If by Rudyard Kipling — Explanation

If by Rudyard Kipling

Poem …

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Introduction ….The poem appears to be the words of wisdom emanating from a philosopher of the East. Like a pious, wise Sadhu, Rudyard Kipling, the author, gives sermons extolling the virtues of stoicism, uprightness, and forgiveness. He appears to speak to his son, but the words are equally relevant for men and women living in this world riven by jealousy, intolerance, avarice, impertinence, and petty-mindedness. Kipling’s saintly advice, if heeded, should enable an ordinary man to walk with his head high braving the many evils that besmirch life on earth.

First stanza

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

Explanation ..
a. In the opening lines, the speaker advises his reader to confront a difficult situation with forbearance and calm. When something goes wrong, ordinary mortals generally try to escape responsibility by passing the buck to others. To deflect the blame, they make an innocent person the scapegoat for the mishap. When target unfairly like this, the reader should not burst with anger, but face such undeserved accusations with dignity and grace.

b. The speaker asks his reader, faced with an onerous task, to have confidence in his own abilities, and never waver, nor falter. There will always be people to doubt his capabilities, and demean his sincerity in accomplishing the assigned task. But, one must never allow one’s confidence to be dented by such selfish aspersions. In the same breath, to be intolerant of such criticism would be unwise and arrogant. One should take such criticism in one’s stride, and remain steadfast in the pursuit of one’s objective.

c. Often the effort to accomplish the task may stretch very long almost sapping the person’s energy to a point where he decides to give up. However hopeless the situation might be, he must carry on regardless.

d. Mischievous people may try to spread canards to demoralize a person, so that he gives up in disgust. But, such scheming must not deflect him off his chosen course. He should try to remain aloof and not allow the falsehood to succeed.

e. Wicked people may, for no apparent reason, heap insult on an innocent person, and make him an object of hate. But, such people need not be paid back in their own coins. Tolerance to evil designs is a virtue. However, the person (whom the speaker addresses) must not behave like a saint taking all the injustices lying down. He must remember that he is just an ordinary mortal.
—————————End of first stanza————————–
Second stanza

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

Explanation ..

a. The speaker calls upon his reader to be ambitious and aim high in life. But, the dreams should spur him into action, and not lull him to inaction and complacency.

b. In the next advice, the speaker asks his reader to carefully ponder and reflect on everything before setting out to do anything. However, too much thinking may make him confused and rob him of his initiatives.
c. Here, the speaker implores the reader to remain impassive in the face of both defeat and victory. He should neither be swayed too much, nor should he be too indifferent to the situation so as not do anything as remedy.

d. The speaker wants his dear reader to remain unmoved when crooks distort his sensible utterances, and use the distorted versions to malign him.

e. Then the speaker calls upon his reader to show equanimity and grace when vandals destroy his life’s treasured creations. Instead of seeking retribution against the perpetrators, he should try to recreate the destroyed pieces from scrap using the remaining bits of his physical and mental energy. That would be the right way to undo what the misguided vandals did.

——————————-End of stanza two————————–

Third stanza

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’


a. Here, the speaker urges his adored reader to lift his mind and sensibility to really lofty heights. He urges his reader to be restrained, magnanimous, detached, forgiving and ever-creative. If due to any strange twist of fate, one loses his lifetime’s accumulated master creations, wealth and fame, one should be resigned to one’s fate and give up. It should not destroy his undying spirit. Instead, he should muster courage, energy and will power to re-build the lost assets and wealth. The loss should not rattle him at all. There should be no trace of despondency, vengeance or despair in the appearance.

b. The spirit and the zeal to trudge on in life must never desert the reader. He should put his heart and soul to rebuild the lost treasure brick by brick summoning all the strength of his body. Till the last breath, his determination and creative instincts must burn bright defying the imminent specter of death.

—————————–End of stanza 3————————-

Fourth and last stanza

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!


a. The speaker urges his reader not to be swayed by the ups and downs of life. While living like a commoner among the common folks, one must not stoop to imbibe their many sinful ways. One must keep one’s virtues intact. At the same time, while in the midst of the royalty and other such elite people, one should remain one’s humble roots. Arrogance and snobbery must not grip his mind.

b. The speaker asks his reader to be immune to taunts and diatribes. Such toxic words should not agitate his mind at all.

c. One should learn to treat everyone equally. One person not be given importance or shown affection at the expense of someone else.

d. The speaker asks his reader to remain unruffled while confronting a certain painful period. Instead, the hard time or unsavoury experience has to be treated as if a vital part of life’s journey that must be gone through to forge ahead in life.

e. Finally comes the parting advice. Warmly addressing the reader as ‘Son’, the speaker says that a person, who leads his life with the above guiding principles, will emerge the winner. He will have all the wealth, happiness, dignity and adulation that he can hope for. He will be a ‘real man’, worthy, deserving and adorable.


Sonnet 55 — Not marble, not the gilded monuments — Meaning

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 55 .. No Marble, nor the Gilded Monuments …

Poem ..
Not marble, nor the gilded monuments
Of princes, shall outlive this powerful rhyme;
Meaning .. Shakespeare starts with a very assertive statement. He feels his Sonnet is immune to the destructive potential of time. With passage of time, almost everything human beings create get devoured by time. Whole cities have been wiped out due to the inescapable wear and tear inflicted by the elements. At times, they fall prey to military conquests and are raged to the ground. Kings, emperors, and the rich and the powerful build tombs, memorials, graves, and monuments to immortalize themselves on earth long after they are gone. These majestic structures built with the best and the sturdiest materials defy destruction for some time – a few centuries, at best – but succumb to the ravenous Nature, slowly losing their luster and glamour. Stone by stone, brick by brick, they fall apart till they vanish into oblivion. So destruction of every man-made monument is written in every stone they are built with.
Shakespeare declares that his sonnets, with no destructible element in them, are undying. This is because they reach out to the hearts and minds of people. The lyrical attraction, and the emotion they convey impart them the power to defy time.
But you shall shine more bright in these contents
Than unswept stone besmear’d with sluttish time.
Now, it emerges that Shakespeare wrote these lines as a paean for someone (referred to as ‘you’) whom he loved very intensely. The bard feels that the glory and goodness of his beloved friend as narrated in his lines will set the heart of the readers aglow with pleasure, delight and admiration.
As per the Speaker, the vibrancy of his sonnet will be in sharp contrast with the mellowed, dist-laden, weathered, and eroded monuments that are slowly being robbed of their grandeur with the passage of time.
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The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by S. T. Coleridge

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (text of 1834)
By Samuel Taylor Coleridge [Part 1 and 2]

It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.
‘By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,
And I am next of kin;
The guests are met, the feast is set:
May’st hear the merry din.’

He holds him with his skinny hand,
‘There was a ship,’ quoth he.
‘Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!’
Eftsoons his hand dropt he.

He holds him with his glittering eye—
The Wedding-Guest stood still,
And listens like a three years’ child:
The Mariner hath his will.

The Wedding-Guest sat on a stone:
He cannot choose but hear;
And thus spake on that ancient man,
The bright-eyed Mariner.

Explanation …. A mariner, beaten down by a long harrowing sea voyage, stops a wedding guest at the door to unburden his pent-up feelings about the eventful journey. The guest, who is there as an invitee, has little patience to lend his ears to the old man. But the latter’s flowing white beard and piercing eyes makes the guest stop to hear the stranger out.
As the old man proceeds with his account of his journey, the wedding-guest’s mind is swamped by a mix of emotions. First he is bemused, then he shows impatience. But, soon he is gripped by fascination and fear as the old man’s account of his voyage unravels a series of intriguing events. Continue reading


Maccavity: The Mystery Cat by T. S. Eliot — Explanation

The poem Macavity – The Mystery Cat
by T S Eliot

Introduction … This poem is best known of T.S. Eliot’s ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’. This is the only book Eliot wrote for younger audience.
Macavity is, in all likelihood, a notorious, but extremely wily and villainous human being given to committing daring crimes. The most efficient detective agencies fail to apprehend him, although they are sure the crime is committed by Macavity.
Poem … 1st stanza …
Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw–
For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He’s the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad’s despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime–Macavity’s not there!
Explanation … Macavity is agile, cunning, and a master of deceit. Soon after a crime is reported, the Scotland Yard and the Flying Squad swing into action to catch him, but he succeeds in throwing them off his trail.
Poem … 2nd stanza ….
Macavity, Macavity, there’s no on like Macavity,
He’s broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime–Macavity’s not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air–
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity’s not there!
Explanation … Macavity breaks laws with virtual impunity, because he manages to evade arrest by the anti-crime establishment. He is gifted with the power to defy the forces of gravity. He uses this asset to accomplish his hideous plans. He flees the spot of the crime with alarming ease and speed, outsmarting the police. In all cases, his lightening speed of escape frustrates the police. Continue reading


Mirror by Sylvia Plath —Explanation


by Sylvia Plath

I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions.
Whatever I see I swallow immediately
Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike.
I am not cruel, only truthful ‚
The eye of a little god, four-cornered.
Most of the time I meditate on the opposite wall.
It is pink, with speckles. I have looked at it so long
I think it is part of my heart. But it flickers.
Faces and darkness separate us over and over.
Explanation … Here the speaker is the mirror. Through its voice, the speaker chooses to express her inner feelings. The opening line, ‘I am silver and exact,’ makes it abundantly clear. The mirror describes itself as an un-biased observer. It absorbs whatever image is incident on it, and reflects it very truly with no distortion or manipulation. It has no particular fondness or rancor towards anyone or any object. That enables it to reflect the images so faithfully and so correctly.
The mirror affirms that it has no feeling of vengeance or bias against anyone. Its commitment is only for truthful reflection of all that it sees. Such unwavering resolve for neutrality in observation can only be expected from God, not from any human being. So the mirror with its four corners feels that it is the eye of a ‘little’ God.
The mirror is hung on a wall. It stares at the pink, speckled wall opposite to it endlessly. It has no respite from looking at the same dreary wall. So, it is condemned to ‘meditate’ on the wall with no leeway to look elsewhere for a change. The image of the opposite wall has got embedded in the mirror’s heart. However, at times, the opposite wall’s image vanishes giving place to faces who peer into it. Also, the night’s darkness interrupts the gazing at the opposite wall. Continue reading


The Unknown Citizen by Auden — Explanation

The Unknown Citizen
By W. H. Auden

W.H. Auden, the American poet of British origin, wrote ‘The Unknown Citizen’ in 1939. This was shortly after he migrated to the United States. The poem appeared in The New Yorker in 1939. One year later, it was included in Auden’s collection ‘Another Time’. Since then, countless readers have read and enjoyed this satirical poem that blisters with sarcasms against the practice in America and elsewhere of reducing all their citizens to a collection of cryptic statistical numbers.
Central theme
The American system of politics, governance and social welfare uses a set of identification tag to collect, store, monitor and analyze the state of affairs of a citizen. Functional, accurate and scientific and user-friendly this system may be, but, the way it squeezes the most illustrious citizen and the most ordinary one through the same sieve makes it appear inhuman, brutal, insensitive and archaic. This method of cataloging citizens has no regard or room for the feelings, aspirations, sorrow, happiness, love, and excitement that a citizen experiences from his cradle to his grave. The system has no room for hero worship, nor has it any provision to castigate the most hideous characters. Abraham Lincoln, the iconic revered American had one set of numbers just as President Kenney’s assassin Lee Harvey Oswald had another set. This indifference and aloof nature of the number-letter based identification of individuals disturbed Auden. Through his pen and his sense of irony, he revolted against it in his poem ‘The Unknown Citizen’.
The poem is a stinging indictment of the American way of life and politics. The poem is an epitaph of a man who is identified by ‘JS/07/M/378’. This is the Social Security number the state has ascribed to him. No doubt, the number has everything about the man, but only externally. His education, job, spending habits, state of health, his material possessions, family size, participation in the country’s war etc. are all coded into these set of numbers. Auden conjures up an imaginary administrative monster – the Bureau of Statistics – that does the statistics collection, and collation job remorselessly, like a heartless robot.
‘Individualism’ is unknown to the Bureau of Statistics. Auden’s hero had led a ‘normal’ life with no blots, no brush with the law, had spent liberally, but judiciously, and worked hard till his last day in office, and had registered as a soldier when the call came without asking the justness of the war. By all accounts, he had led an ‘exemplary’ life, exactly akin to the ideal American’s ways. How did the state take note of this lifelong toil? Through a set of numbers! This shatters the ‘soul of his ideal citizen’. Such short-shrift given by the bureaucracy is demeaning and hurtful.

Continue reading


Tintern Abbey –Explanation

Tintern Abbey …..

Introduction … The full name of the poem is ‘Lines Written a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey, on revisiting the banks of the Wye During a Tour’ William Wordsworth wrote this poem in 1798. Wordsworth had a keen eye for Nature’s beauty from his childhood days. He remained so till his death. This passion for sauntering in the quiet wilderness of the woods, rivers, streams and lakes lofted his spirits to great heights enabling him to write poems of timeless charm which transcend barriers of country, race and language in their appeal to literature lovers through the ages.
Tintern Abbey is a poem of reminiscence, reflection and loving remembrance. It shows how Wordsworth began to see Nature through a different prism as he matured from his carefree early twenties to his late twenty years. He had his sister Dorothy, whom he loved very dearly. She was engaged to a scholar under Wordsworth’s tutelage. He died suddenly leaving Dorothy and his sensitive brother Wordsworth shattered. The scar the tragedy left in the poet’s mind was deep and hurtful. The distress of Dorothy haunted Wordsworth often. The poignant reminder gets reflected in this poem.
The poem also shows the spiritual streak of Wordsworth’s mind. As he feasts his eyes in the natural beauty of his surroundings around Tintern Abbey after a lapse of five years, he begins to see the metaphysical aspects of observing the Nature. He feels how a discerning eye and a matured mind can discover the subtle attractions of Nature which he had failed to see in his young youthful days. On the whole, Tinetern Abbey is a poem that brings to the fore the joys of deep communion with Nature that swept Wordsworth’s mind in his second visit to the same area along the river Wye after a gap of five years.

Line by Line explanation ….
Five years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a sweet inland murmur.*—Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
Which on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose
Explanation ….Wordsworth visits the same place –Tintern Abbey aalong the bank of the river Wye – after a gap of five years. He sees the same streams cascading down the cliffs of rocks making a mild incessant sound so pleasing to the ears. The steep slopes of the rocks look as majestic as before. The tranquil of the place resonates in his mind in a queer way. The sky is as calm as before. Together, the solitude and serenity of the surroundings embalms his mind.
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view
These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
Which, at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Among the woods and copses lose themselves,
Nor, with their green and simple hue, disturb
The wild green landscape. Once again I see
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms,
Green to the very door; and wreathes of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees,
Explanation …. The speaker pauses under the sycamore tress and scans the cottages and the orchards that dot the place. There are the fruit-laden trees which get hidden in the midst of rich vegetation around them. With their green leaves these trees mingle with the vast greenery of the surroundings. He sees the erratic, barely visible green fences that run through the landscape randomly. Needless to say that the speaker finds the landscape has hardly changed in the five years gone by. This strikes the speaker as intriguing and all the more charming. There are the chimneys giving out plumes of smoke apparently from the cottages. It seems as if the smoke is coming out from the midst of tall trees as the cottages stand hidden among them. The vast grazing grounds are there, just as before. This gives the place an aura of quaint charm. The huge pall of silence seems to shroud the entire area.
With some uncertain notice, as might seem,
Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,
Or of some hermit’s cave, where by his fire
The hermit sits alone.
Though absent long,
These forms of beauty have not been to me,
As is a landscape to a blind man’s eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart,
Explanation …. There are the nomadic herdsmen who graze their animals among the forests. They move from place to place with their animals, so they have no houses. Then, there are the hermits who lead reclusive lives in their desolate caves. Only candles light up their dark places at night.
The speaker is both pleasantly surprised to discover that the features that made the place so strikingly beautiful five years ago are all there in tact. So enduring was the impression of the imagery that he continued to recollect them after he moved to a city. The din and bustle of the urban surroundings could not erase the memory of the places. When weighed down by the cares of the hectic city life, the speaker drew upon his impressions liberally for relief and delight. The memory of the scenic places soothed his troubled mind.
And passing even into my purer mind
With tranquil restoration:—feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure; such, perhaps,
As may have had no trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man’s life;
His little, nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
Explanation … The lapse of five years has transformed the speaker’s mind. He is now more capable to look inwards and reflect. He can now see Nature through a different prism that unfolds many subtle benefits of calmly gazing at the calm picturesque landscapes that lie dispersed on earth. In his younger days, he, no doubt, derived immense pleasure by viewing Nature, but such viewing was narrow and uni-dimensional. The bond between Nature and soul had not unfolded itself to the speaker’s immature mind. Now the different facets of Nature had begun to influence him in a benign and intrusive manner, healing the scars and banishing the anguishes from mind. The convergence of soul and Nature has brought solace, succor and peace to his anguished mind as he wades through his life.
In which the heavy and the weary weight
Of all this unintelligible world
Is lighten’d:—that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame,
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
—————————-. ————————
Explanation … The confluence of Nature’s sublime face and its soothing features banish the cares and anxieties from the mind of the person who feasts his eyes in the beauty of the landscape around him. Slowly, he calms his frayed nerves till he reaches a state of absolute rest. This is state of tranquility and peace that a person engrossed in worldly affairs can not attain. The inner self experiences real harmony and joy.
We see into the life of things.
If this
Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft,
In darkness, and amid the many shapes
Of joyless day-light; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart,
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee
O sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer through the wood
How often has my spirit turned to thee!
And now, with gleams of half-extinguish’d though[t,]
With many recognitions dim and faint,
Explanation … The speaker refers to the rough and tumble of daily life where humans struggle to earn their livelihood and try to acquire possessions that supposedly bring him happiness and joy. But, the travails of such existence becomes a grinding experience that weighs down on his heart. In such moments, the speaker sought refuge in the lap of Nature. He went to the banks of the river Wye where the surroundings were so quite and serene. He sauntered through the nearby woods. The effect on his weary soul was as healing as it was enduring. Its memory has lingered in his mind. Whenever he found the cares and anxieties of the world unbearable, he reminisced about the river Wye for solace. Many of the imagery have faded with time, but whatever has remained act like a balm for his burdened soul.
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
The picture of the mind revives again:
While here I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years. And so I dare to hope
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was, when first
I came among these hills; when like a roe
I bounded o’er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams,
Explanation … Now after so many years, the speaker is well-established in life. He recollects his earlier years as a youngster when he wandered around the hills, wood and the river enjoying the beauty. But, he had failed to appreciate the hidden benefits of Nature-gazing then. In retrospection, he realizes what an opportunity he had lost then.
Wherever nature led; more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads, than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
And their glad animal movements all gone by,)
To me was all in all.—I cannot paint
What then I was. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Explanation … In his younger days, the speaker just breezed through the landscape
like an aim-less wanderer. He was not sensitive then. He simply enjoyed the brooks, the river, rocks and woods. No doubt, it gave them a lot of pleasure, but the experience was not in a higher plane. Just as an animal’s existence on earth lacks the refinements of human existence, similarly, the speaker’s walk through the Nature was bereft of finer elements of mind and intellect.
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite: a feeling and a love,
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, or any interest
Unborrowed from the eye.—That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts
Have followed, for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompence. For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Explanation …. Observing Nature in the author’s younger days was devoid
of any effort towards enjoying her more holistically. As a result of it, the experience, although extremely pleasant, was barren. The hidden charms of Nature had remained un-explored then. Happily for the speaker, those crude days are over. He sees Nature through a wider prism now that enables him to see the vastness of her beauty, charm and the capacity to soothe.
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man,
Explanation … The speaker has comprehended the power of Nature. He feels the enormous power of Nature, and its gigantic manifestations. It can chasten or subdue an arrogant human quite effortlessly, but it seldom does so. Yet there is nothing raw or unpleasant about it. Nature is benign and soothing. It suffuses joy and inspires lofty thoughts in the mind of the viewer. When the sun sets, and in the vast expanse of the blue sky and the ocean, it unveils itself. In fact Nature is embedded in these splendors of Nature. By observing Nature, one can get to feast one’s eyes in the setting sun and in the gigantic blue sky and ocean.
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye and ear, both what they half-create,*
And what perceive; well pleased to recognize
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,——————————–.—————————-.———
Explanation …. The speaker states the pervasiveness of the beauty of Nature.
The many manifestations of nature like the setting Sun, the wind, the meadows and the woods inspire the observer to be thoughtful about the underlying attraction of Nature. The speaker has no hesitation to state that his inner self remains anchored to the myriad charms of Nature, despite the fact that he has grown up in age.
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.
Nor, perchance,
If I were not thus taught, should I the more
Suffer my genial spirits to decay:
For thou art with me, here, upon the banks
Of this fair river; thou, my dearest Friend,
My dear, dear Friend, and in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting lights
Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while
Explanation …. The speaker states that Nature remains the ‘friend, philosopher and guide’ of his life on earth. Nature provides the inspiration and sustenance for his existence.
The speaker states that his life would have decayed and wasted away if he had not come under and benefited from the invigorating influence of Nature. All the lasting lofty pleasures of his life came by gazing at the Nature around him. Here the author brings in his sister Dorothy. He should have done it at the beginning of the poem, but till now to mention her. It becomes clear that he has been wandering around with his dear sister Dorothy as his companion. He addresses her as his ‘dearest friend’. He speaks about Dorothy’s voice and expressive eyes that exude the same charm as they did five years ago. The speaker reminisces about the way he looked at Nature then. He says that he can see his former self in her sister.
May I behold in thee what I was once,
My dear, dear Sister! And this prayer I make,
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; ‘tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy: for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men,
Explanation … The author reiterates his love for his sister quite eloquently. He yearns to see his own self in his sister, and prays Nature to let him have this joy. He says that the benign Nature does not betray its lovers. He feels his sisters mirrors all that is good in Nature. He feels that Dorothy has changed little in the last five years and retains her old charm. He implores Nature to save him from the myriad pernicious experiences in life such as sarcasms of selfish people, vile men, unsavory words, bad judgments.
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e’er prevail against us, or disturb
Our chearful faith that all which we behold
Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain winds be free
To blow against thee: and in after years,
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure, when thy mind
Explanation … The speaker affirms his faith in Nature’s capacity to shield us against the corrosive influences of life. This is a benefit which accrues to those who seek refuge in it. The speaker knows how corrosive and dull life’s day to day existence might be. To save Dorothy from such evils of life, he beseeches Nature to shower his bounty on his sister. He wants the moon to light her solitary path, the misty winds from the mountains to blow against her face etc. He knows these ecstatic experiences will bring bliss and joy to her.
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; Oh! then,
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance,
If I should be, where I no more can hear
Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
Explanation … The speaker’s mind overflows with love for his sister Dorothy. He wants Nature to bequeath all its beauty and bounty to Dorothy so that her mind becomes a repository of all its sublime sights and sounds. She could, then, use these memories to tide over all the difficulties of life like solitude, fear, pain and suffering. When death takes him away from her, he wants her to remember him with the help of all the reminiscences about their joyful quest of Nature.
Of past existence–wilt thou then forget
That on the banks of this delightful stream
We stood together; and that I, so long
A worshipper of Nature, hither came
Unwearied in that service: rather say
With warmer love–oh! with far deeper zeal
Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,
That after many wanderings, many years
Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake!
Explanation … The speaker becomes emotional about the possibility of his separation from her due to his death. He wants her remember their common love for Nature. With a sense of deep appreciation of his love for Nature and his sister, he wants to dedicate his memories of the woods, stream, grazing fields, rocks etc. to Dorothy so that she could remember him when she gazed at Nature.


NCERT English Class X — Frog and the Nightingale notes

NCERT English literature Class X

The Frog and the Nightingale by Vikram Seth

Once upon a time a frog
Croaked away in Bingle Bog
Every night from dusk to dawn
He croaked awn and awn and awn

Other creatures loathed his voice,
But, alas, they had no choice,
And the crass cacophony
Blared out from the sumac tree
At whose foot the frog each night
Minstrelled on till morning night

Meaning … A sunmac tree stood inside the Bingle Bog. A bog is a wet soft muddy ground. Such place is the favored habitat for frogs. Comfortably seated at the feet of the tree, the frog sang away to its heart’s content from evening till morning. Its loud and relentless croaking was heard for quite a distance. The high decibel and hoarseness of the frog’s din caused considerable nuisances for other creatures living nearby.

Neither stones nor prayers nor sticks.
Insults or complaints or bricks
Stilled the frogs determination
To display his heart’s elation.
But one night a nightingale
In the moonlight cold and pale
Perched upon the sumac tree
Casting forth her melody
Dumbstruck sat the gaping frog
And the whole admiring bog
Stared towards the sumac, rapt,

And, when she had ended, clapped,
Ducks had swum and herons waded
To her as she serenaded

Meaning … The creatures beseeched the frog to stop its noise that they found too disagreeable to put up with. But, the vainglorious frog paid no heed to them, and continued with its night-long rendering. Finally, the irate creatures could stand the nuisance anymore and began to use sticks and stones to subdue the irrepressible singer. Neither the neighbors’ taunts, nor their physical threats could deter the frog’s dusk-to-dawn guttural outpourings.
One night, a nightingale flew in from somewhere and perched on the branch of the sunmac tree. It began to sing in its natural melodious voice in the cold lonely night. Its voice left the frog flummoxed. All other inhabitants in the marshy land around began to listen to the new singer’s voice with great pleasure. At the end of her singing, she got a standing ovation from the audience listening in to it. Ducks swam and herons waded through the mud and slush to be nearer to the nightingale. She sang her way into the hearts of all the creatures in the bog. Continue reading


Robert Frost’s Stopping by the Woods in a Snowy Evening Analysis

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (1923)

by Robert Frost

Introduction … Robert Frost finished writing this small, simple poem in just one night. He had never imagined that it would attract such universal attention, and readers would discover so much meaning in it. This poem got him the prestigious Pulitzer Prize – the highest literary award of America. The poem has been acclaimed as a very powerful, thought-provoking, and inspiring literary work. Although the text is so simple and clear, critics  have interpreted it in so many philosophical ways. Such intense interest in this poem both pleased and surprised Robert Frost. In fact, he felt a little embarrassed to see critics discovering so deep meanings in the poem which never crossed his mind when he penned the poem.
As regards the central message of the poem, it can be said that it is an intensely inspiring poem. Because of its underlying message, it strikes a chord in the mind of even the most insensitive reader. Like the Hindu epic Bhagvat Gita, it gives a clarion call for duty-bound action. Responsibilities to the family and the society must outweigh all other distractions — moral or immoral.  It implores the reader to eschew escapist tendencies, and shun languidness. He must prod on, despite all odds. Continue reading


Love and a Question by Robert Frost – Analysis

Robert Frost was an avid observer of Nature. He reveled in the pristine environment of his New England home in America. He had a keen eye for the beauty of the lonely woods, majestic trees, the solitary paths, the snowflakes of winter, and the vast forbidding loneliness around him. Despite being lost in his pursuit of Nature’s bounty, he delved into the un-ending crises of conscience, the call of duty and the conflict of emotions that torment an ordinary mortal. So, through his poetic praise of Nature, he reminds the readers about the philosophical intrigues of human existence and the frailty of man’s moral fibres. Continue reading