Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Notes on two poems 'IF' by Rudyard Kipling and 'Death the leveller' by James Shirley

IF                                                                                                                                                        Joseph Rudyard Kipling
‘IF’ is a didactic poem which suggests the idea of conditional fulfillment.  The qualities of a perfect man forms the theme of the poem. Joseph Rudyard Kipling is the author of the poem. He is a short story writer, poet and novelist.
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:     - explain   
These lines are quoted from Joseph Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem ‘If’. Here the narrator speaks about the qualities of a perfect man. In these lines the narrator says that one must have self-confidence and must keep up this confidence under every circumstance. People around you may blame and accuse you of such and such mistakes or crimes committed by you. But if you know that you are innocent, you should trust yourself.  Suppose you made mistakes, speak frankly about the mistake and correct your mistakes because error is humane but to forgive is divine.
2.  “If you can dream-and not make dreams your master;
      If you can think- and not make thoughts your aim,
      If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
      And treat those two impostors just the same:”
These lines are taken from the poem titled ‘If” written by the great English poet Rudyard Kipling. The central theme of the poem is the qualities of a perfect man. The narrator says that one must see dream about his bright future, but don’t dream every time. It is laziness. Instead one should put into reality the dream. Similarly one should think of future plans and implement them in his life. In one’s life there are victories and failures. After many defeats, a success comes. When you achieve something, don’t over joy and when tragedy and failure comes one after the other, don’t disappoint. But understand that life is a mixture of both success and failures. The poet skillfully uses effective figure of speeches which add to the beauty of the poem. Triumph and Disaster - two abstract nouns are personified as two guests who visit your life. They are imposters. Don’t trust them because, they may come and disappear soon. It means a perfect man is not overjoyed when success comes and he cannot be disappointed when he faces failures. Treat them alike. Dream is personified as master.
3.  “If you can make one heap of all your winnings
     And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
     And lose, and start again at your beginnings
     And never breathe a word about your loss:”
These lines are quoted from Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem IF”. It speaks about the qualities of a perfect man. One important quality of a perfect man is his adventurous spirit. For him life is like a gambling. There are many risks involved in every field of life. Success and failures are the regular feature of an adventurous man. It has its own beauty and benefit. When you start a business or any enterprise, you have to make heavy investments and the business may succeed or fail. But don’t be desperate.  Start at the beginning again and success is yours only. Many great people reached the top of life after risking many things and made lot of sacrifices.  When you fail, don’t speak to others about your failures, because no one can help you, except yourself.  All the world is with the winner.

4. “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
     Or walk with kings – no lose the common touch,
5.  “If you can fill the unforgiving minute
      With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run
      Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it”    
  These lines are taken from Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem ‘IF”.   It speaks about the basic qualities of a perfect man. A perfect man is a great democrat. In his eyes all human beings are equal. He treats the King and the Prime Minister with great respect and humility. When he goes to the poor and the downtrodden, the common man, the perfect man respects them and talks to them in a compassionate friendly manner. But he does not follow the bad habits of these people, but absorb the best in them and appreciate their good qualities. Another important quality of the perfect man is his respect for time. In his eyes, Time is very precious and unforgiving. There is a proverb that ‘time and tide don’t wait for any one’ is true for the perfect man.  Time is opportunity and once it is lost, it never comes back. Therefore one should wait for opportunities and make use of every opportunity for the success of life.

The poet uses many symbols such as ‘heap of all your winnings’, ‘pitch-and-toss’, breathe’, ‘heart and nerve and sinew’, ‘crowd and King, “sixty seconds’ worth of distances’ and many personifications are used in the poem. They are ‘triumph and disaster, impostors, unforgiving minute. When the poet says, ‘If you can dream- and not make dreams your master, the poet personifies the abstract noun ’dream’  as a master and slave. Dream is personified as human beings.

DEATH THE LEVELLER                                                                                                                                      James Shirley
“ Death the Leveller” is a poem written by James Shirley, the great English poet. It is a funeral song which speaks about the inevitability of death which comes to everyone as a leveler. The poem reminds us that all human glories and achievements are nothings but shadows and only our good deeds will blossom into fragrant smell. There is no defense against death which is unavoidable in human life. In short death is the birth right of every human being. The abstract noun Death is personified as a human being who comes to every man and touches his icy hands on everyone. Death the leveler – the figure of speech is ‘Metaphor.   Death is personified as an icy human being – figure of speech is personification.

‘Sceptre and Crown’ stands for King.  The figure of speech is Metonymy.

The poet says that death comes to everyone’s life and death does not discriminate rich or poor, king or beggar. All will come down to the burial ground where death makes all equal. This is why death is called a leveler or bulldozer.  ‘crooked scythe and spade’ stands for farmers and working class. The figure of speech is ‘Metonymy.
 The poet says that some men fight in the battle field with their swords and when the war is over, they are winners. As a token of their victory, the King will plant fresh laurels which is an ever green plant stands for the victory. But one day these victorious people will be defeated by death. When death comes to them, they surrender to death. They become pale captives just like the prisoners of war. Here they are the prisoners of death.
 The poet warns the victorious people such as the kings, army generals and soldiers that their garlands will wilt away. Garlands stands for victory and reputation. ‘Garlands’ are short lived and mere shadows. Therefore they should not boast of their victories in the war. One day they all will come to the altar of death to be sacrificed. Here all people including the winners and the defeaters will die together. Their heads will come down to the cold tomb in the cemetery. Only good actions will grow as sweet smelling flowers after their death.  The poet uses the phrase ‘victor-victim’, which is a figure of speech known as ‘Oxymoron. When two opposite terms victor and victim come together the figure of speech is Oxymoron.
Thus the poem titled ‘Death the Leveller’ abounds in a number of figures of speech which add to the poetic beauty.                                                                                                                                                   Kjt/29-08-2016

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