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Romanticism and Rebelliousness: The Heart of Kazi Nazrul

by Mustofa Munir

Image result for images of poet nazrul

In 1922 Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam entered into Bengali literature with a poem and changed the direction of almost twelve hundred years old established course of that literature. He changed the pattern of Bengali literature. And that famous poem is ‘The Rebel’—filled with vibrancy and rhythms. Poet borrowed words from Persian and Arabic languages as well from Hindu and Greek mythologies. He used those words in his poem as paradigms to rejuvenate the subjugated people of British-India.

It brought him the status and fame as a poet in Indian sub-continent. He was then 22 years old. In the poem he displayed the strength of character, sturdiness of will, a keen intellect and thoughts with powerful conviction and ethical courage. The poet spoke the words of the people of India as “I’m” who is  the valiant. The valiant is someone or something in its extreme form — like a volcano, tempest, cyclone, deluge, fire, sun, Saturn and cataclysm. He is the one who can smile while sitting on the hell-fire. He is indomitable and an angry sage. Sometimes he is an impetuous love, an ascetic and a melody-soldier.

He urged the subjugated people to rise and speak out their rights as a valiant nation in 1922.

In the poem ‘The Rebel’ he wrote (Quoted from the middle of the poem):

Say O valiant—

"Say I hold high my head!

Bows down that peak of Himalaya when it

Beholds my head!

Say O valiant, say--

Slashing through the mighty sky of the mighty universe,

Passing beyond the moon, sun, planets and stars,

Penetrating the earth, orbits and the heaven,

Severing the throne of the God I’ve risen—"

He wrote:

 “I’m the sage, the priest, the fire, an oblation,

The creation, destruction, crematorium, a human habitation,

I’m the end of a night-- I’m the end!”

“I’m the volcano, the annihilating wild fire,

I’m the blaze under the sea, the drunken flare

Beneath the earth, I’m uproarious,

Sea tumultuous,

Murmuring! "

“That day I’ll be quiet—


The rebel, battle-weari’d!


When wailing and outcry of the oppress’d 

In the air and sky will not be echo’d,

When the clanking of the tyrant’s sword

Will no more resonate in the dreadful battle-field—  "

With his sublimity, love and softness he created many romantic poems and lyrics as well. He wrote more than four thousands love and spiritual lyrics, composed them and sang the songs.

Some of the verses from his famous romantic poems are quoted below:

The poem ‘Devotee’ is marked by the characteristics of poetic romanticism where the poet readily demonstrated his feelings of love and emotions for his beloved lover, his devotee of love. In the poem he gave the impression by being so romantic in his feelings and postulated his avidity in loving his devotee.

“After so many days at this inopportune

Time— when I dance

Day and night

In the bloody mortal-sport

Like a dust-blinding whirlwind—

O my beloved!

After so many days I came to know

At this inopportune time — through

Generations I know thee!

O the devotee!

That melodic musical mode, that voice,

The eyes, eyebrows, forehead, cheek and face,

Thy phenomenal beauty, thy dangling,

Like a victorious she-swan thy dance-faulty swinging!

I know, I know everything!

On a frustrat’d, wearied, dried up, burnt

Beach of life I found myself in a swoon,

So I call’d thee from my deep heart

O my belov’d!

Thy sweetest name I cherish and utter silently!

In a torn voice I cry out,— I know, I know thee!”

He wanted to live as an immortal lover in her heart withstanding all pains of alienation like withstanding the torments of poison when it is swallowed.

“Never again none shall come to kiss thy lotus-feet

With carnal pleasure! Dead is he, the restless, insatiate,

Ever-selfish, greedy,—

He becometh immortal—in thy love he will be

Deathless forever defying the torment

Of poison— the nilkantha Poet!”


In his epic ‘The Sea’ Poet encapsulated a lover’s pain, love and passion in an embodiment of a sea. In Poet’s eyes the sea is a lonesome lover.

 “O the sea, O my friend,

The insatiable, the ever-estrang’d!

Which pain has spark’d thee to swell up to the brim?

Something thou wantest to say?  to whom

O my friend?  Blue sky above, shore below longing for thee!

Speak out, O the restless breaker, tell me

In thy heart why so much murmurings

Of the waves? Why’s this unending rumbling?

Thy endless crying stopeth not for even a day or a night,

O my friend! Tell me what ails thee in thy heart?”


In the poem ‘My lover without a name’ the Poet portrayed his lover as his eternal companion. She is concealed in his love. Her love he drinks, the elixir of life by pouring into many cups with many desires.

“That love I drink

Pouring into many cups --that wine elixir!

O the nameless, I drinketh thee from a pitcher,

From a glass, sometime from a cup with many desires!”


Likewise, if we read the poem ‘It is my pride’

“Even though I haven’t gotten

In my neck thy garland,

I will design thee – ‘tis my pride!

In my tears, in the deceitful melody of my ballad,

In my language, in my pain and torture,

In my poetry, thou callest me in gesture,

O my lover fore’er!”

‘Tis needless to know-- for whom garland thou stringest,

Thy garland I string, ‘Tis my pride!”


OrIn the Moon-lit Night’

“In the moon-lit night someone pours Shiraji-wine

Into his lover’s mouth, saying—

‘Drink Tahura , O my darling’!  there

The indolent lonely saki from afar

Makes sketches on the moon-saucer

In the gathering of stars!”


Or A bride in her new domain of life’

“Take the happiness of this home in thine eyes,

Kindle thy lamp with that light, let the tears

In thine eyes endure in this world –

Today in this conduit of union, let

The smile and flute’s behag raga of thy

Home cry in my home’s sahnai!”

We will find the romanticism prevails in all those verses as it prevails in his many more romantic poems and lyrics that uphold the human dignity, religious harmony, truth, beauty, pain and love.

His poems validated the philosophy of human values and social justice. His superb poetic excellence is manifested in his literary works. He captured the theme of love that readily demonstrated his feelings for the mankind, his rebelliousness against injustice and his emotions as a lover to his beloved in abstract and concrete form.

In many romantic poems Poet merged himself with the beauteous hills, mountains, rivers and seas around him and expressed his emotion and feelings of pain and happiness by being a true lover.