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“When My Play Was With Thee” is the 97th verse in Rabindranath Tagore’s “Gitanjali” collection, which was published in 1910. The poem is deeply spiritual and introspective, addressing the divine and expressing a longing for connection. It reflects Tagore’s central themes of yearning for spiritual experience and the desire to offer devotion and creativity to a higher presence. The poem explores the human soul’s relationship with the divine and the pursuit of spiritual enlightenment.
About the poet
Rabindranath Tagore was a Bengali poet, short-story writer, song composer, dramatist, essayist, and painter who pioneered the use of new prose and poetry forms as well as colloquial language in Bengali literature. He is regarded as the greatest creative artist of early 20th-century India and had a significant impact on the interchange of Indian culture between the West and India. In 1913, Tagore became the first non-European to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. He established Shantiniketan, an experimental school in West Bengal, and subsequently became a passionate supporter of Indian independence.
When my play was with thee I never questioned who thou wert. I knew nor shyness nor fear, my life was boisterous. In the early morning thou wouldst call me from my sleep like my own comrade and lead me running from glade to glade.
In Rabindranath Tagore’s poem “When My Play Was With Thee,” the speaker recalls a past relationship with a divine power, characterized by youthful energy and exuberance. He did not question the divine presence’s identity or experience shyness or fear but instead lived in a state of youthful energy. The divine presence would awaken him from sleep, allowing him to engage in playful activities and run together.
The poem describes an intimate, childlike connection between the speaker and the divine presence, characterized by comfort and familiarity. The speaker describes his life as boisterous and engaging in playful activities, showcasing pure joy. Nature’s beauty is evoked through the early morning awakenings, highlighting the speaker’s trust in the divine presence. The poem also references a morning awakening, symbolizing spiritual truths and renewal. The lines convey nostalgia for a time of intimate connection and joy, expressing a longing for this connection.
On those days I never cared to know the meaning of songs thou sangest to me. Only my voice took up the tunes, and my heart danced in their cadence. Now, when the playtime is over, what is this sudden sight that is come upon me? The world with eyes bent upon thy feet stands in awe with all its silent stars.
In Rabindranath Tagore’s poem “When My Play Was With Thee,” the speaker recalls a past time of joy and carefree relationship with a divine presence. He sang along with his own voice, dancing to the rhythm and melody of the songs. However, after this period, he experience a sudden revelation, seeing a sight or vision filled with awe. The world, with its eyes fixed on the divine presence, stands in reverence, and even the stars in the sky are silent witnesses to this profound moment.
The poem explores themes of childlike innocence and spontaneity, highlighting the speaker’s past relationship with the divine. The use of music and dance metaphorically represents the spiritual experience, expressing harmony with the divine. The poem also references the end of playtime, indicating a shift in the speaker’s spiritual journey. A sudden vision or revelation signifies a profound spiritual awakening, filling the speaker with awe. The description of the world and its stars in awe with the divine presence symbolizes cosmic reverence, indicating a universal significance of the spiritual experience. The poem shifts from a carefree reflection to a profound spiritual insight, marking a new stage in the speaker’s spiritual journey.