Enterprise By Nissim Ezekiel


Introduction: Enterprise is one of those wonderful poems published in Ezekiel’s collection of poems named ‘The Unfinished Man.’ It revolves around a metaphorical journey to a pilgrimage started by some enthusiastic people, including poet. Though the journey started in high spirit, faced some setbacks in the middle. Finally, when they reached the destination, they doubted the importance of that troublesome journey. They realized its futility and concluded: “Home is where we have to gather grace”. Thus, Enterprise, delivers a great message. The poem is didactic and one of the best poems of Ezekiel.


Detailed Summary


“Enterprise” is one of the best poems written by Ezekiel. He uses the metaphor of a pilgrimage to suggest the difficulties and problems faced by man in the journey of human life. In this poem a group of people including the poet decide to set out on a pilgrimage. Initially, all the members of the pilgrim party were full of joy and hope. Their minds were full of noble and grand ideas.

They were determined to complete the “Enterprise”. They did not feel any burden but soon after having travelled some distance some of them started feeling that perhaps the journey was futile. But most of the travellers went on with courage and hope. They keenly observed the things and made detailed notes of their experiences.

But then the differences cropped up between them about how to cross a desert patch. Soon a member who could write excellent prose parted ways. This casts a shadow on the whole group of passengers. But still they went on.

Then at some place they were twice attacked. Then they forgot their path and got lost. Later on a section of the members claimed its liberty to leave the group. Thus there were difficulties and frustrations in the course of the journey. The leader of the group felt that they were about to reach the final destination. The other members of the group were not as hopeful. The number of the pilgrims was going down.

The remaining pilgrims went on without hope. They were feeling hopeless but they went on. Then they reached their destination. But this did not give them any joy. The whole enterprise seemed to be futile and yet in the last line the poet convey the idea that life is not wholly unheroic, our job is to do our duty. Only in this way man could enjoy any grace or peace of mind.


Questions and Answers


Stanza 1

It started as a pilgrimage,

Exalting minds and making all The burdens light. The second stage Explored but did not test the call.

The sun beat down to match our rage.

1. What is the name of the poem?
Ans. The name of the poem is “Enterprise”.

2. What is the name of the poet?
Ans. The name of the poet is Nissim Ezekiel.

3. How did the travellers make all their burdens light?
Ans. They were not worried about the difficulties.

4. How was the second stage explored?
Ans. They covered some distance but did not feel tired.

5. What is meant by “the sun beat down to match our rage?

Ans. There were difficulties on the way but there enthusiasm was no less.

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Stanza 2

We stood it very well, I thought,

Observed and put down copious notes

On things the peasants sold and bought. The way of serpents and of goats,

Three cities where a sage had taught.

1. What is meant by “observed and put down copious notes”?
Ans. As they moved on they observed things and took down detailed notes.

2. What were the notes about?
Ans. The notes were about the various activities of the peasants – their buying and selling.

3. What is meant by the way of serpents and of goats?
Ans. The way the serpents and the goats behaved.

4. What is meant by the word “a sage”?
Ans. “A sage” means a wise man.

5. What does the poet mean by “We stood it very well”?

Ans. They bore the difficulties well.

Stanza 3

But when the differences arose

On how to cross a desert patch,

We lost a friend whose stylish prose

Was quite the best of all our batch.

A shadow falls on us – and grows.

Another phase was reached when we Were twice attacked, and lost our way. A section claimed its liberty To leave the group. I tried to pray. Our leader said he smelt the sea.

1. What is meant by “How to cross a desert patch”?
Ans. It means how to solve the problems that arose during the journey.

2. What do you mean by “a shadow falls on us”?
Ans. A very talented member of the group went away, this caused frustration among the members of the group.

3. What is meant by that we lost our way?
Ans. It means some confusions grew in the minds of the travellers.

4. Why did the poet try to pray?
Ans. He felt frustrated and hopeless, so in order to gain strength he tried to pray.

5. What is meant by “he smelt the sea”?

Ans.The leader tried to encourage the members by suggesting that the goal was near.

Stanza 4

We noticed nothing as we went,

A straggling crowd of little hope,

Ignoring what the thunder meant, Deprived of common needs, like soap. Some were broken, some merely bent. When, finally, we reached the place, We hardly knew why we were there. The trip had darkened every face, Our deeds were neither great nor rare.

Home is where we have to gather grace.

1. Why did they not notice anything as they went?
Ans. They did not notice anything because they were tired and hopeless.

2. What do you understand by “ a straggling cloud of little hope”?
Ans. Many members of the group had already left and whoever were left went on without hope.

3. What is the significance of thunder?
Ans. The thunder signifies certain omens but these ignorant people did not understand them.

4. Why had the trip darkened every face?
Ans. The trip had darkened every face because they did not get what they expected from the trip.

5. Explain the meaning of “home is where we have to gather grace”?

Ans. In a world where egoes clash, home is only place where one can live peacefully and gracefully.


Short-Answer Questions


Q. 1. How has Nissim Ezekiel used a “journey” as a metaphor for life?

Ans. In the poem ‘Enterprise’ Ezekiel has used the technique of allegory. The surface meaning is clear but we have to find the hidden meaning also. There is a journey on the physical plane where the group goes on a pilgrimage. On the other hand there is an inner journey where the poet evolves in a spiritual sense.

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Q.2. What was the first phase of the journey?

Ans. The first phase of the journey marks the beginning of the enterprise. The travellers were in a happy and courageous mood. They were ready to face any problem.

Q.3. What happened in the second phase of the journey?

Ans. The second phase of the journey was also not difficult. The travellers observed things keenly and made detailed notes. They studied the behaviour of the people they met on the way.

Q.4. What does the “desert path” suggest?

Ans. The “desert path” suggests some specific problems that arose during the journey.

Q.5. What happened during third phase?

Ans. The differences among the travellers cropped up, as to how to cross a desert patch. One of the members who was considered to be the most stylized left the batch. It caused frustration among other members.

Q.6. What happened in the last phases of the journey?

Ans. In the last phases, the travellers were attacked twice. They even lost their way. Some of the travellers disobeyed the leader and claimed their liberty. This caused frustration and anger among the other members of the group.

Q.7. What was the poet’s reaction?

Ans. The poet reacted in a balanced manner. He did not take sides. He decided that he would continue the journey even if it meant more hardships.


Essay Type Questions


Q.1. On the basis of your reading of the poem evaluate the poet‟s attitude towards life?

Ans. Nissim Ezekiel has been called the poet of “human balance”. Amongst the bickerings of life man must retain his poise. Only then we can achieve something in life. He try to project this message through the poem. A group of travellers decides to embark on a pilgrimage. They are full of hope and enthusiasm. They are idealistic and courageous. But soon there are dissensions. This results in one of scholarly member leaving the group. There is an element of anger and frustration at this stage.

In the next phase the pilgrims face more difficulties. They are attacked and they get confused. They lose their way. Now the ego clashes among the members become more clear. Some of the pilgrims start claiming that they are independent and will follow their inclination. The poet retains his balance of mind. Though he is also depressed he tries to gain courage from prayer. The leader also shows reasonableness. He encourages them by telling them the destination is very near. He also tried to keep them united.

At last, only a small number of travellers is left behind. They keep on moving without hope but finally they reach their destination even then there is no joy of success on their face. They all seem disappointed. Nissim Ezekiel retains his balance and suggests that ego clashes never solve the problem. It is better in such cases to get grace then to fight it out among ourselves.

Q.2. Bring out the theme of the poem “Enterprise”

Ans. Nissim Ezekiel’s poem “Enterprise” is based on the theme that as a human being everyone can achieve some amount of dignity. As a human being we can fulfill our destiny if we are able to do the assigned task. This poem presents the journey as a metaphor of life. The journey is a collective effort of the pilgrims. In the beginning of their journey they are confident and have a courageous mind. Everything goes on smoothly. But soon the problem arises due to scoring sun and the hardships of the desert. Due to all these sufferings one of their companions gets lost in the desert. They are confronted with inevitable sufferings but they keep on moving. Finally, they reach their destination. But they find all this exercise worthless in the end. Their high hopes from the enterprise fade away. Yet in the last line of the poem, the poet says that home is the place where we have to gather our grace.

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Through this poem Ezekiel wants to give an important message to the readers. He says that graceful purposes can be achieved without setting high ambitions and without undertaking high-sounding projects. In the end, the poet gives a message that if we want to achieve something worthwhile collectively we have to avoid the clash of our egoes.

Q. 3. Explore the implications of the central metaphor of “the journey” for life?

Nissim Ezekiel’s poem “Enterprise” is a wonderful poem. It shows that for Nissim Ezekiel life is the symbol of a journey. One has to move on. There will be problems, clashes and differences. They will lead to a sense of futility. In spite of all this we must go on.

This theme has been presented with the help of the metaphor of a journey. Some people form a group and decide to go on a pilgrimage. They start with hope, joy and a confidence in themselves. But very soon there are differences. A most scholarly person in the group decides to leave the group. But the journey goes on. This is how we live life.

In the second phase, again there is trouble. Some robbers attack them. They lose their way. There is frustration and disappointment. But they must go on till they reach the destination.

Life of a man is like a journey. He must grow and evolve. This is the idea we come across in the poem. Sometimes there would be frustration and disappointments, but we must not lose our balance and continue doing our work.

Objective Type Questions

Q. 1. What is existential philosophy?

Ans. It is a modern philosophy related to human suffering and experience.

Q.2. How did the travellers feel at the beginning of the journey?

Ans. They felt happy and were full of hope.

Q.3. What is meant by “Copious notes”?

Ans. The travellers took notes of what they experienced and observed.

Q. 4. What is meant by a sage?

Ans. A sage is a wise man.

Q. 5. Explain – “a shadow falls on us”? Ans. They became depressed.

Q.6. What is meant by “lost our way”?
Ans. It means they became confused.

Q.7. What does the “thunder” signify?

Ans. The thunder signifies some omens.

Q.8. What is meant by a “straggling crowd”?

Ans. It means a divided group of people.

Q.9. Why was every face darkened?

Ans. Every face was darkened because the trip did not give the desired happiness.

Q.10. Explain the line – “Home is where we have to gather grace”?

Ans.It means our destiny is fulfilled at home where there are no problems.

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