• Parabaas
    Parabaas : পরবাস : বাংলা ভাষা, সাহিত্য ও সংস্কৃতি
  • পরবাস | Jibanananda Das | Essay
  • Temporality in the Poetry of Jibanananda Das : Faizul Latif Chowdhury

    Written in 397 A.D., The Confessions of Saint Augustine contains perhaps one of the earliest human reflections on the nature of Time. In Book Eleven, he wonders, “What then time is”, before going on to confirm time’s enigmatic entity by himself responding, “If no one asks me, I know: if I wish to explain it to one that asketh, I know not.”[1] Jibanananda Das does not pose any conceptual question about time as such; not because he was never a spiritual person, but perhaps questions about time have lost their fascination for twentieth century man. This fundamental issue apart, time occurs in the poetry of Jibanananda in various forms and performs various functions. For one, time is personified as an omnipresent observer. The poet asserts: “Standing before Time, we must bear witness / To what we have done and what we have thought.”[2] Elsewhere Jibanananda observes that Time continues to be awake when everyone’s waking comes to an end.[3] Jibanananda Das essentially views Time as god;  albeit a non-religious god.


    For Jibanananda it is human existence “... on the weird dynamo of the earth”[4] that is a matter of perennial concern. It seems to him that there is no difference between Mahin’s horses busy chewing grass and man’s life. In the moonlit field of late autumn, Mahin’s horses graze with a primordial craving for grass—no different from Paleolithic horses. Jibanananda seeks a significance to human life which is more than mere biological survival and reproduction like that of other creatures. Conscious of his temporal existence he asks, “Many ages have passed useless;  / Will it be the same all through?”[5] It can be shown that Jibanananda’s pre-occupation with time is essentially one about human existence.


    Trying to figure out what time is, Saint Augustine toyed with the question: “What did God do before He made heaven and earth?” This denotes man’s inherent incapacity to conceptualize eternity. Our human concept of eternity is not endless;  nor is it without a beginning. Jibanananda’s concept of time, too, includes a ‘beginning’ and an ‘end’; — the beginning and the end of human existence on earth, to be specific. Reflecting on life, Jibanananda comes to the conclusion that life is a dot of light situated between two seas of darkness.[6] Obviously this is a portrayal of human life at the individual level. However, he sees human existence helplessly situated between a past and a present. He accepts death as a natural destiny while he is haunted by the history of mankind.   


    Time is important to man because it is a self-exhausting resource;  man’s access to time discontinues with death. Sartre lamented, “Man’s misfortune lies in his being time-bound”. In Jibanananda there is no lamentation as such. Time is important to him because man lives in time as part of the same. Jibanananda emphasizes time because time to him is man’s lived experience. In his own capacity he is capable of evaluating and interpreting this experience. Frequent temporal references in the poetry of Jibanananda reflect his unabated anxiety about life. This anxiety results from his evaluation of future possibilities vis-à-vis his current situation which is inexorably linked to human history.  The consequence is an intense consciousness of self-existence—a consciousness that is grounded in an authentic perception of reality—reality of men’s futile existence on earth. By way of reflecting on his own reality, Jibanananda connects to the present surrounding him, reflects on the past and contemplates the future.


    Time as historicity


    Jibanananda referred to a myriad of historical places and figures in his poems. It started with his very first collection of poems published in 1927 under the title Jhara Palak (Fallen Feathers) that, by and large, bears evident marks of apprenticeship. The collection includes a poem titled ‘Ostochande’ (Dimming Moon) where he compares himself (the narrator) to a troubadour from Provence during the Middle Ages, a robber on horseback in the Sierra Nevada of Andalusian Spain;  he conceives his dream-girl wielding as much power as an Assyrian Emperor;  he refers to the cities of Ur and Babylon in ancient Mesopotamia, the pyramids of Egypt and the devotional platform of Isis, goddess of life and magic.[7] In another poem, titled ‘Anupam Trivedi’, there are references first to Plato, Rabindranath, Freud, Hegel and Marx and then to Stalin, Nehru, Bloch  and M.N. Roy.  Except for Stalin and Nehru, the rest are, one may argue, textual rather than historical in nature.  


    However, textual references as such are no less important in understanding a man’s philosophical disposition. A man is embedded not only in his social surrounding;  nor only he is a part of the human lineage. A thinking man has the prerogative of being part of the history of thought in this world too. Textual references in poems like ‘Anupam Trivedi’ indicate Jibanananda’s awareness of men’s history of thought.


    Reference to historical places and figures is an indirect representation of time in poetry. While the concept of time remains impregnable, time necessarily unfolds in space as events take place. Therefore, indirect reference to time as such is only legitimate. However, this also reflects the poet’s consciousness of mankind’s historical presence on earth. Historical referents indicate not only the poet’s affinity with his ancestry but also capture his sense of distance from the first man on earth. Indeed Jibanananda refers to the first man on earth in one of his poems presumably to speculate on how modern man differs.[8] It may be noted that such historicity derives from the poet’s intrinsic motivation to connect himself with his past, not only the immediate past, but the remotest past—as distant as human history ab initio.


    ‘Banalata Sen’ remains an eloquent example of how Jibanananda translates time into space. Although this lyric belongs to the poet’s earlier phase of creativity, it encapsulates much of the predominant elements of his poeticity. The first stanza reads as follows:

    It has been a thousand years since I started trekking the earth

    A huge travel in night’s darkness from the Ceylonese waters

    to the Malayan sea

    I have been there too: the fading world of Vimbisara and Asoka

    Even further—the forgotten city of Vidarbha,

    Today I am a weary soul although the ocean of life around

    continues to foam,

    Except for a few soothing moments with Natore’s Banalata Sen.

    — ‘Banalata Sen’[9]


    As can be seen, Jibanananda conceptualizes Time essentially as a long human journey on earth. Dimensionality of time is captured by the spatial spread of mankind as well as the length of our existence on earth. First he refers to a voyage from the Ceylonese waters to the Malayan sea. Then he refers to man’s presence during the ancient regimes of Vimbisara and Asoka. Vimbisara[10] was the King of Magadha, a city under the Gupta dynasty which ruled India for about 150 years around 320 to 550 CE.  Asoka (304 - 232 BC) was the great Maurya emperor of India from 273 to 232 BC. Finally, he refers to Vidarbha[11], an old city of ancient civilization, now in Bera in India. Notably, in the very following stanza, the poet compares the hair of Banalata Sen to dark nights in Vidisha[12]—a city of great antiquity, mentioned in the Sanskrit epics Mahabharata and Ramayana.


    Indeed, Jibanananda often historicizes human life and, in doing so, switches from transient individual life to the continued existence of mankind. The ‘I’ in the opening sentence of ‘Banalata Sen’ is not the poet but the voice of all mankind. References to historical epochs and places as in ‘Banalata Sen’ capture his consciousness about the human journey through an ‘eternal’ flux of time. Jibanananda considers his being on earth as part of human existence from the very first day. ‘Banalata Sen’ is an autobiography of mankind.


    As far back as 1927, Heidegger drew attention to the fact that words and figures for temporality in Western language are primarily spatial in nature.[13] However, notwithstanding spatialization noted above, the pertinence of Heidegger’s observation to Jibanananda needs investigation with much care. This is because Time directly recurs in his poetry over and over again giving temporal specificity to events, figures and objects. Also, the fabric of Jibanananda’s poetry is studded with numerous metaphorical representations of time that form the metaphysical contour of his poeticity. Heidegger, it seems, is directly pertinent if one is willing to explore Jibanananda’s philosophy of life and examine his mode of existence.



    Specificity in temporal references


    One may justly call Jibanananda a poet of temporal references. He published only 167 poems during his life time while hundreds remained unpublished including the manuscripts of Rupashi Bangla and Bela Obela Kaabela.[14] While many poems got lost, the number of poems recovered after his death is not negligible. As of 2008, as many as 788 poems in total have been collected in different anthologies, inclusive of some drafts and unfinished ones. In over three hundred of them there are direct references to time in some form or other. His standard referential style is to mention the time of an event or object as borne out by the following excerpt:

    Somewhere the deer are hunted tonight.

    Hunters entered the forest today.

    I too seem to catch their scent,

    As I lie here upon my bed

    Not drowsy at all

    In this spring night.

    —‘Camp-e’ (In Camp)[15]


    There are three references to time in this short stanza. Immediately after, in the next stanza, there is a reference to ‘April breeze’. Except for ‘April breeze’ which performs more of an attributive function, the three of ‘tonight’, ‘today’ and ‘this spring night’ in succession point to the time of occurrence. All together, the poet is prone to convey to the reader the exact time of deer being hunted in the forest, close to which he has pitched his tent and is passing a sleepless night. In Jibanananda, temporal references frequently include time of the day and a season or month of the year. Also, long period of time is referred to as in the following excerpt:

    When I saw you, ten-fifteen years ago,

    Going within the background—when time, hiding within

    The black clouds of your hair, ignited the lightning in

    Your intense woman’s face—

    —‘Potobhumir bhitore giye’ (Within the Background)[16]


    Such time-specificity is indeed very characteristic of Jibanananda Das. All through his poetry there are numerous lines like “Last night it was an intensely windy night—a night of countless stars”[17] and “Tonight there is nothing left to be done anymore.”[18] It is rare that Jibanananda, as in the following lines, refers to time without specificity:

    That was a disjunct day we were born

    Our death comes

    on a more sickly time.

    —‘Ei shatabdi shandhitey mrityu’ (Death at the Juncture of the Century)[19]


    Sometimes reference to time upgrades from a documentary to an attributive function. In the poetry of Jibanananda there are numerous lines like “Here the earth is rugged with its cracks and fissures of an April field”[20] or “Orange light of an autumn afternoon.”[21]  Such attributive references reflect poet’s awareness of his physical environment. Two cases are examined below.

    Don’t go there, Suranjana, I beg of you,

    Don’t speak to that young man, over there.

    Come back, Suranjana—

    In this night of silvery fire stretched across the sky.

    —‘Aakaashleena’ (Come Back, Suranjana)[22]


    Now at day’s end three beggars—more or less unmarried—

    are blissfully at ease.

    They take a deep breath in grey air—their faces are cleansed,


    street-side, in the grey breeze.

    —‘Loghu Muhurto’  (Idle Moment)[23]


    In both these cases temporal references are attributive rather than documentary. The romantic mood that overwhelmed the poet and led him to approach Suranjana is captured in the phrase “night of silvery fire stretched across the sky”. In the second poem, the beggars of the Calcutta street are now at ease because the day’s drudgery of begging is over as the day has come to an end.


    One of the poems of Jibanananda starts, “This autumn night the tale of Subinoy Mustafi crosses my mind”. In the following poem of Mahaprithibi[24], the opening line is “Now, at this winter night, shows up Anupam Trivedi’s face”. In both these cases, the poet is in a mood of recollection. He is in the present, reminiscing about the past. Time allows memory to be unfolded. The first line of the poem titled ‘Subinoy Mustafi’ quoted above may be legitimately rephrased as follows: “Some autumn night the tale of Subinoy Mustafi crosses my mind”. Without changing the theme and essence of the text, it can as well be replaced also by, as for example: “Sometimes the tale of Subinoy Mustafi crosses my mind”. Let us read the whole poem—

    This autumn night the tale of Subinoy Mustafi crosses my mind.

    This all-knowing young man had the amazing power of making the cat

    and the mouse held between its jaws laugh all at once.

    The white cat playfully biting on the mouse

    or the anxious mouse being torn into pieces

    oblivious of how far they were from heaven or hell

    —would make room at a very cheap rate

    for the feel of living a few more days

    on this turbulent earth of half light and shadow.

    Yet the cat would be giggling and giggling

    until seized with a cramp

    ‘Hurrah’, would shout the mouse and burst into laughter

    As if to resonate with those rhythmic cramps.

    —‘Subinoy Mustafi’ [25]


    Does reference to a particular autumn night have any relevance to the rest of the poem?


    One can take a greater liberty and remove the time element altogether from the first line: “I shall tell you about one Subinoy Mustafi”. This will exclude three things: first, the reader will not be told that the poet is actually remembering one Subinoy Mustafi he used to know;  second, that the remembering is taking place one autumn night; and finally, that matters relating to this man are quite a story. In the poet’s composition, one can legitimately assume a subtle connection between the gentleman named Subinoy Mustafi and a certain autumn night. However, as one reads through, it becomes clear that this assumption has not been justified at all. In the other poem titled ‘Anupam Trivedi’, too, Jibanananda provides no justification for a reference like ‘this winter night’. The poet however provides additional information that Trivedi is long dead; — it is the stillness of the winter night that reminds of him.


    In both these cases, reference to specific day and time is neither attributive, nor documentary. Nevertheless, it is not insignificantly referential because the specified temporal reference, ‘this autumn night’, as explained above, is pregnant with meaning that is left to the reader to decipher. Perhaps more important is the fact such specificity infuses realism into the text. One can feel that specificity of time enlivens fictive figures, events and objects—renders them part of the daily journal;  and translates imagination and thoughts into experience.       


    That in Jibanananda reference to specific time or period often carries no direct documentary or attributive meaning can be further discussed with regard to ‘One Day Eight Years Ago’—one of the most celebrated poems of Jibanananda. The poet narrates the story of an unexplained suicide that apparently took place eight years ago. That the suicide took place eight years ago is mentioned no where except in the title of the poem. Notably it is ‘eight’ years—not ‘nine’, nor ‘seven’. Why eight? A curious reader may inquire if there is any clue to a personal episode hidden in the temporal reference of the title. It is important to observe that nothing of the text—no word or meaning—would change at all if the poem’s title was altered to ‘One Day Five Years Ago’, replacing ‘eight’ with ‘five’. However, the title as it is, or even with the change in time reference, connotes a recollection. The title informs us that the suicide took place in the past. The poet is in the present recollecting a long past event. One can reasonably conclude that the poet has a sense of the past that works within his psyche.


    In another poem Jibanananda refers to a period of time in the distant future.                                                                     

    If I meet her again twenty years from now !

    Again in twenty years—

    Beside a sheaf of grains, perhaps,

    In the month of Kartik[26]—

    When the evening crow goes home—the yellow river

    Flows softened through reeds, kash-grass[27] into the fields !

    Perhaps no grain is left in the field;

    There is no need for haste. ...

    —‘Kuri bochhor porey’ (After Twenty Years)[28]


    In this poem, the poet repeats his desire of meeting his beloved after twenty years and considers this long span of time with wonder. Why does the poet wonder? True, twenty years is long enough time to bring about any unforeseeable change;  however, what really concerns the poet is the possibility of remaining alive, being fully aware of the suddenness of death. Here the poet is the experiencer of time who is facing the future, with his location mapped onto the present time. While in ‘One Day Eight Years Ago’ the poet explores his memory, in ‘After Twenty Years’ he travels into the future.


    Reference to exact time or period helps build a commensurate narrative environment. It infuses a sense of immediacy. It sometimes serves as a connectivity between metaphorical referents. As in ‘One day eight years ago’, temporal references also dramatize the event. It may also communicate information like the time of writing. However, apart from these normal functions, references to time build in a temporal frame of reference that is connected to other times—past and future, of near and far. Embedded in the present, connectedness with the past and future crystallizes a longitudinal perspective which facilitates authentic perception of the reality. Repeated temporal imageries as in the case of Jibanananda Das give a feel of poet’s heightened temporal situatedness. Jibanananda’s poetry gains much wider meaning and deeper significance by reflecting his self-consciousness of this situatedness, which is beyond his control. His poetic language which is so singular and distinctive, his philosophical stance which is so unique and affective, are disposed to be like that only because of his unstinting consciousness of this situatedness. His thematic preoccupations are vivified through  words, phrases, symbols and metaphors employed to connect to the past and future. As a result Jibanananda’s poems conjure up a world of truly wide dimensions in which poet’s entity operates and exists with the essence of universality.


    Metaphorical representation of time


    One most notable feature of Jibanananda’s poeticity is allegorization of temporality. Apart from direct references discussed above, his sense of time finds space in his poetry through a myriad of metaphorical expressions. However, all of them are grounded in one fundamental concept—human life as a journey through time. In a letter written to a fan in 1945 Jibanananda admitted the fact that his ‘consciousness of time as a universal’ flows all through his poetry and maintains internal consistency. Therefore the question of deviation from this motto is irrelevant.[29]


    Jibanananda’s temporal metaphors show a systematic pattern through association with known or favourite objects, entities and concepts. Hemanta—a short-lived season of the Bengali calendar—is a frequent referent. So are ‘distance’, ‘travel’, ‘tiring’, ‘coldness’, ‘death’, ‘sleep’, ‘darkness’, ‘grey’, ‘sky’, ‘cloud’, ‘night’, ‘moonlight’. These referents epitomize his perception of life. Hemanta signifies shortness, greying and falling of leaves—end of life. It can be observed that Jibanananda employs autumn (Hemanta) and winter (Sheat) metaphors almost interchangeably and without discrimination,. Both of the seasons essentially paint a pale picture, give a cold feeling, and sing a tune of melancholy. In fact, in almost every other poem, he uses autumn or winter imagery with amazing variations.


    In addition to numerous direct references to autumn and winter, Jibanananda often captures their common essence through dew drops. He writes, for example, “Outside, perhaps dew is falling, or may be it is the leaves, / or it could as well be the owl’s song;  that too is like the dew, and yellow leaves”; and, elsewhere, “... and yet my eyes will be veiled by blue / Death-like insomnia—a horned moon, empty fields, and the scent of dew.”


    Falling of dew and hooting of owl point to a nocturnal atmosphere—the poem is being written at night. This is an example of time being mapped onto night which is again being mapped onto falling of dew and owl’s hooting. This is how an event or object may convey temporal information. There is scanty information available on the daily life of Jibanananda and it is not known when he preferred to write or if had a favourite time for writing poems. But it appears from temporal references that he wrote a number of poems at night. Jibanananda used ‘tonight’ or analogous words and phrases in a good number of poems— ‘Wristwatch’ is one of them where use of ‘tonight’ clearly conveys the time of composition.[30] In a similar fashion, in ‘Aadim Debotaaraa’ (The Primeval Gods)[31] the poet says: “Now I wonder  where are you tonight?” Another poem titled ‘Raatri’ (Night)[32] opens like this: “Some time ago, there—in the big edifice—a lamp was burning in one corner—light of extension lecture”.


    Death is another favourite referent that frequently finds its place in the poetry of Jibanananda. What is the nature of references to death in the poetry of Jibanananda? It is interesting to explore the interface between temporal concepts and linguistic expression. As already illustrated Jibanananda often engages in some form of metaphorical mapping whereby he extends the meaning of words: death is mapped onto sleep;  death is mapped onto darkness;  and death is also seen written on the body of the dead. Sometimes ‘dying’ is considered as a travel from the earth to the sky (“one day she left for a distant cloud” [33]). Also, death is personified and envisaged as an entity that brings an end to human life. The poet contemplates, one day Death will come and ask him to fall asleep on the grass under a starry sky.[34] Somewhere death is visualized as a sea ahead that remains to be crossed. Elsewhere it is a death-river which men approach only to be drowned.[35] In his famous poem ‘Mrityur Aagey’, Jibanananda reminds that “the grey face of death surfaces like a wall / vis-à-vis all our fancy desires...”. [36]


    In ‘Jiban Sangeet’ (The Song of Life), the poet suggests to take death easily:

    Lying upon the stretcher perhaps fog clogs your eyes

    Don’t worry, death is not another unjust light;

    How come then so many people embrace death,

    craving a torch like flying ants?

    Why would then men compose so many slokas

    to make a ladder to the heaven?

    Death today; but did not the matador die in Spain?

    He fought like a hero in the sunlight.

    thinking himself undefeatable

    Suddenly he plunged into an eternal night. ...

    —‘Jiban Sangeet’ (The Song of Life)[37]


    He also indicates inevitability and suddenness of death by referring to the death of the matador in Spain. Perhaps Jibanananda is referring to ‘Cogida and death’ (Llanto por Ignacio Sanchez Majias), in which Lorca commemorates a soul-mate, a bull-fighter named Ignacio Sanchez Majias (1891-1934), who was mortally wounded in a provincial bull-ring in August 1934 and eventually succumbed to death.


    For a poet who felt: “We are closed in, fouled by the numbness of this concentration cell”,[38] it was only natural that he expressed his readiness for death, as captured in the following lines:

    Tonight the smell of a distant world fills to the brim

    this Bengali mind of mine;  if one day death comes to suggest

    under a far star on unfamiliar grass—I’ll take my rest...[39]


    It can be argued that reference to death is poet’s one futuristic contemplation. In Sonnet 15 of Rupashi Bangla, the poet contemplates what will happen when he will “lie in the sleep of death—in darkness under the stars / Under the jackfruit tree probably on the bank of the River Dhaleswari or Chilai—.”[40]


    To Jibanananda death comes in human life as an inevitable destination—a destination not in the sense of fulfillment or final achievement but as an end of one’s own existence. It is through death that human existence is eventually given up. Also, death is nothing but an end of time—time allotted for a man in this world. So, he is fully conscious that the possibility of death ends all possibilities of life. Death confirms finiteness of human existence. Inevitability of death is the source of perpetual anxiety of non-existence.


    Jibanananda’s reference to death is significant because it completes his perception of life. His outlook upon death is existentialist in nature in the sense that he conceives human life as a meaningless journey towards death. In terms of Heidegger’s terminology, it can be said that Jibanananda perceived his existence as ‘being-towards-death’. Jibanananda’s being-towards-death is the case of Dasein making “... its every projection upon an existentiell possibility, in the light of an awareness of its own mortality”.[41] In many poems Jibanananda expresses yearning for sleep which reflects his readiness to confront death in good grace: “Now in solitude his blood longs for the taste of sleep”.[42] During his lifetime Jibanananda became reputed for his sense of history. However, one easily recognizes his intense death consciousness,  as embodied in a number of poems. For him death was not an unwanted event;  rather it was part of his ‘being’. Also, it seems he was fully reconciled to this inevitability.


    Conscious temporal existence


    Jibanananda possessed a remarkable power of observation. While walking along the road he would immediately stop if he came by anything bizarre or grotesque and watch from a distance.[43]  In different poems he refers to places in Calcutta city where a respectable professor of English literature is not supposed to stray.[44] When he looks at Nature, he discovers that the crow which shows up on the wood-apple tree everyday has a broken beak;  he notices the shyness of an owl, the mists adhering to the wings of bats and ducks at dusk that seem to be smelling sleep by the pond. He hears the sound of paddy sheaf in the wind, smells the scent of dew. Jibanananda’s frequent reference to nature is often misconstrued to be arising out of his profound love of nature. Rather it is because of deep sense of surrounding that Jibanananda so frequently resorts to nature for many of his elements of metaphorical and symbolic expressions. But it cannot go unnoticed how immediately the nature’s element is utilized to return to his leitmotif—human life and existence.  


    History of mankind does not escape his scrutiny either. He observes that human history is one of famine after famine, war after war, one achievement followed by another ambition. He observes a cyclical repetition of events and contemplates: “Men have been born again and again / In the lifetime of this earth, / Have moored on new shores of history”.[45] Elsewhere he writes, “Men have come down these roads / Passed on—they keep returning” That man is born again and again on this earth constitutes a wonder, perhaps a puzzle, for Jibanananda. He is confused by the generational continuity of humankind that is tantamount to repeated staging of the same scene over and over again. So he wonders, “Is there any new day left anywhere?”[46] He mutters, “Is there anything anywhere left to be seen?”[47] He asks:

    What else we want to know before we part?

    As if we don’t know—

    how the grey face of death surfaces like a wall

    vis-a-vis all our fancy desires;

    —‘Mrityur Aagey’ (Before Death)[48] 


    Jibanananda feels: “Our lives have crossed a span of a score years, year by year”.[49] He concludes, “Men have spent time enough on this earth”[50], suggesting futility of further existence. Jibanananda’s predicament as such gravitates around his search for a justification of continued human existence. When he wrote ‘Banalata Sen’ he merely focused on the weariness associated with our incessant human journey on this earth. Moving from there, he came to question if continued existence of mankind constituted any objective meaning or served any purpose.


    Jibanananda—a unique ‘Dasein’?


    Jibanananda takes his readers through an affective poetic process whereby they are transported to a sensuous, mysterious and complex realm of past, present and future. Metaphors are profusely employed as the essential tools for such an enterprise, together with unlimited images derived from nature. However, the most striking is the frequency of temporal references spread all through the body of the poetry he left for us. His sense of history germinated early, and soon metamorphosed into an intense sense of time. No wonder that the title of his last book was set by him to be Time, Wrong Time, Fatal Time.[51]


    Jibanananda’s abiding preoccupation is human existence whose significance is not clear to him. Therefore, he repeatedly questions the significance of human existence in this world. Analysis of temporality in his poetry uncovers the poet’s essentially temporalized nature of self-existence. Ultimately his anxiety relating to own existence extends to the question of human existence on earth.


    The ‘being’ of Jibanananda Das demonstrates inexorable characteristics of ‘Dasein’ as theorized by Heidegger in his Being and Time.[52] By ‘Dasein’ Heidegger refers to ‘being-in-the-world’, like Jibanananda Das, whose perception of existence is characterized by profound awareness of the temporal situatedness of the self. He is perennially haunted by his past, and he has unbeatable concern for the future—while he makes way around in the world of poetry.


    In Heidegger’s theorizing, the temporal character of ‘Dasein’ is derived from a tripartite ontological structure, namely, ‘thrownness’, ‘projection’ and ‘fallenness’ by which Dasein’s ‘being’ is described. To what extent and how Jibanananda’s understanding and interpretation of own life and own existence respond to these criteria is left to a later dissertation. However, it can be safely concluded that Jibanananda’s existentiality was unique in combining personal consciousness of time and history with that of humanity in general.



    [1] Saint Augustine, The Confessions, translated by Edward Pusey (1951), New York : Pocket Books, p.224.

    [2] ‘Shomoyer kacche’ (Standing Before Time), Saat-ti Taaraar Timir, 1947.

    [3] Sonnet 8, vide Chowdhury F. L. (1999). Orpokasito Ekanno (An anthology of unpublished fifty one poems by Jibanananda Das), Mawla Brothers, Dhaka.

    [4] From ‘Ghora’ (The Horses) by Jibanananda Das vide Bandopadhyay D. (ed.) (1999) Kabya Songroho — Jibanananda Das, Gatidhara, Dhaka. p.177.

    [5] ‘Monobihangam’ vide Bandopadyay D. (ed.) (1999), p.418.

    [6] ‘Dui dike choriye aache dui kalo sagorere dheu’, vide Bandopadyay D. (ed.) (1999), pp.451-452.

    [7] ‘Ostochande’ (Dimming Moon) by Jibanananda Das, vide Bandopadyay D. (ed.) (1999), pp. 23-25.

    [8] ‘Aadim’ (Primeval), vide Bandopadyay D. (ed.) (1999), p.333.

    [9] My translation.

    [10] Vimbisara covered most of Northern Indian sub-continent, now part of Pakistan, and also what is now western India and Bangladesh. Vimbisara was a tall, well-built and handsome young man with a fascinating personality, befitting a king. He was very ambitious and had a desire to expand his kingdom.

    [11] Vidarbha is the north-eastern region of Maharashtra state of India, now forming two divisions, namely, Nagpur and Amravati. Sanskrit epic Ramayana has the reference of Vidarbha as one of the populated place or locality at that time. Kalidasa’s epic poem Meghdutam also mentions Vidarbha as the place of banishment of the Yaksha Gandharva. Mention of Vidarbha is found in many mythological stories including one about the marriage of Agastya and Lopamudra.

    [12] Known as Bhilsa, Vidisha was a town in west-central Madhya Pradesh state of India. Nearby cities include Bhopal, Ujjaini and Indore. It is located east of the Betwa river. Vidisha is mentioned in the Sanskrit epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. Under the Maurya and Gupta empires, the town was a great religious, commercial, and political centre.

    [13] On Time and Being, translated by Joan Stambaugh from Martin Heidegger’s Sein and Zein : 2002, University of Chicago Press.

    [14] Six volumes and their expanded versions were published during the poet’s life time. Two volumes, namely, Rupashi Bangla and Bela Obela Kaalbela were published posthumously, out of the manuscripts left by him.

    [15] Translated by Clinton B.  Seely  vide Chowdhury F. L. and G. Mustafa (ed) (2008): Beyond Land and Time, Somoy Prokashan, Dhaka. p. 30.

    [16] Translated by Ananda Lal, vide ‘Within the Background’, in Chaudhuri S. (ed) (1998) A certain Sense—Poems by Jibanananda Das, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi. p. 84.

    [17] From ‘Hawar raat’ (Windy Night). My translation.

    [18] ‘Aaj’ (Today) vide Bandopadyay D. (ed.) (1999), p. 333.

    [19] vide Bandopadyay D. (ed.) (1999), p. 382.

    [20] From ‘Khete-prantory’ (In Fields Fertile and Fallow), translated by Clinton B. Seely.

    [21] ‘Abohoman’ (Perennial), vide Bandopadyay D. (ed.) (1999), p. 134.

    [22] Translated by Chidananda Das Gupta, vide Chowdhury F. L. and G. Mustafa (ed) (2008), p. 71.

    [23] Translated by Joe Winter, vide Winter J. (2003): Jibanananda Das – Naked lonely Hand, Anvil Press Poetry Ltd. London. pp.93-94.

    [24] Mahaprithibi is the fourth collection of poems by Jibanananda Das published in 1944. ‘Subinoy Mustafi’ and ‘Anupam Trivedi’, among others, were added to the expanded version published in 1954.

    [25] ‘Subinoy Mustafi’, Vide Bandopadyay D. (ed.) (1999) pp. 169-170. My translation.

    [26] Kartik is name of the seventh month of the Bengali calendar when rains recede and the chill of winter starts to blow. It is followed by Aghran (also, Agrahayan). Hemanata, a pre-winter season of short duration, comprises these two months.

    [27] shar, kash and hogla—these are different types of grasses mentioned in text in Bengali. 

    [28] Translated by Mary Lago and Tarun Gupta, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Vol. 16, No.1, Fall 1965, p. 25.

    [29] Vide Bandopadhyay D. (1997): Jibanananda – Bikash Protishther Itihash (Jibanananda—a chronicle of achievements and recognitions), Bharat Book Agncy, Calcutta. pp. 243-245.

    [30] Vide Bandopadyay D. (ed.) (1999) p. 178.

    [31] Vide Bandopadyay D. (ed.) (1999) p. 154. Translated by Jyotirmoy Datta, published in Kavita, International Number, edited by Buddhadeva Bose.

    [32] ‘Raatri’ (The Night} vide Bandopadyay D. (ed.) (1999), p. 367.

    [33] from ‘Shoptok’ (Septet). My translation.

    [34] Sonnet No. 43 of Rupashi Bangla, vide Bandopadyay D. (ed.) (1999), p.258.

    [35] ‘Ghaveer Arial’ (Profound Arial), vide Bandopadyay D. (ed.) (1999), p.299.

    [36] Vide Bandopadyay D. (ed.) (1999), p. 108.

    [37] My translation, vide Chowdhury F. L. and G. Mustafa (ed) (2008), p.118.

    [38] ‘Monoshoroni’ (Meditations), translated by the poet himself, vide Chowdhury F. L. and Mustafa G. (2008): Beyond Land and Time, Somoy Prokashan, Dhaka. p. 158.

    [39] Sonnet No. 43 of Rupashi Bangla, translated by Joe Winter, vide Winter J. (2003), p.26.

    [40] ‘Jokhon mrittyur ghume shuye robo’ (When I’ll Lie in the Sleep of Death) vide Sonnet No. 15 of Rupashi Bāngla.

    [41] On Time and Being, translated by Joan Stambaugh from Sein and Zein of Martin Heidegger: 2002, University of Chicago Press.

    [42] My translation of  ‘Mohagodhuli’ (The Great Twilight), vide Chowdhury F. L. and G. Mustafa (ed) (2008), p.116.

    [43] Provatkumar Das: Jibanananda Das, 1999: PashchimBanglaAcademy, Calcutta.

    [44] e.g. ‘Ratri’ (Night), vide translation by Joe Winter in Winter J. (2003), pp.91-92.

    [45] From ‘Shomoyer kacche’ (Standing Before Time) translated by Sudeshna Chakravarti, vide Chowdhury F. L. and G. Mustafa (ed) (2008), pp. 88-89.

    [46] ‘Bishmoy’ (Wonder), vide Bandopadyay D. (ed.) (1999), p. 201.

    [47] ‘Onubhav’ (Perception) vide Bandopadyay D. (ed.) (1999), p. 375.

    [48] Vide Bandopadyay D. (ed.) (1999), p. 108.

    [49] Translated by Mary Lago and Tarun Gupta, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Vol. 16, No.1, Fall 1965, p. 25.

    [50] ‘Prithibiloke’ (The Universe), vide Shrestha Kabita by Jibanananda Das, 1956: Navana, Calcutta. p. 86.

    [51] In Bengali Bela, Obela, Kalbela. It was posthumously published in 1957. In the preface of the anthology his brother Ashokananda Das informs that the selection of the poems was made by the poet himself. Also, the title was given by him.

    [52] I thank Kevin Winters who helped me in crystallizing my thoughts for invoking the Heideggerian perspective to the analysis of temporality in the poetry of Jibanananda. Kevin studied psychology at the University of West Georgia and philosophy at the BrighamYoungUniversity.

    © Faizul Latif Chowdhury

    Published September 14, 2009

    This is excerpted from Poetry of Jibanananda Das by Faizul Latif Chowdhury, to be published later in the year.

  • এই লেখাটি পুরোনো ফরম্যাটে দেখুন
  • মন্তব্য জমা দিন / Make a comment
  • (?)