The Poetry of Harindranath Chattopadhaya– Chief Features

Harindranath Chattopadhaya (1898-?) was a major Indo- Anglian poet of the twentieth century. Thematically and stylistically his poetry is something different and special in the whole range of Indo- Anglian poetry. His poetic career occupied a long span of time and he had published about twenty books of poetry on a variety of themes. But his representative poems are metaphysical from head to heels. He wrote on such metaphysical themes as birth, death, life, God, angel, heaven, hell and on the fundamental problems of Nature and universe. His style is as special as- lyrical, simple, brief, easy and aphoristic. As his poems are metaphysical so they are religious, spiritual, philosophical and mystical.

In his poems he deals with the fundamental problems of the universe which is above science and human explanation and to say in other words, obscured. The mystery of life and universe is thought of by him as a law of Nature to which no answer is possible. They always remain the same. To say in other words, the mystery and problems of life and the universe are the same as they were in the past and shall remain as they were. In the poem ”Mystery’ he says:

”Time with his magic wand is a necromancer,

All birth is but hypnotical suggestion

Life is a question to which there is no answer,

Death is an answer to which there is no question.”

God is omnipotent and omnipresent. He expresses Himself through Nature. The poet, like a mystic, admits in the same poem:

”He who through the volcano’s mouth 

Vomits red lava, knows

The withdrawn tranquility

Of a redly- burning rose.”

It is God who gives shape to a baby in a mother’s womb. The poet says in the poem entitled ‘Creator’:

”Toils in a mother’s womb and moulds

A baby as soft as a bud.”

Abut life and death the poet says in the poem ‘Beside a Death Bed’:

”Death is the highest bidder

Life is the lowest one

Why all this struggle and strife

This brevity of proud breath

Since man is the coffin of life

And life is the cradle of death.”

The poet thinks that sorrow and sufferance are divinely bestowed upon man. It is the joy and pleasure of God. In the poem ‘Sorrow’ the poet says:

”Sorrow is what the Creator creates for-

An arrow waits for

The breast of the dove;

Sometimes, the mate must be lost if the lover

Desires to discover

The depth of his Love.”

The poet’s feeling of time is expressed in the poem ‘Time’. He says:

”Time like a hind in sore distress

Travels on solitary ways

Across a tangled with nights and days

Dappled and stained with nights and days.” 

Such, as discussed above, is his poetry that deals with the ever long and ever-present problems of life and universe. Though his themes are metaphysical, yet he is not metaphysical in method and expression. His method of expression differs from the seventieth century metaphysical poets as Donne and his followers. Their metaphysical poems were argumentative. In their metaphysical poetry, a problem is propounded first and then through arguments or persuasive reasoning, the problem is led to a solution or conclusion. But Harindranath Chattopadhayaya’s poetry is not so. His poems are metaphysical only in theme. In his poems, there is no argument leading a problem to a definite solution.

Though he is a metaphysical poet yet there is also romantic note in his poetry. In the poems dealing with romantic themes, he praises the beauty of Nature and accepts the mystery of Nature as they are.

To say about his style is that his poetry is brief, easy, simple, aphoristic and lyrical. The above-quoted lines are enough to prove his poems to be so. There is no difficulty of any kind in his language and phrases. He is endowed with the characteristics of George Herbert’s simplicity and William Blake’s mysticism. 0 0 0

The essay originally belongs to the book ‘Indian Poets and Poetry- Chief Features‘ by Menonim Menonimus)


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