While God waits for His temple to be built of love,
men bring stones. – Rabindranath Tagore
Tagore himself visited Japan several times, and Japanese haiku were translated into Bengali by Tagore early in the 20th century. However, Kalyan Dasgupta writes in 2001 that to this day, haiku as a literary expression does not seem to evoke much more than a queer reaction among the general reading public in either West Bengal or Bangladesh.
And so, when he published Jaapaani Haaiku (Calcutta: 2000)–a Bengali anthology of Japanese haiku–Dasgupta felt the need to describe for his readers “what the Japanese have sought from haiku,” including “elegance” and “simplicity.” Such information on how to receive haiku is essential if one wishes to import the form to a non-Japanese language and culture.
The title of this poem, ‘Fireflies’, comes from the first verse of the bilingual ‘Lekhan’ (1926)—‘My fancies are fireflies. . .’ It consists of 256 epigrams and short verses and shares structural similarity with Tagore’s other notable epigrammatic poem, ‘Stray Birds’. These poems resemble the sayings of a wise man rather than poetry. The possibility of the influence of Japanese Haiku can be suggested. The compact style conveys memorable poetic expressions with great force and intensity. The brevity and crispness of these verses combined with the wit and wisdom contained in them make these poems extremely delightful and reader friendly. The Bengali version of some these poems are also to be found in ‘Sphulinga’ (1946) apart from ‘Lekhan’.
The beautiful promenade on the shore of lake Balaton was named after Rabindranath Tagore (it was called Kolos promenade, then Deák promenade previously). The world-famous Hindu poet heart disease was treated here in 1926. He completed the ‘Fireflies’ during this stay in Balatonfüred. After his recovery he planted a lime-tree in the health-park. This act was motivated by an old Indian legend saying that if the tree takes root, its planter will live long so that he or she can see the new sprouts. “If I am not present in this world any more, oh my tree, let your new leaves rustle in spring above those who roam about; the poet loved you until his death.” – wrote the poet. In fact, Tagore lived for another 17 years after having planted the tree. A Hindu grove has been created around the memorial tree and statue of the poet in the past decades. Several presidents of the Indian Republic including Indira Gandhi saluted the memory of Tagore by planting trees.