The poem "Leili" by Sarojini Naidu goes like this:

The serpents are asleep among the poppies,
The fireflies light the soundless panther's way
To tangled paths where shy gazelles are straying,
And parrot-plumes outshine the dying day.
O soft! the lotus-buds upon the stream
Are stirring like sweet maidens when they dream.

A caste-mark on the azure brows of Heaven,
The golden moon burns sacred, solemn, bright,
The winds are dancing in the forest-temple,
And swooning at the holy feet of Night.
Hush! in the silence mystic voices sing
And make the gods their incense-offering.

Searching for the search term "Leili", I get a lot of results about a murder and not much else. It seems to be a given girl's name, although not very popular.

What does "Leili" mean? Why is this poem entitled thusly? What's the significance of this particular name?

1 Answer 1


The poem describes night. ("The dying day"..."golden moons") And Leili is a Persian word that means 'night'.

Turns out the word is often used by poets:

In sultry climates of tropical latitudes, night is less the season of repose than of recreation and amusement. The Arabs, according to Savary, as quoted by Sale, reckon time by nights as we do by days. This custom doubtless had its rise from the excessive heat of their climate. They dwell amidst burning sands, and while the sun is above the horizon, they usually keep within their tents; when he sets, they quit them to enjoy coolness and a most delightful sky. Night is in a great measure to them, what the day is to us. Their poets, therefore, never celebrate the charms of a beautiful day. But these words, Leili! Leili! O night! 0 night! are repeated in all their songs.
[Acton; Or, the Circle of Life (1849)]

(I can't find a specific dictionary citation, but most books examining Naidu's poetry confirm this, many baby-name sites define the name this way, and Wiktionary has a related page with a similar definition.)

  • The Arabic word for night also seems to be very similar (I'm seeing "layl" and "layla" in a quick search, so "layli" could be some inflection). Maybe also the word for night in some of the languages of India?
    – Rand al'Thor
    Sep 15, 2023 at 15:02

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