Our Casuarina Trees By Toru Dutt
About the poet:
Toru Dutt- The pride of Indian womanhood was born in Rambagan, Calcutta on March 4th, 1856 brought up in an atmosphere of ‘sweetness and light’ and from her early childhood, she inherited cultural and literary values.T he knowledge of Sanskrit made a deep impression on her young mind and an ardent lover of India’s glorious past.
She was very pious and had deeply read the Hindu religion and myths credited with being the first Indian English poet extensively to use Indian Myths.
Toru Dutt is one of the most talented poets in Indo-Anglian literature. Her poetry comprises ‘A Sheaf Gleaned
in French Fields’ consisting of her translations of French poetry into English and ‘Ancient Ballads’ and ‘Legends of Hindustan’ which compiles her translations and adaptations from Sanskrit literature. She has also written the poem ‘A Sea of Foliage’.
About the text:
The poem was published in 1881. Toru Dutt celebrates the majesty of the casuarina tree that she used to see by her window in the garden. She remembers her happy childhood days spent under it. She revives her memories with her beloved siblings. The memory of the tree is the only link she has been left with, about her past and the cheerfulness of that memory is what makes her relive her childhood.
Summary of the poem and its theme
The poem “Our Casuarina Tree” has been composed by the famous Indian poetess Toru Dutt. In spite of her premature death, she did a great work in English literature. This poem is included among her famous works.
The Poem ‘Our Casuarinas Tree’ is an objective description of the tree which stood in the house garden of the poetess. She records her own impression of the tree at different times of the day. The tree reminds her of her lost brother and sister with whom she used to play under the tree. The tree shares her joy and sorrow. All her childhood memories are associated with the tree. She personifies the tree and feels that it shares her sorrow through a long mournful dirge-like murmur. This lament of the tree is very intense and she could hear it in distant lands. In the silence of the night. The music rose in her and she could see the noble image of the tree and her childhood memories in her native land. So she wants to confer immortality upon the tree. She is confident that her love would defend the tree from oblivion curse, The theme of the Poem is a sense of awe, respect, affection and personal affinity of the poetess towards the tree. She expresses her affection and kinship with the tree.
“Our Casuarina Tree” by Toru Dutt was published in 1881.The Casuarina tree here refers to an ever-green, huge tree found in the courtyard of the poetess house. The poem contains five stanzas. The first stanza is a description of the beauty and strength of the tree. The Casuarina tree has a creeper growing round it like a python and the trunk of the tree is rough and stands tall. The trunk is embraced, almost strangled, by the creeper, but the tree defies it. The Casuarina tree is personified here. The tree bears the creeper and wears it like a scarf of bright red crimson flowers. The branches are laden with them. On this tree, birds and bees gather. Darkling means in the dark. The tree here symbolizes vitality.
In the second stanza, the poetess describes her view from her window (referred to as “casement” in the poem). Toru, being a nature poet, watched the reassuring sights of nature. A grey baboon sat on the summit of the tree, watching the sun rise. The small and weak offspring of the baboon leaps about and plays. The Kokilas (a symbol often used by Sarojini Naidu in her poetry) welcomed the day. The old tree cast a shadow in the pond thus lending a shelter for sleepy cows to lie around. Toru blends the East and West in her description of white lillies which appeared like bunches of snow on the top of a lake.
It is in the next stanza that Toru moves from a description of the physical beauty and strength of the tree to its emotional value in her life. The poetess childhood memories and her siblings are brought into the picture. This tree is probably the only link she has left with her past and her happy childhood days. This tree had been dear to Toru not only because of its beauty but also because of its association with memories of her formative years. Beneath this Casuarina tree Toru had played with her siblings during her childhood. The tree in Toru’s mind was hence not objective, but subjective (typical Romantic element). This memory of her childhood days made her weep fresh tears.
Toru then moves on to the realization that her siblings are no more and their death is described as a form of sleep. The tree also laments along with the poetess. Now Toru feels that the tree will take her message to the unknown land of the dead and thus convey her sorrow to her siblings.
In the fourth stanza, Toru remembers the tree exactly as it was in her childhood days. But though the tree lives her playmates have passed away. The tree now remains a constant reminder of her loss and the poetess describes her anguish. Even while the poetess is abroad, the tree would appear in her mind just as she had seen it in her native land and would help her connect strongly with memories of her siblings and motherland.
In the fifth and final stanza, the poetess says that the tree is dearer to her than her own life. The Casuarina tree was also loved by her siblings, who are unfortunately now in a “blessed sleep” (death). She realizes that she would also leave the world one day to rejoin her siblings but hopes that the tree would remain immortal. The poetess hopes that her poem and her love for the tree would stop the tree from being forgotten.
“Our Casuarina Tree” is a poem that celebrates the majesty of the Casuarina Tree along with reviving memories of the poetess’ childhood days spent under it with her brother and sister, namely, Abju and Aru. The poem is aptly titled using the word “Our” rather than “My” implying that it is not associated only with Toru but also with her beloved siblings. The tree connotes nostalgic feelings and memories of past golden days. The creeper described in the first stanza may be a reference to the killer disease Tuberculosis which killed her siblings. The trunk of the Casuarina Tree being embraced by the creeper growing around it may also be considered a typical example from the puranas of the embrace of Dridharashtra. The image of the tree surrounded by birds and bees highlights the vitality of the tree. Gradually Toru moves from a description of the physical charm of the tree to a philosophical reminder of family ties. The Abju-Aru-Toru bond which also comes up in another poem titled “Sita” by Toru Dutt she writes of “Three happy children…” is one of the main themes of this poem as well. The beauty of the tree thus is just an added bonus, the real value of the tree in Toru’s life is that it is the only link that remains for her to connect with her dead siblings. The term ‘unknown’ in the third stanza stands for both the native home of the poet as well as the world of the dead.
Long Answer Questions
Q.1 How does the poetess compare the creeper to a huge python? What character of the tree has been highlighted?
Ans. The Poem ‘Our Casuarina Tree’ has been composed by Toru Dutt. In this poem, the poetess compares the creeper which is climbing up the casuarinas tree to a huge python. The creeper winds around the trunk of the tree and trees to reach its s highest point. The poetess admires the tree for its courage in the cattle of its survival against the creeper. The creeper is like a huge python which winds around its prey to kill it. The creeper also gives deep cuts in the old and rough trunk of the tree. No other could live in such a situation but the casuarinas display great courage against the creeper. It comes victorious. In this struggle and maintains its dignity and glory. The red flowers are hung in dusters as a mark of its victory. Birds and bees gather there all day making it a lively place. The poetess says that when it grows dark, a song of victory of the tree is resounded in the garden.
Q.2 What does the poetess see when she opens her casement at down?
Ans. The poem ‘Our Casurina Tree’ is an objective description of the Banyan tree which stood in the house garden of the poetess. She says that when she opens her window early morning, her eyes feel glad to see the Casuarina tree. Mostly in winter, she sees a grey baboon sitting on the highest branch like a statue watching the sunrise. Its young ones leap and play on the lower branches. The kokilas welcome the day in their melodious voice. The half awaken cows make their way to the grassland. The poetess sees the long shadow of the giant tree casting on the broad water tank. The beautiful water lilies bloom in the tank and look like the white show. The poetess feels soothed to see such a beautiful morning.
Q.3 For what reasons is the Casuarina tree dear to the poetess?
Ans. ‘Our casuarinas Tree’ is a well-known poem written by the Indian description of the casuarinas tree. The poetess admires the tree for many of its qualities. She says that the tree is very huge and symbolises dignity and glory but it is not dear to her because of its magnificence. She loves the tree because she had played beneath it with her brother and sister who are more in the world now. She recalls her memories of childhood when she spent the most memorable and happy time with her brother and sister. She loved them with intensity and had a deep affection for them. The tree is dear to her for their sakes. She humanizes the tree and believes that the tree shares her sorrow. Through a long mournful dirge-like murmur. She could feel the lament of the tree for her brother and sister. The tree seems to be an integral part of her memory whenever she remembers her cost brother and sister the image of the tree also appears in her memory so the casuarinas trees is so dear to the poetess.
Q.4 Who exhales a dirge-like murmur and for what reason?
Ans. The poetess expresses her grief on the death of her brother and sister whom she had lost at a very young age. The poetess has animated the casuarina tree and feels that it excels a dirge-like a murmur because it also wants to share her sorrow. The tree was also very dear to her brother and sister and it could not bear their death like the poetess. So through a long mournful dirge-like a murmur, the tree appears to share the sorrow of the poetess.
Q.5 Explain ‘Unknown, yet well known to the eye of faith’ with reference to the poem.
Ans. The poetess feels that someone is singing a dirge-like a murmur in the said memory of her brother and sister. Initially, she could not understand who shares her sorrow but then she realises that it is the lament of the tree for her brother and sister. At first, this lament was unknown to her but then she feels that it is the tree who is sharing her sorrow. She believes that the tree also misses her brother and sister as much as she does so, the lament of the tree is well known to the eye of faith. This lament of the tree is very intense and becomes the record of the pain of human race.
Q.6 How does the poetess propose to dandify her association with the tree and Why?
Ans. In the poem ‘Our Casuarinas Tree’ the poetess Toru Dutt expresses her admiration for the Casuarina tree. She proposes to dandify her association with the tree saying that it is her soul mate with whom she could share her joy and sorrow. She shares a close relationship with the tree because she used to play under this tree with her brother and sister who died at a very early age. They were dearer to her than her life and she believes that the tree also loved them very much. It is her faith that the tree shares her sorrow through a long dirge-like murmur. The tree becomes an integral part of her memory so the tree is also very dear to her.
Q.7 How does the poetess bless the tree?
Ans. The poetess feels indebted toward the tree because it shares the sorrow and gives her all the sweet memories of her childhood. She remembers the time when she used to play with her brother and sister beneath this tree. She is grateful to the tree for all those memories which it has provided her. She also wants to do something in return, She blesses the tree by composing a verse in its honour which will confer immortality upon it. She wants to defend the tree from oblivion’s curse. She hopes that the tree will continue to survive even when her days are done. Her love would defend it from the curses of mortality.
Long Answer Questions
Q.4 How intense and heartfelt is the trees mourning for Abu and Aru?
Ans. The poetess Toru Dutt personifies the casuarinas tree in this poem and considers it her only soul mate with whom she could share her joy and sorrow. She says that she played under the tree with her brother Abju and sister Aru who are no more in the world now. The tree was also their companion of childhood. The tree seems to share her sorrow singing a lament for Abju and Aru. The lament of the tree is very intense and heartfelt. She could feel the lament of the tree all the time. She compares it with the sea barking on the shingle beach. Even when she went to foreign countries many hundred miles away from her home, she could hear the lament of the tree in the silence of height. The tree reminds her of all the beautiful memories of childhood.
Q.5 The last stanza expresses the affection and kinship of the poetess with the tree. How does she express it?
Ans. The casuarinas tree is very dear to the Poetess. She expresses her affection and kinship with the tree. She says that the tree has given her all the sweet memories of her childhood. The tree is the only one with whom she could share her joy and sorrow. The tree was also very dear to Abju and Aru who are now resting in the eternal heavenly sleep. The poetess says that every time she hears the lament of the tree, the noble image of it appears in her mind. She feels indebted to the tree for all the sweet memories of her childhood. So, she wants to compose a poem in its honour and hopes that her poem will confer immortality upon the tree. In her poem, the tree will survive forever.
Q.6 What acc to the poetess is the great curses of mortal existence?
Ans. The poetess Toru Dutt feels indebted towards the tree for the very reason that she had played under the tree with her brother & sister who are no more in the world now. So she prays for the immortality of the tree. She wants to compose a poem in its honour and feels confident that her love would defend it from the oblivions curse. Everything on the earth is cursed to die and be forgotten. She says that there are many curses of mortal existence. Nothing is going to survive forever. These curses like fear, trembling, hope, death, skeleton and time ensure that everything has to come to an end she is afraid that the tree will also perish one day. She wants to defend it from this curse of mortal existence. The tree may not survive physically but it will always remain alive in her poems.
Q.7 How has the casuarinas tree been personified in Poem?
Ans. Personification is a poetic device in which a non-living thing is presented as a living thing in the poem. In this poem, the poetess admires the casuarinas tree. There is a sense of respect, affection and personal affinity of the poetess towards the tree for the reason that she had played beneath it with her brother and sister who are no more in the world now. She personifies the casuarinas and considers it her only soulmate with whom she could share her joy and sorrow. The tree reminds her of her childhood memories. She feels that not only she but the tree is also affected by the death of her brother Abju and sister Aru. The tree seems to share her sorrow through a long mournful dirge-like murmur. It is singing a lament. In sad memory of Abju and Aru. The lament of the tree is so intense and heartfelt that the poetess could hear it in distant lands. She believes that the tree has given her all those sweet memories of her childhood. When she enjoyed with her brother and Sister under it. The tree has been presented as living in the poem.
Q.8 The poem is an Ode and elegy in spirit and tone. Explain.
Ans. The Poem ‘Our casuarinas tree’ written by Toru Dutt is a combination of an ode and an elegy. The poem is an ode in form and elegy in spirit and tone. An ode is an address to some noble person through an idea, abstraction or duty. It is a song of admiration. The poet expresses its admiration for the subject of the poem. An ode is lyrical and dignified in form and exalted in thought, language and style such. This poem is an ode because the poetess admires the casuarinas tree for the reason that it is an integral part of her childhood memories. She shows her love and affection for the tree.
On the other hand, an elegy is a song of mourning on the death of some relative, friend or benefactor. The poet expresses his sadness in such a poem. There is a scope for philosophy. The dominating tone of an elegy is emotion and grief. In this poem, the poetess expresses her grief at the premature death of her brother and sister. She also expresses her view on the death saying that one day everything includes her will perish but she hopes for the immortality of the tree from the oblivions curse. So this spirit of poem is of elegy.
Short Answer Questions
Q.1 How is the creeper climbing up the tree?
Ans. The poetess says that creeper is climbing up the tree winding it around its trunk and tries to reach its summit. She compares the creeper to a huge python and says that as a python winds around its prey to choke its breath, in the same way, the creeper also climbs up the tree. It gives the tree wound like cuts in its trunk. No other tree could survive in the grave of the creeper but the casuarinas fight bravely and maintain its survival with dignity.
Q.2 How does giant tree war the scarf?
Ans. The casuarinas tree struggles for its survival and fights gallantly against the creeper. This is the struggle of its existence. The poetess says that no other tree could live in such a situation but casuarinas tree comes out a winner. The poetess says that the giant wears the scarf. It means that it maintains its dignity and glory. The red flowers hanging on the branches are shown as a mark of its victory against creeper.