Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sarojini Naidu

Known as one of India's foremost women poets, part of India's freedom struggle, Sarojini Naidu has always intrigued me. A strong woman at a time when there were no role models to follow, she in some ways reminded me of my paternal aunts, who were extremely strong and independent women. I remember way back in school we had one of her poems as part of the subject matter. Those were the days when at school you wouldn't discuss the poems you read or analyse them - oh, no the goal was just to memorise them and be able, in an exam paper, to fill in blank verses from the poem correctly.

But this particular poem always stayed in my mind, as much for the lilt and the rhythm as for the imagery - so delicate, so intricate and so vivid. You can almost see the palanquin swaying to the tune as the palanquin bearers sing this song:

Palanquin Bearers

Lightly, O lightly we bear her along,
She sways like a flower in the wind of our song;
She skims like a bird on the foam of a stream,
She floats like a laugh from the lips of a dream.
Gaily, O gaily we glide and we sing,
We bear her along like a pearl on a string.

Softly, O softly we bear her along,
She hangs like a star in the dew of our song;
She springs like a beam on the brow of the tide,
She falls like a tear from the eyes of a bride.
Lightly, O lightly we glide and we sing,
We bear her along like a pearl on a string.