Tuesday, 22 December 2020

On Killing a Tree

On Killing a Tree

                               By Gieve Patel


Analysis of the poem

§  The poem ‘On Killing a Tree’ is composed by Gieve Patel, an Indian playwright, poet and a doctor.

§  The tone of the poem is sarcastic and didactic as the poet teaches us to be kind, loving and sympathetic to nature.

§  The poet wants to sensitise the readers against cruel and unsympathetic treatment towards nature and indiscriminate felling of trees.

§  It is composed in blank verse and doesn’t follow any rhyming scheme. The poem is divided in four stanzas but the stanza division and line length is irregular.

§  The theme is that the trees and plants are alive just like all of us.

§  A very significant message is conveyed through the poem that we should not cut trees and trees have life, they take birth, feel pain and die.


Summary / Synopsis

·       The poem opens with a beautiful but sarcastic statement by the poet about ‘Killing’ a tree. He says that a tree can’t be killed so easily and so simply. Actually, he wants to convey something different. He taunts how trees are cut or ‘killed’ so mercilessly all over the world as man keeps cutting them, taking much time and much pain, but the trees shouldn’t be killed.

·       He further says that it is difficult to kill a tree with the knife or axe. It takes much time and much effort to cut a tree completely. The tree takes years to grow on the earth. It consumes the nutrients of soil, sunlight, air and water.

·       The poet says that simple cutting and chopping is not sufficient to kill a tree. After sometime its bleeding bark will heal and new leaves will come out from the bark, the leaves will grow into small branches and then the tree will grow to its earlier size.

·       Now, the poet tells how to ‘kill’ a tree. He says, its roots must be pulled out entirely from the soil which acts as the anchor to the tree. First. The tree must be tied with a root and pulled out using lot of efforts and strength. When it is pulled out of earth completely, its strength is exposed. The strength of a tree lies in its roots which are white and full of moisture as they keep hidden inside the earth for years. The roots are the most sensitive part of a tree as well as the source of its strength.

·       After the tree is pulled out with its roots, the roots get exposed, they lie in hot dry sun and the air sucks out its moisture. Thus, the roots become dry, brown and hard. They become twisted and lifeless. And finally it is killed as it can’t grow again.


Message of the Poem


This poem conveys the message that the trees are our lifeline. So, they must not be killed. He gives the message that trees are alive just like human beings. We should not cut trees because trees have life. They take birth, feed upon earth, air, light and water, feel pain, bleed and die. They are precious and significant so they must not be cut.


Theme of the Poem


The poet considers the tree as a living organism. But the man is killing it with utmost cruelty and callousness. It implies that a person shall be a murderer if he ‘kills’ a tree this way.

Rhyme Scheme

The poet is composed in blank verse as the lines of the poem don’t rhyme.


Poetic Devices

It takes much time to kill a tree – Alliteration, sarcasm

Slowly consuming the earth – personification,

Rising out of it, feeding – personification, enjambment

Years of sunlight, air, water – consonance,

And out of its leprous hide – metaphor

The bleeding bark will heal – personification

Which if unchecked will expand again – assonance, consonance

Out of the anchoring earth – metaphor

It is to be roped, tied – assonance, consonance, asyndeton

And pulled out — snapped out – repetition, consonance

Out from the earth-cave – metaphor

Of scorching and choking – consonance, assonance

Browning, hardening – assonance, consonance, enjambment, asyndeton

Twisting, withering – assonance, consonance, enjambment, asyndeton

And then it is done – assonance

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Tale of Custard the Dragon

The Tale of Custard the Dragon

                                          By Ogden Nash

Analysis :

·         ‘The Tale of Custard the Dragon’ is a humorous ballad composed by Ogden Nash, an American poet who is known for his light verse.

·        The poem is humorous in tone and being a ballad, it is lyrical in nature.

·        A Ballad is a story in form of poem or song. It is meant to be narrated, sung as well as performed on stage.

·        The poem is composed in stanzas of four lines each rhyming aabb. Lot of poetic repetition and beautiful use of poetic devices make it a musical, rhythmic and lyrical in nature.

·        The poem conveys in a very light hearted manner that ‘barking dogs seldom bite’ or ‘thundering clouds seldom bring rain’.

·        The message of the poem is that humble and modest people don’t show but act on time.

Summary :

The poem is a story of a little girl, Belinda who lived in her little white house with her four pets. She had a kitten, a mouse, a dog and a dragon. She also had little red wagon which is her car.  The name of the kitten was Ink, mouse was called Blink. The dog’s name was Mustard as it was as sharp as mustard. The dragon was coward and shy, so Belinda called it Custard. Custard had sharp teeth, spikes on its upper body and scales underneath the body and sharp toes. The mouth of dragon was like a fireplace and its nose was like a chimney.

Belinda and her pets bragged highly about their bravery. But, Custard didn’t consider himself brave and never boasted about his power. He always cried for a nice safe place for himself. Belinda and her pets made fun of dragon’s cowardly nature and sarcastically called him ‘Percival’. The car would shake and the house would echo with their laughter.

One day they all heard an unpleasant sound. They cried helplessly as they saw a pirate who entered through a window. The pirate had pistols in both his hands and a bright knife held in his teeth. His beard was black and one of his legs was wooden. It was clear he didn’t mean any good.

Seeing the pirate, Belinda was fearful and cried for help. All ran away to hide themselves. However, Custard came forward and made fearful sounds, twisted his body and attacked the pirate. The pirate was surprised and terrified, so he drank little wine and fired two bullets but they did not hit Custard. Finally, Custard tore him into pieces and ate him.

Belinda and the pets being happy hugged Custard and danced around him joyfully. Not one of them was sad for the pirate.  However, things didn’t change much even after the incident. They continued speaking of their bravery and Custard remained as humble and meek as ever. Belinda still lives in her white house with her pets.

Stanza wise Explanation :

Stanza 1

The poem ‘The Tale of Custard the Dragon’ is a ballad. It is a story of a little girl named Belinda who lived in her little white house with her four pets. She had a little black kitten, a little grey mouse, a little yellow dog and a dragon. She also had little red wagon which is her car. They lived together like a happy family.

Stanza 2

The name of black kitten was Ink and grey mouse was named as Blink. The dog’s name was Mustard because it was as sharp as mustard. The dragon was really and truly very coward and shy. Belinda called it ‘Custard’.

Stanza 3

Describing the appearance of the dragon the poet tells that Custard had big and sharp teeth. It had spikes on its upper body and had scales underneath its body. The mouth of dragon was like a fireplace as it was very hot. Its nose was like a chimney. Its toes were like knives as it had sharp nails on its toes.

Stanza 4

Belinda and her pets always brag highly about their bravery. Belinda considers herself brave equal to many bears. Ink and Blink thought that they were so strong and brave that they could chase the lions and force them to run away. Mustard finds himself brave enough to defeat an angry tiger. But Custard never considered himself brave and never boasted about his power. On the contrary, he behaved as a coward. He always kept crying and seeking a nice safe place for himself.

Stanza 5

That’s why, Belinda used to tease and irritate the dragon rudely. Her pets also made fun of dragon and sarcastically called him ‘Percival’ who was a brave knight in the army of King Arthur. Belinda and her pets used to laugh at the dragon who was really and truly a coward. They used to make fun of him mercilessly and loudly while sitting in the red wagon.  

Stanza 6

Belinda laughed so loudly that she would shake the house and the whole house would echo with the laughter of the pets. Ink and Mustard would ask the dragon about his age in order to make fun of him and the dragon would seek a nice safe place to hide himself.

Stanza 7

Suddenly, they all heard an unpleasant sound. Mustard growled out of fear. They all looked around. Ink and Belinda uttered a loud cry because they saw a pirate who entered the house through a window.

Stanza 8

In this stanza the poet described the pirate making a beautiful use of imagery. The pirate had pistols in both his hands. He was holding a shining knife in his teeth. His beard was black and one of his legs was made up of wood. It means leg was artificial. His appearance made it clear that he didn’t mean any good. It was evident that he came to rob them.

Stanza 9

Seeing the pirate, Belinda lost colour of her face due to fear. She started crying for help. Mustard, being too much terrified, ran away from the place. The kitten ran to the innermost part of the house and mouse ran to the deepest hole to hide themselves.

Stanza 10

When all of them ran away to save themselves, Custard came forward showing lot of courage and made fearful sound like that of an engine. It clashed its tail and made a loud sound as if he was hitting the iron bars in a dungeon. The dragon made sounds, twisted its body in a circular motion and attacked the pirate in the manner a robin jumps on the worm to eat it.

Stanza 11

The pirate was little surprised and terrified, a bit. He drank little wine from his pocket container to make himself energised. Then, he fired two bullets but, they did not hit Custard. Finally, Custard tore him into pieces and ate him.

Stanza 12

Belinda was so happy and excited that she hugged Custard. Mustard, being very pleased started licking him. Ink and Blink danced around the dragon joyfully. Not one of them was sad for the pirate. 

Stanza 13

However, things didn’t change much even after the incident. They started giving excuses for running away from the spot. Mustard said that he would have also shown his bravery, if he hadn’t been confused and dizzy. Similarly, Ink and Blink also gave excuses and spoke about their bravery. They all continued speaking of bravery and Custard remained as humble, meek and gentle as ever.

Stanza 14 & 15

The last two stanzas are repeated to emphasise and highlight that Belinda still lives in her white house with her pets joyfully and noisily. All of them continued speaking high of their bravery and Custard retained his meek and gentle nature.

Difficult words and terms

Wagon – car, vehicle

Realio trulio – really truly

Spikes – sharp pointed nails

Barrel – long, big container

Rage – anger

Tickled – teased, pinched to make fun

Percival – a knight in King Arthur’s army

Giggled – laughed heartily

Weeck – laugh of kitten

Nasty – unpleasant

Growled – angry sound of dog

Meowch – sound of cat

Winda – window

Cutlass – small sword, knife

Yelp – cry of dog

Strategically – creatively, in a planned way

Clashed – hit

Dungeon – prison

Squirm – moving in circular motion

Robin – crow

Gaped – looked in surprise

Gulped – drank

Grog – wine or rum

Flagon – container

Gobbled – ate, swallowed

Gyrate – dance

Glee – joy

Flustered – confused, dizzy


Poetic Devices

Note : Being a lyrical ballad it is full of poetic repetition and poetic devices based on sound such as alliteration, assonance and consonance can be found in almost all lines.

With a little black kitten and a little grey mouse – poetic repetition, assonance

And a little yellow dog and a little red wagon – polysyndeton, poetic repetition, anaphora

And a realio, trulio, little pet dragon – assonance, refrain, anaphora

And the little yellow dog was sharp as Mustard – simile, anaphora

But the dragon was a coward, and she called him Custard – alliteration, consonance

And spikes on top of him and scales underneath – alliteration, ploysyndeton, imagery

Mouth like a fireplace, chimney for a nose – simile, metaphor, imagery

Belinda was as brave as a barrel full of bears – alliteration, simile, hyperbole

And Ink and Blink chased lions down the stairs – repetition, assonance, hyperbole

Mustard was as brave as a tiger in a rage – simile, hyperbole, repetition

Ink, Blink and Mustard, they rudely called him Percival – allusion, sarcasm

Belinda giggled till she shook the house – hyperbole, alliteration, assonance

And Blink said Week! which is giggling for a mouse – onomatopoeia, assonance

When Custard cried for a nice safe cage – alliteration, refrain, assonance

And Mustard growled, and they all looked around – onomatopoeia, consonance

Meowch! cried Ink, and Ooh! cried Belinda – onomatopoeia, repetition

Pistol in his left hand, pistol in his right – poetic repetition, imagery

And he held in his teeth a cutlass bright – alliteration, imagery

His beard was black, one leg was wood – imagery

Belinda paled, and she cried, Help! Help – irony, repetition

But Mustard fled with a terrified yelp – irony, consonance, onomatopoeia

Ink trickled down to the bottom of the household – irony, assonance

And little mouse Blink was strategically mouseholed – irony

But up jumped Custard, snorting like an engine – simile, onomatopoeia, consonance

Clashed his tail like irons in a dungeon – simile, hyperbole, imagery

With a clatter and a clank and a jangling squirm – onomatopoeia, assonance, poetic repetition

He went at the pirate like a robin at a worm – simile, imagery

And gulped some grog from his pocket flagon – alliteration, imagery

Ink and Blink in glee did gyrate – alliteration, assonance, imagery

 Important Question Answers

Q. What is a ballad? Describe how the poem ‘A Tale of Custard the Dragon’ is a ballad.

Ans. Ballad is a narrative of a tale, episode, incident or history in form of poem which is meant to be sung and performed. ‘A Tale of Custard the Dragon’ is humorous and light hearted through and through. It is purely musical with full of sound words and the use of poetic devices such as alliteration, assonance, poetic repetition, and refrain. The description of characters with their attitude and manners brings out dramatic irony, conflicts, climax and anti climax of a thrilling story. Episode of the pirate is narrated in a light hearted tone. The exaggerated boasting by the pets, unchanged attitude of pets and Belinda even at the end is quite humorous and ironical.