Short Summary of “Our Casuarina Tree” by Toru Dutt

A huge python: The python refers here to the huge and heavy creeper which, by coiling round the giant tree, keeps it in an almost stifling embrace.

Upto its very summit near the stars: This refers to the great height of the tree.

Sung darkling from our tree: This obviously refers to some sweet-singing bird which pours forth its melodies from its dark habitat in the tree. The word ‘darkling’ is reminiscent of Keat’s use of it in his “Ode to a Nightingale”.

The idea of the garden overflowing with the song poured forth by an unseen bird is itself very reminiscent of the poetry of the Romantics. Casement: Window; reminiscent again of the ‘magic casements’ in Keats’s Ode.

Baboon: a kind of large ape with short tail.

15-19: the sight of a lone baboon sitting statue-like on a tree top, the Indian Kokilas hailing the day and our sleepy cows wending their way to their pastures is typically Indian.

20-22: The beautiful spectacle of water-lilies enmassed like snow in the beautiful and vast shadow cast by the hoary trees on the broad tank is a striking instance of the transformation wrought on an Indian scene by a Romantic imagination which is now Keatsian and now Shelleyan.

23-33: The casuarina tree becomes more a symbol than a tree, a symbol, like Keats’s nightingale, of timelessness and eter­nity and like Wordsworth’s rainbow a link between the past, the present and the future. While Wordsworth looks back upon the past to realize the way in which the days are bound each to each by natural piety, young Toru visualizes a similar continuity by thinking of the future when the tree will continue to be dear to her.

30-33: The sea breaking on a shingle beach, that is on a pebble- covered beach produces a ringing, rattling sound which sounds dirge-like. The lines are reminiscent of Arnold’s “Dover Beach” while the last two lines echo a sentiment similar to that which finds expression in the Nightingale Ode: The dirge-like murmur sent forth by the tree becomes again symbolic of a universal wail, the still sad music of humanity which has been heard for centuries across many alien shores. This idea is fully developed in the stanza that follows (1.34-44).

39-40: “Beneath the Moon… dreamless swoon”. A beautiful image which is at once Shelleyan and Arnoldian.

43-44: The tree which had been a physical and emotional companion in her childhood is no longer a mere tree in her memory but a sublime form, a symbol of time and timeless eternity.

45-55: In the words of K.R.S. Iyengar “the last stanza wills as it were the immortality of the tree”. As Padmini Sen Gupta has observed, the poem has proved its own last line, “May love defend thee from oblivion’s curse”. .

45-57: An obvious reference to her dear Aru and Abju who had died very early.

49: The reference to the trees of Borrowdale makes it clear that equally tender and nostalgic are her ‘memories of the English landscape. A careful reading of the poem should reveal that even her portrayal of the Indian landscape is often coloured by such memories of familiar English rural scenes.