After the very long duration of time, I am here to present my exposition of an English Poem “The Queen’s Rival” composed by Sarojini Naidu who was a celebrated woman of letters of her times as the great poetess and was also honored with the title of “The Nightingale of India”. The theme of the poem in exposition is based on a tale from a book “Arabian Nights’. The original author of the book is unknown, but it is translated in many languages of the world. The book with the title as “New Arabian Nights’ in English was translated by Robert Louis Stevenson. Andrew Lang also had written the same book in English. In Gujarati also, we can have the said book under the Title “Arbastaan-ni- Vaato. Over the centuries, the countless editions of the Arabian Nights have been published.
The original text of the poem in three parts is as follows: The poem is taken from “The Golden Threshold”, the first volume of verse published in 1905 by Sarojini Naidu.
“The Queen’s Rival”
QUEEN GULNAAR sat on her ivory bed,
Around her countless treasures were spread;
Her chamber walls were richly inlaid
With agate, porphyry, onyx and jade;
The tissues that veiled her delicate breast,
Glowed with the hues of a lapwing’s crest;
But still she gazed in her mirror and sighed
“O King, my heart is unsatisfied.”
King Feroz bent from his ebony seat:
“Is thy least desire unfulfilled, O Sweet?
“Let thy mouth speak and my life be spent
To clear the sky of thy discontent.”
“I tire of my beauty, I tire of this
Empty splendour and shadow-less bliss;
“With none to envy and none gainsay,
No savour or salt hath my dream or day.
” Queen Gulnaar sighed like a murmuring rose: “Give me a rival, O King Feroz.”
King Feroz spoke to his Chief Vizier:
“Lo! ere to-morrow’s dawn be here,
“Send forth my messengers over the sea,
To seek seven beautiful brides for me;
“Radiant of feature and regal of mien, Seven handmaids meet for the Persian Queen.” Seven new moon tides at the Vesper call, King Feroz led to Queen Gulnaar’s hall
A young queen eyed like the morning star: “I bring thee a rival, O Queen Gulnaar.” But still she gazed in her mirror and sighed: “O King, my heart is unsatisfied.”
Seven queens shone round her ivory bed, Like seven soft gems on a silken thread, Like seven fair lamps in a royal tower, Like seven bright petals of Beauty’s flower
Queen Gulnaar sighed like a murmuring rose “Where is my rival, O King Feroz?”
When spring winds wakened the mountain floods,
And kindled the flame of the tulip buds,
When bees grew loud and the days grew long,
And the peach groves thrilled to the oriole’s song,
Queen Gulnaar sat on her ivory bed,
Decking with jewels her exquisite head;
And still she gazed in her mirror and sighed:
“O King, my heart is unsatisfied.”
Queen Gulnsar’s daughter two spring times old,
In blue robes bordered with tassels of gold,
Ran to her knee like a wildwood fay,
And plucked from her hand the mirror away.
Quickly she set on her own light curls
Her mother’s fillet with fringes of pearls;
Quickly she turned with a child’s caprice
And pressed on the mirror a swift, glad kiss.
Queen Gulnaar laughed like a tremulous rose:
“Here is my rival, O King Feroz.”
Synopsis of the poem:
Feroz is the king of Persia. Gulnaar is his queen. In spite of the pompous palace life, the queen is not satisfied at heart. Though she is beautiful, she is longing for her rival. Sighing like a murmuring rose, she asks the king to give a rival to her who can compete with her beauty. On demand of Gulnaar, the king marries seven beautiful brides and asks them to live with Gulnaar as her maid-servants. The seven queens were supposed to be Gulnaar’s rivals, but she continues to gaze in her mirror saying all the times that her heart was not satisfied with all those so called rivals.
After some years, the queen Gulnaar gives birth to a baby-girl. When the princess becomes two years old, she runs to her knees to the Queen and snatches the mirror away from her hand. Then she wears her mother’s hair-band around her head and presses her swift kiss on mirror. This very innocent gesture of the child makes Gulnaar laugh like a rose trembling on a plant with soft wind. She exclaims with joy, ‘Here is my rival, O King Feroz.”
When we go through the poem under discussion, we do come to the concluding outcome of our study that Sarojini Naidu was really a natural, proficient and born poetess of her times. The narrations of Gulnaar’s bed, her chamber and her fabric are such attractive with flower of speech that we would like to read those stanzas again and again in spite of the use of difficult words for various gems. The colorful muslin covering her delicate chest is compared with the crest of a bird named lapwing. But, in spite of her happiness, she gazed in her mirror and sighed saying, “O King, my heart is unsatisfied.”
While proceeding further, we come across the romantic dialogues spoken by both King Feroz and Queen. Gulnaar as below:
“Is thy least desire unfulfilled, O Sweet? Let thy mouth speak and my life be spent. To clear the sky of thy discontent” said the King.
The Queen said, “I tire of my beauty, I tire of this, Empty splendor and shadow-less bliss; With none to envy and none gainsay (rejoin), and savor (taste) or salt hath my dream or day.”
Queen Gulnaar sighed and said, “Give me a rival, King Feroz”. King Feroz ordered to his chief Vizier to send messengers over the sea to look for seven beautiful brides. The King said that the brides should be of glowing beauty and be appointed to be in attendance to the Queen.
They all stood with such stunning beauty that they looked like a necklace of seven gems of attractive colors on a silken thread. In other words to say, the queens looked like seven beautiful lamps in a royal tower and seven bright petals of a most beautiful flower. Yet, Queen Gulnaar sighed and expressed her dissatisfaction saying, “King Feroz, where is my rival?” Against this background, Queen Gulnaar sat on her ivory bed adorning her delicate hair with precious jewels. She gazed in the mirror and sighed, “O King, my heart is still dissatisfied”.
Prior to the concluding part of the poem, the poetess highlights a delicate psychological point that any power, prosperity or beauty if vested in one person becomes the cause of dissatisfaction at long. Rivalry in any field or aspect of life is the most essential factor for mental happiness and satisfaction. Monopoly, at long last, becomes like boredom. Human mind always longs for competition. It is the human nature that wishes that the efficiency, richness, strength, capability or beauty should be challenged by somebody. One should have opportunity of being tested one’s own worthiness of merits. Here, the Queen Gulnaar is unhappy in absence of any rival in case of her beauty. She was not satisfied with the rivalry of seven queens. When the poem seems advancing to its end, a turning point arises all of a sudden. Gulnaar is then lucky enough to have a powerful competitor. Her competitor is nobody else but her two years old daughter herself.
One day, Queen Gulnaar’s two year old daughter was adorned with precious dress. The child, like a fairy in a forest, rushed to the Queen and snatched the mirror away from her hand.. Then the child quickly wore her mother’s hair-band. Suddenly, with a child-like move, she planted happily a kiss on the mirror. Queen Gulnaar laughed like a quivering rose, saying, “O King Feroz, look, here is my rival”.
Summing up, Gulnaar realized that her daughter was the real rival of hers. Then the poem dramatically ends with the reality of life that the parents are always happy when they see their young ones playing and doing various innocent actions and tricks around them. The poetess has successfully presented the psychological point of mothering and motherhood through these sonnet-like three parts of the poem.