Certainly, there were equal parts of jollity and gravity when members of ESRA Karmiel met for an evening of sharing favourite verses accompanied by a cup – or two! – of long-brewed hot punch.
Authors read ranged from Lord Byron to Edward Thomas and from Pam Ayres to T S Eliot.
Introducing one of my own favourites, I mentioned that the Irish Nobel laureate, William Butler Yeats was close friends with the Bengali polymath, Rabindranath Tagore who became the first non-European also to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.
A great friend of the international Jewish community and a strong supporter of Zionism, Tagore was held in such esteem that his death in 1941 aged 80 was reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency alongside its accounts of the deportation of Hungarian Jews to Nazi-held Poland.
His intellectual friendship and conversations with Albert Einstein are well-recorded. However, less well-known is that his support was rewarded with the naming of a street after him in Ramat Aviv, near the University of Tel Aviv, Israel.
Indian-Jewish scholar, Navras Jaat Aafreedi has noted that the Anglo-Jewish painter, Sir William Rothenstein is credited with introducing Tagore to the West and that in turn, Tagore dedicated his prize-winning collection of poems, Gitanjali to Rothenstein.
I close here with an English translated excerpt from Gitanjali included on the School of Wisdom website:
“Thou hast made me endless, such is thy pleasure. This frail
vessel thou emptiest again and again, and fillest it ever with fresh life.
This little flute of a reed thou hast carried over hills and dales,
and hast breathed through it melodies eternally new.
At the immortal touch of thy hands my little heart loses its limits in
joy and gives birth to utterance ineffable.
Thy infinite gifts come to me only on these very small hands of mine.
Ages pass, and still thou pourest, and still there is room to fill”.
© Natalie Wood (13January 2016)