In the poem "Our Casuarina Tree" by Toru Dutt, between stanzas 3 & 4, there are the following 2 lines:

That haply to the unknown land may reach.
Unknown, yet well-known to the eye of faith!

  1. Which is the unknown land here?
  2. What is meant by 'the eye of faith'?
  3. How is well-known to that eye of faith?

1 Answer 1


In the third stanza, the speaker is describing her memories of the “sweet companions” she played with beneath the tree. The stanza implies that these companions are now dead: the speaker weeps “hot tears” when remembering them; and the tree’s murmur is “dirge-like” and a “lament”. In this context, the “unknown land” must be the afterlife.

The comparison of the afterlife to an unknown land is a commonplace, perhaps from its use in Hamlet:

                                        something after death,
The undiscover’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns

William Shakespeare (c. 1600). Hamlet III.1.

Two more examples of its use:

Das Grab ist tief und stille,
Und schauderhaft sein Rand,
Es deckt mit schwarzer Hülle
Ein unbekanntes Land.

[The grave is deep and silent,
And dreadful its brink,
It covers with black shrouds
An unknown land.]

Johann Gaudenz von Salis-Seewis (1783). ‘Das Grab’. In Friedrich von Matthisson, ed. (1806). Lyrische Anthologie, p. 46. Zurich: Orell, Füßli.

“So, bending down, I kissed his sad sweet lips.
And slowly passed into the Unknown Land.”

Millie MacKay (1877). ‘A Dream of Sappho’. In The Gentleman’s Magazine, July 1877, p. 112.

The afterlife is “well-known to the eye of faith” because it is described in religious scripture, in which Christians have faith. (Dutt’s family were converts to Christianity.) “The eye of faith” is a common metaphor for the imagination of a believer:

It was needful then that they should behold this restoration of Jerusalem by the eye of faith, as from a high beacon or turret.

John Calvin (1570). A Commentary on the Prophecy of Isaiah, p. 246. Translated by Clement Cotton (1609). London: Felix Kyngston. Spelling modernized.

Neither the flesh of Christ, nor the blood of Christ, nor Christ himself, can be perceived but by the eye of faith

Robert Bruce (1617). The Way to True Peace and Rest, p. 117. London: R. Field. Spelling modernized.

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