Read this article to know about the summary and theme of the poem palanquin bearers by Sarojini Naidu.
Nightingale of India
When people can’t express through tongue they choose to bleed through their pen, becoming a writer isn’t easy though. Single emotion but innumerable styles, abundant ideas and infinite techniques of communicating; only a writer can do this and so was Sarojini Naidu, who was given the title of ‘Nightingale of India’ because of her major contribution in the field of poetry, which contained English words but an Indian soul.
She was born on February 13, 1879, in Hyderabad. Her father Dr. Aghornath Chattopadyaya, was the founder of Nizam College of Hyderabad and a scientist. Her mother, Mrs. Varasundari, was a Bengali poetess and Sarojini Devi inherited qualities from both her father and mother.
She was a great patriot, politician, orator, and administrator. Her interest in the field of poetry was an outcome of the disinterest in algebra. She wrote her first inspired poetry in the algebra book and then enthused by this “The Lady of the Lake”, a poem of 1300 lines long was written by her.
Summary of Palanquin Bearers
There is a custom of carrying a bride in a palanquin by the palanquin bearers and the poem ‘The Palanquin Bearers’ is so finely woven around this custom, which expresses the joy and pride of the palanquin bearers in carrying the newlywed princess to her in-law’s house and while walking they are singing along happily.
According to the palanquin bearers, the bride is so light that it feels like the princess is swaying, like a flower sways in the wind. She is sitting in the palanquin and is hearing their song. They consider the royal princess as a privilege instead of a burden to them since she is sitting and thinking about her future after marriage. Like a flower in the wind, the bride is moving from side to side.
They say that ‘she is like the bird that skims on the foam of a stream’ which means that a bird passes a stream skipping through the foam of the stream and the bride resembles of that bird because she is so delicate to carry. She carries a mixed feeling as she is leaving her parents behind and moving onto a new phase of her life. She is happy and contented to live and start a new inning with her beloved.
They are carrying her like a pearl on a string since she is precious and delicate like a jewel. In the dew of their song, the princess is hanging like a star. Like a ray of light is seen on the top of a tide, she appears to be jumping just like that. A tear roll down the eyes of a bride, in the same way, she falls. The bearers are carrying the princess as if she is dew or a teardrop. They are delighted to carry the bride and could not feel her weight because she is very tender.
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The poem carries a number of similes: a flower, dewdrop and the laugh, to show how delicate and light the bride is, by using such similes the poetess’ intention is to get across that the bride is very tender and needs to be handled with care. The poetess is representing the bride as the heroine of the poem.
She describes the gesture of the bride by using different words of movement like sways, skims, floats and glide. The refrain gives the perception of consistent and steady movement of the palanquin. The poetess describes the bride as “she floats like a laugh” and then she writes “she falls like a tear”. This creates a contradiction because the bride is in tears since she is separating from her family, but she is laughing because she is going to start a new relationship with the love of her life.
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.