Vocation by Rabindranath Tagore

The main theme of this poem is the desire of a young boy for freedom. The young boy sees different people doing work which they enjoy doing and he wishes he could have the same freedom in her life.

Word Meanings

Yearning: Unfulfilled desire

Hawker: a person who makes money by selling goods he carries with him.

Crystal(here): transparent glass

Spade: A garden tool with a broad metal blade and a long handle used for digging

Soils: make something dirty

Takes him to task: Scolds him

gong : a flat metal bell rung to draw people’s attention
takes someone to task : scolds and corrects

one-eyed-giant : reference to a character from Greek Mythology (Homer’s Odyssey)

chasing the shadows : following an imaginary goal/target

Summary of Vocation by Rabindranath Tagore

The poem “Vocation” is written by Rabindranath Tagore in which a child speaks about his wishes and his aspirations. It shows the innocence of a child’s mind; how he gets attracted to the ways of people around him. He is not aware of their tough routine. The child lacks worldly sense.

The child was walking to his school in the morning. He saw a hawker, selling bangles in his lane. The hawker was not in a hurry and moved from one place to another at his own will. The hawker could take any road and return home when he wants. There was no restriction on him. The child wanted to be a hawker in order to be free and happy.

The child returned from his school in the afternoon. He saw a gardener outside the house. He was digging the ground with his spade. His clothes were dirty with soil and he was working under the Sun. Nobody tried to stop him and he continued working at his own will. The child wanted to be like him, so that nobody can punish him for digging the ground. He wanted to pay with soil.

When it gets dark in the evening, the child’s mother sends him to bed. She orders him to sleep. The child saw a watchman through his window. He was walking up and down. The road was dark and lonely, but nobody stopped the watchman. The watchman took his lantern and walked along with his shadow. He did not sleep. The child wanted to be a watchman, walking the street all night without any restriction.

Important Questions

Q. Who is the speaker in the poem vocation?
Answer: The speaker of the poem is a school-going child. Every day he happens to see the hawker who sells bangles on a road, the gardener who digs the garden outside his house and a watchman who keeps a close watch on the streets the whole night with his lantern.The child in the poem has an innocent mind.

Q. What wishes does the child make in the poem vocation?
Answer: The child in the poem wants to be a hawker, a gardener, and a watchman because he was fed up with all the restrictions put on him. The freedom of a hawker and a gardener and a watchman fascinates him because they are their own masters enjoying the utmost freedom without the slightest rebuke of anybody. He wanted to enjoy freedom like them.
The child says:

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(a) I wish I were a hawker, spending my day in the road.

(b) I wish I were a gardener digging away at the garden.

(c) I wish I were a watchman walking the street all night.

Q. What is the tone of the poem vocation?
Answer: The tone of this poem is direct and straightforward and full of desire

Q. What exactly does the speaker in the poem vocation crave for?
Answer: In the poem “Vocation” by Rabindranath Tagore, the speaker is a young school boy who craves for the freedom to do what he wants without the slightest fear of a scolding from an elder. He wants to lead a carefree life like the hawker, the gardener and the watchman whom he encounters in his daily life.

Q. What kind of freedom does the boy want in the poem vocation and why?
Answer: The freedom of a hawker and a gardener and a watchman fascinates the child narrator in this poem because they are their own masters enjoying the utmost freedom without the slightest rebuke of anybody. However, the young boy values only freedom without authority.

Q. Does the poet really wish to become a gardener?
Answer: Yes, according to the poem, the really wishes to become hawker/Gardner/watchman because they are masters to themselves. There is no one to control them as the poet is controlled by his mother.

Q. Why does the child want to be a hawker?
Answer: The child in the poem wants to be a hawker, a gardener, and a watchman. When he looks at the hawker, he wishes he could also spend his day on the road crying “Bangles, crystal bangles!” He feels that there is nothing to hurry the hawker on.

Q. Why does the speaker want to be a watchman?
Answer: The speaker is resentful that he has to go to bed. He thinks that the watchman never goes to bed in his life. Hence he wishes to become a watchman and walk up and down in the dark street at night, having fun chasing the shadows with his lantern.

Q. Why is the poet attracted to the bangle sellers life?
Answer: The poet feels that the Bengal seller does not have to follow any definite schedule and does not have to travel. He can do whatever he wishes. The poet finds this kind of life attractive as it is incomplete contrast to his own life.

Q. Why do you think the hawker was not in a hurry?
Answer: The hawker was not in a hurry because the whole day she/he sells the bangles on the streets.

Q. What did the child mention about the hawker?

Answer: The poet said that the hawker was not in a hurry. There was no specific road which he must take. There was no fixed time for him to return his home.

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Q. Describe the activity of the watchman.

Answer: The watchman was walking on the dark and lonely lane with his lantern. He was following his shadow at one side. He never went to bed in his life, according to the child.

Q. What kind of life is led by the hawker, watchman and gardener?

Answer: The hawker, watchman and gardener are performing vocational tasks. They are leading their life the way they wants to. There is no restriction on them.

Q. Why did the child find others’ life interesting?

Answer: The child found others’ life more interesting because he was under strict control of his family. He was not allowed to move anywhere and return home anytime. He was fed up with his life due to restrictions imposed on him. He thought that the hawker gardener and watchman were very happy as they could do things at their own wish. They can go anywhere at any time. Nobody restricts them and they are free to enjoy their life. So, the child wants to exchange his life with that of a hawker, a gardener and a watchman.

Extra Questions Of Vocation

EXTRACT 1

[ when the gong sounds ….crystal bangles ]

1. Write the meaning of the persona?

Ans: Persona refers to the narrator or speaker of poem other than the poet. In this poem the persona is a child.

2. At what time did the persona meet the hawkers every day?

Ans: The persona meets the hawker everyday when the gong sounds ten in the morning.

3. Why do you think the hawker was not in a hurry?

Ans: The hawker was not in a hurry as he did not have any fixed road to take and no particular place to go at a particular time.

4. What is the first wish of the speaker?

Ans: The first wish of the persona is to become a hawker so that he can spend the day freely on the road having no worry to go to a particular place at a particular time.

EXTRACT 2

[when at four ….. stop me from digging]

1. Who was the persona talking about?

Ans: The persona is talking about the Gardner.

2. At what time did the persona meet Gardner?

Ans: The persona met the Gardener at four in the afternoon when he was coming back from the school.

3. What was the gardener doing?write about his condition?

Ans: The gardener was digging the ground with his spade.

He soiled his clothes with the dust and no one was there to scold him for his work or he got baked in the sun.

4. What is the second wish of the persona?

Ans: The second wish of the persona is to become a gardener.

He wanted to become a gardener so that he could dig the garden while facing the sun, making his clothes dirty and there will be nobody to stop him from digging.

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EXTRACT 3

[just as it gets dark….my lantern]

1. What does the persona see from the window?At what time does he see from his window?

Ans: The persona sees from his window that the watchman is walking up and down.

He is watching the watchman when it gets dark i.e the time of night.

2. Do you think the persona wants to go to bed?

Ans: No, the persona does not want to go to bed as his mother has forced him to go to bed. He Does not want to go to bed as he wants to see the watchman walking up and down in the lane which is dark and lonely.

3. What do you think the persona felt about the watchman’s job?

Ans: He thought that the watchman’s job is very good as he gets to swing his lantern in the night while he walks freely on the road with his shadow beside and there is nobody to force him to go to bed at night.

4. Which poetic device is used in the poem? Give an example.

Ans: The poetic device used here is imagery, imagery is used to produce pictures in the mind of the reader.

Here two types of imagery is used:

1. Visual imagery( to see)

2. Auditory imagery (to listen)

Ex 1: the lane is dark and lonely the street lamp stands like a giant with one red eye in

his head.

Ex 2: When the gong sounds ten in the morning.

5. Pick out the lines which contain:

(a) Alliteration :

Ans. (i) ‘I can see through the gate the gardener digging the ground.’ Repetition of the sound of the letter ‘t’ and ‘g’.

(ii) ‘He does what he likes with his spade, he soils his clothes…..’ Repetition of the sound of the letter ‘h’.

(iii) ‘nobody takes him to task.’ Repetition of the sound of the letter ‘t’.

(b) Repetition :

Ans. (i) The words ‘Bangles, crystal bangles’ are repeated to create images in our mind of the hawker.

(ii) The words ‘no’ and ‘nobody’ are repeated for emphasis.

(c) Onomatopoeia:

Ans. (i) ‘the gong sounds ten’ the word ‘going’ is an onomatopoeic word formed from the sound
associated with it.

(d) Simile :

Ans. ‘The street lamp stands like a giant with one red eye in its head.’ The street lamp is directly
compared to a giant, using the word ‘like’.

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