Toru Dutt: Sonnet (1876)


Toru Dutt was born in Bengal, but her father wanted his daughters to have a Western education, so the family moved to France, where she learned both French and English. She traveled to England (where for a brief while she attended special lectures for women at Cambridge) and Italy. On her return home she published, at the age of twenty, her only volume of verse and died the next year. Virtually unknown during her brief lifetime, her work gave her some posthumous celebrity in Europe. Fond of Hindu myth but raised a Christian, loving both France and India, she illustrates the influence that colonialism had on many writers seeking an audience as she expresses her love for her home in English, which was not even her second language.

What aspects of this work reflect European influence?


A sea of foliage girds (1) our garden round,
But not a sea of dull unvaried green,
Sharp contrasts of all colors here are seen;
The light-green graceful tamarinds abound
Amid the mango clumps of green profound,
And palms arise, like pillars gray, between;
And o'er the quiet pools the seemuls lean,
Red--red, and startling like a trumpet's sound.
But nothing can be lovelier than the ranges
Of bamboos to the eastward, when the moon
Looks through their gaps, and the white lotus changes
Into a cup of silver. One might swoon
Drunken with beauty then, or gaze and gaze
On a primeval Eden, in amaze. (2)


(1) Encircles.
(2) Amazement.


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This is an excerpt from Reading About the World, Volume 2, edited by Paul Brians, Mary Gallwey, Douglas Hughes, Azfar Hussain, Richard Law, Michael Myers, Michael Neville, Roger Schlesinger, Alice Spitzer, and Susan Swan and published by Harcourt Brace Custom Books.

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