Friday 26 April 2024

The Rattrap

                                                         The Rattrap                                                                           By Selma Lagerlof


Analysis :

·      The chapter ‘The Rattrap’ is written by Selma Lagerlof, a Swedish writer whose stories are based on a universal theme of essential goodness in a human being. Her stories have been translated into many languages.

·      A universal theme runs through this story that the essential goodness in a human being can be awakened through understanding and love.

·      This story is set amidst the mines of Sweden, a country rich in iron ore, which is also supported by the history and legends of the country.

·      The story is told somewhat in the manner of a fairy tale where everything is set right at the end.

·      The chapter explores the themes of of Kindness and hospitality towards the poor people and the needy to bring remarkable change and economic stability in their life. The act of Kindness and hospitality shown by the ironmaster's daughter awakens basic human goodness in the peddler.

·      The story highlights a beautiful message that this world is a big rattrap. Riches and wealth only tempt us towards them and trap us in, forever.

 Video on Last Lesson

Summary / Synopsis :

This is the story of a man who went selling small rattraps made of wires by the peddler himself. The business was not profitable so he had to depend on begging and petty thefts. He moved about in rags and hunger gleamed in his eyes. 

His life was sad and monotonous. The world had never been kind to the peddler so it gave him joy to think ill of this world. Once, the peddler was struck by an idea that the whole world was nothing but a big rattrap. Its only purpose was to set baits for people. Riches, joys, shelter, food and clothing were just nothing but tempting baits. Anyone who lets himself tempted by these baits, the trap closes on him. And then everything comes to an end. It became his cherished pastime to think of people who were caught in the dangerous snare and others who were still circling around the bait.

One day he was wandering along the road and happened to see a little gray cottage and knocked at the door. An old man greeted him. He was alone so became happy to get someone to talk to. He served him supper and offered him tobacco to smoke. The host took a pack of cards and played "mjolis" with him till they slept.

The old man told the peddler everything about his work at Ramsjo Ironworks as crofter in his young days and, his cow that helped him earn thirty kronor last month. He went to the window. He took down a leather pouch which hung on a nail in the window frame. He picked out three wrinkled ten-kronor banknotes. He held them up before his eyes and kept them back into the pouch. The next day both men left the cottage at the same time. But half an hour later, the peddler came back, smashed a pane and took the pouch. He stole the money and hung the pouch back in its place. He was quite pleased with his smartness. Considering it unsafe to walk on the public highway he moved away from the road into the forest but he lost the way. It was a big and confusing forest.

Now, the world really appeared to be a big rattrap. This time, he had let himself befooled and trapped by the bait and had been caught in a rattrap.

It was getting dark. Finally, when he saw no way out, he sank down on the ground. He was tired to death. But soon he heard the sound of hammer strokes coming from an iron mill, the Ramsjo Ironworks, a big plant. He gathered all his strength and dragged himself towards it. The master smith and his helper sat in the dark forge near the furnace waiting for the pig iron, which had been put in the fire. The fire boy shovelled charcoal into the maw of the furnace with a great deal of clatter. The blacksmiths didn't mind the peddler standing close to the furnace as it was usual for them. He asked permission to stay and the master blacksmith nodded in approval.

The ironmaster came into the forge on his nightly round of inspection. He saw the peddler in the dark and mistook him for an old acquaintance,  an old comrade of his regiment. The peddler didn't know his name nor did he ever meet the man. He lied to the ironmaster that things had gone 'down- hill'. The ironmaster told that he should not have resigned from the regiment. He invited the peddler to come home with him. The vagabond didn't want to go to the manor house as he didn't want to throw himself voluntarily into the lion's den. The ironmaster wanted him to give them company at Christmas. The peddler declined the offer.

The ironmaster's daughter, Edla Willmansson came to the forge with a valet to persuade the peddler. She thought that the man was frightened. She compassionately requested him to stay with them over Christmas Eve. He didn't resist, accepted the fur coat given by the valet and followed the lady. The next day it was Christmas Eve. The valet had bathed him, cut his hair and shaved him. The peddler stood there in a good suit that belonged to the ironmaster. Now, the peddler stood before the ironmaster in broad daylight. It was impossible to mistake him for an old acquaintance. He got angry at him. The peddler understood that he was exposed and told the ironmaster that it was not his fault. He didn't want to deceive anybody. He had never pretended to be anything than a poor peddler. He had only begged to be allowed in the forge. He was ready to put on his old rags again and go away. First, the ironmaster threatened to call the Sheriff but then asked him to go away at once.

The ironmaster's daughter being compassionate, wanted the peddler to stay with them. There was not a single place in the whole country where he was welcome. Everyone showed him the door. She wanted him to stay and enjoy a day of peace with them. She was against chasing away a man whom they had promised Christmas cheer. In the evening the Christmas tree was lighted. He enjoyed fish and porridge.

The next morning the ironmaster and his daughter went early for the Christmas service. They didn't disturb him as he was asleep. The girl was dejected to hear a sensational news that one of old crofters had been robbed by a man who went around selling rattraps. When about 10 o'clock they came back, the ironmaster was informed by the valet that the peddler had gone but he had not taken anything at all with him on the contrary, he had left behind a little Package for Miss Willmansson. She opened the package and found a small rattrap and three wrinkled ten kro-nor notes in it along with a letter for Miss Willmansson. He thanked her for being so nice to him as if he were a captain. He didn't want her to be troubled by a thief at Christmas. She was requested to give back the money to the old crofter on the roadside. He had the money pouch hanging on the window frame. It served as a bait for poor wanderers. The rattrap was a Christmas present from a rat who would have been caught if they had not raised him to captain.

Video on Aunt Jennifer's Tigers

Theme :

The chapter highlights the themes of Kindness and hospitality towards the poor people and the needy to bring a change in this society. The story also talks about the philosophical theme that this world of ours is a rattrap and the humans are attracted by its materialistic gains and get trapped in it.

Message :

The story conveys that an act of Kindness and sympathy is good enough to bring about a remarkable change in anyone’s life, be it a thief or any wrong doer. The act of kindness and hospitality shown by the ironmaster's daughter awakes basic human goodness in the heart of the peddler. The story also highlights a beautiful message that this world is a big rattrap. Riches and wealth only tempt and trap us in. If we can't resist our temptation, we would be trapped in it just like a rat in the rattrap.

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Important Question Answers

Q1. Explain the metaphorical significance of the rattraps in context of the story.

Ans. The story very beautifully compares this world to a rattrap. The seller of rattraps is amused to think that this world is a big rattrap. The riches and wealth, materialistic attractions and other gains such as shelter, heat, food and clothing tempt the people of this world and trap them in it in the sense that they spend their whole life to catch hold of these attractions. They aren't able to stay away from these attractions so that they may live a life of peace and satisfaction. If we can't resist our temptation, we would be trapped in it just like a rat gets caught in the rattrap due to its temptation to catch the bait.

Video on Keeping Quiet

Q2. The reader’s sympathy is with the peddler right from the beginning of the story. Why is this so? Is this sympathy justified?

Ans. The author, Selma Lagerlof draws the character of the peddler with all the sympathy from beginning of the story till the end. Initially, the peddler is described as sad and lonely leading a monotonous life. His unprofitable business forced him to resort to begging and petty thefts. The writer's sympathy is very well justified as the peddler is presented as a product of unfavourable circumstances which when turned in his favour due to the kindness of Edla Williamson, he changed his ways to better.
The peddler is pragmatist as he understands that the world is a big rattrap which traps us all equally and this theory of his keeps the peddler at par with all human beings who are a bundle of weaknesses.
However, the peddler is not shown in bad lights or portrayed as criminal. He is just a product of adverse circumstances. When he met right people and was treated nicely and kindly, he respects their kindness and honouring their hospitality he returns the money he has stolen from the old crofter. He is portrayed as a common man who is blessed with essential human goodness and this common man is raised to a fine gentleman who recognises the value of kindness and hospitality.

Q3. The story 'The Rattrap' discusses the issue of human loneliness and focusses the need to bond with others. Elaborate the statement with examples.

Ans. Certainly, the chapter discusses the issue of loneliness quite evidently through the characters of old crofter and the ironmaster. Even the peddler was leading a lonely and monotonous life, perhaps that's why he was amused to think of the people caught in the trap of this materialistic world. The author focusses on the need to bond with others through the transformation in the character of peddler towards the end. When the peddler received sympathy, kindness and hospitality, he felt nice and returned the stolen money and decided to raise himself to the character of a fine gentleman. 
The old crofter, without his wife and any child feels so lonely that he is happy to welcome any stranger in his home so that he could spend time and talk to someone. He became so happy in the company of the peddler that he prepared supper for him, ate, smoke and played cards with him just like a member of his family. He also told everything about his life and earning moreover, disclosed where he kept the earned money without a spec of doubt on the peddler. The ironmaster also suffers from loneliness after the death of his wife and sons being abroad. He is so delighted to have the company of an old comrade that he sent his daughter to persuade him to enjoy Christmas with him. All the characters are described to be leading a lonely and monotonous life and in need of human touch and bond of love with other human beings, which eventually can create magic and bring transformation. 

Monday 22 April 2024

Discovering the Tut

Discovering the Tut : The Saga Continues

                                  By A. R. Williams


·       The story ‘Discovering the Tut : The Saga Continues’ is written by A. R. Williams, an American author whose works got published in 'Heroic Fantasy Quarterly'.

·       In the chapter "Discovering Tut," the author provides a vivid account of the investigation of king Tutankhamun’s grave.

·       The chapter delves into the peculiarities of the investigation process in that time's culture, traditions, atmosphere, by the diverse team of investigators who included archaeologists, scientists and historians to know the cause of sudden death of young king, Tutankhamun.

·       The chapter blends observation, tribute and reflection to offer readers a rich and diversified exploration of burial practices in ancient Egypt, its culture, architecture, rituals and beliefs focussing particularly on the tradition of mummifying a dead body.

·       The theme of the story is the significance of burial culture of ancient Egypt and its legacy to keep the history and culture alive and, has lured the people from generation to generation.

Summary  /  Synopsis

§  In the chapter "Discovering Tut," the author provides a vivid account of the investigation of king Tutankhamun’s grave by the team of investigators that were archaeologists, scientists and historians who tried to know the cause of sudden death of young king, Tutankhamun.

§  King Tut was just a teenager when he died. He was the last heir of a powerful family that had ruled Egypt and its empire for centuries. After his death he was forgotten for the years. But after the discovery of his tomb in 1922, the modern world wondered about the cause of his untimely death. He was brought out of his tomb and recently a CT scan was done to ascertain the reason of his death.

§  At 6 pm on 5th January, 2005, the world's most famous mummy was taken out from its tomb. As the mummy of King Tut was being put into the scanner for performing a CT scan, heavy winds started blowing, the weather had been bad all day and the night and sky was covered by dark clouds. The CT scan was done to unearth the mysteries of untimely death of this young King who died more than 3300 years ago. King Tut's tomb lies 26 feet underground in the ancient Egyptian cemetery known as the ‘Valley of the Kings’. Tourists from around the world came to visit the tomb to pay their respects. They gazed at the murals on the walls of the burial chamber and looked at King Tut's gilded face on the lid of his outer coffin. The visitors were curious and thoughtful. Some feared the pharaoh's curse would befall those who disturbed him.

§  Howard Carter, a British archaeologist discovered King Tut's tomb in 1922 after years of futile searching. Its contents remain the richest royal collection ever found. There were dazzling works of art in gold and people's everyday things such as board games, a bronze razor, cases of food, clothes, wine, etc. that he would need in the life after death. Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities, explained that the mummy was in a very bad condition because of what Howard Carter did to it. 

    Howard Carter found King Tut's body in three nested coffins. In the first coffin, he found a shroud decorated with garlands of willow and olive leaves, wild celery, lotus petals and cornflowers as the burial took place in March or April. The ritual resins had hardened, cementing King Tut to the bottom of the solid gold coffin. Howard Carter tried to loosen the resins by putting the mummy outside in the sun that heated it to 149 degrees Fahrenheit. For several hours the mummy was set outside in blazing sunshine but nothing happened. He reported that the tough material had to be cut from under the limbs and trunk to free the King's remains. The royals, in that time, believed that they could take their fortune with them after death. Hence, King Tut was buried with all his expensive belongings. To separate King Tut from his ornaments, Howard Carter's men removed the mummy's head and cut off nearly every major joint; then they reassembled the remains of the body on a layer of sand in a wooden box with padding.

§  Archaeology has changed since then, focusing less on treasures and more on the fascinating details of life and mysteries of death. It also uses more sophisticated tools. In 1968, more than 40 years after Howard Carter's discovery, an anatomy professor did the X-ray of the mummy and revealed an astonishing fact that beneath the resin that caked King Tut's chest, his breast bone and front ribs were missing. King Tut's demise was a big event, as he was the last ruler of his family. His funeral meant the end of a royal dynasty. But the facts of his death are unclear.

§  King Tut's father or grandfather, Amenhotep III, was a powerful King, who ruled for almost four decades. His son, Amenhotep IV succeeded him. He was a very strange King. He promoted the worship of Aten, the sun disk, and changed his name to Akhenaten. He moved the religious capital from Thebes to Akhetaten, now known as Amarna. He shocked the country by attacking a major god 'Amun' by breaking his images and closing down his temples.

§  Ray Johnson, Director of the University of Chicago's research centre in Luxor, called this King very odd. He said it must have been a terrible time for the people because the family that had ruled for centuries was coming to an end. After Akhenaten's death, Smenkhkare, a mysterious ruler, ruled for a brief period and departed with hardly any sign. It was then that a very young King Tutankhaten took over the throne. The boy soon changed his name to Tutankhamun, known as King Tut today. He oversaw revival of the old ways. King Tut ruled for nine years and then died unexpectedly.

§  King Tut is one mummy among many in Egypt. The Egyptian Mummy Project has recorded almost six hundred mummies and is still counting. King Tut's mummy was the first mummy to be CT scanned to ascertain the secret of his death by a portable scanner donated by National Geographic Society and Siemens. King Tut's entire body was scanned. On the night of the scan, workmen carried him from the tomb and rose it on a hydraulic lift into a trailer that held the scanner.

§  However, initially the costly scanner could not function properly because of sand in the cooler fan. But soon all the hurdles were crossed and after the scan, the King was returned to his coffin to rest in peace.

§  The CT scan showed an astonishing image of King Tut and his entire body very clearly. It showed a grey head, neck vertebrae, a hand, several images of the rib cage and a section of the skull. Zahi Hawass was relieved that nothing had seriously gone wrong. As the technicians left the trailer, they saw the star constellation which the ancient Egyptians knew as the soul of Osiris, the God of the afterlife. They felt as if the God was watching over the boy King.


   The theme of the story is the significance of burial culture of ancient Egypt known as 'Mummy Culture' and its legacy to keep the history and culture alive and, has lured the people from generation to generation.

   Important Question Answers:

   Q1. Give reasons for the following - 

   a. King Tut's body has been subjected to repeated scrutiny.

   Ans. King Tut's body has been subjected to repeated scrutiny for the riches it was buried with. There has been a lot of speculations about untimely and sudden death of the young King in the prime phase of his life.

   b. Howard Carter's investigation was rejected.

   Ans. Howard Carter's investigation was rejected because he used unscientific methods and illegitimate ways to cut the body away from the wooden base. He also focused more on the discovery of gold and riches than on the fascinating details of Tut's life and mysteries behind his death and ignoring the cultural and historical aspects.

   c. Tut's body was buried along with gilded treasures.

   Ans. The Egyptians believed in life after death at the time of King Tut's death. Therefore, for the convenience of the king's journey beyond life they buried all the riches, ornaments, clothes, food items and all other needs along with the corpse.

   d. The boy king changed his name.

   Ans. During the reign of King he changed his name from Tutenkhaten to Tutkhamun because the latter meant 'the living image of Amun', and the reason being King Tut's predecessor. King Amenhotep IV attacked 'Amun' and smashed his images and got his temples closed, who at that time was a well known god. King Tut, in order to restore the old order and express his faith in 'Amun', changed to that name.

   Q2. What was the result of CT scan?

   Ans. The results of CT scan were very positive. 1700 digital X ray images were created in cross section. A gray head took shape on screen, which was apun and tilted in every direction. Several other images revealed neck vertebrae, hand, rib cage and a transection of skull. The entire CT scan was satisfying and relieving proving that nothing had gone seriously wrong with Tut's body.

   Q3. Explain the statement, "King Tut is one of the first mummiesto be scanned - in death, as in life......"

   Ans. King Tut's mummy was the first one to be x rayed by an anatomy professor in 1968. in 2005 a virtual reality was created by the CT scan, which produced life like images. In his life he had been a bold, intelligent and fearless king. H tried to restore his legacy which was demolished by his forefather. He was a believer, protector and ruler. Thus, in death as well as in life, King Tut remained logically ahead of his contemporaries.

Wednesday 17 April 2024

Lost Spring

Lost Spring: Stories of Stolen Childhood

                                           By Anees Jung

Analysis :

·       The chapter ‘Lost Spring’ is written by Anees Jung, a writer, editor and columnist for major newspapers in India and abroad.

·       This chapter is an excerpt from her book titled ‘Lost Spring: Stories of Stolen Childhood’. Here, she analyses the grinding poverty and social stigma and injustice which condemn these children to a life of exploitation.

·       The chapter is divided into two parts which are actually two stories - one is of Saheb and the other is of Mukesh. In these two stories, author discusses how the dreams of few children remain unfulfilled due to poverty and social and political injustice. 

    The chapter explores the themes of migration of poor people for their survival and their economic struggle, family work lineage, and the stark contrast between dreams and reality.

·       It paints a vivid picture of Saheb's and Mukesh’s dreams and, in contrast, realistic struggles to fulfil them.

·       The chapter conveys that this world is divided into two groups - the exploitor and the exploited and the oppressor and the oppressed. Each day poor children dream something and each day they fail to understand the reasons behind the complexities of their life and hurdles in fulfilling their dreams.

 Video on Keeping Quiet

Summary / Synopsis :

Part I : Sometimes I find a Rupee in the garbage

·       This is the story of Saheb who had a dream of scrounging for gold in the garbage dumps of the narrator’s neighbourhood. Saheb doesn’t remember his home in Dhaka, which he left long ago. The storms swept away his fields and home that’s why he and other people left the place, looking for gold in the big city where he now lives.

·       The narrator advises him to go to school, though the advice seemed hollow to her. He agreed to go to school if she started a school in light spirit. After few days he came running asked if her school is ready and she answered, it takes longer to build a school. She felt embarrassed at a promise that was not meant. But such promises are made every day in every corner of his bleak world.

·       His name ‘Saheb-e-Alam’ meaning the ‘lord of the universe’ seems ironical to the author and he would hardly believe if he knew the meaning. Unaware of it, he roams the streets with his friends who appear like the morning birds working in the streets and disappear at noon.

·       When she asked one of them why they didn’t wear chappals, he answered his mother did not give them. Another boy didn’t want to wear chappals and the third one wanted shoes as he could never own them. The author experienced that walking barefoot for these children, in cities or villages is not lack of money but a tradition. They are an army of barefoot boys. Moreover, it's a perpetual state of poverty.

·       The author recalled a story where a man from Udipi in his childhood used to go to school near an old temple and pray for a pair of shoes. After thirty years she visited his town and the temple, where lived the new priest, and a young boy wearing a grey uniform, socks and shoes, arrived. She remembered the prayer of another boy to keep his shoes safe when he had finally got a pair of shoes. Young boys like the son of the priest have shoes but many others like the ragpickers remain shoeless.

·       Many barefoot ragpickers are found in Seemapuri, a place on the periphery of Delhi. They came from Bangladesh in 1971 and Saheb’s family is among them. In Seemapuri, in mud houses with roofs of tin and tarpaulin, devoid of sewage, drainage or running water, live more than 10,000 ragpickers without an identity, without permits but with ration cards that get their names on voters’ lists and enable them to buy grain after all food is more important for survival than an identity. They had to leave their fields that gave no grain.

·       Survival in Seemapuri means ragpicking. Garbage to them is gold. It is their daily bread, a roof over their heads for the parents. But, for children it is even more. If they find a silver coin in a heap of garbage, they can’t stop scrounging, there is hope of finding more, perhaps gold.

·       Saheb told the author that he liked the Tennis and he wanted to play. Sometimes, the gatekeeper of the club allowed him to go inside and play when no one was around. He wore the tennis shoes that didn’t match his clothing and appearance, the shoes were thrown by a rich boy because of a hole in one of them.

·       Saheb got a job at a tea stall for 800 rupees with all his meals. He was carrying a heavy milk canister that belonged to the tea stall owner, earlier he used to a bag which was his own. Saheb was no longer free.

 Video on Last Lesson

Part II : I want to drive a car

·       This is the story of Mukesh who wanted to become a motor mechanic. Mukesh had a dream to drive a car, which looked like a mirage to the author. His family lived in Firrozabad and works in a bangle factory. They didn’t know that it is illegal for children like him to work in the glass furnaces with high temperatures, in dingy cells without air and light, where around 20,000 children work and often lose the brightness of their eyes.

·       These bangle makers' families live in homes like hovels with crumbling walls and no windows. Mukesh volunteers to take the author home, which is being rebuilt, and he proudly told that. They walked down stinking lanes choked with garbage and entered a half-built shack. Food was being prepared over firewood stove. The wife of Mukesh’s elder brother, not much older in years was already in charge of three men — her husband, Mukesh and their father who could only teach his sons the art of bangle making as God given lineage can’t be broken even though Mukesh’s grandfather went blind with the dust from polishing the glass of bangles. Grandfather recalled the days of poverty, but now, proud of giving a house to his family.

·       A young girl in pink dress was soldering pieces of glass, without  knowing the sanctity and significance of the bangles and auspiciousness for a married Indian woman, which she also would become one day.

·        Little has changed with time in Firozabad for the poor. Years of mind-numbing toil have killed even their ability to dream. Young men who have fallen into the vicious trap of middlemen can’t get organised into cooperatives, due to the fear of police. They talk endlessly about poverty, apathy, greed and injustice.

·       The author could see two distinct worlds — one of the family, caught in a web of poverty, and the other is a vicious circle of the sahukars, the middlemen, the policemen, the keepers of law, the bureaucrats and the politicians, who all had imposed the baggage on the child who accepted it as naturally as his father had.

·       Mukesh's eyes are full of hope, a hope to do better and something different. But, if doing something different would mean to dare, daring is not part of his growing up. He is content with his dream of driving a car and becoming a motor mechanic, and not flying a plane as he sees many cars on the streets of Firozabad and few planes over the city.

    Video on Aunt Jennifer's Tigers    


    The writer wants to highlight the theme of migration of poor people for their survival and portray their economic struggle. She lashes against the inefficient and unconcerned authorities highlighting the stark contrast between dreams and reality of the poor people. 

   Important Question Answers:

   Q1. "Little has moved with time, it seems, in Firozabad." Why does the writer say this?

   Ans. The writer, Anees Jung, tells that the traditional bangle makers in Firozabad are poor, illiterate, and exploited. They cannot fulfil their dreams. They are caught in the web of middlemen and moneylenders who are supported by the authorities. They keep living in filth and squalor for ages. The children help their parents in bangle making and people lose their eye sight due to poor management and conditions. Though such child labour is illegal, it is going on unabated in Firozabad. The author wants to convey that due to irresponsibility of authorities nothing has changed in the city and the poor have been suffering for ages.

   Q2. What does Saheb look for in the garbage dumps? What are the hopes of other 10,000 ragpickers like him?

   Ans. Saheb is a poor ragpicker of Seemapuri. He roams in the streets with his friends and looks for gold and money in the garbage dumps. Sometimes, he also finds a ten rupee note. Other 10,000 ragpickers also dream to find treasure in the garbage like Saheb, especially the children. For grown ups rag picking is a way of survival.

   Q3. What could be the reasons for the migration of people from villages to cities? Why did Saheb's family migrate from Dhaka to Delhi?

   Ans. Every year thousands of people migrate from villages to cities seeking the means of survival. The reasons are countless but the most important reason is basic necessities of life - food, shelter and livelihood. When fields can't provide for the means of survival and employment, poor people are forced to leave their own lands and fields and move to bigger cities for food and work.

    Saheb's is one such family, who left their fields in Dhaka in 1971 and migrated to Seemapuri, Delhi. Cyclonic storms swept away their fields and homes. They were completely ruined. They had no hopes of survival, there. Their fields could not yield crop and they were forced to migrate to India. Life in Seemapuri is a means of survival to Saheb's family but for the ragpicking children like Saheb it is an opportunity and hope to find gold in the garbage and become rich.

    Video on Roadside Stand

Monday 1 April 2024

The Laburnum Top

The Laburnum Top

                                                          By Ted Hughes

Analysis : 

The story ‘The Laburnum Top’ is composed by Ted Hughes who was an English poet, translator, and children's writer.

The poem is a beautiful interpretation of this world which is represented by the tree and life and living people are represented by the bird.

This poem is a beautiful landscape of an autumn scene with the remarkable use of imagery by the poet who portrays the laburnum tree and the bird with the lively description of vibrant sounds, movements, vitality, and fleeting moments.

The poem portrays the laburnum tree as a timeless force that imparts life to millions of creatures such as the goldfinch bird.

The poem also beautifully emphasises the power of nature that gives life to the existence of every living soul.

The poem explores themes of nature, life, and transience of our life in this world which becomes quiet and lifeless without living souls bringing out the theme of coexistence.

This poem is rich with poetic devices and uses vivid imagery to describe the autumn scene along with personification, metaphor and symbolism.

The poem conveys the message that our life is short lived but life in general never cease to exist. The world is lifeless and meaningless without the existence of humans and other living creatures. Our relation with this world is beautiful and amazing, it needs to be understood and maintained.



Line by Line Explanation

The Laburnum top is silent, quite still

In the afternoon yellow September sunlight,

A few leaves yellowing, all its seeds fallen.

Explanation :

The poet describes the Laburnum tree, indicating that it is motionless, quiet and seems to be lifeless until a bird comes and sits in the tree. The setting is established as a sunny afternoon in September, with a specific emphasis on the yellow light which symbolises the autumn season. The tree is in the process of shedding its leaves that have turned yellow due to autumn and the seeds have already fallen on the ground as the tree is undergoing its natural cycle during autumn.

Till the goldfinch comes, with a twitching chirrup

A suddenness, a startlement, at a branch end.

Then sleek as a lizard, and alert, and abrupt,

She enters the thickness, and a machine starts up

Of chitterings, and a tremor of wings, and trillings —

The whole tree trembles and thrills.

Explanation :

Then, all of a sudden, the scene undergoes a change with the arrival of a goldfinch, a small bird known for its bright yellow colour. The bird's arrival is accompanied by its distinct chirping which fills the tree with vibrant sounds and removes the dullness and silence. The bird's arrival is sudden and startling, as it lands on a branch of the tree which shakes with tremours and tumults. The poet uses simile to describe the bird's movements, comparing it to a sleek lizard which is known for its alertness and sudden actions for catching its prey. As the bird moves deeper into the thick leaves of the tree which is, now described metaphorically as a machine which is resounding due to the sharp sounds and sudden movements made by the baby birds. The sounds and movements of the bird and its babies within the tree create a cacophony of chirping, fluttering of wings, and tremours of the leaves and the tree. The activity of the bird and its small baby birds within the tree causes the entire tree to vibrate and pulsate with life as if the tree has become alive full of life, energy and joy.


It is the engine of her family.

She stokes it full, then flirts out to a branch-end

Showing her barred face identity mask

Explanation :

Now, the poet compares the tree to an ‘engine’ which is described as a driving force for the life of the bird and its family. The tree is described as the engine for the bird's family as it gives life providing for safety and shelter to them, leading their life ahead safely and happily. The way an engine pulls entire vehicle forward, the tree also provides for the life of its babies driving their life ahead. The bird fuels the engine of the tree providing for food, security and other necessities to her family. The bird shakes the tree completely with its sudden movements and then, it suddenly moves to the edge of a branch preparing for its launch into the sky. There, towards the end of the branch the bird is slightly visible as the leaves aren’t thick there. It is slightly visible, and its face is hidden with the streaks of flowers which are described by the poet as the bird’s mask. Here, the branches of the laburnum tree full of yellow flowers are described metaphorically as the mask that serves as an ‘identity mask’ for the bird as the branches full of flowers are yellow as well as the bird is also yellow. Hence, the tree despite hiding the bird's face becomes its identity. This mask keeps the bird and its family hidden from the dangers and threats. 


Then with eerie delicate whistle-chirrup whisperings

She launches away, towards the infinite

And the laburnum subsides to empty.

Explanation :

The bird makes soft and strange sounds as it prepares to depart. These sounds are compared to the sound of a whistle. The bird flies away into the distance, symbolically moving towards the vast expanse of the sky which is infinite. With the departure of the bird, the Laburnum tree returns to its quiet and empty state, devoid of the earlier activity and life.

Overall, the poem explores themes of nature, life, and transience of our existence in this world.


Message :

The poem conveys the message that our life is short lived but life in general never ceases to exist. The world is lifeless and meaningless without the existence of humans and other living creatures. Our relation with this world is beautiful and amazing; it needs to be understood and maintained. The poem explores themes of nature, life, and transience of our existence in this world which becomes quiet and lifeless without living souls emphasising the message of coexistence.

Poetic Devices :

The Laburnum top is silent, quite still - Personification, Alliteration, Assonance 

In the afternoon yellow September sunlight, - Imagery,  Alliteration, Symbolism 

A few leaves yellowing all its seeds fallen. - Symbolism, Consonance 

Till the goldfinch comes, with a twitching chirrup - Assonance, Alliteration, Imagery, Onomatopoeia 

A suddenness, a startlement, at a branch end. - Alliteration, Repetition 

Then sleek as a lizard, and alert, and abrupt - Simile, Imagery, polysyndeton, Repetition, Assonance 

She enters the thickness, and a machine starts up - Metaphor, Imagery, Consonance 

Of chitterings, and a tremor of wings, and trillings — Assonance, Alliteration, Onomatopoeia, Repetition, Polysyndeton 

The whole tree trembles and thrills - Personification, Alliteration, Consonance 

It is the engine of her family - Assonance, Metaphor

She stokes it full, then flirts out to a branch-end - Metaphor, Alliteration, Imagery, Consonance 

Showing her barred face identity maskMetaphor, Imagery 

Then with eerie delicate whistle-chirrup whisperings - Metaphor, Imagery, Assonance, Alliteration, Onomatopoeia

She launches away, towards the infinite - Metaphor, Consonance, symbolism

And the laburnum subsides to empty. Personification 


 Then sleek as a lizard, and alert, and abrupt,

She enters the thickness, and a machine starts up

Of chitterings, and a tremor of wings, and trillings —

Q1. What does the word 'machine' refer to? 

Q2. Who is compared to a lizard? Which poetic devices is used here? 

Q3. Why is the bird compared to a lizard? 

Q4. Whose chitterings and trillings are described? 

Q5. Which poetic device is used in third line? 

Answers : 

A1. The word 'machine' refers to the baby birds in the nest which is hidden in the thickness of the tree. The goldfinch has kept its chicks in the nest where the branch is thickly covered with the leaves. As the goldfinch arrives, all the babies start making sounds and movements and it appears as if a machine has started.

A2. The bird, goldfinch is compared to a lizard with the use of the poetic device, Simile.

A3. The bird is compared to a lizard due to its alertness and quickness while catching its prey. The bird is alert and quick while entering the thickness of leaves over the nest so that she can avoid the eyes of the predators and keep its babies safe. 

A4. The small chicks are making sharp, shrill and happy sounds at the arrival of the mother bird. 

A5. Onomatopoeia is used in the third line (due to the use of sound words)