If You Call Me by Sarojini Naidu
About The Poet
Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949) was an acclaimed Indo-Anglican poet who was also heavily involved in the struggle for Indian independence. Her essays shed light on her complex nature. She appears to be a delicate woman who smiles through all of life’s ups and downs. In her poetic works, her spirit remains unbreakable and undefeated.
She was awarded the gold medal ‘Kaisar-i-Hind‘ for poetry. She was also a member of the Royal Society of Literature and received an honorary doctorate from Allahabad University. After the publication of The Golden Threshold, she established herself as a popular poet. Her poems The Soul’s Prayer, To a Buddha Seated on a Lotus, and In Salutation to the Eternal Peace have been accorded an honourable place in the Oxford history of English literature and are included in the Oxford Book of Mystic English Verse.
Naidu’s poetry style is fluid and rhythmic. The play of words heightens the poem’s ecstasies and, at times, melancholy atmosphere.
Cover mine eyes, O my love!
Mine eyes that are weary of bliss
As of light that is poignant and strong,
O silence my lips with a kiss,
My lips that are weary of song.
The poem’s rich rhyme structure is reminiscent of Sarojini Naidu’s other works. The poems’ tone is dominated by their felicity of phrasing and amorous zeal. With romantic sensuality and sophisticated sensibilities, Naidu expresses the depth of emotion. The poem appears to sing on its own and is at its best when read aloud.
Mostly Naidu covers four broad themes in all her poetic works. These four themes are of patriotism, love, nature and longing. She belongs to the Elizabethan school of lyric poetry.
Sarojini Naidu as a Romantic Poet
Perhaps Naidu’s most notable contribution to English poetry was her translation of Sanskrit classics based on the works of Wordsworth and Keats.
Her romanticism is more decadent than that of her predecessors, owing to her obsession with music and the tone of the words in her poems. She retains an aesthetic focus on the sublime features of Indian life and nature. She is neither very imaginative in the manner of Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, nor overly philosophical in the manner of Wordsworth’s Ode to Immortality.
Sarojini Naidu uses spring to externalise her feelings of desire and loneliness. Spring becomes seductive for the senses to delight in due to the tidings of love, nostalgia, and delicious fragrances that accompany it. It is a symbol of rebirth and rejuvenation in her poems. Spring’s arrival, along with the process of creation, is a symbol of life’s persistence in the face of adversity and emotional ups and downs.
The earth is ashine like a humming-bird’s
And the sky like a kingfisher’s feather,
O come, let us go and play with the spring, Like glad-hearted children together.
The preceding stanza, which is from Naidu’s poem The Call of the Spring, describes the environment in all its splendours as spring approaches. The Shakespearean plays’ carnivalesque mood is replicated when the poet-narrator summons her lover to once again play with nature as innocent children. Naidu’s spring poetry are the arena in which she could find a response to the existential and mortal questions. As with neo-modernist poets such as Dylan Thomas, Naidu came to terms with death, separation, and loss by recognising the continuity of life represented in nature’s spring regeneration. Naidu, like Thomas, proclaimed the belief that despite its atomic and fractured nature, all life is actually one. Naidu’s portrayal of nature is not merely descriptive; it is also immensely symbolic and meditative. The tension between the joy generated by spring’s pleasant sounds and aromas and the melancholia generated by the longing for one’s beloved is a constant motif throughout Naidu’s romantic poetry.
Sarojini Naidu’s poetry on love
Naidu writes about love in her poems in a subtle yet powerful way. She draws imagery from her experiences and ties her verses together with her existence, love, and affection for the natural environment. Her work The Temple, comprising of twenty-four lyric poems, is a culmination of all her poetry’s attempts to identify the conflicts between love and longing for one’s beloved.
The first eight lyrics describe the poet’s ecstatic attainment of love.
This is a time when the entire world explodes with a rainbow of colours and fragrances. The moon is brighter, and the light gently warms the skin. The second session of eight poems centres on the poet’s alienation from this long-cherished sweetheart. What follows is a period of mental and emotional disarray brought on by strong longing and a painful sense of loss. When Naidu writes the words in her poem The Sorrow of Love, she is investigating the psychological makeup of a lover with maximum candour and brazen directness.
Why did you turn your face away? Was it for grief or fear,
Your strength would fail or your pride grow weak, If you touched my hand, if you heard me speak, After a life-long year?
Naidu was influenced heavily by Persian mystical poetry, which was centred on the concept of ‘the beloved.’ She was an avid lover of Rumi, Hafiz, and Khayyam, among others. She penned poems that expressed her desire to give everything away to the adored. The poet’s existence revolves around the lover, who is seen as the highest centre. Each emotion that the poet encounters, whether joy, sorrow, anguish, ecstasy, sadness, or melancholy, appears to originate with the beloved. The poet finds ultimate fulfilment from the pure and spiritual affection/dedication he feels for the beloved. The following verses appear in her poem titles: To Love
O love! of all the treasures that I own,
What gift have I withheld before thy throne?
Summary of If You Call Me
‘If You Call Me’ is the fifth poem (lines 56-71) of The Gate Of Delight, the first portion of the series. It is a beautiful song with charming simplicity and flowing music, yet the quickness of its rhythm hurts. It is in sync with the beloved’s yearning for a quick reunion with the lover. As observed in Indian love poetry, it is a passionate and ecstatic submission of the self to the lover, where suffering is never perceived in a fully negative way as the entire antithesis of joy. However, the poem lacks the melancholy relish of anguish that is common in Indian literary tradition.
“If You Call Me,” a passionate and euphoric surrender of the self to the lover, is a deeply contemplative poem by Sarojini Naidu in which the “sweetness of sorrow” in love and the “pleasure of pain” reign supreme. For sincere love, the beloved offers herself totally. The Poetess is excited to see her lover and is merely waiting for his call. She would rush to him as soon as he called her, faster than a scared forest deer fleeing the hunter or a deer that is out of breath and panting due to its lengthy trip through the forest. She would run to him faster than a snake at the call of a snake-charmer. If he calls, she will come courageously, regardless of the repercussions or what happens to her. Hers is a complete surrender to her lover’s wishes; she is unconcerned about the repercussions. If her lover beckons, she will fly to him faster than desire or thought, faster than the lightning that rushes across the sky wearing shoes made of fire feathers. No impediments would be able to stand in her way. Even if dark oceans of tragedy flowed between them or a great chasm of death separated them, she would not be stopped. If he summons her, she will come to him without regard for the repercussions or the barriers and challenges that may stand in her way. This is a love that will not tolerate any delay or inconvenience. The fast-paced flow of the sentences perfectly expresses the poet’s emotion and the urgency of her longing. Here’s an art that hides art.
There is a strong sense of absolute self-surrender, as well as an apparent exaltation of the beloved’s suffering in order to lose oneself in the Infinite. The paradox of love is that the pleasure of separation is as great as the pleasure of connection. This poem’s theme, love, is handled with care with all the attractive simplicity and melodic music of a love song. It is founded on dualism, even as it strives towards oneness. Again, the swiftness of its beat beautifully harmonises with the beloved’s longing for a quick reunion with the lover. But all of her efforts are self-generated, and the energising recognition from her boyfriend never materialises.
The speaker appears to be urgently attempting to resurrect a fading or dead love. The passage expresses an enduring and exalted love for her unmoved lover. The speaker is harsh on herself, and she is often bold in the goal of attracting the lover’s attention. “If you call me, I will come/ Fearless what befall.” If her boyfriend calls her, she will run to him faster than a terrified darling of the woodland fleeing from the hunter or a dove, which is “breathless‟ and ” due to its long flight in the sky. She would come to him faster than a snake at the call of a snake-charmer. If he calls her, she will come valiantly, regardless of the repercussions or what happens to her. Hers is a complete surrender to his lover’s will; she is unconcerned about the repercussions. She may be saying this in the hopes of eliciting a response from her lover. However, there is no transition from devotion to ecstasy of fulfilment or oneness with her object of love.
In the next stanza, the speaker’s eagerness “if you call me” becomes sadder and escalates to a greater scale with repeated insistence. The speaker wishes to utterly surrender herself, to completely subordinate herself to the lover. If her lover beckons, she will fly to him faster than desire or thought, faster even than lightning, which rushes across the sky wearing shoes of feathers or fire. No impediments would be able to stand in her way. Even if dark oceans of misery flowed between them or a great gulf of death separated them, she would not stop. If he calls her again, she will come to him without fear of repercussions or concern for the hurdles and challenges that may arise in her path. Here is a love that will tolerate no delay or difficulty, but will not respond.
Analysis of the Poem If You Call Me
“If You Call Me” is the fifth poem in Sarojini Naidu’s Gates of Delight collection of eight poems. All eight poems are on the poet’s condition as a lover and the glory of the beloved. The poetess expresses complete surrender to the beloved’s devotion. She derives all of her life strength from her beloved’s delight and appears to seek to give her life away to him. When the lover experiences spells of separation and rejection by the beloved, there are moments of uncertainty and dejection. The anguish of having to walk away from the source of all life proves too much for the lover. There are times when the lover has a mental breakdown and wants pardon for his stupidity of intruding on the life of the beloved, who is regarded as too glorious to contemplate the lover.
In the present poem If You Call Me, the poetess is eager to visit her beloved and is simply waiting for a call from him. She would rush to him as soon as he called her, faster than a scared forest deer fleeing the hunter or a dove gasping from its long journey in the sky. She would come to him faster than a snake at the call of a snake charmer. If he calls her, she will come courageously, regardless of the repercussions or what happens to her. Hers is a total surrender to her lover’s wishes; fear of repercussions does not factor into her calculations. The pleasure she would derive from her relationship with her partner would transcend any concerns about the future. If her love beckons her, she will fly to him faster than desire or thought, faster than lightning rushes through the sky wearing shoes made of fire feathers. No impediments would be able to stand in her way. Even if dark oceans of tragedy flowed between them or a great chasm of death separated them, she would not be stopped. If he summons her, she will come to him without regard for the repercussions or the barriers and challenges that may stand in her way. Hers is a love that will not tolerate any delay or inconvenience. The fast-paced flow of the sentences perfectly expresses the poet’s emotion and the urgency of her longing. Here’s an art that hides art.
The lover frequently chastises himself for believing that he could find atonement with his beloved, and fate conspired to turn the lover into a burning bonfire. Even in the midst of humiliation and mental turmoil, the lover never forgets his beloved’s face, and every star in the night sky reminds him of his cherished. Every spring reminds him of the wonders and magnificent joys of the exquisite universe he experienced with his sweetheart. The lover is rational at times, knowing that his beloved is not an immortal conception, but a person made of blood and bones who is affected by fate just as much as he is, but somewhere deep in his heart, he believes that his innocent and pious love for his beloved will transcend the calamities of fate and the inevitable passage of time.
Naidu is not a mystic poet, nor is mysticism a major theme in her work. Her poems are wonderfully constructed and brimming with pictures that have a mystical ardour to compliment her writing style.
In her writings, Naidu’s longing is for a mystic platonic partner, not for a human individual. Even if she had a human lover, her love was a representation of the transcendental divine. This is shown in her devotional tone in the following lines:
I care not since you make most audible
The subtle murmurs of eternity And tho’ you are, like men of mortal race, That Death may mar and destiny efface ..
I care not … since unto my heart you bring
The very vision of God’s dwelling place
A similar approach to the beloved may be observed in the poet’s poem If You Call Me, where she is ready to rush to her lover at the first call. She is nervously anticipating his hint and is in a condition of feverish anticipation. She trembles like a deer and is connected to the charmer’s thrall by a love spell like a serpent. The poem is divided into two stanzas, each ending with the lines Fearless what betide/Fearless what befall. The poet is willing to suffer the penalties of her violation in order to be with her beloved. Love has rendered the lover fearless, and he longs for the moment when he will be united with the beloved. Even if they are separated by the cruelties of fate and the chasms of death, the lover will not be disappointed in his efforts to reach his beloved. Every risk becomes insignificant in the aftermath of meeting the beloved, as the poet narrator feels in the poem.
The poem has two stanzas each comprise eight lines, with the second rhyming with the fourth and the sixth rhyming with the eighth. It is also worth noting that the song’s refrain, “If You Call Me; I will Come,” has been repeated four times. The majority of the words are monosyllabic, which adds to the song’s melody.