‘Any Woman,’ by Katharine Tynan, is a truly moving poem that honours mothers’ selfless devotion. It informs us of the concerns, fears, and responsibilities that women everywhere undergo in order to keep their houses in order. Additionally, the poem expresses Tynan’s perspective of motherhood as the highest gift for which she would cheerfully accept a diminution of her literary stature.
“Any Woman,” a poem by Irish poet Katharine Tynan, discusses the role of a mother. The feelings mentioned here by a mother poet regarding her role in a family are universally accurate. The poet expresses the value of a mother in a family in this poetry. She is the house’s cornerstone. The poet cautions that if something happens to her, the entire family would be destroyed. Children survive as a result of their mothers’ love. She fortifies herself against all hazards and shields her family from the ‘wind and snow,’ which represent exterior forces attempting to damage the family.
The poem’s final section expresses the mother’s simple longing to live long enough to see her children develop. She is selfless enough to consider her children. Indeed, she is the pillar of the home, without which the house – family – will undoubtedly fall apart. Nowadays, a mother’s presence in a household is rarely observed. She is regarded solely as a machine that is never bored with anything. She is abused and confined within the confines of her home’s four walls. This poem implores all readers to be sensitive of a woman’s inner sentiments and to view her as an individual.
The poem ‘Any Woman‘ demonstrates a woman’s all-encompassing ability to keep her family together. The mother figure and her intimate emotions are depicted in the poem through a variety of metaphorical symbols, including pillars, keystone, fire on the hearth, and light. Except for the first stanza, the poem’s rhyme pattern should be ab, ab, cd, cd, …..
The poem begins by introducing the core metaphor of the house. The mother asserts that she is one of the house’s cornerstones. She is the cornerstone of the arch; without her, the roof and wall would collapse, destroying the home.
A mother is not simply the ‘vita lux et amor’ — the life, light, and love that fill a home. As the sun warms the land, she is the hearth fire. Children extend their hands toward her. Without her, the house would be lifeless and chilly, and the children would suffer.
The mother is also similar to a twist or a knot in the ring that connects the many strands. She encircles the children in a sacred ring of love. Without the love tie, many a youngster would wander and become lost.
Finally, the poet discusses the numerous household activities that a mother conducts on a daily basis, which may leave her children wondering if she possesses a thousand hands. She beautifies the house, prepares the supper table, spins the draperies, and makes their bed. Additionally, she is compared to a mother bird who constructs the nest, feeds the nestlings, and covers them in her own soft feathers. She shields them from the wind and snow and keeps them safe from harm. The poem concludes with the mother’s petition to Jesus for continued survival till the children reach adulthood.
Analysis and Critical Appreciation of Any Women
The poem extols the virtues of female — the soul that gives life on earth its existence and sustenance. The speaker identifies with ‘the pillars of the home’, ‘the keystone of the arch’, ‘fire on the hearth’,’sunlight’, ‘heat that warms the ground’, ‘light of love’, ‘twist of the sacred ring’, ‘knot of love’, ‘house from floor to roof’, ‘wall against every danger’, and ‘door against the wind and snow’. The speaker says that if she is removed, the entire building would be destroyed, so destroying her life as well. This audacious claim becomes a confession as well – a disclosure about the space in which a woman finds fulfilment. She is certain that it is her warmth that ensures the continuation of life on earth. The point here is that she is the earth’s primary source of warmth. Her warmth of fertility is the antidote to the earth’s barrenness. She opens her arms in support of her children once she becomes a mother. She lights the hearth fire and becomes the source of life and love for the ‘precious’ offspring. She encircles them with the thread of her love, and no child is able to break free. The speaker now compares herself to the house, recalling her duties and responsibilities. She embellishes the walls, spreads the tablecloth, spins the curtains, and makes the bed. She protects the family from all perils.
The poet concludes with a petition to God, reminding him that only a woman is instrumental in the birth of Jesus Christ. Her prayer to God is for God to extend her life till her children reach adulthood. The exaltation of womanhood is a recurring topic in literature. However, ‘Any Woman’ is unique due to its poignant visuals that properly expresses the concept. This issue is all the more pertinent in today’s world, where womanhood is cruelly tainted and defiled. Katherine Tynan’s poem serves as a reminder to women as well, as they frequently lose sight of their own worth. The poet’s message is unmistakable. The woman is transformed into the axis around which the family rotates. Even during the birth of Jesus Christ, her function becomes vital.
The poetry alternates between forceful assertion and sincere appeal. The speaker elaborates on the functions of a woman in the poem before concluding with a prayer. This prayer exemplifies magnanimity and compassion, the twin emotions associated with motherhood. The poem’s tone is solemn, serious, and solemn.
The poem is rife with metaphors. The speaker compares herself to ‘pillars of the house’, ‘keystone of the arch’, ‘fire on the hearth’, ‘light of the good sun’, ‘heat that warms the ground’, ‘light of love’, ‘knot of love’, ‘home from floor to roof’, ‘wall against every danger’, and ‘door against the wind and snow’. All of these analogies allude to maternal love. The metaphor of the’sacred ring’ is intentionally employed to convey the holiness associated with marital vows and the consequent bondage by which children are bound inside the family. The ring is shaped like a circle, which symbolises ‘forever’. It is a sign of completeness, harmony, perfection, and tranquilly. Mother’s love and devotion exert a gravitational pull on her children, compelling them not to stray.
Another beautiful metaphor is ‘the wind and snow,’ which represents family conflicts. The line ‘Their door against the wind and snow’ is adjacent to the sentence alluding to the birth of Jesus Christ by the Virgin Mary. This excellent example exemplifies the ‘wind and snow’ that a woman encountered in the world. The final prayer becomes the most moving passage, eliciting a tear from us. A woman cherishes her life and desires to live in order to witness her children grow and provide them her support.
The artistic effect is produced through the repeating of the words ‘I am’. Another poetic approach for conveying a sense of natural motion is ‘enjambment.’ The line ‘Take me away, and roof and wall/Would collapse, entirely ruining me’ is an example of an idea running into the next line. With the exception of the first stanza, all the stanzas rhyme in a pattern in which the first line rhymes with the third and the second line rhymes with the fourth.
In conclusion, the poem addresses a timely issue and provides an impactful message. It maintains an upbeat tone while maintaining a serious tone. The profusion of poetic devices serves to reinforce the topic and message. Thus, ‘Any Woman’ is an expressive encomium in which each line conveys a wealth of information on ‘womanhood.’
Stanza – Wise Thematic Analysis of Poem
The poem begins with a figurative proclamation. The speaker, who appears to be a woman, declares herself to be an intrinsic member of her home. She compares herself to the pillars and keystone that sustain and reinforce the home symbolically. If these are removed, the structure will collapse. Similarly, if the woman is isolated from the family, the family’s integrity is compromised. Just as a wrecked house’s keystone and pillars cease to exist, the fragmentation of the family will entirely destroy the woman. The speaker attempts to demonstrate that a woman’s identity and family harmony are complimentary (mutually dependent).
The stanza is made more real by images borrowed from common life circumstances. The speaker asserts that without her, the earth would be uninhabitable.
The woman nurtures and protects the children, enabling them to thrive. She claims that if she were not present, the hearth stones would be cooler. Peripherally, she refers to her role as the family’s cook. However, she appears to indicate her role in preparing the family’s spiritual meals. It is her strategies that foster children’s development as distinct and valuable citizens.
The speaker here identifies with the twist, another significant material component of a house or building. According to her, it is a mother’s love and care that keeps her children within the family circle. Simultaneously, she instils in them the courage to move freely and without inhibitions.
The woman embellishes the walls. To put it another way, she is the wall decorations. The woman is the one who establishes privacy by warping and woofing curtains whenever and wherever they are required. As the mother bird shakes her beautiful feathers to prepare the nest for its young, the mother sacrifices her desires and pleasures for the family.
The woman is the fortification that keeps her family secure from oncoming dangers. She is the gateway to overcoming adversity and terrible circumstances. The stanza concludes with a request to Infant Jesus not to take her away until her children are fully grown.
Questions and Answers
Question 1. Mention the underlying ideas in the expression ‘pillars of the house’.
Answer: The pillars act as the house’s primary structural support. A house without pillars is physically impossible. The pillars bear the house’s weight and ensure that it does not collapse.
Question 2. How does the poet portray the bond between a mother and her children?
Answer: Children, the poet asserts, receive their affection from their mothers. She is their source of brightness. Without her, the children will not be able to thrive. She is the tangle that binds the children together in the family’s sacred ring. The children are adamant about not abandoning her and fleeing. A mother’s link with her children can be compared to that of a stem and its branches.
Question 3. Comment on the expression from ‘floor to roof. Attempt to coin another expression without changing the meaning.
Answer: From floor to roof refers to the entire structure, from start to finish. Every part of the home is interconnected with the lady, the matriarch. Nothing is hidden from her or unfamiliar to her in the house. Another similar idiom is ‘from top to toe’ or ‘head to foot’.
Question 4.What is the symbolic significance of ‘wind and snow’?
Answer: The symbolic meaning of ‘wind and snow’ is the manifestation of trials and hardships. Life is impacted by a variety of issues. They can be diseases, financial difficulties, mental difficulties, or other calamities. The mother makes an effort to keep all of these things out of the family and away from its members.
Question 5.Explain, in your own words, the concluding line of the poem.
Answer: It is a prayer offered by the woman to Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one who was laid in the manger by a woman (Mary). The woman is pleading with Jesus not to take her life before her children reach adulthood. She is well aware that her children will be unable to survive and prosper in the world without her.
Question 1.Woman: the focal point of the family.
Answer: The woman is the family’s focal point. She is the house’s pillar. She is the arch’s keystone. Without her, the roof and wall will succumb to the elements. She is the hearth’s heat. She is the source of warmth in the home. Without her, the house would become as cold as a stone.
She is the source of warmth for the youngsters. She is the source of their affection. Her children will not thrive without her. She binds the children together in the home’s love ring. They are connected by the knots of love. The children do not wish to cut the thread and wander off.
In the home, the woman is everything. She is the one who stuffs the children’s beds with down (soft animal hair) and covers them in leather. She is the protective wall that shields the family members from any threats. She guards the members’ safety from harsh winds and snow. A family would be unthinkable without her.
Question 2.The qualities a woman needs to face the challenges of life.
Answer:A woman should possess a variety of characteristics in order to meet life’s obstacles. To begin, she needs be educated. Education informs a woman of her rights and responsibilities. Second, she should have some source of income. Income enables her to succeed. Then she should possess leadership characteristics. These include discernment, comprehension, courage, resolve, compassion, sympathy, and empathy. Women must not continue to be the weaker sex. They are not ‘weak’ in any way. They should embrace their differences and ascend to positions of leadership, achieving equality with males in all spheres of life.
Think and Write
Question 1. Analyse the theme of the poem keeping in view the plight of women in the Indian social scenario.
Answer: The poem’s theme is the woman’s importance in the family. A family is simply inconceivable without a woman. This is especially true for Indian women. Women care for children, cook, clean, and perform all other household duties. Nothing happens at home without her awareness or participation. She is the house’s pillars, roof, walls, and doors. She is the source of all love. It is the woman who transforms a house into a home.
Question 2. Identify the major figure of speech used in the poem and describe its significance.
Answer: The main figure of speech used in the poem is a metaphor. A metaphor is a comparison where one thing is seen as another. The entire poem is a metaphor because the woman thinks she is the pillars, walls, roof and doors of the house. She is the heat and light of the house. In fact she is the house!
Question 3. What is the quantum of work done by a woman in the household? Can it be reduced? How?
Answer: A woman accomplishes an enormous amount of work. She prepares meals for the entire household. She cleans the dishes, pans, and pots. She washes and irons the clothing and stores them in the cabinet. She is responsible for cleaning the house and yard. She is also responsible for the discipline and education of the youngsters. Indeed, she has a lot on her plate.
Her work can be distilled into two categories. One way is to enlist mechanical assistance through the use of advanced labor-saving equipment. However, more crucially, her job can be minimised with the assistance of an understanding husband and adoring children. They can provide a hand with the numerous tasks she performs at home.
Extract Based Questions
I. The following lines are taken from the poem, ‘Any Woman’. Read the lines and answer the questions that follow.
“I am the pillars of the house; The keystone of the arch am I”.
1. Who is referred to as the pillar of the house?
Ans. Mother is referred to as the pillars of the house.
Q. 2. What is the meaning of the word ‘keystone’ here?
Ans. “Keystone” here means the most important part of a family – house.
Q. 3. What is the figure of speech used here?
Ans. The figure of speech used here is Metaphor. The poet metaphorically says that mother of a family is the ‘pillar’ and ‘keystone’ of the house.
Q. 4. Elaborate on the idea of the above lines.
Ans. According the poet the mother in a family is the most important part of it – keystone of an arch. If something happens to her, the family will be ruined. Hence give such a consideration to her.
“Thou whom a woman laid in a manger Take me not till the children grow!”
1. Who is the ‘woman’ referred to here? Ans. Holy Mary, mother of Jesus Christ is the ‘woman’ referred to here.
2. What is the meaning of the word ‘manger’? Ans. ‘Manger’ means the box or trough for horses or cattle to feed from.
3. What character trait of a mother is shown here? Ans. It shows selfless love and protective attitude of a mother.
4. Elaborate on the idea of the above lines.
Ans. The last two lines ring a biblical reference where one finds the element of sacrifice. Jesus Christ was born to wash off the sins of humanity. Soon after his birth, Mother Mary put him in a manger wrapped in old cloth. These lines are a prayer to Jesus Christ to keep the mother alive till her children grow. At the same time these lines speak of a mother’s selflessness. She prepares to lay down or sacrifice her conscience for the sake of her children.
1. What is the significance of the adjective ‘precious’ in the poem ‘Any Woman’?
A. The adjective ‘precious’ is attached to children so as to express the dearness, sweetness and the importance of children felt by the mother figure in the poem.
2. What is the significance of ‘sacred ring’ in the poem Any Woman’?
A. ‘Sacred ring’ suggests the divine, godly circle or halo that is around the family binding them (the young ones) within the protective powers of the mother.
3. What is the significance of ‘wrap and woof’?
A. This is an imagery brought from weaving. The expression is used as a metaphor underlying structure or strength on which something is built. Here it is indicative of the grandness and immensity of the mother’s strength to protect her little ones.
In the first stanza, 3rd and 4th lines, what do the words ‘ruin me’ mean?
Does it mean ruin the home or mother?
‘Take me away,and roof and wall
Would fall to ruin me utterly’
‘Me’ stands for mother or home?