Honey, child, honey, child, whither are you going?
Would you cast your jewels all to the breezes blowing?
Would you leave the mother who on golden grain has fed you?
Would you grieve the lover who is riding forth to wed you?
Mother mine, to the wild forest I am going,
Where upon the champa boughs the champa buds are blowing;
To the köil-haunted river-isles where lotus lilies glisten,
The voices of the fairy folk are calling me: O listen!
Honey, child, honey, child, the world is full of pleasure,
Of bridal-songs and cradle-songs and sandal-scented leisure.
Your bridal robes are in the loom, silver and saffron glowing,
Your bridal cakes are on the hearth: O whither are you going?
The bridal-songs and cradle-songs have cadences of sorrow,
The laughter of the sun to-day, the wind of death to-morrow.
Far sweeter sound the forest-notes where forest-streams are falling;
O mother mine, I cannot stay, the fairy-folk are calling.
Sarojini is a singer of heart and the songs she has are the songs of her heart. Just through the village song, she tells of the daughter reared from the cradle to go away in a bridal palanquin. This is but our life. The call of the champa blooms is irresistible and one cannot resist. Here things grow to take their own recourse. So are our children. Daughters are never our own. What can they too do? But man-made restrictions are so cruel and mindless. Our life too hangs on in between the cradle song and the bridal song. But above all, the farewell song is the last to be bidden.
It is really a village song, the song of the Indian villages and the Indian people, how their life and feeling! But under the cover of the village song, she tells of daughters, their journey of life from the cradle to the palanquin. How does the love of the champak blooms call them? How do the cuckoos? How do the streams and forests charm them? What to say about the song of life? What about time? How do the things change it here? How do the people? How this life of desire and expectation? One day she used to toddle as a toddler. but the same girl child develops into a young maiden to be bidden bye.
The Village Song is not only the song of agrarian and rural society in which dwell they, their set of norms and nomenclature, but apart from how do they think, take to life and think about? It is actually the song of India, the love song of India; it is all about the life of a village girl, an Indian girl, how their life and conditions and what it to befall her? The same small girl who grows in the fair country under the rural background one day goes to another’s house without feeling about the pros and cons of life. Happiness or sorrow, it all depends on her fate, the resources of the land and the country and the family. Our life is fraught with difficulty, none can contradict it. The village girl unaware of her fate knows it not all though she can sense it a bit.
The Village Song is a song of love in which one can read the life of an Indian girl, her life from that of a growing child unto the old age, the structure of a society lies it drawn. It is for us to analyze from the gender bias point of view, how had it been social taboos, how still the psychological fears marauding the self of a woman! How the course of life? How our nomenclature and protocol? How the situations and conditions? How had it been the condition of a woman in the world?
The poem is not a village song, but a cradle song, a bridal song and here we can hear the saddest tunes of the shehnai in which a girl as a bride is departing for her newly searched home, that is the groom’s house just like an unknown stranger.
When as a child, she swings and the mother gets pleasure in seeing her, taking it to not that she will go away one day. But when she grows up, the champak blooms start tempting her and the cuckoos taking her to the forest bordering the river Yamuna from where she will fill water in the earthen pitchers. But mark it that in the Yamuna lives it Kaliya nag. The forests are not free from snakes and wild beasts. The lonely tracts too may be fearful.
While reading this poem, the purdah system, ghumta, gender inequality, drawing of the Lakshaman-rekha, house as the periphery of thinking, patriarchal hegemony, gender discrimination, child bearing deaths, social taboos, societal restrictions, etc. flash over the mind’s plane.
In the first stanza of the poem the mother of the girl asks her about her going, where she is going is and keeps asking about. Will she forsake her jewels to the breezes? Will she leave the mother who has fed her, reared her with so much so care, love, affection and sympathy and bonding? Will she make her love aggrieved that is coming to with his Indian wedding dreams? Every daughter to her mother is but flower-like, so honeyed and sweet.
The daughter in her response to the mother says it that she is going to the forest here upon the champa boughs have flowered beautifully with the champa buds, at once catching our dream, joy and imagination. The koels cooing from the isles and the lotuses and lilies in bloom give an additional beauty to the domain, decorate the dreams of ours. The fairy folks continue to call her. If this be the picture, panorama and landscape of the madhuvana, how to resist it? How to resist the temptation of the sweet scent coming, fragrance so maddening and the things in bloom and buds? Give an ear to and listen!
Again, the mother reminds her of the wedding clothes being made on the loom which she will as a bride wear it one day. Bridal cakes are being baked on the hearth and these will arrive when the wedding day comes it. The world is full of pleasure. The cradle song with the lullabies and swings, bridal songs with bands, dances and songs and sandal-applied imagery, all are but the beautiful, lyrical and fanciful side of life which a mother has to witness it all.
But behind all these there is an internal rhyme scheme of the sad tune, the unheard sad note of life which she knows it not. Bridal songs, love songs, cradle songs, lullabies outwardly these appear to be so lovely and charming, but are not. Those who sing lullabies know it how to care and caress the babies to sleep, letting it not to be disturbed even by the wind, taking time to repose them. Only a Yasoda can say it. Those who sing it bridal songs know it well how heart-trending the departing time of the brides! Even the musical bands and their tunes weep and wail it inconsolably. A bride in tears, have you seen her? See and say it after. First see her and then say to. Many of us would have experienced the brides while going on the bullock carts and crossing the dry river beds and teardrops lining the cheeks as a trickle of water streaming over. But who to wipe them? Man a traveller of the paths, unknown paths of life and the world! Whose daughter she is, who will give solace to and comfort her thereon? It is really a melting time.
But the daughter takes to not the words of caution. She insists on going there to attend their call, the mild breeze blowing, the river babbling by, the forest tract full of dreamy and scented blooms, the scenery so beautiful and charming and lovely to the core.
The Village Song is but a song of the Indian Mira and the Indian Radha, a life song never tuned like this, as such, she has presented here. It is a song of Radha and Yamuna and the gopis and Krishna fluting. The song of love is as such but we read it not the saddest notes of music and song, what it pains us?
What had it been in the heart of Radha, what had it been in the heart of Mira, could we feel it, feel it? To be classical is not to leave the contact with life. One who can feel it ‘mann’ (inner mind, inner heart) can actually know it all.
It is actually a song of the Indian champas and the Indian maid as growing daughter so affectionate and dear unable to resist the call of the madhuvana, the sweet, honeyed woodland, taking permission from her mother to let her go but she instructing her otherwise as per her motherly personal experience of human society and living.