Tagore’s ‘Unending Love’ is a Bengali poem that is translated into English. The Bengali title of the poem is “Ananta Prem”. “Ananta” means never-ending or everlasting and “prem” is a Bengali alternative for love. The title enlightens readers regarding the main idea of this piece, eternal love. In this way, Tagore makes his point clear that he is going to talk about the love that in Shakespeare’s words, never “alters when it alteration finds,/ Or bends with the remover to remove.”
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‘Unending Love’ by Rabindranath Tagore is a heartfelt poem about a speaker’s devotional love for his beloved (the creator or his lady love). Tagore’s poetic persona describes how his love merges with all the loves, past and forever.
This piece of Rabindranath Tagore is another song in which, it seems, he speaks of his love for the creator. It can also be true that this poem can be written for a lady whom the speaker loves the most. His words reflect his deeper emotions and the devotional aspect of love between two souls. Tagore’s persona gifts her with a “necklace of songs” which she wears in pride. He compares her to the polestar that pierces all the darkness of pessimism and enlightens him. Their love is old, yet it renews forever. In her, she has found universality and their memories of togetherness will last forever.
The meaning of this piece is not hard to decode. First of all, the title of Tagore’s ‘Unending Love’ refers to devotional love. This love can exist between two souls who are far above the carnal aspect of love. It also encompasses a speaker’s love for the almighty. Interestingly, if it is the case, the creator is compared to a female being and the speaker is her eternal lover. Their togetherness was in existence before like the connection between the soul and divine being. Readers can also decode this poem in a far simpler way. This piece can be seen as a love poem written by a lover for his lady love. Through the verses, he celebrates the eternal quality of their love and how it will exist forever even after their physical death.
The translated version of this poem consists of four stanzas. Each section contains five lines that partially rhymes. Tagore uses perfect rhyming by repeating the same sound at the end of consecutive lines. Whereas some lines don’t rhyme at all. That’s why it is a free-verse lyric poem that is not written in a set rhyme scheme. Besides, the poem is mostly composed of the iambic meter with a few metrical variations dispersed throughout. Tagore wrote this poem from the first-person point of view and the speaker is none other than the poet himself.
The poem ‘Unending Love’ contains several literary devices that include but are not limited to:
- Metaphor: This device can be found in the “necklace of songs,” “light of a pole-star,” “darkness of time,” etc.
- Palilogy: The first line contains a repetition of the word “numberless” and the word “forever” is repeated throughout the text. Such repetition is called palilogy.
- Imagery: Tagore uses visual imagery in the lines “Clad in the light of a pole-star piercing the darkness of time,” and “You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the found.”
- Hyperbole: It occurs in “We have played alongside millions of lovers” and “And the songs of every poet past and forever.”
- Alliteration: “pole-star piercing,” “same/ Shy sweetness,” and “every poet past”.
I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times…
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
R.N. Tagore’s ‘Unending Love’ or “Ananta Prem” begins with the first-person speaker describing how loved his lady love in numerous forms and times. These “numberless forms” refer to the external features of the soul. Through this line, the speaker talks about his previous life. Each time he loved the lady. So, their love has a quality of timelessness.
He loved her for ages, forever. This hyperbolic line stresses the speaker’s love for his partner or the divine creator. Her beauty made his heart spellbound. In such an awe-stricken state, he composed several verses, metaphorically compared to a “necklace”. She wears this “necklace of songs” around her neck as a tribute to their love. This “necklace” also has many forms. He wrote such songs not only in this lifetime but also in his previous lives. In this way, Tagore’s speaker expresses the eternal quality of their love.
Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, its age-old pain,
Its ancient tale of being apart or together.
As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge,
Clad in the light of a pole-star piercing the darkness of time:
You become an image of what is remembered forever.
In the “old chronicles of love,” readers can find the painful story of lovers. Most stories dealt with the theme of the tragic ending of two lovers devoted to each other wholeheartedly. Those ancient tales revealed how it felt if two souls are apart. In some instances, two lovers bear the pangs of society for being together. Like the characters of those stories, if two lovers are in love, they must be ready to bear the pain.
When the speaker stares into the past, the lady’s enlightening visage emerges. At the end of hopelessness, his beloved is like the polestar that pierces the “darkness of time,” a symbolic reference to pessimism. Tagore compares the lady to a timeless piece of art (an image or picture) that is remembered forever. In this way, the poet indirectly glorifies the eternal quality of the art.
You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount.
At the heart of time, love of one for another.
We have played alongside millions of lovers, shared in the same
Shy sweetness of meeting, the same distressful tears of farewell-
Old love but in shapes that renew and renew forever.
The fourth stanza of ‘Unending Love’ presents a symbol of time in the line “You and I have floated here on the stream.” So, the “stream” is compared to the time, and the “fount,” the river’s origin, is a metaphor for the creator. At the heart of this river of love, they have cared for each other. So, this stream is also a metaphor for love.
Using hyperbole, the speaker says they have played alongside numerous lovers. It means that he is not the only one who is devoted to their singularity of love. There are a lot more who have loved and made their love eternal. Like lovers of the past, they shared the “sweetness of meeting,” the shyness while encountering each other’s eyes, and the distressful tears while parting. Their love is old yet it renews forever in new forms. He does not know in what form they will reappear in this world, but their love will remain constant.
Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you
The love of all man’s days both past and forever:
Universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life.
The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours –
And the songs of every poet past and forever.
In the last stanza, the speaker compares his love to a heap of offerings. He offers all his love to his beloved’s feet in adoration, faith, and devotion. His love has found an end in her. Love originates from the divine creator and ends in him. So, he compares his lady love to a divine being.
According to Tagore, love has a universality. The lovers of the past and present are part of the universal joy and sorrow. If two persons love each other truly, they become part of this universal love. Thus they gain immortality. What is universal exists even after their physical death.
The last two lines of ‘Unending Love’ center on the “memories” that appear in a lover’s mind. Those memories of love merge into the singularity and become “one love”. It does not matter if they are physically apart, there is a sense of oneness. Lastly, he adores his beloved with the songs of every poet from the past and present. He tries to gift her the essence of their love through the lines of ‘Unending Love’.
Rabindranath Tagore is best known for his collection of poetry “Gitanjali”. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature for this work in 1913. Tagore was the first non-European to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature. His other notable books of poetry include “Manasi,” “Sonar Tori,” and “Balaka”. This poem ‘Unending Love’ first appeared in “Manasi”. The Manasi poems were released in 1890. In the same year, the book was translated into English by the title “The Ideal One”. In this poem, Tagore celebrates the idea of eternal love and expresses his heartfelt emotions for his beloved.
Explore more Rabindranath Tagore poems.
This poem is about a speaker’s devotional love for his beloved (or the almighty). He glorifies the love between them that remains constant forever. This poem is another way to eternalize their love.
The poetic person in ‘Unending Love’ is none other than the poet Rabindranath Tagore. He is devoted to the person or entity wholeheartedly. Therefore, the speaker is selfless, loving, and soft. His emotions are controlled and flow from his heart like a brook.
The tone of this poem like the speaker’s love remains constant. It is emotive, heartfelt, hyperbolic, and uplifting.
Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Unending Love’ was the favorite poem of the British actress and humanitarian Audrey Hepburn.
After her death (20th January 1993), Gregory Peck, her close friend, recorded a tribute to Hepburn by reciting Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘Unending Love,’ one of the favorite poems of Hepburn. You can watch Gregory Peck reading the poem remembering Audrey Hepburn.
The following list contains a few poems that similarly revolve around the themes present in Rabindranath Tagore’s poem ‘Unending Love’.
- ‘Let Me Not Forget’ by Rabindranath Tagore – This poem speaks on a speaker’s personal loss and determination to never again be fully happy.
- ‘Give All to Love’ by Ralph Waldo Emerson – It’s one of the best-loved poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson. This poem addresses the themes of love, eternity, and transcendence. Read more Ralph Waldo Emerson poems.
- ‘Sonnet 116: Let me not to the marriage of true minds’ by William Shakespeare – It’s one of the best Shakespeare love sonnets. This Shakespearean sonnet speaks on the eternal nature of love and the speaker’s conviction in the power of such love. Explore all 154 sonnets by Shakespeare and more William Shakespeare poems.
- ‘Sonnet 75: One day I wrote her name upon the strand’ by Edmund Spenser – This Spenserian sonnet depicts a speaker’s attempts to make his true love immortal. Read more Edmund Spenser poems.