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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 of the niceties of the English language.

Showing posts with label Poetry Study Aid. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Poetry Study Aid. Show all posts

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Poetry Study Aid: A River: A.K.Ramanujan


A River 
 A.K. Ramanujan
The poem A River by A.K. Ramanujan is a tour de force of impressive potency and insightful philosophy and yet a poem characterised by its graceful lucidity and finely honed criticism. Through the poem A River, the poet raises the question of an artist’s commitment to the society.
In this poem, the poet has compared and contrasted the mind-set of the old poets and those of the new poets to human misery. Both the poets are apathetic to human sorrow and suffering. Their poetry does not mirror the miseries of the human beings; on the other hand they are concerned with the themes that are far away from the stark reality before them. They write about the beauty of the river in full flood completely ignoring the devastation and human tragedy wreaked by this beastly force.
In this poem, the poet refers to the river Vaikai which flows through the city of Madurai. Madurai, reputed for its rich cultural and spiritual heritage, is a well known city in Tamil Nadu. In the poem A River the poet presents two strikingly contrasting pictures of the river: a vivid picture of the river in the summer season and the river in its full flow when the floods arrive with devastating fury.
In the summer, the river is almost barren and arid. Only a very thin stream of water flows revealing the sand ribs on the bed of the river. There is also the picture of the river in the monsoon season, flooded and with its immense destructive power yet startlingly beautiful in its majestic flow.
Both the old and the new poets have celebrated the beauty of the flooded river but they were not alive to or sympathetic with human suffering caused by the monstrous flood.
The poet-visitor, a modern poet probably Ramanujan himself, visits Madurai when the Vaikai is in flood. He was extremely shaken by the dismal scene of utter destruction caused by the river to life and property all around. He is even more stunned by the insensitive attitude and the complete unconcern of the city poets, both old and new, towards this tragic situation of human suffering and fatality. He was distraught that they ‘sang only of the floods’ when they should have rather tried to alleviate the people of their miserable state. Being a realist himself, he takes a dig at these city poets for dodging reality and attempting to flee into a made-up world of fantasy and fancy.
The poem A River illustrates many significant features of Ramanujan’s poetry, such as his adept linking of the past and the present so as to introduce the idea of continuity, his effortless depiction of the typical Indian surroundings. The use of wit, irony and humour, and dramatic imagery is distinctive of his style.

Question 1
In Madurai,
city of temples and poets,
who sang of cities and temples,
every summer
a river dries to a trickle
in the sand,
baring the sand ribs,
straw and women's hair
clogging the watergates
at the rusty bars
under the bridges with patches
of repair all over them
1.     Which river is mentioned in the extract? What is Madurai reputed for? What was the subject of the poets of Madurai?
The river Vaikai which flows through the ancient city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu is mentioned in the extract. Madurai is famous for its spiritual, literary and cultural heritage; its magnificent city with its numerous impressive temples built by the kings that ruled Madurai in the past.
The poets of Madurai, its minstrels, wrote and sang eulogies of its marvelous temples and its magnificent cites. In a way these eulogies can be deemed as eulogies of the kings who built these temples and cities and patronized the literati. 
2.     What do the images of the river drying to a trickle and the sand ribs suggest?
The river drying to a trickle conveys the scorching heat of summer that dries up everything and makes life unbearably miserable with the accompanying famine and starvation.
The dried river exposes the sand dunes at the bottom of the river and they bring to our mind the skeletal rib cages of a starved human being.
Both the images bring out the ugly aspect of the dried up river that brings drought, which in turn causes gruesome misery and starvation.  Human suffering caused by the drought is suggested by the river drying to a trickle exposing the bone-dry expanse of the sand dunes.
3.     What do the straw and women's hair do? What do they signify?
The straw and women's hair choke or block the watergates under the bridges which have patches of repair all over them.
The three images -of the straw and women's hair and the bridges in disrepair -together create a scenario of filth and wretchedness which the flowing river has masked. However, the dry river bares and exposes the ugliness that lies underneath.
The poet may be suggesting the attempt of the poets to hide or callously ignore the stark and harsh social reality by writing poems of cities and temples.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Poetry Study Aid: Emily Dickinson: Because I Could Not Stop For Death

Emily Elizabeth Dickinson was an American poet who lived, for the most part, an introverted and solitary life. Dickinson was a productive closed-door poet: most of her poems were published posthumously, and critics now consider Dickinson to be a major American poet. Her poems mainly deal with themes of deathwpid-img_a0507099aa1h and immortality. The poem Because I could not stop for death is typical Emily Dickinson in its presentation of Death. Death is considered as positive, even desirable, feature of life as it brings immortality to the mortals. Contrary to the common perception of death as fearful and terrible, Emily Dickinson depicts death as a lover and a suitor that takes her to the land of eternity- a realm of timelessness- where she experiences ultimate bliss.
The poem Because I could not stop for Death is in the form of a monologue and the speaker, a woman , communes from beyond the grave, from the domain of Eternity.Each stanza of the poem can be considered to represent a particular aspect: the first stanza shows the arrival of Death as a suitor at the woman’s door; the second stanza describes the journey of the two lovers; the woman and Death accompanied by Immortality; the third stanza presents the sights  on their journey; the fourth stanza brings the realisation of death by the woman; in the fifth stanza  the lovers arrive at the house of death; and the sixth stanza is located at Eternity from where the woman speaks of her journey and the attainment of immortality.
The speaker can be presumed to be the poet herself in an imaginary situation.
Stanza I
Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

1. Who is the speaker of the poem? Why could the speaker not stop for Death?
The speaker of the poem is a woman, presumably the poet herself in an imaginary situation. The poet could not stop for Death as she was too preoccupied with her worldly affairs.
Emily Dickinson personifies Death here. Personification is a figure of speech in which objects or ideas are endowed with human attributes.
2. What is the significance of the use of the word ‘ kindly’ in the context?
As the poet was immensely engrossed in the fret and fever of her life, she could not find time to stop for anything even for her need for love, or for her lover Death. Then Death, kindly and  caringly comes to her doorstep as a suitor and lover, like  a true gentleman. Death desires to take her for a jaunt in his carriage.
Death is caring and understanding. In spite of the poet’s inability to keep her appointment with Death, he kindly (caringly and with full understanding) arrives at her house to take her for a journey to his house.
Death is kindly in the sense that the journey with Death relieves her from the humdrum of her harsh  busy life.
3. What is the significance of Immortality in the carriage of Death?
While Death and the poet are on their journey, the Carriage carries Immortality also. Immortality is personified as a chaperon (A chaperone is someone who accompanies another person somewhere in order to make sure that they do not come to any harm.)
The presence of Immortality in the carriage of Death accentuates the theme of the poem. Death is always accompanied by Immortality, his constant companion. In a way the poet is suggesting that Immortality follows Death, that is, Death brings immortality to the ordinary mortals: and through immortality men and women master death.
Stanza II
We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labour, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

1. Who are the ‘We’ referred to in the extract? Explain: he knew no haste.
The ‘We’ referred to in the extract are the poet and Death, her suitor. They, along with Immortality, are in the carriage of Death on their way to the House of Death.
Death has arrived, like a gentleman lover, at the door step of the poet. The poet was too immersed in her routine life and the harried poet found the relaxed and smooth journey with Death a welcome relief . The poet appreciates Death’s suave and elegant nature of Death.
The picture of a Death as a charming elegant gentleman recurs in this stanza too. Moreover, there is a contrast between the hustle and bustle of her life  suggested in the first stanza and the leisurely and pleasurable journey with death in this stanza.


Friday, 16 April 2010

ICSE English: Poetry Study Aid Robert Frost The Road Not Taken

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost

Extract I
Two Roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not take both
And be one traveller,long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.
1. What is intended by diverged? What goes the yellow wood indicate?
Diverged means to ‘go in a different direction’. As the poet or the speaker of the poem started his journey he came to a point where the road forked in two different directions placing him in a dilemma.
The yellow wood suggests that the leaves of the trees are yellow and hence the season is autumn.
Some critics suggest that yellow colour, suggesting the onset of old age, denotes Robert Frost’s middle-aged status. (The poem’s autobiographical element). Frost wrote the poem when he was no longer young.
2. The poet or the traveler feels sorry. Why? Why does the poet stand long at the crossroads?
The poet-traveller, or the poet Robert Frost, during his morning walk in an autumn morning through the woods, comes across two roads diverging in two different directions. Frost is sad that he cannot take both the roads but has to make a choice between the two.
The poet stood at the crossroads, contemplating as to which of the two roads he should take, weighing both the roads for their merits.
See that Frost calls himself a traveller which transports the morning walk to a greater attribute.
In a metaphorical level, the walk of the poet symbolizes a man’s journey through his path of life. In his life, a man very often comes across crucial situations where he has to make a decision and his decision decides his course of life.
The two roads are, metaphorically, the choices that are before him. The poet’s delay suggests obliquely the need for deep thought and reflection of the consequences before we take a life-changing decision.
3. What is the dilemma faced by the poet-traveller?
When Frost confronted the diverging road, he was in a predicament. He could not immediately decide which road to take. Hence, He stood at the fork pondering which road to take. The phrase long I stood clearly indicates the poet’s dilemma in making a decision.
4. What is meant by undergrowth? Where did the first road lead?
Undergrowth is the brush (small trees and bushes and ferns etc.) growing beneath taller trees in a wood or forest. When Frost strained to find out the stretch of one of the roads stretch, he could see that the first road curved into the bushes at a distance.
5. What portrait of the rural scenes does Robert Frost give in the extract?