What does “Men are cruel, but Man is kind” mean?

Men are cruel, but Man is kind.

Stray Birds (219) by Rabindranath Tagore

What is the meaning of men and man in that sentence?


Opinions about this quote vary (here’s one thread, for example), but the gist of the interpretations follow a common theme.

NOAD offers a hint:

man (n.)
1 an adult human male.
2 a human being of either sex; a person
• (also Man) [in sing.] human beings in general; the human race

I’d paraphrase it like this:

People are cruel, but the human race is still compassionate.

Whether that’s a correct interpretation is off-topic (we don’t do literary critiques of poetry here). However, the fact that the words man and men can be used to describe:

  • males, or
  • people, or
  • the human race

is indeed a matter for the English learner.

I believe the first word is capitalized because it’s at the beginning of the sentence; the second capitalized word is being used as shown in NOAD, where Man = the human race.

As for your original question, I don’t believe the word “Men” refers to “two men”, but to an unspecified number of men.

Source : Link , Question Author : HyperGroups , Answer Author : J.R.

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