Leisure is as important in human life as is work. We cannot prosper in life without work and we cannot work continuously and properly unless we have some moments of recreation in our life other than the working hours.
What is this life if full of care
We have no time to stand and stare?
Not time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
In this satiric lyric the poet asserts the importance of leisure. He argues that our life has become more and more monotonous due to excessive work. It lacks leisure. We have turned our daily routine so mechanical that we don’t have even a minute to enjoy some moments of leisure. We do not have time to stand and stare at the beauty of objects of nature. We have no time to stand beneath the boughs and stare as long as sheep or cows do while grazing.
Written in the iambic metre, the second line “We have no time to stand and stare?” asks us in a satirical tone if we don’t have enough time to stand and stare. The simile ‘as long as sheep or cows” again is a satire on the meanness of the sublime human wisdom as compared to the relatively inferior wisdom of the grazing cattle.
No time to see when woods we pass
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass
We have no time to turn at the squirrels which hide their nuts in the grass when we pass through the woods. The poet makes the meaning more assertive by using the alliteration of and the consonance of and sounds. The external rhymes ‘pass’ and ‘grass’ add to the lyrical effect of the poem.
No time to see in broad daylight
Streams full of stars like skies at night
We do not spare some moments to see the streams full of glimmering drops of water which look like the skies full of stars at night. The metaphor ‘full of stars’ is added beautifully to the simile ‘…like skies at night’. The consonance of the diphthong the alliteration sound and the consonance of the sound have added a beauty of the language to the poem.
No time to turn at beauty’s glance
And watch her feet how they can dance.
The beauty of nature calls us and smiles upon us. But we do not have time to look at her glance and watch her dancing. The personification of beauty and her dance is a beautiful touch because we feel the natural beauty dancing all around whenever we have a chance to look at it. The alliteration of sound adds further stress to the satirical mood of the poet.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
We do not have time to see her mouth enriching the smile her which begins from her eyes. The same personification continues here. The poet wants to tell us that the beauty smiles to see us and expects us to smile back. But owing to the monotonous hectic routine of life, we don’t pay attention to it. The world is full of beautiful natural sights. But we have no time for any such thing. The alliteration of sound keeps the assertive satire of the poet prevalent throughout these lines as it has been in the previous ones.
A poor life this, if full of care
We have no time to stand and stare.
At the end the poet says that a life which is full of care and in which we have no spare moments for leisure is the poorest life. The addition of a comma (,) shows that the poet clearly wants to say that life is meaningless if it is full of care. This means that it is not a poor one if not full of care and if we have a little to relax. The consonance of sound with the last line “we have… stare” as a declarative sentence instead of an interrogative one (as in the beginning of the poem) shows that the poet is now disappointed to see the busy life of man.
Reading this poem we seem to enjoy two types of beauty- the natural beauty and the one given to this poem by the artistic style of the poet.
Q1 what are some of the delights we commonly miss in our busy life?
A few of the common delights we miss in our busy life are as follows;
We are so busy in our monotonous life that we do not have time to stand for a while and stare at the natural beauty. We miss the pleasure of standing beneath the boughs and staring for a short while at the beauty of nature. We miss watching the squirrels hiding their nuts in grass when we pass through the woods. We miss the delight of watching the glimmering drops of water in the streams in broad daylight as the poet himself says
Streams full of stars like skies at night.
We do not enjoy the inspiring dance of natural beauty and the smiling scenes of nature. At the end of the poem the poet says that by missing these simple delights in our busy life, we make it meaningless and full of care.
Q2 Define personification.
Giving a human effect to an inanimate object is called personification. In the poem ‘Leisure’ William Davies has personified the beauty of nature as a dancing object that glances at us. This human effect continues to give the human expression of a beauteous smile that begins from her eyes. Whatever expression the human face gives always starts from the eyes. The same has been personified in ‘Leisure’ by Davies.
If I were Lord of Tartary
Myself and me alone.
My bed should be of ivory
Of beaten gold my throne.
Unaccomplished desires are best fulfilled in imagination. The persona of the poem might have encountered a very tough, dull and drab life. That is why he seems to be over-desireous for the luxuries of life. And this is exactly what Walter De La Mare in his romantic imaginative narrative poem ‘Tartary’ does. He says that if he gets a chance to become the lord of ‘Tartary’- an imaginary romantic place, he would enjoy the most lavish lifestyle which can be dreamt only by a monarch.
Through the conditional clause that starts with ‘if’ the poet shows a longing to lead a luxurious life as a Lord. He says that if he were the lord of Tartary, he would sleep in a bed of ivory and mount a throne made of sullen gold. In the beautiful style of iambic tri-metre the poet shows his possessive nature by the use of pronouns like ‘I’, ‘myself’, ‘me’, and ‘my’. Five times such pronouns occur in this tetrarimic stanza. The use of the word ‘Lord’ shows that his inclination is towards only an enjoyable life free of worries. Had he been interested in dealing with the state of affairs of Tartary such as defence, politics or administration of the country, he would have used the word ‘king’ for himself. His possessiveness channelises from an extensive to an intensive scope when in the opening line he calls himself the Lord of Tartary (extensity) and later, in the coming lines, discusses his bed and throne (intensity).
And in my courts should peacocks flaunt
And in my forests tigers haunt
And in my pools great fishes slant
Their fins athwart the sun.
In these lines the poet wishes to rule over even the birds and beasts in his land. He wishes to see peacocks flaunt in his court. He feels the thrill of being the lord of the tigers haunting in his forests. He desires to see great fishes swimming in his pools.
A court is no place for entertainment, but watching the peacocks flaunt is again a desire for entertainment and enjoyment. The poet’s sense of monarchy is highlighted by stressing the word ‘my’ in these four lines and by giving us an impression of being the lord of the tigers. A tiger is the lord of the jungle. Thus the poet wants to become the lord of the lords. First the birds (peacocks) then the wild beasts (tigers) and finally the great fishes (marine animals) testify the poet’s classification of the animal kingdom into three main types that he wishes to rule.
The metre in these lines changes from iambic to trochaic (And in) then dactyl (my courts should) in every line showing the changing mood of the poet.
If I were Lord of Tartary,
To every meal would summon me,
And in my courtyard bray;
And in the evening lamps would shine,
Yellow as honey red as wine,
While harp and flute and mandoline,
Made music sweet and gay.
An escape from the realities of the world takes the poet into the imaginative land ofTartary where his servants call him to every meal by blowing trumpets and announcing his arrival in his courtyard.
The poet imagines that if he were the lord of Tartary his trumpeters would daily call him for every meal and stand in his attendance. The exhibition of authoritativeness now shifts from non-human creatures to humans. The poet’s trumpeters would satiate his two appetites – one for daily meals and the other for ruling over the people. They would bray in his courtyard. In the evening yellow and red lamps would shine. The imagery shifts from places in the previous stanza (court, forests and pools) to colours (yellow as honey read as wine). Music is a great source of entertainment. The poet wishes to enjoy the music made by the eastern instruments (harp, flute and mandoline). His imagination seems to resemble that of Coleridge as shown in ‘Kubla Khan’ in which the poet alludes to a magical environment often found in the Eastern empires. The alliteration of sound intensifies the musical effect. The intensive use of colour words may refer to the Psychological freedom from the real world into that of imagination due to the fact that the poet’s own life was a colourless one.
If I were Lord of Tartary.
I’d wear a robe of beads,
White and gold and green they’d be-
And clustered thick as seeds,
The poet expresses his desire as a monarch and says that if he were the lord of Tartary he would wear a robe of white, gold and green beads that were clustered together like seeds. In the previously used iambic tetrameter and using the simile ‘clustered thick as seeds’ the poet expresses what distinction would he choose to make in his array. The imagery of colours in this stanza adds to the colourful and romantic mood of the poem. This stanza has two distinctions regarding the choice of the poet- one is for his robe that is made of beads instead of an expansive cloth; and the second one is that of the choice of seven zebras (in the seventh line of this stanza) to draw his car. Normally these two choices are not made by aristocrats. May be these two unique features testify the height of the luxurious lifestyle he wants to enjoy.
And ere should wane the morning- star,
I’d don my robe and scimitar,
And zebras seven should draw my car
Through Tartary’s dark glades.
Normally a person belonging to a labour class has to leave for work at dawn or in some cases, before dawn. The poet here expresses his desires to leave his palace in Tartary at the time when the morning star is about to wane, and drive his car driven by seven zebras through Tartary’s dark glades. He imagines that if he were the lord of Tartary, he would not have to go to work at the time before dawn. Instead that would be the time for his morning ride. In the second stanza he discussed his enjoyment in the evening by saying:
And in the evening lamps wouldshine,
Yellow as honey red as wine,
While harp and flute and mandoline,
Made music sweet and gay.
Now he expresses his desire for entertainment he would like to enjoy in the morning. Thus he desires to spend twenty-four hours of his daily routine in rejoice. The creation of the imaginary land of Tartary resembles Eutopia of Thomas Moore, the Arcadia of Philip Sydney and the Repuclic of Plato.
Lord of the fruits of Tartary,
Her rivers silver-pale!
Lord of the hills of Tartary,
Glen, thicket, wood and dale!
In the dactyl tetrasyllabic metre in the odd lines (first, third, fifth) lines in the last stanza of the poem the poet shifts his lordship from the objects on land to the waters and oceans and says that he would be the lord of Tartary’s silver and pale rivers. In contrast to his monarchy over the forests (stanza 1) and dark glades (stanza 3) he now yearns to rule over the mountains, hills, groves of trees and glens in Tartary. This time we notice an element of certainty in his tone as the usual desirous tone, ‘If I were lord…’ now changes to a more assertive and confirming style ‘Lord of the fruits…pale!’ The exclamation marks at the end of second, fourth and last lines confirm that his daydreaming of ruling this Eutopean state has now intensified to the extent of something close to a hallucination. The mentioning of silver and pale waters of rivers again refers to the famous rivers found in the East having silver and pale water.
Her flashing stars, her scented breeze,
Her trembling lakes, like foamless seas,
Her bird-delighting citron trees
In every purple vale!
The poet’s faith of ruling over the land of Tartary now inspires his imagination to rule every thing in his domain; even the forces of nature which of course, nobody can control. He drams to rule the stars flashing in the sky above Tartary. He wants to rule the scented breeze, the tress in purple vales of Tartary. Shifting back to the iambic tetrameter his desire to rule every object found in his land of imagination excels the limits of human power to that of a god. In these last lines he tries to imitate the gods of Greek and Indian myths in being able to rule over the heavenly bodies, the winds and other objects of nature the sight of which is a source of delight to man. The way the last line of the last stanza ends in a trisyllabic metre is similar to the metre he adopts at the end of the last line of the first stanza (Their fins athwart the sun.)
Q1 What effect do the colour words chosen by the poet create?
The colour words help:
a) Add imagery to the text and make the visualise the glory and grandeur enjoyed by the poet as the Lord of Tartary,
b) Exaggerate the intensity of the luxurious life enjoyed by the poet in the imaginary land of Tartary by adding to the figurative assertiveness of the language, and
c) Make the poem more interesting for the readers as Chromatography is an important source of knowledge, entertainment and motivation for man in life. Man learns, enjoys life, identifies things and objects, and sometimes gets healed by different colours in life. These colours in a way lay a cathartic effect on the miserable life of the poet by making it more fanciful and romantic.
Q2 What in your opinion is the most fanciful image?
The most fanciful image appears in the 3rd and 4th line of the last stanza:
Her flashing stars, her scented breeze,
Her trembling lakes, like foamless seas,
It can be called the most fanciful image because;
a) It is the image in the whole poem that is widest in its scope- the poet imagines rule over even the heavenly bodies (stars) and the forces of nature (scented breeze and lakes) which is the height of a longing for monarchy.
b) These lines are as rich in colour words as any other line in any stanza of the poem, but richer than any other line in terms of the figurative language- in addition to a simile (like foamless seas) there are two metaphors in 3rd (flashing instead of shining stars; and scented instead of fragrant breeze) and two in the 4th line (trembling lakes and foamless seas).
Thus we can say that the image presented in these two lines is the widest in its scope and richest in its choice of words and language. Thus, it is the richest of all the images in the poem.
New Year Resolutions
A resolution is a formal statement of an opinion agreed on by a committee or a council by means of a vote (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary). In this poem Elizabeth Sewell makes a resolution at the advent of the New Year.
In this mono-syntactic monometric monologue Elizabeth Sewell resolves to undergo the process of draining long droughts of quietness, purgation, self-recognition and realization of reality.
I will drain
Long droughts of quiet
As a purgation.
The beginning of a new year is generally the time when we make new resolutions. It is the time for planning the future business. People make new plans for making their lives better. The poetess resolves to spend the whole year correcting herself. She will drain long draughts of quietness as purgation. Quietness means that she will sit in quietness and drain tears before God almighty as purgation for her previous misdeeds. Christians normally sit or stand in quiet either for condolence or for purgation after confession. Shedding tears for repentance is the best way to self-purification. This is the first step to improve one's inner self. This shows that unlike the other people who run after worldly business, the poetess wants to improve herself spiritually. This stream of consciousness resembles that of Emily Dickinson in ‘Because I could not stop for Death’. The poetess has decorated her words with Trochee, iambic and anapest showing the height of versatility in her poetic style as is said by John Donne;
THOU hast made me, and shall Thy work decay?
Repair me now, for now mine end doth haste;
This poem comprises one sentence only. This is a multiple sentence comprising a principle clause and three subordinate clauses. This shows that now she has switched from words to actions. Previously she had spoken too much and acted too less. Now she uses minimum number of words to show the channnelisation towards the practicality she has undergone.
Who I am;
Next she resolves to remember twice daily who she is (Who I am). Actually she wants to remember what her limitations are. She has been a mother, a sister and much more in terms of her social and professional relations. She might have used more words in her previous life than actions. Now she resolves to act otherwise. She thinks that self-recognition is the second step to purify oneself from sins. This helps refrain from wrong-doing and further deviations. ‘Remembering twice daily’ means to recall her mission in both the beginning and the end of a day. This is quite normal that we plan to do something when the day begins and evaluate ourselves at the end of the day as to what we have done and what not. Following John Donne’s famous lines;
And all my pleasures are like yesterday.
I dare not move my dim eyes any way;
she resolves to recall her end that leads every human being to an ultimate reality – eternity. The stress on each word in the last line of this stanza shows the extreme commitment she shows towards doing what she plans.
Will lie o’nights
In the bony arms
Of reality and be comforted.
In these lines the poetess moves towards the third and fourth processes of spiritual uplift. Her third objective is to lie on nights in the bony arms of reality. Here she is inclined to realize what after undergoing the above-mentioned spiritual exercises she has achieved. It is to check herself whether all the three methods prove fruitful or not. The personification ‘the bony arms of reality’ refers to the bitter taste of truth. This is an extremely careful attitude she has adopted for improving herself spiritually. It is necessary to check oneself after making an effort whether one is doing one's job perfectly or not. The same is the poetess planning to do.
Lastly, she resolves that she will be comforted after realizing all her merits and de-merits. It is a general attitude that after a toil of the whole day we like to assess ourselves as to what we have achieved or lost at the end of each day. The poetess intends to get satisfaction after knowing the reality about her success or failure in the process of self-purification, self-recognition, realization of reality and comfort which we mostly enjoy after knowing the progress of our efforts, no matter how sweet or bitter it is. Closeness to God too comforts us. As said by John Donne;
By Thy leave I can look, I rise again;
The feminist Maya Angelo laments the lack of freedom from household jobs for a woman. She cries for the miseries of a housewife involved in countless household jobs that are indispensable for her. She is similar to Mrs. Thurlow (The Ox by H. E. Bates) who has not a single moment of rest or leisurely activity in her life; just endless work.
I’ve got the children to tend
The clothes to mend
The floor to mop
The food to shop
The jobs the poetess has to do according to the poem are on the one hand inevitable for her, and on the other, lack any substitute of hers. She is a silent worker who does not have any spare moment out of her hectic routine of life to share her worries with. And then there is nobody to do or share any of her jobs. She is to do all by herself. All the jobs she does are interconnected. She has to attend to the children. Small children tear their clothes off, so she mends the clothes. They make the place untidy so she has to mop the floor. Small children need food too which she has to shop. This is shown by the stress on the words like ‘children, clothes, floor’ and ‘food’.
In this opening tetrarimic stanza, the first line of the poem is a complete sentence. Each of the three coming lines is a dependent clause having an implied Noun phrase – I, and implied Verb phrase – have (‘ve) got to. This shows the grammatical interrelatedness among the lines of the stanza. The use of the grammatical category ‘have (‘ve) got to’ shows both the poetess’ limitations to avoid the work and the inevitability of the job.
Then chicken to fry
The baby to dry
I got company to feed
The garden to weed
I’ve got the shirts to press
The tots to dress
The cane to be cut
I got to clean up this hut.
In this octarimic stanza the poetess keeps the household jobs connected to the ones she has discussed in the opening stanza. She uses dependent clauses (‘then chicken to fry’ and ‘the baby to dry’) in the first two lines again to link them to the opening line of the first stanza to show that the jobs she is to do in the second stanza are linked to those of the first one. She has to fry the chicken for the children she has to attend. She has to dry one of them. She has quite a good number of people to feed. This means she is the key person to keep running the family affairs smoothly. She has to weed the garden. May be this is a symbol to refer to the social affairs of the family a woman has to manage. She has got shirts to press. She has used the word ‘got’ four times to show that despite all her efforts to finish the household jobs, still many are yet to be done. She is to dress up her playful children too. Then she has cane to be cut and finally she has to clean up the hut she lives in. Mentioning the need for cleaning up the hut after having mentioned earlier in the first stanza ‘The floor to mop’ is a repetition. This shows that a housewife has to do all jobs repeatedly. This interconnectedness and repetition of jobs forms a web of toil which she can never escape. She can only imagine herself being free of all such worries. All this shows that the miseries of a poor woman never end; and if they do, it is all fruitless like the efforts of Mrs. Thurlow (The Ox by H. E. Bates).
Shine on me, sunshine
Rain on me, rain
Fall softly, dewdrops
And cool my brow again.
Mrs. Thurlow (The Ox by H. E. Bates) was always fascinated by the thought of saving a hundred pounds she had as her only asset. Walter de la Mare found refuge in the imaginary land of Tartary where he could enjoy every bounty of life. Maya Angelou calls upon the objects of nature to come to her and provide her few moments of leisure. She thinks she has nobody in the world to share her sufferings with. These objects of nature alone are the ones she can call her own (You’re all that I can call my own). Instead of creating an imaginary world of her own, she seeks the help of these true natural forces and objects because she has become too unimaginative and thoughtless after spending such a leisureless life. This stanza is a compound sentence having three independent and one dependent clause – ‘And cool my brow again’. She could have kept the three independent clauses as independent sentences too. There was needed only a full stop (.) to be added to each of these. By keeping the three of them independent each having an apostrophe, she gives an impression of freedom. The word ‘again’ in the last line of this stanza shows that she has previously been through the experience of finding catharsis within the sunshine, the rain and the dewdrops. Throughout the first part of the poem (first two stanzas) the rhyme scheme has been intact. In the third stanza it gets disturbed. This shows the mental frustration of the poetess.
Storm, blow me from here
With your fiercest wind
Let me float across the sky
Till I can rest again.
The poetess calls upon the storm to blow her away with its fiercest wind and let her float across the sky till she can rest again. Contrary to Walter de la Mare’s style of using soft and sweet words for the expression of his romantic thoughts, the poetess uses strong words as ‘storm, ‘blow away’, ‘fiercest’. This shows that she is so tired of her daily routine that she has turned a little torture-loving just to escape her routine life. She seems to have lost her sense of humour as a result of her hectic job. The stress on consecutive three words in the second line shows that she has lost her stamina of facing the dull and drab routine of her work. She wants the storm to blow her away instead of trying to escape deliberately. This shows how tired she feels. The stress on the pronoun ‘your’ in the second line shows how much she trusts and relies on the forces of nature. The alliteration of intensifies the impression of her being exhausted. This much reliance on these inanimate objects shows that she has lost her faith in the human beings. The use of the structure ‘let me’ in the third line of this stanza refers to the helplessness she is feeling within herself. In the same apostrophic style as adopted by her in the third stanza, she requests the storm to give her a chance to float across the sky. The longing for floating across the vast immeasurable expanse of the sky refers to a freedom longed for. She wishes to continue this activity till she can rest again. The word ‘again’ at the end of this stanza shows her desire for going through the previous experience of resting she has mentioned in the third stanza.
Fall gently, snow flakes
Cover me with white
Cold icy kisses and
Let me rest tonight.
In this second last stanza of the poem the attitude of the poetess turns a little soft. She is no longer as aggressive in her attitude as she was in the fourth stanza. She asks the snow flakes to fall on her gently. She wants to feel them as cold icy kisses. This is again a non-human love she is seeking. Love is generally attributed to warmth and heat. The poetess’ demand for a cold icy love again shows a rebellion against the human love. This on the one hand shows her love for nature in which she finds an escape from her life; and on the other, her indifference to human love. The height of her helplessness is shown by her request to be given a chance to rest for a night. It is quite natural that mothers caring for tots cannot sleep continuously for the whole night. She is like a fly caught in the web of household jobs, striving to find a way out. The alliteration of sound in the second line gives an expression of wailing. The alliteration of sound in the third line gives an expression of crying. Thus we can say that the woman is wailing and crying for her tedious life.
Sun, rain, curving sky
Mountain, ocean, leaf and stone
Star shine, moon glow
You’re all that I can call my own.
In the Wordsworthian syle the poetess calls upon the objects of nature to be at her side as they are the only ones she can call her own. But Wordsworth has never shown a hopelessness towards the human behaviour. In an utter state of disappointment the poetess turns her back on the humans surrounding her and begs the sun, the rain, the sky, the mountain, the leaf, the ocean, the moon and the stone to support her. This is the ultimate disappointment she shows towards her family members among whom she lives and among whom she finds no one trustworthy enough to share her pains with. Physically she is surrounded by so many of her family members and mentally she is all alone. Even a stone is worthier than human beings in her eyes. There are thirteen objects of nature in total she talks to in the whole poem. But there is no living creature she talks to. Six out of these thirteen are the ones she talks twice to. these inanimate objects seem to come to her rescue. Even this rescue is space- bound because she does not move away from her duties. Her jobs are like chains she is tied to. That is why instead of making an escape to Utopia or Republic, she calls them to come to her. She can call them alone her own because they are the only ones who care for her. She lives for the people around her. They don’t live for her. She cares for them. They don’t seem to care for her. It is only the objects of nature that come to her to provide her few moments of pleasure and relaxation. She is similar to the cut cane in her house that is divided into two parts – one part stays at home and the other floats across the sky.
When everybody has short hair,
The rebel lets his hair grow long
In this humorous poem, D.J. Enright has drawn the picture of a rebel. With no serious satire or bitterness, the poet shows how an adolescent tries to be different from the norms of the society due to his inferiority complex or sense of insecurity.
As a rebel is to act contrary to the behaviour of the people he lives among, he cuts his hair short when everybody lets his hair grow long. When everybody cuts his hair short the rebel lets his hair grow long. Compelled by his inner urge to look different from others, he pretends to be what he is not actually. Thus he is a pseudo-type of rebel. Yet in this rebellious attitude, there lies no sense of harm for others. His feeling of insecurity or inferiority complex demands a sympathetic attitude from the mature people. The poet seems to realise that this immaturity of thought is a part of the process of reaching the maturity of mind during the adolescence. The stress on ‘everybody’ in the first line and ‘rebel’ in the second line shows the intensity of opposition the harmless rebel shows against normal people.
When everybody has long hair,
The rebel cuts his hair short.
Following the same non-conformist style as in the opening lines of the poem, the rebel keeps his difference of opinion by cutting his hair short when everybody lets his hair grow long. This is a sustained behaviour to show resistance against the society. The rhythm of the line discussing the rebel in every stanza is different from the other one showing a rebellious attitude towards the norms of poetry. A beautiful aspect of Enright’s peotry is that the line mentioning the rebel’s hair grown long is longer and the one expressing the rebel’s hair cut short is shorter than the other line in the stanza. The stress on the word ‘cut’ shows a deliberate attitude towards disagreement with the others.
When everybody talks during the lesson, The rebel doesn’t say a word.
Discussion during the lesson is an important educational activity. Often students discuss and argue things over during a lesson. In such discussions even, the rebel keeps quiet. This shows that he is so ambitious regarding his non-conformist attitude that in order to retain that he is ready even to forsake and important curricular activity. Thus he proves to be a misfit among his classmates. People generally show a resentment to such attitude. But the attitude of the poet towards a rebel is a polite one. May be this is because Enright has been a teacher in his career and has developed a sympathy for such people.
When nobody talks during the lesson,
The rebel creates a disturbance.
This is a bit tormenting on the part of the rebel’s classmates. Normally people don’t like to be disturbed when pondering over something serious. When a rebel among them creates a disturbance when the other students are concentrating on a lesson, this is at the same time irritating for others and humorous too. One cannot help laughing when one imagines what possibly the situation of the class can be in such a situation. The word ‘disturbance’ is of a general sort in its connotative meaning in the second line of the stanza. The poet does not specify the type of disturbance the rebel creates. This means that he can do anything to disturb the lesson. This means that whatever he does is just to gain the attention of others and is devoid of any creative or novel purpose. The rebel here seems quite similar to the girl in a public party who tries to gain the attention of a confirmed bachelor thinking that she is different from other girls in the party (The bachelor’s dilemma by Herbert Gold).
When everybody wears a uniform,
The rebel dresses in fantastic clothes.
The necessity for wearing a uniform is a reference to obedience to discipline and abiding by the law. The rebel looks carefree of any such rules the others are bound to follow. That is why he creates a disturbance during the lesson. Thus he wears fantastic clothes when everybody wears a uniform. This means that near him, the occasion of dressing soberly is of no significance. The poet continuously disturbs the rhyme scheme of every line that discusses the rebel. In this way he seems to be a rebel of the rules of poetry.
When everybody wears fantastic clothes,
The rebel dresses soberly.
The given lines show that whatever is trivial for others is serious for the rebel and vice versa. He wears sober clothes when all the others are in a jolly and jovial mood. Sitting seriously among the others make him stand out. This may compel some stranger to ask him the reason for such an array and that is the best moment for him to speak his heart and express his emotions. Here the rebel seems to express his feelings verbally. As actions speak louder than words, he avails of every opportunity to show his dissatisfaction with the norms of the society. The stress on the ‘rebel’ and ‘soberly’ in the second line shows the poet’s sustained rebellion against the normal rules of poetry.
In the company of dog lovers,
The rebel expresses a preference for cats.
A dog is the worst enemy of a cat. It is a common custom that dog-lovers are as inimic to cat lovers as a dog to cat. Preferring a cat among the dog lovers is an open invitation to a row the rebels welcomes. This is a mal social practice that the rebel does. people can turn against him as a dog against a cat. Thus we can say that in these lines there are two cats- the first one is the cat the rebel prefers among the dog lovers; and the second one is he himself facing the opposition of two dogs- the first one is the dog itself who the people love, and the second are the people opposing the rebel.
In the company of cat lovers,
The rebel puts in a good word for dogs.
As compared to the previous lines the situation goes contrary. The rebel praises dogs while sitting among cat lovers. This is again an open invitation to a worse argument resulting in nothing but an utter disappointment of both the parties – the rebel as well as the cat lovers, because people don’t normally change their favourites in response to an argument. This attitude of the rebel is rather trouble inviting. The phrase ‘put in’ shows that the rebel deliberately does it even if he has to interrupt someone. This shows his taste for an argument for the sake of an argument. Inwardly he fears the supremacy and authoritativeness of others that is why he outwardly rejects their ideas in order to overcome his inner fears. The alliteration of sound decorates the poetic colour of the poem.
When everybody is praising the sun,
The rebel remarks on the need for rain.
Every normal person likes to enjoy the weather. If the rebel remarks on the need for rain among the people who praise the sun, it is just to oppose them. The poet has used the progressive tense – is praising the sun, to refer to a temporary situation because does not seem to have a static and permanent philosophy of life. He has only one thing in consideration; and that is to oppose others. That is why when everybody is praising the sun he remarks on the need for rain. This is a habit he cannot quite control. The sun, as said by Virginia Woolf, is the life and blood of the world (The Eclipse). Negating the significance of the sun means that the rebel nullifies the significance of a very important object of nature. Thus we can say that he is in a way, being ungrateful to Mother Nature too. The poet’s use of alliteration of sound is a beautiful stylistic addition to the colour of the poem.
When everybody is greeting the rain,
The rebel regrets the absence of the sun.
Showing the same non-conformist attitude, the rebel feels sorry for the absence of the sun when others are greeting rain. Again with the progressive tense in the first line of this stanza the poet shows a temporary situational argument between the rebel and the people who like to enjoy the change in the weather. Though it is in a way, part of an adolescent’s growth towards maturity, yet it is still not good to have an abnormal thinking. We should try to be friendly with a rebel if we have one around us and try to convince him to behave normally.
When everybody goes to the meeting,
The rebel stays at home and reads a book.
In the given lines the rebel’s behaviour is as conventional as in the previous stanzas of the poem. When everybody goes to the meeting, he stays at home and reads a book. This means that by the term ‘everybody’, the poet has referred to everyone around a rebel. He wants to be alone when everybody wants to enjoy a company and vice versa. This is again an abnormal attitude towards oneself and the society. Through this kind of an attitude he makes the life difficult for himself. This is why the poet has remarked at the end of the poem that we may not find it very good to be a rebel. In the second line of this stanza the poet has employed the iambic meter which is quite new in this poem so far. This is strange, beautiful disturbing as regards the previously adopted one. Though beautified in it style, still this meter makes the meter of this poem a bit crazy.
When everybody stays at home and reads a book,
The rebel goes to the meeting.
The order of the meter in both the lines of the previous stanza has reversed in this stanza, and so is the attitude of the rebel. When everybody stays at home and reads a book, the rebel goes to the meeting. In any case, he is to stay alone, secluded from the whole society. Because even if he goes to a meeting, he is supposed to talk things contrary to what the people say at the meeting. He lives among others only; he does not live with anyone. This abnormality of attitude makes him a square peg in a round hole everywhere. He cannot cope with the others. He rather wants others to cope with him which is not possible. We have to do as the Roman do. Isolation from the society results only in one’s own seclusion from others. We should try to talk to the rebels in this regard and convince them to at least tolerate the others if not cope with them.
When everybody says Yes please!
The rebel says, No thank you.
The given lines are a poetic summary of the whole poem. In fact this is the true picture of the life of a rebel. He rejects everything everybody else accepts. He says no to anything which the others say yes to. Preferring cats to dogs and vice versa, preferring sun to rain and vice versa, and then going to a meeting and staying at home; all this is summarised in these lines. The poet here delights us with the height of humour as he brings to light the whole behaviour of the rebel in a nutshell. This is what exactly a rebel does. he negates anything the society conforms. That is why when others say yes please, he says no thank you. We can now intimate what the coming lines in the same poem can predict further about him.
When everybody says: No thank you,
The rebel says, yes please!
Contrary to what was said in the previous stanza but quite predictable, the rebel says yes please, when the others say no thank you. Again he accepts what the others reject. He is in the favour of what others ar against. He wants what others do not want. This is the same persisted attempt to hide one’s weaknesses and an escape from one’s inner conflicts and inferiority complex. But this is an important aspect of his personality because if on the one hand points out the presence of a rebel among us and on the other, gives us a laughing stock. The stubbornness of the rebel’s attitude sustains with as much intensity as it did in the first stanza of the poem. This shows the strength of his intentions.
It is very good that we have rebels
You may not find it very good to be one.
At the end of the poem the poet appreciates the presence of such pseudo-type rebels in the society due to three reasons- one, they add colour and humour to the life of others; two, they give a different opinion about various aspects of life so they give us a chance to look upon things in a different way, and three, move towards a level of maturity with the passage of time. But it is not easy to stand criticism and prove oneself a misfit among the other members of the society. Therefore the poet gives the readers a caution that it is not easy to be a rebel as the rebel has to undergo two types of conflicts simultaneously- the inner conflict of feeling insecure and the outer conflict which rises as the result of inner one to disagree with the society every moment.
Q Discuss the element of humour and satire in the poem. Do you think the poet is satirising the rebels or the ridiculously trivial behaviour of the so-called normal people?
A. The poet employs humour to express the colour the rebels add to our life. But he satirises our behaviour - the so called normal people who act abnormally towards rebels. It is the rebels who are disturbed psychologically, not we. They need sympathy. Towards them the poet’s attitude is quite sympathetic. They apparently add colour to our life. This means that we enjoy their presence among us as a laughing stock. But we never appreciate to be a laughing stock ourselves. This implies that pointing fingers on others is easier than facing fingers pointing at us. The poet’s satire is deep and serious. That is why the poem has ended on a satire.
It is a well-known fact that we like to have rebels among us and wherever we have them, we like to laugh at them. We never appreciate dealing with them the way they ought to be dealt with. At least we can talk to them over their abnormal behaviour and ask them to change themselves. But we rather laugh at them. This selfish behaviour towards the rebels shows an abnormality of attitude on our part though we call ourselves normal people. We should consider everyone a part of the society and try to keep everyone associated to us. If someone gets disturbed like the rebels, we should try to bring him towards normality than to laugh at him.
Patriot into Traitor
In this soliloquy-type dramatic monologue Robert Browning says that it is the people who can make someone a patriot or traitor in the eyes of the law. Killing their own loved-one heroes and accusing their own benefactors for political misdeeds is a common practice of the common people. They have an extreme kind of a temperament. When they love a leader, they love him so intimately that they are willing to die for a sight of his. But when the same patriot leader becomes traitor in their eyes, they wish to see him hanged in front of their own eyes.
It was roses, roses, all the way,
With myrtle mixed in my path like mad
The house-roofs seemed to heave and sway,
The church-spires flamed, such flags they had
A year ago on this very day.
The poet in the pentarimic style, says that he was once the favourite leader of his people and they were ready to do anything for him. In his usual style of the first person (as is the style of Browning) he says that the people had covered his way with myrtle and roses a year ago. The roofs of the houses seemed to sway. They all stood on the roofs to greet him. The church- spires flamed.
As we can see it is not merely a soliloquy. Browning talks as ‘I’ of another man’s soul (Goodman). When loved by the people, a leader thinks that this is the situation that is going to remain constant. He considers himself walking on heaven. That is why he forgets the coming circumstances when like a paradigm-shift, the same people are going to turn him into a traitor. A similar kind of a situation is often seen in many third world countries. K. L. Gandhi was the favourite leader of his people in India; and the same people killed him. Pakistan’s first Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan was assassinated at our own hands. The tables have tuned against the great benefactor of the nation who had contributed a lot to make us a nuclear power. The simple truth is, we are hero-killers. To show the patriot leader’s happiness the poet has decorated the first line with the alliteration of the second line with the third line with and the fourth one with that of sound. The hyperbolic exaggeration of mixing the myrtle in his path, the personification of the heaving house-roofs, the metaphor of the flaming flags of the church-spires and the reference of ‘this very day’ and ‘a year ago’ in the past tense prepare us mentally for a sudden dramatic turn that is yet to come in the coming lines of the poem. The reference of the flaming church-spires tells us that the leader enjoyed the confidence of the church too.
The air broke into a mist with bells,
The old walls rocked with the crowd and cries,
Had I said, ‘Good folk, mere noise repels-
But give me your sun from yonder skies?’
They had answered: And what else?
As the bells began to ring, the air broke into a mist. The walls of the city rocked with the cries of the people. They were so excited to see their leader that they could offer him anything. Had the leader said that he wanted the sun from the skies, the people would have brought it down to him and then would have asked him if he needed something more.
In the same pentarimic style Browning makes us realize that it is not the man’s deeds that make him a hero but rather the image and repute he earns in the eyes of the people. There are many who win the favours of the people just because of the charisma of their personality. A relevant example is the ex-American president Bill Clinton who inspired many just because of his personality. Through such an example, the poet here tells us that people give their hero everything when they love him, and take back everything – even his life, when they hate him. To show the excitement of the lovers of the hero, the poet has used the metaphor ‘broke into a mist’ in the first line. May be this refers to the fact that even the clergy were in his favour that time. The reference of the old walls shows that the city had seen many scenes like this one before. The alliteration of and in the second, third and fourth lines adds colour to the poet’s feelings. The external rhymes bells, repels, cries and skies too add to the poet’s art of beauty. The stress on every word in the last line shows the intensity of love people had towards their leader.
Alack, it was I who leaped at the sun
To give it my loving friends to keep
Nought man could do, have I felt undone;
And you see my harvest, what I reap
This very day, now a year is run.
He did what no man could have done. But after one year the harvest which he reaps is that now he is going to be punished for his previous year's misdeeds. It is the same day after a year has passed. Now the leader repents over his leaps and bounds he had made towards the goals he could not achieve. Lost in the ecstasy of the love the people had given him, he had forgotten the temporariness of their feelings and tried to attain the impossible. He had forgotten what he was to harvest after what he had sown a year before. The tense changes from past to present to bring us into the real world from the one the leader was previously lost in. The stress on ‘see’, ‘harvest’, ‘what’, ‘I’ and ‘reap’ shows that his sense of disappointment has reached its climax. The sudden change in the tense of the last line prepares us for a dramatic change in the political status of the speaker of this monologue.
There’s nobody on the house-tops now-
Just a palsied few at the window set;
For the best of the sight is, all allow,
At the Shambles Gate- or, better yet,
By the very scaffold’s foot, I trow.
After one year, there is no one on the house roofs instead of some paralyzed figures with hatred in their eyes for him. They are waiting to see him led to the scaffold to be hanged. This is the harvest that he reaps at the end of the year. They are all contented to see him guided to be executed. They have forgotten that he is the same man they loved once so much that they were ready even to bring the sun down from the sky to him if he had asked them to (But give me your sun from yonder skies). This sudden change of the political situation prevailing against him is like a paradigm shift that has brought him at the brink of life. The people have turned their own loved-one patriot into a traitor who is doomed to die a dreadful death by the decision of the dear people he was once proud of. Like the people in most of the countries in the third world, they too are determined to kill the person who they themselves had once made their hero.
Browning’s tone in these lines goes sympathetic for the speaker. Unlike Wordsworth who loves nature, he exhibits his love for man. Browning considers man the supreme creature of God, thus he sees and loves everything through man (Goodman). This is why through the rhyme royal like now, allow, trow, set and yet, he intensifies our sympathies for the speaker.
I go in the rain, and more than needs,
A rope cuts both my wrists behind;
And I think, by the feel, my forehead bleeds
For they fling, whoever has a mind,
Stones at me for my year’s misdeeds.
The speaker of the monologue is being led to the scaffold in the rain. Now the house-roofs do not seem to heave and sway. The winds now blow in the opposite direction. His hands are tied at the back with a rope and he feels his forehead bleeds for those who have a mind, throw stones at him. Browning has used the word ‘mind’ ironically to show the mentality of the illiterate common people and their extreme attitude in both love and hatred. If throwing stones at the leader of the past is a sensible act, then the love in the previous year must be a folly or vice versa. The forehead is generally considered the expression of luck. Bleeding from the forehead is a reference to a bad luck. Destiny plays its role to this patriot to turn him into a tragic traitor in the eyes of the law. The reference of the year’s misdeeds in the last line of the stanza too is an ironic expression for a man’s effort to leap at the sun for his people (Alack, it was I who leaped at the sun). This means that all the sacrifices and efforts made by a person for his people are valueless unless the people realize their importance.
Thus I entered, and thus I go
In triumphs, people have dropped down dead.
‘Paid by the world, what doest thou owe
Me?’ – God might question; now instead,
Tis God shall repay: I am safer so.
In the last stanza the ‘I’ of Robert browning tells us that this is how he entered and this is how he leaves. He entered when;
It was roses, roses, all the way,
He leaves as a criminal who is guilty of a crime he has not committed. But he is contented. For the punishment he gets in this world will wash up his sins and so God will protect him in the hereafter. He will owe nothing to God almighty. What the people have done to him in this life is enough. He rather feels comforted in the life hereafter because there, his punishment will come to an end.
Browning’s tragic hero leaves this world free of all the sins. He is already punished a free-of-sins criminal. The spiritual content he shows testify his clear conscience and nobility of character. His hamartia is the same as has been of many others – dying in triumphs deceived by their own followers. This error of judgement that he realises turns him into an iconoclast. The end of this tragic hero is more satisfactory than pathetic. He does not die a miserable death. He rather dies a noble and honourable death. A coward dies many times before his death. This political hero dies the honourable death of a soldier. He is a spiritual warrior who is destroyed physically, but is not defeated spiritually.
Q1 Discuss the poem as a dramatic monologue.
A: A dramatic monologue is a poem in which there is one imaginary speaker addressing an imaginary audience (Guddoon, 1992). Being dramatic in its nature, it is supposed to have a sudden dramatic turn that drives the speaker either to a happy or tragic end of the incident he tells.
‘Patriot into Traitor’ is a monologue in the sense that in it a single speaker tells us the story of his political career. He tells us how he was turned into a traitor by the people who once loved him as a patriot more than their own lives. In the first and second stanzas he tells us how people made him their leader and what honour they gave him as a patriot. He could get anything from them what he had asked for. In the third stanza the monologue takes a sudden turn like a paradigm shift. The same patriot is turned by the same people into a traitor. They demand him hanged. They take him to the scaffold to punish him for what they consider his ‘previous year’s misdeeds’. But this tragic hero of Browning meets a cathartic and contended end instead of dying an agonizing one. He is satisfied to think that since he is already punished by his people in this world, so he will not have to suffer before God. Almighty will keep him safe in the eternal world. This feature of Browning’s dramatic monologue is distinctive from others. His tragic hero dies an honourable death. Thus he lives morally, though he dies physically. We find Browning an optimist here. He believes that a good effort never goes waste. Even if the world considers you a traitor, you are honoured and rewarded by God for your deeds. This monologue is dramatic due to another feature – and that is that through the first person Browning does not speak to us. It is rather the ‘I’ of another person’s soul that he presents to us (Goodman).
2 What is the relevance of this poem to the political conditions prevailing in the countries of the third world?
A: The high and low tide in the life of the patriot turned by the people into a traitor in this poem is quite similar to the political overturns and suddenly changing conditions in the third world countries. People of the third world countries too seem to have a mentality similar to those in this poem. First the people crowded on the house-roofs to greet their most beloved leader. Had he asked them to bring down the sun from the sky, they would have brought it down to him happily. He thought that this spirit of love was everlasting. Whereas it lasted only for a year. In a year’s time, the love of the same people changed into a deep-rooted hatred. They began to hate him so much that they decided to hang the man for whom they were ready to give their own lives a year ago. We can find many examples of this political rise and fall in the third world countries. For example, Gandhi- once the most favourite of his people was assassinated at their own hands. Later, Indra Gandhi and her son Rajeev Gandhi too met the same end. In Pakistan, Liaqat Ali Khan, Zia-ul-Haque and several members of Bhutto family were killed similarly. In addition to the political shift, Pakistani nation did the same even to the great scientists who had burnt their midnight oil for decades to make this country a nuclear power. By temperament, we inhabitants of the third world are accustomed to kill our benefactors. Whether influenced by the media, forced by our own judgement or instigated by some foreign powers, we do this. This sudden and hasty temper like that of Oedipus Rex results in a rapid change of government and repeated commencement of general elections in our country. Each time a ruler comes, army takes over ultimately and then the country gets drowned in the marsh of martial law for an unpredictable time. Should we people develop a temperament to let a leader rule for the time we have elected him, we will be in a better position to make further decisions as to let him come a second time or not.
In this hexarimic poem written in sad humour and ironic suspense, Edward Lowbury teaches us never to talk without evidence, especially before superior to us. Kagwa the huntsman was killed not because he talked nonsense but because he could not provide the evidence of what he said. Thus talking brought him his end.
Kagwa hunted the lion.
Through bush and forest went his spear.
One day he found the skull of a man
And said to it, “How did you come here”?
The skull opened its mouth and said
‘Talking brought me here’.
The opening two lines in iambic trimeter tell us how brave the huntsman was. Hunting a lion with a spear is not an easy task. This tells us that the central character of the poem is an extraordinary man. The use of the phrase ‘one day’ in the third line tells us that he had spent many days in the forest when he came across a talking skull. The skull talking to a huntsman is no doubt a supernatural element. But this supernatural element is not horrifying like that of Edgar Allen Poe. It is lesson-giving. It seems to have a link to eternity because the skull has told Kagwa a wise thing. It has rather asked Kagwa to use his words carefully. It has taught Kagwa the true and practical lesson of the common axiom “look before you leap and think before you speak”. The stress on ‘open’, ‘mouth’, ‘said’, ‘talking’, ‘brought’ and ‘here’ is a clear evidence of the idea of the poet’s thought foregrounded in the last two lines of the stanza.
Kagwa hurried home;
Went to the king’s chair and spoke;
‘In the forest I found a talking skull’.
The king was silent. Then he said slowly
‘Never since I was born of my mother
Have I seen or heard of a skull which spoke’.
In these lines the lesson of not talking before the senior and authoritative people without having a proof of what we say is given by the poet. The weakness in the character of Kagwa is exhibited here. The huntsman brave enough to hunt a lion with a spear is not grave enough to hold a secret. Nature always talks to us by some means at least once in life. If we keep our mouth shut, it further discloses itself to us. But if we cannot hold, not only does the channel close, it also demands a price that we certainly have to pay (in this case, Kagwa’s life). May be the talking skull was a means through which eternity talked to Kagwa. He could not keep the secret to him. So he hurried home and told the king about it. The stress on the word ‘chair’ in the second line shows a general polysemic reference to anybody we call ‘the chair’ (a chairman or a boss). If he was to share the secret with a higher authority at any cost, still he ought to have preserved a proof of the strange incident. The response the king gave in reply to Kagwa’s news is a sign of utter disappointment and fury a ruling authority may show. In fact, the king’s reply intimates some evil to occur later in the poem. Yet in this deep irony on the high ups who are not ready to accept anything beyond their imagination, the poet’s aesthetic sense is fully at work; as is shown by the alliteration of in the first, in the third and in the fourth and sixth line.
The king called out his guards.
‘Two of you go with him
And find the talking skull;
But if his tale is a lie
And the skull speaks no word,
This Kagwa himself must die’.
In these lines the poet prepares the scene for something bad to inflict upon Kagwa. The cool and cruel behaviour of a dictator ruler too is prevalent here. The poet satirises the ruling class that announces a punishment of death for the informer (Kagwa) if the information provided by him is not verified and no reward if what he tells is confirmed. The stress on the alternating rhyming words ‘lie’ and ‘die’ shows the king’s serious attitude towards Kagwa’s death. The intonation pattern of the king from the third to the sixth line shows that he is irritated to hear of a talking skull. The death penalty for Kagwa here seems a frustrated reaction to the unbelievable news he has given. It is not a planned one. This shows how important the ruling class thinks of a common man’s life. The disturbed meter of the lines spoken by the king too shows his disturbed state of mind. Despite being a man his thoughts seem as trivial and childish as those of Popova (The Bear) who claims to be in ‘a state of mind’ when Smirnov asks her for his money.
They rode into the forest;
For days and nights they found nothing
At last they saw the skull; Kagwa
Said to it, ‘How did you come here?’
The skull said nothing. Kagwa implored,
But the skull said nothing.
Destiny leads Kagwa towards his final end. They go to search the talking skull in the forest. They keep on searching for many days. Finally they come across the skull. This shows that in his hurry to tell the king about the strange skull, Kagwa- a huntsman by profession, forgot the exact place in the forest where he had met the skull. That is why they had to look for it for days and nights. Here Kagwa falls a victim to two things- his own folly in response to the skull’s advice, and the foolish and tyrant king’s stupidity of giving the death-penalty to a person for what seems to be a trivial mistake. No doubt the punishment the king has announced for Kagwa is too hard against the triviality of the information if it is proved false.
Kagwa tris to talk to the skull in the presence of the soldiers to prove his innocence, but the skull says nothing. The use of the word ‘implored’ shows that Kagwa despite being a brave huntsman wants to live, that is why he leaves no stone unturned to make the skull talk. The repetition of the phrase ‘said nothing’ intensifies the dramatic horrifying effect of the poem as the reader is now being prepared for something to go wrong with the brave yet foolish hero of the poem.
The guards said ‘Kneel down’
They killed him with sword and spear.
Then the skull opened its mouth;
‘Huntsman, how did you come here?’
And the dead man answered:
‘Talking brought me here.’
The last stanza of this poem changes the meanings of the title entirely. Now the huntsman kagwa becomes the hunted and the king appears to be a bigger huntsman. His tongue is mightier than Kagwa’s spear with which he killed the lion.
The guards now make Kagwa kneel down and kill him with sword and spear. Now the talking skull opens its mouth and asks Kagwa how he came there. Kagwa says that talking brought him there.
Poor Kagwa is a simple character who attains his maturity in the post –death situation. He understands the secret of nature only after becoming a part of it. The hero-like impression the physical strength and bravery of Kagwa as expressed by the poet in the opening lines of the poem and his majestic image in the mind of the reader seems quite contrary to the miserable death of a coward he meets at the end. The word ‘implored’ in the second last line of the 4th stanza shows that even a brave huntsman like Kagwa fears death as much as a coward does. He already knows the penalty of not being able to prove himself right. So he was supposed to be mentally prepared to accept death finally. His act of imploring shows his inner cowardice. Quite contrary to Browning’s patriot led to the Shambles gate who dies an honourable death of content, this brave huntsman dies a fearful death of misery and helplessness. He is a weak hero who learns the common axiom “Silence is gold” after his death. May be the first skull too was that of another huntsman who too was punished to death by a similar tyrant king. If this be so, the poet has tried to tell us that the chain of innocent people getting killed at the hands of cruel rulers continues till the dictatorial rule comes to an end.
Q.1. Discuss the elements of suspense and irony in this poem.
A. Any supernatural event or being creates an element of suspense and horror. This is introduced in the third line of the opening stanza when Kagwa comes across a talking skull. The element of suspense continues when the king does not seem to believe in Kagwa. The reader tries to guess any possible further reaction of the king. The element of irony combines that of suspense when the king does not announce any reward provided the information given by Kagwa is correct; rather announces a death-penalty for Kagwa in case he is found guilty. We become conscious of the extremely stupid and idiotic behaviour of a tyrant ruler who loves his ego more than the lives of his people. It is the height of political injustice that such a stupid man holds the reigns of the people of his state.
In the fourth stanza the suspense for the reader intensifies to its extreme when the guards of the king along with Kagwa find the talking skull and it says nothing. The irony of the poet takes another turn to show the inner cowardice of an apparently brave huntsman who kills a lion- the most lethal ultimate predator. The suspense ends in the fifth stanza with the death of Kagwa and the irony takes another turn. It is then that we realise that the true huntsman is the king who hunts Kagwa by his order. Kagwa hunts the lion with a spear whereas the king kills Kagwa with a twist of his tongue. Thus the suspense in the poem ends up in the last line but the irony has a never-ending effect on the mind of the reader.
2 The poet draws our attention to a tragic fact of life- when the huntsman becomes the hunted- the prey to a cruel remorseless fate. Discuss.
A. The poet tells us more than what he has written in the lines of the poem about the remorseless fate that comes to every huntsman. Kagwa, who appears to be a brave huntsman in the opening lines of the poem, dies a miserable death of a coward. His folly leads him to a brutal end. He is the unlucky one who learns the lesson ‘silence is gold’ after his death. This means that he does not understand the secret of the nature until he himself becomes a part of it. It is at the time of Kagwa’s death when we learn that the true huntsman is the foolish and cruel ruler- the king, who fixes a death penalty for Kagwa in case the information provided by him proves to be wrong.
Thus the king is the huntsman. The conversation between the two talking skulls (the first one and that of Kagwa’s) gives us the idea that may be the first skull was too of some old huntsman. Kagwa- the huntsman turns to the second skull. Since the king is the huntsman who hunts Kagwa, we can say that one day his foolish talking might put him to a similar remorseless death too. Thus he may turn into the third skull. This implies that the tragic end of a foolish huntsman is a continuing process. Every huntsman is to die a cruel death some day. This is actually the true tragic aspect of life – a never-ending process, as explained by the poet.
Learn to live with the worst and keep striving for the best. This is what Elizabeth Bishop wishes to tell us by quoting examples from her own life. She tries to tell us through practical examples the true implications of the common axiom ‘If you want to win, learn to lose’. This is the art which she calls the art of losing that is not hard to master.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master,
So many things seem filled with the intent
To be lost that their loss is no disaster.
In this tririmic stanza, the poetess tells us that if we are determined to win everything in life, we must learn the art of losing. This art is not hard to master. There are so many things that seem filled with the objective to be lost. The alternative rhymes of master and disaster show the poetic style of the poetess embedded within which she tells us that we may lose many things in our daily life. But instead of engraving the feeling of their loss in our heart we should try to inculcate a habit of feeling relax about those. We should try to convince ourselves that their loss is no disaster. We should learn to tolerate. Tolerance is the virtue we should learn to practice. The stress on the words art, hard and master in the opening line of the poem shows the poetess’ intention to teach us the importance of the sense of resignation in our life. She wants us to lean to accept the defeat. This is the first step to learn to win. Her style is simple and comprises simple sentences mostly and words chosen from core vocabulary; quite unlikely as compared to many other poets and poetesses who always like to use classical language and complex structures. But she expresses in very easy words and structures what appears to be a complicated reality otherwise.
Lose something everyday. Accept the fluster
Of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
In the given lines the poetess starts teaching us the art of losing in her usual simple but effective style. She starts building our sportsman spirit from some trivial examples of things we commonly lose in our daily life. Losing the door keys is something quite common that happens in almost everybody’s life. Sometimes due to any reason, we spend our time badly doing nothing practical or positive. After the hour is spent we should not miss it. It will cause the remaining to be lost too. We should learn the art of losing which is not hard to master. The third line in the stanza is the same as the one in the opening stanza of the poem. This repetition is meant to remind us again and again on each loss we bear that we ought to learn this art. A common axiom states ‘learn the small things and the big things will makes themselves learnt to you on their own’.
Then practice losing farther, losing faster,
Places and names and where it was you went.
To travel. None of these will bring disaster
In the given lines the poetess keeps urging us to keep practicing the art of losing. It is like playing the dice with life. First the dice rolls to bring numbers for life. We have to lose. If we learn to lose the dice begins to roll for us. That is the time to get back all what we have lost. But before that we will have to develop a temperament that allows us to tolerate every loss with a smile on our face. That is why the poetess says that we should practice losing faster and farther. In fact it is a blessing in disguise. The more we lose, the stronger our nerves become. We should practice losing the names we remembered and the sweet memories of the places we want to. A time will come when we will not consider any of these a disaster. This is the way sportsmen are trained to smile even at the opponent’s victory. They too learn the art of losing. This time the last line does not repeat the same words “The art of losing isn’t hard to master”. It seems that now the poetess believes that we have learnt her words at least. The alternating rhyming words as faster and disaster, accompanied by the internal rhyme farther give us a beautified effect of the poetess’ unique poetic style.
I lost my mother’s watch. And look; my last, or
Next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
In her usual simple yet inspiring style the poetess gives examples of the losses from her own life. She says that she lost the watch that was a keepsake from her mother. She tolerated it. Then one after the other, she lost her three houses. She tolerated this loss too because she had learnt the art of losing earlier. Thus the art of losing isn’t hard to master. Decorated with the alliteration of sound, she satirises the people who are always mindful of even the minor things. They suffer great pain at the loss of even the superfluous things. She teaches them the common axiom “what cannot be cured must be endured”. Losing one house out of the three owned by one is not as big a loss as the loss of the last one because beyond that lies only chaos. Yet she says that the art of losing isn’t hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
Some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.
The practice of losing things further which the poetess advises us to do is shown in her practice too. After losing the three best houses she once had, now she says that she lost even more and still is in practice to lose. She says that she once owned two cities, two rivers and even a continent. She lost all of these. All losses can be compensated other than the human life. There is a common saying ‘live today and fight tomorrow’. Thus she tells us to have a contented heart at the loss of everything we lose and keep on striving to get it back. We must learn to lose if we want to win. Because only he can offend who knows how to defend. Each time she loses something she remembers that the art of losing isn’t hard to master. This is the true sign of sportsmanship.
Even losing you (a joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
The art of losing’s not too hard to master.
Though it may look like (Write it) like disaster.
The biggest of all types of losses is the loss of one’s love. This is the most tormenting thing in one’s life. The poetess says that even this loss is what she has stood with a smiling face. In the third line of this stanza she says that the art of losing isn’t too hard to master. The word ‘too’ shows that this is the loss at which it was difficult to smile. She has found it harder than ever, as is shown by the words ‘though it may look like like disaster’. The use of the word ‘like’ twice shows that she has given a pause in her speech and may be she took a long breath to say the remaining words- meant to muster up moral courage. It is because admitting such a crucial fact is too a very bold thing to do. Even then she has kept herself in high spirits. She is in fact the one who lives life, hoping for the best and being ready for the worst. A Chinese saying suggests ‘accept what you cannot change’. If we are to accept what we cannot change, why not accept it laughing? This is the lesson she gives us through her own experiences of all types of loss likely in a man’s life.
Q.1 Do you agree with the poetess that the art of losing isn’t hard to master? How can we master this art?
A. The poetess is quite right in her belief that the art of losing isn’t hard to master. We can practice this art only with a strong mind makeup. This makeup of the mind is provided to us by
the poetess who says that keep practicing with the loss of minor things in daily life. Practice smiling at the loss of the door keys or some other minor object at home. If you sometimes feel a loss too much at heart think that this art isn’t too hard to master.
The three best ways to learn resignation as taught by Islam are;
a) Look at the downtrodden people.
b) Always be hopeful towards Allah’s benevolence, and
c) Look at your demerits before asking Allah almighty for something.
When we look at the downtrodden people we are thankful to Allah almighty that we are in a better condition than theirs. When we are always hopeful towards Allah’s benevolence, we always think positively towards everything that comes in our life. When a bounty of His befalls us, we should think that we are blessed with more than we deserve. And whenever we suffer a loss, we should think that there must be a blessing in disguise at the back end. When we ask Allah almighty for something and don’t seem to get it, we should think that a prayer can never go waste. He will definitely give us something in return to the prayers we beseech. If He gives us something other than what we have asked for, this must be a substitute better than what was asked. Hazrat Ali (K.A.W) says, “Don’t be ungrateful that your prayers are not accepted early by Him; but be grateful to Him that He does not haste to punish you for your sins.”
This is the belief that keeps us contented and grateful.
2 Bring out the elements of humour, satire and irony in the poem. How are they combined to achieve the impact desired by the poetess?
A. The poetess has woven the elements of humour, satire and irony well in the poem. In the first three stanzas the tone of the poetess remains ironic and satiric, though delivered in a simple style. She says in the first stanza that so many things seem to be filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster. Then she gives us a lesson to practice the loss as we lose something everyday. Sometimes it is the door keys, sometimes we spend our time badly and sometimes we forget the names and places. In a way we lose memories. We should learn to resign to these things so that we are prepared nervously for the big trials in life. The word ‘fluster’ she has used in the second stanza shows her satiric tone for the people who take minor losses too very seriously.
In the fourth stanza her tone gets serious and she turns from satire and irony to humour. She says that she lost her mother’s watch, three houses, two big cities with two rivers, a continent and even her love. The comparison she makes between the trivial things we lose in our life and the serious and important losses she has suffered is a polite satire. The last loss she has suffered is the greatest of all. Although she finds it hard to face yet she is contented. Since she has learnt the art of losing in the quest for getting the desired things in life, she has tolerated this loss too with a smile. She seems to have learnt this art because she herself had lost her loved ones at an early age. She suffered too much in her early life. She managed to make her way through all such pains and worries. And this is what she wants us to learn too.
The Solitary Reaper
You earn paradise on earth if you learn to love your duty. This is the message given to us by William Wordsworth, the lover of nature. He is the one who is always inspired by what appears to be a very trivial object of nature. He learns from things which appear to be so common in daily life. While walking up a hill in a valley of Scotland, he watches a maiden working alone in the fields and singing a melancholic song. He is greatly inspired by the devotion with which she works and her absorption in her work. This makes him realise that if we learn to love our job, we can spend the happiest life anybody can only dream of.
Behold her, single in the field.
Yon solitary Highland lass,
Reaping and singing by herself,
Stop here, or gently pass.
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholic strain.
O listen; for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.
Mounting up the hill in a valley of Scotland William Wordsworth sees a girl working alone in the field. She is working and singing a sad song simultaneously. In a soliloquy Wordsworth talks to himself and asks himself to see that Highland girl. She is so absorbed in her work that she does not notice whether somebody stops there to watch her or gently passes. The simplicity of the maiden and the concentration she has developed towards her work teach the poet the greatest secret of happiness in life- learn to love your work. He realises that if our job becomes our passion, we can spend the happiest life ever possible whatever economic state we are in. In the height of his joy the poet feels that the whole valley is overflowing with the sound of the girl’s song. He is so happy to learn this simple secret of nature (as he himself is the lover of nature) that he enjoys the song though he cannot understand it. He enjoys it not because of the notes or music but because of the note of happiness and enjoyment the girl shows for her work through the song. She loves her work so much that she does not even bother how much more work she is yet to finish or that she is the only one to cut and bind the grain. This teaches the poet that if we love the work we do our duty becomes our companion. We need no one to help us. This is why he has used the metaphor ‘is overflowing with the sound’.
No nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt
Among Arabian sands;
A voice so thrilling nev’r was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silences of the seas
Among the farthest Hebrides.
In the ecstasy of the girl’s song the poet seems to nullify the song of the nightingale and even the cuckoo; the two objects of nature that have always inspired him in his early childhood. Nature has always shared its secrets with Wordsworth. Since his early childhood he has been fascinated by the skylark, the cuckoo, the trees, springs, flowers and the other objects of nature. He has always fancied the cuckoo as a call from Nature. But now the song of this Highland lass inspires him so much due to the simple but deep fact underlying it that he seems to minimise the images of all the other objects of nature before the maiden’s song in his imagination. In the old deserts of Arabia the thirst-stricken tired travellers were always welcomed by the nightingale in an oasis. The welcoming voice of the bird in a shady haunt would have been a token of hope and liveliness to them. But the poet here compares the song of the bird to that of the girl that seems to have added many years to his own age. His usual style of using the external rhyme like ‘chaunt’ and ‘haunt’ and ‘bands’ and ‘sands’ follows the ABAB scheme artistically. The quick survey from Arabian deserts to the Hebrides guided by the thrilling voice of the girl shows the quick and swift flight of the poet’s imagination. This song has cast a spell that minimises the impact of the previous ones in his life.
Will no one tell me what she sings?
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far- off things,
And battles long ago.
Or is it more humble lay,
Familiar matter of today?
Some natural sorrow, loss or pain.
That has been, and may be again?
In these lines the poet shows an eagerness to learn more from the girl’s song. He asks helplessly to his imaginary audience if no one will tell him what she is singing. The language is unfamiliar to him. His desire to understand the theme of the words sung gets stronger so he tries to assume what she can possibly sing of. May be the melancholic notes belong to a folk song made on some tragic event or ancient battles like those of the Trojans. If not of the past it might be a suffering in the present the maiden is singing for. The phrase ‘natural sorrow’ refers to the possible loss of some close relation. The word ‘loss’ may refer to an irrecoverable loss. The word ‘pain’ may refer to an unaccomplished desire that still pricks the heart. He has tried to guess if the tragic element found in the song refers to any happening in the past, the present or likely to be in the future. He seems to divide the types of melancholy into four types;
a) The tragic aspect of the battles and wars
b) Natural sorrow
c) Loss, and
All or any of these may be the theme of the girl’s song. Whatever it is, it has a long lasting effect on the mind of the poet. A question mark at the end of the last line in this stanza shows that all these are the assumptions made by the poet expressed in the form of questions.
In his usual iambic trimetric style the poet sustains his ABAB scheme of external rhymes throughout this stanza decorating the first line with the alliteration of the second line with that of , the third line with that of the fourth line with that of the seventh line with that of and the last line with that of sound.
Whatever the theme the maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
And over the sickle bending-
I listened, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.
After making assumptions about the theme the maiden can sing, the poet finally says that whatever the theme may be, it seems endless. The tone of the song is so spell-binding that he listens to it motionless and still. Everything around him seems to move with the rhythm of the song. As he mounts up the hill, he feels his heart still bearing it. This is a timeless and space-less effect of the song upon his heart. The memory is still fresh in his mind long after listening to it because it has given him an everlasting lesson – the message of happiness for every human being. The usual iambic trimeter of Wordsworth changes its pace a little in the second line when he says that the song seemed to have no ending. May be this is meant to show the endless effect of the song. Since the message in the maiden’s song is endless, so is the effect too. He has seen her singing in every posture of her work. In every posture she is singing. This means that she loves every part of her work. She impresses him with everything she does and every note she sings. The reference to ‘bending over her sickle’ may be the expression of the hardest part of her job. The rhyme too becomes continuous as to show the continuity of the song. The effect of the music once again proves itself stronger than the voice of the cuckoo because the bird’s voice affects the poet’s imagination whenever he recalls it, whereas the song of the girl lies always fresh in his memory. It needs not be recalled.
Q. 1 The poem deals with a common experience of life. The poet recounts it beautifully in verse. Can you identify the artistic merit of verses which makes the whole poem a thing of beauty? (Your answer should have a reference to the theme, language, rhyming and metaphors and similes used in the poem).
A. The style is simple (as is Wordsworth’s idea of poetic diction) but the theme is a deep one. The poet is not inspired by the maiden but by the devotion and pleasure with which she does her work. Yet this idea is expressed in a simple way through a common experience of life. The language is simple yet decorated with figurative touches. The rhyme scheme is mostly ABAB. The opening lines start with the word ‘behold’, giving the poem a touch of a soliloquy. The words ‘behold’ and ‘O listen’ magnify the imagery in the poem. We feel as if we can watch through the eyes of the poet all that happens. The seventh and eighth line presents a beautiful hyperbole ‘Olisten,… the sound’ to show the inspiring effect of the poem. The impact of the song is further exaggerated when the poet uses a litotic expression of negating the powerful impact of the nightingale’s song in Arabian oases and even that of the cuckoo in the Spring season. These two compared with the girl’s song, create beautiful similes. The reference to Arabian sands and the Hebrides is a beautiful reference of the poet’s geographical knowledge. Another simile ‘As if her song…ending’ adds to the powerful effect of the notes sung by the girl. The lines are decorated well with the alliteration of and in each of the octarimic four stanzas. All such beauteous expressions make the poem a masterpiece of simple yet beautiful piece of poetry.
All the World’s a Stage
William Shakespeare visualises the world and the human life with the eye of a playwright. In this famous song from his famous play “As You like It” uttered by “Jacques” the poet satirises the world to be as trivial and temporal as a stage and man as unreal as the actors. As the actors enter and leave the stage so enters and leaves the man.
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
In the given lines the poet satirises the triviality and temporariness of the world through the song sung by Jacques. He says that as the drama is a temporal performance in which all the characters, their acts their dialogues and performances are for a limited period of time, so is the world. He thus says that all the world is a stage on which the people play different roles in their lives. They are born and then they die. A man plays many roles in one time. For instance, a man is a father, a husband, a brother, a friend and even a son at the same time. Shakespeare decorates his lines with the alliteration of sound in the second and the fourth line, and the assonance of vowel in the third line. In his usual habit of making new experiments in English language, he uses the blank verse pattern to express his ideas. May be he has done so in order to show the limitlessness and indefiniteness of the world.
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms.
Shakespeare has divided man’s life into seven ages. The beginning of a man’s life is a state of utter weakness, helplessness and dependence. The master creature of God is dependent both physically as well as intellectually on others; in terms of food and care and that of knowledge and understanding of life. In a changed style of blank verse with the touch of anapest meter the poet decorates the second line with the onomatopoeic metaphors like ‘mewling’ and ‘puking’ to give the example of a creeping and crawling creature. This intensifies the sense of man’s weakness. According to Shakespeare the nurse (the woman) is a weak object of nature (Frailty thy name is woman: Hamlet). The man is weaker than this weak creature at the time of his birth and is mewling and puking in her arms.
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school.
As the role played by man on the stage of the Shakespearean world changes from that of a child to a school-boy so does the meter from anapaest to iambic, dactyl and trochee. Man now seems to become less powerless in his second role in life. The metaphor ‘shining morning face’ shows the innocence and beauty of childhood. He goes to school unwillingly. The simile ‘creeping like a snail’ is a negative remark to show the poet’s resentment towards the strictness of the discipline that makes a child bound to do jobs he does not want to. The bag or satchel is a symbol for the burden-some life he has begun to face. The repetition of the word ‘and’ in the beginning of two
of the given lines shows the interconnectedness among the childish innocence and beauty, the responsibilities of life and the unwillingness in man’s nature to abide by the worldly laws.
And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow.
Adolescence is usually considered an age full of romance and worldly desires. Shakespeare discusses a very common aspect of this age- love. Man begins to see the suffering attributed to this age. He sings woeful ballads made to his mistress’ eye-brow. He faces the blow of losing the first passionate love he ever desires for. This is an age in which, in the words of Anton Checkhov, ruby lips, timid breathing, tender feelings and making beautiful bows are the only focus of a man’s thought. The whole world seems to live in one person who he years to win. Shakespeare’s satire is polite here. This is the age in which all the energies of man are at their full bloom. And he wastes them in fruitless activities. The alliteration of sound along with the simile of sighing like a furnace adds to the beauty of the verse.
Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth.
Born a pure soul the third age of misconceptions and unimportant worries shifts to the fourth age of professional jealousy and business malice. The lover now changes to a soldier with a beard like a leopard. The thoughts are as trivial as in the previous age. First he sought his mistress, now the bubble reputation. The appetite has not ended. It has just shifted from one type of worldly love to another. Now he runs after promotion and establishment in his profession. Shakespeare’s satire now becomes bitter. He becomes harder in his attitude towards the fourth part in man’s performance. May be this is because he was sympathetic towards the previous three. The hyperbole of ‘being jealous even in the cannon’s mouth’ shows how intensive the soldier’s feeling of jealousy and wishfulness are. The metaphor of ‘bubble reputation’ shows the inner emptiness of man similar to a bubble. He is more inclined to be famous than to be dutiful and capable.
And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part.
The fourth age shifts to the sober and apparently solemn age of so-called maturity in which rules become more important than human beings. This is the age in which man plays the role of a judge. He has learned wise saws that guide him make decisions while hearing the proceedings in the court. His eyes are severe and beard of formal cut that depict his social status. His belly is fair round like that of a chicken. In his eyes the legal obligations and sanctions are significant. This is how he plays his part. The imagery of severe eyes creates a beautiful stroke. The poet has a keen observation of the behaviour of judges and men of law. In this age the attitude of man becomes rule-governed and lacks romance. The last line of this scene contains the alliteration of sound.
The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound.
The age of firm belief and inconvincible nature now shifts to the sixth age of retirement. This is an age in which man begins to turn back towards the childish age both mentally and physically. His youthful period is over. Now his eyes need a support to see (the spectacles) and his mind needs an aid to work efficiently (the pouch of tobacco). Whatever he has earned in his youth is now used as a stipend to live on. Now his healthy body shrinks and his big manly voice changes to childish pipes. He begins to walk like a trebling child. He whistles while he speaks. The alliteration of sound decorates the lines. The imagery of the pantaloon shows the weakness of the human life.
Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
The sixth age now turns to the seventh and the last age of the human life. It is an age of mere oblivion and utter ignorance. In this age man reduces into a mere shadow of himself. His intellect, his ambition, his thinking and firm faith; everything is gone. Now he is as hollow as a bubble. He is in the words of Swift, a freak vermin crawling on the surface of the earth. This is the age in which he is as weak as a child mewling in the nurse’s arms. Now he is close to the end of his strange history full of worldly events. In the last scene of his life, he lives without eyes, without teeth, without taste; in fact, without everything. He is just a breathing dead.
The last line is the climax of the song because all that man does all his life is for and with teeth, eyes and taste. Now at the end of his life he loses all these sources of instigation and prepares to meet his end. The metaphor of second childishness expresses the weakness of the human life close to its end.
Departure and Arrival
T. S. Eliot is the poet having an optimistic and development-loving mind. In this motivating poem he tries to initiate us to step forward in the unseen future and do something for the development and prosperity of our coming generations so that they enjoy a bright future.
Standing upon the shore of all we know
We linger for a moment doubtfully
Then with a song upon our lips sail we
Across the harbour bar- no chart to show
No light to warn of rocks which lie below,
But let us yet put forth courageously.
Eliot symbolises the knowledge man has as a shore of the sea. The sea is a symbol for the unknown. He says that on the border between the knowledge and ignorance, we wait and hesitate to move for a moment. Then we muster up courage and with a song on our lips, we step forward into the unfathomable dark ocean of effort and strife to make our way through it. We do not know what lies ahead. We have nobody to tell us of the future. We do not know what we may possibly encounter. Yet the poet invites us to join hands and move forward. We better die fighting than to live effortless. If we want to achieve something extraordinary we must dare risks. The symbol of harbour is used for the first step towards experimentation and exploration. The symbol of the chart and the warning light is a beautiful metaphor to show the unexpected or unknown results of the efforts we make. The symbol of rocks is used for the difficulties and dangers in way of progress.
Although the path be tortuous and slow,
Although it bristles with a thousand fears,
To hopeful eye of youth it still appears
A lane by which the rose and hawthorn grow
We hope it may be, would that we might know;
Would we might look into the future years.
A Chinese saying says, “There is one thing beyond everything, and that is hope”. We live for hope. Eliot too wants us to be optimistic and hopeful. He says that even if we manage to note that the path to development and progress is difficult and tortuous and dangerous. Yet a hopeful young and energetic eye considers that we may encounter anything on the way to progress. It can be a blessing or an agony. We do not know under which of the stones we step on lies a snake or a treasure. Still we hope things to be ok. Still we believe that the final outcome of our entire struggle will be a blessing of God. We can only wish we could know or at least predict the future. Would that we could know what possible outcome would there be of all our endeavours. The metaphor of the ‘lane’ is a fanciful description of the poet’s ideas. The ‘rose’ and ‘hawthorn’ are the symbols for profit and loss. The poet’s wish to know the upcoming situation in the future is an unhealthy attitude for an optimist because it is proved that the people who run after knowing the future are Psychologically weak and they fear a possible fall in life. This kind of a lame wish does not suit a poet like Eliot.
Great duties call- the twentieth century
More grandly dowered than those which came before,
Summons- who knows what time may hold in store,
Or what great deed the distant years may see.
What conquest over pain and misery,
What heroes greater than were ever of yore.
Eliot considers it our duty to do as much good and prosperous deeds as possible. He thinks that the twentieth century calls us to come forward and test our abilities in the field of uplift. This century according to the poet is richer and healthier than the previous ones. It is because we have more opportunities for advancement and development in this century than the previous times known to us. We do not know how much time life is going to give us. All we know is that whatever time we have we should strive with might and main to leave no stone unturned for doing as many memorable deeds as we can. We should try to do every possible effort to conquer the pain and misery and provide convenience to the coming generations. We should try to produce heroes greater than before.
But if this century is to be more great
Than those before, her sons must make her so
And we are of her sons, and we must go
With eager hearts to help mould well her fate,
And see that she shall gain such proud estate
And shall on future centuries bestow.
In his usual hexarimic style Eliot says that whatever the previous centuries have given us was a fruit earned by our ancestors. They worked hard day and night to give us whatever we have today. Now if we want to give something better than this to our coming generations, we need to make this century greater than those before. If this be so, we are the sons of her sons and we must go with ambitious hearts on the quest to make this century an age of achievements. Through these efforts our children will inherit better than what we inherited from our forefathers. This is the way how the wheel of progress keeps rolling. The symbolism of ‘of her sons’ is an emotional remark that fills the reader with eagerness and excitement. The metaphor of moulding the fate is a beautiful touch by Eliot to express craftsmanship.
A legacy of benefits – may we
In future years be found with those who try
To labour for good until they die,
And ask no other question than to know
That they have helped the cause to victory,
That with their aid the flag is raised on high.
The given lines are a wish of the poet full of ambition and commitment. He wishes and prays that would that we be found among those who have worked for mankind and who have tried to earn the fruit of prosperity for man. May we be found among those who always fought the never-ending battle for truth till they died! May we be among those whose sole ambition is to see mankind moving to a glorious and triumphant future! The symbolism of flag is used to express the benefit and development of the human race. Eliot talks not of a nation or a country, but rather of the whole world. He visualises the prosperity lovers as a global community who strive for the betterment of every nation. He gives us a pride to enjoy – the pride to have worked for virtue. He believes that a step towards human benefits is a global victory.
Sometime in distant years when we are grown
Gray-haired and old, whatever be our lot,
We shall desire to see again the spot
Which, whatsoever we have been or done
Or to what distant ands we may have gone,
Through all the years will never have been forgot.
In the old age a man lives through the memories of all he has done in his life. Eliot says that we must do good deeds now so that we can have sweet memories to enjoy in the old age. We should do something through the pride of which we can spend our retired life. The old age needs some motivation to feel young and proud. If we do good for the man kind, we will feel proud in the old age. We will feel strong to recall the memories of the past deeds. Then we will desire to go to those distant places again where once we had travelled in our youth to accomplish our mission. We would wish to see the spots again where we had stepped with the intention to do something for the betterment of the world. Thus our conquests over pain and misery will be remembered and we will die a death of peace. As somebody has said beautifully, “born with a personality is an accident, but dying as a personality is an achievement.” The poet wants us to die as a personality remembered for our deeds.
A Poison Tree
We must learn how to manage our anger. This is what William Blake has tried to tell us in his famous satiric lyric “A Poison Tree” written in somewhat sad satire. He believes that an untold and uncontrolled anger is the most deceitful and hypocritical thing one can ever practice. We should try to avoid it as much as we can.
I was angry with my friend:
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not my wrath did grow.
In the narrative form the poet tells us that once he was angry with his friend. He told it to his friend. Consequently the misunderstanding was removed. Their relation continued. Then once he was angry with his enemy. He did not tell his enemy and kept his anger to himself. As a result his anger kept on growing. Sometimes we have to hide our anger and sometimes express it. Showing the anger at its proper time is called anger management. The poet teaches us to manage the anger. It is a hypocritical attitude to keep the anger hidden. Fairness in attitude and positive relation demands the proper expression of one’s feelings at a proper time. The poet expresses in the trochaic form the significance of the difference between hiding and expressing anger.
And I watered it in fears,
Night and morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles
And with soft deceitful wiles.
in the same tetrametric rhythm in this tetrarimic stanza the poet symbolises the hidden anger of his heart as a plant which began to grow even further. He kept on adding more anger and hidden
malice to it. In the words of Shakespeare he pretended before his enemy to look like a flower but was the serpent lying under it. The tears he shed against his enemy added fuel to the fire of jealousy and hatred. The deceptive wiles too strengthened the hidden hatred in his heart. Outwardly he kept a friendly attitude to his enemy but inwardly he kept on weaving a web of conspiracies against his enemy. The rhyming words and the alliteration of adds colour to the beauty of the poem. Despite being written in a simple structure of the tense, the poem is no less effective in its expression.
And it grew both day and night,
Till it bore an apple bright;
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.
The symbolic plant of the sown seed of anger in the poet’s heart kept on growing till it became a tree. One day it bore a fruit. The fruit is used here as a symbol standing for the planned trap the poet had prepared to kill his enemy. His enemy looked at the tree and the apple too and knew that it was the poet’s. The brightness of the apple is the reference to the apparent attraction of the plan that would allure the poet’s enemy to the trap. The external rhyming words as ‘night’ and ‘bright’, and ‘shine’ and ‘mine’ add to the Prosodic beauty of the poem. In this stanza the alliteration of sound refers to Blake’s usual style.
And into my garden stole
When the night had veiled the pole:
In the morning glad I see
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.
As the malicious trap was ready the poet’s enemy fell into it at the night time. He fell into the trap and met his death. Early next morning the poet saw his enemy fallen dead and was happy to see his plan having worked successfully. He was happy that finally he had avenged his anger. This is a true picture of beguiling enmity all over the world. Whenever wee want to destroy someone we start making plans against him and leave no stone unturned to make him fall into our trap. We forget all principles of morality and feel happy and contended when he meets his end at our hands. The poet is blended with beautiful blending of contrastive references. Such as night, day and end, grow. The metaphor “the night had veiled the ple” beautifully expresses the impression of darkness and silence.
Because I could not stop for Death
Emily Dickinson considers death not a horrible end to the human life but as a beginning to a new and eternal life. Based on the personal faith of the poetess, the poem “Because I could not Stop for Death” tells us that Death is a faithful and sincere friend who helps us move from this world to the hereafter.
Because I could not stop for Death
He kindly stopped for me-
The Carriage held but just Ourselves-
In a narrative and simple style the poetess personifies Death as a coachman. The symbol of a carriage is employed to show the journey of life. She also personifies immortality sitting in the same carriage with her and Death. She tells us that we do not spare any free moments out of our busy life for Death. But he is always kind enough to spare his time for us. She says that as she was too busy to take some time out for Death, he kindly stopped his carriage (life) for her. They sat in the carriage along with immortality. The symbolization along with the personification with the narrative style of the tetrarimic poem expressed in tetrametric style of the iambic creates a beautiful imagery. The reader visualizes the event clearly.
We slowly drove- He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labour and my leisure too,
For His civility.
The personification supported by the symbolism expressed in the narrative form in the first stanza of the poem continues here. The poetess says that the life of a man moves slowly towards its end. This is because Death drives us slowly. He is very patient and never hastens to befall us. She says that they drove slowly in the journey of life. She, realising his civility, had put away all her labour and her leisure. This means that man should prefer Death to all the other things in life because he takes him to the final destination in the hereafter. The first line is decorated with the assonance of , the second and the third line with and the fourth with that of vowel. The use of the weak vowel in the fourth line shows the politeness of the attitude of the poetess and Death towards each other.
We passed the School where Children strove
At Recess- in the Ring,
We passed the Field of Gazing grain
We passed the Setting Sun-
The reference of the school in the first line shows the first period of life called the childhood. It is an age of freedom and a carefree time. The ring stands for the struggle man does to make his place among the others in the world. The field of the gazing grain is a reference of the period of the youth. The setting sun is a symbol for the old age which, in the words of Shakespeare, brings the life to “the last scene of all”. Having the poetess and Immortality with him in the carriage, Death passed by the period of human life called the childhood. Then they passed by the period called the youth, and finally by the old age symbolised as the setting sun. The dash (-) after the word ‘sun’ at the end of the stanza shows that the sentence of this line still continues. The poetess has something more to tell. The alliteration of in the first and last lines and that of in the second line of this stanza add poetic colour to the poem. The exact pattern in which the words are stressed in each line may perhaps refer to the smoothness of the speed with which the carriage moved.
Or rather- He passed Us-
The Dews drew quivering and chill-
For only Gossamer, my Gown-
My Tippet – only Tulle-
The poetess continues her expression of the last line of the previous stanza by saying that either they passed by the setting sun or may be he passed by them. She has said so because may be she took the sun for a symbol of entire life, thinking that either she has spent the life or may be the life has spent her. The reference of the dew-drops getting cool means that it grew dark by that time. It can also stand as a symbol for the cool of death after the warmth of life ends. That was the time when the poetess had a spider-woven thread as a gown to wear. She had tulle to wear as a tippet. It symbolises a shroud. The alliteration of in the second, in the third line and in the last line of the stanza beautifies the poem. The poetess’ aesthetic sense is fully at work even though she talks of death. This is how she shows her feeling of peace in Death’s company.
We paused before a house that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground
The roof was scarcely visible
The Cornice in the Ground.
Finally they stopped before a mound-like structure on the ground similar to a swelling on the human body. There was a hardly visible roof of that house and instead of walls; it seemed to have a cornice on the ground. It was in fact the grave where the poetess was about to sleep for the rest of her eternal and immortal life. The simile of the swelling is a purely human effect that the poetess has added. It seems quite appropriate to the peaceful and tranquil ideas she gives regarding the after-life. The swelling gives the reader a rather painful impression (mostly related to infections and wounds in the body). The grave is apparently as painful as a swelling but is soothing and peace-giving in reality. The poetess wants to tell us that apparently it looks horrible and dangerous but in fact, it is the other way round.
Since then- tis Centuries-and yet
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the Horses’ heads
Were towards Eternity.
Having entered the eternal world man spends a timeless and spaceless life in which the limits of time and space are meaningless. This is why the poetess says that after Death delivered her safely to that house before which, the carriage had stopped; centuries have passed and she feels it shorter than a day. This is because it is pain and misery that make us feel the flow of time. The harder the pain and misery are, the difficultly the time passes. But the poetess is so peaceful, carefree and free of pains that she does not even feel that time is passing. This is the height of contentment and everlasting pleasure she feels in her new and permanent life. This is the time she realises that the heads of the horses harnessed in the carriage were towards eternity. This means that through all the way the carriage moved, Death had driven the poetess to eternal life. From here she makes the reader conclude that Death makes a man immortal and shifts him to eternal life.