A Sea of Foliage
1. foliage – vegetation, greenery
2. grids – surrounds
3. unvaried – exist in large numbers
4. clumps – bunches or clusters, things close to each other
5. green profound – deep, dark green
6. o’er – over
7. seemuls – silk cotton trees with red flowers
8. swoon – feel dizzy
9. a primeval Eden – the first garden where, according to the Bible, Adam and Eve, the first human beings, lived
10.in amaze – in amazement or wonder
About the poet
Toru Dutt was a Bengali translator and poet from Indian subcontinent, who wrote in English and French, she is seen as one of the founding figures of Anglo – Indian literature.
Summary of the Poem
In this poem, the poetess describes the beauty of the garden around her family bungalow, she tells us that her garden appeared like a ‘sea of foliage’. But she cautions us not to come to a hasty conclusion. The beauty of the garden was so enchanting that one can get intoxicated by beauty and go on, gazing at primaeval Eden in utter amazement.
Q. 1. The poem describes a garden at two different times.
What are those times? How do you know?
Ans. The poet describes the garden in the daylight and at night. This is evident from the description of the different shades of green seen in the foliage which is visible only in the sunlight. Then she talks about the moon peeping between the bamboo trees. This indicates that it is night.
Q. 2. A sea of foliage… but not a sea of dull unvaried green
(a) Why is the foliage compared to a sea?
Ans. The foliage is compared to a sea because it appears as vast and endless like a sea but unlike a sea which has an unvarying shade of green throughout, the foliage in her garden has a different exciting and contrasting shade of green. This breaks the dullness seen in the sea.
(b) How is the sea not of dull, unvaried green? Give an example of how the green varies.
Ans. Just one type of plant everywhere, like the sea, which remains unchanged, will be dull. In the same way, a similar type of plant will give a dull impression. But in the poet’s garden, there is a mixture of plants, colours and textures which could be a sea of foliage around her garden. Her garden is filled with different and exciting and contrasting shades of green like light green of tamarind tree, deep green of mango grove.
(c) What effect does the variation have on the garden and the speaker?
Ans. The variation brightens the look of the garden which would have looked dull otherwise. The poet’s spirit is also lifted looking at the contrasting shades of green.
Q. 3. Why does the speaker consider the scene among the bamboos the loveliest spot in the garden? What effect does this beauty have on her?
Ans. The scene among the bamboos is the loveliest spot because the beautiful silver moon peeps between the tall grey bamboos and shines dazzlingly on white lotuses glowing in the pool. This beautiful sight is so intoxicating that the poet feels drunk with the amazing beauty of the scene. She almost feels dizzy.
Q. 4. …the white lotus changes into a cup of silver. What does this mean?
Ans. This means that white lotuses are gleaming like silver cups when the moon shines on them.
Appreciating the poem
Q. 1. palms arise, like pillars grey
This is an example of simile – a comparison of one thing with another, using words such as ‘like’ or ‘as’ to point to a particular quality.
(a) Which quality of the palms does the simile point at?
Ans. The simile points out at the tallness of the palm trees
(b) Find another simile in the first stanza of the poem.
Ans. Some examples of simile in the first stanza are as bellow -:
Palms arise like pillars grey
Red – red and startling like a trumpet sound
Q.2. This poem asks us to look all around the garden – not only from one side to another but also from high above to down below. How does it do that?
Ans. While describing the sea of foliage the poet’s gaze moves around the garden —- ‘grids our garden round’. Then she moves our gaze upwards to the tall palm trees which arise like tall pillars. Immediately after that, she shifts the gaze below to the pool ‘where seemuls lean’. In the second stanza, she talks about the tall bamboo trees through which the moon peeps. And soon after that our gaze is shifted to the white lotuses below shining like ‘silver cups’.