Thursday, 19 June 2014

"Let My Country Awake" by Rabindranath Tagore to Inspire Individual and Social Change

"Let My Country Awake" by Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore was a Bengali polymath who
 reshaped Bengali literature and music in the late 19th
and early 20th centuries. Author of Gitanjali, he became
the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in
 Literature in 1913.
Reading the Poems That Make Grown Men Cry anthology by Anthony and Ben Holden has introduced me to so many wonderful poems, poets and - perhaps most of all - stories, especially those of the 'grown men' who chose the collection's one hundred poems.

One such story was by Salil Shetty, Indian-born human rights activist and Secretary General of Amnesty International. The poem he chose was "Let My Country Awake" by Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), accompanied by a particularly poignant introduction.

Salil Shetty describes the poem as "a powerful call to action and a declaration of belief in achievable change". Perhaps most moving, however, is his statement that the final phrase, "let my country awake", could quite easily be replaced with, "let the world awake".

To Salil Shetty, the poem is "about universal aspirations", and I think we could all do well to read it with our own aspirations and that of wider society in mind. When considering how we might act in the interests of others, but also improve ourselves, this poem is a great source of inspiration and motivation.


"Let My Country Awake"


Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action -
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.


The original Bengali language poem, "Chitto jetha bhayashunyo", was published in 1910 and included in the collection Gitanjali by Tagore.


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4 comments:

Brian Joseph said...

I really like this one. Many so called inspirational calls poems and other work that call people to action seem to pull up certain visceral basic emotions that I am just a little bit wary and distrustful of.


This one is distinctive in that the impetuous for action is based upon thought and reason.

tolstoytherapy said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed reading the poem too. I completely agree with your analysis - it's so well-thought-out, and I really do think it's far too unknown for how powerful it is (it was to me only a few days ago!)

Arjun Jain said...

Tagore is one of my all-time favourite poets. We recited 'Let my Country awake' as part of our morning assembly in school everyday. Also, you might not know this but Tagore also wrote and composed the national anthem of both India and Bangladesh. While reading Tolstoy's Confession, I was reminded of another of Tolstoy's poems: 'My song has put off her adornments'.

Arjun Jain said...

In the last line: Tagore in place of Tolstoy