Indo-English poetry began to be written and until rather recently continued to be written under the influence of the English romantic poets such as Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Keats, Byron and even Walter Scott. The poetry of the period is marked by a highly subjective tone and uninhibited expression of personal feeling. Also, nature and its variegated scenes form a background, especially nature in its natural untamed manifestations. Witness for example these lines from Toru Dutt’s (1856-1877) poem “Sindhu”, where she presents a beautiful description of the sunset on an Indian lake:
Upon the glassy surface fell
The last beams of the day,
Like fiery darts, that lengthening swells,
As breezes wake and play
Osiers and willows and on the edge
And purple buds and red,
Leant down, - and, mid the pale greens edge
The louts raised its head
And softly, softly hour by hour
Light faded and a veil
Fell over tree, wave, and flower
On came the twilight pale(Dutt1986:90).
These romantic poets value spontaneity in thought and expression. Words and images were chosen to turn the familiar into a thing of beauty and tenderness. This early poetry is generally sentimental and sad. Indo-English poetry was first written by Kashiprasad Ghoshe (1809-1873) in 1830. He in ‘The Shair and other Poems’ shares the influence of Walter Scott while ‘The Captive Ladie’ (1849) by Miachel Madhusudan Dutt (1824-1873) is considered to be a long metrical romance written under the influence of Byron(Dwiedi 1980:10-18).
After the passing of the ‘Dutt Era’, Nobo Kissen Gosse (1837-1918) and Manmohan Ghose (1869-1924) continued the twin streams of ballad and lyric poetry.Nobo Kissen showed his craftsmanship in the handling of the ballad measure as in ‘Daksha Yagna’ in which story of Daksha’s defeat by the hands of Siva is recounted. A new element enters in Indo-English poetry with the entry of Manmohan’s brother Aurobindo Ghose (1872-1950) called the mystic element. His long narrative epic poem ‘Savitri’ published posthumously in one edition in 1954.Symbolically interpreted, ‘Savitri’ stands for man’s highest hope that is the conquest of death and attainment of divinity.
A near contemporary, Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) is another mystic poet who also has a prominent place among Indo-English poets. He began by translating his own Bengali poems into English. He translated one hundred and three poems under the title ‘Gitanjali’ (1913).The songs in Gitanjali are intensely personal and lyrical. The imagery is taken from nature as well as the mythology of Radha-Krishna in the search for the spirit.Other reflective poets who rose into prominence in this period were Toru Dutt (1856-1877) and Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949), the first two great precursors of contemporary Indian English woman poetry. Toru Dutt poetry reveals the subject of simplicity, love, nature, home, the Indian world of myths and legends. Sarojini Naidu or the Bharat Kokila enthusiastically participated in...