Central Idea Of The Poem

The poem is about the wandering singers who engage their entire life in singing for others pleasure and never minds about his pleasure. The poet Sarojini Naidu is a great poet to paint the life of wandering singers in poetic words.

The poem “Wandering Singers” by Sarojini Naidu is about the band of folk singers wandering through their singing from town to town and from village to village to spread the message of love. They play the lute; as they wander from place to place, they play a musical instrument. The wind’s voice symbolises the welcoming tone of the song echoing through the streets and forests. All mankind, to the wandering singers, is like their extended family and their home is the world.

The theme of the songs they sing goes back to ancient battle stories or ancient kings. They also have songs about women’s beauty and about things happy and sad. The wandering singers do not have their own dreams or hopes; they go wherever the wind calls them. No love can make them go slow, or they cannot be asked to wait with no joy. The wind’s voice is the voice of their lives and their destiny as well.

About the poet

Sarojini Naidu was an Indian political activist and poet. She was an important figure in India’s struggle for independence from colonial rule. Naidu’s work as a poet earned her the sobriquet Nightingale of India.

Key terms

1. lutes– a lute is a kind of musical instrument with strings

2. kindred – family or relatives

3. lays – (old usage) songs

4. cities whose lustre is shed – cities which were once great and famous, but not anymore

5. bids us tarry – asks us to stay

Summary of the poem

The poem “Wandering Singers” deals with the band of people singers who wander from place to place through their singing to unfold the message of affection.
They play the flute and they move from one place to another. The voice of the wind reveals the welcoming tone of the song. All humanity, to the wandering singers, is like their relatives, and therefore the world is their home.

The inspiration for the songs they sing goes back to ancient battle stories. They even have songs about wonder of ladies and happy and unhappy things. Wandering singers don’t have their own dreams or hopes. With the winds, they go along. No love will slow them down, or no joy will encourage them to participate.

They count the world as their home and all the people around their innate family and their relatives. They hold lutes in their hands, and they always sing about the city sheen and the past.

Their songs radiate the laughter and beauty of the women of the past, the legends of the sword and the old battles, and the crowns of the old kings.

Analysis of Wandering Singers

Wandering Singers is a lyric developed in three stanzas of four aa, bb, cc, ddd, ee, ff. In the first stanza wandering singers sing the song. The voice of the wind calls the wandering feet of singers through echoing forest and street with lutes in hands and singing the songs. All men are their relatives and the whole world is their home.

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They sing about the cities lustre who is lost, laughter and beauty of woman who is dead, sword of old battles and crowns of old kings. They just depend upon their fate. There is no love that compares them to sit in a particular place and no joy can allow them to wait. The voice of wind is the voice of their fate.

‘Wandering Singers’ is a lyric song, in the very tune of the songs of the wandering singers in India. The main theme of the poem is philosophical attitude towards death, life, birth, love, sorrow, passion. The wandering singers sing of past and present and its glory and greatness. The ‘Wandering Singers’ sing about the community life, who wander from one place to another place like wind.

They always keep on singing and wandering ‘walls’ with their musical instruments in their hands, i.e. national, provincial, racial, caste, etc. biases do not separate them from their fellowmen. They regard all men as their brothers and the whole world as their home. In their outlook, they are cosmopolitan. They are believers in the unity of all men. They are world brotherhood voters. They are votaries of world brotherhood.

Their themes can be appreciated by all. They sing of cities which have lost the glory which they once enjoyed, for example, cities like Chittor or Golconda. They sing of women who have been dead for a long time, such as Jhansi ki Rani or Zeb-ul Nissa. They sing of battles which were fought in the past and of kings and warriors who fought those battles. They are these repositories of custom and tradition who keep alive a local and traditional legend and communicate it to the people. They thus perform a very useful social function, for it is they who make the common men conscious of their cultural heritage, of the glory and greatness of their past. Through their songs, they assert the cultural and historical continuity of the legacy of the past. Their themes are simple; sometimes they are happy and at other times sorrowful.

The wandering singers have no dream of the future and they have nothing to hope for in this respect they are like Shelley’s skylark which does not ‘look before and after and pine for what is not.’ Just as the skylark keeps on flying higher and higher, so also they wander on and on without any hopes and dreams. They live entirely in the present without any regrets for the past or hopes for the future. The urge to wander is strong in them and they are more along in obedience to the call of the wind. They have no objects of love relation, friends, wives etc. Hence, they do not stop but wander along singing continuously like so many singing birds. They follow only the path of wind. The society of the wandering singers is an absolutely free society, as free as is possible under the limitations imposed on us by our human condition.

In the ‘face of modernity’, Naidu affirms the Indian identity through wandering singers. Wandering singers belong to the cultural heritage of India and Naidu is not ready to lose this Indian tradition under the threat of modernity.

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The poem rightly reveals the search for cultural identity of the Indians. It gives expression to the distinct Indian folk personality, in order to reintegrate the Indians with their rich cultural heritage.

A. Answer these questions

1. What is the song Wandering Singers about?
Ans. The song is about a band of folk singers who wander from city to city and from village to village to spread the message of love through their singing. They play the lute; as they roam from place to place, they are a musical instrument.

2. Do the singers stay at one place or do they wander about? What determines where they go?
Ans. They wander about from one place to the other. The call of the wind determines where they go.

3. What do the singers sing about?
Ans. The Wandering Singers’ song is about tales of ancient battles or of ancient kings. They also have songs about women’s beauty as well as happy and sad things. All mankind is like their extended family and their home is the world.

4. How do the singers sing?
Ans. The singers sing songs with lutes in their hands and travelling from place to
place.

5. Are the singers homeless travellers? Why do you think so?
Ans. No, the singers are not homeless. They think that the world is their home and people are their brothers and sisters.

6. What do the singers sing about?
Ans. They sing about the stories of the cities whose beauty has long passed away; the women’s happiness and beauty that was robbed either by the wars or by the time. They sing about ancient battles as well or about old kings. They have songs about life’s simple, happy and sad things, too.

7. What has happened to the cities?
Ans. It has been ravished by wars, famine etc., so, the beauty has gone.

8. What does, “The laughter and beauty of women long-dead” mean?
Ans. The laughter and beauty have died because of wars or because of famine.

9. What songs do the singers sing of the sword of old battles?
Ans. They sing about the brave warriors who fought bravely with the sword.

10.Why do the singers feel nostalgic of the crown of old kings?
Ans. They feel nostalgic because, during the kings’ period, these singers used to get rewards which made them lead a comfortable life.

Reference to context

1. “What hope shall we gather, what dreams shall we sow?” Explain these lines.
Ans: The poet tells us that because of their wandering nature, wandering singers can not have any hope or dream of a bright future.

B. Extra Questions and Answers

Q.1. Which line tells us that the singers sing as they travel?

Ans. ‘with lutes in our hands ever-singing we roam’

Q.2. The wandering singers have no permanent homes and families. Do they show any sadness about it? Or do they have a different notion of family and home?

Ans. Although the wandering singers do not have any permanent home or family, they do not show any sadness about it. In the line ‘All men are kindred, the world is our home,’ the wandering singers tell us that they consider everyone their family and the whole world their home. So they feel a bond with everyone and at home anywhere and everywhere.

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Q.3. What do the wandering singers sing about? What might their listeners get from their songs in terms of –

(a) Knowledge (b) Mood?

Ans. The wandering singers sing about cities which were once great and famous, about the laughter and beauty of women who died long ago, old battles and kings of past, happy, simple and sad things.

(a) In terms of knowledge, listeners can learn something of history and folklore from the wandering singers ‘songs, as they sing of cities, battles, women and kings from the past.

(b) In terms of mood, the listeners can feel fascination, curiosity, admiration, sadness and excitement as they hear about cities that used to be grand, women who were happy and beautiful, battles that were bravely fought and kings who were great, but none of whom exist anymore.

Q.4. Why do the wandering singers not wait anywhere? Why do they keep travelling?

Ans. The wandering singers do not wait anywhere because no close ties or loving relationships make them stay at any particular place. Their happiness is not associated with a particular place where they might want to wait. Instead, the wind as it moves freely from one place to another, calling out to them to travel to one place one day and another place the next day. Their destinations keep changing, like the wind. So they keep moving from one place to another.

Appreciating the poem

Q.1. Why do you think the speaker uses, the words, ‘wander’ and ‘roam’ and not ‘march’?

Ans. The words ‘wander’ and ‘roam’ mean walk or move in a relaxed, unhurried manner, with no fixed purpose. The words ‘march’ and ‘stride’ mean to walk quickly with a purpose in a specific direction. The first two words have been used instead of the others because the wandering singers are never in a hurry, they have no fixed destination or place to reach. They move in a relaxed pace, going wherever they feel like going, free to change direction as often as the wind.

Q. 2. What is the rhyme scheme of the poem?

Ans. The rhyme scheme of this poem is aa bb cc dd ee ff.

Q. Write a summary of Wandering Singers.

The Wandering Singers have no fixed abode. They are forever on the road, led to ever new places by the voice of the wind. Whether they are travelling through streets or forests, the places echo with their songs. These songs have many themes: cities that were once glorious but no more; happy and beautiful women who died a long time ago; old battles and old kings. As can be seen, all these themes have something pleasant-beauty, happiness, glory or bravery- and something sad about them- they belong to the past.

The wandering singers have no family and no home, but they consider everyone their family and the whole world their home. They do not dream and plan the way other people do, for their lives do not follow a fixed, regular pattern, their destiny is as changeable as the changing direction of the wind. They are not held back by love or happiness, yet they love their wandering lifestyle and are happy to keep travelling forever.

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