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Sarojini Naidu

(1879—1949) politician and poet


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(1879 –1949), Indian national leader, a pioneer of the women's movement and brilliant orator, was once highly regarded for her poetry, written in her youth. Gandhi gave her the title of ‘Nightingale of India’ for the musicality of her speech. Her father was a famous Bengali scientist but she was born and educated in the then-Muslim city of Hyderabad, Deccan: in her writing Hindu mythology and culture are fused with Perso-Arabic and Islamic strands. Her first collection, The Golden Threshold (London, 1905) had an introduction by Arthur Symons, who noticed her Pater-like love of beauty. The book contains some of her best poems, vignettes of Indian city and village life like ‘Street Cries’ and ‘Palanquin Bearers’. Bird of Time (London, 1912) proved to be very popular, with several reprints. In his introduction Edmund Gosse dwelt on her insight into the ‘heart of India’; and the romantic mood of the poems of love, death, spring, Radha and Krishna, appealed to the age's fondness for Orientalism laced with philosophizing. The Broken Wing (London, 1917), written when Naidu had become a leading figure in India's freedom struggle and women's liberation, contains poems in which these two concerns are combined: Indian women are asked to prove their destiny as Mother India's liberators and saviours. ‘The Gift of India’ is Naidu's war poem, reminding the world of India's sons ‘scattered like shells on Egyptian sands’ and on the ‘blood-brown meadows of Flanders’.

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From The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.


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