The Lotus Poem by Toru Dutt Summary, Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English


“The Lotus” is a poem written by Toru Dutt. It is a poem that brings out the significance and pride of Indian culture. 

About the Poet:

Toru Dutt (1856-1877) was a notable Bengali-Indian poet. She penned her works in two languages; French and English. Famous works of hers include Ancient Ballads and “Legends of Hindustan”, “Le Journal de Mademoiselle d’Arvers”, and “The Lotus”. 


This poem follows the structure of a Petrarchan sonnet and thus consists of 14 lines, divided into an octave of 8 lines and a sestet of 6 lines. 

Analysis and Summary:


Love came to Flora asking for a flower
That would of flowers be undisputed queen,
The lily and the rose, long, long had been
Rivals for that high honour. Bards of power
Had sung their claims. “The rose can never tower
Like the pale lily with her Juno mien”-
“But is the lily lovelier?” Thus between
Flower-factions rang the strife in Psyche’s bower.


The poem begins with “Love” asking “Flora” to name the “undisputed queen” of flowers. Lily and Rose, it is revealed, have long been “Rivals for that high honour”, with many powerful bards having sung of their praise. Thus, which flower is to be crowned the queen is left in dispute at the end of the octave– towering “pale lily” or lovely rose. 


As in all Petrarchan sonnets, in the octave, the main problem of which flower is best is introduced. The two flowers mentioned in this octave have a deep connection with the two goddesses mentioned. Lily is said to have been created with the breast milk of the virginal Roman goddess Juno upon the birth of her son Mars while Rose is said to have originated as a result of the lovemaking of Greek goddess Psyche and Cupid. 


“Give me a flower delicious as the rose
And stately as the lily in her pride”-
“But of what colour?”- “Rose-red,” Love first chose,
Then prayed, -“No, lily-white,-or, both provide”;
And Flora gave the lotus, “rose-red” dyed,
And “lily-white,”- the queenliest flower that blows.


Here, Love asks for a new flower that has the qualities of both a rose and a lily. Upon Flora’s question on the desired colour of this flower, Love first replied “Rose-red”, then “lily-white” before settling on a blend of both the colours. Upon this, Flora provides the lotus, “the queenliest flower that blows.”


In the sestet, the resolution for the previous problem is attained. The new queen of flowers is declared to be the lotus, whose colour is of both the lily and the rose. Crowing the lotus as the queen is a move by the poet to shed light on the significance of India’s national flower, even as she rejects the classical notions of beauty in flowers. 


This is a lovely sonnet. Through the lotus, it exquisitely brings out the beauty of Indian culture.