SAJEEPEDIA

OUR CASUARINA TREE BY TORU DUTT

Our Casuarina Tree is an ode by the famous Indian poet Toru Dutt. Published in 1881, the poem is autobiographical and nostalgic. The poet reminisces the majestic Casuarina Tree at her parental home in her childhood days, a heavy remembrance of her pleasurable childhood with her friends and siblings. Her deep attachment to the tree is hinted in the very first word of the poem’s title.

‘Our Casuarina Tree’ was collected in Toru Dutt’s Ancient Ballads and Legends of Hindustan. It remains one of the most famous poems of an Indian poet in English.

OUR CASUARINA TREE BY TORU DUTT POEM

LIKE a huge Python, winding round and round  
 The rugged trunk, indented deep with scars,  
 Up to its very summit near the stars,  
A creeper climbs, in whose embraces bound  
 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 first my casement is wide open thrown  
 At dawn, my eyes delighted on it rest;  
 Sometimes, and most in winter,—on its crest  
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 hail the day;  
 And to their pastures wend our sleepy cows;  
And in the shadow, on the broad tank cast          
By that hoar tree, so beautiful and vast,  
The water-lilies spring, like snow enmassed.  

But not because of its magnificence  
 Dear is the Casuarina to my soul:  
 Beneath it we have played; though years may roll,        
O sweet companions, loved with love intense,  
 For your sakes, shall the tree be ever dear.  
Blent with your images, it shall arise  
In memory, till the hot tears blind mine eyes!  
 What is that dirge-like murmur that I hear        
Like the sea breaking on a shingle-beach?  
It is the tree’s lament, an eerie speech,  
That haply to the unknown land may reach.  
 
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,  
When slumbered in his cave the water-wraith  
 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        
 Unto thy honor, Tree, beloved of those  
 Who now in blessed sleep for aye repose,—  
Dearer than life to me, alas, were they!  
 Mayst thou be numbered when my days are done  
With deathless trees—like those in Borrowdale,        
Under whose awful branches lingered pale  
 “Fear, trembling Hope, and Death, the skeleton,  
And Time the shadow;” and though weak the verse  
That would thy beauty fain, oh, fain rehearse,  
May Love defend thee from Oblivion’s curse.

OUR CASUARINA TREE SUMMARY

Stanza 1

The majesty of the Casuarina tree is illustrated in the opening lines. The Casuarina Tree is standing tall whose summit near to the stars. A creeper winding round and round the rugged trunk has created deep scar around the tree which looks like a huge python creeping around. No other tree, if not it is Casuarina, could survive the chokehold of the creeper. But the giant (Casuarina) valiantly wears the flowers like a scarf and the flowers hang around the boughs of the tree. 

Birds and bees are gathered among the flowers all the day. Oft at nights, the song of a singing bird overflows the garden in which the tree is standing. The song continues to hear until the daybreak.

Stanza 2

The poetess is delighted to see the Casuarina tree when she opens her casement at every dawn. During the winter, a gray baboon is seen sitting statue-like on the crest of the tree watching sunrise with its offspring leaping and playing on the tree’s lower boughs.  The tree occupies a pride place in the garden and in the vicinity, there are sleepy cows and the jubilant song of the kokilas (Nightingale) which keep its liveliness. The shadow of the giant tree falls on the huge water tank. And in the shadow of the tree, the water-lilies spring on the water tank which look like a mass of snow is gathered around. 

Stanza 3

The tree is so dear to the poet’s soul not because of the magnificence of the tree, but because she has spent all the happy moments under the tree with her siblings. She addresses directly her companions “O sweet Companions” and says that tree is so dear to her only because of them. The tree often arises in her memory blent with the images of her loved companions until her hot tears blind her eyes. The poetess could still hear the dirge-like murmur of the tree even after many years when she is boarded in an alien land.

Stanza 4

When she is in the distant shores, in France and Italy, when she has heard the music of the waves she could form an inner vision of the dear Casuarina tree. The lingering image of the tree with her loved ones haunts her at every vision. 

Stanza 5

The poet would like to consecrate the memory of the haunting tree to those of loved ones who are now blessed with eternal sleep (died) hoping that the tree may be numbered among the deathless trees like those in Borrowdale (the tree may become immortal) even after her life is done. She alludes to Wordsworth’s poem “Yew-Trees” in which he immortalizes the trees in Borrowdale valley in the Lake district. Toru Dutt wishes the tree be free from ‘Oblivion’s curse’ i.e., it would outlive generations and be celebrated for long as her love of the tree has captured it in this poem. 

‘Our Casuarina Tree’ is poem in which the tree becomes the medium for the poetess to link between her present and her unforgettable childhood days under the tree. The poetess could still remember the tree because she had all her happy moments of her childhood under the tree.

Our Casuarina Tree is an ode to the happy memories of the poetess around the tree.

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