WHAT IS POETRY?

   No definition of poetry can be comprehensive. Poetry is that kind of literature in which imagination, emotion, and fancy predominate. It may be generally in verse form. Metre, rhythm, rhyme, and measure are the attributes of poetry though all of them need not be present in every poem. Dr.Jonson calls poetry a ‘metrical composition’ and points out four elements of poetry- pleasure, truth, imagination, and reason. It is defined by another critic as the art of employing words to produce an illusion on the imagination. For Carlyle poetry was ‘musical thought’ and Shelley defined it as ‘The expression of imagination’.   Coleridge thought poetry was the antithesis of science and Wordsworth defined it as ‘the breath and finer spirit of all knowledge’. According to Arnold poetry is ‘simply the most delightful and perfect form of utterance that human words can reach’. Edgar Allen Poe calls it ‘the rhythmic creation of beauty. T.S. Eliot calls poetry ‘the vehicle of feeling’ and insists that ‘poetry has to give pleasure’. All these definitions refer to the main elements of poetry- imagination, emotion, feeling, truth. Only when these qualities are embodied in a proper form of expression is poetry. The form is regularly rhythmic language or meter, so versification is a part of poetry.

   Another aspect of poetry is that it is an interpretation of life. By the exercise of imagination, transfigures the existing reality and gives to airy nothings a local habitation and a name. Critics like Coleridge and Leigh Hunt thought that meter is not an essential element in poetry. Even prose can be a good medium if poetry can be conveyed through it. However, rhythm has significance in poetry because it gives musical and aesthetic pleasure which are among the chief functions of poetry. Science provides us with a complete rationale of things in the universe, but it is poetry that can suggest to us its beauty and mystery. This poetry is at once antithesis and complement of science. Arnold held that poetry has the power to awaken in us a wonderfully intense and complete sense of things in the universe that science cannot do. Another element is the revealing power of poetry. It opens our eyes to the beauties and spiritual meanings of the universe and nature to which, otherwise, we remain blind. It educates us to look at life for ourselves with more insight. Thus poetry is an interpretation of life through imagination and feeling.

SUBJECTIVE POETRY:

Subjective poetry or Personal poetry is the poetry of self- delineation and self-expression. In this kind of poetry, we find most, the poet’s feelings and thoughts given expression in a lyrical manner. The poet is moved by his own experience as Wordsworth in ‘The Solitary Reaper’. The essence of the subjective poetry is the personality of the poet.

OBJECTIVE POETRY:

Objective poetry is poetry that expresses the world outside the poet. In this kind of poetry, the poet goes out of himself, mingles with the action and passion of the world, and expresses what he observed there. This is an older type of poetry than subjective poetry. Subjectivism came only later. The communal ballad, the epic, and the drama were the earliest form of objective poetry. In this poetry, the experiences of the eye and the ear are given more importance than those of the mind and the soul.

Published by Ayisha Shabana….

The Princess who Chased the Butterflies

A princess in a castle,

A castle, as beautiful as paradise,

But it’s beauty clutched by the shadows of the forest.

Darkness smiled inside the castle,

The princess fought bravely in the battle.

On one side were the ugly butterflies,

On the other were her two beautiful guardian angels.

The butterflies scanned the princess’ body from top to bottom,

The angels, whom she loved the most,

Lectured her the lessons from the book- “How to be a Princess?”

The angels breathed in the young princess’ heart,

So she took the notes of the lecture with her beautiful pen,

Whose red ink was supplied from her own veins.

She was shrinking and all her blood became letters on the paper,

But her love blindfolded her eyes and she still took the notes.

As she filled two notebooks with the important quotes,

She realized that she could not write ’cause the twilight no more touched the castle,

But the darkness now failed to conceal the evil

Inside the butterflies fluttering around the mansion.

The princess opened her eyes,

And with her sword, she tore the butterflies into two halves.

She was proud of herself and returned to her lessons,

But she saw the butterflies of the same colour and size inside her guardian angels’ soul.

She didn’t knew how to kill the evil inside her beloved angels,

But she tried and managed to flew them away from the castle.

Now the path of the sunlight was clear and the shadows disappeared,

But the two butterflies, were still alive and watching the princess from far away.

The princess was happy because her lovely angels tore the book of lessons into two halves,

And started a new chapter, whose notes she took with love and smiles and laughter.

Even the trees in the forest were proud of the little princess,

And cherished her victory by holding the waters from the heavens in the petals.

The princess of the beautiful castle,

Indeed fought bravely in the battle!

The Omnipotence of Death

We glorify power, fame and strength when they don’t even stand a chance before the most powerful force, death. In life, there are ups and downs, the powerful and the powerless, rich and poor. But death ultimately levels all these differences and makes everything equal.

The poem ‘Death The Leveller’ by J. Shirley starts with stating that all the glories of humans are mere shadows which appear and disappear after some time. They do not make up an essential part of human life.  This is because there is nothing that can defend us from our fate. We can’t fight against it. When Death lays his cold hand on Kings, they can’t protect themselves and their sceptre and crown are ought to tumble down. The most powerful of all the kings is turned to dust and made equal with the poorest peasant on death. The sceptre and crown are as powerless as scythe and spade.

The glories of our blood and state

Are shadows, not substantial things;

There is no armour against Fate;

Death lays his icy hand on kings:

Sceptre and Crown

Must tumble down,

And in the dust be equal made

With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

The second stanza gives the picture of men in armour. Men fight battles and rejoice fame from killing their foes. Such battles boast bravery, chivalry, and courage. But even the strongest soldier must yield to death. No matter how brave he fights death, sooner or later, he must surrender to fate. He ceases breathing as death slowly creeps up to this captive of fate. Thus, even the strongest soldier is also rendered powerless by death.

Some men with swords may reap the field,

And plant fresh laurels where they kill:

But their strong nerves at last must yield;

They tame but one another still:

Early or late

They stoop to fate,

And must give up their murmuring breath

When they, pale captives, creep to death.

The flowers sing no more of the celebrated deeds once the garland withers. We witness everyone and everything coming to stillness in Death’s kingdom. The word ‘victor-victim’ refers to all the conquerors, emperors, and victors who are victims of Death. The victor-victims bleed and finally lie dead in their cold tomb. Though all turns to nothing, the only thing, which can bloom and spread fragrance, is the actions and good deeds of people who had led a just life. 

The garlands wither on your brow,

Then boast no more your mighty deeds!

Upon Death’s purple altar now

See where the victor-victim bleeds.

Your heads must come

To the cold tomb:

Only the actions of the just

Smell sweet and blossom in their dust.

The only thing which stands the test  of time is the deeds of selflessness and service to fellow beings. Thus, this poem has a moralising tone and shows the omnipotence of death.

Kindness Comes at a Cost

Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem ‘Kindness’ portrays the abstract feeling in a different light. We live our lives by being kind and by receiving kindness. But, is kindness all elegant, brighter and a beautiful emotion? Brighter the light is, the darker the shadow will be. In the same way, the journey to appreciate kindness is painful.

The first stanza of the poem starts by stating that unless we go through hardships, difficulties and excruciating pain, we can never feel kindness. We should feel our future melting away and dissolving like salt in a broth. We should feel every single block we had built falling apart one by one and should see things go crazy and beyond control. We should be wrecked and hopeless to feel and see kindness between the regions of dreary and forsaken landscape. When life feels needlessly long and dull, when everyone seems to be busy and no one really cares about what happens to us, the relief that rushes over by one extending hand causes kindness.  

How you ride and ride

thinking the bus will never stop,

the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.

To understand how valuable and serious the emotion of kindness is, we must see a man lying dead on the road. We must realise that such a death can occur to us too and we can also be abandoned like that man. We must see how the man was the same breathing living thing with plans and dreams before he could die.  

You must see how this could be you,

how he too was someone

who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Just as the lines below say, we must wake up everyday heavy with sorrow and talk with it to understand what kindness really is. We should confront our sadness and separate each of its strings and weave it into a sorrowful clothing to see how big our sorrow really is. 

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing. 

If we do so, then we will see only kindness in every little thing and every little action. It will be kindness which ties our shoes and gives us strength to step into the outside world and do our work. Even among the ocean of bodies and faces, we will spot kindness rising its head and calling to us, “It is I you have been looking for” and following us everywhere “like a shadow or a friend”.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,

These lines make us realize how we take kindness for granted most of the time. The kindness of the mother hidden in the packed lunch box, the kindness of the friend embedded in a lent pen, the kindness of a stranger who says ‘Have a beautiful day’ are slept on by us. Our mother might have lost her good sleep to pack lunch, our friend might have not even had a pen to lend or the stranger would have had a really bad morning. Thus kindness comes at a cost. When it comes, learn to appreciate it and give it back.  

‘Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou

When we aren’t confident about ourselves, we definitely can’t win anything in our life. Are you scorned, oppressed, and belittled? Want a little bit of confidence boost? Then the poem ‘Still I Rise’ by Maya Angelou is for you. 

People may picture you however they want. They may lie about you, spread rumors, and pull you down to gutters but you should never give in to such slanders. Even if they make you look dirty, like a dust which never settles down, you ought to rise. 

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

People, who talk ill about you, do so because they are blinded by petty emotions like jealousy and insecurity. They may not like you when you differ from the crowd and when you are being yourself while they cannot. You may find your happiness in small things and this might irritate them. So, they might try to bring down your confidence, even then you must rise. 

Why are you beset with gloom?

’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells

Pumping in my living room.

And, when you rise, rise like the sun or the moon, which rises everyday without fail with its fullest radiance. Like the tides which hit the shore with certainty and hope which springs higher in the darkest times, you too should rise. You know why you should rise? Simply because everyone is watching. They want to see you broken, shoulders fallen, heads down, kneeling and desperately crying at misfortunes. So, rise beyond expectations.

They may label you haughty when you differ and might be offended when you laugh happily. Even though they slander you, belittle, treat you indifferently and hatefully, you must rise like air which sees no confines. 

You may shoot me with your words,

You may cut me with your eyes,

You may kill me with your hatefulness,

But still, like air, I’ll rise.

They will be jealous and afraid of you rising, and so they will try to pull you down. But you must rise. People oppress others based on economic conditions, race, ancestry, and color. Even then you must rise. 

Out of the huts of history’s shame

I rise

Up from a past that’s rooted in pain

I rise

I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,

Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

The poetess was strongly fighting against the oppression of black people and women. People of her race were ill treated and subjugated. She, the black ocean, is resolute to send tides of opposition against such oppressions. Though she had suffered and lived painfully, she will march into daybreak, proud of her identity that her ancestors had given her, and will rise and rise and rise. 

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear

I rise

Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear

I rise

Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,

I am the dream and the hope of the slave.

I rise

I rise

I rise.

Hence, never let yourself be held back by restraints and limitations. You are you and be confident about yourself. If you do so, you shall also rise. 

‘How Did You Die?’ by Edmund Vance Cooke

Why do I have to be born like this? Why can’t I get anything without trouble? Why? Just why? Let’s be true, we have always tried to blame something other than ourselves when we fail. Not everyone is born with silver spoons in their mouths and we shouldn’t excuse ourselves from challenging ourselves to great heights. Maybe we cannot determine our birth, but we can always determine how we are going to live.

Edmund Vance Cooke’s ‘How Did You Die?’ is a motivational poem telling us to go head-on with our challenges in life. Life throws challenges at everyone of us. And when it does, how we react to it is all that matters. Are we going to accept the challenges with a cheerful mindset and strong heart? Or are we going to cower and hide from the outer world? The decision is ours. Where there are challenges, there are troubles. But how we perceive these troubles is up to us. It is our mindset which decides if our troubles are a ton or an ounce. When we challenge ourselves, we are not always going to win. We may fall many times. So, it doesn’t matter how many times we fall, but how many times we pull ourselves up.

Oh, a trouble’s a ton, or a trouble’s an ounce,
Or a trouble is what you make it,
And it isn’t the fact that you’re hurt that counts,
But only how did you take it?

So, what if we fall and get hurt. It isn’t embarrassing. If we had thought so as a child, we wouldn’t be here walking. What is really embarrassing is when we don’t get up after falling down and give up without even seeing the end. All we have to do is put on a smile and get up. A ball bounces up as hard as it hits the floor. Hence, we should be proud of our failures. It doesn’t matter if we fail as long as we have fought well. We should try our best so that we don’t regret it even when we fail. 

The harder you’re thrown, why the higher you bounce;
Be proud of your blackened eye!
It isn’t the fact that you’re licked that counts,
It’s how did you fight —  and why?

If we had fought well and had done our best in whatever role we are given in this mortal world, then the Critic will conclude that we did well. The Critic who will judge us is not the society or family or acquaintances but the Creator, the supreme power. Death comes to everyone. Death doesn’t look at our age, gender, status or power. It treats everyone equally and may come to anyone at any time. Whether we die early or late, whether we die in a moment or experience a slow death, it isn’t our death that matters but how we died. 

Death comes with a crawl, or comes with a pounce,
And whether he’s slow or spry,
It isn’t the fact that you’re dead that counts,
But only how did you die?

We can equalize the phrase ‘how did you die’ to how we lived. Life is full of choices and we may regret some. But we have to make sure that we turn such regrets into life lessons. Maybe we will die today or tomorrow, but would death matter if we live well?    

A Poem in Appreciation of Defeat.

Failures and defeats are what everyone of us meets throughout life. But how we react to them is that which decides how successful we can be. Kahlil Gibran’s poem ‘Defeat’ gives a lesson on learning from our failures and appreciating them.

The poet calls defeat his solitude and aloofness. As said in one of the previous posts, we need to differentiate solitude from loneliness. Solitude is our time and it helps us reflect on yourselves. When defeat gives us our solitude, we reflect on what went wrong and what needs to be done to improve ourselves. This, we cannot get from success. So, failure is dearer than all the victories and sweeter to the heart than all the fame and respect which success gives.

Also, the poet calls defeat his self-knowledge and defiance. Through defeat, we learn that we are still young and prone to mistakes. Through it, we know that we have a long way to go and that we shouldn’t be trapped by the fleeting fame. When we fail, we receive criticisms and are censured. Some of these criticisms help us to grow and through defeat only, we learn more about ourselves and become strong.

Defeat, my Defeat, my self-knowledge and my defiance,

Through you I know that I am yet young and swift of foot

And not to be trapped by withering laurels.

In the third stanza, the poet calls defeat his ‘shining sword and shield’ because it protects him from falling prey to ignorance and false knowledge. Through it, the poet learnt that to succeed and labelled as a winner is to be enslaved. This is because when we succeed in something, we think we have mastered that thing and think no more. To think that we have understood everything is to level down ourselves and to be grasped by the ecstatic emotions caused by success is to be in an illusion. Hence, through defeat we learn about our weaknesses and though we fall, we are to cherish the defeat just like how a fallen ripe fruit is relished.

That to be enthroned is to be enslaved,
And to be understood is to be leveled down,
And to be grasped is but to reach one’s fullness
And like a ripe fruit to fall and be consumed.

Now, the poet calls defeat his companion with whom he can be himself.  When alone with defeat, he can talk openly about his worries and hardships. People console us when we fail but there is no greater consolation than defeat itself. Only defeat can truly tell us about what we need to work on, how to overcome hardships and challenges and how hard we should work to reach the goal. Only defeat can break into our insecurities and soul and show a way out. 

And none but you shall speak to me of the beating of wings,
And urging of seas,
And of mountains that burn in the night,
And you alone shall climb my steep and rocky soul.

Lastly, the poet calls defeat his ‘deathless courage’. He imagines himself laughing with defeat when undergoing challenges and together digging graves for everything that they shall leave behind. Finally, both the poet and defeat will see the sun and stand victoriously for all the dark times are gone. And this will be dangerous because there is no one more powerful than a person who has learnt to embrace his defeat.

Defeat, my Defeat, my deathless courage,
You and I shall laugh together with the storm,
And together we shall dig graves for all that die in us,
And we shall stand in the sun with a will,
And we shall be dangerous.

When we rightly learn to appreciate our defeat, there can be no greater strength than our defeat itself. Defeat shapes us stronger and wiser and brings us close to fullness. To succeed, we should befriend defeat and it shall be our greatest motivation.

“Your children are not your children”

Parents often try to steer the life of their children. They decide for their children and make them live according to their wishes. Kahlil Gibran’s poem ‘On Children’ talks about such issues and on proper parenting.

The poem starts with a woman asking a person to talk about children. So the unknown narrator starts of by saying,

  Your children are not your children.

Most of the parents think of their children as belonging to them or think that they own them. But this is a toxic mentality. One can never own a person because people aren’t objects. Every child has his/her own life and it belongs to him/her and no one else. They did come from the wombs of their mothers but that doesn’t mean they are owned by their parents. So, every child has the right to decide and live his/her own life in the way they like.  

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

Because children tend to make mistakes and don’t know the world, they require guidance from their parents. But parents should not use this as an opportunity to impose their preferences and opinions. They should rather support and guide instead of making choices for their children.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

 For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. 

Parents may shelter their human bodies and not their souls. Their souls move freely and live in tomorrow. Many parents try to realize their dreams through their children without knowing that it was a past they failed to live and that it is already today, which the children wish to live in. 

 For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

The poet brings in the comparison parents as bows and children as ‘living arrows’ in the hands of our Creator. The archer, our Creator, sees the mark at an infinite distance. The mark is our death. He bends a bow (a parent) to launch an arrow (a child). When the arrow is shot, the trajectory it takes is defined by the arrow itself. The bow just lends its strength to the arrow to travel. Hence, the parents should make sure that the bow in the hands of the Archer is properly used. The Archer loves both the bow and arrow that serve the purpose properly. 

  The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;

  For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

Thus, the poem provides a valuable lesson on parenting.

‘Life is Fine’ by Langston Hughes.

Sometimes, when people ask us how we are, we would want to bawl our eyes out and say “I am not fine”. But there are also days when we can happily say that we are fine. Such is life with all its ups and downs. 

In the poem ‘Life is Fine’, Langston Hughes deals with a darker theme of taking one’s own life. The first stanza starts with the narrator sitting down by a river bank and trying to figure out something. It  is clear that the poet is worried and is trying to think about it. When he can’t find answers for his problems, he throws himself into the river. This comes as a surprise to a reader at first when one doesn’t know the theme of the poem. 

But instead of drowning, the narrator comes up. He hollers and cries for help. The narrator reasons out that he didn’t die because it was too cold to bear. He seems to have backed out at the last moment. He repeatedly says it was because the water was cold as if trying to console himself. 

I came up once and hollered!

I came up twice and cried!

If that water hadn’t a-been so cold

I might’ve sunk and died. 

  But it was      Cold in that water!      It was cold!

The narrator tries to kill himself for the second time when he is going up in an elevator. He plans to throw himself out of the elevator. Also, readers come to know the reason for his suicide attempts. He is missing someone to whom he refers as ‘baby’.

But he doesn’t jump off the elevator because it is too high. It is quite ironic how the narrator is more concerned about the physical pain caused by death. Readers also come to understand the vulnerable mindset of the narrator. It is obvious the narrator is suffering and is in pain.

I stood there and I hollered!

I stood there and I cried!

If it hadn’t a-been so high

I might’ve jumped and died.

In the concluding stanzas, the narrator complies with reality and decides to go on living. He decides to live simply because he was born to live. He could have died in place of his beloved, but he can’t because he was destined to live his life.   

So since I’m still here livin’,

I guess I will live on.

I could’ve died for love—

But for livin’ I was born

While he continues to live on, he might suffer and cry. He may have more painful experiences, but he is resolute to live. He is earnest to live. He assures his beloved that he will live and not die.   

Though you may hear me holler,

And you may see me cry—

I’ll be dogged, sweet baby,

If you gonna see me die.

He ends the poem with the line,

Life with all its pain and suffering may appear fine when we are resolute to live on. We may go through hard times, but it may not appear hard when we live on. When we grow old, we understand what to cling onto in life and what to leave behind. Thus, this poem which starts with a gloomy theme ends with an optimistic message that life is fine as long as we continue to live. So, let’s live.

    Life is fine!      Fine as wine!      Life is fine!

‘No Man is an Island’ by John Donne.

Have you ever been ostracized by your peer group or have you ostracized someone? The world we are living doesn’t want a person to be different from them and so for various reasons such individuals are isolated. But no matter how different an individual may be, he is still a part of the bigger community, the human kind. Dealing with this theme is John Donne’s poem ‘No Man is an Island.’ 

 No man is an island, entire of itself;

 every man is a piece of the continent, 

 a part of the main. 

We shouldn’t think of ourselves as belonging to no community and we should also not label someone as belonging to no community. Though we have different labels identifying based on our gender, nationality, and race, we all live on the same earth. We look at the same sky and breathe the same air. 

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less, 

as well as if a promontory were, 

as well as if a manor of thy friend’s

or of thine own were. 

John Donne emphasizes the importance of every individual on the earth. When a clod is washed away by the sea, we may not feel concerned much. Even the clod is as important as a promontory.  This comparison is used to convey the message that even the most insignificant individual is as important as our friend. We should love and respect every other individual just as we love and respect our closed ones.    

Any man’s death diminishes me, 

because I am involved in mankind;

and therefore never send to know 

for whom the bell tolls;

it tolls for thee.

Donne concludes the poem with an appeal to universal love and companionship. Even a stranger’s death would make the poet sad because the stranger belongs to humankind. When the church bell tolls announcing the death of the stranger, it is not only for their acquaintances but also for us. We needn’t know the person personally to share their sorrow. 

Today, we have so much going on in our earth. People are suffering and dying because of the pandemic and war all over the world. It is only natural for us to feel sad when we watch such news. Due to the pandemic, many are quarantined and isolated. While they fight the virus, they have to fight loneliness too. So, even if we can’t help them physically, we should at least support them emotionally by sending prayers, kind words and positive thoughts. Thus, this poem is apt even after many centuries.

A Poem in Appreciation of Solitude.

Did you know solitude is different from loneliness? Though many think the words mean the same, it is not the case. Loneliness refers to a state of feeling lonely. It is possible to feel lonely even when you are with people. But solitude refers to being alone. It means being by yourself and spending time with yourself. Many philosophers have appreciated solitude. In fact, the Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu, once said, ‘Ordinary men hate solitude. But the Master makes use of it, embracing his aloneness, realising he is one with the whole universe.’ 

The English poet, Alexander Pope, sings in praise of solitude in his poem ‘Ode on Solitude’, just as the title says. Though a man lives secluded, he can be happy if he has a small land to take care of. He wouldn’t have big ambitions and would feel content just by breathing the fresh air of his native. He surrenders to nature and enjoys being by himself. He does so because he feels tranquility.

Happy the man, whose wish and care

   A few paternal acres bound,

Content to breathe his native air,

                         In his own ground.

He feels happy even when he is all by himself because he has enough of everything for him. His cattle provide him milk, his fields food, his congregation clothes, and his trees give him shade during summer and firewood during winter. He doesn’t need to worry about making ends and spends time for himself. 

Blessed is he who doesn’t need to worry about running out of time. He enjoys the drifting time and passing days because he can take care of himself. He is healthy and peaceful, so he is calm doing his routine in daytime and sleeps well at night.

Blest, who can unconcernedly find

   Hours, days, and years slide soft away,

In health of body, peace of mind,

                         Quiet by day,

When he has enough time for himself, he learns many things and does everything with ease. When this happens, he reflects on his deeds, his memories, and on himself. He recalls his past and re-lives those happy moments. He understands about himself and can reveal his true self without fearing to be judged. 

Sound sleep by night; study and ease,

   Together mixed; sweet recreation;

And innocence, which most does please,

                         With meditation.

The last stanza ends with the poet asking to be granted such a life where he can live   unnoticed by people and unknown to them. He doesn’t want people to mourn his death for he wants to leave this earth without regrets. When he dies, he doesn’t want to take anything from the world, not even a stone which marks his grave and let people know where he lays dead.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;

   Thus unlamented let me die;

Steal from the world, and not a stone

                         Tell where I lie.

This poem shows us how self satisfying solitude can be. We keep running and running without ever knowing what we are after. So, by being alone and spending time with ourselves, we can know what we need and what we want to do. Thus, when you enjoy loneliness, it becomes solitude.

‘Hope is the Thing with Feathers’ by Emily Dickinson.

What do you call that which assures you that everything will be fine? What is that makes us believe in a better tomorrow? What is that which lifts us out of our difficulties? The answer is hope. In this poem ‘Hope is the Thing with Feathers’, the poet Emily Dickinson praises hope and brings out its importance.

Hope is an abstract feeling and the poet gives this abstract feeling a shape of a bird. It sits on our soul and belts out tunes. These wordless tunes never cease. Hope doesn’t utter words of consolation and promises. It stands there supporting us, lending us strength by its tunes and ceaselessly does this routine.  

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all –

Of all the Gales present in the world, hope sings the sweetest tunes. Their sweet tunes make us forget our bitter experiences. They remind us of happy moments awaiting us.  Though the storm (our hardships and hurdles) snubs this little bird, it never leaves. During the hours of storms, hope gives us the warmth to survive the bitter coldness. It is really a wonder how this little bird (hope) keeps us together. 

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –

And sore must be the storm –

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm –

Hope never leaves us even in our hardships. The ‘chillest land’ and ‘strangest Sea’ refer to our struggles in life. Even at this stage, hope gives everything it can to us and asks nothing in return. Hope pours itself into its songs and lends us a will to challenge our problems. It is to be noted that ‘ “Hope” is the thing with feathers-’. The hope which can fly away anytime leaving us to our problems never does so. Rather it stands by our side and guides us through our darkest hours.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –

And on the strangest Sea –

Yet – never – in Extremity,

It asked a crumb – of me.

The poetess uses a poetic technique called enjambment in this poem. Enjambment is used to carry an idea from one stanza to another without any pause. Here, the poetess carries the idea of Hope singing to the next stanza by saying it sings sweet. 

It is an interesting study to know how this poem contrasts the poem ‘Hope’ by Charlotte Bronte. She considers hope as a ‘timid friend’ and as being indifferent to the poet’s struggle. Thus, the two poetesses view hope in a different light.  

‘The Sleep’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Have you ever appreciated your ability to sleep? Now, you will wonder if being able to sleep is something to be praised. Yes, give yourself an applause for you have been given the best gift ever and you will have to cherish this gift. The poem ‘The Sleep’ by Elizabeth Barrett Browning brings out the importance of sleep and why it is to be cherished.

Of everything we have known about God from psalms and hymns, the poet asks if there is any gift which surpasses His gift – the sleep. As humans, what can we give to our loved ones? We can give the hero’s courage and determined heart to confront all the troubles; we can give them a poet’s lyrical verse to move them to ecstasy; we can give them a patriot’s voice to guide them through hurdles and motivate them; we can give them a ruler’s consolation to ease their burdens. But of everything we can give them, there is nothing that will surpass God’s gift to His beloved – the Sleep. 

“He giveth His beloved, sleep”

Sometimes we give our beloved words of consolation and sometimes we add to their difficulties, making their whole world burdened. But God’s gift – Sleep – puts an end to all such sufferings. No matter what words of consolation we say, we can’t solve the problems of our beloved. When things get hard and we have no words of consolation, all we can say to our beloved is to sleep.

“ ‘Sleep soft, beloved!’ we sometimes say,”

We say so, hoping that no bitter memories of hardships shall disturb their ‘happy slumber’. When we sleep, we forget our bad experiences and experience eternal peace. So, this peace gives us hope and when we wake up the next morning, we are prepared for the day. Now is there any gift which surpasses sleep?

Our earth is full of dreary noises and wailing voices of despair. We chase after money, wealth and other material prospects which might leave us anytime. So, God silences these wailings by putting everyone to sleep. God has created this earth and all natural elements and we humans sow and reap. Thus, Sleep is more delicate than the dew drops and clouds. It makes us feel as if we are on a delightful journey and makes us feel lighter.

We go on living, thinking, and feeling without even realizing what keeps us going everyday. It is the sleep which keeps us going everyday. When we sleep, we forget the hardships of today, and hope for a better tomorrow.

“Aye, men may wonder while they scan  

A living, thinking, feeling man  

Confirmed in such a rest to keep;”

Our world is a stage and we are like a tired child watching the performance of the mummers on the stage. So when our eyelids droop, we rest like a child on God’s lap. So, no matter how exhausted we are, it is the sleep which rejuvenates us at the end of the day.

The last stanza ends with the poet asking her friends not to mourn or weep when she dies, for she is just going to an eternal sleep and a state of peace after all. 

“Let One, most loving of you all,  

Say, ‘Not a tear must o’er her fall;  

He giveth His beloved, sleep.’“

The poem makes us understand how blessed we are to be able to sleep. We should no longer take our sleep for granted. Sleep improves both our mental and physical health. So, sleeping is the best thing ever. Finally, think if there is a greater gift than sleep.

“He giveth His beloved, sleep.”

Read the poem at https://poets.org/poem/sleep

‘Fear No More the Heat o’ the Sun’ by William Shakespeare.

Will you believe if someone says death can bring happiness and peace? Even the words ‘death’, ’happiness’ and ‘peace’ seem to not fit together. But when we read the extract “Fear No More the Heat o’ the Sun”, we probe into what death really is. Is it only capable of giving sadness and heartbreaks?

Starting with, this poem is an extract from Shakespeare’s play ‘Cymbeline’. It is sung by two characters Guiderius and Arviragus to the dead in the play. The characters take turns to sing the stanzas and lines of the poem.

The first stanza addresses the dead and it tells the dead not to dread the summer’s heat and winter’s harshness. The dead are set free from all the worldly responsibilities that weigh down the living. The dead needn’t worry about making ends and other materialistic needs. Only death treats all humans equally. Be it the children of high born stations or the ones who work as chimney sweepers, all return to ashes on their death. 

“Golden lads and girls all must,

As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.”

The dead needn’t fear the anger of the crown (a ruler by differing from him/her) and are free from the clutches of the tyrant. The dead needn’t worry about opposing and are free from all restraints. They needn’t worry about having proper clothes to wear and a proper meal to eat. And to them everything looks equal, be it big or small. All men powerful, intelligent, strong and valiant will meet the same end – they all return to dust. As the dead cannot bring anything along with them that can distinguish them from others, all are treated the same.

“The sceptre, learning, physic, must

All follow this, and come to dust.”

The dead needn’t fear ‘the lightning flash’ and ‘all-dreaded thunder stones’. They needn’t fear such natural elements and can rest in peace. When living are prone to be talked at by the society, the dead can sleep well without fearing to meet the society’s standards. They needn’t heed to the slanders and other harsh criticisms. The dead have completed all laughing and crying. They have nothing more to cry about and so they can rest well after their tiresome journey on the earth. Death doesn’t look at the age of the person it takes with it. Young or old all return to dust.

“All lovers young, all lovers must

Consign to thee, and come to dust.”

Now, the singers wish that no exorciser disturb the dead from their sleep and no sorcery to enchant them. The singers hope that ghosts will restrain themselves from approaching the dead and that no evil shall come near them. Nothing will dare to approach, for death has come and they pray that the grave should be known by all.

“Nothing ill come near thee!

Quiet consummation have;

And renowned be thy grave!”

When we die, we will be relieved of our burdens and worry. We experience a peace we have never experienced. Death comes with heartbreaks but also with relief. Hence, death may need not always be associated with negative feelings.

The repetition of the phrase, “and come to dust” in all the three stanzas, shows the temporal nature of human life. Everything that is material has no value on death. So, instead of running after material prospects, we should focus on eternal prospects. We can take nothing with us on our death but we can always leave something for the world. Thus, we should be kind and happy while living, and so we can leave happy memories for others on leaving.

‘A Poison Tree’ by William Blake.

“I don’t like her. I hate him. She makes me angry. He is fake. It is all an act.” 

Let us all confess that, at some point, we had hated someone. We harbor the hard feelings in our hearts and wear a façade to hide them. We act all elegant and nice outside but curse from inside. We are all hypocrites. 

So, William Blake explores this hypocrisy in his poem “A Poison Tree”. If we are angry with the other person, our anger will disappear when we talk it out. And we do so only with our friends and not our foes. When we don’t express ourselves, we let our anger grow into something ominous. 

In the second stanza, the poet illustrates how we nurture anger into a tree. 

“And I watered it in fears,

Night and morning with my tears;

And I sunned it with smiles,

And with soft deceitful wiles.”

Fear and hate are connected to each other. Where there is fear, there is hate. This can be simply explained with an example. If a person fears bugs, then they start hating bugs. This is because they fear that bugs might bite and so they kill the bugs out of hatred arising from fear. Similarly, when we fear that our anger will be exposed, we naturally start hating. We feel wronged and shed our tears. Then wearing a façade of goodness, we fake a smile and we start manipulating. Thus, the fears, tears, smiles and wiles together nurtures the tree healthy and strong.

“And it grew both day and night,

Till it bore an apple bright;”

As we constantly dwell on such hard feelings, the tree grows big ‘day and night’. The tree grows until it bears ‘an apple bright’. This is an allusion to the forbidden fruit which grows in the garden of Eden. Like the forbidden tree which brings the fall of Adam and Eve, we await for the apple to cause the ruin of our foe. 

One silent night, our foe trespasses into our garden and consumes the apple even after knowing it is poisoned. When we visit our poison tree in the morning, we are happy to see our foe dead. 

“In the morning glad I see

My foe outstretched beneath the tree.”

The last lines show us that we are glad to witness the success of our trap for the foe. We grow the whole tree aiming for a ruin and it happens. But what is our mental state on achieving such a success? Can we really be happy at others’ downfall? If so, what kind of person are we? Are we good? or are we bad? These questions arise in our minds. 

We all get angry and it is a normal human emotion. But we have to confront our anger and hold its reins before it controls us. There should be moral bounds for our anger. If not, it ruins ourselves and others. In our life, we keep dwelling on such negative emotions and keep hurting ourselves. So, let us not nurture poison trees anymore. Let’s nurture the love which the world is in need of.

‘The Darkling Thrush’ by Thomas Hardy.

Times are bad. Everything around us seems doleful and gloomy. Of the disasters we had only read in fiction, are now crawling out of the pages. At this time, all we want to find is hope. Hope , which consoles us that things will get better, expectations of the long nightmare ending and a belief that we too can resurrect ourselves like phoenix are those to which we dearly cling to.  

Similarly, the poem ‘The Darkling Thrush’ is also set in a sombre mood. When the poem starts, we find the poet looking at everything as disconsolate. He is at his gate looking at the frost covered surroundings. The frost has made everything look pale like a ghost. The sun is setting and the day is coming to an end. Even the bine-stems are lifeless this winter. The lanes which would usually be bustling with humans are now forlorn. Winter has shut men into their houses and men huddle around the hearth to feel the warmth.

“And all mankind that haunted nigh

Had sought their household fires.” 

These lines made me think that no matter how cold the outer world is, we feel warmth once inside our home. This warmth comes from our loved ones and it makes us not give up yet. 

When we learn the fact that this poem was written on the 29th of December in 1900, we understand the context of the second stanza better. It wasn’t just the end of the year but also of the century. It may even be considered as a dirge to the ending century. The land is referred to as the corpse of the century with the clouds forming its crypt and wind lamenting the death of the century. There is no trace of life. Even the germs and microorganisms from which we were born are also lying frozen beneath the frozen ground. Everything the poet sees looks as passionless as him.

“And every spirit upon earth

Seemed fervourless as I.”

In the third stanza, the poet finds the most extraordinary thing happening. A sweet singing voice vibrates through the air. It is full of happiness and uncontrollable joy. It is a thrush. It’s appearance isn’t so grand. It is old, weak, small and scruffy. But it pours its soul into the song as the day is darkening.

“An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,

In blast-beruffled plume,

Had chosen thus to fling his soul

Upon the growing gloom.”

It is interesting to note the description of the thrush. It is almost battered out of life yet it sings full of life and energy. Though we are worn out, though we are exhausted, we should never give up for we don’t know what lies ahead and for we haven’t opened all the doors.

 There is nothing notable in the surrounding which would inspire the thrush to sing. There is nothing so full of life like that ‘ecstatic sound’ near and far. The thrush singing is out of place and odd. But it carried with it something that was unknown to the poet. The bird knew of the ‘Hope’ that the poet failed to see. 

“That I could think there trembled through

His happy good-night air

Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew

And I was unaware.”

Though the surrounding is dreary and dull, the thrush knew that it wouldn’t be the same forever. The winter will eventually end; new things will spring from the ground; the lanes will once again be bustling with life. This the poet did not understand. The last lines of this poem also reminded me of the last line of Shelley’s ‘Ode to the West Wind’.

“If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”

We all should be like the little thrush. Finding hope and giving hope. All I want to say is – this too will pass away, and when tomorrow comes, it will be brighter than today.

Types of Poetry.

If you like to read poetry, you may as well like to know more about it. Poetry can either be subjective or objective. In subjective poetry, the poet expresses his own feelings and reflects his thoughts. Whereas in objective poetry, the poet talks about other things other than himself – like external objects, sceneries, events and so on. Though poetry is classified as above, it doesn’t completely belong to one type. This is to say that even the most objective poetry may contain some of the poet’s feelings. Poetry is further divided into several types as follows.

LYRIC:

This is of Greek origin and is a song often sung by a single person backed by a lyre in the ancient times. It carries a single emotion and is musical in composition. Later ages found that this form of poetry can be made musical just by the use of words without any music to back it. Vowels and consonants were arranged musically for this purpose. A lyric tends to be quite short for its effect is weakened by huge length. 

ODE:

 It is also of Greek origin. The subject and treatment is serious and exalted. It often addresses something or someone. The opening lines either contain apostrophe appeal. Eg: Shelley’s ‘Ode to the west wind’ starts with ‘O wild west wind…”. There are two types of odes namely the Dorian or Pindaric ode and the Lesbian or Horatian ode. 

SONNET:

As everyone knows, sonnet is a short poem. It is divided into two – the Italian Sonnet and the English sonnet. The Italian or Petrarchan sonnet contains fourteen lines concerning one single feeling or idea. It is divided into two parts – the Octave (contains eight lines) and the Setset (contains six lines). At the end of the eight line, there is a Caesura (a pause) followed by a Volta (a turn in thought). When this form was adopted by the English, it was altered. The fourteen lines were divided into three quatrains (stanzas of four lines) with a couplet to end. This is the form practiced by Shakespeare. 

ELEGY:

 Though this form bore a different meaning in older times, in modern connotation, it refers to a poem which takes up grim and doleful themes. It is often written in the memory of the dead but it can also take up other sorrowful subjects. There is another form called the Pastoral elegy in which the poet represents himself as a shepherd mourning the death of his friend. As the word ‘pastoral’ indicates, the setting and language are borrowed from countryside and country people.

EPIC:

 It is a long story told in verse with all the character, language, setting and treatment exalted. It often has a lofty theme and has divine interventions for most parts. The classical examples are Homer’s ‘Iliad’ and ‘Odyssey’. Mock Epic, as the name suggests, treats the most trivial theme in an epic manner. 

BALLAD:

It can be considered as one of the oldest forms of poetry as it developed during the early stages of civilization. The ballad is a short story in verse containing simplest subjects and themes. It takes its subject from the external world and nothing of the poet is known through the ballad. It is an objective poetry.

SATIRE:

It is a composition intending to attack a folly or vice. It attacks the sin and not the sinner. It is to create a light atmosphere even when it is scornful.  Some of the best English satirists were Dryden, Pope, and Byron.

This is just a basic introduction to the types of poetry. The study of poetry is exciting and engrossing. The book referred for the purpose of the article is ‘A Background to the Study of English Literature’ by B. Prasad.