Author Archives: SmartEnglishNotes

“First Fig” by Edna St. Vincent Millay : Summary and Questions

“First Fig” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Vocabulary
renascence – rebirth

1. Is the candle of the poem literal or figurative? Why do you think the author begins the poem with such a common cliché?

The candle is figurative.

Answers may vary. Example: Millay might have wanted a rhyme for “Friends”. However, the cliche does fit the sense of this very short poem.

2. Describe the voice and tone of the speaker.

Answers may vary. Example: The speaker is exuberant and unapologetic.

3. What is defended in this poem?

The poem defends the decision to live a very full and experimental, if fast, life.


“The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams : Summary and Questions

“The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams

1. Although we would call this a free verse poem, each strophe is precisely arranged in the same way as the others. What “form” do the strophes take?

The strophes each consist of two lines: the first with three words, the latter with one.

2. Why do you think Williams does not go into greater detail when describing the wheelbarrow and chickens? Why only tell us one thing about them (in this case, their colors)?

Answers may vary. Example: The spare details put the image into sharp focus; it becomes as vivid as a street sign.

3. “Wheelbarrow” is written as one word in the title, but divided in the second strophe. Why does Williams divide it in the body of the poem?

While “wheelbarrow” is usually written as one word, Williams divides it in the body of the poem to preserve the strophe’s form.

4. What is your interpretation of the poem?

Answers may vary. Examples:

• Much depends on the family farm.

• One person regrets leaving such an important object out in the rain.

• The colors red and white are symbolic of blood and purity, among many other things.


“Anthem For Doomed Youth” by Wilfred Owen : Questions and Summary

“Anthem For Doomed Youth” by Wilfred Owen.

Vocabulary

orisons – prayers

shires – counties

pallor – paleness

pall – a cover for a coffin

1. What does the simile, “who die as cattle” suggest about the death of the young soldiers?

The comparison of the soldiers to dying cattle suggest the number of casualties, as well as a tinge of anger, at how their lives are being disposed of without much thought in the name of war.

2. What literary device is used to create images rather than simply offer descriptions of the weapons of war in the first octet of the poem?

The first stanza is filled with uses of onomatopoeia: stuttering, puttering, patter, shrill, and wailing.

3. Why do you think the speaker employs religious terminology in the first stanza of the poem? What does it say about his view of organized religion and war?

The use of religious terminology and imagery remain consistent with the undertone of irony and sarcasm found throughout the poem. In the first stanza, the use refers to the lack of hope and grace on the battlefield.

4. How does Owen link the two stanzas of his poem? Why does it break?

The two stanzas of the poem are linked by the idea of a calling. The first stanza concludes with the calling of bugles to war, while the second stanza begins with the calling of candles from war. The poem breaks to show the transition from the action of the first stanza to the inaction (through death) of the second.

5. What do the soldiers receive in lieu of a funeral?

Rather than proper burials, the soldiers receive the thoughts of those they left behind.

6. What is the term for the repetition of the ‘r’ sound in “rifles’ rapid rattle”?

The above phrase exemplifies alliteration. The repetition of the ‘a’ sound in rapid and rattle is also an example of assonance.


“Musee des Beaux Arts” by W.H. Auden : Questions and Summary

“Musee des Beaux Arts” by W.H. Auden

Vocabulary

martyrdom – suffering of death for one’s beliefs

forsaken – renounced

Note: To fully appreciate the poem, students should be shown a reproduction of “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,” by artist Pieter Brueghel. The poem is essential to interpreting the poem’s second stanza.

1. What is the poem suggesting about the nature of cruelty?

The poem suggests that cruelty is a natural part of all our lives, and that suffering affects everyone.

2. Who in the poem cares about human suffering?

The speaker of the poem infers that the ones who care about human suffering are the children. The suggestion is that children are too young to have experienced suffering themselves, and so the witness of it affects them more.

3. What is the theme of the poem? Choose one image from the poem and explain how it reinforces this message.

The theme of the poem is about the universality of human suffering. The poem’s images suggest how suffering is constantly taking place, though not to everyone at the same time.

Students’ responses to the second part of the question will vary, but should reinforce the above mentioned theme.

4. Why do you think the poet chose Peter Bruegel’s “Icarus” to illustrate his theme of the world’s indifference to human suffering ?

Answers may vary. Example: The village folk in the poem would have been aware of Icarus’ failure, but they continue to move on with their work. The images suggest that suffering does not move people to act any differently than they normally do because it is experienced by all.

5. Some critics have argued that this poem hints at Auden’s decision to turn back toChristianity. What signs do you find in this poem that signal this may be true?

In line seven, Auden mentions the “miraculous birth,” probably a reference to Christ’s birth. The theme of tragedy is also reminiscent of Christ and his tragic end.


Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night” by Dylan Thomas : Questions and Summary

“Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night” by Dylan Thomas

1. What is the tone of the poem?

The poem’s tone is one of anger and persuasion. The speaker is urging readers to not succumb to death.

2. What is the “dying of the light”?

The dying of the night is a metaphor for death.

3. As the note above the poem suggests, it is an example of a villanelle. A villanelle is a poem consisting of 19 lines, but only two rhymes. It also repeats two lines throughout the poem. Why do you think Thomas has chosen to write his poem following the traditional form of a villanelle?

Answers may vary. Example: Thomas writes a villanelle to show the constrictions placed on men by death. By writing his poem about rebellion in a constricting form, its theme is reinforced.

4. According to the first stanza, what does the speaker seem to be asking? Put your response in your own words.

Answers may vary. Example: The speaker is saying that you should fight against dying and that old age should not be a reason to give in to death.

5. What kind of men should rage against the dying of the light? What four types of men does Thomas address?

Thomas addresses “wise men,” “good men,” “Wild men,” and “grave men.”

6. Consider the punctuation used in the first two lines of the poem’s last stanza. What do the caesurae (commas) suggest about the speaker’s feelings toward his father?

The commas separate the speaker’s ideas and add a feeling of spontaneity to the words. The second line, “Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray” does not suggest that the speaker wants to be cursed and blessed by his father, but rather that he has cursed, blessed, and prayed for his father. The speaker, the son, is forced to live with the pain of the dead father: “me now with your fierce tears.”








Ode on a Grecian Urn Summary, Themes and Question Answers

“Ode on a Grecian Urn” by John Keats

Introduction: Ode on a Grecian Urn is undoubtedly the most renowned ode in the history of English literature. This is a perfectly written, an irregular ode

so though the rhyme been has used throughout, but not in a strict way as in other is done in other forms of ode. John Keats has tried to praise the features of classical Greek art through his ode. Consequently, there cannot be another poetic form is as appropriate as this ode which is a true illustration of classical Greek art itself.

Ode on a Grecian Urn

Ode on a Grecian Urn

Summary of Ode on a Grecian Urn

John Keats is one of the greatest poets. His poems are monuments of meticulous craftsmanship and supreme aestheticism. A victim of frustrated love, he is concerned with themes of love in much of his poetry. So he’s known as the love poet. Some of his poems demonstrate his capacity to create an imaginary world out of the common experience. Ode On a Grecian Urn is a good example of this.

In this Keat’s was influenced by the experience of the Greek sculpture. He was a fantastic Greek art admirer. The poem is a philosophical reflection on the connection between art and life, immortality and human death, and the Platonic concept of Truth and Beauty. To the poet, art is the product of intellect, which is inspired by nature. It produces an ideal world far above than common world of life where people are suffering from illness, sadness, pain, starvation, poverty, and death.

The sight of the sculptured images on the Grecian Urn inspires a sense of wonder in the poet. He calls the Urn as a bride wedded to quietness and remaining a virgin. She is the foster child of Time and Silence. Time, the great destroyer has preserved its beauty. It is a timeless thing. Since it represents life, it is a product of time. At the same time, it is immortal. The Urn is a ‘silver historian’ because it gives us a history of the pastoral life of the ancient world. The beautiful woodland scene engraved on it tells us a story far more sweetly than any poem. The poet wonder if the figures are humans or gods. It could be both. He sees the maidens being pursued by their lovers and musicians playing pipes and timbrels. Their ecstasy becomes his.

The poet is inspired and feels a sense of wonder by the sight of marvelous images sculptured on the Urn. He addresses the Urn as a bride wedded to quietness and remaining a virgin. She’s a foster kid of Time and Silence Time the great destroyer has maintained its beauty. It’s something timeless. It is a product of time because it constitutes life. It’s immortal at the same time. The Urn is a ‘silver historian’ as it provides us a history of the ancient world’s pastoral life. The lovely woodland scene engraved on it informs us a tale much sweeter than any poem. The poet wonders if people or gods are the figures. It might be both. He sees the maidens being pursued by their lovers and musicians playing pipes and timbrels. Their ecstasy becomes his.

Keats takes up the themes engraved on Urn one by ine. Firstly, he sees a musician playing his pipe under a tree. The poet is unable to hear the “unheard melodies.” So he imagines that “unheard melodies” are much sweeter than melodies that have been heard. The musical instruments on the Urn are not playing to the “sensual ear,” but they are playing to the soul in us. The tree is immortal as well. It is never going to shed its leaves. Therefore, nature and human beings in the Urn are glad and happy.

A courageous lover attempting to kiss his beloved is another scene. In fact, he never kisses her, but he doesn’t have to worry about it because his sweetheart will never grow old and his love for her will never die. They love one another forever, and they are young and lovely forever. The images like. tree, piper, and lover depict nature, art, and life. All these pictures in the marble urn inform us about the nature-life relationship. In Art, the imperfections of life are dissolved.

Then the poet defines an engraved scene of pagan sacrifice on the urn. A priest is seen leading a heifer to a decorated altar and a big crowd following the priest to attend the ritual. The small town by the sea or river is eternally emptied because the people have gone to attend the sacrifice. These roads are forever going to stay silent. In contrast to the previous scenes, this scene is solemn and severe, which are happier than others. Keats utilizes this image to suggest the concept that even when dealing with tragic and solemn stuff, art provides pleasure.

Addressing the Grecian Urn once again, the poet recognizes the importance of his message to mankind. The images engraved on Grecian Urn quietly laugh at mankind because we are mortals and suffer from disease, pain, and sadness. Our life is even shorter than the lightening life itself. The Grecian urn images are immortal, telling us that “Truth is Beauty and Beauty is Truth. Beauty and truth are the same. Keats pays glorious homage to art’s immortality in this poem. Beauty is about to die, but Arts make it immortal.

Art is fantastic because it is not affected by the sorrow and wretchedness of the world of reality. Keats demonstrates us in this poem that art can capture and immortalize from real-life one fleeting moment of beauty. Human life and happiness are short, but art enshrines them with a perfect beauty that bestows them eternity Any beauty that is not truthful and any reality that is not lovely is irrelevant to mankind.

Word Meanings

citadel – fortress
dales – vales
timbrels – small hand drums
pious – devout
brede –embroidery

Questions and Answers

1. The poem opens with a series of comparisons between the urn and random types of people. The comparison between the non-living urn and the very much alive people is known as what?
Ans. The comparisons come in the form of metaphors, but the attribution of living qualities to the urn is known as personification.

2. What is the first picture that the speaker sees on the urn?

Ans. The speaker sees a picture of men chasing women and asks what the reason could be.

3. Why are the melodies played by the piper in the urn’s second picture superior to those played by actual, living pipers?

Ans. The melodies played in the picture, though silent, are unaffected by time and are unconstrained in meaning.

4. Why, according to the speaker, will the town of the fourth stanza be silent “evermore”?

Ans. The town will be silent because its citizens, as depicted in the picture on the urn, have fled it and are frozen in time in the picture.

5. How does the speaker engage, interact, or react to each picture on the urn? Do his responses change? Why?

Ans. The speaker tries to ask questions of the urn with the first picture, but seeing how the urn cannot answer him, he abandons the line of questioning. With the second picture, the speaker tries to imagine what the experience of the characters on the urn must be like, trying hard to identify with them. His attempts, though, remind him of his own life and how he is tied to his experiences, so he abandons this line of interaction. Finally, with the third picture, the speaker tries to think about the characters as though they are experiencing time. His theory gives the picture an origin and destination; but then, unable to know if the journey is completed, he becomes captivated by the static nature of the urn. His responses show a progression in his identification with art.

6. Who speaks the poem’s final line, “that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know”?

Answers may vary. This question has been debated by critics since the poem’s first publication. If the speaker is the speaker of the poem, the line signifies that he understands the limits of art. If the speaker is the urn, then perhaps art shows that there is no limitation to life. The speaker may also be directly addressing the urn itself or the reader.

7. What is the meaning of “unravished bride”?
Ans. “Unravished bride” implies a bride not spoiled by man’s hand. Her chastity is still maintained. The sentence not only stresses the untouched beauty of the urn but also takes us to the point that the urn is spiritually lovely. No one can comprehend the secret of its marvelous beauty.


Subscribe For Free

Shout questions, submit your article, get study notes and smart learning tips and much more...!

Click Me!