THE SQUIRREL (POEM)
In the poem ‘The Squirrel’ the poet Mildred Bowers Armstrong describes a squirrel which he sees in his garden. The poet discusses how the squirrel, wrapped in grey fur, sits on a tree branch eating a nut in an upright position. Due to its twisted form, his tail looks like a question mark. The cheerful and colourful squirrel likes to play with the poet and her friends. Whenever they ran around his tree, he would run to the other side of the tree. About the essence of the squirrel, the poet tells us that it is innocently naughty and likes to taunt anyone who comes close to him.
1. Ware– put on
2. Question mark– mark of question
3. Overcoat– long loose coat
4. Tease– irritate
5. Interrogation– question
6. Other way– opposite direction
Summary of The Squirrel
This short and beautiful poem talks about a squirrel, one of the most loving creatures found on earth. The poet describes a squirrel sitting on a tree and eating a nut. He sat straight and his tail appeared like a question mark and the writer found it quite amusing.
He is described as wearing a gray overcoat pointing towards the gray, furry skin of the squirrel. Interestingly, the squirrel liked to tease and play. The writer and perhaps his friends ran after him only to scare him away and making him take the other way.
It is to be noted that the writer uses “he” and “his” instead of ‘it’ in case of an animal or any other creature or an object as is generally used. The squirrel is also described wearing a “gray overcoat” just like human beings. This is called ‘Personification’ in which a non- living object or an animal or any creature is treated as a human being and the. qualities of a human being are attributed to it. ‘Personification’ is an important element used in writing a prose or a poem in order to make it more interesting.
“He wore a question mark for tail,
An overcoat of gray,
He sat up straight to eat a nut.”
In the first three lines, we find the poet describing a squirrel who was found sitting on a tree and eating a nut. His tail seemed to him just like the commonly used ‘question mark’ and he had a grey, hairy skin referred to as an “overcoat”. This squirrel sat straight and it appeared that he was loving the nuts.
“He liked to tease and play,
And if we ran around his tree,
He went the other way.”
In the last three lines, the squirrel is described as a fun loving and naughty creature. He liked teasing and playing as the poet noticed and if the poet and perhaps his friends ran around his tree following him, he went in the opposite direction out of fear. Therefore, it seems that a squirrel is a very sensitive creature as well and as we all might have commonly noticed, it is afraid of outsiders, either a human being or any other creature.
Reference to Context
He wore a question mark for tail,
An overcoat of grey,
He sat up straight to eat a nut,
He liked to tease and play.
And if we ran around his tree,
He went the other way
Reference: The above lines have been taken from Mildred Bowers Armstrong’s composition, “ The Squirrel ”
Context: In these lines, the poet describes the unique characteristics of the squirrel.
Explanation: The stanza begins with a physical description of the squirrel. The squirrel is grey coloured and therefore the poet says that he wears “an overcoat of grey,” his tail is twisted like a question mark. Further, the post describes the food that the squirrel mostly enjoys. He loves to eat nuts. The poet loves the game of hide and seek between him and the squirrel, the squirrel would go and hide in the other direction.
Q. 1. What is compared with grey overcoat?
Ans: The squirrel’s body is compared with a grey overcoat.
Q. 2. Who is sitting on the ground and what is it doing?
Ans: The squirrel is sitting on the ground and is eating a nut.
Q. 3. What does it do when we go around?
Ans: It disappears behind the tree when we go around.
Q. 4. How does the poet describe the squirrel?
Ans: The poet describes the squirrel as a naughty and intelligent animal whose tail is like a question mark and who wears a coat.
Q. 5. Do you like poets description of the squirrel?
Ans: Yes, this description is very much like a squirrel appears.
ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS
1. Why does the poet say the squirrel “wore a question mark for tail”? Draw a squirrel, or find a picture of a squirrel sitting on the ground. How would you describe its tail?
Ans: The poet says so because the bushy tail of a squirrel sitting on the ground is curled back on its body in a curved shape that looks very similar to the punctuation mark at the end of an interrogative sentence. I would describe it as a furry and bushy cloth worn on its back that seems to ask you the question – what?
The poet says that the squirrel wore a question mark because its tail looks like a question mark when it sits on the ground eating a nut. I will describe its tail as if it is a stick having a hook at the top.
2. “He liked to tease and play”. Who is teasing whom? How?
Ans: The squirrel is a naughty playful animal. It loves to be chased by other squirrels and kids as well. When the poet and his friends ran around the tree on which the squirrel is sitting, it went the other way teasing them and playing with them.
The squirrel is teasing the poet. When the poet goes around, the squirrel disappears behind the tree.
3. You may have seen a squirrel sitting on the ground eating a nut. What did it look like?
Ans: The squirrel is a rodent. It is grey in colour with brown stripes on its back. It is very small in size with fur on its body and a large bushy tail. It generally lives in trees and likes to eat nuts. It is a playful and naughty animal.
4. Do we usually say that an animal ‘wears’ a tail? What do we say? (Think: Does an animal wear a coat? Consult a dictionary if you like, and find out how ‘wear’ is used in different ways.)
Ans: No, we do not usually say that an animal wears a tail. We say that an animal has a tail.
5. Having observed the squirrels around us, can we say that a squirrel is a fast-paced animal?
Ans. Yes, based on our observation of the squirrels around us, we can conclude that the squirrel is a fast-paced species, we rarely find squirrels still sitting, even when they bite into the nuts. Typically, we see squirrels move from one location to another with a lot of energy.
6. What does the poem say about the poet’s choice of subject?
Ans. The poem is a result of the poet’s ability to write poetry on the most mundane elements that we daily observe in our surroundings. The squirrel is the most frequently encountered species we see around us. Yet very few of us would have thought of it as a powerful topic for the pen of a writer. The poet addresses in a very clear way the different facets of the squirrel, which each one of us must have studied closely.
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