Friday, April 16, 2021

Night of the Scorpion by Nissim Ezekiel - Poetry: The Best Words in the Best Order - #BlogchatterA2ZChallenge2021

 NIGHT OF THE SCORPION 

NISSIM EZEKIEL

                                                                      Beaming Notes

I remember the night my mother

was stung by a scorpion. Ten hours

of steady rain had driven him

to crawl beneath a sack of rice.


Parting with his poison - flash

of diabolic tail in the dark room -

he risked the rain again.


The peasants came like swarms of flies

and buzzed the name of God a hundred times

to paralyse the Evil One.


With candles and with lanterns

throwing giant scorpion shadows

on the mud-baked walls

they searched for him: he was not found.

They clicked their tongues.

With every movement that the scorpion made his poison

 moved in Mother's blood, they said.


May he sit still, they said

May the sins of your previous birth 

be burned away tonight, they said.

May your suffering decrease 

the misfortunes of your next birth, they said.

May the sum of all evil 

balanced in this unreal world


against the sum of good

be diminished by your pain.

May the poison purify your flesh


of desire, and your spirit of ambition,

they said, and they sat around

on the floor with my mother in the centre,

the peace of understanding on each face.

More candles, more lanterns, more neighbours,

more insects, and the endless rain.


                                                             SlideServe

My mother twisted through and through,

groaning on a mat.

My father, sceptic, rationalist,

trying every curse and blessing.

powder, mixture, herb and hybrid.

He even poured a little paraffin 

upon the bitten toe and put a match to it.

I watched the flame feeding on my mother.

I watched the holy man perform his rites to tame the poison with an 

incantation.

After twenty hours 

it lost its sting.


My mother only said

Thank God the scorpion picked on me

And spared my children.

                                                               Quotefancy

The Poet: Nissim Ezekiel (1924 - 2004)

Nissim Ezekiel was an Indian poet of Jewish descent who brought out some popular volumes of poetry collections. He was even described as 'the father of post-Independence Indian verse in English'. He wore myriad caps as a teacher, broadcaster, actor, director, editor and critic. He enhanced the influence of Indian English poetry through his modernist techniques, moving beyond themes that were spiritual and oriental to those that encompassed wider societal themes. He was influenced by the writings of  T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. Today, his poems are used in NCERT and ICSE textbooks.

'Night of the Scorpion' is one of Ezekiel's most popular poems. In the poem, the poet describes one rainy night when his mother was bitten by a scorpion. The villagers came in hordes to help the family. They looked for the creature everywhere, but could not find him. They chanted the name of God and hoped that the mother's sins would be burnt away, and that the pain of the poison would absolve her of the sufferings in her next birth as well.

The father was a rationalist, but he could not bear to see his wife in pain. Willing to try every remedy, he even poured some paraffin on her bitten toe and set it on fire. The holy man performed his rites.

However, after twenty hours went by, the sting was removed, the poison lost its power and the mother recovered. In the selfless manner of a mother, she thanked God that the scorpion had bitten her and spared her children.

The poem is couched in simple language, but it reveals a number of superstitions and attitudes that are commonly found in villages and small towns. Religion plays a significant role in the way people handle traumatic situations.

                                                              IndiaContent

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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Mending Wall by Robert Frost - Poetry: The Best Words in the Best Order - #BlogchatterA2ZChallenge2021

 MENDING WALL 

ROBERT FROST

                                                               Scholars' Park

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,'

That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,

And spills the upper boulders in the sun;

And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.

The work of hunters is another thing:

I have come after them and made repair

Where they have left not one stone on a stone,

But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,

To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,

No one has seen them made or heard them made,

But at spring mending-time we find them there.

                                                               Pen and the Pad

I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;

And on a day we meet to walk the line

And set the wall between us once again.

We keep the wall between us as we go.

To catch the boulders that have fallen to each.

And some are loaves and some so nearly balls

We have to use a spell to make them balance:

'Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'

We wear our fingers rough with handling them.

Oh, just another kind of out-door game,

One on a side. It comes to little more.

There where it is we do not need the wall:

He is all pine and I am apple orchard.

My apple trees will never get across

And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.

He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors!'

Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder

If I could put a notion in his head:

'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it

Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.

Before I built a wall I'd ask to know

What I was walling in or walling out,

And to whom I was like to give offense.

Something there is that doesn't love a wall,

That wants it down.' I could say 'Elves' to him,'

But it's not elves exactly, and I'd rather

He said it for himself. I see him there

Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top 

In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.

He moves in darkness as it seems to me,

Not of woods only, and the shade of trees.

He will not go behind his father's saying,

And he likes having thought of it so well

He says again, 'Good fences make good neighbors'. 

                                                                    Aphrodite's Vision

The Poet: Robert Frost (1874 -1963)
Robert Frost has the distinction of being known as one of America's "public literary figures, almost an artistic institution". He won four Pulitzer Prizes for poetry, and his poems are quoted across the world as axioms. He mostly wrote on rural themes in New England, and his poems reveal deep philosophical and social insights though couched in deceptively simple language. His poem - 'The Road Not Taken' - has influenced a number of people on the choices to be taken in life. 'Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening' had the famous lines - 
      The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Fuel Running

'Mending Wall' talks about how men build walls or barriers between them, walls that are not required. Nature herself does not love a wall. Often these walls crumble naturally or when hunters force their way through to flush out rabbits. The poet does not approve of a wall, but ironically, in spring time, he helps his dour neighbor to mend the wall. 
Jocularly, he tells his neighbor, who reminds him of an ancient caveman carrying a stone in each hand, that his apple trees will never get across and eat the pine cones in his neighbor's field.
The neighbor only replies, "Good fences make good neighbors." The poet wonders what it is that he is walling in, or walling out. 

 
Slide Player

                                                                          Slide Player

Two points of view come out clearly in the poem. The poet argues that walls should not exist because they create barriers between people, and nations across the world.
The neighbor replies that walls are required to maintain harmonious relationships because they prevent conflict and aggression. Two interesting points of view, indeed!

                                                                            Biography

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La Belle Dame sans Merci by John Keats - Poetry: The Best Words in the Best Order - #BlogchatterA2ZChallenge 2021

 LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI

JOHN KEATS

                                                            biblodiac - WordPress.com

O what can ail thee, knight at arms,

Alone and palely loitering?

The sedge has withered from the lake,

And no birds sing.


O what can ail thee, knight-at arms,

So haggard and woe-begone?

The squirrel's granary is full,

And the harvest's done. 


I see a lily on thy brow,

With anguish moist and fever-dew,

And on thy cheeks a fading rose

Fast withereth too.


I met a lady in the meads,

Full beautiful - a faery's child,

Her hair was long, her foot was light, 

And her eyes were wild.

                                                        cheekypinky - WordPress.com

I made a garland for her head,

And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;

She looked at me as she did love, 

And made sweet moan.


I set her on my pacing steed,

And nothing else saw all day long,

For sidelong would she bend, and sing

A faery's song.

                                                               Royal-Painting.com

She found me roots of relish sweet, 

And honey wild, and manna-dew,

And sure in language strange she said -

"I love thee true."


She took me to her Elfin grot,

And there she wept and cried full sore,

And there I shut her wild wild eyes

With kisses four.


And there she lulled me asleep,

And there I dreamed - Ah! woe betide! -

The latest dream I ever dreamt

On the cold hill side.


I saw pale kings and princes too,

Pale warriors, death-pale were they all:

They cried, "La Belle Dame sans Merci

Thee hath in thrall!"


I saw their starved lips in the gloam,

With horrid warning gaped wide,

And I awoke and found me here,

On the cold hill's side.


And this is why I sojourn here,

Alone and palely loitering,

Though the sedge is withered from the lake,

And no birds sing.

                                                         GCSE English Analysis

The Poet: John Keats (1795 - 1821)

John Keats is considered as one of the finest Romantic poets, even though he died at the young age of twenty-five, having published only 54 poems in all. However, the quality of his writing, rich in imagery and content, powerful yet devoid of mythic grandeur, make him stand, shoulder to shoulder, with William Shakespeare's persona as a lyric poet, as seen in the latter's sonnets. Literature, for Keats, was a labour of love through which he could lead humankind towards beauty and inspiration.

                                                                 The Guardian

'La Belle Dame sans Merci' was written as a ballad and took its inspiration from 'Lyrical Ballads', written as a collaboration between William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Keats was a keen reader of the latter's poetry, and influenced by it as well. 

The poem deals with the loss of love, a parallel of which can be drawn in Keats' own life as well. It is known for its stark economy of form, the lines being short and forceful. It reveals his love for his neighbour, Fanny Brawne, and his awareness of his own impending death. 

The knight-at-arms wanders along listlessly, looking haggard and love-lorn. He had met a beautiful lady, a faery's child with wild eyes. They had spent hours of dalliance together and he could not have been happier. However, she lulled him to sleep and when he awoke, the horror had overtaken him. Was it a dream or was it reality? He found himself lying alone on the cold hill side, seeing visions of pale kings and princes, all of whom had been the victims of 'La Belle Dame sans Merci' or the beautiful lady without pity, a lady who had entrapped them with her seductive beauty, and them left them high and dry.

There is a hint of the supernatural in the poem that makes it highly evocative. Romance, music and Gothic horror - this poem has it all. The genius of Keats was cut short when he died early. His epitaph reads, "Here lies one whose name was writ in water."

Wordsworth Trust


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Monday, April 12, 2021

Krishna, You Know Me Not by Sugatha Kumari - Poetry: The Best Words in the best Order - #BlogchatterA2ZChallenge 2021

 Krishna, You know Me Not 

Sugatha Kumari

(Translated by Ministhy S Nair)


Here in the corner of Ambady

Inside my small mud hut, I reside

Silently.

Krishna, You Know Me Not.

Clad in colourful skirts, anklets tinkling

With a shiny pot at my shapely waist

Black kohl of desire in my eyes,

I have never been to your side. 

Krishna, You Know Me Not.

                                                                             YouTube

Half coloured by the flirtatious Kalindi,

Eyes cast down shyly, body trembling,

I have never sought my clothes from you,

With my hands outstretched.

Krishna, You Know Me Not.

Inside the dark forests as your flute beckons

Dressing half-done, ignoring the boiling milk

Incomplete household chores, regardless of my 

Robes slipping, hair undone, not seeing my crying child,

The raised eyebrows of my spouse,

I have never come running with my friends

To be with you.

Krishna, You Know Me Not.

I listened as their anklets' sounds faded afar -

Then with eyes cast down, always returned

To my work, chaining my life down within;

With a thousand little chores.

Krishna, You Know Me Not.

When you shone like the full moon

Sensuous dancing gopikas all around you,

As the flute turns naughty and then maddening

Anklets burst out laughing, bangles round shapely arms

Flashing rainbow colours, golden bodies swaying ecstatically,

Dresses undulating, but I have never danced thus with

 my hair all afire.

Krishna, You Know Me Not.

                                                               Pinterest

Exhausted by the dance, body drenched in sweet sweat,

Resting myself against the flowering tree -

Bosom heaving with desire,

I have never stared at your enchanting face.

Krishna, You Know Me Not.

Never has any wily girlfriend passed on 

My lovelorn message to your ears,

Never have I waited for your approaching footsteps

Within a white flowered arbor, within the deep woods.

Krishna, You Know Me Not.

As a hundred white flowers bloomed

Spreading intoxication in the moonlight,

I have never rested my eager head

Against that manly, blue chest.

Krishna, You Know Me Not.

When your flute melodiously announced

The arrival of spring,

Locking myself within my home,

I offered my soul at your feet,

Shedding tears of joy, unknown to anyone.

Krishna, You Know Me Not.

                                                                cyberspaceandtime.com

Gokul resounds with heartrending cries!

Akroor has arrived to take away

Krishna to Mathura, they shout!

Struck dumb, motionless as I sit outside my house

Horse hooves approach, a chariot nearing.

As I raise my eyes...

You radiate like the full moon night

Inside the King's chariot.

Women cry from behind, cows and calves run alongside,

You look back, with anguished, reddened eyes. 

As I freeze like a cold stone structure,

Though you know me not, Krishna,

Your chariot stops for one moment before me.

You look at me, tears filling your eyes to the brim.

A compassionate smile, so divine from your lips for me.

Krishna, do you know me after all?

Krishna, did you know me all the while?

                                                                       Pinterest

The Poet: Sugatha Kumari (1934 - 2020)

Sugatha Kumari is one of the most loved poets of Kerala, known for poems that are sensitive and philosophical. She was also an environmentalist and feminist with a heart that beat for the downtrodden in society. She founded Abhaya, a shelter for mentally challenged women and was also actively involved in the Save Silent Valley Movement, where her poem titled Ode to a Tree' (Marathinu Stuthi) became a symbol of protest for the movement. Having won numerous prestigious awards, when she passed away due to COVID-19 complications, it was a huge loss to Malayalam literature.

The exquisite 'Krishna, You Know Me Not' is a classic poem, which describes the feelings of an unknown gopika who sings her heart out, a gopika who has kept away from all the numerous things done by other gopikas to attract the attention of their beautiful, blue-bodied Krishna. She has never looked at him with eyes drenched with desire, or run to him with her friends, or danced the Rasa Leela with him, her anklets jingling. She has never waited for his approaching footsteps or rested her head against his manly chest.

 The beautiful refrain, 'Krishna, You Know Me Not' comes at the end of every stanza. Though she has offered her soul at his feet, she has never interacted with him. However, when Akroor comes to take him away to Mathura, and when all the gopikas weep at the separation, Krishna himself looks back with reddened eyes filled with anguish. 

However, as she watches, Krishna stops his chariot for a moment in front of her house, his eyes filling with tears as a divine smile blooms at his lips. Her heart fills with immense joy as she looks at him and asks, 

"Krishna, do you know me after all? Krishna, did you know me all the while?"

The longing and the unexpressed love of the gopika make this poem unforgettable. No wonder it has caught the eye of the listener, having attained a unique status in the annals of Malayalam literature. The emotions within the poem have inspired numerous dancers to create poignant pieces around it. The poem has also been put to music and sung soulfully by both Chitra and G Venugopal. The superlative English translation by Ministhy S Nair is a boon to non-Malayalam speaking readers.

Sugatha Kumari - Times of India

If you would like to listen to the beautiful rendition of the poem by Chitra, here is the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBdcqIl0Ir0


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Journey by Edna St. Vincent Millay - Poetry: The Best Words in the Best Order - #BlogchatterA2ZChallenge2021

 JOURNEY

EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY

                                                          Ipseand - WordPress.com

Ah, could I lay me down in this long grass

And close my eyes, and let the quiet wind

Blow over me - I am so tired, so tired

Of passing pleasant places! All my life,

Following Care along the dusty road, 

Have I looked back and loveliness, and sighed;

Yet at my hand an unrelenting hand

Tugged ever, and I passed. All my life long

Over my shoulder have I looked at peace;

And now I fain would lie in this long grass

And close my eyes.

Yet onward!

Cat birds call

Through the long afternoon, and creeks at dusk

Are guttural. Whip-poor-wills wake and cry,

Drawing the twilight close about their throats.

Only my heart makes answer. Eager vines

Go up the rocks and wait; flushed apple-trees

Pause in their dance and break the ring for me;

And bayberry, that through sweet bevies thread

Of round-faced roses, pink and petulant,

Look back and beckon ere they disappear.

Only my heart, only my heart responds.

Yet, ah, my path is sweet on either side

All through the dragging day - sharp, underfoot

And hot, and like dead mist the dry dust hangs - 

But far, oh, far as passionate eye can reach,

And long, ah long as rapturous eye can cling,

The world is mine: blue hill, still silver lake,

Broad field, bright flower, and the long white road

A gateless garden, and an open path:

My feet to follow, and my heart to hold.

                                                                Aimee's Victorian Armoire

The Poet: Edna St. Vincent Millay: (1892 - 1950)

Edna St. Vincent Millay is known as one of the most prominent American poets, known for both her dramatic pieces and her lyric poetry. A contemporary of Robert Frost, she was also, like him, known for her skill in writing sonnets, as also blending the modern and the traditional to create magic. Her popularity sky-rocketed further when she won the Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1923, the first woman to do so. Her reading repertoire consisted of William Shakespeare, John Milton, William Wordsworth, Alfred Tennyson, Charles Dickens and many more such great litterateurs.

'Journey' speaks of a woman's desire to lie down, relax and let the breeze blow over her tired body. It is clear that she has never stopped her frenetic pace, because of an unrelenting hand that tugs at her own hand, not allowing her to pause.

If she were allowed a moment of rest, she would hear the different bird calls and the sound of the creek at dusk. Her heart would answer the cries of the Whip-poor-wills who herald the onset of twilight. The flowers, the roses, are personified as they turn around, beckon and then disappear. Her heart responds to all of them.

                                                                 Read and Ripe

She cannot step on the sweet path that runs along the side, but must continue along the day that drags, covered with dry, unpleasant dust. However, she discovers the power of her eyes to reach beyond the place where her body can go. Thus, the world is hers, in which she can see the beautiful blue hill, the silver lake, and a gateless garden though which she can walk along a broad path, which she can hold in her heart, and follow with her feet.

The poem lauds the power of imagination which can allow the mind to float free even when the body is unable to follow.

                                                               Poetry Foundation

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Saturday, April 10, 2021

If by Rudyard Kipling - Poetry: The Best Words in the Best Order - #BlogchatterA2ZChallenge2021

 IF

Rudyard Kipling

 
Legends Report


    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, not 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 imposters 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:

                                                                      Tom McCallum

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 nerve and heart and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone, 

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will that 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!

                                                                            Posterama

The Poet: Rudyard Kipling: (1865 -1936)

Rudyard Kipling was born in India, and much of his work was inspired by his association with the sub continent. 'The Jungle Book' was one of his most popular novels, and the movies broke all records in viewership. Other works like 'Kim', and poems like 'Gunga Din', 'Mandalay' and 'The White Man's Burden' have their admirers as well.

In 1907, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, and was considered one of the most renowned writers in the UK in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. His short stories are also considered rather remarkable.

The poem 'If' is replete with sound advice and inspiration on how to live life and face its challenges. Khushwant Singh called the poem "the essence of the message of the Gita in English".

In a nutshell, the poem starts with a father giving his son an outline of good behaviour so that he can fit into society. He tells him to keep his cool, and to not respond to lies or hatred. He needs to live life with equanimity, and treat triumph and disaster with ease, and not respond to flattery. He should have the strength of mind to pick up the pieces of a broken life, when required, and rebuild it.

It is equally vital to keep his nerve when he risks his winnings on one toss, and stay calm, no matter what. Finally, he needs to treat all men, whether common or blue-blooded with courtesy and never get too close to friends or foes.

If he can do all this gracefully, he will 'be a Man'.

This poem has kindled the imagination of people across the world, and is oft-quoted by those wanting to emphasize on how to live a good and dignified life. 

                                                                        High Existence

                                                                          The New Yorker

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Friday, April 9, 2021

Human Nature by Eugene Field - Poetry: The Best Words in the Best Order - #BlogchatterA2ZChallenge2021

 Human Nature

Eugene Field

                                                                             www.pinterest.co.kr

A beggar-man crept to my side

One bitter, wintry time;

"I want to buy a drink," he cried;

"Please give me, Sir, a dime."

If he had craved this boon forlorn 

To buy his family meat,

I would have passed him by in scorn,

And left him in the street.

I tossed a dollar in his hand,

And quoth, "As o'er your wine

Within the tippling-room you stand

Drink thou to me and mine."

He let an earnest "Thank ye" drop -

Then up the street he sped,

And rushed into a baker's shop,

And bought a loaf of bread!

I know not why it was, and yet,

So sudden was the blow,

I felt emotions of regret

That he had duped me so.

Yet, had the hungry beggar said

That he was sore in need

Of that necessity called "bread",

What man would pay him heed?

                                                                 Getty Images

The Poet: Eugene Field (1850 - 1895)

Eugene Field was a poet, popular for his children's poems and humorous essays. For this reason, he was known as the 'poet of childhood'. He also worked in a newspaper, the St. Louis Journal, where his column titled 'Funny Fancies' garnered many chuckles. He was an amazing mimic as well. Next, he moved to Denver to work at the Denver Tribune where he was known to play pranks on unsuspecting visitors. His most loved poem was 'Wynken, Blynken and Nod'. 

                                                                          Goodreads

'Human Nature' talks of how contrary human nature is. On a cold wintry day, the poet was once accosted by a beggar who asked him for a dime to buy a drink. If he had asked him for money to buy meat for his family, the poet might have passed by him scornfully.

The poet tossed him a dime and asked him to drink a toast to him (the poet) and his own. The man thanked him and hurried away onto a baker's shop where he bought himself a loaf of bread instead.

Strange it was that the poet felt a sense of regret at having been duped. Had the man told him that he was in need of bread, a necessity, would any man, including the poet, have heeded him and given him the money?

The poem brings out the simple truth that human nature is so very contrary!  


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Night of the Scorpion by Nissim Ezekiel - Poetry: The Best Words in the Best Order - #BlogchatterA2ZChallenge2021

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