Our Casuarina Tree[1]

LIKE a huge Python, winding round and round  
 The rugged trunk, indented deep with scars,             thrust; cut
 Up to its very summit near the stars,  
A creeper climbs, in whose embraces bound              encircled
 No other tree could live. But gallantly        
The giant wears the scarf, and flowers are hung  
In crimson clusters all the boughs among,  
 Whereon all day are gathered bird and bee;  
And oft at nights the garden overflows  
With one sweet song that seems to have no close,          
Sung darkling from our tree, while men repose.         When it is growing dark/ in the dark
When first my casement is wide open thrown  
 At dawn, my eyes delighted on it rest;                      feel soothed on looking at something
 Sometimes, and most in winter,—on its crest           summit, highest point of branches  
A gray baboon sits statue-like alone        
 Watching the sunrise; while on lower boughs  
His puny offspring leap about and play;  
And far and near kokilas[2] hail the day;  
 And to their pastures wend our sleepy cows;            make their way
And in the shadow, on the broad tank cast                shadow thrown by the tree       
By that hoar tree, so beautiful and vast,                    old and grey
The water-lilies spring, like snow enmassed.              congealed
But not because of its magnificence  
 Dear is the Casuarina to my soul:  
 Beneath it we have played; though years may roll,            pass away with time        
O sweet companions, loved with love intense,                    deep affection
 For your sakes, shall the tree be ever dear.  
Blent with your images, it shall arise                           blended, mingled  
In memory, till the hot tears blind mine eyes![3]  
 What is that dirge-like murmur that I hear   a lament for the dead, especially part of a funeral rite    
Like the sea breaking on a shingle-beach?                  pebbles  
It is the tree’s lament, an eerie speech,  
That haply to the unknown land may reach.               possibly
Unknown, yet well-known to the eye of faith!  
 Ah, I have heard that wail far, far away        
 In distant lands, by many a sheltered bay,                 sea-beaches covered with shadowy trees
When slumbered in his cave the water-wraith            sea-god
 And the waves gently kissed the classic shore  
Of France or Italy, beneath the moon,  
When earth lay trancèd in a dreamless swoon:      
 And every time the music rose,—before  
Mine inner vision rose a form sublime,  
Thy form, O Tree, as in my happy prime  
I saw thee, in my own loved native clime.  
Therefore I fain would consecrate a lay         gladly  /           compose a sacred verse       
 Unto thy honor, Tree, beloved of those  
 Who now in blessed sleep for aye repose,—                         heavenly          for ever, eternally
Dearer than life to me, alas, were they!  
 Mayst thou be numbered when my days are done                counted, (here) survive  
With deathless trees—like those in Borrowdale,[4]                  a velley in South of England     
Under whose awful branches lingered pale  
 “Fear, trembling Hope, and Death, the skeleton,  
And Time the shadow;”[5] and though weak the verse  
That would thy beauty fain, oh, fain rehearse,                      narrate, tell, (here) consecrate
May Love defend thee from Oblivion’s curse.


[1] The casuarina is an ornamental conifer tree with a resemblance to the larch.

[2] Kokilas, better known as koels, are a type of cuckoo sometimes called the Indian nightingale.

[3] Dutt had two siblings, a brother named Abju who died at the age of fourteen (when Toru was nine) and a

sister named Aru who died at the age of twenty (when Toru was eighteen). Thus, both were dead at the

time Dutt wrote this poem, making its nostalgia all the more poignant.

[4] Borrowdale is a mountainous valley in England’s Lake District.

[5] Dutt here is quoting (albeit not entirely accurately) William Wordsworth’s poem “Yew Trees,” which

pays tribute to four particular yew trees in Borrowdale.

Last modified: Thursday, 1 February 2018, 12:56 AM