The Sunset of the Century was written in 1899 and was later incorporated as a part of his book ‘Nationalism’ in 1917.
The volume concludes with the Tagore poem – “The Sunset of the Century” – written on the last day of last century, meaning the eve of 1900 or 1899 evening. However, the volume leaves out the dates and venues of lectures delivered, though the year 1916 – from May to September is mentioned.
Tagore is very clear that a naturally-built human society is much more humane in essence than the so-called artificially created nationhood.
Taking the example of the British nation whose government as a nation, he rues that it is “organised self-interest of a whole people, where it is least human and least spiritual”.
“And the idea of the Nation is one of the most powerful anaesthetics that man has invented. Under the influence of its fumes the whole people can carry out its systematic programme of the most virulent self-seeking without being in the least aware of its moral perversion – in fact, feeling most dangerously resentful if it is pointed out.”
Read the poem written by Rabindranath Tagore below:
The naked passion of self-love of Nations, in its drunken delirium of greed, is dancing to the clash of steel and the howling verses of vengeance.
The hungry self of the Nation shall burst in a violence of fury from its own shameless feeding.
For it has made the world its food,
And licking it, crunching it, and swallowing it in big morsels,
It swells and swells
Till in the midst of its unholy feast descends the sudden heaven piercing its heart of grossness.
The crimson glow of light on the horizon is not the light of thy dawn of peace, my Motherland.
It is the glimmer of the funeral pyre burning to ashes the vast flesh, – the self-love of the Nation,– dead under its own excess.
Thy morning waits behind the patient dark of the East, Meek and
Keep watch, India.
Bring your offerings of worship for that sacred sunrise.
Let the first hymn of its welcome sound in your voice, and sing,
“Come, Peace, thou daughter of God’s own great suffering.
Come with thy treasure of contentment, the sword of fortitude,
And meekness crowning thy forehead.’
Be not ashamed, my brothers, to stand before the proud and the powerful With your white robe of simpleness.
Let your crown be of humility, your freedom the freedom of the soul.
Build God’s throne daily upon the ample bareness of your poverty
And know that what is huge is not great and pride is not everlasting.