The solitary passer-by


The poet sees the variations, and feels the permanence. The spirit lives by chance and necessity. The one and the other meet sometimes, unexpectedly. On a street corner, often, here or elsewhere. In Russia or India.

« Nothing in all Russian literature equals these lines by Nekrassov: ‘Walking at night in the dark streets, Lonely Friend’, » writes Vasily Rozanov in Solitaria.

Is this comment a simple exercise in admiration? Or is it an open door to a metaphysical world? Who is this « Lonely Friend »? Why do these lines transcend all the rest of Russian literature?

And would the following lines by Rabindranath Tagore also transcend all Indian literature?

« In this deserted street, you are the lonely passer-by.

O my only friend, my old beloved,

The doors of my home are open –

Don’t disappear like a dream.»i

These two texts are different, it goes without saying, but they emanate the same perfume, the same three words: street, solitary, friend.

These words are somewhat opposed. The street is public, and one passes through it, often rapidly, in anonymity or indifference. It is not unusual to meet friends there, by chance. It is rarer to see them disappear like a dream or an apparition.

The Russian poet, and the Indian one, do not describe a scene from real life. It is not really a dream, either. Rather a hallucination, a lightning strike, a revelation?

Who is the solitary passer-by, this Friend, this unique, « old beloved »?

Whoever is a bit of a poet probably will cross paths with her, one day.

iRabindranath Tagore. Gitanjali