“Yeats’s reading of the Gitanjali poems cascaded in a breathless stream that led to the Nobel Prize. In March 1913 Macmillan published Gitanjali as the world would know it. Yeats had initially suggested a ‘who’s who’ section on Tagore, with a timeline beginning with his birth and dates of his publications, but this was inexplicably left out. Yet the edition appeared with Yeats’s ecstatic Introduction, part of which is worth quoting here:

“ ‘I have carried the manuscript of these translations about with me for days, reading it in railway trains, or on the top of omnibuses and in restaurants, and I have often had to close it lest some stranger would see how much it moved me…’

“Much has been written and recorded about Tagore’s meetings with leading intellects of his time and their reaction to and estimation of his persona and work, which many found difficult to separate. His strikingly handsome appearance, his piercing eyes, his tall presence and calm demeanor could hardly be ignored and were commented on by those who met him and heard him speak, some of whom described him as Christ-like. Frances Cornford, Darwin’s granddaughter, after meeting him at Cambridge, said, ‘I can now imagine a powerful and gentle Christ, which I never could before.’ Clad in his self-designed flowing robes and his distinctive beard, he looked the part of the Eastern mystic that the West was willing to accept, an orientalist view that was responsible for the conflicting estimations of Tagore’s standing as a writer in the West.”