To a Pair of Sarus Cranes by Manmohan Singh


In this poem, the poet depicted the female Sarus crane’s great love for her partner by describing the female bird’s anguish after her mate was killed by merciless hunters. Both male and female Sarus cranes were flying in the morning sky when the hunters shot the male bird to death. She ringed the heavens in grace moves in misery and desperation over her male partner’s dishonourable demise. When the killers fled with their victim, she proceeded to the crime scene and wept in long and brief sobs. She plucked a few blood-stained feathers, kissed them, and then sat on them anxiously hoping they would hatch into a toddling chick, as if she could resurrect him. In her sadness, she went without food or drink, pining for her lost mate till she died.

Summary of To a Pair of Sarus Cranes 

This poem is about a pair of sarus cranes. Sarus cranes mate for life and have a high level of affection and dedication for their partners. In this poem, The male crane is ruthlessly slaughtered by humans, and we witness the female crane is sadness over the loss of her companion. The poem consists of 28 lines and is divided into five stanzas. It is a free verse poem.

A hunter kills a male sarus crane for sport without considering the impact on the female sarus crane, nor does he consider the impact on the eco-system in which they live.

The female crane is disturbed by the scene she observes; she gracefully flies around in circles and croons over her partner’s humiliating death.

The bird laments the heartless hunters’ callous disdain and lack of humility in picking up the dead bird. She encircles the death scene, crying out in agony.

The poet compares the loud cries to the dots and pits of Morse code, implying that a keen ear is required to comprehend the pain being spoken.

The female crane then pecks at a few feathers of the male crane and attempts to hatch the feathers into a toddling chick in a desperate bid to bring the male crane back to life.

Finally, a wave the female crane has never seen before comes and carries her away to death, bringing her closer to the dead male crane.

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And, according to the poet, the female sarus crane went beyond Hume’s words and the legends and fables of human love.

Comprehension Questions

I. Answer briefly the following questions

Question 1. The time of the day suggested in the poem is
a. sunrise
b. sunset
c. either sunrise or sunset
d. not clear

Answer: (a) sunrise

Question 2. The sun is described as the reluctant sun. It means that

a. the sun was unwilling to rise.
b. the male bird was impatient.
c. it was the bird’s feeling that the sun was reluctant to rise.
d. the sun always takes more time to rise than to set.

Answer: (a) the sun was unwilling to rise.

Question 3. In the first 4 lines, there is an exaggeration in the description. What is it?
What is the figure of speech used here?

Answer: The male bird is depicted bending to pluck the sun from the horizon’s rim. Certainly, the bird’s beak cannot reach the sun or even the horizon. The bird’s bent neck and eager movements are depicted in this way.

The figure of speech is Hyperbole.

Question 4. How was the majestic neck humbled by the hunter?

Answer: A Sarus crane’s neck is extremely long, graceful, and lovely. The bird was shot in the neck while stretching its neck and attempting an impossible feat, such as dragging the sun out of the rim of the horizon. When it died, the hunter grabbed it up ‘hands and jaws’, folded it up like a piece of paper, and tossed it into his bag without a second glance. The hunter has been humbled in this way by the majestic neck.

Question 5. The expression ‘picked up hands and jaws,’ suggests,

a. callousness of the hunters.
b. heartlessness of the hunters.
c. urgency of the hunters.
d. cruelty of the hunters

Answer: (a) callousness of the hunters

Question 6. ………..  is compared to ‘dirty linen’ (complete the sentence using the correct option)

a. the proud neck of the birds
b. the dead body of the bird
c. the hands and jaws of the bird.
d. the material of the bag,

Answer: (b) the dead body of the bird

Question 7. ‘and sat to hatch/the bloodstained feathers/into a toddling chick’. This suggests,

a. that the female bird was out of her senses after the death of the male bird.
b. the intense love of the female bird towards its male partner.
c. the foolish act of the female bird.
d. the desperate act of the female bird to bring the male bird back to life.

Answer: (a) that the female bird was out of her senses after the death of the male bird.

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Question 8. How is the end of the female crane suggested in the poem?

Answer: It is believed that a ‘wave of the seas she had never seen’ came to her and swept her away. It could not be the genuine sea because the cranes lived nearby. It may be a surge of anguish that the bird had never known as long as her partner was alive. She was always cheerful, and the death of the male bird pushed her into sadness. Grieving for the male bird and sitting on his blood-stained feathers, the female bird failed to eat or drink, becoming very weak and dying as a result.

II. Close Study:

Read the following extract carefully. Discuss in pairs and then write the answers to the questions given below it.

A wave of the seas she had never seen/came to her from far away/ and carried her to him.

Q. What does ‘wave of the seas’ refer to?

Answer: A wave of grief.

Q. What hadn’t the female bird seen before?

Answer: The female bird hadn’t known grief or sadness before.

Q. What figure of speech is used in the extract?

Answer: Personification.

III. Paragraph Writing:

Discuss in pairs/groups of 4 each and answer the following questions. Individually note down the points for each question and then develop the points into one-paragraph answers.

Question 1. How is the callousness of the bird killers brought out in the poem?


✏️The poem highlights the contrast between birds and hunters.
✏️The male bird is ‘necking.’ The phrase can be interpreted in two ways.
✏️A hunter shoots a bird and then picks it up and places it in a washing bag.
✏️Birds are graceful and attractive, yet the hunter mistreats them.
✏️The hunter departs, but the female bird remains.


The poet’s description of the shooting of a male sarus bird reveals the hunters’ callousness. It was taken after the bird dipped its beak in the water. It appeared to be attempting to entice the sun to emerge from the ocean at the horizon’s rim. The beauty of the bird had no effect on the hunters. They took up the dead bird by the hands and jaws and tossed it into a course bag as if it were dirty linen and the bag was a washing bag.

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Question 2. How does the poet bring out the agony and desperation of the female crane in the poem?

✏️When the male bird is shot, the female bird flies around crying.
✏️When the hunter leaves, it returns to the same location.
✏️It continues to communicate its anguish to anyone who can understand.
✏️It sits on the feathers as if to hatch them, oblivious to food and water.
✏️It eventually dies, bereaved for its mate.


The cranes are life partners. The female sarus is distraught after witnessing its mate being shot dead by hunters and taken away. The bird circled the skies with grace, mourning the untimely death of its companion. After the assassins had left, the female bird returned to the crime scene and continued to soar around, wailing for its mates with short and long wails resembling Morse Code. She kissed and bloodstained feathers of her partner that the wind had not yet blown away with her beak and sat down to hatch them in the hope that she could bring him back to life. This depicts the bird’s misery and grief.

Question 3. Pick out any two figures of speech used in the poem and explain how they add to the effectiveness of the poem.

Answer: The poet’s opening stanza features a figure of speech – the hyperbole – which is used to emphasise a specific point through exaggeration. The male Sarus crane appears to be stretching its neck to draw the sun from the horizon’s rim. It is shown to be performing an impossible act, but the very attempt demonstrates the crane’s bravery. The bird, however, was no match for man’s cunning and heartlessness.

The figure of speech’simile’ appears in the second stanza – “to lie like dirty linen.” The stately, dignified bird was slaughtered and put into the washing bag like dirty laundry. This demonstrates the hunter’s callousness and lack of artistic sense. For him, the beautiful, graceful bird was nothing more than a piece of meat.

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