ABOUT THE POET
Sarojini Naidu was a renowned, poignant, prolific writer of Indian history who by her literary and patriotic works earned the sobriquet ‘ The Nightingale of India’. Born on February 13, 1879, at Hyderabad, India; Sarojini Naidu was a political activist, feminist, and the first Indian women to be the president of the Indian National Congress followed by Anne Besant. Apart from these accolades, she has various firsts under her hat. She was the first child of Aghorenath Chattopadhyay, who was the then principal of the Nizam’s College, Hyderabad and mother Barada Sundari Devi.
She attended the University of Madras at 12 and studied from 1895-98 at King’s College, London and later at Girton College, Cambridge. She has always been a bright student and topped the Madras University matriculation examinations.
Various works of poetry are attributed to he: The Golden Threshold (1905), The Bird of Time (1912), Death and the Spring, Muhammad Jinnah: An Ambassador of Unity etc. and her collected poems were published as ‘ The Sceptered Flute’(1928) and ‘ The Feather of Dawn’ (1961).
She was a freedom fighter, who was drawn towards the INC and to Mahatma Gandhi’s Noncooperation Movement. Her anti-British activities landed her to prison sentences in 1930,1932, 1942-43. She accompanied Gandhiji in the Second Round Table Conference in 1931. In 1929, Sarojini presided over East African Indian Congress in South Africa and was awarded the Kaisar -e-Hind medal by the British for the same. She became the governor of United Provinces( presently Uttar Pradesh).
Sarojini Naidu’s life has always been an inspiration for not only the Indians but also for the World. It is solely motivating how a small girl of South rose to prominence in the Indian national movements and became the known name to every Indian household.
Sarojini Naidu left the Indian soil for her eternity on March 2, 1949, Lucknow.
ABOUT THE POEM
The Gift of India by Sarojini Naidu was composed in the year 1915. It gives wholehearted tribute to the contributions of our martyred Indian soldiers in World War I. Over 1.5 million troops of Indians served the interest of their colonial masters in WWI of whom 62,000 died and another 67,000 were wounded badly. They served at various locations of strategic importance to the Allied forces.
The poem concerns effectively the themes of patriotism, no glory in warfare, soldiers’s unpriced sacrifice for someone else’s war, but also talks about the innumerable gifts as benefits offered to the Britishers over centuries.
The Gift of India is included in the volume of poems ‘The broken wings’. The poem is emotionally and sentimentally surged up with dominant feelings of respect, pathos and pride at the bravery, loss and pain of a number of lives lost of the deadly battlefield.
Towards the end of the poem, the poet hopes that soon good sense would prevail, and there would be peace in the world” And life be refashioned on the anvils of peace,”. Those sacrifices of the Indians would be remembered with pride for many generations to come.
STRUCTURE OF THE POEM
The poem 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 sabres of doom. Gathered like pearls in their alien gravès 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 memorial 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!
The Gift of India is an elegy consisting of 24 lines and divided into 4 stanzas written in a lyrical vein. The poem has used couplet form with a definite rhyme scheme AABBCC which runs throughout the poem. Use of numerous figures of speech has enhanced the smooth flow of sense from one line to other as :
“ they are strewn like blossoms mown down by chance
On the blood-brown meadows of Flanders and France.”
The use of language is simple and provides a free flow of emotions.
LITERARY DEVICES OF THE POEM
A number of figures of speech are employed in the poem to enhance the beauty of language. They are as follows:
1. Personification: A figure of speech in which abstract ideas are invested with personality, and both inanimate and abstract ideas are endured with the attributes of living beings. In the poem, Country India is personified and given emotional attributes of living beings.
· “Remember the blood of my martyred sons!”.
· “ Can ye measure the grief of the tears I weep
Or compass the woe of the watch I keep?”
2. Metaphor A figure of speech in which a comparison between the two different things is implied, but not clearly stated. Examples of metaphor are:
· ‘ Priceless treasures’( line 3)
· ‘the sabers of doom’
· ‘the tumult of hate’
3. Alliteration :
· “Priceless treasures torn from my breast.”
· “They are strewn like blossoms mown down by chance.”
· Scattered like shells.
· “They lie with pale brows and brave broken hands.”
4. Rhetorical Questions:
· “Can you measure the grief of the tears I weep
Or compass the woe of the watch I keep?”
· “Is there ought you need that my hands withhold,
Rich gifts of raiment or grain or gold.”
· “And the far sad glorious vision I see.”
THEME OF THE POEM
Courage and self-sacrifice: The Gift of India by Sarojini Naidu upholds the theme of courage and self-sacrifice of the Indian soldiers in the foreign land. It is highly surcharged with the sentiments of the poet towards the priceless souls who sacrificed their lives for the British cause in the First World War. The poem was penned by Sarojini Naidu in 1915 when India was under the colonial rule and wanted to pay homage to their utmost courage in the three strategic fronts by her poem.
In this poem, she has laid down the patriotic fervour by personifying Mother India. The soldiers were the priceless gems torn ruthlessly from the mother’s breasts and Indian sons were entrusted to their British masters. They did not know for what they were fighting. They yielded to ‘ the drum-beats of duty’ and fought till the last. This was the most precious gift of India- richer than the gifts of garments, grain or gold.
Thousands of miles away, the Indian soldiers fought bravely and laid down their lives. They have put forefront in strategic locations of enemy threat:
· Against Ottoman Empire(Persian waves)
· North Africa( Egyptian sands)
· Western Front(Medows of Flanders and France).
As a true patriot, Sarojini Naidu upholds the strong feeling of seeing her country free from the shackles of the British rule, and optimistic mood visualizes the world to return to the ‘anvils of peace’ where no son of India would be snatched ruthlessly from Mother India’s ‘stricken womb’ neither would they be ‘Shattered like shells on Egyptian sands’ lying there ‘ with pale brows and brave, broken hands’.
The poet seems to remind everybody- the English as well as Indians- that those who laid down their lives sincerely and honestly deserve to be commemorated. Their sacrifices should be acknowledged and honoured.