Summary of the poem The Gift Of India written by Sarojini Naidu?

On a poem by Sarojini Naidu - The Gift of India

Labels: Literary Criticism, Studies in Poetry

By Mandira Chattopadhyaya.

The Gift of India

Is there aught you need that my hands withhold, Rich gifts of raiment or grain or gold? Lo! I have flung to the East and West Priceless treasures torn from my breast, And yielded the sons of my stricken womb To the drum beats of duty, the sabers of doom.

Gathered like pearls in their alien graves Silent they sleep by the Persian waves, Scattered like shells on Egyptian sands, They lie with pale brows and brave, broken hands, They are strewn like blossoms mown down by chance On the blood brown meadows of Flanders and France.

Can ye measure the grief of the tears I weep Or compass the woe of the watch I keep? Or the pride that thrills thro' my heart's despair And the hope that comforts the anguish of prayer? And the far sad glorious vision I see Of the torn red banners of victory?

When the terror and tumult of hate shall cease And life be refashioned on anvils of peace, And your love shall offer memoriam thanks To the comrades who fought in your dauntless ranks, And you honour the deeds of the deathless ones, Remember the blood of my martyred sons. (written in August 1615)

A critical estimate of the poem

The very word 'gift' raises expectations, possibilities galore, because an object will change hands, a relationship is about to be established between the giver and the receiver. Naturally, a curiosity starts pecking at our minds as to what should be the nature of the gift. We perceive that the nature of gift varies according to the intention, scope, purview, time and occasion. When am object changes hands one may also ask the question- Is it spontaneous, voluntary, or by force that an object is imparted? Along with a question the word 'gift' receives an added dimension. The thought tickles our interest. It does so all the more because it is not a simple occasion like a birthday or a wedding ceremony that is involved.

Here, we see that the perception as a giver involves a vast country rich with natural resources. She can produce rich resources of raiment, food or gold. Already the receivers' hands are replete with those resources that she has been giving abundantly and generously. To the delight of the takers, her resources remain strewn about in all directions. Invaders from the East such as Taimur, Chenghis Khan and other barbarians have waded their way through the rivers of blood and filled their coffers with the rich booty, whatever they lay their hands on. 'Raiment' perhaps symbolizes culture, 'grain' stands for energy and 'gold' wealth. From time immemorial the tradition of this country is to offer food, clothes, and other valuables to the seekers who come for shelter. But sometimes looters have acquired treasures forcibly, as is referred to the phrase here, 'torn from my breast'.

The quality and quantity of gifts this motherland is capable of providing baffles one's imagination. She has suffered great pains and bled a great deal (ref. 'my stricken womb') in order to produce her sons. Her brave off-springs are often summoned abroad to the call of duty. To the orient and the occident the sound of drums reverberates to suck these heroes into the Valley of Death', 'into the mouth of Hell'.

The bodies of these heroes are not simply organic matters born to die, become rotten and decayed to disintegrate and vanish into oblivion. The value of their lives can be compared to the most valuable jewel of the mother earth. So their bodies are gathered like 'pearls' in alien graves or 'strewn like mown down blossoms'. They are not born to die in ignominy, but the war mongers have imposed on them the burden of war that they strategize on a table. So now these bodies are destined to lie like pearls in 'alien graves' or 'scattered like shells on Egyptian sands' and strewn like mown down blossoms on the meadows of Flanders and France. Death has visited them already. The alien soil is brown with their blood.

The motherland watches in grief as the bodies of her sons lie helpless; victims of war but not of their own making. Her feelings rack her in different mode which come and go in kaleidoscopic form. The immeasurable grief tears apart her heart; pride of her sons' heroism overwhelms her despair. She has to bear immeasurable pain and anguish to give away her dear sons to the aliens' demand, a gift that prove to be too unbearable to part with for her.

She has visions that one day the surge of hate and terror will come to an end. People will realize the worth of peace. Life will be remodeled into a new shape with its new found peace. Love of peace will harmonize the world. Soon everybody will be relieved of the scars of war. Soon, to the future generation the war will be retold in all its past glory, keeping aside the gory tale of agony and despair. Cenotaphs will be built in memory of the 'soldats inconnus' and people will gather there to offer their reverence and prayers. The motherland reminds the future generation to love and honor the heroic deeds of these martyrs who shed blood for their country