Sarojini Chattopadhyay or Sarojini Naidu, as the world knows her, was born on February 13, 1879 in a Hindu Bengali Brahmin family. As a child Sarojini was of a very emotional and sentimental kind. She had a prominent romantic trait in her blood: "My ancestors for thousands of years have been lovers of the forest and the mountain caves, great dreamers, great scholars, great ascetics…" All these qualities manifest themselves in her romantic lyrics - a world of fantasy and allegoric idealism.
Sarojini's letter to Arthur Symons, when she was a teenager inviting him to her home reveal her passionate self - "Come and share my exquisite March morning with me… All is hot and fierce and passionate, ardent and unashamed in its exulting and importunate desire for life and love…" Symons found, "Her eyes were like deep pools and you seem to fall through them into depths below depths." She was petite and used to dress in 'clinging silks', and wore her hair loose 'straight down her back', spoke little and in 'a low voice, like gentle music'. Edmund Gosse said of her, "She was a child of sixteen, but…was already marvelous in mental maturity, amazingly well-read and far beyond a western child in all her acquaintance with the world."
Here is a selection of love poems from The Golden Threshold by Sarojini Naidu
with an Introduction by Arthur Symons (John Lane Company, New York, 1916): "The
Poet's Love Song", "Ecstasy", "Autumn Song", "An
Indian Love Song", "A Love Song From the North", and "A
Rajput Love Song".
The Poet's Love-Song
In noon-tide hours, O Love, secure and strong,
I need thee not; mad dreams are mine to bind
The world to my desire, and hold the wind
A voiceless captive to my conquering song.
I need thee not, I am content with these:
Keep silence in thy soul, beyond the seas!
But in the desolate hour of midnight, when
An ectasy of starry silence sleeps
And my soul hungers for thy voice, O then,
Love, like the magic of wild melodies,
Let thy soul answer mine across the seas.
Cover mine eyes, O my Love!
Mine eyes that are weary of bliss
As of light that is poignant and strong
O silence my lips with a kiss,
My lips that are weary of song!
Shelter my soul, O my love!
My soul is bent low with the pain
And the burden of love, like the grace
Of a flower that is smitten with rain:
O shelter my soul from thy face!
Like a joy on the heart of a sorrow,
The sunset hangs on a cloud;
A golden storm of glittering sheaves,
Of fair and frail and fluttering leaves,
The wild wind blows in a cloud.
Hark to a voice that is calling
To my heart in the voice of the wind:
My heart is weary and sad and alone,
For its dreams like the fluttering leaves have gone, And why should I stay behind?
More poems on the following pages...