He was an exceptionally talented student. Since his childhood, Dutt was recognised by his teachers and professors as being a precocious child with a gift of literary expression. He was very imaginative. Early exposure to English education and European literature at home and in Kolkata inspired him to emulate the English in taste, manners and intellect. Richardson was a poet and inspired in Dutt a love of English poetry, particularly Byron.
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His father was Rajnarayan Dutt, an eminent lawyer, and his mother was Jahnabi Devi. He was a pioneer of Bengali drama. His famous work Meghnad Bodh Kavya, is a tragic epic.
It consists of nine cantos and is quite exceptional in Bengali literature both in terms of style and content. He also wrote poems about the sorrows and afflictions of love as spoken by women. From an early age, Madhusudan desired to be an Englishman in form and manner. Born to a Hindu landed gentry family, he converted to Christianity to the ire of his family and adopted the first name, Michael.
However, he was to regret his desire for England and the Occident in later life when he talked ardently of his homeland as is seen in his poems and sonnets from this period. Madhusudan is widely considered to be one of the greatest poets in Bengali literature and the father of the Bengali sonnet. He pioneered what came to be called amitrakshar chhanda blank verse. Early Life and Education His childhood education started in a village named Shekpura, at an old mosque, where he went to learn Persian.
He was an exceptionally talented student. Ever since his childhood, young Madhusudan was recognized by his teachers and professors as being a precocious child with a gift of literary expression. He was very imaginative from his boyhood. Early exposure to English education and European literature at home and in Kolkata made him desire to emulate the proverbially stiff upper-lip Englishman in taste, manners and intellect.
One of the early impressions were that of his teacher, Capt. Richardson at Hindu College. In this respect, he was an early Macaulayite without even knowing it. He dreamt of achieving great fame the moment he landed abroad. His adolescence, coupled with the spirit of intellectual enquiry convinced him that he was born on the wrong side of the planet, and that conservative Hindu society in early nineteenth century Bengal and by extension Indian society had not yet developed the spirit of rationalistic enquiry and appreciation of greater intellectual sophistry to appreciate his myriad talents.
He espoused the view that free thinking and post Enlightenment West would be more receptive to his intellectual acumen and creative genius. In this, perhaps he forgot the colour of his skin, as he was to realize later on in life, much to his consternation and disgust. He composed his early works—poetry and drama—almost entirely in English. Plays like Sormistha, Ratnavali and translations like Neel Durpan and poems like Captive Ladie which was written on the mother of his close friend Sri Bhudev Mukhopadhyay, indicate a high level of intellectual sophistication.
Later, he escaped to Madras to escape persecution. But now, at length thy grace, O Lord! Birds all around me shine; I drink thy sweet, thy precious word, I kneel before thy shrine! Make not the lotus of thy memory Void of its nectar Madhu.
Later Life. Inspirations and Influences Dutt was particularly inspired by both the life and work of the English Romantic poet Lord Byron. The life of Dutt closely parallels the life of Lord Byron in many respects. Like Byron, Dutt was a spirited bohemian and like Byron, Dutt was a Romantic, albeit being born on the other side of the world, and as a recipient subject of the British imperialist enterprise.
However, the lives of the two can be summed up in one word: audacity. However, with its publication, the Indian poet distinguished himself as a serious composer of an entirely new genre of heroic poetry, that was Homeric and Dantesque in technique and style, and yet so fundamentally Indian in theme. To cite the poet himself: "I awoke one morning and found myself famous. Linguistic Abilities Madhusudan was a gifted linguist and polyglot.
Besides Indian languages like Bengali, Sanskrit and Tamil, he was well versed in classical languages like Greek and Latin. He also had a fluent understanding of modern European languages like Italian and French and could read and write the last two with perfect grace and ease. Work with the Sonnet He dedicated his first sonnet to his friend Rajnarayan Basu, along with a letter which in which he wrote: "What say you to this, my good friend? In my humble opinion, if cultivated by men of genius, our sonnet in time would rival the Italian.
He composed a poem in memory of the immortal poet and translated it into French and Italian and sent it to the court of the king of Italy. Victor Emmanuel II, the then monarch, was enamored of the poem and wrote back to the poet: "It will be a ring which will connect the Orient with the Occident. It is a type of verse used in poems. In this type of verse every line of the poem should have exactly 14 letters. Kaliprasanna Singha organised a felicitation ceremony to Madhusudan to mark the introduction of blank verse in Bengali poetry.
Chaudhuri has remarked that during his childhood days in Kishoreganj, a common standard for testing the level of erudition in the Bengali language during family gatherings like for example, testing the vocabulary stock of a would-be bridegroom as a way of teasing him was the ability to pronounce and recite the poetry of Dutt, without the trace of an accent.
In France In his trip to Versailles, France during the s, Madhusudan had to suffer the ignominy of penury and destitution. His friends back home, who had inspired him to cross the ocean in search of recognition, started ignoring him altogether.
Perhaps his choice of a lavish lifestyle, coupled with a big ego that was openly hostile to native tradition, was partly to blame for his financial ruin. Except for a very few well-wishers, he had to remain satisfied with many fair-weather friends. It may be argued, not without some obvious irony that during those days, his life oscillated, as it were, between the Scylla of stark poverty and the Charybdis of innumerable loans.
He was head over heels in debt. As he was not in a position to clear off his debts, he was very often threatened by imprisonment. Dutt was able to return home only due to the munificent generosity of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. For this, Dutt was to regard Vidyasagar as Dayar Sagar meaning the ocean of kindness for as long as he lived. Madhusudan had cut off all connections with his parents, relatives and at times even with his closest friends, who more often than not were wont to regard him as an iconoclast and an outcast.
It was during the course of his sojourn in Europe that Madhusudan then realized his true identity. Perhaps for the first time in his life, he became aware of the colour of his skin and his native language. That is his legitimate sphere his proper element. He had no respect for that tradition and wanted to break free from the confines of caste-based endogamous marriage.
His knowledge of the European tradition convinced him of the superiority of marriages made by mutual consent or love marriages. Madhusudan married twice. When he was in Madras, he married Rebecca Mactavys. Through Rebecca, he had four children. Michael married Henrietta Sophia White. His second marriage was to last till the end of his life. From his second marriage, he had one son Napoleon and one daughter Sharmistha.
The tennis player Leander Paes is the son of his great granddaughter. Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal. The belated tribute took the form of a shabby makeshift tomb. Although it could be argued that the loss of self-control was largely responsible for his pitiable fate, his over-flowing poetic originality for joy was to become forever immortalized in his oeuvre. Should Mother Bengal claim thee for her son. Through his writings, the richness of Bengali literature has been proclaimed to the wide world.
The genius of Bengal secured a place in the wide world overpassing the length and breadth of Bengal. And Bengali poetry reached the highest status.
Michael Madhusudan Dutt
His father was Rajnarayan Dutt, an eminent lawyer, and his mother was Jahnabi Devi. He was a pioneer of Bengali drama. His famous work Meghnad Bodh Kavya, is a tragic epic. It consists of nine cantos and is quite exceptional in Bengali literature both in terms of style and content.
Michael Madhusudan Dutta
বঙ্গভাষা - Poem by Michael Madhusudan Dutta