“Railway Station” and “Flying Man” are poems that depict humanity’s bond with nature and how modernization destroys it. “Railway Station” addresses the constant changes in life in relation to time. Tagore expresses how humans are puppets to time, they are trapped in a constant cycle of movement controlled by time. “Flying Man” depicts mankind’s unchecked ambition and how its desire to conquer skies can lead to humanity’s doom. These two poems illustrate the bonds within nature and how modernization disrupts the harmony. This essay will explore the use of imagery to highlight aspects of humanity, nature, and God in these poems.
Railway Station is a poem that seeks to replicate and explore aspects of human lifestyles, using the metaphor of a ‘Railway Station’. The idea of a railway station suggests constant movement, which could drown and disguise our own emotions and thoughts. This metaphor could also insinuate the idea that humanity never reaches its destination and end-point. The trains may symbolize opportunities given to us, but our inability to make use of them due to the hustle bustle in society. Tagore implements juxtaposition to emphasize the repetitive and cyclical nature of humanity. The use of phrases such as ‘morning and evening’ and ‘coming and going’ imply a routine that humanity has accustomed itself to. These phrases are written in the present perfect progressive tense, which reiterates continuity and flow. This idea insinuates the concept of how life has become a meaningless sequence which ultimately, leads to the destruction of nature and our own kind. To further reiterate the idea of constant commotion, Tagore creates a fast pace and draws the reader into the cycle of movement using the phrases “Hubbub” and “Pressing”. The use of plosive alliteration and onomatopoeia in “Hubbub” creates an abrupt and sharp effect, reinforcing the idea of movement. The idea of aggressive behavior and desperation is introduced by the phrase “pressing”. This suggests that humans are slowly losing their sense of morality and concern for others.
Throughout the poem, there are various instances wherein Tagore uses imagery in relation to nature to insinuate how humanity’s lifestyle is against nature’s cycle. The writer repeatedly references nature to suggest how this continuous routine has become a natural part of life. The use of similes such as “ebb and flow like an estuarine river” and “rapid as storms” imply the power and influence of nature on mankind. The reference to “an estuarine river” suggests the idea of fluctuating tides and how the routine of life is a continuous but irregular pattern. The idea of life being “rapid as storms” connotes a fast and unstoppable force of nature. “Storms” also imply chaos, destruction and symbolize foreboding omens; this indicates that this everlasting cycle will eventually result in doom for mankind.
The poet uses several techniques to build a rhythm, and references divisions of time to suggest how humanity is controlled by time in “Railway Station”. This evokes a feeling of within the reader. This is seen through the quotations “changing direction every moment” and “by the minute”. These quotations reference small divisions of time, which connotes the control of time over humanity. Another interpretation of this phrase is the idea of a timeless cycle of no relief. Tagore implements enjambment to create a rhythm and a sense of continuity in the poem. Enjambment is also used to express the idea of a repetitive circle beyond the limitations of one line. These techniques are effective at altering the rhythm of the poem and drawing the reader into a feeling of motion.
“Flying Man” depicts compatibility between aspects of nature and uses imagery to suggest how man-made technology are the root cause of destruction. In the first stanza, Tagore uses the phrase “Satanic machine” as a metaphor for airplanes. This implies that technology such as airplanes are instruments used by Satan, connotating the evil and ungodly feature of modernization. On the other hand, the poet uses phrases such as “from the flash of feathery line” and “spiritual joy springs” to suggest beauty and harmony in nature. Both these phrases are examples of unvoiced sounds and fricative alliteration, the soft ‘F’ and ‘S’ sounds imply grace and elegance. The use of the adjective “spiritual”, which connotes God or higher power, is juxtaposed against “Satan” in the first stanza. This insinuates that purity and beauty reside only in the realms of nature. The affinity and bonds within nature are represented in this phrase “birds are companions to the clouds”. The use of syndetic listing (‘birds’, ‘clouds’ and ‘blue space’) further emphasizes the connections and compatibility in nature.
Tagore implements several auditory techniques to create a peaceful atmosphere for the reader, such as Terza Rima. This rhyme scheme allows the reader to draw together the lines that rhyme and consolidate the images and ideas explored. Another technique that is used is enjambment, which is used to establish a continuous rhythm in the poem, as if to replicate the cycle of nature. The flow of this rhythmic pattern also suggests grace and elegance in nature. In stanza 8, the diction of the poem changes dramatically changes from a peaceful and harmonious lexical field to a harsh and negative word choice. This abrupt change in mood and tone replicates how man-made technology disrupts nature’s flow. The lexical field pre-Volta consists of monosyllabic, positive words which relate to nature. This relates happiness with a simplistic, undeveloped lifestyle suggesting that lack of technology does not correlate with one’s happiness. However, the lexical field post-Volta consists of harsh and complex words. The use of the phrase “…incompatibility with sky” implies the opposite to companionship between nature. This phrase shows that technology destructs nature; it suggests that airplanes are an anomaly in the natural world, implying disharmony and disruption.
There are several references to religious concepts in “Flying Man” to suggest the correlation between nature and God, and how technology disrupts the harmony. The use of the phrase “this thing has not been blessed by the life-divinity, the sun disowns it, neither does the moon feel any affinity” symbolizes how God refuses to accept and acknowledge their connection with man-made technology like airplanes. The use of the phrase “life-divinity” symbolizes God, and reiterates how modernization is against the natural flow of humanity. “Sun” and “Moon” is juxtaposition and represents the entire natural realm, referring to the entire natural realm as an entity, symbolizing the aversion to modern developments. The use of personification in “blasphemous grating laughter” to describe the “brutal roaring” of airplanes extends the metaphor of “Satan”. “Blasphemous” indicates how the poet thinks that modernization and technology are impious and against God.
The ideas explored within these poems depict aspects of the relationship between nature and humanity, highlighting the impact modernization has had on this relationship. Tagore describes modernization as an impious act, going against the will of God and nature. The poet clearly highlights the implications of rapid developments and modernization will be destruction for nature and humanity. This is further emphasized by showing the contrast between the harmony in nature and dissonance in humanity using imagery.