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Script of a BBC radio talk on Rabindranath Tagore by Lord Pethick-Lawrence, broadcast on 12 Jan. 1961


Rabindranath Tagore
Talk on the Radio (B.B.C.) by Pethick-Lawrence on
January 12th 1961.

My association with Rabindranath Tagore may be said to date back to my earliest years. For my family had connections with the religious movement known as the Brahma Somaj founded by his Father, which sought to form a link between Christianity and Brahmanism. Thus when I visited India for the first time, after leaving Cambridge in 1897, I made several contacts with the adherents of this faith both in Calcutta and elsewhere. {1}

Later, I had the opportunity of reading several of the books that Tagore wrote in the English language of which he had complete command. I remember I was particularly fascinated by his story of “Chitra”, the King’s daughter who as the only child of her father had to acquire the masculine arts and to lead her troops in battle as a warrior. One of the sayings in this book “Error is the first approach to Truth” has ever since remained engraved in my memory, as words of profound wisdom.

It was in London that I first met Tagore in person. I remember I was standing with a number of other guests in a large room when through the open door entered a stately figure. I had the strange feeling that he had not simply walked into the room as everyone else had done but had floated in like some supernatural being. But there he was, talking to some of my fellow guests, in his melodious voice; and all the while his serene countenance seemed to bestow a benison on all who were present.

After I entered Parliament I went to India in 1926 on a political visit. {2} My wife Emmeline accompanied me. We felt greatly honoured when we received an invitation from the poet to stay with him at Santiniketan where he lived. I remember so well that beautiful Autumn evening when the sun was setting in the cloudless sky. We went first to see his famous library. It contained works in many of the languages of India. Some of them were so different from the books which I was accustomed to find in a library in my own country. While some were written from left to right as are all European languages, some were from right to left and others in Chinese characters from top to bottom. The latter were not bound up as pages in a volume, such as we use, but were tied together in strips with top and bottom covers of wood. I could of course only gaze at them from the outside as I have no knowledge of oriental languages.

Then we sat down to dinner with him. We talked of all sorts of subjects. He expressed himself strongly in support of the movements in India for self-government and regretted that so many of her young men were in detention or prison under the British rule. He wished to see a more liberal attitude adopted. We spoke too of the natural beauties of India and of her noble monuments. My wife expressed her deep admiration of the Taj Mahal, and Tagore intervened by saying that he had written a poem about it, but that it was in Bengali and had never been translated into English. “Oh do translate a sentence or two for me” pleaded my wife. So Tagore said to her “I say to Shah Jehan:—You knew that grief however poignant is mortal; so you had the conception of imprinting in marble a teardrop on the cheek of Eternity”.

And with that beautiful thought in our hearts we took leave of him next morning, and I never saw him again.


{1} See Fate Has Been Kind, chapter IV.

{2} See Fate Has Been Kind, chapter XIV.

Cutting from a printed document, containing the text of a question to be asked in the Commons by F. W. Pethick-Lawrence on 25 May 1943, pasted to a note of the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Kingsley Wood)’s reply

(Question:) What is the theoretical aggregate of the quotas as defined in the clearing union plan, on the assumption that all the United Nations came into the scheme?

(Answer:) The aggregate amounts to 25,000,000,000 dollars, not pounds.

(The note is a carbon copy of a typed original.)

Cutting from a printed document, containing the text of a question to be asked in the Commons by F. W. Pethick-Lawrence on 22 July 1943, pasted to a note of the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Sir Kingsley Wood)’s reply

(Question:) Asks for a statement of the exchange rate fixed for the occupied territory of Italy.

(Reply:) States the rate of exchange for the lira in the parts of Italy occupied by Allied forces, and refers to the difficulties in assessing the relevant factors at their proper value.

(The note is a carbon copy of a typed original.)

Letter from Isaac Barrow to the Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge

Pera, Constant[ino]politanae - After an apology for the long delay in writing to the Fellowship, he gives an account of his travels from Paris, with a description of his stay in Florence, prolonged because of the plague in Naples, which was predicted to spread to Rome whither he had planned to go next; heeding the warning that if caught by the plague he would not be able to leave, and it proving too difficult to reach Venice, he embarks on a ship to Constantinople. He describes the present state of affairs under the Grand Vizier, Koprulu Mehmed Pasha, who had come to power two years earlier: his work to restore the Ottoman name at home and abroad, recovering the islands of Tenedos and Lemnos, repelling an attack by the Venetian fleet, suppressing a revolt in Moldavia and Wallachia by removing their princes, repressing the infighting threatening the prestige of the empire, most recently undertaking an expedition to Transylvania on the pretext that Prince Ragotzy, a Turkish subject, had invaded Poland hoping to take the kingdom for himself. Barrow predicts that Christendom will find in the Grand Vizier its worst enemy and describes his punishment of Parthenius, the Patriarch of the Greek Church, who was accused of intrigue with the Duke of Muscovy despite the commonly held view that the accusations were false, and who was hanged and left on display in his Pontifical robes as a deterrent to plotters. Barrow closes with a promise to return to Cambridge within the year.

Docketed by William Derham, "Paper. 1. Dr Barrows Lr the Fellows of Trin. Col. Cambridge from Constantinople. Caland August 1658. Publ. Lr 1. W.Ds.'

Barrow, Isaac (1630–1677), mathematician and theologian

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