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The Village Song by Sarojini Naidu is one of the great pieces of Indian poetry showing Indian motherhood and an approach by an Indian girl to her married life. The entire poem talks about the dialogues between an Indian mother and her daughter regarding her marriage.
About the poet
Sarojini Naidu (1879 –1949) was an Indian political activist and poet. Her mother was a poetess. She inherited the instinct for poetry from her mother. She was an important figure in India’s struggle for independence from colonial rule. Naidu’s work as a poet earned her the sobriquet ‘the Nightingale of India’, or ‘Bharat Kokila’ by Mahatma Gandhi because of the colour, imagery, and lyrical quality of her poetry.
The theme of the poem is the comparison between the world of human beings that abounds in material pleasure in material pleasure and the world of nature that is contrary to it.
HONEY, child, honey, child, whither are you going? Would you cast your jewels all to the breezes blowing? Would you leave the mother who on golden grain has fed you? Would you grieve the lover who is riding forth to wed you?
The poem opens with a scene of a rural household, where the mother is pleading with her daughter not to run off. It’s the occasion of her marriage, the bride is bedecked with beautiful attire and ornaments. Though she is bedecked beautifully, she is not happy. Don’t know why, maybe she is tender aged, or she is showing childlike behavior she doesn’t want to get married. Seems she is bonded strongly with nature and feels unwilling to be shifted into a marital bond. The girl is very young thus she can’t accept a married life for the time being. She can’t even think of that, seems she is standing for the mother’s will. But her mind is still kiddish, she prefers to stay unmarried. At her age, her present free life is far more enjoyable than a dull married life.
Mother mine, to the wild forest I am going, Where upon the champa boughs the champa buds are blowing: To the Koil-haunted river-isles where lotus lilies glisten, The voices of the fairy folk are calling me: O listen!
The girl replies, that she is going to the forest where Champa trees are laden with Champa buds and beautiful flowers. The river flowing by the forest has many tiny islands that are home to Koil (Asian koel-a bird). The shining lotus and lilies add more charm to the forest. She tells the fairy folk is calling her. The girl is fascinated by her charming nature. In her perception married life is mundane. Thus, she prefers pleasure from nature to a dull married life.
Honey, child, honey, child, the world is full of pleasure, Of bridal-songs and cradle-songs and sandal-scented leisure. Your bridal robes are in the loom, silver and saffron glowing, Your bridal cakes are on the hearth: O whither are you going?
The mother again tries to catch the daughter’s attention. She reminds her about the many pleasures of the world and wedded life. Bridal songs are beautiful. Motherhood and cradle songs will give much pleasure and fulfill the life. Mother also reminds her of the pleasure of marital leisure. The mother then brings her attention toward her attire. Her bridal robes are made using a loom in glowing saffron and silver color combination. Her bridal cakes and dishes are getting ready. Her mother reminds her of all these to console her and tries to stay back in the wedding happiness.
The bridal-songs and cradle-songs have cadences of sorrow, The laughter of the sun today, the wind of death tomorrow Far sweeter sound the forest-notes where forest-streams are falling; O mother mine, I cannot stay, the fairy-folk are calling.
The bride’s sorrow fades the happiness of the wedding celebration. As a philosopher the girl says that the happiness of life is not permanent, it will come and fade. Today’s happiness maybe tomorrow’s sorrow. She still finds the sounds of the forest with streams and tiny islands is a happier place. The charm of the streams, forest, and the songs of the Koil are an endless source of pleasure, they never fade away. The poem ends with the strong determination of the girl to leave the home and spend her life in the lap of nature, which can give ultimate pleasure to her.