Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949)

The Illusion of Love

Beloved, you may be as all men say

Only a transient spark

Of flickering flame set in loam of clay –

I care not …since you kindle all my dark

With the immortal lustres of the day.

And as all men deem, dearest, you may be

Only a common shell

Chance-winnowed by the sea-winds from the sea –

The subtle murmurs of eternity.

And tho’ you are, like men or mortal race,

Only a hapless thing

That Death may mar and destiny efface –

I care not … since unto my heart you bring

The very vision of God’s dwelling-place.


The Song of Princess Zeb-Un-Nissa In Praise of Her Own Beauty

WHEN from my cheek I lift my veil,

The roses turn with envy pale,

And from their pierced hearts, rich with pain,

Send forth their fragrance like a wail.

Or if perchance one perfumed tress

Be lowered to the wind’s caress,

The honeyed hyacinths complain,

And languish in a sweet distress.

And, when I pause, still groves among,

(Such loveliness is mine) a throng

Of nightingales awake and strain

Their souls into a quivering song.


The Bangle Sellers

Bangle sellers are we who bear

Our shining loads to the temple fair…

Who will buy these delicate, bright

Rainbow-tinted circles of light?

Lustrous tokens of radiant lives,

For happy daughters and happy wives.

Some are meet for a maiden’s wrist,

Silver and blue as the mountain mist,

Some are flushed like the buds that dream

On the tranquil brow of a woodland stream,

Some are aglow wth the bloom that cleaves

To the limpid glory of new born leaves

Some are like fields of sunlit corn,

Meet for a bride on her bridal morn,

Some, like the flame of her marriage fire,

Or, rich with the hue of her heart’s desire,

Tinkling, luminous, tender, and clear,

Like her bridal laughter and bridal tear.

Some are purple and gold flecked grey

For she who has journeyed through life midway,

Whose hands have cherished, whose love has blest,

And cradled fair sons on her faithful breast,

And serves her household in fruitful pride,

And worships the gods at her husband’s side.


The Indian Gipsy

In tattered robes that hoard a glittering trace

Of bygone colours, broidered to the knee,

Behold her, daughter of a wandering race,

Tameless, with the bold falcon’s agile grace,

And the lithe tiger’s sinuous majesty.

With frugal skill her simple wants she tends,

She folds her tawny heifers and her sheep

On lonely meadows when the daylight ends,

Ere the quick night upon her flock descends

Like a black panther from the caves of sleep.

Time’s river winds in foaming centuries

Its changing, swift, irrevocable course

To far off and incalculable seas;

She is twin-born with primal mysteries,

And drinks of life at Time’s forgotten source


To India

O YOUNG through all thy immemorial years!

Rise, Mother, rise, regenerate from thy gloom,

And, like a bride high-mated with the spheres,

Beget new glories from thine ageless womb!

The nations that in fettered darkness weep

Crave thee to lead them where great mornings break . . . .

Mother, O Mother, wherefore dost thou sleep?

Arise and answer for thy children’s sake!


Indian Love Song


LIKE a serpent to the calling voice of flutes,

Glides my heart into thy fingers, O my Love!

Where the night-wind, like a lover, leans above

His jasmine-gardens and sirisha-bowers;

And on ripe boughs of many-coloured fruits

Bright parrots cluster like vermilion flowers.


Like the perfume in the petals of a rose,

Hides thy heart within my bosom, O my love!

Like a garland, like a jewel, like a dove

That hangs its nest in the asoka-tree.

Lie still, O love, until the morning sows

Her tents of gold on fields of ivory.



LIKE this alabaster box whose art

Is frail as a cassia-flower, is my heart,

Carven with delicate dreams and wrought

With many a subtle and exquisite thought.

Therein I treasure the spice and scent

Of rich and passionate memories blent

Like odours of cinnamon, sandal and clove,

Of song and sorrow and life and love.


Indian Dancer

EYES ravished with rapture, celestially panting, what passionate bosoms aflaming with fire

Drink deep of the hush of the hyacinth heavens that glimmer around them in fountains of light;

O wild and entrancing the strain of keen music that cleaveth the stars like a wail of desire,

And beautiful dancers with houri-like faces bewitch the voluptuous watches of night.

The scents of red roses and sandalwood flutter and die in the maze of their gem-tangled hair,

And smiles are entwining like magical serpents the poppies of lips that are opiate-sweet;

Their glittering garments of purple are burning like tremulous dawns in the quivering air,

And exquisite, subtle and slow are the tinkle and tread of their rhythmical, slumber-soft feet.

Now silent, now singing and swaying and swinging, like blossoms that bend to the breezes or showers,

Now wantonly winding, they flash, now they falter, and, lingering, languish in radiant choir;

Their jewel-girt arms and warm, wavering, lily-long fingers enchant through melodious hours,

Eyes ravished with rapture, celestially panting, what passionate bosoms aflaming with fire!


Indian Weavers

WEAVERS, weaving at break of day,

Why do you weave a garment so gay? . . .

Blue as the wing of a halcyon wild,

We weave the robes of a new-born child.

Weavers, weaving at fall of night,

Why do you weave a garment so bright? . . .

Like the plumes of a peacock, purple and green,

We weave the marriage-veils of a queen.

Weavers, weaving solemn and still,

What do you weave in the moonlight chill? . . .

White as a feather and white as a cloud,

We weave a dead man’s funeral shroud.

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Lisa See (1955- ) & Update #6

I began my study of Asia with Lisa See’s 2009 novel Shanghai Girls. The novel follows the story of two modern-for-the-forties Chinese girls, a brilliant 姐姐(jiě jie,older sister) and a breathtaking 妹妹 (mèi mei, younger sister; called Sze Yup moy moy in the novel) as they are sold to American husbands and as Japan invades their home.

Lisa See, the author, is actually 1/8 Chinese Asian-American. She lived in Chinatown as a child and learned more than one dialect, and her knowledge of Chinese history is astounding.

I highly recommend See’s Shanghai Girls. I felt each event as it happened; reading this book is an emotional experience.

From here, I will be researching Asian poetry, then short stories and possibly more novels. I also plan on producing my own work in response to what I read. As I have been learning Chinese for nearly ten years and Japanese for one, I am extremely excited to begin this unit!


Image from,