Songs of Radha: The Quest

About the Poet
Sarojini Naidu was a shining star with. She got many titles such as “poet-patriot,” “Bharat-Kokila” and “Nightingale of India” for her devotional spirit to India. In 1914 she became one of Gandhiji’s most trusted flowers. She was an administrator, an an orator, a poet, a freedom activist, and an activist for women’s rights, an exceptional leader, a governor, and what no. As one of the most popular heroines of the 20th century, her birthday is celebrated as ‘Women’sDay’. She is the poet of the first order and also acclaimed as a great Indian poet who wrote songs and poems on Indian themes. She wrote poems on various themes such as Radha ‘s Love and Lord Krishna, Nature, Indian Landscapes and Death.

She unveiled the heart of India by writing poems on mostly on love themes. Radha and Lord Krishna are the greatest lovers of Indian faith. Numbers of Indian poets have written songs or poems in the praise of Krishna. Jayadeva’s ‘Gita Govinda,’ Vidyapathi’s ‘Devotional Songs,’ Mirabai’s ‘Hymns’ in Krishna Praise are the best examples to be called Krishna Lovers. Ammalu had been a great worshipper of Krishna and had written many poems in His praise.

The works of Sarojini Naidu include “The Golden Threshold” (1905), “The Bird of Time” (1912) and “The Burden Wing” (1917). She was awarded the title “Bharat Kokila” (The Nightingale of India) by Rabindranath Tagore for her melodic rhythmic poem dealing with Indian myths, mountains , rivers and temples in India. “The Quest” is from “The Feather of the Dawn” published after her death by her daughter Padmaja Naidu.

Summary of “Songs of Radha: The Quest”

The poem “Songs of Radha: The Quest” is a divine love song which presents the Indian faith that God lives within one’s own self. It also describes the passionate and frantic love of the beloved for the divine lover whom she is searching hastily and restlessly all the time. Suddenly, she comes to realize, that he lives within her own heart and it is foolish to search for him outside.

As an archetypal divine love song it expresses excellently the Indian faith that God lives within oneself. I am of thee as thou of me” bears the influence of the Gita where is Krishna says that he is everything. The Persona is searching Ghanshyam everywhere. She calls him her “playfellow”. She searches him in the forests, tides, and in all the elements of nature but could not find him. Then she hears a voice which says: Thou sadest- O faithless one, self-slain with doubt, Why seekest thou my loveliness without, and askest wind or wave or flowing dell (Khanna, 2012). The voice calls her a faithless devotee who is doubtful of the presence of the divine lover within her and is searching him everywhere except in her heart. The voice further says that the secret that within thyself doth dwell? I am of thee, as thou of me a part; look for me in the mirror of thy heart.

Paraphrase of “Songs of Radha: The Quest”

The poem is about the incomparable love of Radha and Krishna. Radha is searching for her beloved Kanhaya. She asked the wind about him. But she could not find her. At the time of noon, she asked the forest about him, under whose shade he used to take rest. At the late evening, she enquired the grey coloured tide about the dwelling place of her dear flute player. The waters, the wind and the woods remained dumb for her each question. None of them knew about him. She carried her crying face in her arms. She kept weeping- where her Ghanashyam has gone.

Her heart suddenly shook from top to bottom by his hidden laughter. He mocked her with the usual tricks of Krishna. Then he asks her why she is searching him in the wind, wave and the flowering valley. He said that he belongs to her. She can look into the mirror of her heart to see him.

Conceptual Vocabulary

quest: searching for something

thee: you

Kanhaya: Krishna

noonrise: noontime

glade: an open place in the forest

dusk: late in the evening

pleaded: begged

dove-grey tides: tides having the grey colour like that of doves

abides: dwells

dumb: silent

moan: lament

art: are

thou: you

Ghanashyam: Krishna

keel: the base of a boat

rafter: slopped beams extend from the ridge

mock: ridicule

thy: your

tender malice: loving or sensitive tricks of Krishna

nectar: honey

chalice: cup

self-slain: destroyed by oneself

doth: does

Short questions and answers

1. Who was the narrator seeking in the poem?
Ans: The narrator was seeking her kashaya: Lord Krishna in the poem.

2. What did she enquire to the dove-grey tides?
Ans: She pleaded the grey tides to show the dwelling place of her beloved flute player.

3. How did Krishna mock her?
Ans: He mocked her with the usual tricks played by Lord Krishna to entice women.

4. Why does Krishna say that she does not need him all around?
Ans: Krishna is a secret which lies within her. Hence he told her not to search for him all around.

5. Bring out the beauty of the expression: ‘foolish love’.
Ans: The poet uses this expression to show the depth of love Radha keeps in her mind for Krishna. Foolish love refers to the love in which she had melted and had forgotten everything.

6. Justify the figure of speech in ‘like a boat that rocked from keel to rafter’.
Ans: The poet explains the mindset of Radha with a beautiful simile. He describes that her heart was stirred like a boat which has been rocked from top to the bottom by the waves.

7. Comment on the rhyme used in the poem.
Ans: The poem follows the rhyming scheme aa bb cc dd…

8. Describe the theme of the poem.
Ans: The theme of the poem is the unadulterated love and sublime devotion for Lord Krishna.

Paragraph Questions

1. Describe the theme of The Quest.
Ans: The Quest is about the love and devotion of Radha to Lord Krishna. The image of Radha and Krishna is one of the most celebrated images in Indian mythology. The idea of ‘Prakriti’ and ‘Purusha’ can be seen in the poem. She uses the image of divine love to represent her idea of love. Thus the love in the poem becomes everlasting. She narrates the poem according to the typical Indian tradition. It turns out to be the belief that love is the highest degree of devotion. That love is well portrayed in the poem when she says the God resides in the hearts of the people who worship him. The poem is a journey from personal love to universal love. She brings oneness of the hearts of the idol and the devotee.

2. The diction in the poem The Quest.
Ans: The poems of Sarojini Naidu show the influence of Romanticists and Pre-Raphaelites on the choice of words and style. Through her poem, she proclaims her love for nature. To show her love for nature, she deliberately chooses the words dawn, wind, forest glade, friendly shade, dove-grey tides, etc. at the beginning of the poem. Ornamentally, she develops phrases of foolish love, forest glade and dove-grey tides. The use of the term ‘foolish love’ is intended to demonstrate the state of Radha. She uses to separate names of Krishna, namely Kanhaya and Ghanashyam, to express the divinity of her devotion. The mode that she adopted at the beginning of her poem is a dialogue with nature. Later she extends the theme with beautiful similes: ‘like a boat that rocks from keel to the rapture/ my heart was shaken by thy hidden laughter’, along with the fact that she again uses similes that compares her tender malice with the nectar bubbling from her heart.

Essay Type Question

1. Narrate how devotion and love are portrayed in The Quest.
Ans: The Quest is about the unprecedented love of Radha and Krishna. In this poem, Radha is looking for her beloved Krishna. Lord Krishna is a sign of imperishable love that can offer the refuge of love for everyone. Radha has placed the highest rank among Krishna’s lovers. It is not easy to decide if the affection she feels for Krishna is love or devotion. The zenith of devotion, according to the assumption, is love. Radha looks for her beloved Krishna. She asks him about the storm. Still, she did not reach him. Krishna has the habit of sleeping at noon in the forest. She’s still searching for him in the woods, but she can’t locate him. At the end of the night, she asks the grey tide about the dwelling place of her dear flute player. The rivers, the wind and the trees offer no answer to her questions. None of them knew something about him at all. She’s holding a crying face in her arms. She keeps crying-where her Ghanashyam has gone.

Her search reveals the love in the heart of Radha towards Krishna. She becomes a silly girl in love with him, who still complains to her lover. Suddenly, her heart was awakened like a boat that rocked from top to bottom with hidden laughter. He mocks her with the usual tricks of Krishna and the honey bubbled in her heart’s chalice. She still thinks like any other girl, and she’s trying to figure out why she’s fighting with him. Even then she knows that all the dumb thoughts raised in her heart are only due to the love concealed in her.

Then he asks her why she is searching for him in the wind, wave and the flowering valley. He says that he belongs to her. She can look into the mirror of her heart to see him.

The Quest is about the love and devotion of Radha to Lord Krishna. The image of Radha and Krishna is one of the most celebrated images in Indian mythology. The notion of ‘Prakriti’ and ‘Purusha’ can be seen in the poem. Here Krishna stands for the idea of Purusha and Radha for Prakriti, and this union is considered to be the base of life on earth. She uses the image of divine love to represent her idea of love. Thus the love in the poem becomes everlasting. She recounts the poem according to the conventional idea of love in India. The poem is the transference of personal love to universal love. It gives peace of the hearts of the idol and the devotee. She believes in the love before which everyone is forced to surrender.

In The Quest, the Indian nightingale sings about imperishable love. She sings about the love of Radha and Krishna, the symbol of the Indian Myths. She’s searching for him all over, but she’s not figuring him out. As in every love, she finds that her lover is always playing with her, but she does not accept that fact. She shares her complaints with herself. But at the same time, she loves teasing himself. In the end, she admits that she resides in her head, and it is her fault that she could not recognise the platonic love concealed in Krishna’s mind for every woman who adores him. The love mentioned in this poem is platonic, which refers to the union of the mind rather than to the union of the body.

Songs of Radha: The Quest – Summary, Theme and Question Answers

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