Rukhaya M.K

A Literary Companion

Month: September 2014 (page 2 of 6)

Poetry Analysis: Yeats’s “Byzantium”

Yeats’ “Byzantium’ is a companion-piece to “Sailing to Byzantium.” Byzantium reminds one of the Hellenistic city of Byzantium renowned for its architectural splendour. In his introduction to the poem, Yeats writes: ”Describe Byzantium as it is in the system towards the end of the first Christian millennium. A walking mummy. Flames at the street corners where the soul is purified, birds of hammered gold singing in the golden trees, in the harbour, offering their backs to the wailing dead that they may carry them to paradise.”

The unpurged images of day recede;

The Emperor’s drunken soldiery are abed;

Night resonance recedes, night-walkers’ song

After great cathedral gong;

A starlit or a moonlit dome disdains

All that man is,

All mere complexities,

The fury and the mire of human veins.

As with “Sailing to Byzantium,” the first stanza deals with the animate world that is being left behind for an eternal world of fixity. The images here are ‘unpurged.’ The emperor’s drunken men driven by instinct are abed. The cathedral ’gong’ sends the impulsive nightwalkers out of the scene. A starlit/moonlit dome disparages all that man stands for. The dome is a minuscule metaphor for the larger Byzantium that is a contrast to man with its enduring nature.…

Poetry Analysis: Yeats’ “The Second Coming”

eatsThe poem “The Second Coming” was written in 1919 and is included in the collection Michael Robartes and the Dancer(1921). Harmon (1998) lists “The Second Coming” as one of the hundred most anthologized poems in the English language. It was first printed in The Dial (1920).  Written after the First World War; it utilizes elements of Christianity like the apocalypse and the second coming to depict post-war Europe. Critics like Richard Ellman and Harold Bloom have proposed that the text pertains to the Russian Revolution of 1917.The poem is penned in rough iambic pentameter.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;

Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out

When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi

Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;

A shape with lion body and the head of a man,

A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,

Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it

Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.…

Poetry Analysis: Yeats’ “The Circus Animals’ Desertion”

“The Circus Animals’ Desertion” is one of the last poems of Yeats, and is in iambic pentameter. It first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly and London Mercury. Yeats refers to the stagnation of his creative faculties and the loss of sustenance of his poetic output as he contemplates over his past works. He utilizes the metaphor of the circus animals to refer to his poetic themes, characters and sources of inspiration. The circus animal is a source of amusement, and it gets deserted with the onset of age as it loses its luster and utility value.

The poet laments over his vain attempts to discover a poetic theme. Being a broken man, he can no longer hold his thoughts in coherence .He must be satisfied with the emotional coherence that he still has intact. He refers to the elements of circus:


Those stilted boys, that burnished chariot,
Lion and woman and the Lord knows what.


The stilted boys refer to the circus boys, yet at the same time refer to the companions of the poet’s youth. The ‘burnished chariot’ alludes to the classical references in his poems. The phrase ‘lion and woman’ refers to the lion and lion–tamer. It may point to Maud Gonne whom the poet regarded as the epitome of classical beauty.…

Poetry Analysis: Yeats’ “A Prayer for my Daughter”

Yeats’ “A Prayer for my Daughter” was written in 1919, and published in the collection Michael Robartes and the Dancer. The poet juxtaposes ideas of domesticity and political import, innocence and murderousness, and rationale and sentiment.

Yeats’s “A Prayer for my Daughter” presents the image of a child who sleeps soundly through a thunderous storm. The child referred to here is Anne Butler Yeats, who was born a month after Yeats penned “The Second Coming”. The prescribed poem is placed after “The Second Coming” in the collection. The storm born on the Atlantic Ocean is emblematic of the larger violence of the Irish War of Independence.The external unrest is a concretization of the poet’s internal trauma. The image of the child sleeping innocently by the haystack evocatively signifies the image of Christ. In Yeats‘s “The Second Coming”, the coarse fiend replaces the divine image of Christ. Apart from the wood around Lady Gregory’s estate, nothing seems to bar the intensity of the storm.

The poet is in a state of trance owing to contemplation. He senses the rising sea-wind scream:

“And heard the sea-wind scream upon the tower,

And under the arches of the bridge, and scream

In the elms above the flooded stream;”

The sea-wind traverses all the realms and makes its presence felt.…

Poetry Analysis: A. K. Ramanujan’s “Love Poem for a Wife”

The poet communicates to his wife in the poem, the discord in their marital life. The reason attributed for the disharmony is their inability to share of childhood experiences. M.K.Naik states how the poem “Love poem for a Wife” is a revealing comment by Ramanujan on how an unshared childhood separates a husband and a wife who could otherwise have led a happy conjugal life.” The speaker’s father has been dead for several years now, and his wife’s father has also mellowed down with the onset of age. Therefore, they could not get authentic information regarding their childhood. While the speaker’s cousin and his wife happen to meet, they gossip over brandy and cashew nuts. The wife, during the course of these meetings displays an air of inquisitiveness regarding her husband’s childhood exploits. The husband begins to envy her village-dog ride; and the antics of the Seven Crazy aunts.

The husband and wife look into the albums containing the pictures of the family members. He terms it as “a sepia of a wedding picture;” as though the picture is painted in brown water colour. The photo is as hazed as their knowledge of each other’s childhood is. The wife becomes curious regarding frivolous stories narrated by the speaker’s brothers.…

Poetry Analysis: Jayanta Mahapatra’s “Dawn at Puri”

Puri is an eminent town in the state of Orissa. It is distinguished for its religious associations, particularly the annual festival held to honour the deity, Jagannatha.

The poet ruminates on the beach premises at Puri. The endless cawing of crows catches the speaker’s attention at the outset. He then notices a skull on the beach where bodies are normally cremated. The skull is a part of a cremation that has not been completely burnt by the funeral pyre. This skull is emblematic of the abject poverty and spiritual handicap of Puri, in spite of all the religious connections and connotations. The skull represents the hollowness of life and the inevitability of death. It symbolizes the spiritual stagnation and pseudo-existence of Orissa. Puri here, functions as a miniature metaphor of India in. The term ‘empty country’ emphasizes the same, the nihilism in a non-productive life. The hollow skull points to the irrational superstitions prevalent taking man back to primitivism.

The speaker then notices a number of widows adorning white saris all ready to perform the customary rites and rituals. These women are depicted as “past the centre of their lives” They have whiled away a significant portion of their lives, implying they are past their prime.…

Poetry Analysis: Sarojini Naidu’s “The Soul’s Prayer”

The poem represents the metaphysical ruminations of Sarojini Naidu as her soul endeavours to communicate with the Almighty. The invocation begins with all the innocence and purity of a child’s pride as the poetess beseeches with God to enlighten her on the most basic and innermost laws of Life and Death. She wants to have an in-depth comprehension on the twin-sided aspects of Life. Inherent in the prayer is the feeling that God has entrusted her with His Faith as she is born out of His own breath.

She wants to drink ‘life to the lees’ as she aspires for the two extremes of emotions-pain and joy. Her understanding of life is indeed not only childlike but mature as well, as she accepts life with all its plus and minus points. Her insatiable thirst for experience would then drain both “Earth’s utmost bitter, utmost sweet.”

She does not want to be spared of any form of euphoria. She does not want to be divorced from any form of strife. For her both gift and grief are welcome blessings that she craves for. She longs for the intricate wisdom of love and life that has hitherto eluded her. She also deeply craves for the mystic knowledge of the grave that has hitherto been unexplored.…

Poetry Analysis: Meena Alexander’s “House of a Thousand Doors”

Meena Alexander explores in “A House of a Thousand Doors” the effects of colonization and exploitation and what lies between the surface of lives. She waits for the right image and word to capture the same. The House in this poem is reminiscent of A.K. Ramanujan’s “Small-Scale Reflections on a Large House” that is at once emblematic of the Indian culture. This particular House has a thousand doors referring to its vibrancy and its openness to guests, foreign ideas and new aspects of culture. Moreover it abides by the concept of vasdaivakudumbakam, and keeps its door open for guests. However, perhaps, it was this positive aspect that proved to be a disaster for India, as the colonial powers spread the network of their web in India utilizing trade as a pretext. In the contemporary era also India is with a thousand doors as there is brain- drain and people immigrating to foreign arenas. The title ‘House of a Thousand Doors’ also signifies that India as a nation imparted significance to both individuality and a feeling of community.

The poem begins with an affirmation that this house has a thousand doors, and is therefore singular as illustrated by the demonstrative ‘this.’ The sills are cut in bronze.…

Poetry Analysis: R. Parthasarathy’s “Homecoming”

Dealing with Change

R. Parthsarthy’s poem “Homecoming” portrays a picture of his native state, Tamil Nadu as he returns from his sojourn abroad. He perceives a marked change in his native language. He comprehends that it was his lack of familiarity with the native language that rendered the language alien to his perception. His persistent use of the foreign tongue dispossessed him of his inherently rich native language. His association with English appears to be like imprisonment as he wrestles with English chains. His mother tongue is emblematic of his rich Dravidian heritage that he cherishes. In his chains, that disable him to move freely, he falters, he stumbles. He also stumbles as he has lost his ground.

His native language is now relegated to other concerns. At the time of Thiruvalluvar, the language was a sign of rich cultural heritage. He senses that the language has begun to deteriorate as it is adulterated, and declines owing to lack of use. Language proves to be an effervescent medium with the Savant Nammalvar who handled it as it were a bull held by its horns. She penned several devotional songs par excellence, and therefore favourites with the masses. In the present situation, the language is like a dead animal, infested with fleas at Kodambakkam.…

Poetry Analysis: R. Parthasarathy’s “From Trial”

The poet Parthasarathy asserts that as he is mortal, he faces the end as he is living an already deadened existence that has to be only terminated. He is enduring the ‘trial of existence.’ It is done with a relief that cannot be expressed in words. He is, however, very much aware of how he feels. If he were stopped and cut off, and were to clutch at air and straw, if he gets hold of nothing in his extremity in the desperation to make some mark in the rat race.

The statement ’Love, I haven’t the key’ may have two implications. The word ‘key’ may signify ‘clue’. It also stands for the key to unlock His gates. The word ‘His’ refers to God since it capitalized. The poet sees love as the key to redemption and attainment of God’s grace. He grasps his companion’s hand in a rainbow touch. The rainbow encompasses seven colours, and seven is a number generally ascribed to divinity. Of the dead, like other mortal beings he speaks nothing but good; as is the custom in the mortal world as opposed to the situation when the beings are living.

The poet ruminates over the family-album, the other night as he shared his beloved’s child hood.…

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