore
and Tagore’s India in the newness of his intellectual being.
was another poem which Guo composed in 1922 entitled “Xianshi” (Offering
of poetry) which was clearly Guo’s expression of his gratitude for Tagore.
The poem ends thus:
only has the title of the poem taken a leaf out of Gitanjali,
but the quoted lines are an obvious adaptation of verse 83 of Gitanjali
is, thus, not without foundation that we speculate the motivation of Guo’s
little Gitanjali being the
offering of his affections for Tagore - the ‘invisible teacher” of
his-in the same poetic manner as Tagore had offered for his invisible God.
Guo was giving Tagore a Tagorean salute.
Ge Baoquan, a famous Chinese expert in translations and one who knew Guo Moruo well, wrote an article on “Tagore and China” (raige’er he Zhongguo) in 1983 in which he also noticed the profound influence of Tagore on Guo Moruo. He wrote: “The first phase of his [Guo Moruo’s] poetic creation belonged to Tagore’s style.“- a conclusion based on Guo’s own admission as we have seen earlier. Ge Bacquan also quoted Guo Moruo to say that “After being addicted to Tagore, it is unavoidable to be under his impact.” Our task should be to find out the ramifications of Tagore’s impact on Guo Moruo’s early poetry.
have a moment ago quoted Guo Moruo’s little Gitanjaliwhich was the poets
tribute to Tagore in 1922. In 1925. Guo Moruo composed his full Gitanjali,
a collection of 42 verses with the same title “Xianshi (Offering of
poetry). In the introducing poem there are lines which at once convey a
can quote a few lines more like we have done earlier to Xie
Bingxin’s Fanxing and Chunshui
to illustrate the Sino-Indian poetic communion between Guo Moruo’s
Xianshi series and Tagore’s Gitanjaji:
see in these extracted lines the familiar Tagorean dedication, purity of
love, quiet submission and profound melancholy. Guo Moruo’s theme of the
poem is the paradise lost of his love for a woman who, for some mystic
reasons beyond the poet’s grasp, has failed to respond to his love. In the
end, the poet has the consolation that she remains alone and not to be
possessed by anyone else. The poem, in a way, reflects Guo Moruo’s bitter
experiences in love-seeking in early life. Yet, he was in the state of mind
of a Tagorean idealist, unable to come to grip with the ruthless reality of
life. What Guo Moruo attempted to create in his imitation Gitanjali
was a kingdom of idealism for which he did not mind dying as a martyr. Love
should remain pure, while dedication should have its deserved awards, It was
the idealism of Tagore being reflected in Guo Moruo’s mind.
is another poem of Guo Moruo entitled “Shide xuanyan” (Manifesto of
poetry) which also belongs to the Gitanjali
realm, but with a mood drastically different from the one quoted above. Let
the poem be cited in full:
is an interesting poem. The poem was composed in 1929, only three years
after Guo Moruo had composed his imitation Gitanjali,
“Xianshi”.Yu Dafu, a friend
and fellow traveller like Guo Moruo, wrote an editorial note while
publishing the latter poem in 1926. The note says that it was he (Vu Dafu)
who published the poem against the willingness of Guo Moruo.Whydid he do so?
Said Yu: “I think it unimportant about the socialization of a poet. It is
not necessary that vocables such as pistol, bomb, or hundred times of
reiteration of “revolution” should occur in a poem to qualify it as a
really revolutionary piece. When you artlessly reveal your real emotions,
when you emit your volcanic warmth to make the readers of your poem share
your sorrowful weep and joyful laughter you have fulfilled the sacred duty
of a poet.”
To Yu Dafu, both the poems of Guo Moruo, i.e., the lamentation of his lost
love in “XianshP and the candid admission of his affinity with the
protetanat in “Shide xuanyan”,
qualify as revolutionary poems, and perform the duty of awakening the fine
sentiments of humanity all the same. That makes it easy to explain why a
weeping Romeo in “Xianshi in
1925 could become a roaring proletariat in “Shide
xuanyan” in 1928. Is there any relevance of Tagore in this
transformation? Yu Dafu, it seems, had already anticipated this
transformation when he praised the noble sentiments of the weeping Romeo. We
have earlier tried to establish the affinity between Guo Moruo’s “Xianshi”
and Tagore’s Gitanjali, Yu Dafu has helped us to identify this affinity as the
quality which can spread sympathy and empathy among men. Guo Moruo’s
manifesto of poetry instantly calls to mind Tagore’s words in Giranjali (verse 10):
Tagore expressed above and what Guo Moruo expressed in his Manifesto
of poetry are identical in nature: it represents the desire of an
intellectual to integrate himself into the world of the downtrodden. This
was, perhaps, why Guo Moruo captioned his piece in such a way as if to link Gitanjali
with the famous Manifesto of the
Communists, a link between the influence of Tagore in him with that of
Karl Marx who was Guo Moruo’s later love. The linkage seems to suggest
beyond doubt that Guo Moruo’s falling in love with Marxism did not result
in his negating his tryst with Tagore’s spiritualism.This serves to
contradict a feeling among Guo’s contemporaries that any influence from
Tagore was bound to neutralize the revolutionary potential of a Chinese
youth. Guo Moruo’s own growth process has proved that a Tagorean poet
could become a communist writer.
Galik (a famous Hungarian China expert) has pointed out the identity in Guo
Moruo’s poem “Bieli” (Parting) with Tagore’s“The
Astronomer, one of the pieces in The
Crescent Moon, with both the poets longing to catch the moon.
Indeed, as The Crescent Moon had
formed such an important part of Guo’s life it was but natural that the
moon, particularly The Crescent Moon, figured
frequently in Guo’s poetic creations. He had a poem entitled “Xinyue”
(Crescent moon) composed in 1921, another entitled “Xinyue
yu baiyun” (Crescent moon and white clouds) composed in 1919, another
entitled “Yuexiade sifenkesi”
(Sphinx under the moon light composed probably in 1921 but published in
1922, yet another entitled “DuiYue”(Facing the
moon) composed in 1928. The moon also figures in many other poems which
do not bear its name in their titles. Of interest is Prof. Galik’s
observation that in Guo’s poem Parting, he also expressed his desire to
get hold of the sun which, according to Prof. Galik. “does not figure in
Tagore’s poem”, i.e., The Astronomer.
Galik, then discusses Guo’s being attracted by the symbolism of the sun by
suggesting that Guo’s eulogizing the solar universe was an expression of
his under the impact of Omar Khayyam, Whitman, Rodin and Millet.
I don’t wish to contradict Galik’s observation, but want to return to my
earlier premise that one of the impact of Tagore on China’s avant
garde poets was the focus on the sun imagery. If my earlier premise can
stand, then we can also count Tagore’s influence on Guo Moruo’s
sensitivity to the soar glory in his poetry. Indeed, this sensitivity of Guo
Moruo even surpasses that of Wen Yiduo, which we have illustrated earlier.
To Guo Moruo the sun not only involved the solar universe, but was a
hallowed symbdism like whatTagore had conceived. In an emotional poem
entitled “Taiyang mole”
(The sun has set), Guo describes the light-waves of the sun as a
force wanting to sweep clean the devils from the Heaven The poem ends with
the following lines
is lndianness in the metaphors of the above cited lines. Good overcoming
evil is a permanent theme of the Indian ethos which the Indians annually
commemorate in the Victory Festival (Diwali) every Autumn. The Chinese word
“mo” which was the ancients’ transliteration of the Sanskrit word mara
(devil). Guo Moruo’s likening the sun to the force of dharma (truth) which
overcomes mara resurrects the ancient Chinese, particularly the Tang poetic
symbolism transposing the image of the Buddha to that of the golden sun. The
Tang poetic jinlun (golden wheel)
was synonymous to “Buddhism”, “sun”, and “Tang imperial role”.
What made Guo Moruo revive this ancient theme must be due to his special
feeling for Sino-Indian cultural affinity out of his admiration and
affection for Tagore.
is another element in Guo Moruo’s metaphors for the sun which highlights
Tagore’s influence, i.e., Guo’s emphasis on “light”- a favorite
Tagorean theme. We meet amidst the red light.”
“The unbounded Nature has formed a sea of light.”
The sun in the sky, the light in my heart.”
In his poem “Taiyangde lizan”
(Saluting the sun), Guo Moruo rhymed:
lines also highlight another aspect of Guo Moruo’s solar metaphor, i.e.,
the internalization of the solar symbol into the poet’s own being, which
is more likely an Indian influence than Western. Similar sentiments were
expressed by Guo Muruo in his poem Haizhouzhong
Wang ri chu (A view of sunrise from the Ocean liner):
another poem Guo even exclaimed: “Oh, sun, our teacher.”
All this does have a Tagorean touch as they are certainly the echoes of
verse 57 of Gitanjali which sings
the last line of Tagore found an echo in Guo Moruo’s The clouds are dyed
in golden colour”.
and “Innumerable golden rays are racing from my eyes towards the sun.”
After hearing Tagore singing: “O my sun ever-glorious!” (Gitanjali, verse 80), Guo
Moruo replied: “Oh, sun! If you don’t shine upon me into thoroughly
bright, I shall return not!”
These are sufficient illustrations of the spiritual communion between Tagore
and Guo Moruo.
Communion between Tagore and Guo Moruo also indicates the influence of
pantheism in the two poets. While India is the native land of pantheism and
Tagore imbibed it as a natural inheritance, Guo Moruo imbibed pantheism only
through Tagore. The typical work of Guo Moruo which reflects his pantheist
mood is the long poem Fenghuang niepan
(The nirvana of the phoenix) in which Guo sang:
Guo Moruo’s own reckoning as stated in his poem “Sange
pantheism), the source of his
pantheism came from three persons: (1) ancient Chinese philosopher, Zhuangzi,
(2) Dutch philosopher, Spinoza, and (3) Indian philosopher, Kabir.
There is no mention of Tagore. Yet, Guo Moruo did digest Tagore’s
pantheist nourishment which can be demonstrated by comparing his poem “Diqiu,
wode muqin!” (Earth, my mother!) with Tagore’s Gitanjali.
First, Let us listen to Tagore:
Tagore and Guo Moruo had a tryst with pantheism in these lines, Being an
emulating force of Tagore, Guo certainly imbibed the Tagorean pantheism in
conceiving the earth as his mother with all her mortal incarnations.
have sufficiently spelt out Tagore’s influence on the early poems of Guo
Moruo, a writer of considerable importance and influence in shaping the new
Chinese literature. Of course, Guo’s poetry grew in its growing departure
from the pantheist mood and the
style, committing deeper and deeper in the contemporary political struggle
which Tagore had kept aloof from. However, as we have already alluded to
earlier, a conclusion cannot be drawn that Guo had to necessarily discard
Tagore’s influence to throw himself whole-heartedly in the “revolutionary
literature” movement which Guo himself was a driving force behind. While
many of his contemporary radical friends viewed Tagore as a negative
spiritual force, Guo Moruo never joined others in criticizing The
Crescent Moon or Gitanjali. In
fact, no patriotic spirit in any poem could surpass what was expressed in
verse 35 in Gitanjali which reads
When Guo Moruo read
these lines, he would not have been led away from loving Tagore and loving
his own country. Incidentally, when Guo Moruo sailed back from Japan, and
when his boat was touching the shore of Shanghai in 1921, he rhymed:
when he was physically on the soil of his motherland, his mind and heart
flow to Santiniketan (the abode of peace), Patriotism and Tagorean idealism
were frozen in Guo Morun -the young Chinese poet who was destined to write,
along with many others, the new poetry, new literature, new partiotic epic
of a modern China, Nothing more vividly symbolic than this freeze to connect
Tagore to the new chapter of China’s spiritual and
Galik, The Genesis of Modem
Chinese Literary Criticism (Bratislava, 1980). pp. 40.41.
Poems and Plays of Rabindranath Tagore (MacMilans,
1936), p. 51.
Guds poem “Anshang”, sea Guo Moruo quanji,
Literature, Vol. I, p. 152
Nanya Vanjiu (South Asian Studies), published by the Institute of South
Asian Studies of the Chinese and Peking University, No. 3,1983, p. 59.
moruo quanji, Literature, Vol. I, p. 259.
Milesfones in Sino-Western literary confrontation (1898-1979
Wiesbaden, 1996, p, 51.
moruo Ouanji, Literature, Vol.
©1998 Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi
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Published in 1998 by
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