WHEN AUTUMN CAME
The different seasons of the year have also been favourite subjects of literary and artistic expression. Each season comes with its own charm and beauty. For many, Spring, with its lengthening days and reappearance of gentle greens, is the most beautiful season of the year; the long, warm days of Summer appeal to others; the bright oranges and browns and reds of Autumn bring delight to some; and the short, cold days of winter with its snow and wood fires bring a sense of comfort and rest to many. In an unusual take on autumn, the poet, Faiz Ahmed Faiz, portrays the season as a time of harsh cruelty and violent death. Autumn is symbolized as a period of misery and loss.
This is the way……….a single moan of protest.
In these lines, the poet shows autumn making its appearance as a harsh, aggressive person, who uses violence and force to strip the leaves off the branches of the trees. The leaves of the trees turn from green to yellow with the onset of autumn, and one by one fall to the ground below. (That is why this season is also referred to as “Fall” in America.)
In these lines, the poet compares the bare trunks of the trees to the black slaves of Africa, who have had a long, tragic history of oppression and slavery, being enslaved for centuries by various civilisations, like the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs, etc, till the early half of the previous century by the European colonists and the white Americans. (Ebony is a type of tree, unique to Africa, which is of a rich, intense black colour.) The yellowing leaves of the trees are like the hearts of these black slaves, being shaken and tortured by the slave-drivers and owners, as they are led off bound and chained, mute and silent in their suffering. Thus, autumn is depicted as a cruel, heartless oppressor bringing suffering and violence with him.
- Trample=crush under ones feet
- Moan= a soft sound of pain
The birds that herald…………….. strung his bow.
As days become colder and shorter, many birds start their migration to warmer lands and, thus, one can no longer hear the sweet songs of these birds during the autumn months. However, the poet, continuing with the theme of violence and cruelty, paints a vivid, moving picture of a heartless person brutally ripping out the voices (the vocal cords) of the birds from their throats, so that the birds drop dead to the ground. Even though the birds had been exiled, (or separated, from their songs), the person seems to perform this mindless act of cruelty, not giving them the chance or time to leave the land.
Oh, God of May………………..Let one bird sing.
Resurrection means to rise from the dead; in other words, to come back to life. In the given lines, the poet now appeals to the more merciful God or authority of the month of May to infuse or inject new life into the dried out, shrunken bodies of the birds and the trees, so that they too could come back to life. The seasons of the year symbolise the cycle of life and death, of regeneration, of continuity. The months of April and May are the time of new growth, of renewal.
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE POEM
From our reading of When Autumn Came, it seems obvious that the season of autumn is a gloomy, dismal (depressing) time of the year for the poet. He sees it as a season that brings an end (and that too a violent and cruel end), to natural things like the trees and the birds. The shedding of leaves and the migration of birds to warmer lands, are portrayed in a very bleak and dark picture of untimely death at the hands of a brutal, vicious oppressor. He even ends on a pessimistic note, almost begging the God of May to give new life to at least one tree and one bird, as if he’s not certain his heartfelt plea/prayer will be answered.
Questions and Answers
Q. 1 The autumn season is characterized by few things. What are they?
Ans. Ripening of fruits, harvesting, falling of leaves from the trees, cooling of weather are the distinct features of the autumn season.
Q. 2 Does the poet talks about all those characteristics?
Ans. The poet does not talk about all those characteristics. He only talks about the falling of leaves from the trees.
Q. 3 What is the impact of autumn on the trees?
Ans. The autumn snatches the trees from their leaves and makes them naked.
Q. 4 What happens to the birds when autumn comes?
Ans. Birds are exiled from their own nests and deprived of their singing when autumn comes.
Q. 5 Why does the poet invoke the God of May?
Ans. The poet invokes the God of May so that the naked trees and exiled birds will bloom again with their pristine glory.
Reference to the Context
1.It shook out……. moon of protest.
a) Who is ‘it’. Whose yellow heart did it shake?
Ans. ‘It’ stands for the autumn season. It shook out yellow hearts of the trees by making their leaves fall on the ground.
b) What happens to the leaves that are scattered on the ground?
Ans. The leaves that are scattered on the ground get trampled by the people.
c) When will these withered trees bloom again?
Ans. These withered trees will again in spring season.
2. Give some trees…….. Let bird sing.
a) What is the gift of green? Who will receive it?
Ans. The gift of green refers to green leaves. The trees will receive it.
b) What is the poet asking for when he says let one bird sing?
Ans. The poet is asking for the arrival of the spring so that the trees will be restored with the green leaves and the birds will resume their singing.
c) What had happened to the birds in autumn?
Ans. The birds have been exiled from their nests and single.