Tuesday, October 1, 2019

MARIA MIRAGLIA


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English Indian Poetry And Beyond

Poetry,  the noblest expression of human feelings, is the literary form which, more than any others, gathers and  in a few verses whose sound usually give rise to pure music, the  thoughts and motions of the human soul. Poetry unveils what other literary forms struggle to reveal.  Lover of poetry and solicited, since past times, from readings like Passage to India by Edward Morgan Foster, relating to the British domination in India, I often wondered if and how much, during that era  the  autochthonous poets were free to express their thoughts and feelings. It’s well known that the environment, the social conditions and  the  historical events strongly  exercise their influence not so much on forms or styles as on themes.

Contrary to all forms of colonialism, I believe that the only benefit that India has derived from the English domain is the introduction of their language as requested by the British government to make communication possible among  the relevant  number of the  dialects spoken. This has certainly meant  the opening of this great country to the world, beyond anything, for a major cultural exchange of considerable relevance.

The poetry written by the Indians in English in the last 150 years may be said has crossed three different phases: the imitative, the assimilative and the experimental.

During the imitative phase, which runs from 1850 to 1900, the Indian poets were mostly inspired by the British romantic poets like Wordsworth, Shelley, lord Gordon Byron  and some minor ones. During the second phase which goes from 1900 to 1947 the Indian poets still kept on grasping  from the new romantics of the decadent period and began  to show their nationalistic feelings along with the wish for political changes which led to the attainment of India political freedom in 1947.

The first phase of English Indian poetry marks the moment of the literary renaissance. The poems of Derozio, Manmohan Ghose and Michael Madhusudan are testimony of a creative upsurge derived from the romantic spirit of the great English poets. Toru Dutt is left alone to  celebrate India and her heritage by putting into verse a large number of Indian legends:

Hasten maidens, hasten away
To gather the leaves of the henna-tree.
The tilka's red for the brow of a bride
From in Praise of Henna


The poets of the second phase who have left their footsteps in the history of literature are Tagore, Sarejini Naidu,  Aurobindo Ghose. Some creative artists born  between the 1920 and 1940  were witness of bitter and violent struggles of patriots for the achievement of  liberty under the guidance of various political leaders. This was  the time  of   Mahatma Gandhi  who  so great a contribution gave to the cause of the Indian freedom  along with the affirmation of ancient cultural heritage. The Romanticism of the Indian poets was so loaded with nationalism, spirituality and mysticism. Their poetry expresses the ethos of the age.

And while Tagore was in search for the Beautiful in Men and Nature,  Sarojini Naidu stressed the charm and splendor of traditional Indian life and  scenes , Auribindo was in search for the Divine in Men:


He is lost in the heart, in the cavern of Nature,
He is found in the brain where He builds up the thought:
In the pattern and bloom of the flowers He is woven,
In the luminous net of the stars He is caught.


In the strength of a man, in the beauty of woman,
In the laugh of a boy, in the blush of a girl;

(From Who)


With the political independence in 1947 and the partition the era of hope and aspiration gave place to an era of questioning and the Indian writers conquered a new confidence to be critic of the present, the past and of themselves. They went on borrowing from the romantics but no longer from the Victorians but from Yeats, Eliot, Erza Pound and Auden-

The later phase of indian English poetry is the modern and post modern one which can be considered the output of the process of modernization, social change, the introduction of mass media.  After the independence, and partition, the Indian poets  entered the international, modern  world offering their distinctive contribution. The English language has fastened the process of modernization although Indianized in pronunciation, intonation, word order and syntax.

The Indian poets are nowadays nor exclusively Indian nor British but cosmopolitan.. They are realistic and intellectually critical, or just simply the expression of  thought felt. Their poems are surrealist, existentialist, thought provoking, psychologist.  Remarkable among the last ones  the works of Dalip Ketharpal that so much have in common with the Italian writer Pirandello.

Sometimes if a person
Identifies too closely
With the mask,
Consciousness of anything
Beyond social role and goal
Is blocked

From Musked/ Unmusked



Maria Miraglia
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