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Kasiprasad - To a Dead Crow

To a Dead Crow is one of the best bird poems ever written by an Indian writer of English - Kasiprasad Ghose (1809-1873) - from whose pen so many beautiful and uncommon poems have come down to us which we still like to read with profit and pleasure, but his merit lies it unassessed and unevaluated so far as we could not feel it then and even after independence. We forgot him, included him not in our syllabus, but could not omit. Historiography and archival studies put things on the rails. Kasiprasad has given us a lot of poems on religious events and festivities.

The poem is one of some elegiac note and expression in which the poet Kasiprasad Ghose mourns the dead crow and its cawing at the break of the dawn, arising the sleeping mass from their sound sleep if they have failed to arise and awake early in the morning. The poet deplores the death of the crow and tries to remember its zest of living. How does it keep cawing, cawing for a piece of bread? How does it quench its hunger and thirst? How does it bathe during the summer noon? This is quite interesting to see. Even though the sound is not so musical, it keeps on with its sound and music and the jazz of it not less than. People generally write on songbirds, but here it is an uncommon one as because the writer has on a crow, the harsh sound it makes but so valuable as it awakes and arouses us.

The poet addresses the bird as a gay minstrel of the Indian clime which sings beating heat and humidity, sun and shower. At rosy dawn it can be seen cawing. Sometimes we feel it disturbed or vexed with its cawing and noise. We hate it but is not so. Averting the sound, the poet talks towards the tank and the flower garden. Sometimes it turns obstinate and goes cawing repetitively. Its nest lies under the dark foliage of the big trees by his garden. It takes a break from the humdrum, din and bustle of the daily work. Only the night is a break from its daily schedule.

But the singer remains cold and dead and fallen on earth. There is no life in it. The body stands lifeless and insensitive. The left-over food stirs it not.

Sometimes it can be seen seeking food from the carcass. Sometimes it picks the rat from the roof. It keeps cawing for food and water and is sly too. Its cleverness is known all through the country and the townscape. People talk of it.

How could it be that death came to you in such a way that you feel lifeless and dumb and speechless bereft of your warbling! No cruel and callous death can see you with scorn or disdain as your ugly look can look down upon death even. Dark death cannot withstand it.

Now it lies lifelessly on earth with no life in it. There is nothing like that to stir it or bring back to life; the life-breath is gone and is extinct from the body. Life-flame burns it not. Freed from earthly bondage the spirit has returned back to the abode it is from. The poet’s life too is like the bird. Though life is transitory, and time is passing, instead of it he is trying to give a poetic form to his lines gushing out of heart in its praise. However, be the song harsh and discordant, but the singer’s image dances upon the mind’s plane whenever comes it the morn, noon or eve. Had it been alive, its cawing would have struck us!

The Indian crow is the subject of discussion here and the poet has very successfully painted the bird which is but of some ornithological interest. The poet felt it then but have not seen it so far engaging the romantics. Addressing the poem to the bird, how to bring it some of the traits of its character? How to bring to light some of the features of it? Its face and figure may be black failing it all and the voice too  harsh and discordant. But at the break of the dawn, it caws to awaken us. To lie in wait to pick breadcrumbs and to fly its nature.

The poet too is a man like it and his poor verses cannot give what his cawing gave to.

Gay minstrel of the Indian clime !
How oft at morning's rosy prime
When thou didst sing in caw, caw numbers,
Vexed I 've awoke  from my sweet slumbers,
And to avoid that hateful sound,
That plagues a head howe'er profound,
Have walked out in my garden, where
Beside the tank, in many a square,
Sweet lilies, jasmines, roses bloom,
Far from those trees within whose gloom
Of foliage thick, thou hadst thy nest
From daily toil at night to rest.
Now lifeless on the earth, cold, bare,
Devoid alike of joy and care,
The offals of my meal no more
Attract thee as they did before.
There's rubbish scattered round thee, but
Thy heart is still, thine eyes are shut.
No more that blunt yet useful beak
From carcasses thy food can seek.
Or catch the young unheeded mouse,
Which from the flooring of my house
Urged by its hapless luck, would stray
And bask beneath the solar ray.
Gay minstrel ! ne'er had Death before
Its dart destructive, sharpened more
To pierce a gayer, mortal heart
Than thine, which ah ! hath felt the smart !
Though life no more is warm in thee,
Yet thou dost look as though ‘t may be
That life in thee is full and warm ;
Not cruel death could mar thy form ;
Thy features, one and all, possess
Still, still their former ugliness.
They are in truth the very same
The Indian Crow hath, known to fame.
Oh ! may when death hath closed these eyes,
And freed from earthly bondage, flies
The spirit to eternity,
Stretched at full length I lie like thee,
On mother earth's cold lap, so ne'er
To spin such verses out I'll dare,
And please the public ear again
With such discordant, silly strain,
As thou didst once delight to pour
At morn or noon, or evening hour.
In sooth I promise this shall be
My last line in addressing thee.


More by :  Bijay Kant Dubey

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