Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

DUTT, TORU, a Hindu poetess, was born at Calcutta, March 4, 1856; died there August 30, 1877. Her father, the Baboo Govin Chunder Dutt, a magistrate and justice of the peace, and a man of unusual culture and erudition, educated his children at home. These consisted of a son and two daughters; Abju, who died in 1865 at the age of fourteen, Aru, who died at twenty in 1874; and Toru. With her sister Aru, this remarkable scholar attended a French pension for four months, while visiting Europe with their father 1869 to 1872; otherwise the girls were never at school. They both became, however, most remarkable scholars; Toru acquired a thorough knowledge of French, English, German, as well as her native tongue, besides so perfect an acquaintance with Sanskrit that she was enabled to translate portions of the Vishnu Purana into English blank verse. In 1874 she published, in the Bengal Magazine, an essay on the works of Leconte de Lisle; and in 1876, the year before her death, she issued the volume by which she is best known, A Sheaf Gleaned in French Fields. This book contained more than one hundred and fifty compositions in English ; while a second and enlarged edition, printed the year after her death, brought the number up to more than two hundred. Many of these compositions are translations into English of the writing of the best modern French poets. Early in 1879 appeared from the Paris press her Journal de Mlle. D'Arvers, a novel in French, which she had written after reading Clarisse Bader's work on the women of ancient India. This work, which was to have been illustrated by the sister whose death preceded her own, was given in manuscript to her father when Toru was upon her death-bed ; and, though in French and published in France, it attracted wide attention in England, because, as has been said by a recent reviewer, it is English in sentiment. Her Sonnets were published in 1882. Among her manuscripts was found also an unfinished romance in English, entitled Bianca, or The Young Spanish Maiden. This was her first venture in English prose. With it she left also a number of original English poems.

The following estimate of this young poetess of Sindhu is by Edmund Gosse : “ It is difficult to exaggerate when we try to estimate what we have lost in the premature death of Toru Dutt. Literature has no honors which need have been beyond the grasp of a girl who, before the age of twentyone, and in languages separated from her own by so deep a chasm, had produced so much of lasting worth. And her courage and fortitude were worthy of her intelligence. Among last words of celebrated people, that which her father has recorded, “It is only the physical pain that makes me cry,' is not the least remarkable, or the least significant of strong character. It was to a native of our island, and to one ten years senior to Toru, to whom it was said, in words more appropriate, surely, to her than to Oldham:

“Thy generous fruits, though gathered ere thy prime, Still showed a quickness, and maturing time But mellows what we write to the dull sweets of Rime.'

“That mellow sweetness was all that Toru lacked to perfect her as an English poet, and of no other Oriental who has ever lived can the same be said. When the history of the literature of our country comes to be written, there is sure to be a page in it dedicated to this fragile exotic blossom of song."

OUR CASUARINA TREE.

Like a huge python, winding round and round

The rugged trunk, indented deep with scars,

Up to its very summit near the stars,
A creeper climbs, in whose embraces bound

No other tree could live. But gallantly
The giant wears the scarf, and flowers are hung
In crimson clusters all the boughs among,

Whereon all day are gathered bird and bee;
And oft at night the garden overflows
With one sweet song that seems to have no close,
Sung darkling from our tree, while men repose.
When first my casement is wide open thrown

At dawn, my eyes delighted on it rest,

Sometimes—and most in winter-on its crest
A gray baboon sits statue-like alone

Watching the sunrise ; while on lower boughs
His puny offspring leap about and play ;
And far and near kokilas hail the day ;

And to the pastures wend our sleepy cows;
And in the shadow, on the broad tank cast
By that boar tree, so beautiful and vast,
The water-lilies spring like snow enmassed.

Therefore I fain would consecrate a lay

Unto thy honor, Tree, beloved of these

Who now in blessed sleep, for aye, repose ; Dearer than life to me, alas! were they !

Mayst thou be numbered when my days are done With deathless trees—like those in Borrowdale, Under whose awful branches linger pale

Fear, trembling hope, and death, the skeleton, And Time the shadow; and though weak the verse That would thy beauty fain, oh ! fain rehearse ; May love defend thee from Oblivion's curse.

- From Sonnets. FRANCE-I

-1870.
Not dead-oh, no-she cannot die !

Only a swoon, from loss of blood !
Levite England passes her by-
Help, Samaritan! None is nigh;

Who shall stanch me this sanguine flood ! 'Range the brown hair—it blinds her eyne;

Dash cold water over her face ! Drowned in her blood, she makes no sign, Give her a draught of generous wine!

None heed, none hear, to do this grace.
Head of the human column, thus

Ever in swoon wilt thou remain ?
Thought, Freedom, Truth, quenched ominous,
Whence then shall hope arise for us,

Plunged in the darkness all again?
No! She stirs ! There's a fire in her glance-

'Ware, oh, 'ware of that broken sword ! What, dare ye for an hour's mischance Gather around her jeering France

Attila's own exultant horde !
Lo, she stands up,--stands up e'en now,

Strong once more for the battle fray.
Gleams bright the star that from her brow
Lightens the world. Bow, nations bow
Let her again lead on the way.

-From a selection in The Century Magazine.

THE MESSAGE.

(After Heine.) To horse, my squire ! To horse, and quick

Be wingèd like the hurricane !

Fly to the château on the plain, And bring me news, for I am sick.

Glide 'mid the steeds, and ask a groom,

After some talk, this simple thing :

Of the two daughters of our king Who is to wed, and when, and whom?

And if he tell thee 'tis the brown,

Come shortly back and let me know ;

But if the blonde, ride soft and slow,The moonlight's pleasant on the down.

And as thou comest, faithful squire,

Get me a rope from shop or store,

And gently enter through this door And speak no word, but swift retire.

-From a Sheaf Gleaned in French Fields.

[graphic]
« ForrigeFortsett »