The Castle by Edwin Muir

Introduction


“The Castle” by Edwin Muir describes the capture of a castle as seen firsthand by a soldier. It describes an unnamed combat. It also illustrates the truth that an army is only strong if its troops cannot be bribed.

Safety of the castle:
The soldiers had spent the entire summer in the castle. They were completely at ease and calm. They could see the mowers through the turret wall. They had a sufficient supply of arms and food to defend the castle. They were confident in the physical strength of their castle. The castle’s gates were extremely sturdy, as were the castle’s walls. Their captain acted courageously, and the soldiers were obedient. No one, not even a magician, could enter the castle.

The seize of the castle:
The adversaries were a half-mile distant from the castle. No one was allowed to enter the castle. However, there was an old, wicked guard. He allowed the adversaries pass by a small private gate for gold through the secret gallery and convoluted path. The powerful castle weakened and thinned out. As a result, the castle was taken over by the hungry, disloyal guard.

Real enemy:
The narrator believed that the wealth obtained as a bribe by the guard was their true adversary. The castle was taken without a struggle. As a result, he resolved not to tell anyone about this heinous story.

Conclusion:
We can go toe-to-toe with the enemy. But we would never be able to defeat the traitor. As a result, the narrator lamented the fact that they lacked a weapon to combat the enemy known as gold.

Moral:
Greediness defeats not just the castle but everything.


Questions and Answers of The Castle

Q. What is the theme of the castle poem?

Answer. The Castle is a poem by Edwin Muir that deals with themes of arrogance and betrayal. It also discusses how greed may be destructive, as well as how sloth and complacency are the death of man. This 30-line poem is composed of six quintets and has an ABAAB rhyme scheme.


1. Based on your understanding of the poem, answer the following questions in one or two sentences each.


a)  Who is the narrator in the poem? 
Answer. One of the soldiers lodged in the castle is the narrator in the poem.

b)  How long had the soldiers been in the castle? 
Answer. All through the summer, the soldiers had been in the castle.

c)  Why were the soldiers in the castle fearless? 
Answer. The soldiers have plenty of arms and food. So they were fearless in the castle.

d)  Where were the enemies? 
Answer. The enemies were half a mile away from the castle.

e) Why does the narrator say that the enemy was no threat at all? 
Answer. The narrator says that the enemy was no threat at all because their captain was brave and the soldiers were loyal.

f) Did the soldiers fight with the enemies face to face?  
Answer. No, The soldiers did not fight with the enemies face to face.

g)  Who had let the enemies in? 
Answer. The warder, who guards the wicket gate, let the enemies inside the famous citadel.

h)  How did the enemies enter the castle? 
Answer. Due to the selfish, disloyal, and corrupt warder, the once-strong castle became weak and frail. Enemies conquered the fortress in exchange for riches.

i) Why were the secret galleries bare?
Answer. The secret galleries were captured by the enemies.

j) What was the ‘shameful act’? 
Answer. The castle was conquered by the adversaries due to the warder’s greed, disloyalty, and corruption. This was the deplorable act.

k) Why didn’t the narrator want to tell the tale to anybody?
Answer. Since the castle was defeated treacherously and not via direct combat, the narrator was adamant about not telling the storey to anybody else.

l) Why did the narrator feel helpless?
Answer. The enemies annihilated the narrator’s soldiers and stronghold. He could not accept such a shady defeat. As a result, he was left feeling helpless.

m) Who was the real enemy? 
Answer. The gold which was received as bribe by the warder was the real enemy.

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2. Read the poem again and complete the summary using the words given in box. 



Stanzas 1–3

‘The Castle’ by Edwin Muir is a moving poem on the (1) capture of a well-guarded (2) castle. The soldiers of the castle were totally stress-free and relaxed. They were (3) confident of their castle’s physical strength. Through the turrets they were able to watch the mowers and no enemy was found up to the distance of (4) half-a-kilometre and so they seemed no threat to the castle. They had (5) plenty of weapons to protect them and a large quantity of (6) ration in stock to take care of the well-being of the soldiers inside the castle. The soldiers stood one above the other on the towering (7) watching to shoot the enemy at sight. They believed that the castle was absolutely safe because their captain was (8) brave and the soldiers were loyal.

Half-a-kilometre   watching   Castle   brave     Ration   capture   Plenty    confident

[Note: In the poem half-a-mile is given. But here it is given as half-a-kilometre (½ mile = 0.8 km)]
Stanzas 4–6


Even by a trick no one but the birds could enter. The enemy could not use a (9) bait for their entry inside the castle. But there was a wicket gate guarded by a (10) wicked guard. He (11) let in the enemies inside the famous citadel that had been known for its secret gallery and intricate path. The strong castle became (12) weak and thin because of the greedy disloyal warder. The (13) citadel was captured by the enemies for (14) gold. The narrator (15) lamented over the (16) disloyalty of the useless warder and also decided not to disclose this (17) shameful story to anyone. He was (18) helpless and wondered how he would keep this truth to himself. He regretted not finding any (19) weapon to fight with, the (20) enemy called ‘gold’.

lamented    shameful  wicked guard   bait        let     gold    weapon    citadel    weak    disloyalty   helpless    enemy




3. Read the poem and answer the following in a short paragraph of 8-10 sentences each.

a) How safe was the castle? How was it conquered?
Answer. The castle’s soldiers were confident in their castle’s physical might. They were able to watch the mowers from the turrets, and no opponent was discovered up to a half-mile away. They had lots of weaponry to keep them safe, as well as a considerable supply of food. The soldiers were stacked one on top of the other. They were keeping an eye on the tower in case the enemy appeared. Because their captain was bold and the soldiers were loyal, they believed the castle was completely protected. However, there was a wicket gate guarded by a cunning guard. He let the attackers in through the secret gallery and complicated way inside the legendary citadel. Because of the greedy unfaithful warder, the sturdy castle became weak and thin. The attackers took the fortress in exchange for riches. As a result, the castle was conquered.

b) Bring out the contrasting picture of the castle as depicted in stanzas 3 and 5.
Answer. Stanza 3 depicts the castle as being exceedingly powerful. The soldiers could see up to half a mile away through the turrets. They had a considerable supply of guns and food. The soldiers stood one on top of the other. They were keeping an eye on the tower in case the enemy came into view. They believed the castle was completely safe because their captain was brave and the soldiers were obedient.

Stanza 5 illustrated the sturdy castle’s network of tunnelled stone becoming weak and thin. It was lost without a struggle. The attackers took the fortress for gold. The subterranean galleries were deserted. As a result, the castle was taken.

c) Human greed led to the mighty fall of the citadel. Explain.
Answer. The castle’s soldiers were confident in the physical strength of their castle. They were able to monitor the mowers from the turrets, and no adversary was discovered up to a half-mile away. They were armed to the teeth and stocked up on food and ammunition. The soldiers were arranged in a pyramidal formation. They were keeping a close eye on the tower, prepared to kill the adversary on sight. They believed the castle was completely secure as a result of their captain’s bravery and their men’ loyalty. However, a wicket gate was guarded by an evil guard. He allowed his adversaries access to the famous citadel via a secret gallery and a winding road. Due to the greedy traitorous warder, the once-mighty castle became frail and thin. For riches, the enemies conquered the castle. Thus, the warder’s avarice precipitated the citadel’s mighty fall.

4. Read the given lines and answer the questions that follow in a line or two.



a) All through the summer at ease we lay,
And daily from the turret wall  We watched the mowers in the hay

i) Who does ‘we’ refer to? 
Answer. ‘We’ refers to the soldiers lodged in the castle.

ii) How did the soldiers spend the summer days?
Answer. The soldiers spent the summer days by laying and taking rest.

iii) What could they watch from the turret wall?
Answer. Through the turrets they were able to watch the mowers and no enemy was found up to the distance of half-a-mile.

b) Our gates were strong, our walls were thick,  So smooth and high, no man could win.

i) How safe was the castle?
Answer. The castle’s gate was very strong and the walls were very thick.

ii) What was the firm belief of the soldiers?
Answer. As the gate was strong, and wall was thick, no one can enter the castle. This was the firm belief of the soldiers.

c) A foothold there, no clever trick 
     Could take us dead or quick,
     Only a bird could have got in.

i) What was challenging?
Answer. The castle’s strong gates, thick walls, their vigilance and security were challenging.

ii) Which aspect of the castle’s strength is conveyed by the above line? 
Answer. No, one could enter the gate but only a bird could have got in. This aspect of the castle’s strength is conveyed by the above line.

d) Oh then our maze of tunneled stone  Grew thin and treacherous as air. 
The castle was lost without a groan,
The famous citadel overthrown,

i) Bring out the contrast in the first two lines. 
Answer. ‘Maze of tunneled stone’ means very strong in the first line. But  ‘grew thin’ means very weak in the second line. This was the contrast.    

ii) What happened to the castle? 
Answer. The castle was captured by the enemies.

e) We could do nothing, being sold.


i) Why couldn’t they do anything? 
As the warder was  disloyal, the castle was captured and all were arrested. So they couldn’t do anything.


ii) Why did they feel helpless? 
The castle was defeated by the enemies in the crook way. The soldiers could not accept this treacherous defeat. So they felt helpless.              

5. Explain the following with reference to the context in about 50-60 words each. a) They seemed no threat to us at all. 


Context : The above line is taken from the poem “The castle” written by Edwin Muir.   

Explanation: The narrator tells the reader that no one could conquer their castle due to its strength. They were able to monitor the mowers from the turrets, and no opponent was discovered up to a half-mile away. He claims that his adversaries posed no threat to his army.

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Comment: In these lines,  the narrator professes his confidence in the strength of their castle.

b) How can this shameful tale be told? 


Context:  The above line is taken from the poem “The castle” written by Edwin Muir.   


Explanation : The narrator laments how their castle was captured despite having sturdy gates, ample food, and a valiant captain. It was due to the greedy disloyal warder who was bribed with riches. That, the narrator felt, was the heinous crime. And he was concerned about how this humiliating setback would be communicated to others.

Comment : The narrator is embarrassed by his castle’s warden and their defeat. 

c) I will maintain until my death 


Context :  The above line is taken from the poem “The castle” written by Edwin Muir.   


Explanation : The narrator regretted how their castle was captured despite having sturdy gates, ample food, and a courageous captain. It was due to the selfish and treacherous warder who was bribed with riches. That, according to the narrator, was the repulsive act. And he was concerned about how this humiliating setback would be communicated to others, as well as how he would keep the defeat a secret until he died.

Comment:  The narrator conveys his conviction and resolve.

d) Our only enemy was gold 


Context: The same as above.

Explanation: The narrator laments how their castle was captured despite having sturdy gates, ample food, and a valiant captain. It was due to the greedy disloyal warder who was bribed with riches. The narrator believed that the warder’s gold received as a bribe was their true adversary.


Comment:  The narrator discovers the true reason for their downfall.

6. Read the poem and complete the table with suitable rhyming words.  

lay : hay 
wall : all
fear : near
load : road
thick : trick
bait : gate
stone : groan
air : bare
told : sold

7. Underline the alliterated words in the following lines.                          
a) With our arms and provender, load on load.  –  load, load
b) A little wicked wicket gate.  –  wicked, wicket
c) The wizened warder let them through.   – wizened, warder

8. Identify the figure of speech used in the following lines. 
a)  A little wicked wicket gate.  – Metaphor
b)  Oh then our maze of tunneled stone  – Metaphor
c)  Grew thin and treacherous as air.   – Simile
d)  How can this shameful tale be told?  – Interrogation
e)  Our only enemy was gold,  – Personification


9. Can you call ‘The Castle’ an allegorical poem? Discuss.
Answer. ‘The Castle’ is an allegorical poem. In this poetry, the speaker is one of the soldiers lodged in a castle. He describes how powerful their castle is. He claims that they have plenty of weapons and food. He believes they will be able to stand up to their adversaries. They are beaten, however, when the adversary bribes one of their own warders into allowing the opposing soldiers through a little gate. The attackers took the fortress for gold. Allegory is a narrative, poetry, or image that can be interpreted to disclose a hidden message, usually moral or political. This failure is used in the poem to emphasise moral and political points. It conveys the idea that corruption and betrayal are often hidden and subtle. The poet lamented the fact that he had not found a weapon to combat the adversary known as ‘gold.’ It also illustrates the truth that an army is only strong if its troops cannot be bribed.

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