Toru Dutt’s poem “Our Casuarina Tree”

What is that dirge-like murmur that I hear
Like the sea breaking on a shingle-beach?
It is the tree’s lament, an eerie speech,
That haply to the unknown land may reach.
Unknown, yet well-known to the eye of faith!
Ah, I have heard that wail far, far away
In distant lands, by many a sheltered bay,
When slumbered in his cave the water-wraith
And the waves gently kissed the classic shore
Of France or Italy, beneath the moon,
When earth lay trancèd in a dreamless swoon:
And every time the music rose — before
Mine inner vision rose a form sublime,
Thy form, O Tree, as in my happy prime
I saw thee, in my own loved native clime.

(An excerpt from Toru Dutt’s Our Casuarina Tree Toru Dutt (1856-1877) was one of the earliest Indo-Anglian poets )

(For the full poem please go here}

I love these lines for the beauty of the poet’s imagination-the dirge-like wail of the casuarina tree is heard by her across the continents, in France or England ,when she sits on these “classic shores” and “many a sheltered bay”

Casuarina trees are found everywhere on the Indian coastline .When the sea wind passes through the needle-like leaves of clusters of these trees they make a soft hum which is cloyingly beautiful. Here the poet sees the music as a dirge-like murmur,a lament , an eerie speech. The poet was then still in her twenties ,pursuing higher education in England and France .I do not know why she felt the pathos at the time.Perhaps she had the beginnings of consumption already ,of which she would die a few years later after her return to India.