Books for ever. . . . .

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

'The Dance of the Eunuchs' by Kamala Das


It was hot before the eunuchs came
To dance, wide skirts going round and round, cymbals
Richly clashing, and anklets jingling, jingling
Jingling… Beneath the fiery gulmohur, with
Long braids flying, dark eyes flashing, they danced and
They danced, oh, they danced till they bled… There were green
Tattoos on their cheeks, jasmines in their hair, some
Were dark and some were almost fair. Their voices
Were harsh, their songs melancholy; they sang of
Lovers dying and of children left unborn…
Some beat their drums, other beat their sorry breasts
And wailed, and writhed in vacant ecstasy. They
Were tin in limbs and dry; like half-burnt logs from
Funeral pyres, a drought and rottenness
Were in each of them. Even the crows were so
Silent on trees, and the children, wide eyed, still;
All were watching these poor creatures’ convulsions,
The sky crackled then, thunder came, and lightening
And rain, a meager rain that smelt of dust in
Attics and the urine of lizards and mice…

What I Feel: 

  This is a symbolic poem of Kamala Das. The poet’s unfulfilled desire finds expression through the image of the dance of the eunuchs. The eunuchs dance ecstatically, but there lies a sense of emptiness beneath their apparent ecstasy, because they don't have any sensual feeling--the ultimate pleasure a person can have. The word ‘vacant ecstasy’ reveals the hollowness of the poet’s love; it insinuates her sad married life (it’s said that her husband was a homosexual and an oppressor).

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