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MR. HARIPADA GHOSAL, M.A.

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HE Bengali genius in poetry is essentially metaphysical and romantic. Bengali nature is prone to love. From the very dawn of poetry, love has formed the main theme of poets. The age of Chandidas and the Baishnav poets was thoroughly romantic. It was certainly an age of lyric outburst. The bare sincerity of their delightful fancies gives these poets an immunity from decay. The portraits drawn by them show the work of highly idealising hands. Their sense of melody, the artless poignancy of their words and the simple pathos of their music are so charming that they "keep children from play and old men from the chimney corner." They form our chief wealth. genuine merit makes them fit for a place in worldliterature. But that spontaneous vein which was their special virtue got stranded in the poets of the 17th and 18th centuries. In them we sadly feel the lack of impulsively betwitching cadences whose warble could be heard no more. The conventional form succeeded. Some of the poets offend by super-abundance and not by poverty. Some are over-languaged. Plain and simple they were but their plainness and simplicity were costly like the plainness and simplicity of the rich. The romantic spirit which lay in abeyance for two centuries dimly manifested itself first in Michel and then in Bankim. Three men almost contemporaneous with one anotherBankim, Hem, and Nobin-had the merit of bringing back Bengali poetry from the sandy deserts of rhetoric. They recovered the three virtues of romanticism-simplicity, sensuousness and passion. Of these three great men, Bankim was a conscious reformer. He offered a stubborn resistance to the existing formalism and thus his earliest novel was tinged with its effects. Gradually he got over the defects due to a hostile spirit and after an interval was again submerged into the position of a teacher of his countrymen and followed a conscious art. Of the three Bankim had the broadest mind open on many sides. Nobin was a poet of exuberance, but he had the saving grace of a fine shaping faculty, and when up-borne by thought, his feeling heightens a passage or a poem, through all its parts to a silvery unison and "raises people to his own level." Hem had that penetrating imagination which is the quality of the poet-an imagination that identifies itself with the object

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of contemplation, and transcending time and space, rises to an ecstatic mood in which his poetry refines itself and turns inward to selfintrospection.

Hem and Nobin are the lineal descendants of Michel. They were not certainly imitators of Michel for he established no school. The romantic spirit visible in Michel had, with a mighty impetus from Bankim, inspired the writings of Hem and Nobin, "the full-welling fountain-heads of song." Hemchandra was the scion of a respectable Brahmin family and was born at. Galita in Hoogly. He was born in affluent circumstances and received a good liberal education, graduating in 1859. About 1866 he became a Bachelor of Law and commenced his practice in the High Court of Judicature at Calcutta, winning a good reputation in the profession and having an extensive practice. In 1890 he was made the senior Government pleader and he died in 1903.

The year 1861 when Hemchandra enrolled himself as a Vakil of the High Court, witnessed the publication of his first poem Chintatarangini. Sorrow was the wakener of his song. The premature death of his friend Babu Srish Chandra Ghosh made him unhappy but when the first effusion of turbulent sorrow had abated, he like Tennyson blinded with tears, began to take heart and brooded over the frailty of human life. The poem is a poetic philosophy of life and death. The crushed feeling of first grief was over. The poet looked upon his dead friend with a calm regret. The elegiac tone pervades throughout. The poem is the off spring of that mood of mind when the edge of severe sorrow is dulled by time and contemplation over the grave, and when grief is chastened by a feeling of submission to the divine will and gives time to see things in their true colour by the light of philosophy. The poet has tried to solve a problem of life. The truly virtuous man, though his path of life is rugged and uneven and lies over prickly moors and thorns and though he is tossed by the tempest of the world, is firm and unmoved, and suffering only for a few years, enjoys eternal sunshine in a glorious region. Again, bis Dashamahavidya published in 1882, is a powerful poem but he has not followed the Purans. Here he conceives the universe as permeated with that one undifferenciated divine energy-the pri

mordial principle of the creation of the universe, and freedom from bondage consists in understanding at least one phase of the ten-fold existence of the divine Mother. He comprehends the whole universe which passes, one after another, before his vision. In both these poems he has tried to unriddle the mystery of life. He succeeded in the first but failed in the second. The former is plain and unassuming and the lesson, if poems have lessons at all to teach, is brought home to the mind of the reader; but the meaning of the latter is lost in the obscurity of unbounded and exhuberent display of high-sounding words and expressions, which have been heaped on the deities without any forethought or a sense of their applicability.

Between 1868 and 1871 Hem Chandra composed twenty poems, some of which are excellent and all of which were published not without alteration, in the Education Gazette edited by Bhudev. The poet felt a sort of deep sorrow and was struck with amazement to see millions of his countrymen wallowing in the mire of degradation. His imagination took fire as he remembered the great heroes of Ind of olden times and tried to inspire his countrymen by reminding them of their great deeds and advising them to emulate their fore-fathers in acts of heroism. Some of his poems were marked by a fervour of nationalism and this led Bhudev to ask him not to write such poems. He regrets, that he has to curb the free flow of his imagination and to circumscribe the freedom of his thought. His Chittabikash was published in 1898. It is a good collection of beautiful poems which, though not connected with one another with any one central idea, are. the transcriptions of thoughts as they rose in the poet's mind at the sight of the beauties of nature. Two poems especially-Look at the fate of that tree now! and What would come to my lot, O Lordattract our attention. The tree which, when its condition was better, when its branches were loaded with rich foliage and weighed down with fruits, afforded shelter to toil-worn passers-by who took rest under its dark shade from the heat of the burning sun and to innumerable winged creatures which built their nests in the leafy foliage and reared up their young ones, typifies the poet himself, who in the days of his prosperity was the stay of his dearest and nearest ones, now as helpless as the weary travellers and shelterless as the birds in the time of his poverty and want. These words are painful indeed from the lips of a man fallen on evil days and nothing

can be more sad than this picture of the poet, The last years of his blindness have been feelingly described in the other poem. The remembrance of the past joys, of friendship and sweet home, of beautiful sunshine, of clear moon-lit nights and thousand other beautiful sights of nature is entremely painful to a man now deprived by fate of the blessing of eye-sight. The fond regret for seeing once again the face of the old familiar earth now spread with darkness, for enjoying the beauty of the "human face divine," and "vernal bloom or summer's rose or the sweet approach of even and morn", draws tears to our eyes when feelingly expressed by one whose eyes "roll in vain and find no dawn." Unhappy he was as all blind men are, but his confession that he had no friend or helpers was absolutely unfounded. He exaggerated his miseries most of which were only in his imagination. He staggered under the blow of cruel fate and supposed his blindness to be the mother of all his miseries.

The most famous of his poems is the epic Britrasanhar. The opening lines fittingly describe in a solemn and sustained tone the condition of the Gods who, defeated and vanquished have taken refuge in the nether world-the subterraneous region of serpents. Indra, King of the Gods, is absent but all others deliberated in their assembly the advisibility and necessity of war, and about the strength of the Gods and the power of their weapons. But the vaunting immortals were check-mated by the wise Pracheta who reminded them of their recent dire defeat in spite of their boastful speeches and much talkedof strength of arms. If victory could be won by sheer animal strength, why their chief was engaged in devotion and worship of the Goddess Fate for years and years together. The vaunting Gods were silenced. Indra satisfied Fate who asked him to go to Shiva at Kailash where he pacified the angry Mahadeva by penance and austerities. The great God told him the secret of destroying Brittra. He asked Indra to repair to the hermitage of Dadhichi and pray him for his bone out of which the most powerful divine weapon Bajra (thunderbolt) must be made for the destruction of the mighty demon. Perhaps the self-sacrificing example of Dadhichi and his total self-abnegation for the good of others inspired the poet's imagination and was at the bottom of his composing the great poem. Brittusanhar was the poetic flower of his ripe old age. The ideas of the youthful Hem were not the same as the ideas of the Hem of Mature years. They were mellowed down

under the influence of sober age. The hotblooded youth did not believe in a force implanted in the moral nature of man; he could not conceive the all working influence of faith. He relied on physical strength-on the sword as the only means, as the sovereign remedy for the realisation of a higher destiny, of a fuller, manlier life. But as he advanced in years "the schoolheat" of passion ebbed away and he, began to believe in a secret force working behind the veil as it is the mainspring of action in the greater world of morals. Secondly this great poem is not free from Hemchandra's greatest defect-the restlessness and cogitation of the soul due to a want of faith in his own religion. A really Godfearing and pious nature "flies to the deity" and derives consolation in religion which is nothing but the manifestation of forces working to mould the destiny of the human race. In the darkest hour of our agonies, in the midst of the struggle with adverse faith, people firm in faith hold to God as the only beacon-light to guide them, to give them strength and impulse. Then they try to transcend the limitations of the senses and want to go beyond them. They desire to understand and to be guided by the power working behind the stupendous phenomena of nature. But in Hem we do not find anything approaching to this. All the characters in Brittusanhar-Sachi, Oindrila, Indubala, Chandrapida, even the victorious Brittra and all the celestial hosts, except Indra and Pracheta, are burning with restlessness and excitement. In the midst of this universal dissatisfaction, and excitement, the light which shines for ever and lives for ever, does not come to them. The buoyancy of spirit and the peace of mind are not to be found there. The Gods are sad, melancholy. They are without strength of body, strength of mind, indolent and restless. They have no patience; they want only victory through sheer physical force and are hence defeated. The hero Indra is not an ideal hero. Thus the poem Brittusanhar cannot really claim a place among the great epics of the world.

HEM'S ORIGINALITY

The throne of poetry which had fallen vacant on the death of Michel in 1873 was occupied by Hem, and Bankimchandra, like the high priest, annointed him in the same year. Babu Akshay Chandra Sarkar than whom there is no better critic in our literature calls Iswar Gupta the last poet of Bengal as Madhusudan, Hemchandra, Nobinchandra, Rabindranath the poets of educated

Bengal. A purely Bengali poet uninfluenced by foreign ideas and thoughts, is a thing of the past. A man highly educated after western method and well-read in English literature, cannot be expected to represent pure unadulterated poetry of the soil. But on the other hand it is not desirable also that a modern poet or writer should be ignorant of other lileratures lest he should catch the contagion of an alien force. Hemchandra did actually borrow but what he borrowed he made his own. Borrowing in literature is not a new thing and a literary artist has been allowed to enjoy such immunities provided he has shown excellence and originality in his writings. Hemchandra not only chewed the raw materials, but digested and assimilated them. His greatest merit lies in this that what he got from others he made his own and not only that, he made it the property of the nation.

MICHEL AND HEMCHANDRA

Michel's influence on Hemchandra was indeed great. It may be said without any fear of exaggeration that Hemchandra got his inspiration from Michel, Before the year 1865 when Meghnadbadh was prescribed for the B. A. Examination, Hemchandra published an annotated edition of the great epic and tried to explain to his countrymen the newly introduced blank verse in the Bengali literature. He wrote not as an advocate but as an admirer. It must be admitted that he succeeded in interpreting Michel. It is a wonder as yet why he did not accept blank verse as the staple metre of his great poem. Echoes of Michel often reach our ear in Brittusanhar. However that may be Hemchandra ranks lower than Michel in poetry.

HEMCHANDRA AND EDUCATED BENGALIS

Hemchandra, as it has been said, is the poet of educated Bengal. The tide of English education had carried the spirit of agnosticism from Europe in the educated youths of Bengal. A poet like Hemchandra voiced forth, as a mouth-piece, the ideas and sentiments of his countrymen. An educated Bengali has no faith in himself, no faith in his own religion and no faith in his country and countryFrom faithlessness has flowed despair. This utter despair in future national life is no longer confined to educated men but has spread to the masses. Until this great barrier of national progress is removed, all talk about nationalism is mere play of words. The Indian people are religious to the very core. They built the high pyramid of national life on the bed-rock of re

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ligion. No nation on the face of the earth has ever been great without the salutary influence of true religion. No battle has ever been won by cowards and no nation can be powerful unless it is morally strong and shakes off despondency and despair and places an unflinching confidence in themselves and in their own strength.

HEMCHANDRA'S PATRIOTISM

Hemchandra was a patriotic poet but the essence of his patriotism is cynicism. He was inspired with and he admired the achievements of the ancient Hindoos. He really felt proud to think of them as his progenitors and he always sang of the glories of his forefathers. But he looked upon their present descendants with disdain and scorn as a set of base degenerated fellows, worthless and absolutely good for nothing. Impatient of foreign yoke, he was a persistent advocate of the law of force. He looked upon the sword as the only means of salvation. He did not seem to believe that to wield the rod of empire one must be not only physically strong but morally great.

HEMCHANDRA'S ACHIEVEMENT

Hemchandra was undoubtedly a great poet of the Victorian era. He represented the poets of pessimism-of blank disbelief and despair. Though one of the most independent and original of men, yet he echoes in his verse a great number of other poets as any of his contemporaries. In the sphere of pure imaginative poetry, it is impossible to withhold from him a tribute of admiration for masterly execution. He wrote with force, with admirable lucidity and sometimes with pathos. His translations from Shakespeare, Dante and Longfellow, and his imitations of Dryden, Shelley, Pope and Tennyson are not on the whole as beautiful as the originals. They are mere transcripts-skeletons without spirit and force. In satire he is not virulently biting. His stings are not poisonous, or sharp. He never shows scant respect to real merit. He tried to expose those whose humbugism repelled him. In scourging evils, he has sometimes gone too far, but in respect of exposing bad manners and evils of society, he is far below Iswar Gupta. His metrical gifts cannot be compared with those of Bharat, the greatest artist that ever handled Bengali metre. He is not always simple and impressive. The reason is that his poetry lacks harmony between rhythm, language and thought. A piece of good poetry creates illusion, takes us to the world of emotion, and makes us forget the stiff, hard realities of our existence. The thought

must be bright and clear, the language must be simple and telling, and the rhythm must be melodious and smooth. A complete fusion of these three with the impressionableness of the poet's heart and the susceptibility of the poet's soul is a grand test of the best specimens of poetry. Whenever Hemchandra succeeded in this, he is incomparable.

NOBIN CHANDRA SEN

After we have spoken something of Hemchandra, it is necessary that we should now turn to another of his mighty contemporaries Nobinchandra Sen who has been fitly termed the "Byron of Bengal." He was born in 1852 at Nayapara in Chittagong. His father Gopi

Mohon Sen sent him to a school where he was matriculated at the sixteenth year. His father died before be took the B.A. degree. Nobin became a Deputy Magistrate. From his early college days, he wrote poems which showed that a powerful poet was coming. He died in 1908.

Nobinchandra's first poetical production was his "Palashir Yudha " (The Battle of Plassey), a book of wonderful merit. There we find Byronic force combined with the lyric gift of Shelley. That the youthful imagination of the Bengali poet was attracted by the powerful writings of Byron is amply proved when we come across lines which are literal translations of Byron's immortal lines. The history of the composition of the book is interesting. He wrote the first canto of the book and sent it for publication in the " Banga Darshan." Bankim Babu sent it back to him advising him to compose an epic on the subject. Nobin performed the task to the amazement of all. Other cantos were added and the book was complete in itself. Nobin acknowledged the debt to Bankim who had an exquisite and discerning eye to find out even the germ of future greatness and by advising Nobin to write a great epic on the subject, he rendered an indirect help to Bengali literature: as he himself served her with all his heart, he encouraged others in whom he found real merit.

The subject of Nobin's epic is very trite, common place, and simple. It is the Battle of Plassey an event known to all who pretend acquaintance with literature and history. Milton sang of the Satan and his angelic host, and Homer of God-like personages and world-renowed heroes. In our country Michel wrote his great epic on Ram and Ravan and Hemchandra on the great war in heaven between the Gods and demons. So the themes of these poets were of themselves

grand apart from the excellence of their execution. But Nobin's subject was neither grand nor sublime. It is a plain historical fact. His characters are all men whose actions do not either appeal to our spiritual nature, or to our moral sentiments. It is an epic on the actions of real men and women. Nobin succeeded in his great task. The whole book sustains our interest which never flags and never wanes. Sometimes he is gay, sometimes he is pathetic, sometimes he is grand. From the literary point of view the book has some faults and imperfections-the faults of diffuseness and monotony. The opening lines in the first canto are vivid, powerful and effective. The metre is jolting. Along with the truth of substance and felicity of diction and manner, he had a deep sense of what is beautiful in nature. He knows no exhaustion. In portraying the character of Shiraj, Nobin has deviated from the strict justice that he should have shown to the unfortunate prince. Modern historical researches have laid bare the truth of Shirajdowlla's tragic death. The character of Shiraj was drawn not according to his own opinion about him; some historians support him. We may expulcate Nobin by saying that "Palashir Yudha" is a book of literature and not an authentic copy of history wherein we should look for actual facts and strict chronological accuracy.

Nobinchandar produced four remarkable poems late in life. They are Raibatak, Kurukshetra, Provas, and Amitav of which the first three form a triad with Sri Krishna as their central figure. These three separate books have been united in the person of Sri Krishna whose actions in early, middle and latter, life have been dealt with in them. The events of "Raibatak" coming to a close prior to the breaking out of the great war of the Mahabharat, develop gradually in "Kurukshetra" which ends with the funeral of Abhimannu, the prodigy in arms, and Uttara's self-immolation on the funeral pyre of her beloved husband. "Provas" stops with the termination of the eventful life of Sri Krishna. These three great forms were composed in vindication of the just ways of the Supreme Being. They are an eloquent rythmical glorification of the actions of Krishna during the course of his earthly existence for dispensing divine justice to simple men and for showing the highest example of an ideal man to the degnerated men of the world. They amplify in a charming manner the noblest and priceless teachings of the Bhagbat Gita the whole of which was rendered into

Bengali verse by the poet and which evinces the sweet charming influence of the religion of his forefathers. We see face to face the man whose soul had from the beginning that clearness and ideality of temper which is necessary in a man who wants to be a good poet. His next poem' "Amitav" treats of the life and teachings of Lord Buddha whom the liberal Hindus regard as one of their ten Avatars. This spirit of toleration towards one who defied Vedic rituals which every Hindu accepts, is a commendable feature in the Hindu character.

NOBIN'S GENIUS

The literary value of these four books is of course great. The metre is so sweeping and the expressions are so felicitous that the reader is carried away to such an extent that he has no time to look to the defects and faults in Nobin's poems. The earth cannot hold the prodigious mind of the poet. It transcends time and space. His command over the language is extraordinary. His rhymes are sweet. His description is charming and life-like. His ideas are fascinating and various. In his composition we clearly trace the influence of his birth-place. Chittagong, the garden of nature's choicest beauties, is washed by the silver sea the description of which abounds in his poems. The sight and sound of nature's aweful phenomena passed into his heart and made it a true poem, that is, a combination and epitome of all that is noblest and richest in human character. Nobin's nature was sweet and charming like the soothing beauty of green forests and shady haunts and recesses. His soul was grand and clear like the majestic sea. His heart was kind and sympathetic. His ideas were as liberal as the limitless ocean. Jealousy and meanness never found place in him. Love, that divine fervour of the soul, handled the harp of his life the trembling chords of which produced divine harmony that drowned the voice of dissonance and clangour of arms, and rose above the discord of nationalities and races like odorous perfumes, to the eternal Throne of God. Never a more virtuous soul lodged in a more beautiful and harmonious form. He had a fine prepossessing appearance. The distinct contour of his face was the index of his sweet soul. His open and spacious forehead, his long high nose, his clear beaming eyes, his square manly physiognomy, and erect and straight-forward gait and movement;-all these indicated a good healthy existence and a pure beautiful soul. Few could go uninfluenced by the personal charm of the man.

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