Sarojini Naidu's "Champak Blossoms" contains the following lines:

Amber petals, ivory petals,
Petals of carven jade,
Charming with your ambrosial sweetness
Forest and field and glade,
Foredoomed in your hour of transient glory
To shrivel and shrink and fade!

But you, when your delicate bloom is over,
Will reckon amongst the dead.

"champak" refers to the flowers of Magnolia champacca.

Why is this flower in particular "foredoomed... to shrivel and shrink fade"? To be reckoned "amongst the dead"? Reading through the Wikipedia article for the flower, nothing jumped out at me about this flower being quick to die or overly fragile in any way, so I'm a bit confused what Naidu's getting at in this poem.

What do these lines about the champak blossom being "foredoomed" mean?

1 Answer 1


The lines do not have any specific reference aside from the literal fact that the champak flowers will die. According to Naidu, as the champak tree produces no edible fruit, the only reason for the champak flowers is to provide beauty and fragrance. This beauty is transitory, as the flowers will "shrivel and shrink and fade."

In the last verse, Naidu says that despite this short life, the champak is celebrated in poetry and song:

Yet, 'tis of you thro' the moonlit ages
That maidens and minstrels sing.

The ephemeral nature of beauty, its inevitable death, and its paradoxical ability to remain immortal through poetry is a theme of English literature that goes back at least to Shakespeare:

And every fair from fair sometimes declines,
By chance or nature's changing course untrimmed:

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st:

So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

Sonnet 18

Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn" similarly celebrates the ability of art to capture fleeting, living beauty and immortalize it in an imperishable medium. So in this poem, as in so much of her work, Naidu takes a theme common in the English literary tradition and explores it using a specifically Indian motif, champaka flowers.

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