Whispers of Immortality
Whispers of Immortality
Read the extract below and answer the following questions:
I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds everyone,
When rocked to rest on their mother’s breast,
As she dances about the sun.
- Who is ‘I’ referred to in the above extract? Explain how ‘I’ brings showers.
- What do the leaves do at noon? What are they dreaming about? How does ‘I’ help the leaves?
- How are the “sweet buds” rocked to rest? What does “mother’s breast” stand for?
- Mention a figure of speech used in the above extract. What does the poet try to do through this device?
- Name the poem and the poet.
So shall thy chastened spirit yearn
‘To seek from its blind prayer release,
And, spent and pardoned, sure to learn
‘I bending from My sevenfold height,
The simple secret of My peace.
Will teach thee of My quickening grace,
Life is a prism of My light,
And Death the shadow of My face.’
- When the soul is cleansed and chastened of all desires what does it seek? What would be the state of the soul?
- Who is ‘I’ in the fourth line of the extract? What is that person planning to do? Why?
- What does God has to say about life and death?
- What is the supreme knowledge? When and where can this knowledge be found?
- What does the poem mean to you?
Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet
The company below, then I repeat,
The count your Master’s known munificence
Is ample warrant that no just pretence
Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;
Through his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed
At starting, is my object.
- Who is the speaker and to whom does he ask to rise? Where are they?
- Who are the ‘company below’? Why are they there?
- What impression has the envoy of the Count formed of the Duke by now? What would be his advice to the company below?
- What does the Duke point out to the envoy of the Count when he raises the point of his second marriage? What does it reveal of the Duke?
- What does ‘just pretence’ mean?
- Just before the above extract what did the duke talk about? What is the point highlighted here in the above extract? What does the sudden change of topic tell about the Duke?
- What does the Duke say about Neptune? What is the symbolism involved here?
Yes, and those of heaven commune
With the spheres of sun and moon;
With the noise of fountains wond’rous
And parle of voices thund’rous;
With the whisper of heaven’s trees
And one another, in soft ease
Seated on Elysian lawns
Browsed by none but Dian’s fawns;
- Where does the scene of the above lines take place? Who are supposed to have a double life here?
- What is the benefit of life in heaven as expressed in the first two lines of the extract? What figure of speech do you see in these lines?
- What re the sounds that you could hear in the above lines?
- Who is Dian and what is meant by Dian’s fawns?
- What is meant by Elysian lawns? What is the other word used in the same stanza meaning the same as Elysium?
- What words suggest that life at Elysian lawns is comfortable?
Can a king be great as I am, prithee, and yet know no care?
Oh, I’m sick and tired, and weary.’- Someone cried,
‘The King’s arm-chair!’
Then towards the lackeys turning, quick my lord the
Straight the king’s great chair was brought him, by two
i. Name the king? How long did he rule? What impressions do get of his reign?
ii. What are the ‘actions’ he must be reflecting upon?
iii. What does the first line of the extract mean? What do you think of the King at this point?
iv. The king says, “Oh, I’m sick and tired, and weary.” What does he mean by this?
v. Why did the Keeper nod? What happened soon after? What does it show?
vi. What did the King do soon after and what did he tell them?
vii. Soon after this passage the King says: “What avail me all my kingdoms?” Explain the meaning of “What avail me all my kingdoms?” Why is the King displeased with his sons?
The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
And after many a summer dies the swan.
Me only cruel immortality
i. Name the poem and the poet. Who are the main characters of the poem?
ii. Who is the speaker in the above extract? What is the speaker envying here about the natural world?
iii. How does “vapours weep their burthen to the ground”? What does he consider as death? Explain the beauty of the line.
iv. Why does the poet use the example of the swan? What effect does it make?
v. From whom did Tithonus ask for immortality and why?
vi. Why is immoratlity cruel for the speaker?
vii. What does Tithonus hope for Aurora after his death? How does the poem end? What is the tone of the poem?
viii. What does the poet teach us through the life of Tithonus?
‘Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champ’d the grasses
Of the forest’s ferny floor;
A bird flew up out of the turret,
Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again the second time;
‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
i. What is the setting of the poem?
ii. Two contrasting pictures are placed side by side in the passage. What are they?
iii. What is the significance of the bird flying out of the turret?
iv. What are the three living beings in this world of phantoms? What do they do?
v. Give a figure of speech used in the above extract.
vi. What reply does the Traveller get to the question in the last line?
vii. How did the Traveller become aware of the presence of the ghosts?
viii. How many times does the horse appear in the poem? Why does the poet let it appear so many times?
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.”
i)What melted and what strange thing did it create before it melted?
ii)What is the significance of the form of his dream?
iii)How does the poet show his skill for description in the extract by paying attention to details.
iv)Why do you think the ‘magnified apples appear and disappear’ in his half-sleep?
v)What is the ‘Stem end and blossoms-end’ of an apple and why does he see such minute details as ‘every fleck of russet showing clear’?
What physical sensations are described in the last line of the extract?
Govinda, the great Sikh teacher, sat on the rock
reading scriptures, when Raghunath, his disciple,
proud of his wealth, acme and bowed to him and said, ‘I
have brought my poor present, unworthy of your
i)Who is Govinda? Where was he and what was he doing?
ii)Who is Raghunath? What sort of a man is he?
iii)What did he bring for his teacher? What did he say about his gift to his teacher?
iv)Did he really mean what he said? What do you think of Raghunath from his words?
v. Later in the poem there is the expression “The daylight faded” and “water held, hid and stole the bangle” .
Give the spiritual significance of : a)“The daylight faded” b) “water held, hid and stole the bangle”. Why are the actions of the water symbolic in terms of spiritual values? How does the expression“stole” enrich the language?
I, loving freedom, and untried;
No sport of every random gust,
Yet being to myself a guide,
Too blindly have reposed my trust:
And oft, when in my heart was heard
Thy timely mandate, I deferred
The task, in smoother walks to stray;
But thee I now would serve more strictly, if I may.
- At the beginning of this stanza the poet admits that he is inexperienced. Which word/words show that? What does it tell us of the poet? Which period of his life is hinted at here?
- What is the idea of the line “Too blindly have reposed my trust”?
- How did the poet react when he heard the mandates of Duty?
- What confession does the poet make at the end of the above extract?
The Souls Prayer
” I , bending from my sevenfold height,
Will teach thee of My Quickening Grace,
Life is a prism of My light
And Death the shadow of My face”
Q1. Explain these lines.
These lines from The Soul’s Prayer by Sarojini Naidu are spoken by the Lord in answer to the poet’s prayer for the revelation of the “inmost laws of love and death.”
The lord tells the poet that He shall let the poet experience the pangs of sorrow as well as the ecstasy of joy and for life is incomplete without a fair share of both pain and joy. The Lord (I) shall come down from His height to teach the poet his essential quality which is Grace. The Lord says that Life and Death are both a part of Him. Life is the prism through which the divine light of the Lord is reflected. Death is the shadow of the Lord’s face. It is the darker but indispensible part of the creator and the process of creation and existence.
Q2. How is the theme of knowledge through purification brought about in the poem?
The following lines bring out the theme of knowledge through purification:
And pain shall cleanse thee like a flame,
To purge the dross from thy desire.
‘So shall thy chastened spirit yearn
To seek from its blind prayer release,
And spent and pardoned, sue to learn
The simple secret of My peace.
In these lines the poet says that it is only through pain that the soul is cleansed of earthly desires and also chastened. The soul is blind in itself and it is only when the purification of the soul happens that it achieves true knowledge.
Q3. What is “My quickening grace”?How can you conclude from the poem that the speaker is innocent, inexperienced and trusts in the Lord?
“My quickening grace” refers to the most important quality of the Lord- “grace”. The almighty Lord is full of mercy and grace and quickly forgives humanity when it is truly repentant.
We can conclude that the speaker is innocent and inexperienced because in the beginning itself the speaker admits that “In childhood’s pride I said to Thee…”
From the poem it is also evident that the speaker trusts the Lord because the speaker asks the Lord to reveal to him/her the laws of both life and death. The speaker asks for experienced both bitter and sweet and trusts that the Lord will heed the prayer and guide the speaker through the pains and pleasures of life.
Q4 . What is the ‘prism’? What does is signify in the poem?
Life is the prism. It signifies that the Divine Light of the Lord is reflected in the existence of life and purified by it.
Q5. How is it shown in the poem that life and death are the two sides of one reality?
The poem clearly shows that life and death are the two sides of one reality in its concluding lines:
Life is a prism of My light
And Death the shadow of My face”
It is evident in these lines that life and death both co-exist in the divine scheme of things, complementing each other.
Q6. What is the theme of the poem?
The themes of the poem: knowledge through experience, divine grace, co-existence of pleasure and pain and life and death.
Answers to Question 1
i. ‘I’ is referred to the cloud in the extract. It is a scientific fact that water vapours coming up from the seas and streams form clouds and clouds in turn come down in the form of rain.
ii. The leaves seem to be dreaming at noonday. The cloud shields the leaves from the rays of the sun. It is very hot and still. So the leaves are hoping and dreaming of rain.
iii. Just as a mother rocks a baby and sends it to sleep on her breast, the branches have been gently swinging in the sunlight and the buds have gone to sleep. Mother’s breast stands for earth.
iv. The poet uses personification very effectively. The poet personifies cloud and various objects and forces of Nature. He describes a scientific phenomenon in a highly imaginative or poetic way.
v. The poem is The Cloud written by Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Answers to Question 2
i. When the soul is cleansed and chastened of all desires it would ask to be released from all the extreme experiences it earlier asked for. The soul would be completely exhausted and desire to be pardoned for its arrogance.
ii. ‘I’ in the fourth line is God. God is willing to teach the soul His secrets because there is a positive change in the attitude of the soul.
iii. God says that life is a prism through which white light of God is turned into colourful light and death is the absence of god.
iv. Supreme knowledge is to know the secrets of God’s divine plan for the universe and the mysteries that we come across in our life. This knowledge can be found when man becomes humble and he surrenders to god.
v. Human soul has a tendency to question everything and follow the path of reason. Man thinks that it is possible to know everything with the help of reason. When man leaves the attitude of pride and arrogance, God comes down to satisfy the soul’s desire.
Answers to Question 3
i) The speaker is the Duke and he asks the envoy of the Count to rise. They are in the art gallery of the Duke.
ii. The company below are the people who have come from the Count of Tyrol to discuss the marriage proposal of the Count’s daughter with the Duke of Ferrara.
iii. The envoy has ample opportunity to see the selfish, mean and status-conscious Duke who treated his last Duchess as a mere object and people as possessions. He could be a cold-blooded murderer if things do not go according to his plan. The envoy would brief the negative traits in the character of the Duke as expressed in the monologue and would caution the Count’s party before taking a decision.
iv. The Duke tells the envoy that the Count’s generous nature is a sufficient guarantee that his claim for dowry would not be denied. It reveals that for the Duke money is the prime concern, he is too status-concern and demands dowry because his high rank entitles him to it.
v. It means right claim. He means to say that he can claim with justice a handsome dowry because, being a Duke, his rank is superior to that of a Count. He wants the dowry not because he wants money, but because his high rank entitles him to it.
vi. The Duke said that his wife’s unacceptable behaviour continued inspite of his not liking it and thus he gave orders to end her life. In the above extract he talks about his second marriage and there is a polite hint that the Count must be prepared to pay proper dowry.
The Duke shows no remorse for having killed his first wife.
The sudden change of topic as he turns from the tragic theme to get into negotiations for his second marriage show that he is ruthless, cruel, materialistic and manipulative man.
vii. The Duke says that the statue of Neptune subduing a sea-horse is a rare and real masterpiece. The statue of Neptune taming a sea-horse is a symbol of brutal male domination of the beautiful and natural.
Answers to Question 4
i. It takes place in heaven. The poets of passion and mirth are supposed to be leading a happy life here.
ii. As expressed in the first two lines, those who live in heaven can gaze at and hold conservation with the sun, the moon and other planets. Both the sun and the moon are personified. Personification is the figure of speech used here.
iii. We could hear the sound of fountains, thunderous voices of the heavenly beings, rustling sound of the trees and the sound of Diana’s fawns grazing.
iv. Dian is the shortened form of Diana who as Artemis is the goddess of chastity. The fawn was especially connected with Diana, and she is sometimes represented in a chariot drawn by two fawns.
v. According to Greek mythology Elysian fields is the place where the souls of the blessed after death wandered. The other similar word used in the same stanza is ‘Heaven’. Elysium is the equivalent of heaven in Greek mythology. The heaven where Keats places the bards is not the heaven described in the Bible, but the Greek heaven in which certain Christian ideas have been introduced.
vi. The phrase ‘in soft ease’ suggests that life at Elysian lawns is comfortable. The Greeks always described the life of the gods and heroes in Elysium as of perpetual ease.
Answers to Question 5
i. The King is King Canute. He ruled for twenty years. During the reign of King Canute there were many wars, killings, robbery and many unpleasant happenings.
ii. He must be reflecting upon the battles, struggles, fights, killings, robbery and similar happenings and causes and effects of his doings in his kingdom and also of his old age and the attitude of his son towards him.
iii. The king asks if it is possible for anyone to be as great as himself and yet remain away from all worries. He treats himself as a great king. He is a proud King and normally not affected by anything to worry his mind.
iv. It is not the physical sickness or tiredness that he speaks about, he is mentally worried.
v. The Keeper heard somebody asking to bring the arm-chair for the King. He gave orders to do so by nodding. King’s arm-chair was brought soon. It shows that the courtiers were ever ready to be at the service of the King. The king commanded their respect.
vi. The King sat on the chair. He asked them to take him to the sea shore.
vii. The king realizes that the kingdom and the worldly belongings are futile and they do not satisfy him. The king is displeased with his sons because they wanted to see him dead so that they could occupy the throne.
Answers to Question 6
i. The poem is “Tithonus” and the poet of this poem is Alfred Lord Tennyson. The main characters of the poem are Aurora, the goddess of the dawn and Tithonus, son of Laomendon, king of Troy.
ii. Tithonus is the speaker in the above extract. The speaker, Tithonus here envies that everything in nature dies after a certain time period. Even swan which has a longer life span than man dies ultimately, but Tithonus is unable to die. He longs for death.
iii. Water vapours that go up in the air at last come down on earth in the form of rain an dew. The rainfall and the dew drops on earth is considered to be the death of vapours that went up in the sky. Vapours weep is a beautiful expression. The poet here compares death to a scientific and natural phenomenon.
iv. A swan has a longer life span than man. Even that swan gets death after sometime. The example of swan is used to heighten the effect of miserable life of Tithonus in the minds of the readers.
v. Tithonus asked immortality for himself to Goddess Aurora. Tithonus was fascinated by the immortality of gods and goddess and desired to enjoy eternal bliss like his beloved Aurora.
vi. Tihtonus asked for immortality and it was bestowed on him but he forgot to ask for eternal youth. Thus his immortal life became a burden for him and he is unable to enjoy life with eternally youth, Aurora. He therefore longs for death.
vii. Tithonus hopes that after his death Aurora would appear in the eastern sky in all her splendor in her silver chariot and would see his grave. The poem ends on a sad note creating a nostalgic feeling among in the minds of the readers. The tone of the poem is elegiac.
viii. Human beings should appreciate the limitations of human life because any desire to circumvent them may lead to divine punishment. Thus all mortals should accept life with all its glory as well as its limitations. Death is something that cannot be avoided as something evil, rather it should be welcomed as a means through life renews itself.
Answers to Question 7
- The whole poem is set in the moonlit night but much of it is screened off by the thick foliage of the trees. A castle is dimly seen and its front door is faintly visible in the pale moonlight. The castle is surrounded by forest. The forest floor is ferny and a strange silence pervades in the whole place. Though the intruders break the silence but the silence restores itself in the end.
- In the opening of the poem we see a traveler knocking on the door of a castle wanting to know if anybody is there inside the castle. He has come a long way to satisfy some inner urge. The horse, greedily eating the grass is a contrast to the traveler in the seen. It has got no spiritual urge to fulfill. He is simply busy satisfying his hunger.
- Disturbed by the intrusion of the traveler the bird flies out of the turret. It was frightened by the intrusion of the traveler and one can imagine the bird flying up flapping its wings noisily and uttering a shrill cry. There is an implicit contrast between the traveler on the one hand and the bird and the horse on the other.
- The three living beings in this world of phantoms are the traveler, the bird and the horse. The traveler has come a long way and is knocking on the door, the bird flies out of the turret being frightened by the traveler’s cry and the horse is busy champing the grass of the ferny floor of the forest.
- The phrase “Of the forest’s ferny floor” is alliterative as the consonant ‘f’ occurs at the beginning of three words.
- The traveler knocked on the door of the castle and asked if anybody was there inside but ultimately he gets no reply to his question.
- Inspite of the traveler’s several knocking on the door and asking if there was anybody in, he got no reply but silence. It was the unearthly stillness that made the traveler aware of the ghosts. He felt the strangeness in his heart.
- The horse appears three times in the poem. As we move our attention from the traveler we see the horse, champing the grass of the ferny forest floor. The horse is shown again and again to suggest the contrast between the traveler and the horse in respect of motivation.
Answers to Question 8
i. “It” stands for the sheet of ice which he had picked up from a drinking trough.
Before it melted it created a strange and distorted vision of the world which made the poet drowsy.
(At a deeper level the lines mean that the fascination of death always mystified him, right from his childhood days.)
ii. The poet can tell about what the dream is going to be like because a person’s dream usually relates to his daily activities. In his dream he sees magnified fresh and beautiful apples.The apples are the very ideal of apples- they are larger than life. Many critics point out that this dream signifies the picture of heaven or immortality.
iii. The poem is full of sensuous details that bring out the poet’s penchant for realistic details.The melting of the ice-sheet, the magnified apples, described in detail, the stem end and the blossom end of the apples, the russet coloured flecks—the mention of all these evince the poet’s skill of description.
iv. The poet sees apples of a magnified size in his dream because he has been picking apples throughout the morning. Thus they appear and disappear in his state of half-sleep until he is fully asleep.
v. The ‘stem end and the blossom end’ of an apple means both ends of the fruit. The poet sees such minute details as “every fleck of russet showing clear” because he has been involved in the long repetitive task of apple-picking throughout the morning.
vi. The poet says that the arches of his feet are aching while standing on the ladder. After he fell asleep, he seemed to feel this ache even in his dream.
Answers to Question 8
i)Govinda was a great Sikh teacher. He was sitting on a rock on the bank of the river and was reading scriptures.
ii)Raghunath is a disciple of Govinda. He is a rich man who is very proud of his wealth.
iii)He brought a pair of gold bangles studded with precious stones for his teacher. He said that he had brought a gift which is very poor and unworthy for the teacher to accept.
iv)He did not mean what he said. He was pretending to be humble in front of his teacher and trying to please him by his words.
v)“Daylight” symbolizes knowledge. The given expression signifies that Raghunath was in the water for a long time, trying to find the lost bangle. It signifies his deep attachment to material possessions and his inability and foolishness in understanding the value of detachment. The water is represented as a thief who stole the bangle and hid it. In terms of spiritual values this is symbolic because the water is like a teacher who is trying to teach a lesson to Raghunath. The expression “stole” is an instance of the use of metaphor and personification and produces a beautiful image in the reader’s mind.
Answer to Question 9
- The word ‘untried’ in the first line of this stanza suggests that the poet is inexperienced. It tells us that the poet is very sincere, honest and open in admitting his feelings. It is the youth of the poet that is hinted at here.
- The poet has been a lover of passion but he is not a plaything to be blown about by the winds of passion. He was inexperienced so had no knowledge of the dangers of reposing absolute faith in one’s impulses. Thus he chose to be his own guide, which made him trust his instincts blindly.
- When the poet heard the mandates of duty in his heart it made him very uneasy. To obey the bidding of Duty meant leaving of the smoother ways of self-indulgence for the hard path of Duty. So he postponed his carrying out of the bidding of the Duty.
- At the end of the above extract the poet confesses that the call of the Duty was often postponed as he preferred the smoother life of self-indulgence to the hard path of Duty. But now he wish to submit himself to the tough discipline of duty.