3 Keeping Quiet About the poet Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) is the pen name of Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto who was born in the town of Parral in Chile. Neruda’s poems are full of easily understood images which make them no less beautiful. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in the year 1971. In this poem Neruda talks about the necessity of quiet introspection and creating a feeling of mutual understanding among human beings. Before you read What does the title of the poem suggest to you? What do you think the poem is about? Now we will count to twelve and we will all keep still. For once on the face of the Earth let’s not speak in any language, let’s stop for one second, and not move our arms so much. It would be an exotic moment without rush, without engines, we would all be together in a sudden strangeness. Fishermen in the cold sea would not harm whales and the man gathering salt would look at his hurt hands. Those who prepare green wars, wars with gas, wars with fire, victory with no survivors, would put on clean clothes and walk about with their brothers in the shade, doing nothing. What I want should not be confused with total inactivity. Life is what it is about; I want no truck with death. If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death. Perhaps the Earth can teach us as when everything seems dead and later proves to be alive. Now I’ll count up to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go. to have no truck with : to refuse to associate or deal with, to refuse to tolerate something Think it out 1. What will counting upto twelve and keeping still help us achieve? 2. Do you think the poet advocates total inactivity and death? 3. What is the ‘sadness’ that the poet refers to in the poem? 4. What symbol from Nature does the poet invoke to say that there can be life under apparent stillness? 96/Flamingo Try this out Choose a quiet corner and keep still physically and mentally for about five minutes. Do you feel any change in your state of mind? Keeping Quiet/97

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5

A Roadside Stand


About the Poet

Robert Frost (1874-1963) is a highly acclaimed American poet of the twentieth century. Robert Frost wrote about characters, people and landscapes. His poems are concerned with human tragedies and fears, his reaction to the complexities of life and his ultimate acceptance of his burdens. Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening, Birches, Mending walls are a few of his well-known poems. In the poem A Roadside Stand, Frost presents the lives of poor deprived people with pitiless clarity and with the deepest sympathy and humanity.

Before you read

Have you ever stopped at a roadside stand? What have you observed there?

The little old house was out with a little new shed

In front at the edge of the road where the traffic sped,

A roadside stand that too pathetically pled,

It would not be fair to say for a dole of bread,

But for some of the money, the cash, whose flow supports

The flower of cities from sinking and withering faint.

The polished traffic passed with a mind ahead,

Or if ever aside a moment, then out of sorts

At having the landscape marred with the artless paint

Of signs that with N turned wrong and S turned wrong

Offered for sale wild berries in wooden quarts,

Or crook-necked golden squash with silver warts,

Or beauty rest in a beautiful mountain scene,

You have the money, but if you want to be mean,

Why keep your money (this crossly) and go along.

The hurt to the scenery wouldn’t be my complaint

So much as the trusting sorrow of what is unsaid:

Here far from the city we make our roadside stand

And ask for some city money to feel in hand

To try if it will not make our being expand,

And give us the life of the moving-pictures’ promise

That the party in power is said to be keeping from us.

It is in the news that all these pitiful kin

Are to be bought out and mercifully gathered in

To live in villages, next to the theatre and the store,

Where they won’t have to think for themselves anymore,

While greedy good-doers, beneficent beasts of prey,

Swarm over their lives enforcing benefits

That are calculated to soothe them out of their wits,

And by teaching them how to sleep they sleep all day,

Destroy their sleeping at night the ancient way.

Sometimes I feel myself I can hardly bear

The thought of so much childish longing in vain,

The sadness that lurks near the open window there,

That waits all day in almost open prayer

For the squeal of brakes, the sound of a stopping car,

Of all the thousand selfish cars that pass,

Just one to inquire what a farmer’s prices are.

And one did stop, but only to plow up grass

In using the yard to back and turn around;

And another to ask the way to where it was bound;

And another to ask could they sell it a gallon of gas

They couldn’t (this crossly); they had none, didn’t it see?

No, in country money, the country scale of gain,

The requisite lift of spirit has never been found,

Or so the voice of the country seems to complain,

I can’t help owning the great relief it would be

To put these people at one stroke out of their pain.

And then next day as I come back into the sane,

I wonder how I should like you to come to me

And offer to put me gently out of my pain.


quarts : bottles or containers

squash : a kind of vegetable (gourd)


Think it out

1. The city folk who drove through the countryside hardly paid any heed to the roadside stand or to the people who ran it. If at all they did, it was to complain. Which lines bring this out? What was their complaint about?

2. What was the plea of the folk who had put up the roadside stand?

3. The government and other social service agencies appear to help the poor rural people, but actually do them no good. Pick out the words and phrases that the poet uses to show their double standards.

4. What is the ‘childish longing’ that the poet refers to? Why is it ‘vain’?

5. Which lines tell us about the insufferable pain that the poet feels at the thought of the plight of the rural poor?

Talk about it

Discuss in small groups.

The economic well-being of a country depends on a balanced development of the villages and the cities.

Try this out

You could stop at a dhaba or a roadside eatery on the outskirts of your town or city to see

1. how many travellers stop there to eat?

2. how many travellers stop for other reasons?

3. how the shopkeepers are treated?

4. the kind of business the shopkeepers do.

5. the kind of life they lead.

Notice the rhyme scheme. Is it consistent or is there an occasional variance? Does it indicate thought predominating over sound pattern?

Notice the stanza divisions. Do you find a shift to a new idea in successive stanzas?

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