Poetry Study Aid: The Heart of the Tree Henry Cuyler Bunner

The Heart of the Tree

Henry Cuyler Bunner

From time immemorial, there is an all-embracing attachment of man with Nature, particularly, his dependence on trees. Trees are essential for his survival. However, as time passed man’s attitude to Nature, and to trees, were inimical

Heart of a Tree

 and disastrous. There has been massive deforestation because of our greed for agricultural land and timber and necessity of cheap fuel. This large-scale deforestation remains, even today, a menace to the biodiversity of our environment.
In our times, it is significant that we comprehend our role in preserving the balance of the environment in Nature for our own benefit and survival. We should review our stance towards Nature where we realise the importance of the trees. Trees are of great importance to man in all spheres of his life. The planting of a tree is not merely a mechanical action but an act of personal, social and global import. The planting of a tree is a gesture that proclaims one’s intention to serve humanity since the tree benefits not only the individual that plants it but also the society and, in a wider scheme of things, the humanity. In the poem The Heart of the Tree, the poet Henry Cuyler Bunner presents the beneficial aspects of planting a tree both to the person who plants a tree and to the society and, overall, to the humanity. The poem not only appreciates the action of planting a tree but also honours the heart of a person who does this noble and benevolent act.

The poem consists of three stanzas of nine lines each and all the three stanzas begin with a question and the poet himself gives the answer to the question. The poem with its simple and vivid use of diction has an attractive rhyme scheme ababbccaa for each stanza. The meticulous choice of words coupled with the rhyming lines gives the poem an alluring musical quality. The repetition of the same question as a refrain in the beginning of each stanza of the poem is a poetic technique, known as Hypophora, employed by the poet to accentuate the theme of the poem to his readers.
Hypophora also referred to as Anthypophora, is a figure of speech in which the speaker poses a question and then he himself answers the question. It is different from a Rhetorical question where the answer is implied or not necessary. (A Rhetorical question usually has an obvious answer but you have asked the question to make a point, to persuade or for literary effect.)
Stanza One
The poem begins with a question – What does he plant who plants a tree? – that delivers the spirit of the whole poem, that is, the worth of planting a tree and the rest of the stanza is the poet’s answer to the question the significance and value of planting a tree.
A plant grows upwards as if it aspires to get in touch with the sun and the sky so that they get a new friend in a tree. Moreover, the tree needs sunlight and air to stay alive. Also, the trees appear to soak up the heat and relieve the earth from the sweltering sun.
The poet now says that by planting a tree, man plants a flag that flies freely in the gentle breeze. The poet here compares the leafy branches of the tree to a flag and the trunk of the tree to the splendid shaft or pole of the flag that remains firm and tall.
A tree also becomes a home for the birds singing melodiously high in the sky, close to heaven. Hence, by planting a tree, man renders the earth inhabitable for birds and facilitates in the conservation of the environment. In the serene and joyful twilight, man hears the symphonic song of these birds that twitter in harmony to the melody of the heaven.
Thus, in the first stanza of the poem, the poet highlights the significance of trees in sustaining the splendour of nature. The choice of the words such as ‘heaven anigh’, ‘heaven’s harmony’ and ‘towering high’ emphasises that the action of planting a tree is certainly a blissful and glorious deed.

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The Quest of the Golden Fleece

 The Quest of the Golden Fleece

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Athamas, a king, gets tired of his first wife, Nephele, and marries a second, Ino. Ino wants Nephele’s son, Phrixus, out of the way so her own son can inherit the throne. Hermes sends a flying golden ram to rescue Phrixus and his sister, Helle, who falls off the ram and dies. Phrixus safely reaches the land of Colchis, where he sacrifices the ram to Zeus and gives its skin—the Golden Fleece—to Colchis’s king, Aetes.

Meanwhile, a man named Pelias has usurped the throne of Phrixus’s uncle, a Greek king. Jason, the deposed king’s son, grows up and returns to reclaim the throne. En route to Pelias’s kingdom, Jason loses a sandal. Pelias is afraid when he sees Jason approach, as an oracle has told him that he will be overthrown by a stranger wearing only one sandal. The wicked Pelias pretends to acquiesce but says that the gods have told him that the Golden Fleece must be retrieved for the kingdom first. This is a lie—Pelias assumes that anyone sent on that dangerous journey will never come back. Jason, intrigued by the challenge, assembles a remarkable group of heroes to help him, including Hercules, Theseus, Peleus, and Orpheus. Their ship is named the Argo, so the group is called the Argonauts.

The Argonauts face many challenges on the way to Colchis. They first meet the fierce women of Lemnos, who have killed their men, but find them atypically kind. Hercules leaves the crew, and the Argonauts meet an oracle, Phineus. The sons of Boreas, the North Wind, help Phineus by driving off some terrible Harpies who foul his food whenever he tries to eat. Phineus gives the Argonauts information that helps them pass safely through their next challenge—the Symplegades, gigantic rocks that smash together when a ship sail through them. After narrowly avoiding conflict with the Amazons, bloody women warriors, and passing by the chained Prometheus, the Argonauts finally arrive at Colchis.

Though more trials await here, Hera and Aphrodite help Jason. Like Pelias, Aetes pretends to want to give Jason the Fleece but first demands that he complete two tasks that are designed to kill him. Aphrodite sends Cupid to make Aetes’s daughter, a witch named Medea, fall in love with Jason and help him through the tasks. The first challenge is to yoke two fierce magical bulls with hooves of bronze and breath of fire, and Medea gives Jason an ointment that makes him invincible. The second task is to use the bulls to plow a field and sow it with dragon’s teeth, which causes armed men to spring up from the earth and attack Jason. Medea tells him that if he throws a rock in the middle of the armed men, they will attack each other, not him. After Jason’s success, Aetes plots to kill the Argonauts at night, but Medea again intercedes, warning Jason and enabling him to steal the Fleece by putting its guardian serpent to sleep. Medea joins the Argonauts and flees back to Greece. On the way home, she commits the ultimate act of love for Jason: to help evade the ship’s pursuers, she kills her own brother, Apsyrtus.

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Poetry Study Aid:The Road Not Taken Robert Frost

The Road Not Taken
Robert Frost

Extract I
Two Roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not take both
And be one traveller,long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.
1.    What is meant by diverged? What is suggested by the yellow wood?
Diverged means to ‘go in a different direction’. As the poet or the speaker of the poem started his journey he came to a point where the road forked in two different directions placing him in a dilemma.
The yellow wood suggests that the leaves of the trees are yellow and hence the season is autumn.
Some critics suggest that yellow colour, suggesting the onset of old age, denotes Robert Frost’s middle-aged status. (The poem’s autobiographical element). Frost wrote the poem when he was no longer young.
2.    Why does the narrator feel sorry? Why do you think that the narrator stood long?
The narrator, or the poet Robert Frost,during his morning walk in an autumn morning through the woods, comes across two roads diverging in two different directions. Frost is sad that he cannot take both the roads but has to make a choice between the two.
The poet stood at the crossroads, contemplating as to which of the two roads he should take, weighing both the roads for their merits.
See that Frost calls himself a traveller which transports the morning walk to a greater attribute.
In a metaphorical level, the walk of the poet symbolizes a man’s journey through his path of life. In his life, a man very often comes across crucial situations where he has to make a decision and his decision decides his course of life.
The two roads are, metaphorically, the choices that are before him. The poet’s delay suggests obliquely the need for deep thought and reflection of the consequences before we take a life-changing decision.
3. How can you conclude from the stanza that the narrator was in the dilemma of which road to take?
When Frost confronted the diverging road, he was in a quandary. He could not immediately decide which road to take. Hence, He stood at the fork pondering which road to take. The phrase long I stood clearly indicates the poet’s dilemma in making a decision.
4. What is meant by undergrowth? Where did the first road lead?
Undergrowth is the brush (small trees and bushes and ferns etc.) growing beneath taller trees in a wood or forest. When Frost strained to find out the stretch of one of the roads stretch, he could see that the first road curved into the bushes at a distance.
5.    Frost is a rural poet. What picture of the countryside does he give in the extract?
Frost is acclaimed as a pastoral poet. He uses the simple, colloquial diction of the rural people. The images used in the extract, such as ‘the yellow woods’ ‘undergrowth’, give the poem a savour of the country side. Even the incident described in the extract – a man in his morning walk coming across roads that diverge- is typically countryside.
6.    Describe the conflict introduced by the poet in the extract.
The two diverging roads that the poet faces is the core conflict. The poet or the traveller is in a predicament which road he should take. The road offers conflicting options to the poet traveller, as he has no idea of the nature or the extent of either of the roads. He cannot make a decision immediately.
In real life also, we find in such situations where we are faced with conflicting choices and our choice or decision has a far-reaching impact. The decision we make not only affects our life but also has an effect on the life of our near and dear.
7.    Give the symbolism of the two roads. What is the significance of choosing one road?
The two roads that the poet-traveller faces in his morning walk are symbolic of the choices that we have to encounter in our life. The morning walk itself is a metaphor for the great journey of life.
In the poem the poet, after prolonged thought, decides to take the road less travelled, accepting its challenges and uncertainties. The decision is final and irreversible and it has its own consequences, may be positive or negative.
In real life also we confront such critical situations where we face life-altering options. The decision we make is crucial. We should contemplate over the choices before as and decide our priorities. Once we make the decision and proceed accordingly, we can never reverse it. The life takes its own course, and it does not give a second chance to alter our decision and change our course of life. Hence, decide wisely.
Extract II
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

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Poetry Study Aid: Where the Mind is Without Fear Rabindranath Tagore Questions and Answers

Where the Mind is Without Fear
Rabindranath Tagore

The poet Rabindranath Tagore delineates a poignant portrait of the nation he wishes his country India to become. The poem was written when India was under the British rule and the Indians were deeply involved in snatching their country’s freedom from the British imperialistic tyranny.  
The poet envisages a country where her people hold their heads high with their pride as their country is a free country and all are liberated and united without any discrimination based on narrow commitments of caste, creed, gender or religion. He desires the Indians to strive for perfection in the clear light of logical reasoning, freed from all sorts of social inequalities and superstitious rituals. 
The poet further conveys his yearning that his country to be roused to a realm where its citizens are truly rational and constantly contemplates of reaching perfection in every facet of life. They will be free from irrational thinking and outdated customs and superstitious conventions.
Finally, the poet implores God to give his countrymen the faculty to enlarge their minds to noble thoughts and actions. Consequently, India will become the country of his dreams “heaven of freedom” liberated from all kinds of ills and evils.
Extract 1
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high.
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out form the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
(a) What form of freedom does the poet envisage?
The poet is Rabindranath Tagore, a Nobel Laureate. The poet envisages his country to achieve all kinds of freedom — political, religious, spiritual, moral and intellectual. And only then it will attain the delightful heaven of freedom, a utopia where his countrymen would be able to hold their heads high in self-respect, will not have a hazy and distorted idea built on prejudices and strive determinedly to reach perfection in every domain of life.
(b) What are narrow domestic walls? What are the results of constructing narrow domestic walls?
According to the poet, narrow domestic walls refer to narrow loyalties of caste, creed and religion. Prejudice and superstitions narrow the mind and divide the people. They are called ‘narrow’ by the poet because they are based on ancient customs and traditions and not on the basis of logical thinking. These narrow domestic walls break the nation into pieces and fostering disunity and chaos. These narrow domestic walls have to be pulled down to nurture an unprejudiced and progressive humanity. 
(c) How do people hold their heads high as stated by the poet?
People hold their heads high with pride as their country is a free country and all are liberated and united without any discrimination based on narrow commitments of caste, creed, gender or religion. 
(d) What do you understand of the poet on the basis of the extract?
This extract of the poem ‘Where the mind is without fear’ mirrors the poet’s deep-rooted love for his homeland. He is spiritually inclined and possesses profound humanism. The poem puts forward the poet’s dream of one ideal country where all will relish freedom which is truly desirable and meaningful.
(e) Do you perceive the modern world as broken up in fragments by narrow domestic wall? Explain. 
The modern world that we live in is still a world broken up in fragments by narrow domestic walls. Nowadays we preach about ‘Unity in diversity’ as a core of the Indian culture, but practically, we experience that caste-based oppression and suppression, the subjugation of the poor by rich, the communal riots, the terrorist attacks, the gendered discrimination and war still disturbing not only our noble feelings and values everyday but also the whole humanity is under the menace of terrorism. 
Extract 2
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever- widening thought and action 
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
(a) Explain: ‘Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way?’
Reasoning allows a person to have clarity of thoughts without being restricted by narrow domestic walls such as caste, colour, creed, religion, region and superstitions. Hence it has been compared to a clear stream which is free of all impurities.
(b) What does the poet mean by ‘dead habit’? Why are dead habits likened to a ‘dreary desert’? 
By ‘dead habit’, the poet implies that the worn-out inflexible traditions that are being pursued pointlessly by the Indians. These blind superstitious habits of thought and action have extinguished the light of reason and spread darkness and misery in the society.
The dead habits are compared to a ‘dreary desert’ because in a desert there is no growth. Similarly, dead habits also prevent any progress or advancement and the society is stunted. 
Dreary dessert sand of dead habit is a metaphor- Through this metaphor the poet wants to say that his countrymen should work for perfection in everything and should not be lead astray from their goal in the dry desert of dead habits; that is, a place where obsolete customs and traditions arc practised.
(c) Explain: ‘ever-widening thought and action’.
The idea of ‘ever widening thought and action’ suggests that the thoughts that are broadened are capable of a wider vision and people are able to act embracing a broadened vision that has eschewed the narrow irrational thinking. The poet desires that irrelevant practices and obsolete rituals do not stifle true perception and unbiased judgement.
(d) How does the poem bring out poet’s profound faith in God?
Tagore’s love and faith towards the God Almighty is reflected in his belief that the path of truth is the path to God. Tagore categorically asserts that a nation enjoying divine guidance will certainly progress towards perfection. 
In the concluding line of the poem, Tagore invokes God, the Universal Father and implores Him to bring to fruition his vision of an impartial and truly liberated country. India, his motherland, can achieve her rightful freedom not only by accepting a universal outlook but also by striving, with an everlasting passion, for the fruition of great human ideals. 
   

Poetry Study Aid: The Inchcape Rock: Robert Southey

The
Inchcape Rock
Robert
Southey
·      
Introduction

The
poem
Inchcape Rock by Robert Southey is a popular ballad based on
the famous legend of the Inchcape Rock. The Rock is a dangerous reef or a
submerged rock in the east coast of Scotland. The Rock was notorious as it
caused the wreck of many ships resulting in the loss of scores of lives and a
great deal of valuable cargo.

To save the seafarers from
the deadly perilous Rock, an abbot devised a contraption called the Inchcape
Bell. The Inchcape Bell was a bell floating on a buoy and attached with a rope
to the Inchcape Rock. When the sea was stormy and rough, the wild movement of
the buoy caused the Bell to ring loud. The ringing of the Bell alerted the
sailors to the proximity of the Inchcape Rock so that they could navigate away
to safety. As the warning ring of the Bell saved many lives, the sailors were
grateful towards the good Abbot and blessed him.
However, a pirate captain,
named Sir Ralph the Rover, was jealous of the Abbot’s fame and. on one black
day,  the evil pirate captain cut off the
ropes fixing the Bell to the Rock. The Bell sank to the depths of the sea.
There were to be no more warning bells for the seafarers. After a few days,
while returning to Scotland, the pirate captain had to pass the Inchcape Rock.
The sea was rough and tempestuous. There was poor visibility and his ship
crashed against the Inchcape Rock and sank to the depths of the sea causing the
death of the pirate captain and his crew. The evil captain became a victim of
his own evil deed.
·       The Theme
Evil
brings forth suffering; crime brings forth punishment. The poem supports the proverb
in the Bible; the wages of sin is death. The poem introduces the theme of
conflict between the Good and the Evil; the Good symbolised by the Abbot and
the Evil symbolised by the Rover.
All
good actions are bestowed with good rewards and all evil actions are penalised with
evil punishments. A man who commits a sin or does a bad deed becomes the prey
of his bad intentions. The compassionate and caring Abbot of Aberbrothok, anxious
of the danger of the seafarers positioned, a bell on the Inchcape Rock in an attempt
to save the lives of the sailors; the envious and spiteful pirate Sir Ralph the
Rover, because of his malice and jealousy towards the Abbot’s fame, cuts the
Bell down exposing the seamen to danger and death. However, the bad pirate
becomes the victim of his own evil intentions and has to face danger and death
as a retribution.
·      
The Form
The poem The Inchcape
Rock
is a ballad.
A ballad is a
narrative poem which tells a story and is intended to be sung. A ballad generally
begins abruptly. Most of the ballads have four-line stanzas with a specific
rhyme scheme. The internal rhyme and alliterations add to the feel of the
ballad. They can be put to music because of its folksy nature. In general, a
ballad carries a moral or a message.
The poem the Inchcape Rock
consists of 17 stanzas of 4 lines each. In each stanza, the first line and second
line rhyme each other and the third line and the fourth line rhyme each other,
that is, aa bb is the rhyme scheme of each stanza
of the poem.
·       The Plot
There
was no movement in the atmosphere and no motion in the ocean. The ship of Sir
Ralph, the sea pirate, remained still since there was no wind to move its
sails. Even the keel of the ship was steady in the ocean. The waves coursed over
the Inchcape Rock quietly without affecting the Inchcape Bell.
The
bell had been positioned on a buoy and attached to the Inchcape Rock by the
Abbot of Aberbrothok. On tempestuous days, the buoy rocked and swung the bell and
the warning bell rang aloud. When the sailors heard the peal of the Bell, they realised
the proximity of the perilous  Rock. With
great gratitude, they blessed the Abbot of Aberbrothok for his compassion to
save them from this grievous Rock.
The
Sun was shining radiantly and everything looked bright and sparkling on that
day. The sea birds were screeching in glee. The buoy of the Inchcape Bell could
be seen in the distance like a dark spot on the green ocean. Sir Ralph the
Rover, the sea pirate, observed the Bell from his ship’s deck. The spring-time
weather had the power to cheer his mood and he whistled and sang in gaiety. Yet,
his joy was an evil glee; a spiteful pleasure over the disaster that was to occur
on the Abbot of Aberbrothok and his noble deed.
Overcome
with jealousy, he had resolved to distress the Abbot of Aberbrothok He ordered
his seamen to launch a boat and row him to the Inchcape Rock. On his orders,
his sailors rowed towards the Inchcape rock. When he reached the Inchcape Bell,
Sir Ralph gleefully cut the bell off from the Inchcape float. The bell sank
down in the sea with a gurgling sound making bubbles all over. Sir Ralph exultantly
said that the next man who came to the rock would not live to bless the Abbot
of Aberbrothok.
After
this wicked act Sir Ralph sailed away in search of ships to loot and plunder.
After a few days,  with his plundered
wealth, he returned to Scotland. While passing along the Inchcape Rock,
abruptly a dense haze 
spread
over 
the sky and the sun was not visible . Wild winds blew the
whole day, but it became calm again in the evening. It was the calm before the
storm. Sir Ralph stood on the deck and observed the sea. Visibility was so poor
that he could not see the land. He comforted his crew that shortly it would be
a clear day and  dawn would come with the
rising moon.

One
of his crew wondered whether anybody could hear the noise of the waves and said
that the ship ought to be drawing near the shore. He mournfully wished that he could hear the Inchcape Bell. However, there was no pealing of the bell amongst the huge waves tormenting the ship and her crew. All of a sudden, the
ship jarred with an abrupt fierce shock. Sir Ralph was shaken and realised that
they had crashed against the Inchcape Rock. He was filled with remorse of his earlier
evil act of cutting the Bell off the Rock. He was powerless when the ship sank underneath
the deluge. Knowing that his death was imminent, he felt he could hear the awful
sound of the Inchcape Bell as though it was the Devil below ringing his death
knell.