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The poem “Sita” was written by Toru Dutt. It was published posthumously in 1882 in a collection named “Ancient Ballads and Legends of Hindustan.” The book has an introductory memoir of Dutt by Edmund Gosse, an English poet, and critic. In this poem “Sita”Dutt shares her childhood story. She was the youngest child of three. She spent most of her childhood in Calcutta and learned stories of ancient India from her mother. This poem presents the memory of Dutt while hearing the story of Sita, from the great epic Ramayana.
About the Poet:
Tarulatta Datta, popularly known as Toru Dutt was an Indian Bengali poet & translator from British India. She wrote in English and French. Dutt is one of the founders of Indo-Anglian literature, along with Henry Louis Vivian Derozio, Manmohan Ghose and Sarojini Naidu. Some of her famous works in English are Sita, A Sheaf Gleaned in French Fields (1876) and Ancient Ballads and Legends of Hindustan (1882), The main themes in her writings are loneliness, longing, patriotism and nostalgia.
The poem “Sita” by Toru Dutt is composed of 22 lines. All the lines are grouped into a single stanza. The poem is written in the ballad style though the structure does not resemble the ballad form.
The poem “Sita” is composed in iambic pentameter. So, in each line, there are five iambs.
Point of View:
The poem “Sita” is written from a third person point of view. But in the last two lines of the poem, the poet has implied a rhetorical question from the first person narration.
Three happy children in a darkened room! What do they gaze on with wide-open eyes?
The poet directly drags the readers into the plot in the first two lines. The poet says that there are three children happily sitting in a dark room. They are actually amazed with their wide eyes open. One will get to know the reason for their amazement in the following lines.
A dense, dense forest, where no sunbeam pries, And in its centre a cleared spot.—There bloom Gigantic flowers on creepers that embrace Tall trees: there, in a quiet lucid lake The while swans glide; there, "whirring from the brake," The peacock springs; there, herds of wild deer race; There, patches gleam with yellow waving grain; There, blue smoke from strange altars rises light. There, dwells in peace, the poet-anchorite.
The poet introduces the readers to a dense forest. She uses the word “dense” twice to emphasise how the trees fully covered the dense forest. In this forest even the sun beam cannot make an entry. In the centre of the forest there are gigantic flowers that are blooming in the creepers. These flowers embrace the tall trees. The poet goes on to describe the forest to give the readers a full image. There in a quiet lake, lives a white swan gilding. The poet then depicts the picture of peacocks whirring their tails in happiness. In the forest there are deers that are running fast as if it is a race between them. The poet talks about the rich patches of grain gleaming with the light. Their heads are waving in the wind. There comes the bluish effects from some altars. In this beautiful place “the poet anchorite” is sitting peacefully. The term “poet anchorite” refers to Sita and the poet herself.Here the poetess compares herself to Sita.
But who is this fair lady? Not in vain She weeps,—for lo! at every tear she sheds Tears from three pairs of young eyes fall amain, And bowed in sorrow are the three young heads.
The poetess asks a rhetorical question in line 12. She asks “Who is this fair lady”. Actually the poetess is talking about Sita, who is turned down by her husband. She is not in vain, but she weeps for her condition. This made the three children shed tears. The children felt sad to hear the goddess suffering in pain. So, they bowed their heads in sorrow.
It is an old, old story, and the lay Which has evoked sad Sîta from the past Is by a mother sung.... 'Tis hushed at last And melts the picture from their sight away, Yet shall they dream of it until the day!
The poetess says that it is a very old story that is told in every household of India for children. She repeats the word “old” to emphasise the tale. The story speaks about the sad Sita who was turned down by her husband. Now, the readers get to know that the three children are hearing this story from their mother. The story ended, so the sad picture of Sita melted away from their minds. But the poetess says that they couldn’t stop thinking of Sita until the next morning. This shows how the story affected their minds.
When shall those children by their mother's side Gather, ah me! as erst at eventide?
The poetess uses a rhetorical question in these lines. She asks,when those children gathered by their mother’s side to listen to the tale of Sita. She answers, “ah me!”. means The poetess is talking about herself. It was her who used to gather around her mother along with her siblings Aru and Abju to listen to stories in her childhood days.