Authorship by Rabindranath Tagore

You say that father write a lot of books, but what he writes I don’t understand.
He was reading to you all evening, but could you really make out what he meant?
What nice stores, mother, you can tell us! Why can’t father write like that, I wonder?
Did he never hear from his own mother stories of giants and fairies and princesses?
Has he forgotten them all?
Often when he gets late for his bath you have to call him a hundred times.
You wait and keep his dishes warm for him, but he goes on writing and forgets.
Father always plays at making books.
If ever I go to play in father’s room, you come and call me,
“What a naughty child!”
If I make the slightest noise you say, “Don’t you see that father’s at his work?”
What’s the fun of always writing and writing?
When I take up father’s pen or pencil and write upon his book just as he does,- a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,i, why do you get cross with me then, mother?
You never say a word when father writes.
When my father wastes such heaps of paper, mother, you don’t seem to mind at all.
But if I take only one sheet to make a boat with, you say,
“Child, how troublesome you are!”
What do you think of father’s spoiling sheets and sheets of paper with black marks all over both sides?

Summary and Analysis

‘Authorship‘ belongs to his collection The Crescent Moon, where the poems are divided into two kinds: those that view childhood from an adult‘s perspective and those that are from a child‘s point of view. This poem is written from a child‘s perspective where he tries to understand his father‘s constant creative engagement of writing a book. He watches his father‘s continuous efforts, the dedicated devotion and the instantaneous initiatives taken by him to produce something very qualitative. But to the child‘s dismay, he doesn‘t follow what his father writes. He is quite amused at her mother‘s engrossed listening to all that his father read out to her and the child wants to know from her mother is she comprehended what he meant. The child appreciates his mother‘s stories and wonders why his father is not capable of writing such wonderful and understandable stories. His innocent mind, concerned about his father‘s childhood, wonders whether his father had heard stories from his mother, as he does, – the stories of ghosts and fairies and princesses; or he has completely forgotten whatever he had heard in his childhood? The child‘s point of view is very appreciative when he contests with his father – the writer‘s authorship to his own. Through the child‘s innocent questions and naïve analysis, is the author trying to bring the subtle absurdity of those pseudo-artists who consider themselves very tall but finally end up contributing nothing as such to the literary world.

The child‘s observing approach is also very beautifully imprinted – he has witnessed his father‘s careless attitude – when his father is late for bath his mother has to go and call him innumerable times, when his mother keeps the food warm for his father, he simply forgets as he keeps himself engrossed in writing.

The child is quite perplexed at his father‘s callous approach which seem so unrealistic to him. His childish mind recognizes his father‘s work as a game – ‘Father always plays at making books.‘ To a child, every kind of work is associated with ̳play‘ as that is the only work he himself is engaged into. Yet he fails to follow the mystery behind his being scolded by his mother when he goes to play in his father‘s room. It is indeed too difficult for him to understand the fun that his father gets in ‘always writing and writing‘.

The child is extremely upset with his mother‘s partial approach – when he takes up his father‘s pen or pencil and writes on the book, his mother gets cross with him but she does not say anything when his father writes. When his father wastes heaps of paper, his mother seems not to mind at all but if he would take just one sheet to make a boat with, his mother would say, ‘Child, how troublesome you are!‘ He keeps wondering at what his mother thinks of his father‘s ‘spoiling sheets and sheets of paper with black marks all over both sides.‘ To the child writing is nothing more than a type of scribbling which looks like black marks all over. Throughout the child is perplexed at his father‘s writing concept and his mother‘s biased attitude. His immature mind fails to understand the difference between his own creation and his father‘s. He judges the world around him with his adolescent eyes and feels that his father‘s writing is beyond his understanding and he also feels pity for all who tolerate this kind of creativity.

His mother tries her best to make the child comprehend that his father‘s poetry is par excellent and he is an author respected all over but the innocent mind has no place for elevated poetry. To him creation should be as simple and uncomplicated as his mind could grasp and beyond that it is worthless creation altogether. The child cannot accept the biased nature of his mother who tries to shield his father when he wastes heaps of paper. He is quite unhappy at his mother‘s not minding attitude at such instances whereas, on the contrary, she goes to the extent of scolding him for just one sheet of paper that he takes to make a boat with. The questions that the child raise are innocently attributable like ‘why can‘t father write like that, I wonder? Did he never hear from his own mother stories of giants and fairies and princesses? Has he forgotten them all? What‘s the fun of always writing and writing? What do you think of father‘s spoiling sheets and sheets of paper with black marks all over on both sides?‘ Written from a child‘s perspective, it is a poem where maturity is handled and interrogated from an unripe counter. The child despises the dark, unknown and suffocative world of adulthood and feels safe and secure in the world of simplicity and innocence.


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