Rabindranath Tagore.

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has pity neither for beautiful nature nor for living human beings. It is
ruthlessly ready without a moment's hesitation to crush beauty and life
out of them, moulding them into money. It is this ugly vulgarity of
commerce which brought upon it the censure of contempt in our earlier
days, when men had leisure to have an unclouded vision of perfection in
humanity. Men in those times were rightly ashamed of the instinct of
mere money-making. But in this scientific age money, by its very
abnormal bulk, has won its throne. And when from its eminence of
piled-up things it insults the higher instincts of man, banishing beauty
and noble sentiments from its surroundings, we submit. For we in our
meanness have accepted bribes from its hands and our imagination has
grovelled in the dust before its immensity of flesh.

But its very unwieldiness and its endless complexities are its true
signs of failure. The swimmer who is an expert does not exhibit his
muscular force by violent movements, but exhibits some power which is
invisible and which shows itself in perfect grace and reposefulness. The
true distinction of man from animals is in his power and worth which are
inner and invisible. But the present-day commercial civilization of man
is not only taking too much time and space but killing time and space.
Its movements are violent, its noise is discordantly loud. It is
carrying its own damnation because it is trampling into distortion the
humanity upon which it stands. It is strenuously turning out money at
the cost of happiness. Man is reducing himself to his minimum in order
to be able to make amplest room for his organizations. He is deriding
his human sentiments into shame because they are apt to stand in the way
of his machines.

In our mythology we have the legend that the man who performs penances
for attaining immortality has to meet with temptations sent by Indra,
the Lord of the immortals. If he is lured by them he is lost. The West
has been striving for centuries after its goal of immortality. Indra has
sent her the temptation to try her. It is the gorgeous temptation of
wealth. She has accepted it, and her civilization of humanity has lost
its path in the wilderness of machinery.

This commercialism with its barbarity of ugly decorations is a terrible
menace to all humanity, because it is setting up the ideal of power over
that of perfection. It is making the cult of self-seeking exult in its
naked shamelessness. Our nerves are more delicate than our muscles.
Things that are the most precious in us are helpless as babes when we
take away from them the careful protection which they claim from us for
their very preciousness. Therefore, when the callous rudeness of power
runs amuck in the broad-way of humanity it scares away by its grossness
the ideals which we have cherished with the martyrdom of centuries.

The temptation which is fatal for the strong is still more so for the
weak. And I do not welcome it in our Indian life, even though it be sent
by the lord of the Immortals. Let our life be simple in its outer aspect
and rich in its inner gain. Let our civilization take its firm stand
upon its basis of social co-operation and not upon that of economic
exploitation and conflict. How to do it in the teeth of the drainage of
our life-blood by the economic dragons is the task set before the
thinkers of all oriental nations who have faith in the human soul. It is
a sign of laziness and impotency to accept conditions imposed upon us by
others who have other ideals than ours. We should actively try to adapt
the world powers to guide our history to its own perfect end.

From the above you will know that I am not an economist. I am willing to
acknowledge that there is a law of demand and supply and an infatuation
of man for more things than are good for him. And yet I will persist in
believing that there is such a thing as the harmony of completeness in
humanity, where poverty does not take away his riches, where defeat may
lead him to victory, death to immortality, and where in the compensation
of Eternal Justice those who are the last may yet have their insult
transmuted into a golden triumph.


(_Written in the Bengali on the last day of last century_)


The last sun of the century sets amidst the blood-red clouds of the
West and the whirlwind of hatred.
The naked passion of self-love of Nations, in its drunken delirium
of greed, is dancing to the clash of steel and the howling verses
of vengeance.


The hungry self of the Nation shall burst in a violence of fury from
its own shameless feeding.
For it has made the world its food,
And licking it, crunching it and swallowing it in big morsels,
It swells and swells
Till in the midst of its unholy feast descends the sudden shaft of
heaven piercing its heart of grossness.


The crimson glow of light on the horizon is not the light of thy
dawn of peace, my Motherland.
It is the glimmer of the funeral pyre burning to ashes the vast
flesh, - the self-love of the Nation - dead under its own excess.
Thy morning waits behind the patient dark of the East,
Meek and silent.


Keep watch, India.
Bring your offerings of worship for that sacred sunrise.
Let the first hymn of its welcome sound in your voice and sing
"Come, Peace, thou daughter of God's own great suffering.
Come with thy treasure of contentment, the sword of fortitude,
And meekness crowning thy forehead."


Be not ashamed, my brothers, to stand before the proud and the
With your white robe of simpleness.
Let your crown be of humility, your freedom the freedom of the
Build God's throne daily upon the ample bareness of your poverty
And know that what is huge is not great and pride is not


_Printed by_ R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, _Edinburgh_.

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Online LibraryRabindranath TagoreNationalism → online text (page 7 of 7)