woensdag 7 december 2011

Toru Dutt, India (1856-1877)

Toru Dutt was de jongste dochter van een gepensioneerd officier, Govin Chunder Dutt en werd geboren op 4 maart 1856 te Calcutta, alwaar ze haar kinderjaren doorbracht, tezamen met haar oudere zuster Aru en broer Abju.

Ze verbleef in Calcutta tot november 1869, toen ze samen met haar zuster naar europa vertrok, waar ze zowel Frankrijk, Italië en Engeland aan deden. Onder andere met het doel om de talen machtig te worden. Ze studeerde enige tijd in Frankrijk alwaar ze verliefd werd op het werk der Franse dichters.

Terug in India werkte ze hard aan de bloemlezing Sheaf Gleaned in French Fields, waarin ze werk van ongeveer honderd Franse dichters had opgenomen die ze vervolgens vertaalde in het Engels. Het boek werd gepubliceerd door Saptahiksambad Press of Bhowanipore te India in 1876.

De bloemlezing kwam een jaar later onder de aandacht van Edmund Gosse, die er vrij lovend over schreef in de Examiner. Het zou nog verschillende malen herdrukt worden.
Toru Duut zou dat echter niet meer meemaken, ze overleed op 30 augustus 1877 aan tuberculiose, waar haar zus en broer al eerder aan bezweken waren.

Bij haar overlijden liet ze twee onafgeronde romans na (één in het engels Bianca, or the Young Spanish Maiden en één in het Frans Le Journal de Mademoiselle d'Arvers) en een poëziebundel Ancient Ballads and Legends of Hindustan die allen in de loop der jaren postuum zouden verschijnen. Het gedicht Our Casuarina Tree, wordt wel beschouwd als zijnde haar autobiografie.

Our Casuarina Tree

LIKE a huge Python, winding round and round
The rugged trunk, indented deep with scars,
Up to its very summit near the stars,
A creeper climbs, in whose embraces bound
No other tree could live. But gallantly
The giant wears the scarf, and flowers are hung
In crimson clusters all the boughs among,
Whereon all day are gathered bird and bee;
And oft at nights the garden overflows
With one sweet song that seems to have no close,
Sung darkling from our tree, while men repose.

When first my casement is wide open thrown
At dawn, my eyes delighted on it rest;
Sometimes, and most in winter,—on its crest
A gray baboon sits statue-like alone
Watching the sunrise; while on lower boughs
His puny offspring leap about and play;
And far and near kokilas hail the day;
And to their pastures wend our sleepy cows;
And in the shadow, on the broad tank cast
By that hoar tree, so beautiful and vast,
The water-lilies spring, like snow enmassed.

But not because of its magnificence
Dear is the Casuarina to my soul:
Beneath it we have played; though years may roll,
O sweet companions, loved with love intense,
For your sakes, shall the tree be ever dear.
Blent with your images, it shall arise
In memory, till the hot tears blind mine eyes!
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.

Therefore I fain would consecrate a lay
Unto thy honor, Tree, beloved of those
Who now in blessed sleep for aye repose,—
Dearer than life to me, alas, were they!
Mayst thou be numbered when my days are done
With deathless trees—like those in Borrowdale,
Under whose awful branches lingered pale
“Fear, trembling Hope, and Death, the skeleton,
And Time the shadow;” and though weak the verse
That would thy beauty fain, oh, fain rehearse,
May Love defend thee from Oblivion’s curse.


A sea of foliage girds 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.

Geen opmerkingen: