In the poem, Nissim Ezekiel tries to highlight the common qualities in a poet,
lover and the bird watcher. The poem is a testimonial of the good observation of the poet. He compares and contrasts the qualities of all the three revealing how their quest ends.
‘Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher’: A Critical Appreciation
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream William Shakespeare finds the lover, the lunatic and the poet to be living in the world of imagination and so he puts the three together, when he says:
The lover, the lunatic and the poet
Are of imagination all compact.
In the poem ‘Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher’ Nissim Ezekiel replaces the lunatic by the birdwatcher and brackets the poet,the lover and the birdwatcher together and finds the three to be alike as all the three have to wait and, in order to gain success, they cannot depend on their being up and doing and fast. There are areas where one’s being speedy and remaining engaged brings one success but this is not so in the fields of composing poetry, courting a beloved and watching birds. One who studies birds does not attain success by becoming speedy in one’s actions and by never becoming still. Similarly, a lover has to wait and cannot attain success by forcing oneself to be swift and to remain engaged.
Likewise, a poet cannot succeed in his field by becoming swift and keeping himself engaged. A poet has to wait for the right word to cross through his mind. And just as in the field of bird-watching much depends on the mood of the bird, in the field of love much depends on the mood of the beloved, and in the field of writing poetry, much depends on the right word’s occurring to the poet: it may occur in a second, or it may take hours to occur.
In other words, neither a poet, nor a lover, nor a bird-watcher can get things done at his will: the will of the word, the beloved and the bird too matters. A bird-watcher has to wait patiently up a hill in a relaxed mood and watch the timid bird’s movements. He cannot make the bird exhibit its ways to him as and when he wants it to. He has to make the bird feel that he is not an intruder as the moment the bird feels disturbed, it will fly away and the bird-watcher will lose the bird.
Likewise, a lover has to win the heart of the beloved and has to wait patiently until she comes to know that he is in love with her. The moment she comes to know that she is loved, she will take the risk of surrendering.
A poet too has to wait until his spirit has moved: he is able to say his say only when his spirit has started speaking. So long as he is using only his intellect, he should not speak as at that time his words will not be able to express what he wants to say.
The piece of advice that a bird-watcher has to be patient and has to move very slowly implies that in order to watch the rarer birds one has to go to lonely places and to the places where nature has not been disturbed by man: he maynhave to go to the source of a river where man has not yet disturbed the landscape or along the lanes which are no longer frequented by human beings. Likewise, a lover has to go to the dark floor of the beloved’s heart and know her unexpressed desires. The beloved responds only when the lover has reached the beloved’s heart which is not easy to reach and where one may find many pricking thorn-like desires. But when the lover reaches the dark floor of then beloved’s heart, he gets not only her body but the whole of her – whatever she is. According to the poet the beloved is a myth of light having darkness at the core. The poet seems to be using the image of a flame which gives light no doubt but has darkness at the core. If it is so he likens the beloved to a flame here. If he means to say that the beloved is not light but only a myth of light having darkness at the core, he means to say that the lover is disillusioned and realizes that the beloved is not as valuable a person as he believed her to be.
The poem consists of twenty lines grouped into four stanzas of five lines each. The rhyme scheme in the first stanza is abbaa, and in the second stanza it is cdcdd. In the second half of the poem, the same pattern recurs: the rhyme scheme in the first stanza is abbaa, and in the second stanza it is ababb.
The poem has been written in iambic pentameter and with a few exceptions, each line is decasyllabic. The exceptions are the eleventh line, which consists of eleven syllables, and the thirteenth line, which consists of twelve syllables.
Paraphrase of the poem
Nissim Ezekiel examines common qualities between a poet, lover and a bird watcher. A bird watcher is never still in his curiosity for birds. His mind is always in search of something novel about birds. He observes the birds in a still motion. He never speeds up as far as his observation is concerned. The same rule applies to both lovers and poets.
The lover studies women and the poet studies words or language.
They wait for the right woman and the right words respectively. The hunt of all three is an exercise in itself. At the same time, the hunt is not based upon their own will. The situation and needs shapeup their untiring hunt. Their hunt needs persistent tolerance and patience. A bird watcher needs to relax on a hill for long hours even to note a single movement of the wings of a bird. He has to be motionless since the birds are timid by nature.
Whereas a lover waits till he is sure that a woman loves him. The immediate action by his is he stops waiting and surrenders himself. He even at times risks by surrendering.
A poet never speaks or expresses himself until his spirit is moved by something. When he proves that his morals are turning right, then he moves to write poetry. All the three: poet, lover and birdwatcher move in a slow pace though they say much more than one can understand.
Their creativity demands untiring efforts.
If a bird watcher wants to study rare species of birds, he has to ungrudgingly move in deserted lanes and rivers, shores where there is a company of silence only. The path of all three is very remote and thorny i.e. full of hurdles. The poet compares this path to one’s heart which has a dark floor because it is difficult to comprehend the depth of one’s heart.
The poet feels women are not just a bunch of flesh and bones but are like incomprehensible myths of light whose depth has no concrete limits.
The search of all three is in the darkness without any concrete path of their aspirations. At the centre of their quest, there is darkness but it is full of meaning for them. They all are moving in an impractical world according to the sensible beings. Their credit lies in giving meaning even to the senseless quest. The outcome of their quest is almost out of the world and something miraculous.
Ezekiel’s Poet, Lover and Birdwatcher is a short poem which deals with the creative process of writing a poem. It is a simple yet significant poem written in two stanzas of ten lines each. The rhyme scheme of the poem is abbaa cdcdd in which Ezekiel compares a poet with lover and birdwatcher. The poem provides a beautiful description to understand the period in which a poem comes into existence. The poem captures journey of poet, lover and birdwatcher to reach their final destination, their pathways are different but have a close connection in their search of words, love and birds. In the beginning of the poem, Ezekiel clarify that the act of watching birds and to win the heart of beloved is a natural process and not a forceful activity. As the poem starts, “To force the pace and never to be still/Is not the way of those who study birds/Or women…” it indicates that those who examine the habits of birds or a lover to win the heart of beloved have to work with patience. The poet advises not to make any haste if they naturally want to succeed in their act otherwise, they may be loose what they are going to have. Similarly, a poet when he composes a poem has to wait for appropriate words. A poet also requires deep patience and inner inspiration to frame his emotions in a beautiful poem. Ezekiel rightly states “The best poets wait for words”. The best poem is an outcome of constant inner struggle to find the words. In the state of quietness where silence becomes meaningful and all other things disappears slowly when a piece of art is created.
Poet, Lover and Birdwatcher provides meaningful insights to understand and experience the creative process. Through the medium of this poem, Ezekiel tries to portrait psychological and inner struggle of a poet while composing a poem. He also brings in our attention that poet’s task in not as easy as it seems. A poet wonders one to another place, closely observes nature or around of his being to find inspiration for his creative impulse. As the poem rightly indicates that a poet must wait patiently for the right moment unless he discovers a sense. In other words, A poet should have birdwatcher’s eye and lover’s thirst to make his poem meaningful medium of communication. Finally, Ezekiel nicely illustrates the poetic process and also proposes certain qualities that a poet must possess before articulating his imagination into words.
Theme of the poem
Q. What is the theme of the poem Poet, Lover, Birdwatcher?
Ans. Ezekiel tries to locate the common qualities of a poet, a lover and a bird watcher. He focuses on their quest for appropriateness and the unending efforts all the three put in. all the three take pains for perfection but their paths are different. Their destinations are different but the quest for perfection is the same. The poet through the medium of the poet, lover and the bird watcher wants to highlight the quest of every individual for the perfect in their lives.
1. What do the best poets wait for?
Ans. They wait for words.
2. Are the three in a hurry?
Ans. No, but at the same time, they are never still.
3. How and why does the birdwatcher wait patiently?
Ans. He waits with relaxation on a hill even to watch a wing movement
of a timid bird.
4. What does a lover do when he gets the right opportunity?
Ans. A poet risks surrendering.
5. When does a poet express himself?
Ans. When he finds something which moves his spirit.
6. What efforts does a birdwatcher make to watch rarer birds?
Ans. He moves along the deserted lanes with rivers flowing in silence near the source in a thorny and remote path
7. Where are the poets lost?
Ans. The poets are lost in crooked and restless flights.