Home Literature Our Casuarina Tree by Toru Dutt Summary

Our Casuarina Tree by Toru Dutt Summary

by Litinbox

Our Casuarina Tree‘ is an ode by the famous Indian poet Toru Dutt. Published in 1881, the poem is autobiographical and nostalgic. The poet reminisces the majestic Casuarina Tree at her parental home in her childhood days, her deep attachment the tree and a heavy remembrance of her pleasurable childhood with her friends and siblings.

‘Our Casuarina Tree’ was collected in Toru Dutt’s “Miscellaneous Poems“. It remains one of the most famous poems of the poet till today.

Our Casuarina Tree by Toru Dutt Summary

Stanza 1

Like a huge Python, winding round and round  
   The rugged trunk, indented deep with scars,  
   Up to its very summit near the stars,  
A creeper climbs, in whose embraces bound  
   No other tree could live. But gallantly        
The giant wears the scarf, and flowers are hung  
In crimson clusters all the boughs among,  
   Whereon all day are gathered bird and bee;  
And oft at nights the garden overflows  
With one sweet song that seems to have no close,          
Sung darkling from our tree, while men repose.  

In the first stanza of ‘Our Casuarina Tree’, the majesty of the Casuarina tree is illustrated in the opening lines. The Casuarina Tree is standing very tall whose summit is near to the stars.

‘Our Casuarina Tree’ begins with a simile. A creeper winding round and round the rugged trunk of Casuarina that has created deep scar around the tree which looks like a huge python creeping around. No other tree, if not it is Casuarina, could survive the chokehold of the creeper. But the giant Casuarina valiantly wears the flowers like a scarf and the flowers hanging around the boughs of the tree.

Birds and bees are gathered among the flowers all the day. Often at nights, the song of a singing bird overflows the garden in which the tree is standing. The poet describes that the song of bird seems to have no end. The bird continues to sing throughout the while people are at sleep. It seems the song continues until daybreak.

Stanza 2

When first my casement is wide open thrown

At dawn, my eyes delighted on it rest;

Sometimes, and most in winter,—on its crest

A gray baboon sits statue-like alone

Watching the sunrise; while on lower boughs

His puny offspring leap about and play;

And far and near kokilas hail the day;

And to their pastures wend our sleepy cows;

And in the shadow, on the broad tank cast

By that hoar tree, so beautiful and vast,

The water-lilies spring, like snow enmassed.

The poetess is delighted to see the Casuarina tree when she opens her casement at every dawn. During the winter, a gray baboon is seen sitting statue-like on the crest of the tree watching sunrise while its offspring leaping and playing on the tree’s lower boughs.

The tree occupies a pride place in the garden and in the vicinity, there are sleepy cows and the jubilant song of the kokilas (Nightingale) which preserve the garden’s liveliness. The shadow of the giant tree falls on the huge water tank. And in the shadow of the tree, the water-lilies spring on the water tank which look like a mass of snow is gathered around.

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Stanza 3

But not because of its magnificence

Dear is the Casuarina to my soul:

Beneath it we have played; though years may roll,

O sweet companions, loved with love intense,

For your sakes, shall the tree be ever dear.

Blent with your images, it shall arise

In memory, till the hot tears blind mine eyes!

What is that dirge-like murmur that I hear

Like the sea breaking on a shingle-beach?

It is the tree’s lament, an eerie speech,

That haply to the unknown land may reach.

So far in this poem ‘Our Casuarina Tree’, the poet illustrates the magnificence of the tree and the natural beauty of the garden in which the Casuarina tree resides. Whatever the poet has described so far is all her memories and nostalgic recollections of her memories of the tree. At present, she resides somewhere else away from the tree, several thousand miles away in an alien land.

In this stanza, she begins to describe why she wants to capture the tree in this poem. The tree is so dear to the poet’s soul not because of the magnificence of the tree, but because she has spent all the happy moments under the tree with her siblings.

She addresses her companions directly “O sweet Companions” and says that the tree is so dear to her only because of them. The tree often arises in her memory blent with the images of her loved companions until her hot tears blind her eyes. The poet could still hear the dirge-like murmur of the tree even after many years when she is boarded in an alien land. The poet compares the murmur sound of the tree to “the sea breaking on a shingle-beach“.

Stanza 4

Unknown, yet well-known to the eye of faith!

Ah, I have heard that wail far, far away

In distant lands, by many a sheltered bay,

When slumbered in his cave the water-wraith

And the waves gently kissed the classic shore

Of France or Italy, beneath the moon,

When earth lay trancèd in a dreamless swoon:

And every time the music rose,—before

Mine inner vision rose a form sublime,

Thy form, O Tree, as in my happy prime

I saw thee, in my own loved native clime.

Now, the poet is living in a distant unknown land. The eerie speech of the Casuarina tree reaches the far unknown lands. Though the author is physically separate from the tree, the speaker can hear its sound because she is deeply connected with its memories.

The poet has heard similar sounds or music in distant lands, such as in the sheltered bays, the music of the waves when gently kissed the classic seashore of France or Italy especially when the world is very calm under the moon, and the sound the water-wraith when slumbered in his cave. All these sounds bring forth the vision of the Casuarina tree to her mind.

When she is in the distant shores, in France and Italy, when she has heard the music of the waves she could form an inner vision of the dear Casuarina tree. The lingering image of the tree with her loved ones haunts her at every vision.

Stanza 5

Therefore I fain would consecrate a lay

Unto thy honor, Tree, beloved of those

Who now in blessed sleep, for aye, repose,

Dearer than life to me, alas! were they!

Mayst thou be numbered when my days are done

With deathless trees—like those in Borrowdale,

Under whose awful branches lingered pale

“Fear, trembling Hope, and Death, the skeleton,

And Time the shadow;” and though weak the verse

That would thy beauty fain, oh fain rehearse,

May Love defend thee from Oblivion’s curse.

The poet would like to consecrate the memory of the haunting tree to those of loved ones who are now blessed with eternal sleep (died) hoping that the tree may be numbered among the deathless trees like those in Borrowdale (the tree may become immortal) even after her life is done. The poet alludes to Wordsworth’s poem “Yew-Trees” in which he immortalizes the trees in Borrowdale valley in the Lake district.

Toru Dutt wishes the tree be free from ‘Oblivion’s curse’ i.e., it would outlive generations and be celebrated for long as her moving love for the tree has captured it in this poem.

‘Our Casuarina Tree’ is a poem in which the tree becomes the medium for the poet to link between her present and her unforgettable childhood days under the tree. The poetess could still remember the tree because she had all happiness of her childhood under the tree. Our Casuarina Tree is an ode to the happy memories of the poetess around the tree that constantly haunts her in her later part of life.

Structure of the Poem

‘Our Casuarina Tree’ is divided into 5 stanzas with each stanzas consisting 11 lines, making it a 55 lines poem. Each stanza in the poem follows the rhyme scheme of ABBACDDCEEE. ‘Our Casuarina Tree’ is autobiographical, so the speaker is the poet herself.

The first two stanzas of ‘Our Casuarina Tree’ talks about the magnificence of the tree. The tree is very tall, large and a heavy creeper creeping around the tree that looks like a python. The tree looks so beautiful in the garden in which birds used to sing very often.

During the winter season, it is common sight in the tree that a baboon will be sitting while its puny offspring would play in the boughs of the tree. From the third stanza, the poet begins to describe why the tree is very close to her. In the last stanza she also wants to immortalise the tree in her verse.

The title ‘Our Casuarina Tree’ is a symbol of happiness in the poet’s life. She and her friends and siblings used to play under the tree when she was a child. Now they all have gone in their own ways and some of them even have been passed away. The poet is in Europe now and recollects her happy childhood memories.

Poetic Devices in ‘Our Casuarina Tree’

‘Our Casuarina Tree’ employs several devices. The very first line of starts with a ‘simile’ in which the poet compares the creeper creeping around the Casuarina tree to a huge python. Let’s explore the poetic devices the poem employs:


As already noted, the poem ‘Our Casuarina Tree’ starts with a simile in which the creeper winding around the Casuarina tree is compared to a huge python:

  • LIKE a huge Python, winding round and round the rugged trunk…

Similarly in the third stanza, the murmur sound of the tree is compared to the sound of the waves of sea breaking on a cobble beach:

  • What is that dirge-like murmur that I hear   Like the sea breaking on a shingle-beach?

The readers can also note three more simile in ‘Our Casuarina Tree’; in the second stanza, the poet compares the “gray baboon” sitting on the tree motionless to a statue and “water lilies” are likened to “snow enmassed”. And, in the last stanza, the poet wants to make the Casuarina tree immortal like the trees in Borrowdale – an allusion to William Wordsworth’s poem “Yew-Trees” in which Wordsworth immortalises the yew trees in Borrowdale.

  • A gray baboon sits statue-like alone      Watching the sunrise
  • The water-lilies spring, like snow enmassed
  • … deathless trees—like those in Borrowdale


Personification is attribution of human qualities to objects, things and abstract ideas. In ‘Our Casuarina Tree’, the Casuarina tree is depicted as wearing the creeper like a scarf, and lamenting in an eerie speech.

  • The giant wears the scarf, and flowers are hung…
  • It is the tree’s lament, an eerie speech,…


‘Our Casuarina Tree’ alludes to the trees of Borrowdale in ‘Yew-Trees’ by Wordsworth. In this poem, Wordsworth talks about the yew trees and these trees has been somehow immortalised in his verse. Similarly, the poet asserts that she will immortalise the Casuarina tree in verse i.e, in this poem and her love for the tree will protect it from “Oblivion’s curse”.

  • Mayst thou be numbered when my days are done  / With deathless trees—like those in Borrowdale…


Alliteration is the repetition of initial consonant sounds in adjacent words in a poem that adds to the rhythm and musicality to the poem. In ‘Our Casuarina Tree’, the author employs few alliterations:

  • A creeper climbs, in whose embraces…
  • In crimson clusters all the boughs among,
  • Whereon all day are gathered bird and bee…
  • With one sweet song that seems…


‘Our Casuarina Tree’ employs several rich visual imagery. These imagery help enhance reading quality of the poem:

  • flowers are hung in crimson clusters…
  • The water-lilies spring, like snow enmassed.


Enjambment is the continuation of sentence beyond the end of a line or stanz without a pause or punctuation marks. ‘Our Casuarina Tree’ employs this device several times in the poem. For example, we can find this device employed in more than three places:

  • No other tree could live. But gallantly        The giant wears the scarf, and flowers are hung / In crimson clusters all the boughs among

Similarly, readers can find this device in each of the five stanzas of the poem. With these devices delicately employed in the poem, the poet is able to make the poem interesting, poignant and immortal like the tree immortalised here.

Themes in ‘Our Casuarina Tree’

‘Our Casuarina Tree’ basically celebrates the beauty of nature. Apart from, there are also other notable things in the poem: the nostalgia, longing for childhood, the concept of immortality etc. Let’s see the important themes in this poem:

Celebration of Nature

Primarily the poem ‘Our Casuarina Tree’ celebrates the beauty of the Casuarina tree. The tree is very beautiful, tall and gallant; with birds, animals and bees gathering all the day, it looks a beautiful scenery to the poet. The Singing of birds like Kokilas adds to the beauty of the garden.

With flowers hanging on the branches of the tree, the offspring of the baboon playing on the boughs of the tree, and the bees gathering honey from the flowers, the poem depicts the liveliness of nature.

Nostalgia for the Past

The Casuarina tree serves as a powerful symbol of the poet’s cherished memories. Whenever the poet thinks of the tree, the images or memories of her loving childhood companions come to her mind. The poet clarifies that the tree is very special to her not because of its magnificence but because of the memories of her childhood with her companions that the tree bears with it.

Of course, there is a deep sense of nostalgia for the past and the companions of the poet with whom these moments were shared: “Beneath it we have played… O sweet companions, loved with love intense.

‘Our Casuarina Tree’ also mourns for the loss of loved ones. So, the memory of the tree accompanies the realisation of their loss. Some of the poet’s companions have passed away. This makes her feelings more intense and their memories haunt her.

Theme of Immortality

The poet’s childhood memories, with her companions happily playing under the tree, haunts her. Some of her childhood companions are no more. Whenever the poet recollects the memories of the tree, the tree brings with it the memories of her loving companions who have passed away.

These memories of her childhood haunt her. So, if she can immortalise the tree, atleast in the verse, she would be able to immortalise her companions with it. So, the poet seeks immortalise them through memory and verse.

Bridging the Past & the Present

‘Our Casuarina Tree’ tries to make a bridge between the past and the present. This may help her escape from the difficulties of the present to some extent. She seeks the memory of her childhood as a source of comfort and happiness.

Though the tree’s memory brings her pains, the poet sees it as a sort relief from the sufferings of the present. It seems the poet succeeds to some extent in this task. That’s why she wants to immortalise the tree in her verse in the hope that it will bring such comfort in future as well.