Sarojini Naidu (ca. 1896)

Sarojini Naidu (ca. 1896)

Once in the dream of a night I stood
Lone in the light of a magical wood,
Soul-deep in visions that poppy-like sprang;
And spirits of Truth were the birds that sang,
And spirits of Love were the stars that glowed,
And spirits of Peace were the streams that flowed
In that magical wood in the land of sleep.

Lone in the light of that magical grove,
I felt the stars of the spirits of Love
Gather and gleam round my delicate youth,
And I heard the song of the spirits of Truth;
To quench my longing I bent me low
By the streams of the spirits of Peace that flow
In that magical wood in the land of sleep.


Published in 1905,  The Golden Threshold, a collection of songs and poems from Sarojini Naidu features this song under Songs of Music.  Sarojini was somewhat of a childhood prodigy and was just 17 years old when she wrote many of the poems in that book.  Born and brought up in my hometown, Hyderabad, she was sent to England against her will in 1895 at the age of 16, partly because her affinity to Dr. Govindurajulu Naidu, her husband later, was not received well between the two families.  She returned to Hyderabad in 1898 and ignited  a major societal scandal later that year by breaking through the ridiculous caste barrier and marrying Dr. Naidu – might not seem like much now, but an act of great courage and conviction in those days.

She later joined the Indian Congress, and followed Gandhi in the fight for Indian Independence and became the first woman Governor in India, when she became the Governor of Uttar Pradesh after Independence.  She died in 1949, while in office, but her life and works left a great impression and a lasting legacy for many Indians to follow.

From the time I came across her poems in high school, her work always remained close to me, not just because she was a once-great-personality from my city, but she saw beauty all around her and presented it beautifully through her poems and songs, and though it is not the same city anymore, I can see the romanticized Hyderabad of old from her Nightfall in the city of Hyderabad ..

Charminar

Charminar

….

See the white river that flashes and scintillates,

Curved like a tusk from the mouth of the city-gates.

Hark, from the minaret, how the muezzin’s call

Floats like a battle-flag over the city wall.

From trellised balconies, languid and luminous

Faces gleam, veiled in a splendour voluminous.

Leisurely elephants wind through the winding lanes,

Swinging their silver bells hung from their silver chains.

Round the high Char Minar sounds of gay cavalcades

Blend with the music of cymbals and serenades.

….


….
See the white river that flashes and scintillates,
Curved like a tusk from the mouth of the city-gates.
Hark, from the minaret, how the muezzin’s call
Floats like a battle-flag over the city wall.
From trellised balconies, languid and luminous
Faces gleam, veiled in a splendour voluminous.
Leisurely elephants wind through the winding lanes,
Swinging their silver bells hung from their silver chains.
Round the high Char Minar sounds of gay cavalcades
Blend with the music of cymbals and serenades.
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