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An Approach to ICSE English provides a platform to contribute, discuss and comment on the various issues related to the study and practice of English for the students and teachers of ICSE syllabus. Even with its focussed nature, An Approach to ICSE English will be beneficial to everyone involved in the learning the niceties of the English language.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Poetry Study Aid: I Believe: Brucelish Sangma

Poetry Study Aid: I Believe: Brucelish Sangma

Despite its apparent simplicity, the poem I Believe is highly symbolic and deeply philosophical. The fundamental assertion of the poem is the celebration of the countless longings and abilities of man. Man’s aspirations are majestic and boundless and the poet Brucellish Sangma firmly believes that man is endowed with the abilities and competence to fulfill his boundless desires and lofty ideals.  Working hard with determination and purpose, man is capable of accomplishing all that he aspires to.  The poet believes that a human being can soar to unimaginable prominences and overcome numerous barriers to arrive at his or her life’s objective.
The poem has the feel of a Japanese haiku poem, with its three-lined stanzas- each stanza an entity in itself. The six haiku-like stanzas, each stanza consisting only of a single sentence, cumulatively assert the recurring theme of the poem- the infinite capacities of man and his limitless dreams and untold aspirations. The poem is written in a simple style and is in Vers libre - in free verse with no specific rhyme scheme or steady weave of rhythm. The poet recourses to the use of the poetic technique Anaphora by deliberately repeating the phrase ‘I believe’ at the start of each stanza.
Anaphora is a poetic technique in which a word or a phrase is repeated at the beginning of a sequence of sentences, or stanza in a poem.
·       I believe if a pebble is thrown upwards
I can pierce the heavens
And see the angels at play.
The speaker of the poem ‘I believe’, probably the poet Brucellish K Sangma herself, asserts that if she throws a throws a pebble into the sky , she can pierce the sky and have a glimpse of the heavenly heights and see the angels frolic.
On a literal level, the utterance of the poet seems a fantasy; however, what makes the utterance pregnant and significant is the symbolism. The pebble thrown up symbolises the relentless endeavours and persistent efforts directed by man to elevate his life to a lofty stature and to achieve the apparently unattainable objectives. The heaven stands for the seemingly unreachable goals and achievements. With the appropriate attitude coupled with willingness as well as competence and diligence, we are bound to create our world a better place to live in, thereby making not only our life but also the life of our fellow human beings joyful and wonderful. Thus, we can create heaven on earth. The angels symbolises both the great achievers of the worldly world and also the spiritual aspiration of each and every soul in this world.
The poem has different tiers of beingness and significance: in an all-inclusive level, the poem illuminates the abilities and desires of men and women; in a feminist standpoint, the abilities and desires of all women smothered by the outdated social norms and banal cultural traditions; and in a specific viewpoint, the abilities and desires of the tribal women in North East states of India. The ‘I’ of the poem can signify all or any one of these levels. These individuals who strongly wish to liberate themselves from customs and boundaries that stand in the path of their advancement, want to unshackle themselves and soar into the greater heights of human achievements.
·       I believe I can soar to the heights
Touch the silky clouds
And feel the stars.
I believe I can dive
Right into the depths
And swim with the sharks.
The poet believes that she can soar high up to the heights and flavour the delicate fluffiness of the clouds. The heights or the sky stands for the pinnacle of human triumphs and the sensation derived from the fluffiness of the clouds signifies the fulfilment and pleasure of attaining the unattainable. Stars are the congregation of astral figures among men, the ultimate achievers. The poet believes that with resoluteness and consistent efforts she can be one of these astral figures who have achieved celestial stature and brought glory to the human race.
The poet is confident that, like a diver diving into the depths of the sea to forage for the treasures in the depths of the ocean, she can dive deep into the sea of life and immerse herself in the treasured experiences of life. These myriad experiences of life ennoble and enrich the poet and she emerges as a better human being with profound understandings of the intrinsic qualities of life.
The depths stands for the sea of life and the sharks symbolise the challenges of life. The challenge to confront the travails of life and the exhilarating sensation of overcoming them are immense and gratifying.
The poet here uses binary opposites- soar/heights and dive/depths- to bring out the aptitudes and competence of human beings and the limitless potentials of their accomplishment.
·       I believe I can claw into the earth’s belly
Pick up the priceless gems
And adorn myself with them.
I believe I can do many things
Amidst the human angels
Surrounded by the world’s treasures.
The poet furthermore asserts that she has the resolve to claw out the invaluable stones in the earth’s interior and adorn herself with these gems.
Here, metaphorically, the poet affirms that, with dogged determination and firmness of purpose, man can exploit the natural resources on earth for the collective benefit of mankind. Even though clawing connotes a destructive and violent activity, here the poet confirms that the violence is not destructive but constructive and beneficial for the whole of humanity. Man has to resort to violence and destruction at times to bring about the social changes conducive to his evolution and advancement.
Many a man, throughout the ages, has achieved great things by utilising their innate qualities and

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Poetry Study Aid: Stopping By Wood On A Snowy Evening Robert Frost


Stopping By Wood On A Snowy Evening Robert Frost

The poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening is in general viewed as a Frost's masterpiece. It is Frost's most famous poem and also perhaps Frost's most regularly taught poem. The speaker in the poem, probably the poet himself, is a traveller by horse on the darkest night of the year. He stops to gaze at a woods filling up with snow. While he is entranced by the beauty of the woods, he realises that he has duties and obligations and this realisation drags him away from the lure of enchantments of nature.
He thinks the owner of these woods is someone who lives in the village and will not see the speaker stopping on his property. While the speaker continues to look into the snowy woods, his little horse impatiently shakes the bells of its harness. The speaker outlines the beauty and allure of the woods as "lovely, dark, and deep," but reminds himself that he must not remain there, for he has "promises to keep," and a long journey ahead of him. He has a long way to travel before he rests. Here, the traveller, the journey and the sleep have symbolic meanings. The traveller is any individual on his/her great journey of life and sleep is the end of life or death, the eternal sleep.
The moral of the poem is that we should not be distracted by the temptations of life but complete all our duties and responsibilities before we end the journey of our life.

Extract 1
Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here.
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
(a)   Who is 'I' in this poem? Why is he unable to move from the place?
The poet as a traveller is the 'I' referred to here. He is returning home on his horse from far away. It is getting late. He has come to a place where there is a wood with an alluring charm. He is very much attracted by the beauty of the woods as it gets filled up with snow in a dark winter evening. Enchanted by the scenic splendour of the woods he finds himself rooted at the spot, unable to move away from the magnificent spectacle.
(b)  Who is the owner of wood? What is his significance here?
The poet thinks that the woods is owned by someone he knows who lives in a house in village. The poet feels that the owner is unaware of the beauty of his woods.
The house and the village signify civilisation and the owner of the woods living in a house in a village suggests the alienation of man from nature. The woods, a symbol of nature, is contrasted with the house and the village, symbols of civilisation.
(c)   Though a lover of nature, the traveller is conscious of his obligations of his life. Substantiate.
We can definitely assert that the traveller is a lover of the nature. Being spellbound by the stunning sight of the woods filling with snow and the pristine white frozen lake, he momentarily buries his family and social obligations.
The traveller is clearly conscious of his obligations and responsibilities of his life. Although he is excited to take pleasure in the beauteous grandeur of the place for a longer time; he considers his responsibilities and this presses him to go forward in his journey.
(d)  What is the theme and philosophy of the poem?
Frost has employed a simple incident to present a profound philosophical reflection. The journey in the poem is a metaphor of the life journey. Even though the traveller is greatly attracted by the beauty of the woods, he cannot stand and stare for a long time. He has many promises to keep and many duties and responsibilities to complete.
The speaker outlines the beauty and allure of the woods as "lovely, dark, and deep," but reminds himself that he must not remain there, for he has "promises to keep," and a long journey ahead of him. He has a long way to travel before he rests. Here, the traveller, the journey and the sleep hold symbolic significances. The traveller is a man on his great journey of life and sleep is the end of life or death, the eternal sleep.
The moral of the poem is that we should not be distracted by the temptations of life but complete all our duties and responsibilities before we end the journey of our life.
Extract 2
My little horse must think it queer.
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
(a)   What does 'must' mean here? Is the "little horse" a part of his occupation? What is the role of the horse in the poem?
The speaker, probably the poet himself, who is riding his horse, stops by a lovely, mysterious and deep wood. The poet is tempted to stay more at this beautiful place. However, the thought of his responsibilities urges him to continue his journey.
The speaker is almost certainly a farmer, returning home in a hurry.
The horse further suggests the total alienation of man from nature, The horse is so domesticated that it thinks like man. The horse thinks that the traveller has made a mistake to stop at a place where there is no source for rest and food. The horse is impatient to carry on the journey whereas the traveller desires to stop and absorb the beauty of nature. The horse shakes it harness bells and the chiming of the bells brings back the poet to the reality of life. Thus, the horse, in a way, acts as the intermediary vehicle that makes the speaker conscious that he has a long way to go before he gets home to sleep and that he has many promises to keep and many duties and responsibilities to complete.
(b)  Which season of the year is being described? Support your answer from the stanza. What does the darkest night imply?
The winter season of the year is being described. The falling of snow, the freezing of lake are the features of winter season. Moreover, the darkest night suggests the winter solstice (22 December).
As the whole poem is a metaphor for a man's journey through his life, the darkest night probably implies a critically despondent juncture in the poet's life when he is caught with the temptation to escape from the harsh realities of life that overawe him.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Transformation of Sentences: Degree of Comparison

1. A horse is more intelligent than an ass.
An ass is not as intelligent as a horse.
2. A wise enemy is better than a foolish friend.
A foolish friend is not as good as a wise enemy.
3. Bombay is the best sea-port in India.
No other seaport in India is as good as Bombay.
4. Disraeli was the greatest statesman of England.
No other statesman of England was as great as Disraeli.
5. There are few districts as fertile as Hoshiarpur.
Hoshiapur is one of the most fertile districts.
6. Kalidasa is one of the greatest poets.
Very few poets are as great as Kalidasa.
7. Very few books are as popular as Dickens David Copperfield.
Dickens’ David Copperfield is one of the most popular books.
8. Gold is one of the most precious metals.
Very few metals are as precious as gols.
9. It is easier to speak than to act.
Action is not as easy as speech.
10. The train runs faster than a horse-cart.
A horse cart does run as fast the train.