Krishnaji Keshav Damle alias Keshavsut
An epoch making poet who infused a different style in essence, expression and poetic deliberation
Keshavsut is considered to be the father of modern Marathi Poetry. It was he who first brought poetry into the life of common Marathi man. Until then, poetry was confined mostly to religion, spirituality and folk legends. He gave a free, spontaneous form to poetry, which was otherwise always constricted to established form. He gave poetic expression to the common man’s joys and sorrows, emotions, desires and disease. He brought realism into poetry.
He brought passionate individualism, personal awareness and aesthetism as seen in English romantic poetry into Marathi poetry. He believes that poetic inspiration is an independent and vibrant energy, and that nobody should try to restrict or mould it in any particular way. He was highly influenced by the poetry of English poets like Wordsworth, Shelly, Keats. Keshavsut brought the Sonnet, a popular form seen in English poetry, into Marathi poetry, naming it Suneet.
Only 135 of his poems are available today. He has handled such subjects in his poems, which were not seen previously like, personal relationships, romance, poets and poetry, social rebellion, open-mindedness, humanism, nationalism, expression of mystical experiences and nature. As this free form of poetry was being expressed for the first time, his poems, although few in number, proved to be revolutionary as well as provoking. Various streams are seen in Marathi literature today and which handle most of the subjects mentioned above. All of these streams have their origin in the poetry of Keshavsut.
His poems Amhi Kon (who are we)?, Nava Shipahi (New soldier), Tutari (Trumpet), Satariche Bol (Musical Notes of a Sitar), Zhapurzha, Haraple Shreya (Lost glory), Murtibhanjan (Breaking/ falling of Idol), Gofan are some of his best creations. Tutari proved to be quite revolutionary, to the extent that a society by the name of Tutari Mandal was established. Illustrious poets like Govindaagraj, Balkavi, Rendalkar, prefer to be called as his pupils.
Just as his poetry handled subjects like social dissatisfaction, injustice, inequality, superstitions, so also did he depict an innocent and untainted, pure expression of love.
As a husband enquiring about the well-being of his wife, he says:
Kara aapulya tu paha chachpun, ura aapulya paha tapasun
Prakruti majihi tithe tuj kalel, vikruti majhi tuj tithe milel.
(Feel your hands, check in your heart,
you will also find there, my nature, as well as my perversity)
Remembering his home and wife, he says,
Shwaasaani lihili viram disati jyamaji bashpiya te,
pritiche barawe samarthan ase sansprutya jyamaji te,
Kantechi asali mala pavan ha patre aata detase,
dole jhakuni vachita tvarit ti sammrudh mi hotase.
(In which a breath seems to have paused the tears,
In which contains the palpable proof of love,
The wind brings in the memory of such a letter from my wife,
Remembering it I get overwhelmed)
In this way, he has expressed so minutely, his own, unique philosophy of love, for the first time in the history of Marathi literature.
Keshavsut was a poet, who revolutionized everything related to poetry – poet’s perspective, intent and expression. This great poet, who dedicated himself solely for poetry throughout his life, died at a very young age of 39 to the misfortune of Marathi literature.
Keshavsut was a successful revolutionary in poetry in the same parallel as Lokmanya Tilak in politics and Agarkar in socialism.