Death, Rabindranath Tagore: Summary & Analysis

"Death" by Rabindranath Tagore is a contemplative and metaphorical poem that explores the complex relationship between life and death. The poem personifies death as a bridegroom and uses symbolic imagery to convey the speaker's anticipation and acceptance of death as a final and inevitable phase of existence. The poem addresses the inevitability of death while embracing the idea that life and death are interconnected, and that the acceptance of death leads to a deeper understanding of life's true essence.

"Death" by Rabindranath Tagore

O thou the last fulfilment of life,
Death, my death, come and whisper to me!
Day after day I have kept watch for thee;
for thee have I borne the joys and pangs of life.
All that I am, that I have, that I hope and all my love
have ever flowed towards thee in depth of secrecy.
One final glance from thine eyes
and my life will be ever thine own.
The flowers have been woven
and the garland is ready for the bridegroom.
After the wedding the bride shall leave her home
and meet her lord alone in the solitude of night.

Summary

"Death" portrays the speaker's contemplation and anticipation of death as a significant and inevitable event. The speaker addresses death as a personified figure and expresses their readiness for its arrival. They describe how they have lived their life in anticipation of death, bearing both joys and sorrows. The speaker's feelings, hopes, and love have been directed towards death in secrecy. The poem implies that a single glance from death's eyes will bring the fulfillment of the speaker's existence. The imagery of a wedding is used to symbolize the transition from life to death, where the bride (life) leaves her home to join her lord (death) in the solitude of the afterlife.

Critical Analysis

The poem delves into the relationship between life and death, capturing the anticipation and acceptance of death as an intrinsic part of existence.

The personification of death as a bridegroom creates a unique and intimate portrayal of the concept of mortality.

The repeated reference to "thee" and "thine" addresses death directly, emphasizing the speaker's personal connection and readiness for its arrival.

The imagery of keeping "watch" for death and bearing both "joys and pangs of life" reflects the inevitability of mortality and the recognition that life is a mix of positive and negative experiences.

The portrayal of love, hopes, and feelings flowing "towards thee in depth of secrecy" suggests a profound and intimate relationship with death, often unspoken but deeply felt.

The image of the bride leaving her home and meeting her lord in the "solitude of night" symbolizes the transition from the familiar realm of life to the unknown realm of death.

Themes

  • Life and Death: The poem explores the interconnectedness of life and death, portraying death as an inevitable and significant phase of existence.
  • Anticipation and Acceptance: The poem conveys the speaker's readiness and acceptance of death, reflecting a contemplative attitude towards mortality.
  • Symbolism: The imagery of a wedding and the bride leaving her home symbolizes the transition from life to death, depicting death as a transformative event.

Attitudes/Feelings

  • Anticipation: The poem reflects the speaker's contemplative anticipation of death as an event that has been anticipated and prepared for.
  • Acceptance: The poem conveys the speaker's acceptance of death as an inevitable part of their journey, expressing a sense of readiness.

Literary Devices

  • Personification: The personification of death as a bridegroom adds a unique and intimate dimension to the concept of mortality.
  • Symbolism: The imagery of a wedding and the bride leaving her home symbolizes the transition from life to death, encapsulating the theme of transformation.

Discussion Question

How does "Death" by Rabindranath Tagore convey the speaker's contemplative anticipation and acceptance of death? How does the poem use the metaphor of a wedding and the bride leaving her home to symbolize the transition from life to death and the interconnectedness of these two phases of existence?

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