Saturday, December 12, 2009

Toru Dutt ; Our Casuarina Tree

Toru Dutt (1856-1877),who died at the age of 21 ,left behind her an imperishable legacy .She lived and wrote at a time when cultural studies were at an incipient stage of development , and the idea that mythologies hold the key to understanding a people , was not properly realized. With her amazing insight into things , Toru Dutt realized the importance of Indian myths and legends She did not need an Edmund Gosse to tell her that her poetry should be a "revelation of the heart of India", but she instinctively realized that Indian poetry ,to be truly great, must be inspired by Indian myths . Her collection of poems 'Ancient Ballads and Legends of Hindustan " reveals how even shadowy figures of legends can come alive when romantically treated .

"Flowers look loveliest in their native soil
And their kindred branches : plucked , they fade
And lose the colours Nature on them laid "

These lines from her poem "Ä mon Père"reveal her conviction that poetry like flowers looks loveliest in its native languages . and poetry written in a foreign language cannot capture the rhythm of feelings . Her lavish use of imagery from Indian culture compensates for the lack of spontaneity due to the use of English for expressing her Indian sensibility .

I think "Our Casuarina Tree " is her most representative poem . This poem reveals the influence of Keats on her . The first two stanzas are an imaginative and sensuous description of the Casuarina Tree, replete with imagery taken from nature . These two stanzas conform to Milton"s conception of what poetry should be --" simple , sensuous and impassioned " ,But the tone changes to melancholic reflexions in the third stanza . Toru Dutt explains why the casuarina tree is so dear to her .---"not because of its magnificence " , but because she , her brother and sister ( both of them are now dead ) used to play together beneath the tree when they were little children . The image of the tree rises in her memory till her eyes become dim with tears .The Casuarina Tree becomes an objective correlative from fourth stanza onwards . It is the symbol of her brother and sister"s memory .She can hear the wailing of the casuarina tree wherever she goes . It follows her to distant lands She can hear its plaintive music even in the distant shores of France and Italy , when the waves gently kiss the shores beneath the moon .

The tone of the last anf fifth stanza of the poem is definitely one of triumph --triumph of immortality over death, loss and oblivion . The Casuarina Tree will remain immortal and it will keep alive the memory of her dead brother and sister , though her own poetry is too weak to confer immortality on them ! Love will defend her dear ones from the curse of oblivion .

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  2. Thank you Sir.
    Your essay helped me towards a better understanding of the poem.