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An outstanding poet, a legend of prose, and a perfect philosopher, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore is the greatest of the Indians to write in English. His fine writings, popularly described as ‘magical poetry and elegant prose’, are an impeccable metrical achievement. His fame as a poet in English rests chiefly on Gitanjali, a transcreation of the Bengali original, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, making him the first non-European to win the coveted honour. Apart from his literary work, he gave the gift of Rabindra Sangeet (songs written and composed by Tagore), also known as Tagore Songs, to the people of India.

The main features of his poetry are its humanistic essence combined with spirituality, a love of nature and man and the expression of the beauty and splendour of the earth. The poet’s spiritual message does not forbid us to run away from the fret and fever of life and seek shelter in a hermitage but insists on our full participation in the joys and sorrows of life. He perfected a kind of incantatory rhythmic prose and demonstrated that Indian sentiment, thought, and imagery can be well expressed in English as in any Indian language. 

Tagore’s poetry is a vehicle for expressing his mystical philosophy, but his mysticism finds a concrete sensuous expression. It also has the richness of diction and imagery, yet- this is his uniqueness- it has the open-air atmosphere of a folk song. As the folk song, there are constant references to the everyday things of nature, which provide Tagore with his imagery. They are also used symbolically; thus, the physical universe is invested with human significance. For example, objects of nature are eternal; they have continued since time immemorial and in their eternity, they symbolise eternity and the infinitude of God himself. The ever-ceasing flow of water in the river symbolises the ceaseless flow of life and the human soul’s intense longing, a recurrent theme of Tagore’s poetry.

Images from Tagore’s pen are colourful, highly sensual and sometimes voluptuous. They are drawn from nature’s most common and ordinary objects and phenomena, enabling Tagore to communicate highly abstract truths to his readers. In this way, in his poetry, the difficult is made easy, the abstract is made concrete, the unfamiliar is made familiar, and the spiritual is made sensuous. These commonplace images create a deceptive impression of simplicity; in this way, Tagore achieves a rare union of simplicity and sublimity.


Tagore’s poetry covers many themes, styles, and forms. His oeuvre includes poems on nature, love, spirituality, social issues, and the human condition. Tagore’s versatility as a poet allowed him to explore diverse subjects and express various emotions, making his poetry accessible and relatable to readers from different backgrounds.

Spiritual and Mystical Themes

Tagore’s poetry often reflects his deep spiritual and mystical beliefs. Influenced by the Upanishads and other Indian philosophical traditions, Tagore’s poetry explores transcendence, unity with nature, and the search for spiritual enlightenment. His mystical poems evoke a sense of wonder and awe, inviting readers to contemplate the mysteries of existence.

Love and Romance

Tagore is best known for his romantic poetry, which celebrates the joys and sorrows of love. His love poems are characterised by their lyrical beauty, emotional depth, and nuanced portrayal of human relationships. Tagore’s exploration of love encompasses both the ecstasy of union and the pain of separation, capturing the complexities of the human heart with sensitivity and insight.

Nature Imagery

Nature is prominent in Tagore’s poetry, providing inspiration, solace, and spiritual revelation. Tagore’s nature poems are imbued with vivid imagery, evocative descriptions, and a deep appreciation for the natural world. His observations of the changing seasons, landscapes, and elements reflect his profound connection to nature and his belief in its transformative power.

Social and Political Commentary

Tagore’s poetry also addresses social and political issues, reflecting his commitment to social reform and political freedom. He wrote extensively on topics such as nationalism, colonialism, inequality, and the human cost of war. Tagore’s social and political poems are characterised by their moral urgency, impassioned rhetoric, and calls for justice and equality.

Universal Themes

Despite deeply rooted in Indian culture and tradition, Tagore’s poetry explores universal themes and resonates with readers worldwide. His profound insights into the human condition, empathetic understanding of human emotions, and lyrical expression of universal truths have earned him a global audience and cemented his legacy as one of the greatest poets of all time.

Rabindranath Tagore’s poetry is characterised by its versatility, spirituality, lyricism, and universal appeal. His poems inspire, uplift, and enrich readers with their timeless beauty, profound wisdom, and enduring relevance. Tagore’s contribution to world literature remains unparalleled, and his legacy as a poet of the highest calibre endures to this day.

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Devika Panikar
δάσκαλος (dáskalos) means the teacher in Greek. Devika Panikar has been teaching English Language and Literature since 2006. She is an Assistant Professor with the Directorate of Collegiate Education under the Government of Kerala. She teaches at the Government Colleges under this directorate and is now posted at the Government Law College, Thiruvananthapuram. This website is a collection of lecture notes she prepared by referencing various sources for her students’ perusal. It has been compiled here for the sake of future generations.