The Love Songs of Sarojini Naidu (1879 - 1949)

Six Indian Love Poems

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Sarojini Naidu. Government of India

Sarojini Naidu (1879 - 1949), the great Indo-Anglian poet, scholar, freedom fighter, feminist, political activist, orator and administrator was the first woman president of the Indian National Congress, and first Indian state governor.

Sarojini Chattopadhyay or Sarojini Naidu, as the world knows her, was born on February 13, 1879 in a Hindu Bengali Brahmin family. As a child Sarojini was of a very emotional and sentimental kind.

She had a prominent romantic trait in her blood: "My ancestors for thousands of years have been lovers of the forest and the mountain caves, great dreamers, great scholars, great ascetics…" All these qualities manifest themselves in her romantic lyrics - a world of fantasy and allegoric idealism.

Sarojini's letter to Arthur Symons, when she was a teenager inviting him to her home reveal her passionate self - "Come and share my exquisite March morning with me… All is hot and fierce and passionate, ardent and unashamed in its exulting and importunate desire for life and love…" Symons found, "Her eyes were like deep pools and you seem to fall through them into depths below depths." She was petite and used to dress in 'clinging silks', and wore her hair loose 'straight down her back', spoke little and in 'a low voice, like gentle music'. Edmund Gosse said of her, "She was a child of sixteen, but…was already marvelous in mental maturity, amazingly well-read and far beyond a western child in all her acquaintance with the world."

Here is a selection of love poems from The Golden Threshold by Sarojini Naidu with an Introduction by Arthur Symons (John Lane Company, New York, 1916): "The Poet's Love Song", "Ecstasy", "Autumn Song", "An Indian Love Song", "A Love Song From the North", and "A Rajput Love Song".

The Poet's Love-Song

In noon-tide hours, O Love, secure and strong,
I need thee not; mad dreams are mine to bind
The world to my desire, and hold the wind
A voiceless captive to my conquering song.
I need thee not, I am content with these:
Keep silence in thy soul, beyond the seas!

But in the desolate hour of midnight, when
An ectasy of starry silence sleeps
And my soul hungers for thy voice, O then,
Love, like the magic of wild melodies,
Let thy soul answer mine across the seas.

Ecstasy

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!
Shelter my soul, O my love!
My soul is bent low with the pain
And the burden of love, like the grace
Of a flower that is smitten with rain:
O shelter my soul from thy face!

Autumn Song

Like a joy on the heart of a sorrow,
The sunset hangs on a cloud;
A golden storm of glittering sheaves,
Of fair and frail and fluttering leaves,
The wild wind blows in a cloud.
Hark to a voice that is calling
To my heart in the voice of the wind:
My heart is weary and sad and alone,
For its dreams like the fluttering leaves have gone, And why should I stay behind?

More poems on the following pages...

An Indian Love Song

He

Lift up the veils that darken the delicate moon
of thy glory and grace,
Withhold not, O love, from the night
of my longing the joy of thy luminous face,
Give me a spear of the scented keora
guarding thy pinioned curls,
Or a silken thread from the fringes
that trouble the dream of thy glimmering pearls;
Faint grows my soul with thy tresses' perfume
and the song of thy anklets' caprice,
Revive me, I pray, with the magical nectar
that dwells in the flower of thy kiss.

She

How shall I yield to the voice of thy pleading,
how shall I grant thy prayer,
Or give thee a rose-red silken tassel,
a scented leaf from my hair?
Or fling in the flame of thy heart's desire the veils that cover my face,
Profane the law of my father's creed for a foe
of my father's race?
Thy kinsmen have broken our sacred altars and slaughtered our sacred kine,
The feud of old faiths and the blood of old battles sever thy people and mine.

He

What are the sins of my race, Beloved,
what are my people to thee?
And what are thy shrines, and kine and kindred,
what are thy gods to me?
Love recks not of feuds and bitter follies,
of stranger, comrade or kin,
Alike in his ear sound the temple bells
and the cry of the muezzin.
For Love shall cancel the ancient wrong
and conquer the ancient rage,
Redeem with his tears the memoried sorrow
that sullied a bygone age.

A Love Song from the North

Tell me no more of thy love, papeeha*,
Wouldst thou recall to my heart, papeeha,
Dreams of delight that are gone,
When swift to my side came the feet of my lover
With stars of the dusk and the dawn?
I see the soft wings of the clouds on the river,
And jewelled with raindrops the mango-leaves quiver,
And tender boughs flower on the plain.....
But what is their beauty to me, papeeha,
Beauty of blossom and shower, papeeha,
That brings not my lover again?


Tell me no more of thy love, papeeha,
Wouldst thou revive in my heart, papeeha
Grief for the joy that is gone?
I hear the bright peacock in glimmering woodlands
Cry to its mate in the dawn;
I hear the black koel's slow, tremulous wooing,
And sweet in the gardens the calling and cooing
Of passionate bulbul and dove....
But what is their music to me, papeeha
Songs of their laughter and love, papeeha,
To me, forsaken of love?

* The papeeha is a bird that wings into the northern plains of India in the mango season, and calls " 'Pi-kahan, Pi-kahan' - Where is my love?"

A Rajput Love Song

(Parvati at her lattice)
O Love! were you a basil-wreath to twine
among my tresses,
A jewelled clasp of shining gold to bind around my sleeve,
O Love! were you the keora's soul that haunts
my silken raiment,
A bright, vermilion tassel in the girdles that I weave;

O Love! were you the scented fan
that lies upon my pillow,
A sandal lute, or silver lamp that burns before my shrine,
Why should I fear the jealous dawn
that spreads with cruel laughter,
Sad veils of separation between your face and mine?

Haste, O wild-bee hours, to the gardens of the sun set!
Fly, wild-parrot day, to the orchards of the west!
Come, O tender night, with your sweet,
consoling darkness,
And bring me my Beloved to the shelter of my breast!

(Amar Singh in the saddle)
O Love! were you the hooded hawk upon my hand
that flutters,
Its collar-band of gleaming bells atinkle as I ride,
O Love! were you a turban-spray or
floating heron-feather,
The radiant, swift, unconquered sword
that swingeth at my side;

O Love! were you a shield against the
arrows of my foemen,
An amulet of jade against the perils of the way,
How should the drum-beats of the dawn
divide me from your bosom,
Or the union of the midnight be ended with the day?

Haste, O wild-deer hours, to the meadows of the sunset!
Fly, wild stallion day, to the pastures of the west!
Come, O tranquil night, with your soft,
consenting darkness,
And bear me to the fragrance of my Beloved's breast!