Category Archives: POETRY LESSONS

“The Emperor of Ice Cream” by Wallace Stevens : Summary and Questions

“The Emperor of Ice Cream” by Wallace Stevens

Vocabulary

concupiscent – lusty; full of desire protrude – stick out

affix – fasten

1. What kind of ceremony is taking place in this poem?

A wake is being held.

2. The speaker suggests that the girls wear their everyday dresses and that the boys bring flowers “in last month’s newspapers.” What does this say about his attitude towards ceremony and propriety?

Answers may vary. Example: The speaker scoffs a bit (but not scornfully) at the formal ceremony and he sees no reason to dress up the fact that a woman is dead.

3. What do you think the speaker means by the line “Let be be finale of seem”?

Answers may vary. Example: The speaker means that we should stop worrying about how things seem or look to others and simply let them be as they are.

4. What do you think the speaker means by the poem’s refrain of “The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream”?

Answers may vary. Example: This assertion is related to the speaker’s suggestion that we let “be be finale of seem.” We invest emperors and ceremonies with ridiculous power and meaning, taking them too seriously. The speaker is pointing this out. Alternative interpretations abound:

• despite death, the sweetness of life still exists

• the only important thing is life

• the only important thing is death

• both life and the end of life are to be savored etc.


“Fog” by Carl Sandburg : Summary and Questions

“Fog” by Carl Sandburg

Vocabulary

haunches – hips and thighs

1. Is Sandburg’s comparison of the fog to a cat a metaphor or a simile?

Sandburg’s comparison is a metaphor.

2. Why do you think Sandburg chose to leave white space between the first two lines of the poem and the last four?

Answers may vary. Example: The white space slows the poem down and it mimics the creeping and measured silence of the cat-like fog.


Questions and Summary of “Poetry” by Marianne Moore

“Poetry” by Marianne Moore

Vocabulary

dilate – grow wider; expand

derivative – unoriginal

insolence – rudeness; arrogance

1. While Moore does not use meter in this poem, she does impose a strict form on it. How is the form achieved?

The form is achieved with the use of indentations, in the same place for each strophe.

2. What, according to the speaker, should ideally be like “imaginary gardens with real toads in them”? Explain the meaning of this phrase.

According to the speaker, poems should ideally be like imaginary gardens with real toads in them.

Answers may vary. Example: A poem should be unreal and illusory, but it should also be populated by actual feelings, characters, and concepts.


“The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter” by EzraPound: Questions and Summary

“The River-Merchant’s Wife: A Letter” by Ezra Pound

Vocabulary

eddies – currents

1. The first strophe of this poem ends with “Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.” The second begins with “At fourteen I married My Lord you.” Comment on the transition. What has changed about their relationship in addition to their getting married?

The transition is dramatic. The relationship between the people in the poem has changed as the boy is suddenly “My Lord.”

2. How do the butterflies “hurt” the river-merchant’s wife?

The butterflies hurt the river-merchant’s wife by being “paired,” as she misses being paired with her husband.


“anyone lived in a pretty how town” by e.e. cummings : Questions and Summary

“anyone lived in a pretty how town” by e.e. cummings

1. Who is “anyone”? Describe “anyone”’s relations to “noone.”

Anyone is a man who is different than anyone else in the town, and so he is hated. Anyone is loved by noone, as the line, “anyone’s any was all to her,” suggests.

2. What tense is the poem written in? Does the tense shift at all?

The poem is written in the past tense until “anyone” and “noone” are buried. The poem then becomes present for a single stanza, suggesting that death and the eternal life that follows is constantly ‘present.’

3. What does the rearrangement of the seasons and stellar beings suggest about time?

The rearrangements keep the same circular order, suggesting that time is also circular, yet ever-changing.

4. The only two capitalized words of the poem are “Women.” Why do you suppose Cummings capitalizes them?

The capitalizations both follow the only two full stops of the poem (periods). Cummings may be signifying the beginning quality of women, suggesting that everything, including the poem, begins with a woman.


“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.


“The Emperor of Ice Cream” by Wallace Stevens : Summary and Questions 1

A PHOTOGRAPH BY SHIRLEY TOULSON: Summary, Explanation, Analysis and Solved Questions

A PHOTOGRAPH BY SHIRLEY TOULSON

Introduction: When you look at an old photograph it brings back memories of past events, experiences, joys, sorrows, etc. People become older with the passage of time, they might become unrecognisable due to wrinkles, posture or greying hair. You may laugh at the photograph nostalgically, remembering the past events. You may remember the smile on the loved person’s face and may laugh with a tinge of sadness that past cannot be re-lived. The memories may produce great sadness in you. You may have an acute sense of loss. But the reality is that time is a great healer. Although the sense of loss (on the death of one’s near and dear, ages ago) may never go away completely but with time one has to accept the eventuality, mortality and lack of permanence of human life. You have to come to terms with the loss of your dear departed ones, and you have to accept the inevitable. The past memories can leave you silent, dazed as the silence in the photograph. But nature will always be there and remain unaltered with the passage of time. Nature is immortal and eternal. The sea will be there where it is, the mountain will be there where it is. Nature symbolises permanence, immortality and eternity. Human life will be ephemeral in nature and temporary and nothing can erase this naked fact.

Summary of A Photograph

The poem, “A Photograph” is written in free verse. The title photograph is very much appropriate as it reminds the poet of her mother. A photograph is something that captures a certain snapshot of someone’s life. The person may change in course of time however the recollections connected with the photograph are endless. In this poem, the poet’s mother is no more but the photograph brings back her memories of her.
The mother’s sweet face or her cousins vigorously dressed up for the beach have all changed with time but the minutes captured in the photograph still offers satisfaction to the poet’s mother when she sees it thirty to forty years after later.
The poet looks at cardboard on which there is a photographic of three girls. The bigger and oldest one in the middle and two younger and shorter ones at each side of her. The girl in the middle is the mother of the poet, and the poet speculates that when the picture was taken, her mother must have been about twelve years old. The other two girls are two cousins from her mother.
All three of them stood still shoulder to shoulder to smile at the camera through their long wet hair, the picture of which was taken by the uncle holding it. The mother had a sweet and pleasant smile before her child(the poet) was born into this world. The sea in which they were paddling; which did not seem to have changed; washed their terribly transient wet feet.
After twenty to thirty years later, the mother took out the photograph and laughed nostalgically at the snapshot. Betty and Dolly were the two cousin sisters. She found it so hilarious that they had dressed up heavily for the beach. The sea holiday was her past for the mother while it was a laughter for the speaker.
Both mother and daughter wry; created by a distortion or lopsidedness of facial characteristics: bitterly or disdainfully ironic or funny; in the laborious ease of loss. But now, for the past few years, the mother has been dead just as one of those cousin sisters’ lives. There’s nothing else remaining to say about all these conditions. The matter is closed and its fate has been sealed by silence.
The poet reminisces that the sea holiday was the past of her mother and for her, the laughter of her mother is past now. Both the moments of life have been permanently etched in the poet’s mind with a feeling of eternal loss.

Death now has overpowered the innocence of these moments and the pleasure they treasured. The poet concludes the poem on a melancholy note with the comment that there is nothing to say or comment upon this sad event. The silence seems to silence all the other thoughts.

UNDERSTANDING THE LESSON THROUGH KEY SENTENCES

EXPLAINATION

Lines 1 – 4:

The cardboard shows me how it was
When the two girl cousins went paddling
Each one holding one of my mother’s hands, And she the big girl – some twelve years or so.

The poet describes looking through a photo album in these lines, the pages of which appear to be made of cardboard. She looks at a specific photo. It is a picture of three girls the tallest and oldest one in the middle and two younger and shorter ones at each side of her. The girl in the middle is the mother of the poet, and the poet speculates that when the picture was taken, her mother must have been about twelve years old. The other two girls are two cousins from her mother. Each of the cousins holds on to one of the hands for support from the older girl. The photo was drawn on a beach on the day when the three girls had visited there for paddling.

Lines 5 – 9:

All three stood still to smile through their hair
At the uncle with the camera, A sweet face
My mother’s, that was before I was born and the sea, which appears to have changed less Washed their terribly transient feet.

The poet further discusses in these lines the circumstances under which her mother and her mother’s cousins were photographed. The poet claims the uncle of her mother was the one who took the photo. He had asked the three girls, and so they had, to pose for him. They had left their moist hair open and a portion of their faces were darkened by their hair. One could see that they were smiling into the camera through the hair film covering their mouths. One face in the picture, however, draws the attention of the poet to a greater extent than the other two faces. She’s focusing on the face of her mother, and she says the face was a sweet one.
The poet also claims the photo was taken long before she was born. Naturally, since the time the photograph was taken, the face of her mother had changed since then. By comparison, the ocean on the beach where the photo was taken had altered to a lower degree. That very ocean washed the poet’s mother’s feet and her two younger cousins the day the photo was taken. The poet calls those feet “terribly transient” as all the girls in that photograph stopped being so young and since then have grown up. Their childhood did not last long.

Lines 10 – 13:

Some twenty-thirty- years later
She’d laugh at the snapshot. “See Betty
And Dolly,” she’d say, “and look how they
Dressed us for the beach.” The sea holiday

The poet stops looking at the photo in these lines and recalls what her mother said about the photograph. Whether it was twenty years after the photograph was taken or thirty years after it, the poet is not sure, but she recalls her mother telling her to look at how the cousins, called Betty and Dolly, looked at that young age. The mother of the poet also told her to see how her parents dressed them up for a beach trip. Maybe there was the plan to take the photo all along.

Lines 14-15

was her past, mine is her laughter. Both wry With the laboured ease of loss.

The poet claims in these lines that her mother used to see the photograph as an inroad to the past she left behind. The poet herself, on the other side, saw her mother’s memory laughing as a relic of the past that she missed every day. The memories of the past made the two females contemplating them feel disappointed in both instances as they tried hard to come up with what they had lost.

Lines 16 – 19:

Now she has been dead nearly as many years
As that girl lived. And of this circumstance There is nothing to say at all, Its silence silences.

In these lines, the poet says that for the past twelve years her mother has been dead, that is, the same number of years that her mother’s age was in the photograph she had been looking at. The poet can believe in the death of her mother, but she has no words to explain how she has been influenced by death. She was also left speechless by the fact that death silenced her mother.

USE OF OXYMORON IN THE POEM ‘A PHOTOGRAPH’

An oxymoron is a figure of speech that contradicts or appears to contradict itself. Examples often given are “gigantic shrimp” or “controlled chaos.” Some are literary effects intended to produce a paradox, while others are made for humor. The poem “A Photograph” contains the oxymoron “laboured ease,” which in the context of loss may mean avoiding the public display of grief.

QUESTION AND ANSWER

1. Comment on the tone of the poem.
Ans. The tone of the poem is that of sorrow. The whole poem passes through the lament of the loss of something close and dear. Shirley Toulson looks at her mother’s old photograph and is reminded of her mother who is no longer. She recalls the time when her mother was twelve years old and looked nice and happy.

2. What is the significance of the ‘cardboard frame?’
Ans. The cardboard frame or picture shows the transience of human life. Although the sense of loss (on the death of one’s near and dear, ages ago) may never go away completely but with time one has to accept the eventuality, mortality and lack of permanence of human life. You have to come to terms with the loss of your dear departed ones, and you have to accept the inevitable. The past memories can leave you silent, dazed as the silence in the photograph. Hence, human life is ephemeral in nature and temporary and nothing can erase this naked fact.

3. What emotions does the poet’s mother have when she looks at the photograph?
Ans. The mother feels nostalgic looking at her bygone years. She laughs out loud and tells her daughter how her cousins had heavily dressed up for the beach. She recollects those days when she was innocent, youthful and playful.

4. What is silence and how has it silenced the poet?
Ans. There is nothing to say because the poet has lost her mother and her lovely smile forever. She is left without words. The poet’s mother’s death has silenced the poet.

5. ‘Each photograph is a memory.’ Justify the statement in light of the poem.

Ans. Photographs are memories for lifetime purposes that are captured and retained. “A Photograph” by Shirley Toulson captures one such time when her mother was young and she and her cousins had went on a beach holiday. Mother and her cousins are gone these days, but even after thirty years later the photograph succeeds in bringing those memories back. The mother’s laughter as she watched the photograph became a past incident. But the photograph enables the poet, through the picture captured thirty years ago, to recall and revive the laughter. Photographs are therefore memories of bygone days.

6. What does the word ‘cardboard’ denote in the poem? Why has this word been used?
Ans. The cardboard is a very hard and stuff paper. It is a part of a photo frame that keeps the picture intact. In her poem,’ The Photograph,’ the poet has ironically used it. This cardboard helps to keep the photograph of the 12-year-old girl safely intact who herself was of temporary nature.

7. What has the camera captured?

Ans. The camera had captured a phonograph of the three young ladies. One of them was the pretty face of the poet’s mother who was a young lady of twelve around that time. The other two were the smiling faces of the two cousins- Betty and Dolly. They hold the hands of the mother of the poet.

8. What has not changed over the years? Does this suggest something to you?
Ans. Nature has not changed over the years.It symbolizes eternity, immortality and permanence. Human life is temporary and ephemeral in nature, and nothing can erase this bare reality. In the poem we see only the sea has not changed. The pretty faces and the feet of the three young girls have greatly changed with time.

9. The poet’s mother laughed at the snapshot. What did this laugh indicate?
Ans. The poet’s mother laughed at the photo taken years earlier. She and her two little cousins stood holding each other’s hand in the photograph. She laughed at them all because she found it so hilarious that they had dressed up heavily for the beach. They might have looked funny to her. Their laughter showed the spirit of youth.

10. What is the meaning of the line “Both wry with the laboured ease of loss”
Ans. Both the mother and the poet experienced a great feeling of loss. The mother lost the innocence of her childhood and the youthful spirit captured by the photograph a few years ago. The poet, on the other side, has lost her mother’s smile, which has become a thing of the past. She also lost her mother later.

11. What does “this circumstance” refer to?
Ans. The’ circumstance’ here relates to the death of the poet’s mother. Her deceased mother’s photograph makes the poet nostalgic and brings sad emotions from the past. But the poet has nothing to say about the circumstance because death is inescapable.

12. The three stanzas depict three different phases. What are they?
Ans. The first stanza demonstrates the mother of the poet as a woman of twelve with a beautiful smiling face. Then she paddles on a beach with her two cousins girls. All of them have a happy youthful laugh. This is before the birth of the poet. The second phase depicts the middle-aged mother laughing at her own long-recorded snapshot. The third phase portrays her mother’s death silence on the poet’s face.

Short Questions

STANZA – 1

The cardboard shows me how it was
When the two girl cousins went paddling,
Each one holding one of my mother’s hands, And she the big girl- some twelve years or so.

a. What does the ‘cardboard’ show the poet?

Ans: The’ cardboard’ displays the scene with three women on the sea beach to the poet.
b. Why did the two girl cousins hold one of the poet’s mother’s hands?
Ans: As the poet’s mother was ‘the big girl,’ that is, the eldest of the three girls so the brothers of the two girls hold one of her hands.
c. How old was the oldest girl among the three cousins?
Ans: Among the three cousins, the oldest girl was some twelve years old.
d. How did the girls go to the sea beach?
Ans: The girls went to the sea beach ‘paddling’. It means walked barefooted in the shallow water.

STANZA – 2

Now she’s been dead nearly as many years As that girl lived. And of this circumstance T here is nothing to say at all. Its silence silences.

a. How long has the poet’s mother been dead?
Ans: The poet’s mother has been dead for about twelve years.

b. What is the meaning of the word ‘circumstance’ in the poem?

Ans: The word ‘circumstance’ in the poem means the death of the poet’s mother.
c. Why is there nothing to say at all?

Ans: The poet has lost her mother and her beautiful smile forever.Therefore there is nothing to say at all.
d. What silences the silence?
Ans: The silence of the death silences the silence.
Q. Write answers of the following questions in about 40 words each: (2 marks each)

a. Describe the three girls as they pose for the photograph?

Ans: The three girls came to the sea beach to be photographed by their uncle. The older cousins held the elder cousin’s hands. They smiled through their hair as they stood still for a photograph.

b. Why would the poet’s mother laugh at the snapshot?

Ans: The poet’s mother would laugh at the snapshot because she found it so hilarious that they had dressed up heavily for the beach. It revived her memories of bygone happy days on the sea beach and the amusing way in which they were dressed for the beach.

c. What are the losses of the poet’s mother and the poet?

Ans: The poet’s mother’s loss is of her old happy days on the sea beach while the loss of the poet is the beautiful smile of her mother as she is now dead.

d. The entire poem runs through the lament of loss of something near and dear. Which feeling is presented prominently here?

Ans: The nostalgic feeling is presented prominently the poem.


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