It is a known fact that great poets cannot explain why they are writing certain poetry. One of the great English poets, Coleridge, when he died left forty thousand incomplete poems. And his whole life people were asking him why he went on collecting incomplete poems, and saying that he should complete them. Just one line was needed, or two lines were needed…but only a poet of the quality of Coleridge can understand why he was not completing them.
People thought he was mad, because he used to say, “I don’t write. Something in me begins to write it. And if it completes, good, if it does not complete, I am not going to complete it, because I have tried it – it looks totally different. It does not have that quality, it looks ordinary. So unless it happens again, and the unknown in me completes it…I am always willing to complete it. But I cannot do it willfully, because whenever I have done it willfully it is not of the quality that I would like it to be.”
It happened in one of the great Indian poets, Rabindranath Tagore’s life…. He translated his own book, Gitanjali – offering of songs. For this book he received the Nobel Prize. But before taking it to England, to show his poet friends, he showed it to one of the great Christian missionaries, C.F. Andrews – just a translation. He was a little suspicious whether he had been able to bring the quality of the original into the translation or not, and whether the language, the grammar, was correct or not.
C.F. Andrews suggested to change four words at four different points, because they were not linguistically right. C.F. Andrews was not a poet, but he was a great scholar. Rabindranath understood it, and he changed those four words.
In England, one of the great English poets, Yeats, called a meeting of all great poets to listen to Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali. While listening to it, Yeats himself said that at four points it seemed somebody else had interfered in the translation. Exactly those four points were the four words that C.F. Andrews had suggested.
Rabindranath was simply shocked. He could not believe it. He said, “These are the four words suggested by C.F. Andrews.”
Yeats said, “You drop those words. They may be linguistically right, but they have not the poetic quality. They are like blocking stones – they stop the current, the flow, the spontaneity. Please put your original words that you had before C.F. Andrews suggested these four words to you.”
Rabindranath put back his old words, and Yeats and the other poets said, “They are linguistically wrong, but they are far superior poetically. You leave what you had originally written. Don’t listen to anybody.”