"OUR CASUARINA TREE" - Short Questions & Answers

1)   What does Taru Dutt compare the Python to and why?

The “beautiful last poem” in the Ancient Ballads and Legends of Hindustan by Toru Dutt, published in 1882, five years after her death, in which the “loving and observant spirit” of this gifted Indo-Anglian poet “finds, perhaps, its highest expression”, bears a simple but attractive title Our Casuarina Tree. A creeper that intertwines the study Casurina tree is compared to a python winding up “to its very summit near the stars”..

The creeper may seem serpentine like the “intertwisted fibres” of Wordsworth’s Yew Trees, it may resemble a reptile that can crush its victims to death but the Dutt’s Casuarina tree is too strong to be so subjugated and destroyed. Instead, it displays its might by standing firm and erect and effortlessly wearing the luxurious creeper laden with crimson blossoms as a mere “scarf”, beautifully and brightly patterned. The gallant Casuarina defies the parasitic creeper that clings to it.

The image might at first seem dark and foreboding, but the image ultimately emphasizes the great strength of the tree itself. For some readers, the tree symbolizes the ancient and venerable culture of India, while the huge encircling creeper symbolizes the potentially deadly influence of colonialism. Most immediately, though, the creeper itself seems to add a kind of beauty to the tree; it, after all, is called a “scarf”, a word with fairly positive connotations.

2)   Wht is the Giant? What is it wearing? The reason of its comparing?

The “beautiful last poem” in the Ancient Ballads and Legends of Hindustan by Toru Dutt, published in 1882, five years after her death, in which the “loving and observant spirit” of this gifted Indo-Anglian poet “finds, perhaps, its highest expression”, bears a simple but attractive title Our Casuarina Tree. The tree is metaphorical said as a giant due to its huge size, strength and boldness. A creeper that intertwines the study Casurina tree is compared to a python winding up “to its very summit near the stars”.

The image might at first seem dark and foreboding, but the image ultimately emphasizes the great strength of the tree itself. For some readers, the tree symbolizes the ancient and venerable culture of India, while the huge encircling creeper symbolizes the potentially deadly influence of colonialism. Most immediately, though, the creeper itself seems to add a kind of beauty to the tree; it, after all, is called a “scarf”, a word with fairly positive connotations.

Although the creeper has left deep marks on the trunk of the tree, the tree is so strong that it bears the tight hold of the creeper. The tree is described as being gallant, and possibly brave, as very few trees could survive in the strangle-hold of this creeper. The Casuarina Tree is covered with the creeper which bears red crimson flowers that appear as though the tree is wearing a colorful scarf. The poet then goes on to describe the life that thrives amidst every facet of the tree.

3)    What does the image of the baboon contribute to the mood of the poem?

The “beautiful last poem” in the Ancient Ballads and Legends of Hindustan by Toru Dutt, published in 1882, five years after her death, in which the “loving and observant spirit” of this gifted Indo-Anglian poet “finds, perhaps, its highest expression”, bears a simple but attractive title Our Casuarina Tree.

In the first line of the second stanza of the poem, Dutt brings in the “I” which instantly connects it with the “Our” of the title of her poem. As the tone as well as the approach is more subjective in this stanza, the Casuarina tree too seems much more than a mere tree in the poet’s garden. Every morning, when the “casement is wide open thrown”, two “delighted eyes” of the poet rest on it. And at times, “most in winter”, they gaze at a solitary “gray baboon”, on the “crest”, watching the glorious sunrise while on the lower branches, in direct contrast to this silent, “statue-like” creature is its playful “puny offspring” oblivious of Nature’s magic and the serenity of the quiet morning.

The baboon has been man’s ancestor suggesting the primal energy of man. The image revokes a delightful and realistic picture of life enmeshed with the beauties of Nature.

4)   Why does the memory blind her with tears?

The “beautiful last poem” in the Ancient Ballads and Legends of Hindustan by Toru Dutt, published in 1882, five years after her death, in which the “loving and observant spirit” of this gifted Indo-Anglian poet “finds, perhaps, its highest expression”, bears a simple but attractive title Our Casuarina Tree.

In the third stanza of the poem, Dutt reveals that the beauty of the tree is no more than an added gift. Its actual importance lies in the fact that it is a part of the Dutt’s existence, a reminder of family ties, of the warmth shared by three siblings. Her eyes fill as she recalls the happy past and remembers the three care-free children playing in the garden, under its branches. And the tree loyally responds to her plaintive mood. With the poet, we strain our ears to hear the rustling of the leaves, the “dirge-like murmur”, somewhat like the “murmuring” that Wordsworth once heard “from Glaramara’s inmost caves”. Her tree, their tree, mourns her loss and the “eerie speech”, she hopes, may reach the un-traversed terrain of the dead.

The extent of Toru’s anguish, as, quite helplessly, she had to watch her brother and sister die, may actually be felt in these lines. Yet, unlike Keats, Toru does not express any desire to fade “far away” and “dissolve”. Their Casuarina tree does not make her long for “easeful” death. Instead, even though its “timelessness” mocks the transience of the human world, the tree is to her a support, a reminder of the joy she once experienced with Abju and Aru. So, with the passion of a loving sister she remembers her “sweet companions” and cries, “For your sakes shall the tree be ever dear!” Her brother and sister, though dead, are never too far away from her and she does not wish to erase them from her memory.

5)   How does Dutt connect the tree to the memory of distant land?

The “beautiful last poem” in the Ancient Ballads and Legends of Hindustan by Toru Dutt, published in 1882, five years after her death, in which the “loving and observant spirit” of this gifted Indo-Anglian poet “finds, perhaps, its highest expression”, bears a simple but attractive title Our Casuarina Tree.

In the fourth stanza of the poem, the poet talks about the memory of distant land. The significance of the word “unknown” that connects the third stanza with the fourth may thus be fully realized if her personal sorrow as well as her once-diasporic existence in the west is kept in mind. In the closing line of the third stanza, she speaks of the “unknown” and unexplored territory that Abju and Aru had entered, never to return. But, as the opening line of the fourth stanza claims, the unknown is “yet well-known” as it can be reconstructed/imagined or even viewed through “the eye of faith”. It humanizes the tree, for its lament is a human recordation of pain and regret…” and the “tree’s lament”, which may reach the land of the dead, transcends territorial boundaries and is heard by her in “distant lands” and even on the “classic shores” of France and Italy. Toru’s description of both the silent Earth, “tranced in a dreamless swoon”, bathed in the silver light of the moon and the “sheltered bay” with its gently undulating waves is enthralling.

 

 

Last modified: Friday, 29 December 2017, 12:42 AM