SONG OF RADHA, THE MILKMAID ---text and critical study by Mandira Chattopadhyaya Labels: Literary Criticism
I carried my curds to the Mathura fair…
How softly the heifers were lowing…
I wanted to cry, “Who will buy
The curds that is white as the clouds in the sky
When the breezes of Shravan are blowing?”
But my heart was so full of your beauty, Beloved,
They laughed as I cried without knowing:
How softly the river was flowing!
I carried the pots to the Mathura tide…
How gaily the rowers were rowing!
My comrades called, “Ho! Let us dance, let us sing
And wear saffron garments to welcome the spring.
And pluck the new buds that are blowing.”
But my heart was so full of your music, Beloved,
They mocked when I cried without knowing:
How gaily the river was flowing!
I carried my gifts to the Mathura shrine…
How brightly the torches were glowing!
I folded my hands at the altars to pray
“O shining ones guard us by night and by day”-
And loudly the conch shells were blowing.
But my heart was so lost in your worship, Beloved,
They were wroth when I cried without knowing:
How bright the river was flowing!
Substance of the poem
Radha, the milkmaid is carrying curds to Mathura (Krishna’s birthplace) where the spring festival is going on. Cows are lowing softly in the fields. Radha, wishing to give out her trade cry to sell her curds that is as white as the autumn clouds, instead, calls out My Lord! My Lord! Everybody laughs. The river Jamuna flows on softly, as if appreciating her chant.
Radha reaches the bank of the river to cross by the ferry boat. Her female companions want to wear the saffron garments, the color of spring, and want to sing and dance and pluck the new buds. Radha’s heart swells with the music of her Beloved Lord Krishna. She cries in ecstasy when others humor her. The river Jamuna flows on joyfully regardless.
Radha reaches, with her gifts of curds, the temple, where the torches are brightly burning. She folds her hands to pray to the deity, encircled by snakes, and prays for protection while the conch shells are blown. Her heart is lost to the vision of her Beloved Lord and she calls out the name involuntarily. Others become angry. But the river Jamuna flows on while her water dazzles in the light of the torches. A critical estimate of the poem
The title of the poem transports us to another world, to an environment of fertility and abundance. Mother Nature abounds the earth with the flow of her liquid. This white liquid symbolizes affection and nurturing of life. Radha, the daughter of Mother Nature carries the liquid of life and growth to all living beings. Mathura is her destination where Krishna, the Divine Musician holds everybody mesmerized with his mystic presence. The heifers herald her arrival to Mathura where she will pour into the pots the liquid which she has brought- energy and power from the mother Earth. It is worth noticing that Sita, the other daughter of mother Earth also represents all that stand for productivity.
Mathura is here the center of life and abundance. While the cow is the species, that represents the flow of life and abundance. Radha feeds and nurtures life. Even the clouds in the sky, white and creamy, are part of the resources of life. The clouds and breeze together produce rain to awash the earth with the energy and moisture that coaxes the dormant vitality into life energy. The time of the year should also be noted. It is the time of incessant rain, the month of Shravan (August- September), when the life- giving moisture bursts forth.
Radha’s heart wavers from her task in hand. She yearns for her union with Divine Musician, a presence that encompasses every soul of Mathura. She is absorbed, heart and mind, in his mystic presence and the trade cry she is supposed give...
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