Once Upon a Time

Once Upon a Time...

Once upon a time, when writing was yet to be invented to pass information through generations, those who witnessed stories worth telling, started passing information verbally, which we recognize today as folktales. Even though this article is not about folktales, they play a fundamental role in paving the path to understand the fairy tale.

Through the application of non-realistic characters and events such as talking animals, constant seasons, and beings which surpass the laws of physics, intentionally or unintentionally the story teller achieve three effects;

  • Reduction of boundaries 
  • Intensification of the message 
  • Production of a child-friendly story

Every folktale is not a fairytale,
but every fairytale is based on a folktale-
some story that actually happened
somewhere in the timeline
with lesser extravagance;
true lovers, step mothers and witches.

Folklore Vs Fairytale

Reduction of Boundaries

Once the story is emancipated from social, religious, geographical, and horological limitations it becomes a universal application, a timeless tale which conveys an unbiased message.

The story of the red cap has more than fifty eight versions and adaptations.

Intensification of the message 

It is a common practice among the fairy tale tellers across the globe to intensify the message using demons, gods, angels, and witches so the aroused fear factor of the listener forcibly inculcates the conveyed message of the story.

The realistic storyline of a fairy tale can easily be found when the demons, and  witches, are replaced by wicked human desires.

Production of a child-friendly story

The folktales from which the fairy tales descend are traditionally meant to be told at adult gatherings after the children have been put to bed. However, during the process of its transformation, writers such as Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault, and Hans Christian Anderson censor most of the disturbing information in order to produce collections of child-friendly bed time stories.


Every step mother in every fairy tale is an alter ego of the actual mother. It is too much of a harsh truth for a child to realize the sexual jealousy and unreasonable wickedness of a parent, so the writers are often forced to switch the role of the mother to a step mother.

The Truth Behind Fairy Tales – Little Red Riding Hood

The Truth Behind Fairy Tales - Little Red Riding Hood

General Introduction

Fairy tales as we know them are derivation of folk tales that are transmuted through generations. The origins of some folktales date back to the prehistoric beginning of man. They are originally not meant to be bedtime stories for children, but to be tales that entertained adults once the children are tucked in bed.

Every country has its own set of fairy tales through which one can understand various aspects of society, politics, and religion in relation to the geographical origins of the tale. Even though, it is not pragmatic and naïve to understand the history of mankind through fairy tales, they are a rich source of understanding idiosyncrasies of man—his inherent psychological behavioral patterns.


Little Red Riding Hood

Versions Of the story

Little Red Riding Hood is one of the most complicated stories with a bare minimum of 58 variations of plotlines found across the globe.

Little Red Riding Hood  (without the red riding hood) 

As told in France during the 17th/18th centuries.
                [From Robert Darnton, Great Cat Massacre]

 Once a little girl was told by her mother to bring some bread and milk to her grandmother.  As the girl was walking through the forest, a wolf came up to her and asked where she was going.
    “To grandmother’s house,” she replied.
    “Which path are you taking, the path of the pins or the path of the needles?”
    “The path of the needles.”
    So the wolf took the path of the pins and arrived first at the house.  He killed grandmother, poured her blood into a bottle, and sliced her flesh onto a platter.  Then he got into her nightclothes and waited in bed.

    “Knock, knock.”
    “Come in, my dear.”
    “Hello, grandmother.  I’ve brought you some bread and milk.”
    “Have something yourself, my dear.  There is meat and wine in the pantry.”
    So the little girl ate what was offered  and as she did,  a little cat said, “Slut!  To eat the flesh and drink the blood of your grandmother!”
    Then the wolf said, “Undress and get into bed with me.”
    “Where shall I put my apron?”
    “Throw it on the fire; you won’t need it any more.”
    For each garment–bodice, skirt, petticoat, and stockings–the girl asked the same question; and each time the wolf answered, “Throw it on the fire; you won’t need it any more.”
    When the girl got in bed, she said, “Oh grandmother!  How hairy you are!”
    “It’s to keep me warmer, my dear.”
    “Oh, grandmother!  What big shoulders you have!”
    “I’ts for better carrying firewood, my dear.”
    “Oh, grandmother! What long nails you have!”
    “It’s for scratching myself better, my dear.”
    “Oh, grandmother!  What big teeth you have!”
    “It’s for eating you better, my dear.”
    “And he ate her.”

Little Red Riding Hood
~Charles Perrault

Once upon a time there lived in a certain village a little country girl, the prettiest creature who was ever seen. Her mother was excessively fond of her; and her grandmother doted on her still more. This good woman had a little red riding hood made for her. It suited the girl so extremely well that everybody called her Little Red Riding Hood.One day her mother, having made some cakes, said to her, “Go, my dear, and see how your grandmother is doing, for I hear she has been very ill. Take her a cake, and this little pot of butter.”

Little Red Riding Hood set out immediately to go to her grandmother, who lived in another village.

As she was going through the wood, she met with a wolf, who had a very great mind to eat her up, but he dared not, because of some woodcutters working nearby in the forest. He asked her where she was going. The poor child, who did not know that it was dangerous to stay and talk to a wolf, said to him, “I am going to see my grandmother and carry her a cake and a little pot of butter from my mother.”

“Does she live far off?” said the wolf

“Oh I say,” answered Little Red Riding Hood; “it is beyond that mill you see there, at the first house in the village.”

“Well,” said the wolf, “and I’ll go and see her too. I’ll go this way and go you that, and we shall see who will be there first.”

The wolf ran as fast as he could, taking the shortest path, and the little girl took a roundabout way, entertaining herself by gathering nuts, running after butterflies, and gathering bouquets of little flowers. It was not long before the wolf arrived at the old woman’s house. He knocked at the door: tap, tap.

“Who’s there?”

“Your grandchild, Little Red Riding Hood,” replied the wolf, counterfeiting her voice; “who has brought you a cake and a little pot of butter sent you by mother.”

The good grandmother, who was in bed, because she was somewhat ill, cried out, “Pull the bobbin, and the latch will go up.”

The wolf pulled the bobbin, and the door opened, and then he immediately fell upon the good woman and ate her up in a moment, for it been more than three days since he had eaten. He then shut the door and got into the grandmother’s bed, expecting Little Red Riding Hood, who came some time afterwards and knocked at the door: tap, tap.

“Who’s there?”

Little Red Riding Hood, hearing the big voice of the wolf, was at first afraid; but believing her grandmother had a cold and was hoarse, answered, “It is your grandchild Little Red Riding Hood, who has brought you a cake and a little pot of butter mother sends you.”

The wolf cried out to her, softening his voice as much as he could, “Pull the bobbin, and the latch will go up.”

Little Red Riding Hood pulled the bobbin, and the door opened.

The wolf, seeing her come in, said to her, hiding himself under the bedclothes, “Put the cake and the little pot of butter upon the stool, and come get into bed with me.”

Little Red Riding Hood took off her clothes and got into bed. She was greatly amazed to see how her grandmother looked in her nightclothes, and said to her, “Grandmother, what big arms you have!”

“All the better to hug you with, my dear.”

“Grandmother, what big legs you have!”

“All the better to run with, my child.”

“Grandmother, what big ears you have!”

“All the better to hear with, my child.”

“Grandmother, what big eyes you have!”

“All the better to see with, my child.”

“Grandmother, what big teeth you have got!”

“All the better to eat you up with.”

And, saying these words, this wicked wolf fell upon Little Red Riding Hood, and ate her all up.

Moral: Children, especially attractive, well bred young ladies, should never talk to strangers, for if they should do so, they may well provide dinner for a wolf. I say “wolf,” but there are various kinds of wolves. There are also those who are charming, quiet, polite, unassuming, complacent, and sweet, who pursue young women at home and in the streets. And unfortunately, it is these gentle wolves who are the most dangerous ones of all.

Little Red-Cap
~Jakob and Willhelm Grimm

Once upon a time there was a dear little girl who was loved
by every one who looked at her, but most of all by her
grandmother, and there was nothing that she would not have
given to the child. Once she gave her a little cap of red
velvet, which suited her so well that she would never wear
anything else. So she was always called little red-cap.

One day her mother said to her, come, little red-cap, here
is a piece of cake and a bottle of wine. Take them to your
grandmother, she is ill and weak, and they will do her good.
Set out before it gets hot, and when you are going, walk
nicely and quietly and do not run off the path, or you may
fall and break the bottle, and then your grandmother will
get nothing. And when you go into her room, don’t forget
to say, good-morning, and don’t peep into every corner before
you do it.

I will take great care, said little red-cap to her mother, and
gave her hand on it.

The grandmother lived out in the wood, half a league from the
village, and just as little red-cap entered the wood, a wolf
met her. Red-cap did not know what a wicked creature he was,
and was not at all afraid of him.

“Good-day, little red-cap,” said he.

“Thank you kindly, wolf.”

“Whither away so early, little red-cap?”

“To my grandmother’s.”

“What have you got in your apron?”

“Cake and wine. Yesterday was baking-day, so poor sick
grandmother is to have something good, to make her stronger.”

“Where does your grandmother live, little red-cap?”

“A good quarter of a league farther on in the wood. Her house
stands under the three large oak-trees, the nut-trees are just
below. You surely must know it,” replied little red-cap.

The wolf thought to himself, what a tender young creature. What a
nice plump mouthful, she will be better to eat than the old
woman. I must act craftily, so as to catch both. So he walked
for a short time by the side of little red-cap, and then he
said, “see little red-cap, how pretty the flowers are about here.
Why do you not look round. I believe, too, that you do not
hear how sweetly the little birds are singing. You walk gravely
along as if you were going to school, while everything else out
here in the wood is merry.”

Little red-cap raised her eyes, and when she saw the sunbeams
dancing here and there through the trees, and pretty flowers
growing everywhere, she thought, suppose I take grandmother a
fresh nosegay. That would please her too. It is so early in the
day that I shall still get there in good time. And so she ran
from the path into the wood to look for flowers. And whenever
she had picked one, she fancied that she saw a still prettier one
farther on, and ran after it, and so got deeper and deeper into
the wood.

Meanwhile the wolf ran straight to the grandmother’s house and
knocked at the door.

“Who is there?”

“Little red-cap,” replied the wolf. “She is bringing cake and
wine. Open the door.”

“Lift the latch,” called out the grandmother, “I am too weak, and
cannot get up.”

The wolf lifted the latch, the door sprang open, and without
saying a word he went straight to the grandmother’s bed, and
devoured her. Then he put on her clothes, dressed himself in
her cap, laid himself in bed and drew the curtains.

Little red-cap, however, had been running about picking flowers,
and when she had gathered so many that she could carry
no more, she remembered her grandmother, and set out on the
way to her.

She was surprised to find the cottage-door standing open, and
when she went into the room, she had such a strange feeling that
she said to herself, oh dear, how uneasy I feel to-day, and at
other times I like being with grandmother so much. She called
out, “good morning,” but received no answer. So she went to the
bed and drew back the curtains. There lay her grandmother with
her cap pulled far over her face, and looking very strange.

“Oh, grandmother,” she said, “what big ears you have.”

“The better to hear you with, my child,” was the reply.

“But, grandmother, what big eyes you have,” she said.

“The better to see you with,” my dear.

“But, grandmother, what large hands you have.”

“The better to hug you with.”

“Oh, but, grandmother, what a terrible big mouth you have.”

“The better to eat you with.”

And scarcely had the wolf said this, than with one bound he was
out of bed and swallowed up red-cap.

When the wolf had appeased his appetite, he lay down again in
the bed, fell asleep and began to snore very loud. The
huntsman was just passing the house, and thought to himself, how
the old woman is snoring. I must just see if she wants anything.

So he went into the room, and when he came to the bed, he saw
that the wolf was lying in it. Do I find you here, you old
sinner, said he. I have long sought you. Then just as he was going
to fire at him, it occurred to him that the wolf might have
devoured the grandmother, and that she might still be saved, so
he did not fire, but took a pair of scissors, and began to cut
open the stomach of the sleeping wolf. When he had made two
snips, he saw the little red-cap shining, and then he made two
snips more, and the little girl sprang out, crying, ah, how
frightened I have been. How dark it was inside the wolf. And
after that the aged grandmother came out alive also, but scarcely
able to breathe. Red-cap, however, quickly
fetched great stones with which they filled the wolf’s belly, and
when he awoke, he wanted to run away, but the stones were so
heavy that he collapsed at once, and fell dead.

Then all three were delighted. The huntsman drew off the wolf’s
skin and went home with it. The grandmother ate the cake and
drank the wine which red-cap had brought, and revived, but
red-cap thought to herself, as long as I live, I will never by
myself leave the path, to run into the wood, when my mother has
forbidden me to do so.

It is also related that once when red-cap was again taking cakes
to the old grandmother, another wolf spoke to her, and tried to
entice her from the path. Red-cap, however, was on her guard,
and went straight forward on her way, and told her grandmother
that she had met the wolf, and that he had said good-morning to
her, but with such a wicked look in his eyes, that if they had
not been on the public road she was certain he would have eaten
her up. Well, said the grandmother, we will shut the door, that
he may not come in. Soon afterwards the wolf knocked, and cried,
open the door, grandmother, I am little red-cap, and am bringing
you some cakes. But they did not speak, or open the door, so
the grey-beard stole twice or thrice round the house, and at last
jumped on the roof, intending to wait until red-cap went home in
the evening, and then to steal after her and devour her in the
darkness. But the grandmother saw what was in his thoughts. In
front of the house was a great stone trough, so she said to the
child, take the pail, red-cap. I made some sausages yesterday,
so carry the water in which I boiled them to the trough. Red-cap
carried until the great trough was quite full. Then the smell
of the sausages reached the wolf, and he sniffed and peeped
down, and at last stretched out his neck so far that he could
no longer keep his footing and began to slip, and slipped down
from the roof straight into the great trough, and was drowned.
But red-cap went joyously home, and no one ever did anything
to harm her again.

To the Evening Star

To the Evening Star - William Blake

Thou fair-hair’d angel of the evening,
Now, whilst the sun rests on the mountains, light
Thy bright torch of love; thy radiant crown
Put on, and smile upon our evening bed!
Smile on our loves, and while thou drawest the
Blue curtains of the sky, scatter thy silver dew
On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes
In timely sleep. Let thy west wind sleep on
The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,
And wash the dusk with silver. Soon, full soon,
Dost thou withdraw; then the wolf rages wide,
And then the lion glares through the dun forest:
The fleeces of our flock are cover’d with
Thy sacred dew: protect them with thin influence!


Before the analysis of the poem it is important to have some brief understanding about the 18th century, and the styles of the poets who lived at that time in simple and understandable terms.

18th century can be introduced as a time period which brought light to the country’s economy but darkness to its human values. At the height of the industrialization, the society was in a rat race to earn money and to climb up the social ladder. Corruption, high mortality rate, economic imbalance, prostitution, and pollution were some of the many problems faced by the British during this time. As a result of that, some artists started focusing their main concern around nature in order to escape the reality. Do you remember the time you plugged in the headphones or occupied in some other distracting activity as a means of escaping from your mother’s nonstop blaming? William Wordsworth, John Keats, Emily Dickinson, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge can be introduced as few of such escapists who attempted to escape the reality by focusing on nature, transcendence, and sublime rather than focusing on the actual problems which prevailed in the society. Such artists were later called as romantics.

William Wordsworth, John Keats, and William Blake are three types of romantic era poets with identical characteristics. Wordsworth is the one with extreme hyperboles, such as “ten thousand saw I at a glance” (Daffodils), Keats is partially similar to Wordsworth, but he makes sure he comes back to reality in the conclusion of his poems. “Green rushes like our rivers, and dost taste” (To the Nile), and both are major escapists who fundamentally focused on nature. Blake on the other hand is a non-escapist, whose main concerns were socio-political corruption, manipulations of religion, and death. “And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse” (London).

Before you start learning this poem it’s better to be aware of the following widely spread misunderstandings.

*In many instances you will be taught that this is a sonnet, or an ode. “To the evening star” is neither a standalone ode nor a traditional sonnet. It is simply a poem which contains the characteristics of both of a sonnet (14 lines but no rhyming scheme or meter) and an ode (dedicated appreciation of a personified inanimate object, but no stanza form or accepted length) [To learn more on sonnets and odes, please read the article on Literary Devices]

*The main focus of the poem is not elaborating the beauty of the nature. As you have learnt in this article, Blake is not usually a fan of escapism.

*Even though the poem is listed under the theme of nature, it doesn’t act as an appreciation of nature. The poet rather uses the elements of nature to draft a complex criticism on the human world, its need for protection, and the pathos which surrounds it.

Fair-haired angel


Evening Star and the torch of love

Planet Venus in the evening sky


Flowers shutting their sweet eyes in timely sleep

The wolf and the glaring lion

The wolf and the glaring lion


To the evening star 

  • The topic starts with ‘To’ which portrays the usual heading of an ode, dedicating the appreciation to the personified Venus.

Line 1

Thou fair-haired angel of the evening,

  • In Greek and Roman mythology, each planet except Earth is named after a god. The Evening star, in other words planet Venus is the Roman goddess, whose functions encompassed love, beauty, desire, sex, and fertility
  • The narrator directly addresses the personified Venus as, ‘angle of the evening’. The technique used here is called apostrophe, and it is a common way to start an ode.
  • Refer to the article on literary definitions for more information on techniques
  • Evening universally symbolizes a prevailing problem

Line 2

Now, whilst the sun rests on the mountains, light

  • The  word ‘Now’ reminds the reader about the significant function of time which prevails in the poem
  • Sun is an inanimate object, yet its action of resting (sun rests) adds a personification to the line
  • ‘sun rests’ is an euphemism, which is a substitute word which replaces the original harshness of a term. Thus the reader can understand that the narrator hesitates to directly speak about the upcoming darkness. (evening)
  •  ‘whilst’ suggests that the action of lighting the torch is necessary before the end of the 1st action (sun rests), thus it conveys the urgency of the narrator.
  •  ‘light’ is a verb which is expected to be fulfilled by Venus which is Therefore a personification

Line 3

Thy bright torch of love; thy radiant crown

  •  The possessive pronoun, ‘Thy’ acts as a personification throughout the poem
  •  ‘bright torch of love’ is a metaphor which signifies the dawn of the star
  • The punctuation mark in the middle of the line is called a caesura

Line 4

Put on, and smile upon our evening bed!

  • Wearing the crown is another urgent imperative which is associated with the enjambment
  • The action of the ‘fair-haired angel’ wearing the crown metaphorically suggests she coming to power
  • Rather than the obvious muscular movement of the face, smiling is an indication of approval, it is a personification as well.
  • The narrator is a representative who speaks for the majority rather than for his personal gain
  • ‘evening bed’ is the place where individuals’ sexual activities are fulfilled after their mundane burdens. That is why the narrator specifically selected the goddess of love for her approval and blessing.
  • The interjection adds a demanding tone to the imperative.

Line 5

Smile on our loves, and while thou drawest the

  • ‘smile is a repetition which emphasizes the narrator’s demand for the blessing of the goddess.
  • ‘loves’ can either indicate the intense feelings fulfilled on the ‘evening bed’, or the loved ones
  • ‘drawest’ is a personification (all actions completed, or expected to be completed by Venus, or any other inanimate objects are considered as personifications)
  • ‘while’ is an indication of multitasking, and it emphasizes the urgency which prevails in the poem

Line 6

Blue curtains of the sky, scatter thy silver dew

  • Drawing the blue curtains of the sky is another euphemism. The narrator hesitates to openly converse about the upcoming darkness.
  • ‘scatter’ is a personification and at the same time it is another imperative projected towards the evening star.
  • On the one hand ‘silver dew’ can be indicated as holy water, using which the goddess blesses the living; on the other hand, silver is shining grey colour, and it universally symbolizes sadness.
  • Thus shining grey can be seen as another attempt of the poet to hide the prevailing sadness of the atmosphere (euphemism).

Line 7

On every flower that shuts its sweet eyes

  • The verb ‘shuts’ and the flowers having ‘eyes’ are two more personifications
  •  Flowers shutting eyes is a euphemism which indicates the withering of the flowers.
  • Withering flowers metaphorically convey the idea of lost happiness.
  • The dying of the flowers again reminds the reader how nature is ignored in the process of fulfilling the industrial necessities of mankind.

Line 8

In timely sleep. Let thy west wind sleep on

  •  ‘timely sleep’ is another euphemism for death.
  • The possessive power of the evening star reminds the reader that it is in power.

Line 9

The lake; speak silence with thy glimmering eyes,

  •  Wind sleeping on the lake is an euphemism for the ceasing of the wing. It is another way of avoiding the idea of death.
  • Wind sleeping is a personification and it reminds the reader how nature is affected by the actions of man.
  •  ‘speak silence’ is an oxymoron which figuratively heightens the stress of the poem.
  • A star having eyes is a personification
  •  Eyes glimmer when they are full of tears, and the sad state of the evening star is emphasized.

Line 10

And wash the dusk with silver. Soon, full soon,

  • ‘silver’ is a repetition.
  • Dusk is the time period when the twilight remains after the sun completely submerges in the horizon.
  • Need of the narrator for light is evident with request for washing the dusk with silver.
  • ‘soon’ is a repetition which emphasizes the urgency.

Line 11-12

Dost thou withdraw; then the wolf rages wide,
And the lion glares through the dun forest.

  • The star’s deliberate action of withdrawing is a personification.
  • In the absence of the goddess, the dangers of the night start to lurk spreading instability.
  • The raging wolf is a grey/black predator which metaphorically indicates the darkness and the corruption.
  • The shining golden lion is a metaphor for the upcoming morning which lightens the dark (dun) forest.

Line 13-14

The fleeces of our flocks are covered with
Thy sacred dew; protect with them with thine influence.

  • The outer woolly skins of the domestic animals in the world of the narrator are covered by the dew of the evening
  • Sheep/lamb is a metaphor for the Christian crowd.
  • It can either suggest the requirement of protection for the Christian from the degradation caused by the progressing industrialization, or simply an imperative to protect the animals while the narrator is away, probably while he is engaged in the ‘evening bed’.


Pastoral simplicity 

Shifting of power

Man and the natural world 


The Eagle

The Eagle - Alfred Lord Tennyson

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;

Close to the sun in lonely lands,

Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.


The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;

He watches from his mountain walls,

And like a thunderbolt he falls.

The eagle by the English poet, Alfred, Lord Tennyson is an extremely short poem written in the Victorian era. Many readers of the poem misunderstand that the poem is a fragment of a lengthy origin because of its short length, and of its ambiguous ending. Many teachers who teach the poem are not fully aware of its capacity and the metaphorical reach, thus ends up underestimating the literary masterpiece. Read the complete annotation of the poem and find out its themes, techniques and all the unexplored figurative senses.

An eagle 

Zeus,Eagle and the Thunderbolt

He clasps the crag with crooked hands

Talons of an eagle

A crag 

The topic 

The Eagle

“The eagle” is one of the shortest bird poems ever written in the history of English literature. The eagle is a predatory bird which fundamentally symbolizes power as it is one of the animal associates of the Greek god Zeus. Furthermore, the eagle functions as man’s connection to the divine because of the aforesaid connection, and of its ability to fly extreme heights. The bird further functions as a symbol of justice; therefore, it is necessary to Carefully annotate the poem to discover its figurative ideas; to find out whether the poet simply attempts to paint a picture of an eagle in the reader’s mind or to convey something metaphorical.

Stanza 1
Line 1

He clasps the crag with crooked hands;

To start with, the poem opens up with a personal pronoun which is used to replace a human name, thus human characteristics are attributed to the raptor. Many teachers classify this technique as a personification, but ELSL says no to that. One can use a personification to attribute life or human characteristics to an inanimate object or an animal, but in the case of Tennyson’s eagle, it literally behaves more like a human being, than an animal. Therefore, it is called an anthropomorphism, NOT a personification.

“He” is a personal pronoun which is dedicated to specify masculine human names, and to the disappointment of our female students, Tennyson wasn’t thinking about you when he was writing the poem, but he was focusing on exploring the power of the masculine.

OK, now we are done with the first WORD, lets move to the second. When Tennyson had the chance to use another lexical, he still picks “clasps” which is rather ambiguous to be annotated. One the one hand, “clasps” suggests the power of the eagle as he holds the “crag” firmly. One the other hand the poet uses the word to indicate the action of embracing, which then contributes to specifies the connection between the anthropomorphized eagle and the crag, which is an element of nature.

Well, now you can see that the lexical choice of Lord Tennyson is prudent, so that it will attribute layers of meanings to the literary work.

“Crooked”, literally suggests the physically twisted nature of the talons of the eagle. In a different perspective, “crooked” denotes dishonesty as well. Based on the second meaning of the word, you can understand the idea, how the eagle – a symbolic of justice in humanoid form has “crooked” hands, seems to be self-contradictory.

Do eagles have hands? NO, human beings do. Then let’s take a look at the last word of the first line. Tennyson uses another anthropomorphism to attribute human characteristics to the eagle. At the same time the word, “hands” functions as a symbol of power, which then openly exhibits the masculine strength of the eagle.

Now let’s take a step back and look at the overall line. Once the line is read aloud, the reader can obviously notice the prominent harsh consonant “c” (keh) sound which is called a cacophony in the world of literature. Poets use cacophonies to clue the readers that ideas such as danger, death, and violence are present in the literary work.

Close to the sun in lonely lands

Fall of Icarus

Azure is the blue colour of the cloudless sky

Halo of a divine being

Line 2

Close to the sun in lonely lands,

Tennyson starts the second line with a hyperbole. Because of the eagle’s ability to maintain its proximity with the sun, divine power is attributed to the eagle. To better understand why ELSL talks about divine power, you have to read the story of Icarus

In ancient mythological Greece, flying above Crete on wings made out of wax and feathers, Icarus, the son of Daedalus, defied the laws of both man and nature as an attempt to escape the punishment given by king Minos, because his father helped the king’s wife Pasiphaë to have sex with a bull as she was cursed by the Greek god, Poseidon. Ignoring the warnings of his father, Icarus flew higher and higher so that the people below witnessed him as a god. But in ancient Greece, the boundary which separated man from god was absolute, and the punishments for mortals who attempted to cross it were severe. Overwhelmed by the divine power attributed by the flight, Icarus flew close to the sun only to find out his wax wings can not surpass the power of a god, and had to pay the price by his life.

The last two words indicate that the geographical location where the eagle reigns. It seems to have no liveliness as Tennyson theorizes the connection between power and loneliness, which is strengthened by the alliteration of “L” sound. Most of the beasts of nature who are in the upper section of the food chain seem to have solitary living conditions – individually or as a species, thus Tennyson figuratively indicates a primary characteristic of power.

Line 3

Ring’d with the azure world, he stands.

In the first word, you can see that the letter “e” is dropped in order to maintain the rhythm of the poem. We call that literary technique an elision. However, the reader can understand the sense of the word once the rest of the line is read. Keep in mind that “Ring’d” is a passive verb, which has been done to the anthropomorphized eagle by someone.

Azure is a colour. It is the bright blue colour of the cloudless sky, and simply the azure world is a metaphorical statement for the vast blue sky.

Have you ever seen a halo of an angel? If not, look at the right-side column. The ringed eagle, of which the halo is the vast blue sky on the one hand illustrates its elevated location and it simultaneously attributes divine power to its character, as halos are unique to divine creatures.

Furthermore, note how the anthropomorphism extends to this line and how the poet further elaborates the humanoid behavior of the bird with the usage of the lexical “stands”.

Now that the annotation of the first half of the poem is over, let’s have an overview of the entire stanza. The rhyming scheme of the stanza is “a, a, a”. When there are only three lines in a stanza, critics call it a tercet. A tercet has many variations such as triplet, haiku, enclosed tercet, Sicilian tercet, and terza rima. Among them, triplet is one of the rarest forms of poetry ever written in English literature, and “The Eagle” by Alfred Lord Tennyson is such a masterpiece of literature. Now don’t get yourself carried away by finding things your teacher didn’t teach you, ELSL got your back.

Meanwhile, don’t forget to notice how the first line consists many harsh consonant sounds aka cacophonies, the second line has pleasant vowel sounds aka euphonies, and the last line again contains harsh sounds. This variation of sounds creates the effect of ups and down and elucidates the turbulent atmosphere in which the eagle lives.

Wrinkles of the sea in bird’s eye view

Due to the extreme height of the flight of the eagle, it sees the movement of the sea relatively slower than we see it

He watches from his mountain walls

Mountain walls 

Stanza 2 
Line 1 

The wrinkled sea beneath him crawls;

To be wrinkled is to be physically marked by many lines similar to the skin of an elderly person. To the vintage point of the eagle, the sea seems to have a texture which is similar to an old man.

The sea is thus personified in order to indicate that the power of the eagle surpasses the vast sea, which is another element of nature similar to the “azure world”

Note that the “sea” which is “beneath” the eagle further contributes to add emphasis to its overwhelming power

And obviously the anthropomorphism which initiated in the first line still extends throughout the poem.

Next, the action performed by the sea is quite unusual. First of all, the sea can not intentionally perform an action and doing so makes the sea a personified object. Crawling is to move by dragging the body, like a small animal. The lexical choice in of the poet again emphasizes the power of the eagle which exceeds nature.

Line 2 

He watches from his mountain walls,

The anthropomorphism extends to this line as well, as the poet describes another unique action of the eagle. It watches the atmosphere as if it is the governing body of the area. The eagle does not look, nor sees, but it watches; the word choice of Tennyson again stands out as it adds intention and consciousness of a vigilant human being to the bird.

Next, the poet uses a possessive pronoun to indicate the possessive power of the eagle. The mountain belongs to him, and he is the ruler of the area. Do you remember the time how your principal or headmaster stands near the entrance of the school to see whether you adhere to the sacrosanct school rules? Well, the behavior of the eagle thus simulates the idiosyncrasy of an autocratic ruler.

Apart from the dictatorial nature of the eagle, the poet implies to evince the inaccessibility of the eagle’s location. Walls are usually used to enclose and to divide an area of land. Therefore, the metaphor, “mountain walls” functions in the line to add emphasis to the possessive nature of the eagle, and its unreachable position

A diving eagle

Fall of mankind

Banishment of Adam and Eve

Banished angles from heaven

An Olympian coin in which one side has an embossed eagle and the other side has a thunderbolt

Line 3

And like a thunderbolt he falls.

The meaning of the entire poem becomes equivocal thanks to this line. Your teacher might say that the eagle is just going to hunt. Well, it seems fair, but ELSL says NO to that. So, buckle up, we are now entering the crux of the poem.

The line opens with the coordinating conjunction, “and”; therefore, the sense of the clause links to the previous line where the eagle “watches from his mountain walls”. In a practical sense, the eagle should be observing a potential prey, but the poet does not exactly say so in the second triplet of the poem. Then we have to find out what is exactly attacked (IF the eagle is actually hunting). It should be something vulnerable, or weak. The only aforesaid characteristics are possessed by the personified “wrinkled” sea, which “crawls”. Therefore, the action of the eagle can be seen as an attempt to attack the wrinkled, crawling sea; which is a venture to surpass the power of the natural law – an action which simulates the ego of Icarus.

Next the poet uses a simile “like a thunderbolt” to emphasize the swiftness and the vigour of the eagle in a literal level. Do you remember, back in the distant past, when we annotated the topic, we revealed that the eagle is an allusion to the Greek god Zeus. So is the “thunderbolt”. It is the most powerful and most feared weapon ever crafted by Cyclops to help Zeus to defeat his father Coronus. The thunderbolt gave Zeus ultimate power over the sky, and over all gods. Therefore, the sophisticated reader can understand the power of the eagle, and its capacity.

The anthropomorphism still extends to the final line and the poet ends the poem leaving a doubt in the minds of the readers, whether the bird is actually hunting, just falling dead, or the action indicates something metaphorical.

To understand the metaphorical value of “fall” we have to time travel back to 17th day 2nd month 8th year after the creation of Adam. His wife Eve was tempted by a serpent to eat the forbidden fruit of the God, and both of them had to be punished. The transition from innocence and obedience to the state of guilty and disobedience is called the fall of mankind.

 Apart from that, there are many other falls such as the fall of seven angels, and the fall of Lucifer where beings of higher kind lose their divinity and power, and get themselves cast in to worse conditions. Because of that, the falling of the eagle has an obscure sense which extends deeper beyond its literal meaning.

Copyright © 2020 ELSL. All rights reserved


Masculine power

Possessive nature of power

Transient nature of power



To the Nile

To the Nile - John Keats [1795-1821]

Son of the old Moon-mountains African!
Chief of the Pyramid and Crocodile!
We call thee fruitful, and that very while
A desert fills our seeing’s inward span:
Nurse of swart nations since the world began,
Art thou so fruitful? or dost thou beguile
Such men to honour thee, who, worn with toil,
Rest for a space ‘twixt Cairo and Decan?
O may dark fancies err! They surely do;
‘Tis ignorance that makes a barren waste
Of all beyond itself. Thou dost bedew
Green rushes like our rivers, and dost taste
The pleasant sunrise. Green isles hast thou too,
And to the sea as happily dost haste.

“The Wednesday before last, Shelley, Hunt and I, wrote each a sonnet on the river Nile: some day you shall read them all.” – Life, Letters &c., 1848, Volume 1, page 98

Line 1 
Son of the old Moon-mountains African!

  • The poet starts the poem by comparing the river Nile to  a son, whose father is the Moon mountain range which is situated in Africa 
  • John Keats directly addresses the river Nile adding an apostrophe to the sonnet
  • Son is a metaphor which is a direct comparison to the river Nile, through which the poet attempts to add emphasis to its male characteristics. At the same time, the attribution of human characteristics can be seen as an anthropomorphism.
  • old Moon-mountain range is the parent of the river Nile according to the poet, thus it can be introduced as a personification.
  • The line ends with an interjection.

Line 2
Chief of the Pyramid and Crocodile!

  • Chief is a tribal leader, calling the river a chief reminds the reader of the African setting of the poem,and it can be considered as a metaphor as well as an anthropomorphism.
  • The Egyptian setting is created through the visual images ,”Pyramid and Crocodile”,but Note that the poet doesn’t talk about the pyramids nor the crocodiles. It is the Pyramid and Crocodile. The definite article and the capitalization tells the reader that the Pyramid an the Crocodile are symbols 
  • The line ends with an interjection.

Line 3-4
We call thee fruitful, and that very while
A desert fills our seeing’s inward span:

  • The comma(,) in the first line is a caesura which interrupts the flow of the line to give time for the reader to think on the mystery and obscurity of the river Nile.
  • ‘thee’ is the archaic form of ‘you’ (object pronoun)
  • The poet juxtaposes the ideas “fruitful” and the “desert” to further enhance the mystery of the river
  • “seeing’s inward span” is the mind/imagination, the use of a lengthy description rather than using a single word can be introduces as a periphrasis.

Line 5
Nurse of swart nations since the world began,

  • “Nurse” is the river Nile thus  It is a metaphor through which Keats attempts to illustrate how the river tended the (swart) dark-complexioned people and gave life to their civilizations.
  • John Keats probable had no idea about the beginning of the world, therefor “since the world began” is a hyperbole

Line 6-7
Art thou so fruitful? or dost thou beguile
Such men to honour thee, who, worn with toil,

  • The poet asks the river whether it is truly fruitful or is it just enchanting (beguile) for the men who worked (worn) with extreme labour (toil) to honour it. as there is no answer,it becomes  a rhetoric question asked from the river which emphasizes  its obscurity.
  • ‘thou’ is the archaic form of you (subject pronoun)

Line 8
Rest for a space ‘twixt Cairo and Decan?

  • ‘twixt is an ellipsis of which the complete word is betwixt. The modern English  meaning is  “between”
  • Cairo and Deccan are two major destinations in the sea trade route between Asia and Africa; thus river Nile provided comfort for the weary travelers.
  • The line is a question without an answer which is directed at the river. (rhetorical question)

Line 9
O may dark fancies err! They surely do;

  • The ninth line is the Volta of the sonnet which separates the octave (eight lines with a regular rhyming scheme) from the sestet (six lines with a regular rhyming scheme) 
  • Keats comes to a conclusion that inaccurate (dark) imaginations (fancies) have made a mistake (err), by personifying the the ‘fancies’ which is later introduced with ‘they’
  • with ‘O’ and the exclamation mark,the poet introduces an interjection to add emphasis to his sudden realization  

Line 10-11
‘Tis ignorance that makes a barren waste
Of all beyond itself.

  • the sonneteer remarks arousing the curiosity of the reader, that there is  an infertile waste regardless the earlier emphasized mythical value (Of all beyond itself) – which is caused due to the lack of knowledge 
  • ‘Tis is an ellipsis which means ‘it is’


Line 11-12
Thou dost bedew
Green rushes like our rivers,

  • ‘dost’ is the archaic form of the verb ‘to do’
  • Keats states that the river Nile covers the thick vegetation near the river(rushes) with water drops (bedew)
  • as the river is performing the action of ‘bedew’ it can be taken as a personification
  • green colour which repeats, emphasizes the prosperity of the river
  • Keats uses a simile (like our rivers) to compare the river Nile to common rivers in Europe, which divests its mythical value 

Line 12-13
and dost taste
The pleasant sunrise. Green isles hast thou too,

  • The simile extends and the poet says, similar to the common rivers in Europe, the river Nile too enjoys the sunrise.
  • the river performing the action of tasting is a personification
  • The comparison extends and Keats mentions that like common rivers in Europe, Nile has islands (isles) in it too.

Line 14
And to the sea as happily dost haste.

  • The river being happy and hurrying (hast) are personifications.
  • Note that the entire sonnet has a single period(.), which can be seen as an attempt of the sonneteer to illustrate the nonstop motion of the river which only halts at the sea.

Farewell to Barn and Stack and Tree

Farewell to Barn and Stack and Tree- A.E.Housman

“Farewell to barn and stack  and tree,
Farewell to Severn shore.
Terence, look your last at me,
For I come home no more.”

“The sun burns on the half-mown hill,
By now the blood is dried;
And Maurice amongst the hay lies still
And my knife is in his side.”

“My mother thinks us long away;
‘Tis time the field were mown.
She had two sons at rising day,
To-night she’ll be alone.”

“And here’s a bloody hand to shake,
And oh, man, here’s good-bye;
We’ll sweat no more on scythe and rake,
My bloody hands and I.”

“I wish you strength to bring you pride,
And a love to keep you clean,
And I wish you luck, come Lammastide,
At racing on the green.”

“Long for me the rick will wait,
And long will wait the fold,
And long will stand the empty plate,
And dinner will be cold.”

The literary work resembles the features of a ballad, and conveys many layers  of figurative meanings. This video is part of the full annotation of the poem and will define the meanings of the the words the reader should be aware of before understanding the hidden meanings.

Explanation of the difficult words

Annotation of Stanza 1-3

Annotation of Stanza 4-6

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Richard Cory

Richard Cory- Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Richard Cory - Background

Edwin Arlington Robinson

Edwin Arlington Robinson is an American Modernist poet who contributed to world Literature between the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Once analyzed, his story of life concludes to be dreary and unhappy. Since his parents expected a female child, they were not so happy to accept him to the family, and even rejected to name him. He hated his name Edwin as it was given by a random stranger and Arlington, as it is the name of a city. The pessimistic view he had during the early years of his life makes most of his literary works to be downbeat and dark.

His Eldest brother Dean Robinson becomes a laudanum addict, the love of his life, Emma Löehen is married by his middle brother, Herman Robinson who ultimately ends up as a failure in his business; an alcoholic who is indifferent to his wife and children who dies penniless of tuberculosis.


"Richard Cory"

The poem Richard Cory is based on the thoughts of Herman Robinson’s wife, Emma on her husband. It is composed during the panic of 1893 when the United States was suffering a severe economic depression, which is the very reason behind the tragic end of E.A Robinson’s lover’s husband. The “bread” functions as an allusion to the economic depression during which many survived by eating old bread.

‘Richard Cory’  is a based on the style of prose fiction as the content is fictitious and is revealed using vernacular language. At the same time, it functions as a lyric poetry as it is a formal poem in the first person narration which expresses ones tempestuous emotions.

The poem revolves around the one and only significant, masculine character called Richard Cory. The narrative voice casually exaggerates his judgement  based on the appearance which ultimately concludes be a mere prejudice.

Richard Cory’ is a structured poem of four quartans. It is dominated by end-stops  which is common in death/suicide poems. The narrator is a singular character who dwells on the pavement of ‘downtown’, yet projects a collective voice and opinion of the general working poor.

Young Edwin Arlington Robinson

Edwin Arlington Robinson

Emma Löehen


Richard Cory

  • The topic of the poem  is “Richard Cory”, and it sets a limitation that the literary work singularly revolves around the main character Richard Cory.

Stanza one
Line one

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,[a]

  • ‘Whenever’ means ‘at whatever the time’ or ‘every time’. It suggests that Cory constantly goes ‘down town’
  • Note the harsh consonant sounds associated with the name of the cynosure.
  • ‘Went’ is a past tense verb, and it suggests that Cory no longer goes ‘down town’
  • Down town is the commercial area of a city. The constant visits of Richard Cory to the central business area of the city suggests that he is a businessman.

Line Two

We people on the pavement looked at him:[b]

  • “We people” indicates the collective voice represented by the 1st person narrator.
  • The pavement on which “we people reside figuratively reveals their low standards of living.
  • The pronoun ‘we’ generalizes the poverty-stricken community.
  • The group of people looking at Richard Cory suggests that attempt to form an opinion on him.

Line Three

He was a gentleman from sole to crown,[a]

  • The prevailing past tense affirms that ‘He’ no longer exists.
  • The people on the pavement judges that Cory is a gentleman only by looking at him. In other words, their judgement is based on the appearance of Cory.
  • Sole to crown suggests ‘from feet to head’.
  • The ‘crown’ metaphorically refers to the apparent sovereign of the recipient whereas the homophonic pun of ‘sole’ relates to his ‘soul’.
  • Note that the judgement of the people on the pavement is fundamentally based on what they see (Sole/Crown). Thus, the rudimentary judgement on Richard Cory is obvious, so it is better not to have higher expectations on him as a contradictory reality is eminent soon of the poem.

Line Four

Clean favored, and imperially slim.[b]

  • ‘Clean favored’ means that Richard Cory appears to be neat and respectable.
  • ‘Imperially’ denotes that Cory is redolent of  a sovereign.
  • The word ‘slim’ conveys that Richard Cory is gracefully thin, which enhances his visual appeal.

General outlook of stanza one

  • The first stanza functions as a quatrain which has the standard ‘abab’ rhyming scheme
  • The entire stanza is dominated by end-stops, which is unique for poems which have abrupt conclusions where the main character faces an unexpected death.
  • The richness of the main character is one of the primary concerns of the stanza as the words ‘crown’, and ‘imperially’ relate to the concept.
  • The stanza is dominated by harsh consonant sounds, which is another clue for the reader not to expect a better tomorrow.
  • The tense of the entire stanza is past and the aspect is perfective; which figuratively suggests that Richard Cory no longer exists in the present of the speaker.

Stanza two 

Line one

And he was always quietly arrayed,[a]

  • The second stanza opens with the coordinating conjunction ‘and’ suggesting the reader that the elaboration of Richard Cory’s character continues.
  • ‘quietly arrayed’ suggests that Richard Cory is not an extravagant character.
  • There are two different reasons for Cory to be ‘quietly arrayed’. On the one hand, he is genuinely a modest character who does not want to show off his riches. Yet in a different perspective, it is possible to argue that he does not have any riches to showoff as his apparent modesty – is a metaphorical indication of his economical instability. Thus it indicates the contradiction between the prejudice of the people and the reality of Richard Cory.

Line two

And he was always human when he talked;[b]

  • The anaphora of “and” suggests the excitement of the narrator to list out the exaggerative characteristic of the recipient.
  • “and he was always” is a repetition which suggests the apparent consistency of the characteristics of Richard Cory.
  • “Human” is a metaphor which refers to the down to earth character of Cory. 

Line three

But still he fluttered pulses when he said,[a]

  • “But still” suggests a contradictory idea to ‘he was always human when he talked’. ‘he was always human when he talked’ is a positive revelation on Cory’s character, thus ‘he fluttered pulses when he said’ is a negative connotation.
  • However, there are two options for the ‘fluttered pulses’. It refers to the irregular heartbeats. Either of Richard Cory or of the people who talk to him.
  • If Cory flutters pulses, it reveals his nervousness as he is not socially confident. In a different perspective, If he flutters pulses in the hearts of the people to whom he greets, it is simply because they are astonished by his glamour.

Line Four

“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.[b]

  • The only phrase Cory utters to the people is ‘Good-morning’. The lack of words said is a contradictory feature to Richard Cory’s down to earth character.
  • ‘Good – morning” is a direct speech statement uttered by the recipient. 
  • ‘glittered when he walked’ is another addition to the elevated judgement of the people on Richard Cory.

General outlook of stanza two

  • Perfective aspect and the past tense still dominates the overall stanza suggesting that the judgements on Richard Cory are no longer valid in the present.
  • There is no change in the rhyming scheme as it suggests the monotony of the atmosphere and the characters of the poem.
  • The overall stanza contains a significant number of coordinating conjunctions which suggest the excitement of the people to see and to interact with Richard Cory.
  • Every line contains an end-stop which supports to indicate the idea of transience while maintaining the tension and unpredictability of the poem.

Stanza Three
Line one

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—[a]

  • The coordinating conjunction links the stanza to the previous syndeton.
  • The conceptual repetition of Cory’s rich status contrasts him with the speaker who inhabits the pavement. 
  • The em dashes in the line remind the reader of the vernacular language of the poem. At the same time, they re-emphasize Richard Cory’s elevated materialistic possessions.
  • The comparative style of the line reminds the reader about the rich standards of Cory in a hyperbolic manner.

Line two

And admirably schooled in every grace:[b]

  • The anaphora re-appears in the stanza – and it indicates the peculiar interest and the excitement the ‘people on the pavement’ has on the materialistic prerogatives, the tangible as well as the abstract privileges Richard Cory experiences. 
  • Grace relates to the charming and attractive features of the recipient, and it seems his character is abundant of such.
  • Regardless of the exaggerative account provided by the narrator; it should not be forgotten that the ‘people on the pavement’ judged Richard Cory based on the outer appearance.

Line three

In fine, we thought that he was everything[a]

  • In fine is a synonym for ‘in short’ or ‘to sum up’.
  • The caesura contributes to add emphasis to the figurative disappointment of the speaker as he has already come to a conclusion of the actuality of Richard Cory which is starkly different from his appearance.
  • With the combination of the past tense and the word ‘thought’, the narrator reveals the contradiction between appearance and reality. The ‘people on the pavement’ ‘thought’ that Richard Cory ‘was everything’ but for some reason- they have now come to the realization that Cory is not what they expected him to be.
  • This is the only line of the poem which does not end with a punctuation mark, and its meaning is extended to the next line.

Line four

To make us wish that we were in his place.[b]

  • The final line of the stanza concludes why the ‘people on the pavement’ centralize their attention on Richard Cory. They aspire to be like Richard Cory, and they want to simulate his materialistic privileges.
  • The subjunctive mood indicates the hope of the speaker to simulate the elevated standards and materialistic prerogatives of Richard Cory.
  • ‘his place’ relates to the standards of Cory.

General outlook of stanza three

  • Perfective aspect and the past tense still dominate the overall stanza suggesting that the judgements on Richard Cory are no longer valid in the present.
  • There is no change in the rhyming scheme as it reveals the monotony of the atmosphere and the characters of the poem.
  • The poet craftily handles punctuation marks to enliven the stanza and to add complexity to it. 

Stanza Four
Line one

So on we worked, and waited for the light,[a]

  • The focus shifts from Richard Cory to the ‘people on the pavement’ as the narrator describes how they worked hard to be materialistically privileged like Richard Cory.
  • The pace of the line is significantly slowed down with the use of the caesura.
  • ‘light’ is a metaphor for hope.

Line two

And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;[b]

  • The coordinating conjunction ‘and’ repeats, and it indicates the emotional frustration of ‘we’.
  • ‘meat’ is a symbol of the available privileges and the limited luxuries of the ‘people on the pavement’, and ‘bread’ is a symbol of the deprived status of their lives. However, they deliberately ‘went without meat’ and ‘cursed the bread’ as they wanted to be like Richard Cory.
  • ‘bread’ further functions as a symbol of 1983 economic depression of America – during which many poverty-stricken people survived by eating old bread.

Line three

And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,[a]

  • The coordinating conjunction ‘and’ functions as an anaphora, adding further emphasis to the traumatized emotional status of the narrator.
  • The serenity associated with the word ‘calm’ highly contrasts with the chaotic suicide of Richard Cory.
  • Summer is a symbol of youth. It suggests that Cory was in his youth when he ended his life.
  • ‘Night’ is a general symbol of death and danger. 

Line four

Went home and put a bullet through his head.[b]

  • The narrator clearly illustrates the unexpected and the abrupt nature of Cory’s suicide by announcing is in the final line of the final stanza – leaving the reader dumbfounded and flummoxed.
  • The incomprehensible action of Cory leaves both the reader and the narrator dumbstruck, so there are no explanations given for the cause of the suicide.
  • ‘put a bullet through his head’ is a euphemism for Richard Cory’s inexorable suicide.
  • the pace of the line is fast in contrast to the rest of the three lines above, of which the flow is interrupted by caesurae. It suggests how fast the tragedy struck Cory’s life.

General outlook of stanza four

  • Perfective aspect and the past tense still dominate the overall stanza suggesting that the judgements on Richard Cory are no longer valid in the present.
  • There is no change in the rhyming scheme as it suggests the monotony of the atmosphere and the characters of the poem.
  • For the first time in the poem, the narrator shifts the focal point of the voice from Richard Cory to the ‘people on the pavement’.
  • The stanza consists of a significant number of caesurae.
  • The reading pace of the stanza is effectively controlled by the manipulation of punctuation marks.
  • Each line of the stanza is end-stopped which supports the reader to predict the upcoming tragedy at the conclusion.

The Earthen Goblet

The Earthen Goblet - Harinidranath Chattopadhyay

O silent goblet! Red from head to heel, [a]
How did you feel [a]
When you were being twirled [b]
Upon the potter’s wheel [a]
Before the potter gave you to the world! [b]

       ‘I felt a conscious impulse in my clay [a]
        To break away [a]
        From the great potter’s hand [b]
        That burned so warm, [c]
        I felt a vast [d]
        Feeling of sorrow to be cast [d]
        Into my present form. [c]

‘Before that fatal hour [a]
That saw me captive on the potter’s wheel [b]
And cast into his crimson goblet sleep, [c]
I used to feel [b]
The fragrant friendship of a little flower [a]
Whose root was in my bosom buried deep.’ [c]

        ‘The potter has drawn out the living breath of me [a]
        And given me a form which is death of me, [a]
        My past unshapely natural stage was best [b]
        With just one flower flaming through my breast.’ [b]

For those who study Harindranath Chattopadyay’s “The Earthen Goblet” for a wider understanding (non G.C.E O/L readers), it is recommended to study his educational background and social influence, as well as his research interests. The poem connotes a secondary meaning where Chattopadyay attempts to validate Christian, and Sufi doctrines where God is regarded as a potter, and man as clay which is cast by his hands.

“But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are the potter; we are all the work of Your hand.” – Isaiah 64:8

“O house of Israel, declares the LORD, can I not treat you as this potter treats his clay? Just like clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.” – Jeremiah 18:6

Further reading – Muddle of the Middle East, Volume 1, By Nikshoy C. Chatterji, Harindranath Chattopadyay – Biography

About the poet

Harindranath Chattopadhyay

Born on 02 Apr 1898 in the Deccan, India, Harindranath Chattopadhyay began to write verse as a child and also enjoyed acting due to the constant encouragement he had from his family. After his marriage to Kamaladevi, a Madrasi widow in 1919, Chattopadhyay moves to England, and later enters the Fitzwilliam Hall of the University of Cambridge to research on ‘William Blake and the Sufis’. Harindranath Chattopadhyay belongs to the “Navya” movement of Indian poetry, which is the equivalent of modernism in European literature.

Harindranath Chatoopadhyay

O silent goblet! Red from head to heel,

captive on the potter’s wheel

The fragrant friendship of a little flower


The overall poem can be regarded as a free-verse due to the lack of uniformity in its structure.

However, Harindranath Chattopadhyay uses the structure of the poem to add emphasis to the concept of nature versus nurture he attempts to elaborate in the poem. The first three stanzas are irregular in their rhyming schemes whereas the last is not. The shift from a heterometric stanza with irregular rhymes to an isometric stanza with a regular rhyming scheme at the final stanza indicates how nature dissipates with the enforcement of artificiality.

The syllabic beats in the first three stanzas are irregular and then becomes regular in the final stanza where each line (except the concluding line which has ten syllables) contains eleven syllables. The shift of the rhythm of the poem indicates the clash between nature and man as well as the concept of nature versus nurture.

The Topic

The Earthen Goblet

  • Earthen means “made of baked or fired clay.”
  • Goblet is a drinking glass with a foot and a stem, similar in shape to a chalice.
  • The natural ingredient and the artificiality associated with the “goblet” figuratively indicates the clash between industrial/consumerist necessities of man and nature.
  • The goblet is an extended metaphor in the poem, which stands for the concept of transformation.

Stanza 1
Line 1

O silent goblet! Red from head to heel,

  • “O” is an interjection used to express the sudden strong emotion of the narrator when he first sees the goblet.
  • Later in the stanza, the narrator prioritizes the physical pain underwent by the goblet – in the process of building up its current form. Therefore, the reader can understand that the exclamatory expression of the narrator indicates his concern towards the painful transformation process.
  • The silence of the goblet figuratively indicates its dissatisfaction. It does not want to communicate with the rest of the world as it assumes that it is ravaged against its will.
  • The redness of the goblet can be seen as a visual representation of the pain it had to undergo during its transformation.
  • “head to heal” refers to the entire structure of the goblet. It functions in the poem as a personification as the narrator assumes the goblet to be alive.

Stanza 1
Line 2-5

How did you feel
When you were being twirled
Upon the potter’s wheel
Before the potter gave you to the world!

  • The set of four lines function in the stanza as a single sentence that summarizes the primary question of the poem, the feelings of the goblet towards its change.
  • The extended length of the line further functions as an elaborated indication of the extended duration of suffering the goblet had to undergo.
  • The narrator directly addresses the goblet. When a personified object is directly addressed, we call it an apostrophe.
  • The grammatical tense and the voice of the sentence switch from past tense – active to past progressive – passive, then back to past tense – active again.
  • The past progressive tense in the phrase “were being twirled” shifts the focus from the action itself to the duration of the action [twirl]. It figuratively indicates the extended duration of time the goblet had to undergo excruciating physical pain.
  • “when”, “were”, “twirled” are alliterations that add emphasis to the suffering of the goblet
  • “were being twirled” is a phrase in the passive voice. With the change of voice, the narrator avoids indicating the one who is directly responsible for the suffering caused.
  • The narrator suggests that the lump of clay is “twirled” on the potter’s wheel, yet avoids mentioning that it is the potter who is responsible for the applied pain.
  • In the final line, the grammatical voice immediately changes to active, and the subject “potter” is mentioned, when a seemingly positive action is performed by him.
  • The tone of the narrator suggests that he conforms to the perspective of the potter, and assumes that giving the goblet to the world is a positive action.
  • It seems that the transformation of the goblet from its natural state rather benefits the “world” than the goblet itself. It figuratively indicates that sometimes transformation, from natural to artificial, uncivilized to civilized, nature to nurture rather serves for a collective purpose than providing a personal benefit to an individual. To understand the concept of the poet, think about the purpose behind a child attending school, which is a similar process of transformation to that of the goblet. Parallelly to the social advancement of the child who transforms from his rawness to a law-abiding citizen, the “world” is benefitted from having a conformist who will not strive to see a change.
  • Both “you” and “potter” are repeated as they are the primary characters in the poem.
  • The stanza which started with an interjection ends with an interjection.

Stanza one overall analysis.

  • Even though there are end rhymes in the stanza and the rhyming scheme is AABAB, they are disarranged and lack any sort of a consistent sequence.
  • The dominant grammatical tense is past, and it varies from simple to progressive and from active to passive, in order to connote layers of figurative senses.
  • The overall tone of the stanza is conversational as the narrator expects to start a conversation with the personified goblet.
  • Harsh consonant sounds dominate the overall tone of the poem indicating that it revolves around a crisis.

Stanza 2
Line 1

‘I felt a conscious impulse in my clay

  • The poet uses an Amoebean as the voice of the previous narrator shifts to the voice of the goblet with the changing of the stanza.
  • The goblet starts to speak, and it speaks of its feelings – turning it into a personified object.
  • The consciousness of the goblet suggests that it actually comes to life (not a figment of the imagination of the poet), similar to an animated character in a cartoon. The conscious humanoid behaviour of the goblet can be regarded as an anthropomorphism.
  • “Impulse” is an unreflective urge to act. It contributes to generate sympathy towards the goblet.
  • “my” is a possessive pronoun that indicates the possessive nature of the goblet. It further indicates that what belongs to the speaker (goblet) has been forcibly transformed by the “potter”.
  • Clay is a natural ingredient and functions as a metaphor for the rawness of nature and an individual which is meant to be transformed by a “potter”.

Stanza 2
Line 2

To break away

  • The goblet’s need to “break away” indicates that it is captured against its will.
  • The isolation of the phrase “to break away” adds emphasis to the non-acceptance of the goblet towards the change it is about to experience.

Stanza 2
Line 3

From the great potter’s hand

  • The adjective “great” attributes reverence to the potter. The respect of the goblet towards the potter who causes him harm (according to the perspective of the goblet) is a controversial characteristic.
  • Pottery, in the modern society, is not an idolized profession. However, to the goblet, the potter is his creator. Therefore, the reader can justify the idolization done by the goblet.
  • Literally, the goblet wants to “break away” from the “hand” of the potter as the shape of the goblet is crafted by the hand. Yet, it is obvious that both hands are used for crafting pots, yet the speaker singularizes the body part [hand] in order to attribute a metaphorical sense. “Hand” therefore functions in the poem as a synecdoche, as well as an allusion that figuratively conveys both power and the concept of creation.

Stanza 2
Line 4

That burned so warm,

  • The conjunction “That” indicates that the speaker continues to describe the characteristics of the “hand”.
  • Even though heat is not generated from the “hand”, the goblet assumes otherwise. The biblical allusion to the concept of creation is thus extended.
  • The intensifying adjective “so” adds emphasis to the excruciating physical pain underwent by the goblet.

Stanza 2
Line 5

I felt a vast

  • “felt” is a repetition and it indicates the desperate necessity of the goblet to express his emotional agony to the outside world.
  • The enjambment in the line extends to the end of the stanza – adding emphasis to the necessity of the goblet to rapidly express his reproach.

Stanza 2
Line 6

Feeling of sorrow to be cast

  • “feelings” are continued to be expressed by the goblet. It literally emphasizes the fact that nature too can feel, regardless of the general prejudice of man who assumes it is not alive.
  • The physical agony expressed in the first half of the stanza [burned], immediately shifts to an emotional agony [sorrow].
  • “cast” is a complex term that has multiple figurative senses. But we will stick to the literal meaning “to make/ to mould by casting”

Stanza 2
Line 7

Into my present form.

  • The utter emotional dissatisfaction of the goblet due to its word choice [cast] indicates that it considers its “present form” to be a discrimination.
  • The word “present” exhibits the contrast between the past and present of the goblet on the one hand and the nostalgia associated with the goblet on the other hand.

Stanza 3
Line 1-3

‘Before that fatal hour
That saw me captive on the potter’s wheel
And cast into his crimson goblet sleep,

  • The entire stanza is a single complex sentence and this is the subordinate clause that has been inverted to the beginning. (If confused, read the second half of the stanza first, and then read the first three lines)
  • The inversion of the sentence adds emphasis to the main clause which appears later.
  • The enjambment extends from the beginning to the end of the subordinate clause. The seemingly lengthy line which lacks punctuations – simulates the extended duration of physical suffering experienced by the goblet.
  • The phrase “fatal hour” is personified as it [hour] saw the goblet “captive on the potter’s wheel”
  • The word “captive” reveals that the goblet is captured against its will. It figuratively indicates the clash between man and the natural world.

Stanza 3
Line 4-6

I used to feel
The fragrant friendship of a little flower
Whose root was in my bosom buried deep.’

  • This is the main clause that appears in the latter part of the sentence.
  • Simple past tense “used to feel” suggests that the speaker [goblet] no longer feels what he used to feel. It further adds nostalgia to the clause.
  • “feel”, “fragrant”, “friendship”, “flower” function as alliterations that add emphasis to the endearment the goblet felt.
  • Friendship is an abstract sense. However, the fragrance associated with it functions as a synesthetic imagery.
  • The singularity of the flower figuratively indicates a monogamic relationship, which later contrasts with the ability of the goblet to have many flowers without being bonded by roots.
  • Even though a tree has many roots, the speaker uses singularization to attribute a metaphorical sense to the singular root.

Stanza 4
Line 1

‘The potter has drawn out the living breath of me

  • The potter has been directly accused in the concluding stanza unlike in the rest of the poem.
  • Even though the goblet claims that his life has been drained away, he still seems to be alive. Thus, the reader can understand “living breath” refers to the original state of the goblet where it had a direct connection to nature.
  • The past tense used in the previous stanzas shifts to present perfect, indicating that the effects of the verbs [draw, give] apply to the present of the goblet.
  • Unlike the poet who uses the passive voice to avoid accusing the “potter”, the goblet uses active voice directly making the “potter” responsible for altering his reality.

Stanza 4
Line 2

And given me a form which is death of me,

  • The accusation of the goblet is extended with the coordinating conjunction “and”.
  • The goblet compares its past, natural state with its current form – concluding the latter to be its “death”

Stanza 4
Line 3

My past unshapely natural state was best

  • The contrast between past and present is extended as the wistful affection of the goblet for its past “natural state” is exaggerated in the penultimate line.
  • “past unshapely natural” is an adjectival cluster used to modify the noun “state”. It indicates the release of the compressed emotional agony of the goblet.
  • The superlative form used by the goblet [best] suggests that nature is irreplaceable.

Stanza 4
Line 4

With just one flower flaming through my breast.’

  • The enjambment extends the idea of the previous line to this.
  • The conclusion suggests that having a relationship with one “flower” is “best” while figuratively suggesting that the relationship is no longer monogamic.
  • “flower flaming” is an alliteration that is similar to the previous one associated with the relationship of the goblet [feel, fragrant, friendship, flower].


Man versus nature

Nature vs nurture

Nature versus artificiality

Simplicity versus complexity

Past versus present

Transformation versus preservation

Freedom versus bondage

Life versus death

Copyright © 2020 ELSL. All rights reserved
Duplication, distribution and/or adaption of any part of the work without the written permission of ELSL is a punishable offence under the Intellectual Property Act, No. 36 of 2003. (Sri Lanka)

The Huntsman

The Huntsman - Edward Lowbury (1913- 2007)

Kagwa hunted the lion,
Through bush and forest went his spear.
One day he found the skull of a man
And said to it, ‘How did you come here?’
The skull opened its mouth and said,
‘Talking brought me here.’

Kagwa hurried home;
Went to the king’s chair and spoke:
‘In the forest, I found a talking skull.’
The king was silent. Then he said slowly,
‘Never since I was born of my mother
Have I seen or heard of a skull which spoke.’

The king called out his guards:
‘Two of you now go with him
And find this talking skull;
But if his tale is a lie
And the skull speaks no word,
This Kagwa himself must die.’

They rode into the forest;
For days and nights, they found nothing.
At last, they saw the skull; Kagwa
Said to it, ‘How did you come here?’
The skull said nothing. Kagwa implored,
But the skull said nothing.

The guards said, ‘Kneel down.’
They killed him with sword and spear.
Then the skull opened its mouth;
‘Huntsman, how did you come here?’
And the dead man answered,
‘Talking brought me here.’

Common misconceptions of the poem

The Genre of the poem

Is it a ballad?

No, The Huntsman by Edward Lowbury is not a ballad. A ballad is a narrative song that is orally passed down through generations. Now let us compare the differences and similarities between the characteristics of a ballad and the poem “The Huntsman.”

Characteristics of a ballad The Huntsman
A narrative poem
Pass down through generations orally
Usually contains Quatrains
Traditionally the authors are unknown
Dramatically emphasizes tragic/comic/heroic events
Contains refrains
No, but there are repetitive events
Contains Dialogues
Presented in third person objective narration

“The Huntsman” by Edward Lowbury is not a ballad by definition, but a poem that contains certain characteristics of a ballad.

Is there a rhyming scheme?

Yes. “The Huntsman,” of course, has a rhyming scheme. However, it is not the conventional style of a rhyming scheme, but a crafty one that only those with an open mind can see.

About the poet 

Edward Lowbury

Edward Joseph Lister Lowbury was a British poet and an expert on hospital infection who was assigned to the Royal Army Medical Corps and was posted to Kenya in 1943. While he was in East Africa, he took a particular interest in witch-doctoring and folk medicine. 

The topic 

The Huntsman

  • The poem is based on a Kenyan folk tale, and the poet adds significance to the subject, the huntsman with the usage of the definite article [The]

Stanza 1

Line 1

Kagwa hunted the lion, 

  • The name of the main character is a significant one. Even though the poem is written for a British audience, the name “Kagwa” immediately establishes the African setting in which the storyline takes place.
  • The closest English translation of the East African name “Kagwa” is “fall”. It makes perfect sense that the entire literary work is about the fall of the mighty huntsman.
  • The tense of the first verb, “hunted,” is simple past. It indicates that the action has no connection to the present period of time while establishing the third-person objective narrative style of the poem.
  • Kagwa The hunter did not simply hunt a lion-he hunted “THE lion”. The crafty definite article emphasises the significance of the lion, which elevates the might of the hunter. Later in the poem, the elevated esteem of the hunter contributes significantly to generate a significant blow to the reader when he is unjustly murdered.
  • Even though the reader finds a responsible political body later in the poem, it is Kagwa who arbitrates the threat of “the lion.” Little does he know, the have-a-go hero thus poses a political threat to the king.

Through bush and forest went his spear…

Line 2

Through bush and forest went his spear.

  • The “spear” is a symbol of Kagwa’s power
  • “bush and forest” metaphorically indicates the geographical span of Kagwa’s power-as “bush” refers to the nugatory and “forest” to the significant.
  • The powerful throw of the spear, which made it traverse the “forest,” hyperbolically emphasises the physical strength and robustness of Kagwa.
  • Moreover, the poet achieves the slow-motion effect by making the spear travel a longer distance.[Through the forest]

Line 3-4

One day he found the skull of a man
And said to it, ‘How did you come here?’

  • “One day” indicates the narrative style of the poem.
  • The tense still continues to be simple past. The absence of the connection to the present period of time eerily connects to the upcoming death of Kagwa.
  • Even though ‘How did you come here?’ is a casual remark, it questions the emotional stability of the protagonist. Throughout the poem, the reader does not encounter any family or friends of Kagwa, and his efforts are neither recognised nor appreciated, instead being doubted. Thus, it is no surprise to see the socially and politically discriminated protagonist trying to talk to inanimate objects he randomly finds in the forest.
  • The direct speech section of the line, “How did you come here?” functions as a dialogue, which enhances the liveliness of the poem and the timelessness of the figurative message conveyed.
  • Note: “How did you come here?” is not a rhetorical question as it is immediately followed by an answer.

Line 5-6

The skull opened its mouth and said,
‘Talking brought me here.’

  • The reader has to wait till the next line to find out what is said by the skull. Lowbury is, of course, playing with the curiosity of the reader to keep him engaged.
  • The inanimate object, “the skull,” that performs a deliberate action functions as a personification.
  • The word “opened” contains a sense of movement, and it can be recognised as a kinesthetic image.
  • Note the difference between the words “said” and “talking.” The word “say” is used to indicate the responsibility communicated by the skull. However, the word “talking” contains the idea of idle communication.
  • “Here” is referred to as the state of being dead. Yet it seems like Kagwa, the hunter, is not sophisticated enough to understand the connoting message of the advice of the skull.
  • “Talking” further suggests the idea of revealing confidential information. Later in the poem, the quick and inequitable decision of the king to murder Kagwa in his tale is a lie, figuratively questioning the sensitivity of the political leader towards Kagwa, finding evidence of a potential murder. Therefore, Lowbury connotes the idea of the dangers of being involved in corrupt political matters.

Stanza 2

Line 1

Kagwa hurried home;

  • The stupefied nature of Kagwa is clearly revealed as he runs back home. The line gives the idea that the hunter may have a place to call “home” after all.
  • ‘hurried’ is a kinesthetic verb which contains the sense of movement.

Line 2

Went to the king’s chair and spoke:

  • Simple Past continues to be the dominant tense of the stanza while indicating the third-person non-objective narrative style.
  • Even though Kagwa “hurried home,” the reader immediately understands the superfluous connection he has to politics.
  • In a different perspective, the reaction of Kagwa to inform the king of his extraordinary finding showcases his predilection towards being faithful to the ruler.

Line 3

‘In the forest, I found a talking skull.’

  • Note the apostrophe caused by the inverted syntax of the line. It indicates the unsophisticated nature of the hunter, Kagwa. Additionally, the emphasis of the sentence shifts from “in the forest” to “I found a talking skull” due to the use of the inversion.
  • Even though the skull “said” it was talking that had brought it to the unfortunate outcome, the huntsman regarded it as a “talking skull.” Thus, it is evident by now to the reader that Kagwa has misunderstood the valuable advice of the skull. 
  • The speech pattern of the huntsman is extremely simple, and later it contrasts with the complex oral expression of the king.

Line 4

The king was silent. Then he said slowly,

  • The silence of the king can be interpreted in different perspectives. On the one hand, it indicates his intelligence, as he is not quick to jump to conclusions. It further expresses how the political leader distrusts the hunter who is regarded to pose a potential threat to his reign.
  • The period (.) that interrupts the line is a caesura. It adds emphasis to the pensive reaction of the king.
  • The slow-paced speech of the king starkly contrasts with the fast-talking of Kagwa, and the contrast stresses the intelligence-gap between Kagwa and the king.

Line 5-6

‘Never since I was born of my mother
Have I seen or heard of a skull which spoke.’

  • Unlike Kagwa, who utters simple sentences, the king uses complex sentences to express his ideas. On the one hand, the complexity of the king’s speech exhibits his level of sophistication. On the other hand, it figuratively indicates his hostility towards the hunter who brought the news of the “talking skull.”
  • The inverted syntax of the lines is a good example of the usage of the poetic device, anastrophe.
  • Line five does not have a punctuation mark at its end, and the idea extends to line six. The poetic device is called enjambment. Enjambments generally increase the complexity of expressed ideas in poetry.
  • The folktale of the “skull that spoke” is common in all of East Africa, and the nescience of the king figuratively indicates his high-and-mighty character as a political leader.
  • The disbelief of the king in the irrational tale of the huntsman further reveals his non-credulous character.

Stanza 3

Line 1

The king called out his guards:

  • The stanza continues to maintain the third-person objective narration.
  • The poet again keeps the reader on his toes with the suppression of the immediate revelation of information as the decision of the king is revealed in the last line of the stanza.

Line 2-3

‘Two of you now go with him
And find this talking skull;

  • Dialogues are again introduced into the stanza to increase the liveliness of the situation.
  • The single-lined, simple sentences uttered by Kagwa continue to be contrasted with the complex speech patterns of the king. The complexity of the syntax of the king is highlighted through the continuous use of enjambments.
  • Two guards and Kagwa create a group of three. Three as a digit is a general ominous symbol in English Literature, as well as in many communities that cling to superstitious beliefs.
  • The tone of the king further emphasises his disbelief while questioning the involvement of military power in a “skull”. From a different angle, the behaviour of the king depicts a corrupt and punitive political leader.

Line 4-6

But if his tale is a lie
And the skull speaks no word,
This Kagwa himself must die.’

  • “But” indicates a sudden twist in the king’s opinion, making the third stanza the turning point of the poem.
  • The king uses a conditional statement, and the present tense associated with it emphasises his hard and fast decision.
  • The arbitrary punishment imposed upon Kagwa-indicates the primitive, brutal, and savagely cruel governance of the tribal setting of the poem. In a different perspective, “death” magnifies the harmful consequence of “talking”—which is the primary purpose of the poet.
  • The enmity of the king towards the hunter further sets a secondary theme for the poem; the dangers of involving politics in one’s personal life.

Stanza 4

Line 1

They rode into the forest;

  • The sense of movement found in the second stanza re-appears with the word “rode.”
  • The simple past remains as the stanza’s dominant tense.
  • The word “they” refers to the hunter and the two royal guards. The ominous symbol of number three still haunts the poem, smacking on the idea of an upcoming tragedy. 

Line 2

For days and nights, they found nothing.

  • Unlike in the previous stanzas, this one contains an increased number of caesurae. They immediately indicate the tension associated with the ongoing situation.
  • The poet adds emphasis to negativity through anastrophe.

Line 3-4

At last, they saw the skull; Kagwa
Said to it, ‘How did you come here?’

  • The poet reveals the crux associated with the stanza at the very end of it, and he continues to build up the suspense of the reader by not immediately revealing the conclusion.
  • The confusion of Kagwa is highlighted as he still believes that the skull spoke to him earlier. His inability to distinguish between reality and fantasy functions to be a fatal flaw in his character.
  • Line four contains another dialogue of the hunter and as usual, it elevates the dramatic quality and the timelessness associated with the context of the poem.
  • Note: Even though there is no answer provided to the question asked by Kagwa, it is still not regarded as a rhetorical question.

Line 5-6

The skull said nothing. Kagwa implored,
But the skull said nothing.

  • “Skull said nothing” is a repetition, and it suggests the upcoming, inevitable tragedy.
  • The powerlessness of the mighty huntsman in front of material [the skull] is ironical. Even though it literally forms humor, the sensitive reader can still feel the helplessness of the hunter who is struggling to distinguish reality from fiction.
  • The reader is by now well aware of the fact that Kagwa is an emotionally fragile character, regardless of his physical strength.

Stanza 5

Line 1

The guards said, ‘Kneel down.’

  • The blind faith of the guards who follow the sacrosanct rule of the king is visible.
  • Dialogues are yet again present in the stanza to increase the dramatic value of the poem.
  • The simplicity of the language style of the guards simulates with that of Kagwa. It further reveals how rivalry is formed among individuals who represent the oppressed party in society through corrupt politics.

Line 2

They killed him with sword and spear.

  • The subservient nature of the guards who blindly follow the orders of the king is elaborated by the poet.
  • Death is, of course, too much of a punishment imposed upon Kagwa. He is the mighty hunter who “hunted the lion” after all, and he is not habitually a liar or a deceiver. The unjust treatment he faces, on the one hand, adds emphasis to the overall message of the poem; “Speech is silver, silence is golden.” On the other hand, it sheds light on political corruption and the dangers of involving politics in one’s personal life.
  • Kagwa, who perished by “sword and spear”, the same weapon he used to spread his power “through bush and forest,” reminds the reader of the proverb, “live by the sword, die by the sword”.
  • The involvement of two different weapons, “sword and spear,” indicates that Kagwa was savagely murdered.
  • The powerful huntsman who single-handedly “hunted the lion” surrenders himself without a fight and allows the guards to unjustly murder him.

Line 3-4

Then the skull opened its mouth;
‘Huntsman, how did you come here?’

  • Third-person objective narration is fused with dialogue again to maintain the dramatic narrative standards of the poem.
  • “The skull opened” is a combination of kinesthetic and visual imagery.
  • The poet associates supernaturality with the poem with the “talking skull.”
  • The question of the skull is a mere repetition of the question asked by Kagwa in stanza one. It clarifies the intended meaning of the word “here” as a state of being.

Line 5-6

And the dead man answered,
‘Talking brought me here.’

  • The ‘dead man’, Kagwa now talks back indicating the cyclic effect of the moral message of the poem. 
  • The conclusion makes sense to the reader that the skull too had been another blindly faithful man who did not know where to draw the line between politics and personal life, who talked knowing no limits. It tried to warn Kagwa of the bitter consequences of his wrong judgements which brought him to a tragic death; but Kagwa was too blind and ignorant to understand the advise till it was too late. No sooner there will be another like Kagwa and the cycle of tragedy will continue. The circular narrative style of the poem as well as the repetitive nature of the ignorance of man are further emphasized by the oddly regular rhyming pattern as well as the similar actions which repeat in the first and the last stanzas.
  • The poem can be regarded as an allegory due the use of abstract objects, and  as the conveyed meaning is understood only at the conclusion of the poem.