Don’t Despise Me

Don’t Despise Me

By Akka Mahadevi

Don’t Despise Me as
She who has no one
I’m not one to be afraid,
Whatever you do.
I exist chewing dry leaves.
My life resting on a knife edge
If you must torment me,
My life, my body
I’ll offer you and be cleansed.

Summary of Don’t Despise Me

  • Popularity of “Don’t Despise Me”: Written back in the 12th century by a Kannada woman poet, Akka Mahadevi, this beautiful poem presents the centrality of Shiva who is also called Chennamallikarjuna in the Lingayat Shaiva sect happened to be in India in the 12th It is quite surprising that a female poet of those times expressed her thoughts about Shiva in more than 430 poems among which “Don’t Despise Me” tops the list. That is the very reason for the popularity of the poem.
  • “Don’t Despise Me” As a Representative of Sacred Love: The speaker of the poem, who is possibly the ancient poet herself, opens the poem with a title that is very suggestive. She is pleading the god not to hate her. Chennamallikarjuna, who happens to be Shiva, is the center of attention here. When she states that she has no one, she singles her out as the one “Who has no one” and yet she has no fears. She also presents her present existence that she has lived on dry leaves and that she is now on the edge of a knife after she has shown her love for Shiva.
    This love is rather sacred love, an Asian concept of feminine presentation to gods or divine beings which is the central poet of mysticism. It has even crept into other regional poetic output. However, in this poem, when the speaker states that Shiva is tormenting her and that if he is to do it at every cost, then she wants her cleansed through this torment as she offers her body to him. This is perhaps the last resort to cleansing one’s soul, which means the perishing of the physical existence into a spiritual one or leaving oneself at the behest of the divine being.
  • Major Themes in “Don’t Despise Me”: Spirituality, sacred love, and extreme devotion are three major thematic strands of the poem “Don’t Despise Me.” The poet, who is a female figure, has done everything to show her spiritual experience that she has been left high and dry and that she wants Shiva not to show hatred toward her. Therefore, she offers her whole existence at his altar. As far as sacred love is concerned, this spirituality is achievable only through the offering of the physical body, which is the extreme form of love. This love leads one to extreme devotion. The poem shows all three points of view simultaneously.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Don’t Despise Me

Akka Mahadevi has used various literary devices to enhance the intended impact of his poem. Some of the major literary devices have been analyzed below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /i/ in “My life resting on a knife edge” and the sound of /o/ in “She who has no one.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession, such as the sound of /d/ in “don’t despise.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /z/ in “I exist chewing dry leaves” and the sound of /t/ in “If you must torment me.”
  4. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Akka Mahadevi used imagery in this poem such as “If you must torment me”, “My life resting on a knife edge” and “I’ll offer you and be cleansed.”
  5. Irony: It means to the contradictory meanings of the words used in different contexts. For example, this verse shows that “I’m not one to be afraid” shows that the poet is not afraid, and yet she pleads to god not to torment her.
  6. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects that are different in nature. The poet has used the metaphor of the edge of the knife for the difficulties of life.
  7. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols such as dry leaves, a knife, and a body to show her spiritual experience.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Don’t Despise Me

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is an analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction: It means the type of language. The poem shows very good use of formal, poetic, and spiritual diction.
  2. Free Verse: It means using verses without any rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. As this is the translation, it is a free-verse poem.
  3. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. This is a single-stanza poem having ten verses.
  4. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows a didactic, ironic, and religious tone.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote when you are going through the most difficult phase of your life.

I’m not one to be afraid,
Whatever you do.
I exist chewing dry leaves.
My life resting on a knife edge.