Coming by Philip Larkin

How successful is Philip Larkin in depicting the transition between winter and summer?

Change of seasons, an uncommon theme in modern poetry, is explored beautifully in ComingPhilip Larkin, a poem by Philip Larkin. In its totality, it provides us with a real life experience of transition between two seasons.

The title itself refers to transition and in a subtle way points to the popular phrase ‘this too shall pass’. Moreover, time is a common topic of interest in modern poetry and season is all about time. Towards the end of the poem, the poet says,

And can understand nothing

But the unusual laughter

which is to suggest that the whole poem is more of an experience rather than an exercise in language.

Change of season is a metaphor of life itself. To endorse this idea, the poet brings up an image of a couple reconciling ,

Feel like a child

Who comes on a scene

Of adult reconciling

Such an incident will surely make people happy. It is also noticeable that he says ‘adult’ and not ‘adults’ thereby making it an adjective of reconciliation. Moreover, the warmth of the sun which has stayed away returns to the earth to make it fully blossom.

Bathes the serene

Foreheads of houses

The comparison is all the more significant since winter connotes not only hatred and being cold-shouldered but also frigidity as well, while spring entails warmth and warm-heartedness as well as fertility and potency by extension.

Imagery is what makes the poem very effective. By choosing a set of harmonious images which refer to the happiness and sunny days, the poet is able to convey the heart-warming effect of spring.

On longer evenings,

Light, chill and yellow

Bathes the serene

Foreheads of houses

Since the poem abounds in a wide variety of images, it can be classified as an imagist poem. TO depict the various appearance of both the seasons, the poet strings together some fresh visual images.

Images of melodious sounds are also heard in such phrases like ‘thrush sings’ ‘fresh-peeled voice’ and ‘unusual laughter’. Of these ‘fresh-peeled voice’ is double effective since the first word gives a visual image of a freshly peeled fruit and then the same image enhances the beauty of the bird’s song. Furthermore, this voice is contrasted with the stolid, solid ‘brickwork’ in the background.

After a time of inactive winter, it is time for some dynamic movements in summer. All will be up and about. The kinesthetic images (those of movement) make the poem more dynamically energetic. ‘Coming’ and ‘reconciling’ are dynamic verbs while ‘spring’ echoes of movement.

In the second half, the repetition of the first line,

It will be spring soon—

It will be spring soon

suggests the skipping spirit of a young child and soon the poem moves from ‘forgotten boredom’ to ‘unusual laughter’.

The poet also uses his keen sense of sound all through the poem. The first stanza begins with a lot of soft consonants and ends with hard and hard sounds

Thus from

Light, chill and yellow

we move over to

Laurel- surrounded

deep bare garden

Thus the poem in its deceptive simplicity, manages to highlight in very subtle ways, the transition between winter and spring. Philip Larkin has successfully employed his skill at creating a very precise effect of his choice.

To Build a Fire (1908 version) by Jack London

Written at a time when modernism was in its cradle, To Build a Fire by Jack London was a forerunner of modern fiction. Modern Literature does not treat a work as a finished product. It is only a conduit through which the reader and the writer interact to create art as a befitting product of the imagination of both of them. In other words, modern literature is written in such a way that each writer will be able to read it in his own way. Multiple layers of meaning will be packed into the work so that multiple reading is facilitated.

Title and Theme

Fire is a symbol of several sundry things, on of them being life. The question ‘why was the lamp lit if it had to be put out like this and so soon?’ looms large in the story, since the man dies and untimely death. The man’s struggle to build a fire and his inability to do so entails the tragedy. In both ways, the title is highly appropriate. One of the ways in which this story can be read is as an allegory. An allegory means, the work has almost one to one correspondence with another aspect which is not literally stated in the work. Geroge Orwell’s Animal Farm is a perfect example. Unfortunately, allegory is considered one of the lowest kind of writing because of its usual simplicity, even though it is possible to write a very complex allegory and win accolades. Here the path the man takes symbolizes life and he could be any human being pursuing it with high hopes. Thus life and its uncertainties can be considered as the theme of this story.

Style

Loneliness comes in two types, the depressed aloofness, and the joyful solitude. The man in the story experiences both. A writer usually takes some characters and puts them in a smaller world and talks about them to make people understand more about life. Tempest is an obvious example. Jack London makes it more intense by putting a single character in a totally deserted locale. The style chosen makes no bones about the story being an allegory. Here is an analysis:

Day had broken cold and grey, exceedingly cold and grey, when the man turned aside from the

main Yukon trail and climbed the high earth-bank, where a dim and little-travelled trail led

eastward through the fat spruce timberland. It was a steep bank, and he paused for breath at the

top, excusing the act to himself by looking at his watch. It was nine o’clock. There was no sun

nor hint of sun, though there was not a cloud in the sky. It was a clear day, and yet there seemed

an intangible pall over the face of things, a subtle gloom that made the day dark, and that was

due to the absence of sun. This fact did not worry the man. He was used to the lack of sun. It

had been days since he had seen the sun, and he knew that a few more days must pass before that cheerful orb, due south, would just peep above the sky-line and dip immediately from view.

That man is lonely and unsupported by anything divine is a basic tenet of existentialism which is the main feature of twentieth-century literature. This is stated in the very first phrase, the day the man choose to travel was not just cold and grey like it could cold and grey in real life, but EXCEEDINGLY cold and grey. This word ‘exceedingly’ warns the reader that it is not about an ordinary circumstance. The ‘dim and little-travelled trail’ makes the journey even more exceedingly extra-ordinary. The phrase ‘excusing the act to himself’ heightens his loneliness even further as though he feels his loneliness, still manages to give company to himself. The sky is bright though the sun is absent (hopelessness) and the absence of a guiding light, a guarding star makes the day look gloomy to the author though not to the character. “He was used to the lack of sun’ shows us that he has come to terms with the idea that there are neither answers nor any hope to be found in this world. Like a typical character in existential literature, he waits, he waits like Godot.

Setting

Thus is the stage set for the tale to unfold. The second paragraph of the story gives us more details of the setting. It is deliberately written without using objective descriptions of colour, length, distance, and shape. This objective way of description looks unimaginative and it engenders in the reader the same boredom felt by the traveller down his uninteresting trail. All the four basic elements, earth, water (ice), fire and wind, plot against this unfortunate traveller. While thick frozen ice is one kind of danger, the thinly frozen ice on pools of water is another kind. With the challenges it offers, the dangers it hides, the destinations it promises, the uncertainty it holds, the regrets its hoards, the selfishness it enforces, the apathy it preserves, the trail is a perfect allegorical symbol of life. In each and every sentence describing the trail, as listed above, we see one or another aspect of life itself.

The man keeps thinking about the different parts of his body. As they too have started rebelling against him, he feels alienated from them and considers them as what ‘he’ possesses. For him, his hand and the mitten that it covers are of the same category. He sees a closer friend in his mitten which dries when he puts them near a fire than his own hand which fails him at a crucial point of time. In existentialism, a person’s inner life is called his essence, almost the same way in religions it is called his soul or atma. The essence is acquired after a man is born or has an existence. Thus in existentialism, existence comes first, not the essence. The soul (the essence) as talked about in religions, comes in to being first and then acquires its existence or body later. Here, the man, by alienating himself from his body, thinks more of his essence. For him, his life is his essence. His body is only a belonging.

It struck him as curious that one should have to use his eyes in order to find out where his hands were.

This is not in the spirit of existentialism. This is furthered when he decides to face ‘his death with dignity’. Thus he identifies with something beyond his body. This too is not in the same spirit as existentialism which says that life is much more important than anything else. This is seen more in the animal which minds its own life and stays with the traveller only till that time when he can support its life. When he fails to support himself, it runs away looking for its next supporter. For its, life, more than dignity, is everything. However, the man’s body too incidentally colludes with the environment.

Characters

The story is the slow death of a man who has dreams, plans and schemes, and the survival of an animal who has none of these.

Its instinct told it a truer tale than was told to the man by the man’s judgment.’

The dog knows from his experience what to do and does not trust even its own master let alone a God it never saw. The man, even when he is told by a wiser person not to venture out at that time of the year, ignores all warning and hitches his life to hope and finds that life is all too uncertain for any hope to have an iota of substance. Unlike the dog, the man has memories, regrets, guilt, tomorrows and schemes. He saves the best for another occasion since he is sure there is another occasion. He could have eaten the food. He could have waited for another day. But he makes the wrong choice in each case. He does not wait for another day to travel as has been advised and saves the food for another time and dies without tasting it. He is willing to kill his companion for his own safety. In everything he does, he is the opposite of the dog. The dog, with all its animal instincts, does not, like its brother wolf, kills the man for food. It does not pursue the smell of food inside the dead man’s clothes. Every moment the man does something or the other which corresponds to what a man does anywhere at any point of time in his life, whether he is deserted or accompanied. The man’s name not given also makes the reader read this story as an allegory.

Point of View, Tone and Mood

The story is told from the omniscient point of view (God’s Point of View). This gives the reader good access to the thoughts, words and deeds of both the man and the dog. The story is written dispassionately and disinterestedly with not much sympathy shown to the characters from the part of the author. This calls for more sympathy from the reader as he thinks the writer is being unjustifiably insensitive. However, this only enhances character identification and it makes the reader feel the pain of the character more. The general mood fo the story too from the very first is that of a very depressing one and purposely the story takes a very slow pace, just like life.

The Rattrap

The Rattrap by Selma Lagerlof, the Swedish Nobel laureate, reads like a folk tale but holds a very meaningful message for us. In the context of a man’s experience around Christmas time, the story explores the edge experience has over intelligence, knowledge and wisdom. It also highlights the importance compassion has in transforming a person.

The story features a vagabond who earned his living selling rattraps. He made rattraps using the scrap metal he found. When he couldn’t find the raw material, he begged or stole them. He always looked hungry and led a life of monotony and boredom.
Then, one day, a thought struck him. He found that the world was very much like a rattrap. The world offers wealth and other pleasures just the way a rattrap offers cheese and meat. Once we go in for them, we are imprisoned in it forever and it entails nothing but eternal misery. He went around telling this idea to everyone he met.
Though he tried to spread this great philosophy of life, a truth which is expounded by all religions, it only remained in his brain as a piece of information. He was intelligent enough to figure it out and talk about it. He was wise enough to understand its significance. But when it came to practising it, he failed miserably. He realized this only when it was spelled out to him by an incident.
One dark evening he was walking along the road and knocked at the door of a poor old man’s cottage. The old man let him in, served him food and gave him shelter for the night. They played cards and the old man told him his story. He used to work in Ramsjo Ironworks but now he was a small time crofter who had just one cow. He said that was good enough for him since it had even given him thirty kroners in a month. Like the Bishop did to Jean Val Jean, he even showed the vagabond the money kept in a cloth bag hung on the wall.
The next day both men left the hut at the same time but the peddler came back and stole the thirty kronor from the old man. Like Raskolnikov in Crime and Punishment he got hunted by his own conscience and he thought he was being followed. He left the highways and entered a forest, but as much as he walked, he was not able to come out of it. He realized that his own medicine had not worked for him and that he had been trapped by money and that the forest was his prison.
At some point later in the same night he heard sounds from the Ramsjo Ironworks and moved in that direction. He reached the factory and went in. Nobody asked any questions since it was normal for vagabonds like him to walk in and enjoy the warmth of the furnace in a chilly night like this.
Just then the owner of the mill walked in. He addressed the peddler as Captain Nils Olof mistaking him for an old friend. The peddler didn’t contradict him. The miller invited him home and this the peddler refused since he feared getting himself exposed in better lighting. Later the owner’s daughter Elda came to get him and forced him to go with her. She had even brought a wrap for him since it was too chilly outside. The peddler went with her. That night both the father and the daughter were so nice to him and made him wear good clothes. But seeing him in those clothes they found they had made a mistake and he too confessed that he was only a peddler. The father thought of calling the sheriff to arrest him. The vagabond told him that he was innocent and if he was dragged into trouble that would entail another cycle of misery through which the miller would also get caught in the trap. His words made the owner change his mind but he asked the peddler to leave. Now the daughter intervened saying that they couldn’t ask him to leave since they had invited him. Moreover, it is Christmas Eve and the man deserved a peaceful life at least once in a year. She served him a good supper. The next morning he slept on and was woken up only for lunch and dinner. He was even invited for the next Christmas.
That night at church, Elda heard that one of the old crofters of the ironworks had been robbed by a man who went around selling rattraps. The iron master now feared that the man might have stolen all their silver spoons. When they returned home the peddler had already left. He had left a tiny rattrap for Elda. There was a note attached to it. It was his confession. There were thirty kronor in the rattrap and he asked Elda to have the privilege of returning it to the old man. He thanked her and her father for the being compassionate to him and thereby transforming him. His intelligence, knowledge and wisdom only took him close to hell (symbolized by the hot burning furnace and the thirty kronor hinting at Judas’s reward for betraying Christ). His transformation came from his real life experience when he was shown compassion by two strangers even when they found him a sinner.

Illusion and Reality in Macbeth

Illusion and Reality



Illusion as a corollary of reality seems to be a favourite theme for Shakespeare. The theater itself is a world of illusion and Shakespeare talks endlessly about it. The news from the new world and the flood of Greek and Roman literature also would have influenced Shakespeare to explore this aspect of life.

When the witches say ‘fair is foul and foul is fair‘, we are told of how the world is seen differently by people depending on what they are. Evil operates through deception. Macbeth’s mind has an inkling of the deeper water he is led to when he says,

So fair and foul a day I have not seen.

Duncan refers to Macbeth as a worthy gentleman and pays with his life for his inability to see through Macbeth’s outward appearance. Macbeth is called noble and also a valiant cousin. But in reality Macbeth is a potential traitor. Duncan trusted the earlier Thane of Cawdor. Now he trusts Macbeth and makes him the new Thane of Cawdor. Macbeth is happy when Duncan plans to visit his castle but Duncan fails to see why Macbeth is so happy about the visit. Both Duncan and Banquo find the atmosphere at the castle wholesome and welcoming. They don’t know about the serpents that reside there.

Lady Macbeth welcomes Duncan very politely and expresses her desire to serve him very effectively. But we know that she has already made up her mind to kill the king. She herself refers to the occasion as the fatal entrance of Duncan under my battlements. She tells her husband to don a pleasant appearance to hoodwink the others. She says,

Look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under it,

She tells him that ‘to beguile the time he has to look like the time’. Macbeth more than echoes her words when he says later,

False face must hide what the false heart doth know.

He later gives her a taste of her own medicine when he says,

Let your remembrance apply to Banquo:

Present him eminence, both with eye and tongue

 

Macbeth is presented as a great warrior who vanquishes all his enemies.  But his main enemy is within himself. He says the he has given his soul to man’s eternal enemy. He fails to see that the enemy is within himself in the form of ‘vaulting ambition that overleaps itself’. His courage and determination fail when he confronts Lady Macbeth. He is not powerful than his enemies in anyway. But she is able to work on him by fanning his own desires. We hear her counsel Macbeth and persuade him with diabolical cogency.

Appearance and reality becomes very clear when Banquo’s ghost appears. Hallucinations are used very effectively to reinforce this theme. The witches give Macbeth some false promises which he considers as protection against his downfall. But he fails to see the double meaning in their words. He is killed not by a man born of a woman. He is killed by a man who was brought into this world by ripping open his mother. The foerst which is thought not to move, finally moves toward Macbeth’s castle in the form of branches held by his enemy soldiers. This kind of cheating makes Macbeth call the witches ‘these juggling fiends’.

When Malcolm meets Macduff in England, he suspects Macduff is a spy. Malcolm pretends to be unfit to be king and fools Macduff. In effect, they both misunderstand each other. Later Macduff is found to be a trustworthy person and Malcolm is found to be a man of integrity. There several instances of life considered as a drama and the world as theater, both examples of reality and illusion. The supernatural also is made use of to reiterate this aspect of the world.

An Inspector Calls

An Inspector Calls by J B Priestlyis an interesting play which thrills the reader in several different ways. Written in 1912, this play is a mixture of social criticism, religious idealism and family drama.
       
The play opens in Mr. Birling’s dining room where the family is hosting a dinner. Present in the room are Mr. Birling, Mrs. Sybil Birling, Miss. Sheila Birling (their daughter), Mr. Eric Birling (their son) and Mr. Gerald Kroft, who might marry Sheila. Mr. Kroft is to inherit his father’s industry which has been offering tough competition to Mr. Birling’s.
As soon as Gerald gives a ring to Sheila as a sign of engagement, an inspector called Mr. Goole calls and the plot begins to thicken.
Eva Smith, a young working class lady, has committed suicide. Mr. Birling admits that he had to dismiss the lady, even though she was a good worker, when she asked for a pay rise. He dismisses her from a photograph shown by Mr. Goole. He confesses that it was an unfair thing but he believes that he was left with no option.
        Sheila who walks in also gets to see the photo and recognizes her as the girl she forced a ready-made shop to fire from service. This was the girl’s second job. When she brought a dress to Sheila she first held it close to her body and it looked great on her. When Sheila tried it, it looked ridiculous on her. She noticed the girl smiling at another salesgirl. Infuriated with jealousy, Sheila forced the shop to dismiss her, using her father’s position as an major industrialist and a politician.
Now Gerald is also shown the photograph and he confessed that he also met her at a bar and gave her some money and a place to stay in. In other words, he kept her as his mistress. She had changed her name. During that time, he did not come to meet Sheila and his excuse was that he was too busy with his work. Sheila immediately returns his ring though she acknowledges his honesty.
Now it is Mrs. Sybil Briling’s turn. As the head of the charity committee she also wounded Eva when she approached her as Mrs. Briling. She was put of by the fact that the  fake name Eva used was her own. She asked the committee not to help her though the girl was pregnant. She also refused to believe the girl’s story that the man who impregnated her had offered her some compensation but since it was stolen cash, she did not take it so as not to make the man a thief. Mrs. Briling asks whether a girl of her standing could afford to be so conscientious. Sheila tells her not to play into the inspector’s hand by being so innocent as he might tear her to pieces. However, against Sheila’s protest, Mrs. Briling says that the young man should be properly punished.
         The last one to fall in is Mr. Eric Briling. He admits that he was the one who impregnated the girl and stole the money from his father’s office to pay the girl. In a way the girl didn’t lie about her name this time. She considered herself as the wife of Mr. Eric Briling. So she introduced herself as Mrs. Briling.
Eric and Sheila confess their guilt but their parents and Gerald sticks to the idea that it was the girl who should be blamed. The inspector walks out telling them that such uncivil practices will be met with fire, blood and anguish.
After the inspector leaves, Gerald manages to find out that there is no inspector by that name in the entire police force. They also find that no girl had committed suicide that night. This makes the inspector and impostor and all except Sheila and Eric consider themselves exonerated. They vehemently argue their way out of it, though they admit that he was of a strange nature and behaviour. He knew everything even before they opened their mouths.
The play ends when they get a phone call informing them that a girl has committed suicide and that a police inspector is on his way to meet all of them.
The real identity of the inspector is left to the reader’s speculation. So is the question whether he was showing them the photographs of different girls. We also hear the parents and Mr. Gerald passing a poor opinion about some of the great writers of the time.
          If we take the play as a symbolic representation, it can be observed that Eva represents the woman folk from the working classes about whom the rich people has no regard. They exploit them in different ways. They are either workers, or sleeping partners for them.
The inspector’s words ‘fire, blood and anguish’ refers to suffering in hell or at the hands of the revolutionaries or a stern legal system in future. We see that Sheila and Eric are willing to learn a lesson but the others refuse to do so. Everyone’s real nature is brought out by the inspector.

Whether they all wronged the same girl or different one is not an important question. It is only as insignificant as the parents’ and Gerald’s question whether the inspector was real or fake. See holistically, this is what working class women suffer at the hands of the rich everywhere in the world, then and now. This is how the rich see their own mistakes, then and now. This is the lesson that many refuse to learn, then and now. In other words, this is a theme that goes beyond time and place. The writer is able to present it in such a way that it has several layers of meaning and all of them are more blatant and not subtler than the other.

The Dolphins by Carol Ann Duffy

The Dolphins by Carol Ann Duffy is a dramatic monologue uttered by a dolphin in an aquarium. We hear only the words of the dolphin. In very simple terms, the dolphin expresses its painful confinement which in turn symbolizes human condition and suffering. The poem pivots around the concept of freedom. Having made a general statement that the world is for everyone to enjoy (swim in or dance), the dolphin makes a personal statement.

We are in our element but we are not free.

The dolphin knows that it cannot survive in the outside world, on land, which is its first and major limitation. The dolphin is able to see its own reflection on the water surface from below and it takes it to be another dolphin. Because it is only a reflection, the other’s movements are also controlled by the dolphin which thinks that its own movements are also controlled by the other one in turn.

There is a man and there are hoops.

All this is in a pool of guilt, overflowing from the human mind and it flows continuously.

The water is not real, it is an artificial pool. There is no thrill of discovery or new experience. Unlike the ocean the dolphin is familiar with, the pool is limiting and unchanging. It was a blessing to live in the ocean, life in the pool is not a blessed existence.

We were blessed and now we are not blessed.

But after being in the pool for long, the dolphin and its reflection began to come to terms with its new conditions. The space (the pool) is repetitive and above it lives the man. The dolphin repeats its lament that its life is no longer a blessed one and it does not promise any improvement. It is so static that it will not deepen even in dreams. However, the other one, being only reflection of itself has no such worrying thoughts. The silvery flash from the reflection of its skin is like a long lost feeble memory of some places, far away. There is a coloured ball that the dolphin is supposed to play with to entertain the audience.

At night, the dolphin, moves around in circles in the pool like it has done so many times that even the water has “well-worn grooves” now. From it reflection it only gets silence (music of loss) and its silence,

turns my own heart to stone

There is a discarded plastic toy in the pool. But there is no hope left behind. The dolphin sinks with its own reflection deep into the pool only to return when the man blows his whistle. So long as human intervention is there, there is no redemption, the dolphin knows.

Seen from the human perspective, it is the same story. Man has built this complex society and has lost much of his freedom in the process. With the huge oceans all around him and many schools of dolphins in them, man prefers the aquariums. Equipped to swim like fish, he still prefers to watch others do it. Not only that human beings makes whatever is natural unnatural, he prevents himself and other animals the freedom which is naturally available for all. When life itself could be an entertainment in itself, man creates artificial entertainment which finally becomes uninteresting even for the entertainer. Thus the master fares no better than what he has enslaved.

The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy

Explain The Darkling Thrush as an attempt by the poet to search for meaning.

Thomas Hardy turned to writing poetry being accused of writing depressing and tragic novels. However, he continued in his sad strain even in his poetry, though at times he tried to mitigate his pessimism by referring to remote hopes.

The Darkling Thrush, by the very title, shows this dichotomy in his later poetry; both aspects of his art are visible there. The poem, through cleverly chosen powerful images, engenders in the reader such emotions like fear and pity and ends in a catharsis brought in by the bird’s song.

In the first stanza in which the poet describes where he is standing, we see a long list of words which all have a negative connotation: coppice gate (as if kept outside), spectre-grey (like a ghost), dregs (as if something has got over), desolate ( like lonely) weakening eyes (as if someone is too aged) broken lyres (like in disharmony) and finally scored the sky and haunted (two ghastly images). The poet is leaning on to a gate that keeps him out of a small forest on day in winter which is not warm enough for people to come out.

And Winter’s dregs made desolate

The weakening eye of day

The tangled bine-stems represent issues that cannot be sorted out but which confuse us all the same. The image of the broken lyre complements the idea of disharmony. However, these things don’t bother the people since they are fast asleep around their fireplace in the safety and comfort of their homes. Only the poet who has ventured out senses the problems of the times.

In the second stanza the poet goes even further in his tragic strain. He says that the land itself is a symbol of the Century’s hopeless nature. He personifies nature and says he (nature) is stretching out dead.

His crypt the cloudy canopy,

The wind its death-lament.

The poet is unenthusiastic and he sees this lack of fervour reflected all around him. Nothing is germinating or taking birth since it is still winter and every life has become passive and unenthusiastic.

The ancient pulse of germ and birth

Was shrunken hard and dry

The poem now takes a turn as the poet finds an element of happiness in nature. It is a thrush, sitting on a twig

At once a voice arose among

The bleak twigs overhead

The weak and aged thrush, lean and small with its plume ruffled by the wind has no reasons to be happy. But its sings a ‘full-hearted’ song

Of joy illimited

and he

Had chosen thus to fling his soul

Upon the growling gloom.

The poet fails to see any valid reason for such ‘ecstatic’ singing (‘carolings’). No cause of happiness was etched on the earthly things (terrestrial things). So, the poet thinks that ‘some blessed Hope’ has trembled through the good-night air to the bird’s mind. The poet confesses he is unaware of the source of this happiness.

Thus we see a poet comparing his awareness with the awareness of a happy bird and wondering what could be its source of happiness which he is quite unaware of. The poet is forever and ever trying to explore life in search of its meaning. The openness of the poet to new ideas and thought is evident here. This is why poets were called ‘seers’ in ancient days.

References to people and places in The Merchant of Venice

Abraham: Father of Laban and founder of the Jewish race. Issac and Laban were his sons. Jacob was his grandson

Aeneas: Greek hero, founded Rome

Alcides: Hercules, Greek hero famous for his feats

Antipodes: Countries on the opposite side of the globe

Barrabus: Jewish criminal who was exchanged for Jesus’s life

Colchos: An island where Sibylla, a monster guarded some golden fleece tied to a post. Jason with the help of his wife, Medea killed the monster and obtained the golden fleece

Cresscida: Troilus, the prince of Troy was in love with Cresscida who was exchanged for war prisoners from Greece. She was unfaithful and in Greece fell in love with Diomed

Daniel:A very just judge of the Old Testament times

Dardanian wives: The Dardanian wives of Troy are just Trojan wives. Dardanian is just another way to say Trojan because Dardania is the city where the Trojan war was fought

Diana: The goddess of chastity and of moon

Dido: Dido was the wife of Aeneus who founded Rome. During Aeneus’ voyages, he reached Carthage and married Dido. Later he sailed away leaving her and she killed herself out of grief

Endymion: He was a handsome young shepherd who was loved by the Moon.

Heraclitus of Ephesus: A Greek philosopher who lived before the time of Socrates. His philosophy of life is famous for its confusing nature. Also known as weeping philosopher.

Hesione: Hesione was the daughter of King of Troy. Poseidon, the goddess of the sea sent a large sea monster, who would only be appeased by devouring the princess, Hesione. Hercules bravely killed the beast by allowing himself to be swallowed by the monster, whom he then killed from the inside.

Janus: A two headed goddess of doors after whom the month of January is named. One face is happy and the other is sad and her statue is often found near thresholds.

Jayson: A famous Greek legndary hero who led an expedition to Colchios in search of the golden fleece and succeed in getting them with the help of his wife Medea

Laban: Jacob’s uncle who is supposed to have engineered the birth of striped lambs. Laban had promised to give him all the striped lambs as his wages. Jacob made the shadows of sticks fall on the rams when they were mating and according the a superstition, artificially engineered the birth of striped lambs.

Lichas: Hercules’ servant

Manna: Divine food which is supposed to drop from heaven on the blessed

Marcus of Monteferet :Probably a well know rich man of Elizabethan times

Mars : God of War

Medea: Wife of Jason, a famous Greek legndary hero who led an expedition to Colchios in search of the golden fleece and succeed in getting them with the help of his wife Medea

Midas: The king who was blessed with the golden touch by gods giving him the power to change anything to gold by merely touching it. He starved himself to death as his own food became gold.

Nestor: A Roaman general famous for his serious demeanor

Oracle: The solemn temples of Rome where the priestesses could help people get their questions answered.

Prodigal son: the character from a parable told by Christ. The young boy left his home, spent all his money, and returned home repentant.

Pyramus: Thisbe and her lover Pyramus was forbidden to meet each other. They became symbols of faithful lovers.

Pythogoras: The famous mathematician who discovered the ratio of the sides of triangle known as the theorem of Pythogoras

Sibylla: A monster which guarded some golden fleece tied to a post. Jason with the help of his wife, Medea killed the monster and obtained the golden fleece

Tintern Abbey by Wordsworth

English: Portrait of William Wordsworth by Wil...

English: Portrait of William Wordsworth by William Shuter, lightly processed and cropped by Fowler&fowler «Talk» 18:45, 10 March 2009 (UTC) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the Tintern Abbey , a poem by William Wordsworth we see a romantic poet at his best. The poet goes beyond the common romantic themes of ‘far away and long ago’ and looks deeper into himself by reflecting on his own relationship with nature and that of his sister’s. He argues that the pleasure derived from being in the presence of nature is more sublime than other everyday pleasures and that such a pleasure goes beyond sensual pleasures. For Wordsworth, poetry was the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected in tranquility. Most of his poems on nature are recordings of his reflections on visits to landscapes he had done much after the actual visit.
Tintern Abbey even more so, since it was written after his second visit to the beautiful landscapes around the river Wye beside which there is an old place of worship called the Tintern Abbey. The abbey is now deserted and it suggests how religion has failed to console the poet during his most disturbed days and how nature took its place and successfully kept him happy and contended.
The poem begins with a graphically rich description of nature. Using beautiful images and melodious expressions the poet conjures up a beautiful image about the river.
These waters rolling from their mountain-springs
With a soft inland murmur

He looks higher up and sees the mountains that set forth the springs.

Once again
I behold these steep and lofty hills
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of a more deep seclusion;

The lines that follow appeal to our senses so much that they could be easily mistaken for those written by John Keats. The poet speaks of orchard-tufts which, with their unripe fruits, are clad in one great hue and lose themselves among other trees. He continues in the same mellifluous tone
These hedge rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild:

and then about movements and silence,

wreaths of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees

Having displayed his skills to describe nature, he starts to explore his own being and share his thoughts with us. He had seen that same landscape five years ago and it has changed very little. During all those years, it lingered in his memory and continued to please him.
I have owed to them
In hours of weariness, sensation sweet

and gave him ‘tranquil restoration’. It also gave him a serene and blessed mood in which his existence and ‘even the motion of his human blood’ were ‘almost suspended’ and he became nothing more than a pure ‘living soul’. His thoughts were settled and by the power of harmony he was able to see into the life of things. He often recalled the memory of this landscape when he was troubled by the fretful stir and the unprofitable fever of the world.
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee
O sylvan Wye! thou wanderer thro’ the woods,
How often has my spirit tuned to thee!

The poet recalls and compares how he behaved and felt during his first visit when he was much younger and less insightful and rather inexperienced. Then ‘like a roe’ he ‘bounded over the mountains by the side /Of the deep rivers’ and ‘wherever nature led’ him. Those were the ‘boyish days’ and he derived ‘coarser pleasures’ from his immediate experiences. The physical sensation and pleasure he enjoyed in the lap of nature from the ‘colours and forms’ did not make him think about or look for anything beyond the ‘here and now’.
But ‘that time is past’. During his second visit after five long years he feels ‘a pleasure that disturbs’ him,
with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused

with his being. He is still,

A lover of the meadows and the woods
And the mountains; and of all we behold

But now, nature has risen from that which speaks ‘the language of the senses’ in order to please the human mind to the level of,
a nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being

Paganism or acknowledging and worshipping God in everything around us is not a philosophy favoured in the west. The monotheistic concept of the western religions does not allow the worship of any other God. So, nature poems in English, unlike those in the eastern languages, remained for long as description of nature’s beauty. Wordsworth, along with S. T. Coleridge, risked being called ‘a pagan’ and dared to call himself
A worshipper of nature …
Unwearied in that service…

making a personification of nature leading to its deification by using the word worship along with it.
The poet says that in the recent years when his life has been one of ‘sad perplexity’ and disillusionment he has learned to look on nature,
Not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity
Nor harsh or grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue.

He has seen how nature can stay in one’s mind and continue to guide, help and raise one above the common din of life. Here the poet is referring to his disillusionment in his private life as well has the hope and despair that the French revolution gave him.
Now that he is aware of the immediate and long term benefits of being in the presence of nature, the poet wants to initiate into such a life his sister Dorothy who is accompanying him on this second visit. He sees in her, an image of what he used to be long ago. He assures her that no evil shall prevail on them, no rash thoughts shall come to them, no sneer of selfish men shall ever touch them and no unkind men can hurt them if they have faith in the powers of nature. It is her privilege to help men like that.
Knowing that nature never did betray
The heart that loved her
He hopes that his sister will take heed to remember this lesson that he is teaching him now.
If solitude , or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
She asks her whether she will ever forget
That on the banks of this delightful stream
We stood together; ………….
With warmer love – oh! With far deeper zeal
Of holier love.

He tells his sister that this second visit is dearer to him, both because of the beauty of nature and also because of his sister’s companionship. Thus we see how Wordsworth creates an atmosphere of affection, beauty, nostalgia, scenic beauty, and divinity to convey to us the embalming power of nature that raised man to sublime levels.